I have amazing parents. They traveled half way around the globe to see me! Love them for it. FPU’s (father parental unit) philosophy is if my child is gonna study abroad then I am gonna get a vacation out of … Continue reading
Cabo da Roca is the most western point on mainland Europe and it is just extraordinary. It alone is reason enough to travel to and visit Portugal. It also makes for a adventure of a bus ride to/from Sintra. You … Continue reading
A little day trip to Sintra was an all around success for my friend and I. Sintra is super easy to get to from Lisbon, so if you ever find yourself in Lisbon, I highly recommend taking the train to … Continue reading
Portugal just happens to be one of those countries that I have been extremely intrigued with traveling to. I was in no means let down by this beautiful and super colorful country. The first night let me with lots of … Continue reading
The day after my delicious French dinner in great company was all about getting to Sacré Coeur because travel buddy Jess was set on seeing it. No objections from me though because it really is a beautiful cathedral.
However, we did need to get a little fruit breakfast in us, so we first checked out one of France’s infamous produce/street markets. Fruit was eaten, earrings were bought and a new “friend” was made
Why hello there Mrs. Potato Head – fancy finding you amongst all those fella potatoes (;
Sunflowers are my favorite (:
Showing off how good their melons are
Jessica’s new friend. He saw me taking pictures of the stalls and wanted his picture taken with Jess
Love all of it!
It is France after all…
We spent a decent amount of time taking in the Cathedral. From the inside to the outside and all the views around it.
Too funny to not take a picture
After touring around the cathedral I bought a local band’s cd “Les Presteej” – I was smitten when listening to them playing on the side of Cathedral. They were pretty great and now they are forever a part of my music collection. Let’s not talk about how I don’t understand anything that they are singing about in French, but I feel that I am more cultured just by listening to it and maybe one day the language won’t frighten me anymore.
Les Presteej (not my video, but am thankful someone else uploaded a video of them)
The Carousel in Montmarte
Then it was off to take a glimpse of Moulin Rouge – interesting stop over. Along the way I got a Pain Au Chocolat (just for you Whitney and your continuous search throughout Illinois for one). Besides I think it is a cardinal sin to go to Paris and not have one.
Jess and I finally made it back to Notre Dame for about the 10th time but THIS time we actually went inside. Definitely worth the trip halfway across town for it. I still stand by my opinion that the outside (specifically the sides with all the gargoyles) is the best feature of the cathedral, but I still got some good shots of inside the cathedral.
Your neck hurts from craning it to see all of the details
My favorite picture from inside Notre Dame
Of course I requested we stroll the exterior once more so that I could get a few more shots of the amazing gargoyles! Get there before they are all weathered away – they are incredible. I will blame my parents for the weird gargoyle obsession since we have one at our house.
The challenge is in the hunt for a gargoyle still in good condition – this guy was a top finisher
These guys made carrying around my telescopic lens worth it
The backside of Notre Dame with the Garden
One last photo of Notre Dame
By then our hours were dwindling before we were to board our flight to Lisbon – the next recap of my travels – stay tuned!
Following our bike tour my friend Jess and I met up with my friend Allyce for dinner. Allyce’s co-worker recommended her a restaurant which was absolutely delicious. The name of the restaurant was Les Cocottes which we learned a cocottes is a pot – see the photo below for an illustration. The waitress was super nice in explaining it all too us. Before I go any further though I need to mention how my friend Allyce is super modest about her French skills – she went rapid fire with the waitress with asking and answering questions. I was super impressed
A close up of the wine chiller bag
Allyce and I decided to be dates for the night and split an appetizer, our main courses and our desserts. This was definitely the most splurged on meal that I had while on vacation but it was absolutely worth it.
Our wine for the night
Main Course #1 – Steak
Main Course #2 – Lobster ravioli – yes under all that froth was actual substance (;
Dessert #1 – Waffle with Chantilly Cream and to-die for caramel sauce
Dessert #2 – A custard type dish with plums in it – super good but also it had a super French name that I am drawing a huge blank on
Now the pictures are a tad dark – this I know, but you weren’t suppose to use flash in the restaurant. In fact, at the table next to us was a group of people that had a local (or someone who knew French and had possibly been in Paris for awhile) and her friends who were visiting. When her friend took a picture with flash she kept saying “no flash, no flash”. Not to mention there was a pretty significant line forming outside the restaurant during our meal and it only seemed to get longer with every ticking minute. Definitely glad we got there as early as we did.
After dinner we went and watched the Eifel Tower “Sparkle Show” – not sure the appropriate name for it, but saw all of its lights flash for about 5 minutes on the hour. Pretty cool – was able to get a video of it too – but I will share this more EU inspired video with you instead that someone else has graciously posted.
