Monday, January 16, 2006

Yet another reason to go to Riegrovy sady on the weekends

I’ve been a fan of Riegrovy sady, a local hillside park, since the second day we moved to Prague. That was the day Will and I hiked to the top of Vinohrady from our pension across the river so that we could check out one of the English language bookstores we’d read about before we arrived. The bookstore was at the far end of Manesova, one block from Jiriho z Podebrad, and on the way up that endless hill we passed by an edge of a park that made me think I had seen a mirage, so green was the view in the middle of the gray city. We had caught a glimpse of Riegrovy beach - the south-facing hillside where sunlovers lie even in spring to catch the rays. It turns green sooner than any place I know in Prague and it is a sight for eyes jaded by the cold.

We wound up renting a flat a few minutes from Riegrovy and ever since I’ve often gone out of my way to walk through it on the way to work, to play basketball on its outside courts, meet up with friends in the beer garden in its center. Now we spend many a Saturday morning at the Riegrovy playground, hanging out with friends until we can wrest the kids away and head to a restaurant or café for lunch or coffee.

There are a fair number of kid-friendly restaurants in the area, especially on a weekend at lunch time. In the summer the best place by far is the Greek restaurant Olympos, because it has a garden with its own playground. But come winter and fall, Olympos is too crowded inside for children, so we rotate between the friendly Italians at Roca and a table tucked into a corner at Kaaba. This last Saturday, we decided to try some place new.

I’d noticed the café before Christmas, walking home through the park. Its Illy sign suggested good coffee (and wise management) but with December upon us I mostly forgot about it. Friday though, one of our friends mentioned the café had paired with a bookshop next door - a used books bookshop, of the English variety - and from some place to try sometime soon, Cafe Metropole became some place to try tomorrow.

Saturday it was cold. Very cold. We skipped the playground and instead swung C between our hands as we walked. We swung her to make up for missing out on the playground, and so we could get there faster. As we ducked into the basement bookstore my ears began to melt and my glasses to steam up, but I could still see enough to make a beeline to the children’s books, looking for something that would serve Caroline as a distraction we could afford to take home. Mother Goose! In seconds C was posted in the store’s chair, reading, and it was my turn.

The store is the little sister of the larger Anagram bookstore downtown. It is a small collection, but tasty, not the usual canonical stuff you often see in used book stores along the great college kid migration path in Europe. I found a book of short stories by Ellen Gilchrist and an Ellis Peters mystery; we bought the Mother Goose book too. Then we moved next door to eat lunch and try out the coffee.

Both the café and the bookstore are in a basement, with low ceilings and high windows. The owner has lightened what could be a dark space with leather chairs and walls just the darker side of cream. He said that he’d kept painting until the walls looked right, not too white but light enough to reflect light back into the room for those dark middays in winter. We tried some sandwiches and a coronation chicken wrap, and all were good: a real BLT, delicious curry, sandwiches C could eat with relish and ease. The coffee was as good as I hoped, and the owner proved his client friendliness by serving it to me twice - once just before Caroline started to howl (and I ducked with her into the bathroom) and then when we came out, face washed and ready to try civilization again.

We’ve already got plans to try the café out again too - next weekend. I’ve heard they’ve got karaoke Saturday nights!

Café Metropole and Anagram bookshop - Anny Letenske 18, Prague 2.

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