Home Authors Posts by Mihaela Lica Butler

Mihaela Lica Butler

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Mihaela Lica-Butler is travel writer and travel public relations consultant by profession, lover of cultures and cuisine. She has built a fun career while chiming in on many topics, from relating the trials and tribulations of the people of Kosovo, to experiencing, first hand, the heroics of the Romanian soldiers serving for the UN. But she thrives in conveying her love for travel and places in written word, and she is happy to be a constant contributor for some of the world's best travel sites.

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St. Stephen's Basilica

Staring down at the ebony ribbon of water, seemingly endless to the horizon, two lovers stand entranced by ten thousand dancing lights. Transfixed as statues, looking out over the ever present Danube, the sight of couples on the Chain Bridge in the evening reveals just why Budapest is for lovers, and for magic moments, especially at Christmas, when the city shines even brighter, under the spell of the stars.

Budapest in winter

Budapest in winter. (Image © Horváth Botond – on Fotolia.com)

More than a city blessed by the stars, Budapest is a city that knows how to celebrate light. This year Christmas will be cheerier than ever, with a wealth of activities all over the town, Christmas fairs and festivals that last from late November, till January next year.

Mulled wine stall at the Christmas fair

Mulled wine stall at the Christmas fair in Budapest, Hungary (Image © Annto – Fotolia.com)

The Budapest Christmas Market at Vörösmarty tér is the most popular among the Christmas fairs in the city. Like most events this season, it kicks off November 28, 2014, and lasts till January 5, 2015. There are over 100 stands selling seasonal arts and crafts, souvenirs, toys, and Christmas culinary delights: lángos, kürtöskalács, töki pompos, and mulled wine. On the facade of the landmark Gerbeaud building the city exhibits a giant Advent calendar, which adds to the cheery atmosphere, as every day from December 1st and 23rd the calendar opens a new window, revealing the surprise hidden behind, with a spectacular show of lights and sound. While adults enjoy wine and chit-chat, kids can join in activities designed just for them: artisan hands-on classes, puppet shows, children’s concerts, and more.

Opening on the same date as the Budapest Christmas Market at Vörösmarty tér, the Christmas Fair by the Basilica is an equally enticing event that attracts thousands of tourists to the Hungarian capital. The ice rink at the heart of the Szent István tér is surrounded by arts and crafts stands, but also by food and drink vendors. You can come ice skating, or just come to buy something authentic to take a bit of Hungary back home with you. Don’t miss the seasonal culinary treats. The fair closes January 1, 2015.

Marzipan stall on Christmas
A newer festival, the Advent in Budapest takes place in Városháza Park between November 28, 2014 – January 5, 2015. Its purpose is well served: given the popularity of the two aforementioned fairs, this event aims to add a plus of cheer with cultural programmes for all ages. Live entertainment, including theater, concerts, workshops and Christmas-themed performances are scheduled daily.

Last, but not least, don’t miss the WAMP Christmas Design and Gastro Fair on December 7, 2014, at Millenáris (Building B). This is a place to buy one-of-a-kind designer Christmas gifts, clothes and accessories, as well as fine Christmas treats: chocolates, truffles, cookies, jams, wines, spirits, and much more.

From the cafes and bars along the promenade, to out of the way nooks and crannies, and finally amidst the rollicking nightlife of the notorious 7th District, Budapest will be dressed in light, to entice you to celebrate with the locals. Forget your worries for a while, and enjoy the power of the season: Christmas brings out the best in people.

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Gingebread crib at Saint Matthew, Prague

Christmas is a spectacular sight in Prague. Magnificent architecture gets dressed in a lace of shining lights; hundreds of Christmas trees sprout from nowhere lining up the imperial arteries, and even pedestrian alleys and markets; department-store window displays remind of the land of fairies and elves; and many other holiday attractions pop up around the city, spreading contagious cheer among locals and visitors.

Christmas in Prague

Christmas in Prague © Kajano, on Fotolia.com

It’s a season of joy and excitement, a time when age barriers fall, and the city becomes a huge playground for all. Even onlookers who don’t believe in Santa Claus find themselves looking up at the skies gazing to see the magic sleight and its reindeers.

