AK Monthly Recap: April 2024

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April was meant to be a low-key month, but things quickly revved up! The big trip of the month was a journey to France, mostly concentrated in the Loire Valley, but I managed to fit in two super-quick trips to Berlin and London as well.

Let’s take a look at the best of April 2024!

Kate and Charlie taking a smiling selfie in front of a big gray chateau perched on a river in France.Kate and Charlie taking a smiling selfie in front of a big gray chateau perched on a river in France.
Enjoying castle-hopping at Chateau Chenonceau!

Destinations Visited

  • Prague and Plzeň, Czech Republic
  • Berlin, Germany
  • London, England
  • Amboise, Chenonceaux, Lignac, Prissac, Buxerolles, Poitiers, Les Hérolles, Vernou-en-Sologne, and Orléans, France
Kate and author Elizabeth Gilbert smiling in a Portrait together. Kate wears a royal purple top; Elizabeth wears a bright blue jumpsuit.Kate and author Elizabeth Gilbert smiling in a Portrait together. Kate wears a royal purple top; Elizabeth wears a bright blue jumpsuit.
I feel so lucky I got to meet Elizabeth Gilbert!

Highlights

I met Elizabeth Gilbert! On Facebook I found out she was speaking in Berlin, so I immediately bought a meet-and-greet ticket, and decided to go there and back by bus (five hours each way, woohoo).

And it was so worth it. I wore my new purple outfit from Sézane (this top and these pants) and she told me I looked glamorous! We had a brief chat about giving women the tools they need to travel solo, which was so nice. And then it was time for her talk.

AND WHAT A TALK. If you ever have a chance to go see her, do. Her talk was about mercy, and how she learned it from her late partner, Rayya. She is incredibly wise. That’s why Eat, Pray, Love became a juggernaut in the first place — the quality of her writing, and the wisdom she shared.

Listening to her is the equivalent of going to a spa for a week, and after the show I decided to walk 40 minutes back to the bus station so I could keep thinking about what she said.

I got my eyebrows microbladed again — and this time, it’s sticking. The first time I got my eyebrows microbladed, in January, they looked good but completely faded. This time, my artist did them much darker, and they came out much better.

Overall, I feel like I can go out without having to pencil in my eyebrows! They’re ready to go as is. I miiiiight go for one more little touch-up.

Kate in a long black evening gown holding up a trophy, standing between British reality celebrity Rylan (tall handsome man with a beard) and a woman in a long green gown.Kate in a long black evening gown holding up a trophy, standing between British reality celebrity Rylan (tall handsome man with a beard) and a woman in a long green gown.
I won! (Also, yes, that’s UK reality show celebrity Rylan.)

I won Blogger of the Year at the TravMedia Awards! Earlier this year I found out I was nominated, and in April I traveled to London for a lightning-fast 24-hour visit to attend the awards.

It means a lot to me to receive a British award, because Britain has played such a huge role in my travel blogging career. Having that validation means a lot.

And the blog post that won me the award was What’s it really like to travel Greenland? — I hope you give it a read if you haven’t yet!

I finally got to pick up my license at the Czech office. Finally, after all those driving lessons, four driving tests, and waiting months for my residency errors to be fixed, now I can legally drive again for the first time since August!

Finally finding a good Thai restaurant in Prague. We’ve struck out several times while looking for Thai food in Prague, and the one place we liked sadly closed. We went to Thai Station on a whim, and their pad gra prow was the best I have had in a LONG time. (Oddly, we didn’t love their pad Thai, but everything else was dynamite, including the chili mango lemonade!)

A view of the Czech city of Plzen from above: lots of pale painted crenellated buildings with red roofs, mixed in with ugly modern buildings.A view of the Czech city of Plzen from above: lots of pale painted crenellated buildings with red roofs, mixed in with ugly modern buildings.

Charlie and I took a day trip to Plzeň. Plzeň is one of the most popular day trips from Prague, and is most famous for being the home of the Pilsner Urquell brewery.

