A Day In Istanbul

The first Day of our tour was spent in Istanbul. We set out as a group with our guide, Serkan, leading the way. There were thirteen of us following him through the old city like ducklings following their Mama!

Istanbul is an amazing city, a delight for all of the senses; sounds of the call to prayer, invitations shouted from vendors to enter their shops, the honking of horns, the smells of roasting meats, bright colors in the clothing, buildings and markets. We stopped in at a tea house. There are tea houses all over the place where men enjoy socializing and playing cards.  Women are not welcome in this environment but we were allowed to come in with our group for a few minutes and take some photos.

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We visited a Tumbler Pigeon market. It was very interesting; men and boys with their birds, showing them off with pride and hoping to make a sale. (Apparently this is a big hobby in the region. Later, in Mardin, Robin and I saw some of these tumbler pigeons performing. Watching them fly is really amazing.)

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We walked through the old section of Istanbul eventually ending up at the Galata Bridge where we joined the masses of people crossing the Golden Horn. Fishermen lined the bridge as well as vendors selling food and other wares. We marveled at the wonderful fish market on the other side. Robin had a “yummy, yummy mackerel sandwich” and we all sat down for a much needed rest with a cup of chai.

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Serkan had been distracted and on his cell phone all afternoon and we were about to find out why. He told us of an earthquake in Van at 1:30pm. The earthquake of 7.2 magnitude, had left the area a mess. All outgoing flights were being used to get emergency services into the area. He had been trying to arrange for new accommodations and transportation, flight refunds as well as picking up voice messages from our frantic family members thinking that we had been there for the earthquake. Changing our plans meant extra days in Midyat. We were very disappointed but glad that we had missed the earthquake!

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Learning about the earthquake

On our walk back to the hotel we visited the New Mosque and the Spice Bazaar. The Spice Bazaar was a delight unlike anything I’d ever experienced before! It is one of the largest bazaars in the city, The building is part of the Blue Mosque complex and was constructed at the same time, between 1660-1665. It’s the center for spice trade in Istanbul.  I tried and fell in love with Turkish Delight candy here. (I have since tried buying it at home, supposedly imported, but it is horrible; nothing like what I got at the Spice Bazaar.) Robin bought some candied ginger here which turned out to be quite handy during some of the nausea inducing roads we were to experience later in our journey!

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My friend Robin and I arrived in Istanbul late in the evening Friday 21 October, 2011, two days prior to the start of our 3 week tour of Southeastern Turkey.  The airport was filled with people dressed in white robes looming around; some of them preparing food.  We were told by an airport employee that they were on pilgrimage to Mecca for Kurban Bayrami. (This year the holiday will be celebrated November 6-9, at the end of our stay in the country.)  We wanted so badly to take a few pictures but thought it would be rude.  We have just arrived and already feel as if we are in another world!

Our guide with Journey Anatolia, which we found through Responsible Travel, had a driver waiting to take us to our hotel. The Kariye Otel is in the Old Istanbul neighborhood of Edirnekapi which is part of the ancient walled city (Constantinople). The hotel, a restored 19th century mansion, next to the old Church of the Chora is a great location to begin our look at Istanbul – after some much needed sleep! The room had not been modernized much, the bathroom rustic, but the beds were comfortable, the staff very friendly and the food first rate!

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We awakened at dawn to the sound of morning call to prayer which was beautiful, but much too early! Prayers are broadcast from the mosques five times a day, traditionally from the minaret. The sounds of prayer time are a lovely memory from Turkey.

We were told by hotel staff that two other members of our tour were also here a day early. We met them at breakfast and arranged to walk through the area together. Lois was from Canada and Gene from New York. We arranged to spend the day together.

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Robin, Gene and Lois

The Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora (Kariye Camii) is considered to be one of the most beautiful surviving examples of a Byzantine church. Chora Church was originally built as part of a monastery complex outside the walls of Constantinople, to the south of the Golden Horn. (Chora means outside the wall) The original church on this site was built in the early 5th century, and stood outside of the 4th century walls of Constantine the Great. Then in 413-414 Theodosius II built land walls and the church became incorporated within the city’s defenses, but it kept the name Chora. In the 16th century, during the Ottoman era, the church was converted into a mosque and the Christian paintings on the walls were covered with plaster. It wasn’t until 1948 when the building was being restored as a museum that the beautiful images were discovered.

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The four of us looked at the church, explored the area of the ancient city wall, had lunch and visited the ATM.  Everywhere there were children and cats and women hanging laundry or beating out rugs from the windows of their homes.  Satellite dishes are installed on every building and wiring drapes from buildings like garland on a Christmas tree.  We saw horse drawn carts behind very malnourished looking animals along side automobiles on the roads. Outdoor markets lined the streets selling the most amazing looking produce. The day was punctuated by the call to prayer broadcast from the minarets of the mosques. This mixture of modern and old was one of the most fascinating things about Turkey for me.

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We had a great day with our new friends and looked forward to meeting the rest of our group at dinner.

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Several years ago, a friend of mine who lives in Woodland, introduced me to Z Specialty Foods Warehouse sale and I have attended every year since!  I’ve always liked honey but I am now in love with it.  I had no idea how many varieties there are and how different the flavors are!

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Z Specialty Foods sell their products on line, but several times a year they have a warehouse sale where you can taste them before you buy!  They must have 30 or more different varieties of honey, all of them available to taste.  They have fruit spreads sweetened with their honey and nut spreads, appetizer spreads (Cowboy Caviar), bee pollen, if it comes from a bee, they have it!