Eifel from underneath
We then decided to go and see the pyramid. Yes I went to Paris and I didn’t go inside the Louvre but I know I will be back one day and figure I have to leave some things unseen for my next trip to Paris. Thus, we had more fun walking from the Eifel Tower to the Pyramid late and night and then taking pictures by the lit up pyramid. Which I must say looks super cool at night.
It was then back to our box size hotel room, where you couldn’t even open the windows all the way because the bed was in the way. You just gotta love Paris and its small size everything. Stay tuned for a photo of my other room in Paris which somehow was even smaller (sneak peak – the toilet was at the foot of the bed)
Cheers from the city of small rooms (in spirit)
I started my first full day in Paris with a beautiful 4 mile morning run along the River Seine. Oh yes, it was sublime and I think I saw more joggers/runners that morning than I did my whole time in Ankara – maybe a tad of an exaggeration but I for once didn’t feel alone or feel like I was the daily entertainment. Lots of people had gotten up early to do the same thing I did – except they probably knew where they were going, versus I who was just running along trying to remember my way back to my friends. I made it though.
I continued to embrace the theme of covering lots of ground because my friend and I decided that a bike tour would be ideal to see the most of what Paris has to offer. Not to mention she needed something to keep her going since she flew into Paris from Chicago that morning. Now before setting off on a 3 hour bike tour, be sure to stock up on your energy. We found the perfect place in Paris. Well actually I researched it before hand and I sure am glad I did because it was the best gosh darn falafel sandwich I have ever had, and may just be the best on the planet – surely it has that title in Paris already.
L’as Du Falafel was heaven in chickpea form
Huge food baby that would have to be biked off
After lunch we set off to our meeting spot for our bike tour. We had a fantastic guide – Billy the Scottish man who was a Yankee’s fan. We immediately bonded. He took us all over the city. We drove by everything – didn’t go into anything, but the weather was gorgeous so we were definitely happy to spend the day outside. Not only did I bike in a dress, but I managed to snap photos while biking too (and not crash..there were a few close calls) – that is skill though. Billy almost got me run over though when he summoned me through a red light – sheer terror was etched into my face and had him laughing for the rest of the tour. No big deal – it wasn’t like I saw my life flash before my eyes as a crazed Parisian driver was slamming on their accelerator.
Biking through Paris (Mind you my friend is on the go, there are cars present and I too am biking when I took this)
Loved all the little decor/architecture throughout the city
Elephant sign – just for you Kimber
How quaint are those windows?
Bike Fun – note the cheesy grin on Billy’s Face (in the red shirt) behind my friend Jess
The burial place of Descartes
The Towers don’t match – the church that is now infamous from Da Vinci Code because it is where the bad guy smashed up the floor – super descriptive, right?
The Peace Memorial – One of the most graffitied and vandalized monuments in Paris – Ironic?
Arc De Triumph from a distance – we didn’t bike too it – one of the most accident prone sights in Paris – no car insurance company insures accidents that happen in its round-about – aka excellent reason to not bike near it
Paris Opera – the home of The Phantom of the Opera. Interesting fact – it was built on top of a lake – yeah I am still perplexed by that little snip-bit
A fun lamp post
Me at the Eifel Tower. Wearing my running watch proudly with my dress – classy
Looks like a blown up version of all the mini ones I’ve seen throughout life (;
The Modern Museum – built inside out – not very pleasing too look at, but definitely an interesting concept
One of the most original street entertainers I have ever seen
One of the many stalls that line the Seine
At the end of our bike tour it started to rain (talk about perfect timing) so we took up shelter for a bit in this famous bookstore (:
My tip to you if you plan a trip to Paris – definitely do a bike tour – you won’t regret it. They are rejuvenating and you dont feel like you need to soak your feet at the end of it. A round of applause to my friend and I for not injuring ourselves during the tour and for taking no casualties.