But Plzeň is much more than that — we managed to take an architecture tour, visit a few museums, climb the tower (and climb down in a panic, thinking that the bell was about to ring — thankfully that bell doesn’t ring!), and enjoy a few cafes, restaurants, and pubs.

Plzeň is great! And I’m so glad my challenge of visiting a new destination in the Czech Republic every month of 2024 is taking me to some cool places.

Good times with friends in Prague. A few friends dropped into Prague this month — my friend Amanda and her mom, and my friend Jamie and his girlfriend — and I got to share a few of my favorite spots with them!

A gray castle in France perched on top of a hill, surrounded by nice landscaping, including rows of small green bushes.A gray castle in France perched on top of a hill, surrounded by nice landscaping, including rows of small green bushes.
Who knew Leonardo was buried here of all places?

Charlie and I visited France for a few days. Our friends bought a house in rural central France, about an hour’s drive from Poitiers or Limoges, and they kindly invited us to visit them. We decided to fill out the trip with a few days in the Loire Valley, famous for its chateaus.

We based in Amboise for a few nights — and what a beauty Amboise is! This is where Leonardo da Vinci spent his last days, and he’s buried here. There are a few chateaus in town, including Leonardo’s chateau with so many of his inventions on display, and tons more chateaus within a short drive.

What I loved most about the Loire Valley was how peaceful it was. Rolling country roads, rivers, picture-perfect small towns. I did a lot of the driving here and it was an absolute pleasure. A good reminder to not just visit cities when you’re in Europe.

We had a great time with our friends in central France. They took us to a fabulous little restaurant, the city of Poitiers, and an interesting market called Les Hérolles that takes place on the 29th of the month, every month — unless it’s a Sunday, then it takes place on the 30th, and in February it takes place on the 28th in non-leap years!

And of course we got to enjoy time with our friends and so much delicious French food. I missed French cheeses so much!

An incredibly ornate dining room with sage green walls painted in gold leaf, and a chandelier that looks like a giant strand of lit-up pearls.An incredibly ornate dining room with sage green walls painted in gold leaf, and a chandelier that looks like a giant strand of lit-up pearls.
Imagine having a chateau with this dining room all to yourself.

By then it was our first anniversary — and Charlie surprised me with a night at a chateau hotel! (A chateautel?) La Borde en Sologne! Just turning into the driveway and seeing the chateau took my breath away! It was like the Richie Rich house! (Wait, the Richie Rich house was actually the Biltmore Estate in Asheville…but same vibe!)

We were actually the only guests that Monday night, so we had the whole place to ourselves! I loved the creative, modern decor mixed into the classic chateau setting — it would be nice to go back for several days and use their bikes to ride to different chateaus!

On the way back to the airport, we stopped in the city of Orléans for a bit — it had a few nice spots (it’s a major Joan of Arc town), though I don’t feel the need to visit again.

A garden with a row of purple and orange flowers, set among grass, and a fountain in the background.A garden with a row of purple and orange flowers, set among grass, and a fountain in the background.
A pretty garden in Plzen.

Challenges

The TravMedia Awards were tough for me. My anxiety was flaring up pretty badly at the time, and when it gets like that, I need support. I assumed my fellow nominees (all friends of mine) and I would be sitting together, and I was so looking forward to that — but we were actually all split up and put at tables with various PR agencies.

Altogether, I got to have four five-minute conversations with friends during the event, and that was it. I’m grateful for the award, and for the evening, but having to put on a normal face at a table full of strangers when my mental health was at its worst in months was very, very difficult.

There was a scary incident on my bus back to Luton Airport in London. A man on board briefly lost consciousness, and neither he nor his wife could speak English. Lots of passengers leaped into action, and I used Google Translate to translate between the wife and the paramedics until they could get a translator on the phone. I hope they’re both doing okay now.

A request I have for all of you — please install Google Translate on your phone, even if you’re not traveling. You could be in an emergency with someone who doesn’t speak English, and being able to communicate could save a life.

Our flight to France was cancelled less than 48 hours ahead of time. A last-minute air traffic controllers’ strike at Orly Airport? Never change, France!