This is a family owned business.  They all possess vast knowledge of bees and honey, and they are just really nice folks!  I always learn something interesting.  For instance, they have a Buckeye honey available that will not be offered again once it is gone.  The beekeeper that produced the honey was from another country.  He saw the beautiful flowering Buckeye and thought it would be a great place for his hives.  The bad news is that Buckeye is poisonous and killed his bees!

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Josh talking about honey

They also host some other locally produced product tastings.  Strad Mead is made with their honey and had samples available.  Yolo Brewing company was pouring their Orange Blossom Blond which was very good.  Also there was Buckeye Creek, a local olive oil company offering a sample of their oils and a blueberry vinegar that had to come home with me!  Sadly the beer and mead are not for sale here.  (No license!)

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I like to go to the November and December events to get Christmas gifts.  They sell little 2 ounce jars of their honey, fruit spreads and nut butters.  I like to attach my Thanksgiving or Christmas Place setting cards to a jar for each guest to take home.

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It’s a super fun way to shop.  They always have live music and raffle off some of their wares.  My name was drawn this year!!  The Jonny Gold Trio was playing adding such a nice holiday feel to the event.

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I am not proud of these photos, but I love this event so much that I decided to do a post on it.  Check out Z Specialty Foods web site.  If you’re into beer, check out Yolo Brew’s web site and Facebook Event page.

Our Last Day in Paris

Sept 24 2017

Our last day in Paris we walked through our neighborhood, taking a few photographs and committing it all to memory.  It is another perfect day, this Sunday in Paris.  We have not  planned much for the day as we must pack and be ready for a VERY early morning departure.

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We made a quick visit to the neighborhood Monoprix to get some portable food for our long trip home.  (The on flight food is pricey and mostly unappealing!)  I really am impressed with Monoprix.  They offer a large selection of wonderful vegetables, fruits and wines.  They have a juice bar and lots of good ready made food.  I wish we had one at home!

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Mushrooms at the Monoprix

Robin noticed that Saint-Eustache was holding an organ recital before the evening mass. I’m so glad we decided to go!  Saint-Eustache is a beautiful French Gothic Cathedral built between 1530 and 1630.  The organ has 8000 pipes and so much history!  Being there, listening to this old organ being played was very special.  I imagined the people who may have played it and all of those who have sat in this space listening before me.

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We had made dinner reservations at a restaurant on Rue Montorgueil.  We had some time, before our reservation, to wander up and down the street looking in shops and watching the people.

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We enjoyed our dinner at Les Artizans.  It’s a nice little restaurant;  we sadly opted to sit inside due to the Parisians love of cigarette smoking.  (One of the experiences I most regret not being able to enjoy is an outdoor meal!)  We decided on the rockfish and mussel soup to start and magret de canard (duck breast) roasted with parsnips and onions as a main.  Both were excellent but the soup really impressed.  I enjoyed their recommended wine which was very good and, unlike here, reasonably priced.   I also had the lemon tart for dessert, which was lovely.  I tried to finish and came closer than I should have!  A bit of indulgence!  Our last meal in Paris left me somewhat overfull but happy!  So wish we had another week!!!

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Sept 23 2017

Today we walked to Ile de la Cite, one of two natural islands on the Seine in the city of Paris.  It is the center of medieval Paris and where you will find Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapell.

It was a stunningly beautiful Saturday afternoon.  As we walked  along the Quai de’l’Hotel de Ville, we couldn’t help but notice a large number of street cleaning trucks, garbage trucks, police cars and motorcycles driving past.  The street was literally packed with these vehicles.  There was also a number of musical performances on the streets.  It was great fun and a party atmosphere.  We later found out it is an annual event called the Techno Parade; a large, free outdoor musical event that was started by a former Minister of Police as a protest against government oppression.  The event evidently became popular in the 1990’s.

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We walked along the Seine enjoying the music, and the happy atmosphere on this lovely day.  Once on the island we did some shopping for little gifts and I enjoyed an ice cream from Esterina.  The fancy flip of the ice cream cone as the server presented it to the patrons was very fun and the ice cream was great too!

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As dusk approached we walked past Notre Dame.  People were dancing to the music and the gardens looked so lovely.  I am so in love with this city!

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Sept 22 2017

The Rodin Museum was something I really looked forward to visiting.  It was wonderful to see but I was very disappointed to find most of the garden inaccessible due to construction or remodeling.  We did see “The Thinker”, “The Gates of Hell, ” The Burghers of Calais” and “The Three Shades” in the garden.  Inside the museum there are many wonderful pieces but the one that moved me the most is “The Cathedral”.  Two right hands in the moment before they clasp.  There is something so beautiful and intimate in these isolated hands.

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We enjoyed the marvelous day as we walked from the Rodin Museum to the Orangerie.  My favorite part of this museum was sitting in the wonderful peacefulness of Monet’s Water Lilies, gazing in wonder at their beauty.  These two oval rooms are filled 360 degrees with hundreds of individual paintings made to look like one continuous work.  They depict the gardens at Giverny and were painted during Monet’s last 30 years.  It really is amazing to think that much of this beautiful, vibrant work was done when Monet’s vision was diminished by cataracts.

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Next the Louvre.  The building is amazing but I can’t honestly say that I enjoyed it very much.  It is simply an overwhelmingly large museum with loads of visitors.  We saw a small fraction of it.   I found the old remains of the medieval foundation constructed about 1200 very interesting.  We saw Winged Victory and went through the Islamic Art Gallery.  I also especially enjoyed the Satyres en Altlante.  These male “columns” are contemplating their navels, or maybe…..?  Very amusing!

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