Our First School Vacation!

It’s officially the first school vacation! In France, the school schedule is basically 7 weeks on, 2 weeks off. And our two weeks off started today!

When we lived here before, we would use these school breaks to travel around Europe — lots of road trips and cheap flights — and we hope to do the same thing this time around. It’s interesting, because we went all over the place but the younger three really don’t remember any of the traveling. So we could visit the same places — Switzerland, Amsterdam, London, Ireland, Rome, Venice, Barcelona, Norway, Belgium — and it would be as if it were their very first visit. I’m really, really, really happy that Oscar, Betty, and June will get this chance to travel now that they’re old enough to really enjoy it.

For our first school break, we were exploring options and possible places to visit, and I started looking at bargain European flights (with companies like EasyJet and RyanAir). On one of the sites, you could put in flexible travel dates, and then pick a budget (say, 50 euros per ticket), and it would show you a list of everywhere you could fly for that price during those dates.

Oh my goodness! It was so fun to see what the options were. It’s definitely off-season as far as European travel goes, so there were tons of cities on the list.

And we ended up picking Prague!

It’s a city none of our kids have ever visited, and I think they’re going to love it. Ben Blair and I went way back when I was pregnant with Ralph in 1997, but haven’t been back since. We have such happy memories from that trip and can’t wait to see what Prague is like all these years later.

We fly to Prague on Thursday from Paris — and we’re going to head to Paris tomorrow (Tuesday) so that we can enjoy the city before we fly out. We’ve been in France for a month and a half and haven’t spent any time in Paris yet (and it’s just 2 hours away!), so we’re excited to be in the city. It’s one of our favorite places — we’ve spent some pretty fabulous days there.

We made a long list of things to do in Paris, but none of us have a list for Prague yet. We need ideas. Have you ever been to Prague? Have any recommendations? We’re all ears!

P.S. — We also used to use these school breaks to film Olive Us videos. When we moved to Oakland, and no longer had those breaks, we couldn’t keep up the video schedule. Makes me sad to think of it!

P.P.S. — The rental house is still a mess! Moving in takes so much time and energy. We haven’t even pretended to tackle the office yet. And there are a dozen details in every room that need to be attended to — like installing the vacuum charger, and the wall magnet for the knives, and the bedside wall lamps… But I’m trying to put on blinders so I can head out and enjoy this trip with my family. : )

35 thoughts on “Our First School Vacation!”

  1. We spent a week in Prague over the summer. We enjoyed walking across the
    Charles Bridge to Prague castle, the old town square and astronomical clock, the Jewish cemetery and synagogue were especially interesting. St, Vitus Cathedral. We also enjoyed the Communist Museum. Of course, just wandering and looking into shops. I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time and it will be a lot less crowded than visiting in June!

  2. I am most jealous about your school schedule, coupled with your work schedule! I would love that freedom and flexibility. For me we had to sit down this week and pick which 6 weeks for vacation we want my husband to have off in 2020. They have to be prechosen each October for the upcoming year. 6 weeks vacation is very generous indeed, but with the strict limitation that they have to be taken in full M-F blocks picked up to 15 months ahead of time. It’s a hospital so of course only certain number of people can take off for spring break/thanksgiving/christmas.

  3. Sorry for the Novel;)
    I wish we had that school schedule! Would love that time off:)
    We lived in Italy for 3 years, my babies were just 3 months, 2, 4, and 6 years old when we got there. So of course they didn’t remember too much, after we left, especially the younger ones. So when we got the chance to move to Germany a few years ago we were really excited. This time they were 11, 13, 15, & 17:) It was a lot of fun to take them all the places they only remembered in pictures. We of course recreated some of them:) We were there another 3 years, been gone for a year, and man I miss those RyanAir flights! Took them everywhere.
    Prague! We loved Prague, went several times. We used the Rick Steve’s guide the first time to get us around the new city and then into the old. It was great, lots of good info and so easy we took all our visitors on that same route whenever we returned. You begin up at the Wenceslas Statue by the National Museum and he guides you down, talking about architecture, some cool and unexpected Art Deco, and the story of Czech independence, and more. He weaves you back and forth across the street to see statues, and gardens, and gelato:) all the way down to the square, where there’s always some performance happening. Then you turn right to head to old town. Just before old town we saw a big toy store, Hamley’s, similar to FAO Schwartz. We decided to pop in and had fun for an hour or so playing with all the interactive displays:) Anyway then you get to the Powder Tower and he guides you through old town to the astronomical clock. We always stopped there to eat at one of the many restaurants on the square, with seating outdoors, so we could watch the clock when it chimed. There’s a really good Italian place there called Oliva Verde we enjoyed many times. After lunch, we wander farther into the city to Charles bridge and the tower there, great views if you go up:) Be sure to grab your dessert from one of the many little shops, we loved Trdelnik, fried dough cones filled with fruit and cream, or ice cream, or simply rolled in cinnamon and sugar. You really can’t go wrong:)Anyway, it is a great city, I’m sure you’ll love it. We usually ended there for a day trip, but there is so much more to see and do. Enjoy!

