It’s a question we all ask ourselves. If we could go back, would we? Can we ever have a "do over"? For me that "do over" concerned the city of Prague.

Prague, thanks to its beauty, history, culture, exceptional food scene and, let’s be honest, cheap and excellent beer was host to more than seven million tourists in 2023. For our family, for three years during the pandemic, it was home.

Prague is where I learned I was unexpectedly, joyfully pregnant. It’s where I first heard my baby’s heartbeat and held him in my arms in the same hospital where Reinhard Heydrich died after his assassination in 1942. A city where, even with a new-born, I wrote a book, two TV scripts and countless articles as though the city’s literary ghosts from Kafka to Milan Kundera were whispering to me not to rest on my laurels or, indeed, my maternity leave.

But it is also where, three days after I found out I was pregnant, the first case of Covid was reported in the Czech Republic and a hard lockdown followed. We experienced a period of near homelessness while we tried to find someone willing to rent a flat to foreigners. And, when our baby arrived - in a foreign hospital banned from visitors - our marriage, formerly as stoic in the face of crisis as a Czech grandma, crumbled with such alarming speed that my husband and I almost divorced. In Prague, I almost died from a rare one in 500,000 illness, had life-saving surgery, got sick again and was medically gaslit until I was left with no option but to return home to Scotland.

The Prague streets I knew were empty of tourists for much of the time. Instead, our’s was a local affair, wandering supermarkets listening to people quietly complain about rising food prices, paediatrician appointments, bumping a pram endlessly over snowy cobble streets to get a fractious baby to sleep, medical tests and ICU centres, hosting a wonderful Ukrainian woman in the wake of the Russian invasion - we weren’t alone, as of 2023 the Czech Republic hosted the most displaced Ukrainians per capita in Europe. Adopting our elderly dog and, finally, the crushing disappointment of having to leave when I realised I needed more specialised medical treatment.

"I just wish we could experience it all again but fresh," I told my husband. And, God love him (because we did sew our marriage back together and even stronger) he replied: "OK let’s do it."


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That’s how we found ourselves in Prague as tourists. We stayed at the Andaz, with the slightly lofty sub-heading "a concept by Hyatt". Of course I came with my cynicism and working-class chip extra chippy. But I can say hand on heart it’s the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in.

Every time I thought I had an "‘ah-ha, this is all fur coat and no knickers" moment, I was righted by the exquisite design, all of which was by local artisans and artists. One night, in the women’s loos of the cocktail bar where I’d just had a tiny affordable cocktail, adorned with literal iridescent rainbow drops of oil, I overheard a woman saying "Everything is just so nice, they’ve thought of every single thing…" and I rushed out of my cubicle to concur: "Are you talking about the hotel? I know, right. It’s honestly amazing." 

The location was special too, in prime position in Prague’s Old Town, just minutes from the Astronomical Clock and for us it had special significance. Over breakfast in the private dining room of the Winter Garden suite I realised we could see right into the doctor’s office who, three years prior, listened to my breathing and told me authoritatively that it was simply asthma. A misdiagnosis which set the dominoes falling until my emergency surgery at Motol University Hospital. Facing the hotel is one of Prague's best and most beautifully-designed art cinemas, Edison Filmhub, where in the wake of my shattering marriage I had one too many glasses of wine while watching the film Baby Teeth, decided that sure, I could write stories like that too, and then emerged to an email inviting me to write a script for the BBC, my bluff fully called.

The Herald: Inside the Andaz hotelInside the Andaz hotel (Image: Kerry Hudson)

We did return to our 1936 apartment building across the Vltava River and stood under the magnolia tree serendipitously in bloom for just a few weeks. We saw an old neighbour and touched our wooden mailbox, still going strong and covered in the scratches and fingerprints of all the previous residents of the last eight decades. Our babysitter came to spend time with our little boy and Peter and I did things we rarely did as new parents during a pandemic, namely, hitting up, and feeling positively ancient, at an electronic gig at the river island community collective, Fuchs2 and then up the Zizkov TV Tower to a bar which has something of the mob wife aesthetic about it but astounding sweeping views of Prague.

In fact, we did a lot of things we’d never done as residents. We took a river cruise and visited a "beer museum": a pub resplendent with both a ubiquitous stag do and a dizzying array of Pilsners. We even waited with all the clamouring tourists for the Astronomical Clock to chime and watched its 12 Apostles dance.

Did we go back as tourists? Not really. Every street was woven through with our memories, good and bad. We were too familiar with the city, knowing which corner shop, or potraviny, you could buy an excellent homemade samosa from, right next to the Andaz coincidentally, or which pharmacy, in a pinch, would make your non-Czechia-approved anxiety medication made from scratch.

What we got was even better than a tourist experience. A city of significance and meaning for us with all the extra gilding of new experiences and those little luxuries you allow yourself on holiday. I discovered it’s always worth going back, even if you can’t have a "do over"’.