They initially rebooked us on a flight 36 hours later, which would have massively shortened our time in the Loire Valley — but thanks to it only being an issue at Orly, we were able to book a flight to Charles de Gaulle Airport and rerouted our car rental.

Two small gray cats sitting side by side, their tails curved the exact same way, intently watching outside the window.Two small gray cats sitting side by side, their tails curved the exact same way, intently watching outside the window.
Who needs neighborhood watch when you have Murray and Lewis?

Posts of the Month

A brightly flowering tree in Prague, covered with pink flowers. Behind it, a tram and a pale pink crenellated building.A brightly flowering tree in Prague, covered with pink flowers. Behind it, a tram and a pale pink crenellated building.
Springtime brings flowers to Prague!

Book Club This Month

Our next book club was rescheduled — and will take place on Sunday, June 2, at 1:00 PM Eastern Time. We will be reading the novel Family Lore by Dominican American author Elizabeth Acevedo.

“Flor has a gift: she can predict, to the day, when someone will die. So when she decides she wants a living wake—a party to bring her family and community together to celebrate the long life she’s led—her sisters are surprised. Has Flor foreseen her own death, or someone else’s? Does she have other motives? She refuses to tell her sisters, Matilde, Pastora, and Camila.

But Flor isn’t the only person with secrets: her sisters are hiding things, too. And the next generation, cousins Ona and Yadi, face tumult of their own.

Spanning the three days prior to the wake, Family Lore traces the lives of each of the Marte women, weaving together past and present, Santo Domingo and New York City. Told with Elizabeth Acevedo’s inimitable and incandescent voice, this is an indelible portrait of sisters and cousins, aunts and nieces—one family’s journey through their history, helping them better navigate all that is to come.”

You can sign up here. It’s free and open to all (though I’m now maxed out at 25 participants because I don’t want to pay for Eventbrite — we never have that many, though). Hope to see you there!

Most Popular Reel on Instagram

So I feel like I’ve finally cracked Instagram Reels! I’ve wanted to do talking head-type videos for awhile, and this was my first — and so far it has more than 430k views, and still climbing!

In this viral reel, I talk about my biggest moment of culture shock in Prague — when I’m asked to bring a urine sample TO the doctor’s office. No, I can’t just give the sample at the doctor’s office, which is what I’ve done for every single urine sample I’ve given in the United States. Hilarity ensued.

Follow me on Instagram for more fun reels and live travel updates!

What I Watched This Month

This month I finally started watching Euphoria on HBO — something I had been planning on watching for a long time. And wow, it is a wild ride about the drugs and sex-fueled adventures high schoolers get up to!

If you don’t have kids, this is probably the most validating thing you could watch. I mean, there’s a 10-year-old drug dealer who is also a tattoo artist! A lot of it is for shock value — either they pulled back in later episodes, or I got used to it — but it’s beautifully shot and edited. Can’t wait to watch the second season.

And of COURSE I watched Conan O’Brien Must Go, also on HBO. I adore Conan completely, and this show is so perfect — I wish there were more episodes! In this show Conan visits his fans around the world, and there’s an episode each for Norway, Thailand, Argentina, and Ireland.

In other news, Apple TV renewed For All Mankind for Season Five. YAY! Boy, am I glad that show is on Apple TV, because Netflix would have cancelled something that awesome by now. I’ve been raving about this show for months. You need to watch it!

A charcuterie board topped with lots of French cheeses, plus grapes and tomatoesA charcuterie board topped with lots of French cheeses, plus grapes and tomatoes
The best part about visiting France: the cheeses!

What I Read This Month

Hannah’s Children: The Women Quietly Defying the Birth Dearth by Catherine Pakaluk (2024) — Five percent of American women choose to have five or more children — in a time when the American birth rate is slowing down massively. This book is a collection of interviews of college-educated women who chose to have five or more children. The author is a Harvard-educated economist and mother to eight children.

