Amsterdam - Spui Book Market

The Molenaa Boeken, aka Book Market, in Amsterdam.
After a rainy morning where I made good use of my Amsterdam Museum Pass, I headed across town to check out the Spui Book Market (Vereniging De Boekenmarkt op het Spui). Even on a drippy autumn day the market was quite busy. No wonder, it's a short and scenic walk from Amsterdam's Dam Square.  Book lovers will find plenty to browse. And if you're just looking to pickup an atypical souvenir it's a nice place for that as well. I enjoyed looking through the vintage maps, records, and postcards, I'm kicking myself now for not buying a tote bag while I had the chance. Open Fridays, rain or shine, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. After your shopping is complete, make sure to stop for a stroopwaffel and coffee at Lanskroon.

Vintage Madonna vogues on a postcard
Book shopping at the Spui market.
Piles of Postcards
Perusing the record selection.
Bikes, bikes, everywhere.
A rainy day at the Spui Book Market in Amsterdam.
A houseboat parked along an Amsterdam canal.
Love locks on a canal bridge near Amsterdam's Spui Book Market.


Just Paris Things - Pierre Herme & Arc de Triumphe

The view of the Eiffel Tower from the top of the Arc de Triomphe is gorgeous.
Quick - what are the first two things that come to mind when you think of Paris? The Eiffel Tower most likely. And, for me at least, the most Parisian of pastries, the French macaron. It's the perfect portable dessert to savor wherever your wanderings take you. May I suggest a picnic with a view? You can see the Eiffel Tower from all over the city but my favorite vantage point is from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. And once you reach the top there's no rush. Take your time, enjoy the view and your macarons.

A bag of delicious sweets from Pierre Hermé.
A massive Mogador macaron, passion fruit and milk chocolate flavor, from Pierre Hermé.

I picked up my cookies at the Pierre Hermé shop in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood. The elegant little macarons are made from two almond meringue like cookies which sandwich a creamy ganache or icing layer. I chose three, the Infiniment Vanille and the shimmering Pistache et Griottine, an amazing flavor combination of pistachio, ceylon cinnamon and griottine cherry. Plus an oversized mogador macaron, tart passion fruit cookies filled with decadent milk chocolate. So good. I visited twice during my trip and didn't even bother with Ladurée (Paris' other famous macaron emporium) until I got to the airport for the flight home.

I was also eager to try another famous French pastry, the Canelé. While not a Parisian thing, Canelé are a Bordeaux specialty, one of my favorite food blogs recommended the Pierre Hermé version. And it was delightful. Edges crisp with burnt sugar with a light, vanilla scented spongy-custard interior.

A beautiful canelé from the famous Parisian bakery, Pierre Hermé.
You must try a canelé from Pierre Hermé, the world famous bakery in Paris.
Two Pierre Hermé macarons, the Infiniment Vanille and the shimmering Pistache et Griottine, an amazing flavor combination of pistachio, ceylon cinnamon and griottine cherry

The only thing more French than the Eiffel Tower is the Arc de Triomphe. The traffic around Paris' second favorite monument is intense. A dozen boulevards, including shopping mecca, the Champs-Elysées, converge in a roundabout from hell. To get to the Arch, pedestrians take an underground tunnel that bypasses the mess at ground level. I visited in the early evening and there was no real line to speak of, but I did use my Paris Museum Pass to get faster access. There's no elevator and the dark, seemingly endless, spiral staircases are a bit daunting.

The view is totally worth it. There's the hustle and bustle of the Champs-Elysées to the east. Then, to the north, the hills of Montmarte and the glowing white dome of Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Looking west you'll see the metropolitan business district of La Défense with it's own Grande Arche, a modern counterpart to the Arch de Triumphe. And of course, to the south, you can't miss the Eiffel Tower. I recommend visiting an hour or two before sunset, when the city takes on a golden glow and and the trees cast long shadows over the wide boulevards and architecture.

The Arc de Triomphe casts long shadows over the hectic intersection of Champs-Élysées in Paris.
Underneath the massive Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
There's room to relax at the top of one of Paris' most famous monuments, the Arc de Triomphe.
Looking west, you get a fantastic view of the La Défense region of Paris from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.
A view to remember, the Eiffel Tower from the top of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.


