AK Monthly Recap: June 2021

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It’s summer and PRAGUE IS BACK, BABY! COVID levels in the Czech Republic have dropped enormously (funny how we can go from the worst in the world to the best in Europe in a few short months) and the city has finally reopened after six months of everything being closed.

It’s amazing. This is my first time experiencing Prague in the summer months — seriously, before now, my visits were always in the fall or winter. And while it can get blisteringly hot on some days, I’m so happy to be experiencing the city under better circumstances.

People are hanging out outside, dining al fresco, gathering at beer gardens, perusing outdoor markets. I had no idea the city could be this fun! We have been denied so much over the past year and a half.

Now it’s time to start doing tons of research so I can write tons of posts about Prague! I’m already a good part of the way there on the restaurant research front.

Prague at sunset: you see crenellated buildings on the edge of the river in shades of cream, orange and pale green. In the foreground, a bridge with a red tram going down the street.
Prague is already more colorful.

Destinations Visited

Prague, Czech Republic

Pula, Brijuni, Fažana, Valtura, Medulin, and Vodnjan, Croatia

Kate stands in joy holding a gold-framed certificate in one hand and a pen-shaped statue out of stone in the other. She stands in front of the ocean in Croatia. She wears a blue, white and orange dress with shapes of butterflies in the pattern.
I actually won!!

Highlights

I won Croatia’s top travel writing award! The reason why I was in Croatia was because I was receiving the Golden Pen Award. The winners were invited on a three-day trip in and around Pula, with an award ceremony.

There are three divisions of the Golden Pen (print media, video, and blog and social) and there is a Grand Prix winner for each category. I was shocked and delighted to win the Grand Prix in the blog and social category!

You all know how much I love Croatia, and how much I love writing about Croatia — so it meant a lot to be recoginized by the Croatians themselves! One Croatian told me my What Not to Do in Croatia post was spot-on, written like a native, and that meant even more to me.

It was nice to spend a few sunny days in southern Istria, visiting places like Pula and Vodnjan for the third time. I actually went inside Pula’s amphitheater for the first time ever!!

Charlie got his second vaccine! While he got his first Astra-Zeneca shot at home in the UK, he was able to get the second here in Prague. It took a lot of calls to doctors to find one who would do it, but it paid off. I’m so glad he’s fully protected.

Lewis the cat is officially cured of FIP! Lewis was diagnosed with FIP on December 28, and he went through 12 weeks of treatment followed by 12 weeks of observation. We got his final bloodwork and Lewis is clinically cured. From this point forward, he’s a healthy cat.

It’s been such a long road. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that our little cat is going to have a full life.

A group selfie of friends in front of the steeples of a church in front.
SO good to see friends. Image by the Budget Traveller.

My friends came to visit!! It’s been so long since I could say that! One of my favorite things about living in New York was that it meant friends were always passing through, and I could meet up with them and take them to my favorite spots.

This month, though, my friends Kash and Sabrina and Melvin had work that brought them to Prague. And we had SUCH a great time exploring the city!

Bonus: it’s so nice that in Prague you can buy a round of beers for you and six of your friends for less than $20. You definitely can’t do THAT in New York (unless it’s happy hour at Uptown Bourbon in Harlem).

Getting to go to an actual event with new friends. I joined a pasta-making meetup in Prague. Everyone was either vaccinated or had been tested. It felt INCREDIBLE to actually meet up with strangers! (And a crazy coincidence — at the meetup I met a guy who worked with my dad in Boston in the 90s!)

Celebrating an anniversary. Charlie and I marked the occasion with dinner with the best view in Prague — at Coda at the Aria Hotel, where our friend Honza is the chef. It was fan-bloody-tastic and I highly recommend it if you’re celebrating a special occasion here.

Two glasses clinking together in cheers, an aperol spritz and a glass of champagne, overlooking the orange roofs of Prague at sunset.
Celebrating our anniversary atop Prague.

Challenges

One of the people I was traveling with in Croatia insulted my appearance in front of several of our colleagues. I know that sounds crazy to hear, but if you hear the full story, you’ll get it, and probably be angry as well. The full story is on my Patreon.

And honestly, this incident sent me into an anxiety tailspin. This woman really fucked with my head. Things got so bad that I was afraid to talk to anyone. I had to summon all my energy to even leave my hotel room.

Lewis started CLIMBING. Earlier this month we heard a strange noise, turned around, and Lewis was on top of the 8.5-foot bedroom door. He had no idea how to get down and we had to rescue him. Then he started climbing the closet in the entryway by jumping from the ground to the medium shelf, to the top of the door, and swinging to the top of the closet!! What a little acrobat!

We were freaked out at first, but now we’ve made accommodations so Lewis can climb up and down safely. And if we ever want him to come down, all we need to do is shake the treats!

Murray isn’t as good of a climber, but he is able to get up to one high shelf. (Lewis doesn’t like it. He bites him when he comes up there.)

