Spring comes to our new home

spring garden

The promise of spring’s arrival is enough to get anyone through the bitter winter.

People who visit this area called, “snow country” in Niigata prefecture would think it will take a year for all the snow to melt. And I can’t blame them, I mean look at this. This picture was taken last February, in the middle of winter and nope, we weren’t having a super snow storm because when it snows in this part of Japan, it is always super snow storm.

snow country

Fortunately, there are four seasons in Japan so there is no such thing as one full year of winter though every winter day you may feel like it. At one point or another, all the snow will have to melt, paving way for another phase of life, the spring season.


melt into spring 1
melt into spring 2

I love spring. I think it’s one of life’s mystery, one of Earth’s miracles. For me spring is a time of renewal. I love to watch the gardens around me as the daffodils and tulips and cherry blossoms (!) start to show their beauty. It is such a miracle that this can happen each year. The sun gets stronger and you really begin to feel its warmth against your face.

ben in red

Things begin to come alive. Or they just simply BEGIN. The fiscal year in Japan starts in April. This is when the new school year start and new college graduates start working. This spring is definitely a new beginning for us – Benjamin attending first grade at the elementary school.

red tulips 1
yellow tulips

When I was living in Dubai, I was perfectly ok without experiencing the seasons. It was so convenient to be able to wear the same type of clothes everyday all throughout the year. And also not suffer from pollen allergy in spring time. I lived in Japan for 10+ years before moving to Dubai so I thought, I’ve had my fill of spring, I won’t miss it. However, I didn’t realize how much I loved and longed for the seasons once we moved back to Japan.


We arrived and started our life here in the beginning of the year, in the middle of winter and then now everything is becoming alive and green.

spring flowers collage

Spring is also the time we finally change the tires in our car from studless snow tires to normal ones. Benjamin gets to help do it, only because he really, really wanted to do it so he is in charge of turning the screws as if he knows what he’s doing. Oh boys and cars.

change tires 1
change tires 2

Speaking of seasons, when we moved here in the middle of winter, I was worried the kids would hate me. That they’d utter the word ‘Dubai’ (our previous home and where they grew up) every single winter day. But surprisingly, not only did they welcome the change, one of them actually LOVES winter. Weird, I know but in the eyes of a child, everything is fresh and new, it seems.

It’s the kids first experience of the spring season and it may be the warmer weather, or the greens outside or the fact that even if it’s April or May, they can actually play outside. In Dubai, they start to get lesser and lesser time outdoors in these months due to the heat.

where snow

Looking at the smiles on their faces, I am confident to say that our move to Japan was a great decision, at least, for them. They get to know their grandparents better (we live with them), they get to know about the culture and heritage that’s part of who they are and then they get to experience the changing of the seasons (and lots of outdoor time).

Do you live in a place with four seasons? Which one is your favorite?

Prague with kids

kids at charles bridge 1

I took my two children to Prague last month without any fear. The city of a hundred spires is pretty easy to navigate, safe, with excellent public transport and offers lots of things for adults with children to enjoy. Just for reference our trip to Prague was a short one: arriving Wednesday afternoon and leaving Saturday afternoon. We were there for 4 days and 3 nights so here are the places we managed to squeeze in our schedule.

1. Charles Bridge

Benjamin at Charles bridge

An icon of the city, Charles Bridge is a picturesque span featuring 30 statues of saints is regularly packed with street vendors and musicians, and links sections of Prague on either side of the Vltava River. On the east side of the Vltava River is Prague’s historic Old Town district, marked by the Old Town Bridge Tower at the foot of the bridge.

charles bridge musicians

TRAVEL TIP: Head out early to avoid the throngs of tourists! We were there before 8 am.

P B and Ariane in charles bridge

Above photo is Charles Bridge at around 7:30 am. And below photo is Charles Bridge at 9:30 am.

charles bridge at 930 am

2. Kampa island

Kampa island in winter

Kampa Island – was announced the second most beautiful city island in the world. (First place went to St Ludwig Island in Paris and third place was assigned to Ada Ciganlija Island in Belgrade.) The above photo was taken on my first visit to Prague in December and Kampa island, seen from above while I was standing on Charles Bridge.

early morning Kampa 2

kampa town 1

Kampa is an island on the Vltava river in Prague on the side of the Lesser Quarter (Malá Strana) from which it is separated by the Devil’s Stream, a narrow artificial channel in the past used to power water mills.

Kampa island stream

The way to Kampa island is very easy. You can reach the Kampa Island either from Charles Bridge (the staircase was added there already in 1884)

way to Kampa island

View of Charles Bridge from Kampa island. Early morning was absolutely bliss – no tourists, even the locals seem to be still sleeping.

early morning Kampa 1


john lennon wall 1

Kampa island’s most famous spot is probably the John Lennon wall – a symbol of freedom and rebellion against the communist regime in the 1980’s. It is situated right across the beautiful building of French Embassy in Kampa.
On the death of John Lennon, youths of Prague decided to have a symbolic burial place for a man they admired for his fight for equality and peace and freedom for all.

john lennon wall 2

If we had more time, I would have loved to take the kids around Kampa island to explore that beautiful, quiet little corner of the city.