You are greeted by colorful Christmas decorations at every step: some avantgarde, and using the latest technologies to woo and enthrall you; some artsy and chic, designed exclusively to make you want for more Christmas art; and finally, some traditional, to remind you of the local values, and the cultural past that shaped this holiday.

From the lobbies of Mamaison Suite Hotel Pachtuv Palace, Mamaison Hotel Riverside, and Mamaison Residence Belgicka, all decorated in the spirit of the season, as you step out you can live your own Christmas story.

Karlov Bridge in Prague

Karlov Bridge in Prague © Sergii Figurnyi on Fotolia.com

First time visitors to the city must never miss the jolly atmosphere of the main Christmas markets of Prague, where tourists and residents alike spend hours munching on gingerbread cookies and Trdelník, or destroy their healthy diets with a fatty piece of ham and one sip too many from the local svařák wine, which perfumes the air with aromas of cinnamon and star anise.

If you want to avoid the crowds gathered around at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, where Prague’s largest Christmas markets display all kinds of Christmas goods for sale, walk to Havelská Market, the city centre’s permanent market, where you can shop like the locals, without needing to pay a season premium on your purchase, and the local Trdelník is as tasty as anywhere else too.

Prague Christmas

Prague Christmas © holublu6 on Fotolia.com

Still, the true spirit of the Czech Christmas is better emphasized by the events organized at Toulcův Court in Prague – Hostivař. Here, the court and Baroque stables fill with almost a hundred craftsmen and retailers of traditional goods and old Czech snacks. Folklore and theater revive past traditions, Christmas nativity scenes, and local fairy tales. This is the place to learn how to make Christmas candles, greeting cards, decorations and even sweets. In other words, Toulcův Court is the ideal address to live an authentic Prague Christmas story, in an environment that educates and entertains.

Gingebread crib at Saint Matthew, Prague

Gingebread crib at Saint Matthew, Prague © PHB.cz on Fotolia.com

Then, buzzing restaurants, boutiques and nightlife will draw you in with even more surprises: special dishes, Christmas cocktails, sales, and amazing offers you cannot refuse. For restaurants, make sure you make a reservation way ahead, because this is the season when the locals take to the city’s eateries by thousands, all so jolly and merry, celebrating every opportunity with passion and joie de vivre.

Finally, when your spirit needs music to “wash away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” as Berthold Auerbach once said, you’ll find the heart of Prague beating in tune with God. Her beautiful churches, and even the Municipal House, open large doors, inviting the public to attend classical advent concerts and traditional Christmas carols. You’ll rarely need a programme to know what’s on: there’s always something going on during this season.

Semaine des saveurs françaises

It’s an exciting time in Budapest for lovers of French cuisine. The “Semaine des saveurs françaises” (Week of French Flavors) is on, and La Perle Noire Restaurant and Lounge at Mamaison Hotel Andrassy Budapest participates with an outstanding menu this weekend. The event takes place from 14 to 20 November, giving you the occasion to enjoy a variety of French gastronomic products, at different participating venues around Budapest, and at the French Embassy.

There will be several events organized by the Embassy of France and its partners in Budapest. On November 14 and 15, at the Market Hall (Budapesti Vásárcsarnokban) you can sample and buy a variety of French quality products: French dishes, wines and spirits, bakery products and pastries, cheeses and hams, meats and pates. French products will be showcased during this period in several supermarkets in Budapest.

Chefs David Rathgeber, Alain Caron, Patrick Jeffroy and Chris Salans come to Budapest to offer cookery classes and workshops, as well as to demonstrate their culinary skills during gala dinners.

The event culminates on November 20 with the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau, a red wine made from Gamay grapes, the most popular vin de primeur, which is celebrated all over France the third Thursday of November.

To celebrate the Semaine des saveurs françaises, the head chef at La Perle Noire Restaurant and Lounge will prepare a special tasting menu, which is available only today and tomorrow.