One of the cats pooped in the middle of the night and it smelled so bad IT WOKE US UP. I see you, Murray.

Lewis and Murray, two gray tabby kittens with white bellies and white paws, sitting on top of a tall white shelf and looking at the camera as if to say, "Who, us?"
My little ragamuffins.

Blog Posts of the Month

Exploring Vis, Croatia: A Travel Guide — Vis is one of my absolute favorite places in Croatia. No other island is like it, which is why I recommend visiting after you’ve already been to other Croatian islands.

12+ Best Day Trips from Boston — If you live in New England, you’ll want to save this guide! I’m glad to finally write about my favorite places to visit close to where I grew up, like Newburyport and Portsmouth and the Maine Diner.

33 Best Things to Do in the Berkshires — I loved my time in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts this past May. I can’t believe it took me this long to visit! Here’s why you should consider going this summer.

Kate glamour selfie. Kate wears a white off the shoulder Derek Lam top with black polka dots, oversized black Tom Ford sunglasses, gold-edged black Kendra Scott drop earrings, and hot pink lipstick. She holds a glass of champagne and stands on a rocky beach in Croatia.
Back in my element. Designer fashion, bright lipstick, Croatia, champagne.

This Month on Patreon

On the Adventurous Kate Patreon, I publish exclusive content and never-told stories that you can access from $6 per month. We also have a private Facebook group and members get free access to the Book Club each month.

This month, I wrote in depth about the awful thing that happened in Croatia with the woman who insulted my appearance. It became my most-commented-on story on Patreon yet.

I also wrote a full story about a person I met on my travels who I’ve continued to meet up with over the years. And that is all I’ll say about that…

The large gothic church in Karlín, Prague, surrounded by a park and trees flush with leaves.
My lovely Prague neighborhood of Karlín, trees flush with leaves.

Book Club This Month

Our next book club will be Stealing Buddha’s Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen, a food memoir by a Vietnamese-American girl trying to understand (and falling in love with) American food culture. I am still trying to figure out a date for the next book club, but due to my travel schedule and Canadian holidays, it looks like it will be pushed to mid-August.

If you want to know when the book club is, sign up for my mailing list here.

What I Watched This Month

Mare of Easttown!! What an awesome show! The cast! THE ACCENTS!! We actually waited until the finale aired, then watched each episode, finishing the series within a week. Maybe that wasn’t the optimal way to watch it, but what a great week that was.

Some people pointed out that it wasn’t the greatest mystery of all time, that there were a few plot holes. You know what? I don’t even care! More than anything, this was a study about a suburban town in decline where literally everyone knows everyone. Plus, all the Delco accents.

Anyway, give Kate Winslet all the Emmys. I adore her.

Also, I watched Indian Matchmaking, which started off SO STRONG and ended up so disappointing at the end. Man, I loved the early episodes, but the ending was an insult to everyone who invested their time and it made me wish I hadn’t watched in the first place.

A plate of dishes at a new restaurant, Kro: Charlie has a beer and a roasted chicken drenched in butter chicken sauce; Kate has an orange cocktail and a fried chicken sandwich. Between us is a bowl of kimchi (not REALLY kimchi but kimchi-inspired), bright pink Korean-style marinated cabbage.
Sampling the dishes at Kro, a new restaurant in our neighborhood.

What I Listened To This Month

There’s a pop culture obsession of mine that I’m pretty sure I haven’t shared with you — the Duggars. The crazy fundamentalist Christian family with 19 kids and the show on TLC. Not because I admire them. I’m just fascinated and horrified by them, and I’m literally in online communities devoted to snarking them.

Most of the snarking is fun. Sometimes it’s serious. This spring, Josh Duggar was arrested for the possession of child sex abuse images; he goes to trial November 30. The show has since been canceled and there’s a growing rift between members of the family, as more and more of their secrets get exposed.

So this month I started listening to Some Place Under Neith, a podcast that dives deep into cases about missing women. They have several episodes about IBLP, the fundamentalist church to which the Duggars belong, and now they’re doing several episodes about Josh Duggar. They are connecting a LOT of dots that nobody else has figured out yet, particularly when it comes to dates, and it was a really interesting listen.

Prague's Old Town Square underneath a blue sky, filled with pastel crenellated buildings and a tall column in the center. Suspiciously empty, as tourists have not yet come back.
Old Town Square, quiet before the tourists return.

What I Read This Month

This month I read four new books, making a total of 38 for the year so far. I read two more books in the Book Riot #ReadHarder 2021 challenge and am 17 out of 24 books into the challenge.

Yearbook by Seth Rogen (2021) — This is a memoir by Seth Rogen, and that’s literally all you need to know. Rogen tells all kinds of stories, from his early life in Vancouver through his years in Hollywood. There’s a lot of humor. There are a lot of drugs. And this might be your new favorite audiobook, because there’s nothing better than hearing these stories told by Rogen’s inimitable voice.