  4. Hi there! Lovely to hear you are coming to my city. I have moved back recently after ten years in Paris so I know the airports pretty well. I will try to write a few recommendations (and warnings) for your family tomorrow. In the meantime, Janek’s Honest GuideYouTube channel is great (if you haven’t heard of it and want to avoid tourist traps).
    PS.: Trdelnik smells delicious and is sold everywhere in the center but it’s actually not a traditional thing here… (just good marketing).

    1. We spent Christmas 2018 in Prague. I didn’t feel like the city lived up to the hype. Tredelnyk (sp) is a weird made up hoax. Just skip it. Watch out where you eat. We had the most expensive doner kebabs there ever. We went to a concert in one of the halls. We certainly didn’t do everything there, but I just wasn’t in love with Prague. I have traveled a lot and had never made it there.

  5. We spent two great days there with our then-six year old!

    There’s awesome skateboarding at Stalin Square and you JUST might be lucky to catch Swing Letna, a lindy hop group that dances together. So fun!

    She loved the Powder Tower (pretending she was a soldier, spy, princess) and the Miniature Museum.

    A quick recap is here!

    1. I am willing to fly to France and unpack your house to your specifications!!! My family might miss me and my job would definitely miss me, but I will do it anyway! 😁

  6. I’m a Czech-Canadian living in USA and my kids love visiting Czech Republic. I highly recommend leaving Prague so you can get a sense of the lovely countryside too. There are many castles you can do as a day trip. Do all the touristy things in the city but leave time to just wander around and get lost. My kids really love the Muzeum Smyslu (Museum of Senses). Fun for everyone especially if you have a rainy day!

  7. I love Prague! I definitely recommend Prague Castle and the Jewish Quarter, and the library of Strahov Monastery. The craft shops, e.g. for glass, are great. One last recommendation: you must go to the Choco Cafe at Liliova 4 (the original location) or Bethlehem Square for exotic hot chocolate. I particularly liked the cherry almond flavor. Here is a link to the English version of the menu.

  8. Whatever you do, get up early in the morning to avoid the masses of tourists everywhere (especially on the bridge)!
    Walk up (or down, you can take the furnicular to get uphill and go to the tower and miror maze before going back down) Petrin and pick up fresh fruit in the orchards. Enjoy an Ice Cream at Angelato at the foot of the Hill (Újezd). Or take a turn right (when walking down) to the old wooden Russian church. The Prague zoo is great, too, worth a one-day visit. The Jewish part of the city is a must-see. The National Gallery at St.Agnes (Anezka) convent for beautiful medieval art and a small lovely sculpture park. Frantiskanska zahrada (gardens) right off Wenceslas square for a moment of peace. Actually, the best is just to wander around – there are so many places worth seeing here and the city is so compact that you can discover most of them in your stride.

    1. Oh, and Vysehrad for a lovely walk in the park, one of the oldest churches, stunning views from the ramparts and cubist buildings on the way down to the river (the only country where cubism was translated into architecture). You can easily walk to the centre along the river from there, too.

      1. Yes, Vysehrad was my favorite part of visiting Prague. It was misty and full of crows. Old women were washing graves. A few steps away young couple burst from the church after getting married. Everyone cheered as a yoke was place around them. The place felt sacred, beautiful, and truly czech.

  9. Hi Gabi,
    Thank you for coming back to my city. Not many people go to see Novy Svet. It’s by the Prague Castle and you would love it. Kids will also enjoy the largest toy store in Central Europe – Hamleys.
    But really, just get lost.. you will find some treasures!

  10. Any time we’re in a place with a Sandeman’s New Europe free walking tour (including Prague!) we do that first thing to get our bearings. We also took the Prague castle tour through them and enjoyed it!

  11. Hi Gabby, long time reader!
    We have a little apartment in Paris and spend a lot of time here. We just arrived this a.m. in Paris for the first week of holidays. Do you want to meet up for a lunch or something? My husband has a stand for the salon du patrimoine at the Louvre, and I will be out and about with my daughters 8 and 11…easiest way to reach me is on my cell but how do I send you my telephone number?

