AK Monthly Recap: February 2024

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January is all about time at home working — which means February is about getting back into it again! This month, I headed out to London and Paris, plus a little side trip to the spa town of Mariánské Lázně in the Czech Republic.

Let’s take a look!

Kate taking a selfie next to the London Underground stop for Mansion House.Kate taking a selfie next to the London Underground stop for Mansion House.
Mansion House. Which contains neither a mansion nor a house.

Destinations Visited

  • Prague and Mariánské Lázně, Czech Republic
  • London, England
  • Paris, France
A view of London landmarks including Big Ben, the Shard, and the London Eye.A view of London landmarks including Big Ben, the Shard, and the London Eye.
As far as conference views go, this one was one of the best.

Highlights

A return to travel shows in London. This year I decided to attend IMM UK for the first time — a speed networking event for travel media professionals and travel brands. I used to be a regular at IMM USA in New York each year, so figured it would be good to try the UK version.

The event was right across the street from Westminster Abbey (which I visited for the first time since I was a teenager!) with views of Big Ben, the London Eye, and the Shard, which was nice.

And Charlie and I had a great time for those four days in London. We had a belated Christmas brunch with his family at a pub; we had great meals at Hunan (18-course Chinese!) and Dishoom (awesome Indian); we saw Arsenal’s women’s team play Manchester United at Emirates Stadium (SO AWESOME that women’s sports are taking off so much in the UK!).

And I finally got to introduce Charlie to my friend Chris, whom longtime readers will remember as one of my all-time favorite travel buddies from my Southeast Asia backpacking days. And guess what…THEY WENT TO THE SAME HIGH SCHOOL. Who knew?!

People riding an old-fashioned merry-go-round in Paris with bicycles instead of horses.People riding an old-fashioned merry-go-round in Paris with bicycles instead of horses.
I loved the old-timey rides at the Musée des Arts Forains!

A lovely few days in Paris. I booked myself two days in Paris and it rained torrentially nearly the entire time, but I did get to do a bunch of new things: I visited the Musée des Arts Forains, a magical fantasia of a museum full of old-timey carnival attractions; I visited the Rothko exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Boulogne; I had the ultimate ham sandwich at Caractère de Cochon; I had a spa day at O’Kari, a women-only hammam in the 2nd.

I also got to spend time with my Parisian buds Roobens and Anubha, and I had a fabulous meal at the Ashkenazi restaurant Boubalé — highly recommended, especially if you love wildly decorated restaurants!

Oh, and I did a bunch of fashion reconnaissance in both London and Paris, trying on my beloved European brands that don’t have stores in Prague. Think Moynat, Fauré le Page, The Kooples, Soeur, Polène. I ended up buying a Sézane Chlo blouse in navy and an Isabel Marant Lecce belt in black.

A big, ornate arcade in a small Czech town. It has unusual large glass windows on it.A big, ornate arcade in a small Czech town. It has unusual large glass windows on it.
Mariánské Lázně, a gem in West Bohemia.

A lovely introduction to Mariánské Lázně. This is one of the UNESCO World Heritage-Listed Great Spa Towns of Europe, and Charlie and I went for an overnight right after I got back from Paris.

Honestly, we didn’t get to explore it to the fullest because I went from “feeling a bit off” to “coughing violently and not sleeping a wink all night” within about 18 hours, so we left early. But what we did get to experience — the pretty town, the hotel’s private spa, and some nice restaurants — was wonderful!

I think Karlovy Vary is the better spa town to visit as a traveler, but Mariánské Lázně is much more low-key and local (meaning Czech and German, as it’s close to the border), as well as cheaper. We will be back for sure.

Good Czech fun. Charlie and I celebrated Valentine’s Day at Yamato, our favorite Japanese restaurant in Prague; we finally tried out the buzzy pizza place Da Pietro; and we did a staycation at Buddha Bar one night.

Kate taking a selfie in a long furry brown jacket with lots of tiny gold sparkles on it.Kate taking a selfie in a long furry brown jacket with lots of tiny gold sparkles on it.
This special edition sparkling Max Mara teddy coat, which I tried on at Harrod’s, is one of only 100 in the world!

Challenges

I got sick. One of the people with whom I met at IMM UK was coughing and sniffling all over the place, and of course not wearing a mask — which led to me getting sicker than I’ve been in years. Sicker than I was during Covid.

Just wear a mask if you’re sick. Please. Don’t go to a networking event and cough into people’s faces all day.