The Prettiest Little Market in Prague

A young girl ponders dessert options at a pastry stall in the Prague Farmer's Market.
Markets! Visiting local markets is one of my favorite things to do when I'm travelling. If you've visited this blog before than you might have stumbled across some of my posts on markets in Barcelona, Venice, and London. I visited not one, but two farmer's markets, or farmářské trhy, during my trip to Prague. The first, and my favorite, was the market in the lovely Vinohrady neighborhood.

Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, or Jiřák, is the one. The market was bustling when I visited on Halloween Eve last fall. Full of moms with toddlers, housewives shopping for their evening meal, and backpackers looking for a cheap, good lunch. And bonus - lots and lots of puppies! Though the market site is compact, the stalls are comprehensive. Beautiful bread and produce and meat and pickles! Plus plenty of ready to eat options.

Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, or Jiřák, Prague Farmer's Market is full of vibrant produce, like this colorful cabbage.
A young child is ready to trick or treat at Prague's Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, or Jiřák.

The market had a distinct family friendly vibe. Early in the day there was a booth where kids could create Halloween themed crafts like bags for trick or treating. When I swung back in the late afternoon most of the market stalls were gone but there was live music and tons of people strolling around after work.

A patient puppy waits for his owners to finish their shopping at Prague's Jiřího z Poděbrad Farmer's Market.
Beautiful fresh baked bread at Jiřího z Poděbrad Farmer's Market in Prague's Vinohrady neighborhood.
Fresh, vibrant radishes for sale at Prague Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, or Jiřák.
A vendor at Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, or Jiřák in Prague takes a lunch break.

It seemed like everyone at the market was eating a cup of vibrantly orange pumpkin soup. I figured they must be in the know and joined the longest queue for some of my own. It was good stuff. Smooth with enough body to fill you up, topped with a spoonful of crunchy seeds for texture. I bought a cup of hot pear cider to drink and now consider it the most perfect fall beverage in existence. Why don't we drink this in the US? Or do we, just not around my Midwest home base? For dessert, a slice of poppyseed cheesecake so dense with seeds that it was more crunch than cream. The dark, nutty taste of the poppyseed was fantastically unique but a bit intense. I saved half for an after dinner treat.

Fresh herbs for sale at Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, or Jiřák in Prague.
Lots of dogs and their humans at the Prague Farmer's Market, Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, or Jiřák.
Sausage and other meats at the butcher's stall in the Vinohrady Farmer's Market in Prague, Czech Republic.

The market is super simple to find in Prague 3. It's walkable, but you can easily take the metro or tram. I took the tram over then, after a trip up the Žižkov Television Tower, walked leisurely back to my hotel in the city center. Overall, I found Prague's public transportation very simple to navigate (just remember to validate your ticket when you enter.) Vinohrady is a really beautiful area with tons to see, nice architecture, shopping, and restaurants to explore. If you have more than a few days in Prague I would highly recommend venturing out from Old Town Square and spending some time in the neighborhood. The market is open on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m through mid afternoon.

A wine bar near Jiřího z Poděbrad square and farmer's market in Prague.
A delightful cup of fresh pair cider at the Vinohrady Famer's Market in Prague.
Must try at the Prague Farmer's Market, poppyseed cheesecake at Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, or Jiřák.
Fresh flats of eggs on sale at the Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, or Jiřák, Prague Farmer's Market.
A vendor at the Prague Farmer's Market in Vinohrady serves up some autumnal pumpkin soup.
Delicious pumpkin soup at a farmer's market in Prague, Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, or Jiřák.
Pickles and fermented vegetables ready to go at Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, or Jiřák, a farmer's market in Prague, Czech Republic.
Bulk pickles for sale at the Vinohrady neighborhood Farmer's Market in Prague, Czech Republic.
Lots of beautiful buildings in Prague's Vinohrady neighborhood.
Brussels Sprouts and carrots for sale at Prague's Vinohrady Farmer's Market.
The Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, or Jiřák, Farmer's Market in Prague's Vinohrady neighborhood can be found on a beautiful open square, easily accessible by public transport.
Lots of produce available at the Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, or Jiřák, Vinohrady Farmer's Market in Prague, Czech Republic.
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