Leaving UK nanny's lead weights of lifestyle gloom and scaremongery at Ruzyně airport like so much unwanted baggage, it was just a 15 minute cab ride before Mrs P & I were happily nestled at a table in the bar pictured left. I don't know much Czech except 'pivo', which is just about all one needs to know after a flight where the ice cold Staropramen had been calling to me siren-like, but whatever the word is for bliss, we enjoyed that too while sipping quality brew and simultaneously lighting up without so much as a raised eyebrow from anyone.
There's not much to say about Prague and its more relaxed and respectful approach to people in comparison to the UK that I haven't mentioned in an article last November ... except to correct this bit.
[The bar] was the only place one could smoke, thereby leaving every other part of the 354 roomed hotel - and two non-smoking lounges - for non-smokers, including the restaurant where we were heading.Err, not strictly true, as it happens. On Friday evening, we sat down at our table in the plush restaurant and Mrs P put her cigarettes (£2.50 Rothmans from the shop over the road) next to the condiments rather than suffer the discomfort of a square box in her trouser pocket. A waiter, without waiting to be asked and flashing a genial smile, promptly placed a gleaming glass ashtray in front of us. How thoughtful, eh? We didn't make use of it on this occasion but it was very liberating to be offered the freedom to choose. It's the same just about everywhere. In fact, the one establishment we stumbled across with the bold claim "Prague's first ever smoke free bar" painted on its window was amusingly lifeless and - predictably - shut.
The whole weekend was equally stress free, and the Prague urban scenery as picturesque as ever. But, as alluded to briefly yesterday, you can always trust lefties to make life that little bit more difficult.
Returning from Old Town on Saturday afternoon after having savoured a succulent piece of veal which would have sent Kerry McCarthy into anaphylactic shock, there was a procession going on at Malostranské náměstí tram station. Lefties. Tons of 'em.
How do I know they were lefties? Well, the massive - and I mean huge - Che Guevara flag we saw from Charles Bridge gave the game away somewhat. As did the uninspiring chanting, regimented banners, and kids-as-weapons tactic so enamoured of that kind of morally bankrupt political activist.
It turns out that it was, indeed, exactly the kind of emotive and detached-from-reality protest we see over here**. As 'normal' Czechs stood watching with bemused indifference, I asked a street caricaturist - not the type one would mark down as a heartless beneficiary of right wing privilege - what was going on.
"Idiots", he spat, "the government say we must change, cannot spend money. They don't like". Ah, that old chestnut. "They are going to the Finance building. They will stay there I think".
And then the penny dropped. They had been marching along the tram lines, and we passed the Ministry of Finance on the way down to central Prague that morning. By 'down', I do mean down. We were at the foot of a steepish hill that leads up to Prague Castle, said to have been built 'on the back of a dolphin', and our hotel was that-a-way. With these sods closing the roads off and blocking trams, the only way back was a 30 minute hike. Uphill. In 25 degree heat.
I consoled myself with a lime ice cream bought along the way, and by pondering why it was that citizens of a country, formerly stamped on by the communist jackboot, would contemplate pursuing the same damaging policies which they had only recently thrown off.
Just a small inconvenience, of course, but one which was irritating considering my visiting there is partly to escape lefty-led policy nonsense over here.
I could have done without the NHS administrator who checked in just before us on our way back too, taking the last window seat in the process, only to then be sat in the same row glued to seminar documents the whole way back without glancing out of the bloody thing even once.
Trifles, yes. But when you've enjoyed a weekend of quiet enjoyment and unhampered personal choice, most irritations are.
**Well, not exactly, as it happens. There were no 'anarchist' riots and no smashed windows, graffiti etc the next day.