I’m baaaaaack. Ok maybe that is a tad creepy – but I am back on the interwebz. Now at first I was a “tad bit miffed” (yes Kimber that is a shout out to you) that I was without internet, but then I came to accept it and quite frankly loved it. I really was able to just let my mind wander and really enjoy the piktoresk (picturesque) views that I was experiencing for free. I did come across internet for about 15 minutes on two random occasions and opening my inbox to 100+ emails and having many messages in whatsapp certainly put a smile on my face – thank you to all of you who wished me well on my travels (:
My holiday wrap up (the short version)
– a good time was had by all 8 of us in the summer house (baba – host dad, aysel hanım – host mom, Özlem – host sister, Özge – host sister, Teyze – aunt, Cansu – cousin, Azusa – Japanese roommate and myself)
– many big bellied Turkish men were spotted
– the consumption of refrigerated figs equated to my body weight (my daily afternoon snack)
– Turkish balcony and garden cooking and eating was a daily event
– salty hair and a sun-kissed bod was had
– hills were run
– books were read
– thesis was worked on (shocking – I know)
– awkward moments were endured
– and memories were made
View of the Aegean from Host Family’s Summer Home
Figs = my most consumed food on vacation. How I have lived this long without having a refrigerated fresh fig is beyond me
the long version if you happened to be a tad bit in withdrawl of zee blog (cough cough – mi mums) or if you are bored and wanna read further – not all is covered but a fair amount.
Thursday marked the start of my tatil (holiday – vacation) with my Turkish host family and all I knew at the start was that the Aegean Sea would be waiting for me at the end of a 12 hour long busride. 12 hour bus ride – yeah a bit much but with it an overnight bus and me being able to sleep basically anywhere I knew that the 12 hours would speed by and I would soon be getting blinded by bright sun and blue waters and I was definitely not mistaken. All I could think when we finally could seaside was “WOW” and “this looks a lot like Greece”. The PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) are world known for their coastal towns with white houses, purple flowers and views of the sea that are endless, but I don’t think as many people are aware that Turkey boasts these picturesque and sublime for painting towns too. Living on the sea is such a laid back lifestyle, I don’t blame my host dad for escaping for the entire summer to live down here either – for one thing the air is a great deal cleaner than that in Ankara and the hills make for good exercise – seems like a healthier lifestyle to me already (:
Friday morning when we got in we headed to the summer house and since my host mom had shared a few photos with me I had a tad bit of a hankering of what to expect, but seeing the real deal is just better. Sometimes a picture just can’t capture the entire essence of a place, but that’s ok because if pictures could no one would ever feel a need to travel. After enjoying a grand Turkish breakfast on the front porch we headed on down to the sea. The neighborhood runs a bus service to get people up and down the hill – while the walk down isn’t bad, the walk up sure is a doozy. Friday started my daily routine of chilling by the sea, sun-tanning, reading, going for a swim and listening to music. Sure other things happened, but I became like a dog with a predictable schedule. Just watching all the kids running around made for good smiles too. Evenings were spent hanging around with the family (I got to meet another aunt, a cousin and the eldest daughter of my host parents). Great people and enjoying big Turkish dinners with 8 people around the table felt just right. Now my host mother was the only one fasting during Ramazan, but Ramazan didn’t end – initiating the beginning of Şeker Bayram (Sweet Holiday) until Saturday’s Sunset call to prayer. This meant that we would all wait around until we heard the firework go off before chowing down. I was a fan because it allowed the ability to fully watch the sunset. Not to mention after being in Turkey for almost 3 months I am adjusted to not eating until 8:30. In fact, we ate earlier during Ramazan since my host mother would break fast which was around 8-8:15. Dinner would conclude with dessert and of course there after copious amounts of Turkish tea were to be had and chilling in the swinging chair reading was to be done (hammocks still rank higher in my book though).
My daily view down on the docks
The docks where I soaked up the sun – this was in the early morning, by noon the place was buzzing with vacationers
Saturday started my morning routine with my host father of getting up around 7:30 walking down to the sea going for a run and possibly a swim. The water was calm the sun was up and yet everyone seemed to have the same agenda of getting up early to do a little exercise – most were walking or swimming and then head home around 10 to partake in breakfast. I journeyed out on a good 7 mile run which started along the sea, but before I knew it I was on the other side of the port getting lost in the hills of neighborhoods and even ended up on the outskirts with dirt paths and barely traversed terrain. Saturday was also the morning that a cute Turkish lady called me “Marathon Girl” – I guess while I was out running Baba (Turkish dad) got around to telling all his swimming pals about me. Classic. After that it was breakfast, bathing suits on and heading back down to the docks for the day. Now while all of us “kids” headed down to the beach, Aysel Hanım (host mom) and Baba would stay back and chill at the summer house. When we came back it was always a surprise to see what Aysel Hanım had been cooking up all day. Saturday was probably the best, because when we returned it was to her making baklava. Gosh yes! My eyes were probably as big as saucers as I watched her roll out her homemade dough with her wooden rod. The woman has magic hands. If I didn’t love her already, that love was solidifed when I saw her making not one but 2 batches of baklava. Baklava is a common dessert that is made to celebrate Şeker Bayram. Dinner of course ensued and after that all of us ladies sat down and made yaprak şarma (stuffed wine leaves) together. Yes – I know how to turn a leaf into a vessel of goodness now – hopefully wine leaves can be found in the states because while these little guys are time consuming I just have to share the deliciousness with my family back home. That night when I fell asleep it really was a lights out type deal – not until I stirred the next morning with the sun creeping through the window did I realize how deep and soundly I had slept. I guess all the sun had its toll on me, but twas worth it.