Make your table reservation at:
Tel. +36 1 555 1545
E-mail: restaurant@laperlenoire.hu
http://laperlenoire.hu/en

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clothes

Mamaison Business & Conference Hotel Imperial Ostrava, together with Armáda spásy (Salvation Army) in Ostrava, will organize a charity event focused on clothing and bedding collection for shelters around Ostrava next Monday, November 10, 2014, in the parking lot in front of the hotel.

Salvation Army poster

All local citizens of Ostrava, as well as expats, and city visitors, are invited to donate their unwanted bedding and clothing, including underwear, socks, blankets, sleeping bags, winter jackets, boots, hot pants, sweaters, shirts and flannel shirts, hats, gloves and scarves, and exchange them for a voucher for free coffee and cake at La Brasserie, the beautiful, contemporary restaurant-cafe at Hotel Imperial.

“To all who help, Hotel Imperial will offer a voucher for free coffee and dessert,” said the hotel’s Marketing Manager Klára Daňková.

Donors are expected in the parking lot in front of the hotel on Monday, from early morning, at 7:00 till 5:00 pm.

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Kremlin in Izmailovo

Moscow is a wonderland of parks and green spaces, but one of the most beautiful spots to be, and the place that best symbolizes Russia’s glorious past and its cultural legacy, is the Kremlin in Izmailovo.

With outstanding architecture, inspired by drawings found in children’s books, as well as drawings and engravings of the Tzar residence of the XVI—XVII centuries, the Kremlin is not just an entertainment complex that attracts thousands of visitors every day, but a cultural symbol of the city. Something of a step back in time, this enchanting space was erected more than 25 years ago, on an abandoned wasteland, to rekindle the glory of the royal past of Russia in the hearts of the locals, and to promote national values to visitors from all over the world.

Kremlin in Izmailovo

As much as it stimulates a child’s fantasy, the Kremlin in Izmailovo is a transportive experience, where adults become children for a moment, bewitched by the beauty of the buildings, which captivate from the gate, till up high in the bell tower, where amazing views of the complex unfold in front of spellbound eyes.

Kremlin in Izmailovo wedding

The complex is a magnet for visitors of all ages. Young couples pick the outstanding Palace of Happiness to tie the knot, then celebrate the lifetime event in the Royal Hall just like the tsars and tsaritsas of the past. Others choose the Boyarsky Hall, for its hypnotic Russian folk style interior, which has the stuff of epic hero stories. The Palace of the Russian Meal – wooden palace of Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich in Izmaylovo – is another enchanting architectural fantasy, a wooden gem inspired by the building design of the the XVII century. The palace is decorated staircases, balconies and promenades, and can welcome up to 1,000 guests at once in the restaurant inside, which serves international and creative Russian cuisine.

The banquet facility called “Retro Cafe” has gained popularity for events, too, although it can only accommodate 25 guests. But for stylish, small group parties, this room is more than enough. Many birthdays are celebrated in and atmosphere that reminds of a small cafe of the early XX century. In fact, this space reminds more of a cozy apartment, where a chat with close friends is more important that the opulence of the room. Quite the same goes for the “VIP Cafe” room, which only accommodates up to 12 guests.

Kremlin  Izmailovo

Children are fascinated by this outstanding complex too, and they have countless reasons to feel attracted by its palaces. Five museums share the honor of being part of the Kremlin in Izmailovo: a small museum, containing a beautiful collection of miniatures made from ordinary colored plasticine by Rostislav Olyunin and Andrew Miller, the World History in Plasticine Miniatures Museum; the Vodka Museum; the Museum of Russian Folk Toys which opens a world of wonder, entertainment, and educational activities for children of all ages; the Bread Museum; and the Museum of the Russian Navy.

Kremlin in Izmailovo

Every season, these facilities host a variety of events for children – like the upcoming Moscow Children’s Art Festival “Young talent,” this year, on November 17th, at its 11th edition. Whenever you choose to visit the Kremlin in Izmailovo, you will find something to see and do, things that make your trip to Moscow the memory of a lifetime. And if you choose to stay at Mamaison All-Suites Spa Hotel Pokrovka Moscow, your experience will be even more rewarding.