We were so happy with our hotel…until reality set in. Charlie and I stay in different parts of London on our visits, so this time we chose a place convenient to my event: an apartment-style hotel near Mansion House station, in a neighborhood called City of London.

It seemed fine at first. We even got upgraded to a one-bedroom apartment, which might be the biggest room I have ever stayed in London. We went to bed around midnight.

And then at 5:00 AM…the trains began. Yes, this hotel was literally right on a train line, and we heard and felt every single train. It was like we were sleeping in the station. Did earplugs help? No, they did not!

And that wasn’t all! A Thai restaurant next door had an emergency and started doing extremely loud construction from 10 PM until midnight, and we kept telling the front desk, and they kept saying, “There’s nothing we can do, it’s another building.”

Um…there is something you can do. The equivalent of calling 311 in New York is calling the local council in London. We showed them how to do it. They still wouldn’t do it. COME ON.

Lewis and Murray the little gray tabby cats cuddling together on a black hoodie.Lewis and Murray the little gray tabby cats cuddling together on a black hoodie.
Murray and Lewis will only cuddle together if it’s on my black hoodie.

New Posts of the Month

Let’s just run ’em down:

Kate and Charlie taking a smiling selfie. She wears a black polka dot sheer top over a black tank top; he wears an abstract blue and brown patterned shirt.Kate and Charlie taking a smiling selfie. She wears a black polka dot sheer top over a black tank top; he wears an abstract blue and brown patterned shirt.
All dressed up for our staycation in Prague!

Book Club This Month

Our next book club will take place on Sunday, April 7, at 1:00 PM Eastern Time.Yes, I know that’s a long time from now, and I apologize for that — I literally have a commitment every Sunday until then (except Easter Sunday, which I’m not touching).

We will be reading Nervous Conditions by Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga.

“The groundbreaking first novel in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s award-winning trilogy, Nervous Conditions, won the Commonwealth Writers Prize and has been ‘hailed as one of the 20th century’s most significant works of African literature’ (The New York Times).

Two decades before Zimbabwe would win independence and ended white minority rule, thirteen-year-old Tambudzai Sigauke embarks on her education. On her shoulders rest the economic hopes of her parents, siblings, and extended family, and within her burns the desire for independence.

She yearns to be free of the constraints of her rural village and thinks she’s found her way out when her wealthy uncle offers to sponsor her schooling. But she soon learns that the education she receives at his mission school comes with a price.”

You can sign up here. Hope to see you there!

What I Watched This Month

Well, I finished watching For All Mankind and I am now waiting with bated breath for them to announce the fifth season, already! Which supposedly takes place in 2012!

I’m trying to work my way through the Oscar movies in the lead-up to the awards ceremony, and I especially loved American Fiction, The Holdovers, and Anatomy of a Fall. I always love movies that are about “real” people and their lives and relationships, not anything super extraordinary or supernatural, and these all fit that bill.

Aside from that — I didn’t really read or listen to anything this month (!), so hopefully more on those next month.

Kate faces away from the camera and stands facing the Duomo in Florence in the distance. She is in a rose garden, surrounded by greenery.Kate faces away from the camera and stands facing the Duomo in Florence in the distance. She is in a rose garden, surrounded by greenery.
Last time I was in Florence, I did a photo shoot!

Coming Up in March 2024

As I write this post, I’m on the train from Prague to Berlin (and griping about the lack of decent signal as soon as you pass Dresden). I’m off to attend ITB Berlin, the largest travel trade show in the world, and IMM Germany, a day of speed networking.

Later in the month, I’m heading to Italy! First I’m going to Florence, the city where I studied abroad 20 years ago this year (YIKES!!!). For years I’ve been meaning to return to Florence and do a lot more research and photography so I can write some decent guides.

This is finally the right time, thanks in part to it being the quietest time of year (the only bearable time of year if you want to go to lots of museums, to be honest). I’ll also be dropping into a few Tuscan towns — Pisa, Lucca, and Siena, all of which I’ve visited before, and San Gimignano for the first time ever!

After that, I take the train down to Rome, where I’ll be meeting Charlie to celebrate his birthday. We have some BIG plans in Rome, including one activity so exciting I don’t want to write about it until it happens.

I have not been in Rome since 2006. Yes, 2006. Pre-blog. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, and I have a loooong list of things to do, photos to take, and especially PASTAS TO EAT!

Finally, I need to work in my new destination in the Czech Republic for March. With not a lot of time to spare this month, it will probably be a day trip. I think it might finally be time to visit the concentration camp, Terezín. A tough but necessary visit.

What are your plans for March? Share away!



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