Early stages of the baklava being made
Özlem kissing her wonderful mom
Sunday was the actual celebration of the start of Şeker Bayram with lots of neighbors stopping by, tons of blessings being given, and all around happy people. Nothing to complain about when everyone is in good spirits. Baba and I nonetheless went down to the seaside for our morning exercise, mine of which was followed up by an interesting conversation with a Turkish lawyer. This guy was hilarious, knew absolutely no English, but somehow I figured out everything he was saying as long as he spoke slow. Naturally he like every other old Turkish man asked if there was a husband – these guys are obsessed with this question and labeling me as Turkish – I guess my bronzer skin though gives me a little bit more of a Turkish look – but no I am Amerikayalım (American). He was shocked when he found out I was American – I am to the point where I don’t know if it is a compliment or not. There were a few special dishes on the breakfast table (homemade börek and a few different dips) but my favorite of a homemade cherry preserve (usually not a fan of cherry things unless fresh, but this stuff was good) was there too. Also I copied my host mom by putting lemon in my tea and boy oh boy was it good. Definitely hit the spot – a burst of flavor for my taste buds to endure. That night we stayed up late chatting on the front porch – a funny conversation about arugula happened (host sister thought I said regular) haha and then we had the whole family trying to figure out what the word was in Turkish – the dictionary failed me. Finally we figured it out though. My host sister learned that there was a country called Jordan (and yes it is Jordan in Turkish too) and the host mother made sure that we all had a second dessert of ice-cream. If you want to make a diet (diyet yapmak – yes the literal translation in Turkish) then make sure that she is nowhere near your kitchen because it becomes about 20x harder. She is basically a personal chef – even her eldest who lives in Istanbul is soaking up as much of her mother’s cooking as she can – who can blame her though. I just called her awesome and everyone was just like “yes” haha.
Where my run took me one day
The well earned views at the top of my 3 mile up hill run – needless to say the 3 miles back down were a lot easier
Found these little guys on one of my runs
I got up early to go for a run that led me way into the hills of the town and I actually ended up finding the dump (yes the garbage disposal place). Now this just proves that the eye sees what it wants to see, because I never think of garbage when on a luxurious holiday, but it is there nonetheless. This day surely left me a tad sore with running. I think I ran 3 miles up hills in all, but the views were well worth it and it made for my second adventure run while on vacation. Azusa and I decided to take a trip to the town of Bodrum which meant a relaxing 30 minute ride on a dolmuş. In Bodrum we checked out the castle that has an underwater archaeology museum in it. The museum showcased some of the shipwrecks in the Aegean and their recovered ruins. After the museum we went for lunch, I decided to have a salad so that later I could have a waffle. It seemed that all the little cafes were whipping up batches of waffles and while I love a hearty breakfast style waffle, I knew that a waffle topped with fresh fruit and ice-cream could not be passed up. So post lunch we did a little shopping and then found a café with a great view of the castle. The town was hopping with tourists who were staying many nights and with others who were only there for the day with their cruise ships docking in-port. Had a nice encounter with the Dönerci (man who sells Döner Kebabs) – who was super impressed that I knew Turkish as did a man who had himself a little leather shop. When Azusa was taking a picture of the sea a Turkish guy gave the thumbs up so I commented “şaka şaka” – joke and he started to talk with us and when he found out I was American he said “ahhhh yes the Americans are so friendly” – I’ll take it. Going to tourist filled towns and shocking store owners with Turkish language skills that go beyond hello, goodbye and thank you is awesome – not to mention can score you a little bit more of a discount. This day was great because Azusa and I get along quite well – we even decided to switch music on the dolmuş ride back. To my shock and absolute amazement the songs she listened to were quite similar to what I have on my own playlist. No denying that I love a little bit of Flo Rida when running, Of Monsters and Men as my ringtone and Maroon 5 at anytime of day. I guess you could say the two of us are more alike than outsiders may presume. The girl has a wicked sense of humor which I can only imagine how great it is if I knew Japanese and she has no fear. I truly will miss my time with her but one day I will get her to visit me in Illinois and I will head on over to Japan. This day also marked a first for me – the buying of cigarettes. Before you freak parentals they were not for me, but rather for the host sister. She called us right before we got back into town and asked us to. When we went into the store I simply asked “Winston Light sigara var mi?” and the guy said yes and handed them to us – now I probably sounded as American as possible with Winston Light prounced the American way and the rest in Turkish – the guy smiled though and we went on our way, back to the homestead where a delightful homemade dinner awaited us and exhaustion overtook me.