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Mamaison Hotel Le Regina Warsaw

A stylish Gothic palace with arcades is home to one of Warsaw’s most celebrated hotels: Mamaison Le Regina, which celebrates 10 years in business in 2014, and marked the event last weekend with a stylish party. In true royal spirit, the guests were welcomed at the entrance by stylish hostesses dressed in XVIII century gowns, who wished them a wonderful time.

Mamaison Hotel Le Regina Warsaw

Once belonging to the Mokrowskich family, the Gothic palace housing Mamaison Le Regina Warsaw and its charming restaurant La Rotisserie has always been a favorite meeting point for the local aristocracy. True to this tradition, the hotel celebrated its birthday in style, offering guests a feast fit for VIPs, with pheasant specialties, delicious gourmet roasts, terrines, and other treats prepared by Chef Paweł Oszczyk, who has been recently designated as Chef de l’Avenir 2014, a prestigious award by the International Academy of Gastronomy, which recognizes culinary excellence, and his talented team. The menu was complete with a fine selection of wines and champagnes, hand picked by Andrew Strzelczyk, the Polish Champion Sommelier in 2012 and 2013, who is responsible for the wine list at La Rotisserie.

Agnes Tucharz, the General Director of the Mamaison Le Regina Warsaw

The welcome speech by Agnes Tucharz, the General Director of the Mamaison Le Regina Warsaw, was followed by interesting activities that enabled the guests to experience the hotel in unique, unusual ways: some dancing minuet by the pool, others meeting a magician in one of the hotel’s rooms, or just relaxing with a game of canasta in the Presidential Apartment.

magician

The superb culinary creations by Paweł Oszczyk were enjoyed in the hotel’s delightful restaurant, La Rotisserie. Some of these specialties can now be enjoyed by all restaurant guests every weekend, on Sundays, with the restaurant’s new special Sunday Linner menu. The five course menu will feature tuna fish carpaccio with fennel salad and orange; scallops, risotto with roasted cauliflower and apple; grilled fillet of sea bass, mussels and celery soup; cumin seared crusted prime of duck with black lentils and cherry gastrique; and chestnut mousse with Manjari chocolate, mango sherbet and coconut.

Mamaison Hotel Le Regina Warsaw

Mamaison Hotel Imperial Ostrava

UPDATE: Now a Private Label Hotels group property, Mamaison Business & Conference Hotel Ostrava changed its name back to Imperial Hotel Ostrava in 2015, to reflect the long history and tradition of the hotel. While it no longer operates under the Mamaison brand, the hotel remains in the CPI Hotels family, which includes Mamaison Hotels & Residences hotels, four-star Clarion congress hotels, Spa & Kur Hotels, Buddha-Bar Hotel Prague, three-star Fortuna hotels, and the Private Label Hotels group.

The same Ostrava that was the industrial powerhouse of this central European country, is today a centre of all things dynamic and energetic. Where great coal mines once fed a thriving city, steel and new age technologies have converged and emerged to form a hub of business and culture. Ostrava is a mix of thriving business interests, as well as a touristic destination of wondrous import. If museum searching and partaking of stoic culinary treasures were prevalent touristic activities, extreme sports and eclectic gastronomy now coexist. The overall effect is a city better by far for its 21st century emergence.

Guests at Mamaison Hotel Imperial Ostrava can depend on unequalled guest services tuned especially for the business traveller. Business being what it is, the wellness and relaxation centre at the hotel plays a major role in helping melt away the stresses of tough schedules, as well as providing a bit of solitude from the madding crowd. This respite on the first floor of the hotel is resplendently appointed with state-of-the-art exercise equipment, a sauna, and expert staff who excel at a variety of massage treatment therapies.

After a busy day in Ostrava’s business district, getting immersed in the salt water pool will melt the tension into an easy euphoria. Schedule a Thai or Indian massage, enjoy the relaxation centre, or sweat out a toxic day at the sauna. In other words, our wellness centre is the perfect extension of our award-winning guest satisfaction mission.