The part of my brain that is fascinated by the Duggars had be pick this book up — and I appreciated that it focused on college-educated women. This was a very interesting read and a peek into lives that are nothing like my own. Almost all of the women profiled have strong religious backgrounds (either Catholic, Mormon, Protestant, or Jewish) and view bringing more children into the world as their greatest calling.

I do have to say that the interview portion of the book focused entirely on the positive aspects of having a large family, and not talking about any of the negatives as well. I wish it had done that. I also noticed that not one mother interviewed in the book only talked about how having a larger family benefited themselves, and not their community or the world.

Either way — this is a book I’ll be thinking about for a long time, and one I recommend.

Tell Me Everything: A Memoir by Minka Kelly (2023) — Minka Kelly became famous when she got the role of Lyla Garrity on Friday Night Lights — but it’s a miracle that she got that far. She was raised by her single mother, who worked as a stripper and struggled with addiction. She and her mother spent her childhood crashing on friends’ couches, sometimes living in storage units, and this book is about unraveling their difficult relationship.

Minka Kelly has one of the wildest childhoods of any celebrity I’ve ever met. I am in awe of her drive to get herself to a better place. The sheer amount of motivation it would take a person to do that — I can’t believe it. And she probably made it because she knew well enough to stay away from drugs and alcohol. So many people tried to drag her down along the way.

This book is sad a lot of the time, and a tough read (or listen, in my case). So many people are currently living this way in America, with kids who have no choice. You should know that the book barely touches on her time in Hollywood, but that’s okay. It’s the before that’s the interesting part.

Graffiti on a wall. In black it reads "All colors are beautiful." Beneath that in rainbow crayon it reads "BE GAY DO CRIME."Graffiti on a wall. In black it reads "All colors are beautiful." Beneath that in rainbow crayon it reads "BE GAY DO CRIME."
This graffiti cracked me up in Berlin!

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangaremba (1988) — This novel, the first book by a Black woman from Zimbabwe published in English, tells the story of upward mobility through the eyes of a teenage girl in the late 1960s. Tambu yearns to go to school, but her family can only afford for one family member to go: her brother. But when her brother dies, Tambu is given the opportunity to go, and soon she’s taken to a world so different from that in which she grew up.

This is what we read for our book club last month, and what a great selection it was. This book is a slow burn and spends so much time in Tambu’s head, observing family dynamics that change and are often quite painful. She’s impossible not to root for, even when she has so many odds against her, and it really makes you think about the kids who don’t get the magical opportunity she gets.

This is the first book in a trilogy, the books written decades apart, and I would love to read them and see what the characters get up to.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport (2012) — Following your passion is overrated, and will probably bring you to a place of unhappiness in your work and life. What you should do instead is become fantastic at what you do — and use that to build career capital, and parlay that into better and better job opportunities that fulfill your personal needs.

Like a lot of business books, this is basically a blog post that got stretched into 233 pages. But that’s okay. It made a lot of great points (I really need to get better at some of the things I do), and it made a good listen while out on walks.

A large red chateau in Prague, with lots of green plants in the foreground.A large red chateau in Prague, with lots of green plants in the foreground.
May is perfect in Prague!

Coming Up in May 2024

This month I am staying in Prague and not traveling! May is the best month of the year in Prague (it’s why we had our big Prague wedding in May last year!), with beautiful weather and lots of flowers in bloom, so I like to spend May soaking it up.

May is also the time of two of my favorite annual events in Prague: Pivo a Burger, a beer and burger festival that takes over my neighborhood square, and the Italians’ catalogue party, where food and wine producers from all over Italy come to Prague to show off their wares at an all-you-can-eat-and-drink event.

As for my monthly trip to a new destination in the Czech Republic, it will probably be somewhere nearby — Mělník (our cats’ hometown!) has pick-your-own strawberry farms, so it depends on whether strawberry season hits in May or June. Otherwise, there’s the pretty Průhonice, just outside Prague.

Also on the calendar for May: applying for permanent residency in the Czech Republic. It’s time!

What are you planning this month? Share away!





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