This book is fucking hilarious — and it’s the best-produced audiobook I’ve ever listened to. It has a full cast (including many of the celebrities he writes about) and background noises that really bring you into the setting, whether it’s Vegas or Jewish summer camp, the Oscars or Joshua Tree, tripping on acid. And the celebrity encounters made me howl, especially the ones with Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, and Nicolas Cage! If you’re taking a road trip this summer, I highly recommend getting this for the car ride!

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson with Veronica Chambers (2013) (#ReadHarder category: a food memoir by a person of color) — Chef Marcus Samuelsson was most famous for his background: born in Ethiopia, adopted by Swedish parents, trained in Europe, blossomed in New York. But he wanted to be known as a chef, period. This book chronicles his remarkable career journey, from cooking with his Swedish grandmother to creating an iconic restaurant in Harlem.

Samuelsson’s restaurant Red Rooster was one of the reasons why I moved to Harlem — it was so magic, I wanted to be part of the neighborhood. I loved this book because I love memoirs about work, and this one really illustrated just how much hard work it took to get him to the top of his game.

However. There is one part that really put me off (and, according to GoodReads, several other readers). Samuelsson got a friend-with-benefits pregnant when he was 21. She decided to have the baby. Though his mother built a relationship with his daughter, he didn’t meet her until she was 14. And though they eventually built a relationship, and I respect him for actually including something that made him look bad in his memoir, there was a LOT of awkwardness around this subject, especially since she wasn’t even included in his acknowledgements.

Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa (2010) (#ReadHarder category: a historical fiction with a POC or LGBTQ+ protagonist) — This novel tells the story of a Palestinian family, from the moment they were removed from their land in 1948 through the present day. Told through the eyes of daughter Amal, who goes from a refugee camp to Jerusalem to the United States, this story is an allegory for Palestine.

I believe that reading is a tool for empathy and compassion, and I wanted us to read a book told from the Palestinian point of view this month because so much of the western media covers only the Israeli perspective. This book was beautiful — but so dark. It’s like a spiral, each incident in the family’s life worse than the last. Still, there’s some hope to hold onto at the end.

If you’re not well-versed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or you don’t understand it as well as you’d like to (I mean, that’s everyone) — this book is an important tool that will help you understand a point a view that is too often ignored.

The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google by Scott Galloway (2018) — Quite a lot has been written about Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google over the past decade. But this book not only goes into the history of each company, but evaluates their journey toward being the most powerful platform of all, and what could possibly lay ahead for technology in our world.

The book starts with a long chapter on each company, then spends the rest of the book talking about all of them and their implications. Personally, I enjoyed the deep dives into each company more than I enjoyed the other chapters, and to be honest, I actually sped up the audio so I could get through the book faster. I would have been happy to stop reading after the deep dives. Still, an interesting read to listen to on my walks around the city.

I may have audibly crowed at the line, “Jeff, have some fucking vision,” at the end of the Amazon chapter.

A view overlooking Lipari, one of the Aeolian Islands: A tall, volcanic island coming out of the sea, with lots of tall cliffs. In the foreground, lots of cacti and a hand-painted sign directing to the beach (Spiaggia).
Lipari, in the Aeolian Islands, via Pixabay.

Coming Up in July 2021

FINALLY, IT’S TIME FOR OUR FIRST BIG POST-VACCINE TRIP! Charlie and I are heading to the Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago off the northeast coast of Sicily!!

During the darkest days this past winter, I concentrated on an image of being by the sea in Italy. Sitting on a terrace, feeling warm breezes, looking over the sea, eating fritto misto and drinking a spritz. THAT was what I manifested. The hardest thing was narrowing down which seaside destination in Italy to actually visit!

I have been dreaming about visiting the Aeolian Islands ever since reading about them in my Let’s Go: Italy guidebook when I studied abroad in Florence in 2004. Charlie is a huge Sicily fan and he’s been excited to visit the Aeolians for a long time, too.

I’m looking forward to hiking on Stromboli’s volcano, swimming in the Tyrrhenian Sea, taking boat trips to all the different islands, staying in beautiful boutique hotels (including one with a killer infinity pool), and eating tons of local delicacies, like pane cunzato, a flatbread covered with local tomatoes, onions, mozzarella, and capers. Plus all the gelato and granita!

We will be going for two full weeks. We are starting with three nights in Milazzo on the mainland (in part because our flights to Sicily were rescheduled two days earlier — no complaints here!), then three nights on Stromboli, five nights on Salina, two on Lipari, and one night in Catania on the mainland before we fly back.

Even though I’m fully vaccinated, that doesn’t mean I’m ready to travel anywhere and do anything. At this point in time, I feel comfortable visiting places have low rates of COVID and are vaccinating decently, where you spend most of your time outdoors. Those are the kinds of trips I will be prioritizing this summer, and likely for the rest of the year. And the Aeolian Islands are a perfect fit as far as that goes.

I can’t wait.

Any suggestions for the Aeolian Islands? Share away!

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