Wellness  Mamaison Hotel Imperial

In order to polish off that worried brow, our stylists and beauticians await your beckon call for a simple haircut or manicure at our beauty salon. They can also provide that refreshing facial the day has called for. If sightseeing, or hectic meetings have taken their toll, our Mamaison Hotel Imperial Ostrava wellness centre is the remedy you seek.

For the finishing touches, and for a perfect end to your day, the cuisine at Restaurant Legend combines gourmet culinary art with the freshest and healthiest ingredients available. Chef Poštulka is dedicated to infusing a healthier nutritional ideology into the fare, while adhering to tradition and creative cooking. Like every other amenity at our hotel, we’re dedicated to making better days, stays, and a better you. Welcome. How do you feel?

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Mamaison Hotel Riverside Prague

With its heritage beauty, glorious parks, museums filled with countless treasures, jaw-dropping monuments, and some of the best stages in the world, Prague has always been a top choice for city breaks. When visitors come to town, they expect the same remarkable experiences from the places that will become, briefly, their home away from home.

Set cosily on the West bank of the Vltava River, on Janáčkovo nábřeží, the waterfront street at the heart of Prague, dotted with many architectural gems, Mamaison Riverside Prague has got it all: a stylish Art Nouveau façade, stunning Belle Époque interiors, and unadulterated river and city views that inspire romance.

Mamaison Riverside Hotel

In the true spirit of Mamaison Hotels and Residences, the Riverside exudes a feeling of timeless elegance, and a certain tranquillity that makes the visitor forget about the hustle and bustle outside its walls. Inside the airy and well-lit rooms, the roll-call of chic ticks all the boxes: a discrete and soothing colour scheme, king-size beds covered with fine fabrics, cosy armchairs to relax with a glass of champagne, and large windows that fill the rooms with light, and the heart of the visitor with dreams.

Mamaison Riverside is the kind of place to rekindle a romance, or just to spend a weekend admiring the fairy tale views of the city, knowing that the best is yet to come. By day, the river sparkles under the sun, reflecting the skies above, and the city’s towers and turrets. All the visitor needs to fill up with the spirit of the city, is a moment in front of the window, taking in the soothing effects of these magnificent views.

Mamaison Riverside Hotel

Then, on to enjoying the full benefits of a Mamaison stay, or just to relax after a day’s trip, a stop at the Lounge bar is just the perfect place to spend a few moments in good company, with a signature cocktail in hand, or a glass of wine. This is also the place for a delicious meal, especially if authentic local, yet contemporary cuisine is a priority.

Mamaison Riverside is just as fascinating by night, when the city sparkles under the stars, and the river glitters with a million lights, under the eyes of lovers whiling away the dark hours in perfect harmony. As time passes by, and Hypnos finally takes over weary eyes, the magic of the views lingers on, becoming a dream that soothes the soul.

Mamaison Riverside Hotel

The next morning, after a light breakfast, the views call the visitor outside, to explore the city, and to take in her true charm. Some of the most famous local landmarks are within very short walking distance: the National Theatre, the Dancing House, Charles Bridge, the architectural gems dotting Janáčkovo nábřeží…

Even those who want to explore the lesser advertised, more energetic side of Prague have plenty to do: kayaking, jogging, inline skating and other active pursuits are just a stone’s throw away. Back at Mamaison, the stress of the day can be relieved by skilful hands, providing one of the most popular hotel services: relaxing massages. And, as the sun sets, the visitor opens a window, to take in the twilight that brings out Prague’s royal beauty in such vivid colours.

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Pig Festival Hoslovice

If you are a Mamaison guest in Prague, and you already know the hidden beauties of the City of a Hundred Spires, adventure out of the metropolis, to the countryside, not far from Strakonice, where you will find the oldest, and best preserved watermill in Bohemia.