3. Prague Castle

st vitus cathedral

Roughly the size of seven football fields, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world. Built and renovated during 13 centuries, the complex includes churches, gardens, alleyways and royal residences. What you see from a distance that you think is the castle is actually St. Vitus cathedral. The entire complex is the “castle”.

prague castle entrance

There are plenty of open spaces inside the castle for kids to run around.

prague castle grounds

prague castle 2

There’s a long stairway leading up to Prague castle from Mala Strana (Lesser town), 208 steps and we climbed them all! From the Old Castle Steps there is a wonderful view of not only the Lesser Quarter’s rooftops but more or less the whole city of Prague. As we were about to climb the stairs, Benjamin slept so I had to carry him all the way to the top. It nearly broke my back but I could not NOT let Benjamin see this view.

prague castle 1

prague castle view

Going down the castle is easier towards the other side of the castle.

prague castle going down

Getting There

If you would like to walk, you have several options:

Nerudova Street – walk up the picturesque (and quite steep) Nerudova street from Malostranské námestí and at the top take a sharp right onto Ke Hradu. You will end up in front of the main entrance to the Castle.

Castle Steps (Zámecké schody) – start up Nerudova from Malostranské nám?stí and take a quick right onto Zámecká street. Then turn left to climb the romantic Castle Stairs, which will take you to the Garden on the Ramparts (Zahrada na Valech).

Old Castle Steps (Staré zámecké schody) – the stairs start near the Malostranská metro station and will put you at the beginning of Ji?ská street. You will be rewarded with one of the most beautiful views of Prague.

Getting There by Tram
Taking the tram will save you a walk uphill or up the stairs, and the ride is quite scenic. Take tram 22 (e.g. from Národní trída or the Malostranská metro station) and get off at one of these stops:

Královský letohrádek – if you get off here, you can start with the Royal Garden, Belveder and Ballgame Hall, then cross the Deer Moat bridge to get to the Second Courtyard
Note: The Royal Garden and Deer Moat are closed from November through March

Pražský hrad – as its name suggests, this is considered the main Prague Castle stop. Get off here if you would like to start at the Second Courtyard.

Pohorelec – getting off here will enable you to walk to the Castle through Hrad?any and arrive at the main entrance. This is probably the nicest route (and our favorite).

4. Petrin Hill & Observation Tower

petrin tower

At Petrin hill you can find an elegant lookout tower inspired by the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris. Built as a mini version of Paris’s Eiffel Tower, the Petrin Observation Tower was built in 1891 for the Jubilee Exhibition. The tower is 60m tall, which doesn’t seem particularly high until you add in the fact that it sits at the summit of Petrin Hill, which is 318m (1043 feet) high.

We took the tram #22 from Malostranske namesti and got down at Ujezd stop. Once we crossed the street after getting down the tram, we saw a mini park with cherry blossoms still remaining, though leaves have started to appear in the branches. The tulips were beautiful.

petrin hill 4

These (desert) kids – how happy they were with the green spaces.

We took the funicular up to Petrin hill and enjoyed time at the gardens.

petrin hill 2

Petrin hill has beautiful gardens, kids play area, an observatory, their local so called Eiffel Tower and some nice cafes. If there are food trucks in America (or lately, in Dubai too), they have this at Petrin hill in Prague.

petrin hill 5

We bought sausages and drinks and decided to eat our lunch on the grounds. What a lovely picnic day in May!

petrin hill 3

Petrín Hill is definitely recommended as a hike, the grounds are huge and you could walk around for what seems like forever. It is within walking distance to the Prague Castle district among other places. If we lived close to this, I swear I’d be taking the kids here as often as I could!

To reach the Observation Tower and other attractions at the top of Petrin Hill, take the Funicular Railway. This departs from Ujezd street in the Lesser Town (Malá Strana), near Ujezd tram stop. The funicular railway forms part of the Prague public transport network, so a single ticket for travel on trams, buses and the metro is also valid on the funicular.

5. Trams

tram 3

Czech Republic’s beautiful capital city, Prague, is crisscrossed by trams that complement the subway and bus system, providing transportation to virtually all corners of the city. Everyone is welcome on the tram, including furry friends.

tram 2

tram 1

Most children especially boys, love to ride on the trams. Prague has an extensive network of trams and if you like you can go round the city on public transport all day. All you need is a day pass. You get your ticket at the vending machine which you will find at most tram stops or at the metro stations. The price of a 24-hour ticket is 110 CZK (US$4.5). Children under 6 are free. Be sure to validate your ticket at the beginning of the 24-hour period. You can expect random checks, and there’s no clemency for foreigners.

So that’s what we managed to squeeze in our schedule. We definitely missed to go to Prague zoo, ranked 4th best in the world. It’s interesting to note too that all of the above places we went and activities we did, everything was free, except for the tram which obviously you need tickets to use. There are so many other things to do in Prague for the kids to enjoy however, we did not have the luxury of time to do all…which is ok as it only means one thing: We need to go back!

no winter dust to wipe off

Here in Dubai and in my house, there is no such thing as the yearly scrub fest called spring cleaning. First, because there is no spring season in Dubai la-la-land and second, because there is no need to put away winter blues around the home including jackets and woolies because we don’t have them. We wear the same clothes all throughout the year! Wipe off the winter dust and let the sunshine in? No need! The sun is shining 330 days of the year on the average!

When we were in Japan, I would be busy sorting out the closet and changing the beddings and blankets. Now, there’s no need to mark my calendar when to take out or put away winter and summer clothes which I find very convenient.

Have you done your spring cleaning yet?