May have chased a peacock around the castle…
The bay through one of the castle’s windows
Simple Salad for Lunch
Waffle topped with Bananas, Peaches and Kiwis and Chocolate, Strawberry and Lemon Ice-Cream
View of Bodrum Castle while I was eating my waffle
Partner in Crime for the Day – Azusa
Beach scene in Bodrum
Boats of Bodrum
My last day in the sunny Aegean but I made sure to make the most of it. Woke up for a quick run to loosen up from yesterday’s crazy hills – definitely was needed and followed it up with a nice swim. Went home to enjoy breakfast with the host parents (the others were all asleep) and then got my bags packed before heading back down to the seaside for some last soaking in of the sun rays. Sadly enough our service bus driver had a fender bender – took off the license plate of another car – no bueno. But I can say that I was shocked that I didn’t witness more accidents on the steep, narrow pot-holed and cobble-stoned accident prone hills – not the place to learn how to drive stick and only the most able should even give it a try – many were burning rubber (that would not be I – I am too freaked to even drive stick out of a neighborhood and that is after having 4 – FOUR teachers – you people know who you are – they still walk our earth). After chatting with the family I learned that the cousin’s name Cansu means “Life Water” or the first watering of a plant – I thought this was beautiful – my sentimental moment. Also learned that the eldest host sister who works at the same language school I attend but at the Istanbul branch is the model in one of the photos in my Turkish workbook – super hysterical. After heading home and getting cleaned up we sat down to what was my last host mom cooked meal – she is at the summer home for another week so won’t return to Ankara before I set out for Istanbul ): but nonetheless the last meal was superb – saç boreği and it was made in the neighbor’s garden – great ending to a lovely family vacation.
Özge – host sister and I chilling down by the sea
Host mom preparing the Saç Boreği in the neighbor’s garden
The Aunt cooking the Saç Boreği on my last night – they were filled with eggplant
Got back into Ankara around 8:30am and was back to school by 9am – we mean business with the learning of Turkish. Already stocked up on figs – they are a second close to bananas as my most beloved fruit (and if you know me you know how serious a statement that is).
Cheers from Ankara – my home for only 1 more week
This past weekend I traveled to the Ottoman Village Fairytale town of Safranbolu – North of Ankara by about three hours. Great little city to visit with plenty of adventures that I will be posting about. My friend Audrey and I also visited Yenice Forest which is about an hour from Safranbolu – felt great to be out in nature. Here are just a few of the photos from my little weekend get-away
Yenice Forest and Şeker Canyon – near Safranbolu
Me on top of the hill that overlooks the old city of Safranbolu. The new part of the town is in the background.
Overlookıng the Ottoman Village of Safranbolu
Inside the Caravansary or Han – it is now a hotel
Alvaro and I as old travelers in the Han
Our view during lunch
More of the view from the lunch table
This cat was chilling out with us at lunch – one blue and one yellow eye – totally cool
The locally produced soda in Safranbolu
The cave we visited – 4th largest in Turkey
Audrey and I split tea at a Nargile Cafe
River going through Yenice Forest
My favorite picture from the forest
Many informed me that they loved my GIFs from a couple weeks ago so I thought I have kept yall all waiting long enough for the second installment. In case you missed the first round you can click to it here!
What I wish I could do in Ankara Traffic
The More Plausible Outcome
Me Walking in Ankara on My First Day
Riding a Dolmuş Part II
Trying to Explain Something in Turkish and Realizing I don’t know the Vocabulary
Running into a Fellow Illini Abroad
Trying My Friend Flora’s Pickle Juice in Istanbul
Istanbul with its heat and humidity
Turkish Men to Tourists
Taxi Drivers Response when I Speak to them in Turkish to make a Fare Deal
What Everyone Looks Like During my Morning Commute
What my Turkish Teacher Really Wants to do when I say I understand – “Sure you do”
Eating Something Really Hot but Trying to Keep it Together out of Respect
Me Dreaming About Soy Milk
Drinking Raki – doesn’t get easier with attempts
When I am oblivious to my surroundings and try to exit the metro via the entrance
What my conversations with my Japanese roommate look like
What said roommate does on the rare occasion she is ready to go to class on time – who needs Turkish when you have hand gestures??
Cheers from the land of Turks