Tuesday, 18 March 2014

An early night reading the newspaper – how staid I've become!

It's raining in Prague. Drizzly rain makes the cobbled streets outside my hotel shiny and the pathways a little slippery. Having worked all day, I walked back to my hotel in the drizzle, glad to get back to my room but conscious that I'd need to go and have dinner somewhere; the plan was to head back to my favourite Al Forno restaurant a few hundred yards from the hotel. But first, I thought I'd check out other restaurants nearby. In all honesty, I knew that I'd be heading for Al Forno, but I felt it was only fair to see what else was on offer. Not that I didn't know already. Back in 2004 (or thereabouts) while editing a fine dining magazine, I made the trip to Prague to review a few restaurants, but can I remember any of them? No. I've seen a few nice places on my route to the conference hotel, but I can't be bothered to walk back that way again, especially in the rain, and besides, I know Al Forno, I love the food, the ambience and the service so why go anywhere else?

 I eventually found myself seated at Al Forno. The menu arrived. I chose a vegetable soup (as always) and this time opted for a fish dish of flounder and a large king prawn on a bed of spinach with some cherry tomatoes and carrots. Very tasty. I ordered a glass of red wine and a small bottle of sparkling mineral water, the bread rolls arrived and I sat there reading the Independent on Sunday, a newspaper I'd picked up at Heathrow prior to the flight to Prague. I've virtually read it all.

I should be out on the streets of Prague, but I really can't be bothered
The restaurant was busier than usual, but just as good as it has been all week and I plan to go back there tomorrow, my last night here in Prague. I read a number of comment articles, one arguing that the end of China's boom need not trigger a bust; another headlined A good read is just that. Ask any child, which was all about how the newspaper will, in future, refuse to entertain gender-specific books. Then there was Master of reportage, whatever the cost, a story about Joe McGinniss, a writer who recently passed away, but prior to doing so he wrote about Richard Nixon, the Jeffery MacDonald case in the USA and the former Republican party vice presidential hopeful, Sarah Palin. I've reached the letters page now. It's amazing how one newspaper can last so long. After paying my bill I wandered back to the hotel in the rain and went straight to my room where I checked out the remaining articles in the Independent on Sunday. There's an article by Dom Joly entitled From VIP guest to abused idiot, it's a short hop, so I'm going to read that and then hit the sack. When I come to think about it (as I am now) that last headline could so easily be the title of my autobiography.

Quirky buskers
I tell you what I do like about Prague (there are lots of things) and that's the buskers. They're just a little bit more left field than what you find in the UK. In the UK it's always somebody playing a guitar, nothing quirky, just the same old thing. It could be argued that British buskers haven't really progressed from Ralph McTell's Streets of London. But in Prague it's a little bit more, I don't know, a little bit more unusual. Today (and yesterday) I felt compelled to stop and listen to a man playing some really complicated, mesmerising and magical stuff on, wait for it, a collect of different-sized wine glasses filled with varying amounts of water. An old trick, I know, but I've never seen it in the UK

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