  12. I have visited Prague twice and truly love the city.

    Two must-do’s:
    – The szecheny bath house! A fun, relaxing and easy way to spend a day or even just a morning. It’s also a visual treat – will make you feel like you stepped into a Wes Anderson film, and that includes the stern bath matron who hands you a tiny towel and orders you to strip down! It’s funny – very much worth a visit!

    – Leka Hlava! It’s a vegetarian restaurant where the ceiling has been painted to look like the night sky. Tiny lights are embedded to feel like twinkling stars. Never had a bad meal there. So magical.

    Have fun!

    1. Hilary! I forgot to include it – you are so right! Lehka Hlava is one of the best restaurants in Prague. The night sky ceiling is so magical and the food is fabulous!

      1. We went there this summer, too! I’d recommend reservations. We were very lucky to get a table for 5 without a reservation since we came in for dinner just a bit early, and then watched multiple other parties after us be turned away (they were able to make reservations for a late dinner that night, though, if they could wait!). Everything was delicious!

  13. Prague is dreamy! I spent 4 days exploring Prage pre-children, and i still get chills thinking about it.

    Some favorites that kids may like:

    -There always seems to be evening concerts, ballets, and shows in gorgeous old cathedrals. Last minute tickets are ok.
    – Exploring the other size of the King Charles bridge, and walking up the looong hill to the church on top is worth while! (I was there in January, and there were lots of carts selling hot mulled wine to warm up with..it was lovely!)
    -Take a hot cocoa in the cafe at the top by the church, and you can see spectacular views back onto Prague and the river.
    -Kafka museum is quite something.
    -The Jewish quarter was very powerful for me, but equally interesting and full of gorgeous architecture for anyone to see.
    -The clock tower in the main square, get a seat at a nearby cafe with the kids and soak it up!

  14. I visited Prague when I was backpacking around Europe for ten days during a break from a semester studying in Sweden. It was just myself and another friend, and we’d been away from home for two months. We saw the US Embassy in Prague and got homesick, so jumped at the chance to eat somewhere familiar… TGIFridays! However the food wasn’t anything to write home about and I wish we’d gone somewhere local. Oh well. We were 19!

  15. Praha! The castle (especially the St. Vitus Catherdral) and the bridge and clock, of course. I would do the Mucha museum for sure. And, while the historic part of the town is incredibly walk-able, go ahead and take a trolley! And eat both the honey cake and the apple cake. Actually, for food, the further off you can get from the historic part of town the cheaper and tastier the food gets.

    Not as if Prague doesn’t have enough to do but if you are thinking of a day trip, try going to Kutna Hora where there is both the Bone ossuary (building made of bones) and St. Barbara’s (I believe that is the name??) which is one of the greatest example of gothic architecture.

  16. I am planning to visit Prague next summer. Will be looking forward to your posts. Please do put together a list of the best restaurants. I look forward to trying the speciality cuisines of each place.

  17. Amanda Marinello

    You should join jacksflightclub.com. I’ve only joined the free version, but the savings have allowed us so many great tripswe couldn’t have afforded otherwise.

  18. Have you ever worked with a professional organizer? That might be a solution to getting your rental livable after such a big move & so much change. It seems like a luxury, but I have found the money spent is a great investment & the work always goes so much quicker than when I’ve done it myself! They are also have a lot of fun organizing tricks & tips that make living spaces much more efficient.

  19. Prague is a true gem. I just spent 4 days there in August and loved every moment. We found a great vegetarian restaurant that serves re-imagined versions of traditional Czech cuisine: Maitrea, smack in the middle of Old Town. We stayed on the other side of the river in Mala Strana (it’s a little less touristy and also cheaper than Old Town). The entire city is super walkable, but if you want to ride the trams, all are equipped with credit card readers to buy tickets. I highly recommend going to the Prague Metronome for great views of the city, and to Visehrag for a fabulous walk through the oldest part of Prague (dating back to about 900!!!).

  20. Loved reading all the recommendations for Prague. I haven’t been but would love to go. I’m curious to know what websites you used to search for the flights. Thanks and have a fun time in Prague.

  21. Hey Gabby! Look me up and consider coming to Copenhagen for a Christmas markets break!! I would love to help you with a trip :) Also enjoy Prague! It’s beautiful…. Laura H

  22. Enjoy Prague! I would love to know the name of the website you mention (the one that allows you to enter dates and a budget), if you get a chance – sounds like a great resource.

  23. “Oh, I’ve been to Prague. Well, I haven’t ‘been to Prague’ been to Prague, but I know that thing, that, ‘Stop shaving your armpits, read the Unbearable Lightness of Being, date a sculptor, now I know how bad American coffee is thing…'”
    (Couldn’t resist quoting Kicking and Screaming! Enjoy your vacation!)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top