The Small Daily Rituals
I am admittedly cynical. I find myself generally distasteful of the keywords used by marketing experts. Working in the tourism industry for years has taught me that the word “cozy“ generally indicates a hotel room with little more space than a broom closet. Using the phrase “tucked away“ may be symptomatic of being located in the red-light district while “quiet“ means you are a 30-minute drive or four metro transfers from the city center.
That being said, hidden away on Maltézské Náměstí (Maltézské Square) in the quiet Mala Strana (Little Quarter) a bleery eyed traveler, unknowingly searching for a respite from the tourist hubub, may happen upon the hip and, dare I say, cute café Lui & Lei. Mere steps away from the Western entrance to Charles Bridge, this café cum boutique is tucked away in a stunning refuge from the crowds.
Lui & Lei is none of these cynical translations. In a prime location with excellent coffee, beer, wine and fully stocked bar, it’s a perfect place for an intimate conversation or for taking a moment to ruminate on the day’s events. Their boutique sells wine from around the world, candies and chocolates, art and even gift baskets.
When I arrived in Prague a few weeks ago I went searching for a place I could “park it” and relax over an Americano. After serveral failed attempts at finding a cozy, comfortable and hospitable setting, I was thrilled with this find. The interior is flooded with natural light and leather chairs and sofas surround low level coffee tables where there is only a whisper of Aznavour’s voice above the low din of conversation; there is no wild French rap or Czech death-metal here. The calm environment leads me to spend more than my share of time milking the complimentary WiFi while the cost of an espresso barely breaking 1 € allows me an encore.
My eyes tend to wander the rows of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and sparkling wines mingling among stacks of dark chocolate and darker coffee beans. The art is rotated, fresh flowers adorn each table and hanging high above are several dried flower bouqets and other plants hang from the ceiling. Odd, I think; but who really needs more walls covered in Starbucks-style art and gloomy interiors.
Coming to this café has become a daily ritual for me. To drink my coffee, explore my surroundings and take some time to browse the boutique’s wares. The first few times I came the owner seemed confused by my broken Czech. Always turning his head just slightly while shaking it, responding, “Huh?“ Finally, after a week or so, he would just smile, wave me to a chair, and save me the trouble of butchering his language. I enjoy my quiet times here. That and making the wife jealous that she is working while I am here.
If you are on your way to the Lennon Wall, why not stop by Lui & Lei on your way?
Lui & Lei – Café and Boutique
Maltézské Náměstí, 12, Praha 1
Prague, Czech Republic