The watermill originated in the Middle Ages, sometime in the late 1500s. The first documentary reference dates from 1654, and there is evidence that the trees used to build the ceiling of the granary were cut in 1568.

watermill Hoslovice

This architectural treasure, still fully operational, was converted into a museum, where you have the opportunity to join a variety of traditional events, like the Carnival, the Harvest Festival, Christmas, and many others. One of them takes place October 25, 2014, and celebrates the traditional South Bohemian pig-slaughtering. This celebration, held each year around the same day, marks the end of the tourist season in Bohemia, and represents an occasion for visitors to the Czech Republic to learn more about authentic local traditions, to experience the lifestyle of the countryside, and to sample culinary delicacies specific to this area.

Pig Feast Hoslovice

The event attracts large numbers of local residents too – an opportunity to experience their friendly hospitality first hand. Thing of the festival as a family adventure, and bring your kids to teach them about life at the farm, storage and preparation of food, respect for tradition, and more.

The permanent exhibition of the watermill shows ethnographic items with focus on agriculture, including growing and processing of several important crops and cattle breeding, traditional meals, and local customs. For those who don’t want to leave the mill empty-handed, there’s a souvenir shop, selling local arts and crafts.

If you planned a day trip, don’t miss the ecological farm nearby, U starýho kance (At the Old Boar’s).

Hoslovice, U starýho kance

Hoslovice, U starýho kance (Image Michal Klajban on Wikipedia)

This is a family-run guesthouse, offering accommodation, but also a variety of activities, including horseback riding for all ages, fishing, farming activities, traditional dining, and even traditional pig slaughtering.

Fishing in Hoslovice

Fishing in Hoslovice (Image courtesy U starýho kance)

Last, but not least, stop in Strakonice, to visit the castle, which now hosts the Museum of Central Otava Basin. The Hoslovice Watermill is part of this museum. If your time at the mill was a rewarding cultural experience, what you will discover in Strakonice is a wealth of information, a beautiful architectural landmark, unique religious sites, and an outstanding garden, with castle safari where children and adults alike can see Ouessant sheep, Dutch dwarf goats and Cameroon goats, ponies and more.

fall cuisine

UPDATE: Now a Private Label Hotels group property, Mamaison Business & Conference Hotel Ostrava changed its name back to Imperial Hotel Ostrava in 2015, to reflect the long history and tradition of the hotel. While it no longer operates under the Mamaison brand, the hotel remains in the CPI Hotels family, which includes Mamaison Hotels & Residences hotels, four-star Clarion congress hotels, Spa & Kur Hotels, Buddha-Bar Hotel Prague, three-star Fortuna hotels, and the Private Label Hotels group.

Ostrava is a true culinary destination, with something special to offer every season. Springs are for the noble asparagus; Summers are dedicated to the fresh, and flavorful local strawberries; and the Fall, well, it brings all kinds of different flavors. Known for its mushroom cuisine culture, Ostrava is also a place to enjoy spectacular game dishes.

venison

October is the time to enjoy creative game cuisine by Chef Vojtěch Poštulka and his team in both restaurants at Business & Conference Hotel Mamaison Imperial Ostrava. La Brasserie and Restaurant Legend welcome guests in a relaxed environment, with dishes that rival the most sophisticated international creations. Among the selected specialties you can try, wed like to recommend the delicious roasted pheasant breast with chestnut stuffing, roast potatoes with Brussels sprouts; or a slowly roasted rabbit leg with bacon stuffing, gingerbread sauce, and millet dumplings with herbs. The celebration of game lasts from 16 to 26 October 2014, and culminates with the Sunday venison brunch at La Brasserie, on October 26, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The price of the menu is 449, – CZK per person, and includes unlimited appetizers, soups, main dishes and desserts. Children under 6 eat free. The menu price for children aged 7 to 10 is 79, – CZK, while the menu price for children aged 11 to 15 is 149, – CZK.

Entomophagy

Venison is not the only culinary event this October. Pen into your calendar the date of October 14, 2014, if you want to discover the secretes of entomophagy. A special tasting event is organized at Mamaison Imperial Ostrava by Peter Ocknechtem, with unlikely menu choices, like grilled grasshopper, desserts with insects, and other unusual dishes.

Are you ready for an Autumn of flavors? Then, we cordially invite you to book a table at Restaurant Legend or La Brasserie. For information and reservations call 599 099 706, or e-mail gastro@mamaison.com.