I would like to make it clear at the outset that this post will be less naughty than it sounds (my Dad reads this blog).
I was having a chat with my oldest friend (in terms of how long I have known her, rather than her age…) recently about the things we think we “should” do. We “should” go to the gym, rather than sleep in. We “should” have a clean tidy house, rather than not. We “should” make actual mince pies at Christmas, rather than buying them from M&S and just putting them in tupperware, tieing them up in ribbon and passing them off as our own when giving them as a gift to the host of a last-minute party. Ah, the guilt! The guilt! I think it’s a fair generalisation to say that women feel guilty about pretty minor things far more frequently than men, and I am definitely all woman when it comes to this.
In this particular instance we were in Singapore airport, on an eight-hour stop-over. Old-friend and I agreed that we “should” go and explore Singapore (it’s not like we’re ever just “in the neighbourhood”) but our body clocks said that it was two in the morning, we had both come from horrid weeks at work and were knackered and we were meant to be on holiday. So we decided instead to break with the guilt and have a pedicure and a sleep. And do you know what – it felt amazing! When the rest of our group got back from (variously) Singapore Zoo, Raffles and the big hotel with the infinity pool about 4 miles up in the air, I didn’t feel even a pang of regret. I just had nice feet and a lack of dark circles under my eyes Which goes to show, sometimes you “should” ignore what you should do, and do what makes you happy.
Which is why I will try not to feel too bad about Prague Guilty Pleasure No. 1…
I wonder if there is an expat in Prague who could honestly say this doesn’t apply to them. Bakeshop is a cafe within spitting distance of our apartment, and as a result I think I hear the call louder than most. If it was just the coffee, it might be easier to ignore Bakeshop. But it’s not just that – it’s the milk and the meringues as well.
The milk – there’s full-fat, skimmed, semi-skimmed and soya. All served by ladies who understand what you mean when you say (in English) “skinny cappuccino please”. I keep trying to pronounce “Nízkotučné mléko” properly elsewhere but am often met with blank looks and fat coffee. And it’s not that I think that I will turn into a massive cow on the spot if someone serves me full-fat foam, but I know what I like and Bakeshop makes it easier to get it.
The meringues are also amazing. Well, I’ve never actually had one but they look amazing. They look like the ones in the window of Ottolenghi on Upper Street in London. Due to this, Bakeshop makes me feel like I’m at home (UK home), which is a ridiculous thing to want to feel when you are living somewhere as beautiful and fascinating as Prague. However there are times when feeling like one is on Upper Street is quite comforting. These times are normally when it is dark and cold (I “emigrated” on a unseasonally hot day and as a result always imagine that London is scorching, even in December), when I miss my mum or when the dry-cleaner (who is a total b**** by the way) looks at me SO scornfully because I don’t understand the days of the week yet and she had to tell me in English that my suit wont be ready until Saturday. At times like this a big meringue is just the ticket (maybe I should go all out on the full-fat coffee and then I could be a big meringue…)
Anywhere else, Bakeshop would be a lovely cafe. A great place to go to read a paper and have a coffee. It’s bright, airy and comfy and somewhere I would definitely type this blog if I had an Apple Mac and no job. It’s a bit like Starbucks might feel if it had better coffee, wasn’t a chain and didn’t make its drinks out of exploited children and baby animals (allegedly).
Except that Prague is coffee-house central. The city is teaming with far more individual, local and historical places from which to get a caffeine hit. Prague has a long cafe history with coffee houses being popular with the many artists, writers, musicians and “thinkers” associated with Prague over the ages. Even during the darker periods of the Socialist regime, Prague’s cafe culture survived. Nowadays it remains varied and exciting. You can’t turn a corner without stumbling over a romantic little coffee-house to cuddle up to your loved one, a majestic place like Louvre or one that comes with books on tap (the Globe).
So I do judge myself (and I know my husband judges me too) for my Bakeshop cravings. It’s full of expats and tourists and no Czechs, the service is pretty average, you pay more for a coffee here than anywhere else I’ve ever been. The cost of the bread in Bakeshop is the reason we might not have a holiday this year. Their most expensive bread is the cherry pecan golden raisin loaf – 350 crowns (about 12 of Her Majesty’s finest) – I have not sampled this one actually. Everybody has their limit and unless those raisins are made of actual gold, this is beyond mine.
There are some things you “should” not do.