Friday, October 30, 2015

An Aside

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When in....

When in Istanbul, or anywhere for that matter, travel like a native.   

We set out from our hotel bright and early, yes scratch that...we were lazy this morning and slept in until 9:30am.  By the time we showered and dressed, we missed the hotel breakfast.  However, the Ritz Carlton was very accommodating.  A very kind gentleman seated us in the dining room and began rattling off delicious foods he could bring us from the kitchen.  "Yes" to everything and in short order, it was delivered to our table.

Full of confidence and a great meal, we set out on our trek.  Nothing matched the description the concierge scratched with penned lines on the map, but we were not intimidated.  There was only one way to the tram station and it was down a very steep hill. (By the time we returned to the hotel, we determined that Istanbul is not an easy walking city for a disabled person.)

As we made our way toward the tram station, the call to prayer began.  I joined in silently...."please get us to the old city." Message sent.  Message received.  

Like an intimidating barrier, the "Istanbulcard" machine was a big, harshly yellow, menacing box, with rows of black buttons and instructions in both Turkish and broken English. The line behind me was impatient as I tried to make sense of the directions. It was daunting. However, everywhere we go, there are nice people who either want to help or get you out of their way, so it was no surprise that someone stepped forward to lend a hand.  Old city, here we come.

Everything in Istanbul is crowded: the streets, the tram cars and the sidewalks.  People fill this city in a mosaic of colors and textures...old and young, brown and light skinned, smartly dressed and those covered in black berkas, buildings centuries old next to McDonalds and Burger King.  A cacophony of sounds and languages, with urgent shop keepers bidding passersby to see inside their shops.  One shouted " I have everything inside, except customers."

It was a fun day in a fascinating city.  We walked for miles, uphill and downhill, through a maze of passage ways in the Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar, down a cosmopolitan street en route to Hagia Sophia, back to the tram, over to the funicular that took us up to Taksim Square and then followed a long winding road back to the hotel. Pooped, we enjoyed a very pleasant rest and the generous libations offered  in the hotel lounge.
"Turkish delight" - colorful and delicious.
Turkey is delightful!

Something for every taste...conservative

Lingerie in shop windows in a conservative country! 
"Hello, little man"
Creepy child-sized mannequins with
black marker moustaches!

I photograph brooms around the world.
This one was in the Grand Bazaar

Five Stars to Turkish Air

What did we do for 10 hours on a flight from Chicago to Istanbul?  We ate delicious food and slept on seats that became comfy beds with soft bedding, a duvet and a large pillow.  Utterly delightful.

The service was impeccable from the two chefs who prepared our two meals to the sweet flight attendants who ensured our absolute comfort.  Beautiful candle light graced our cabin as we flew 5,550 miles across the Atlantic.  

Multi course meals began with a silver trolley laden with a selection of eight starters.  A delicious soup was served in gold embossed bowl and the same trolley returned with a selection of another eight or so desserts.  The best were fresh raspberry ice cream and baklava.  Breakfast was the same sort of extravagance that began with a wake up muffin and fresh orange juice.  

Thumbs up, Turkish Air!

Silver embellished tea cups and candle light!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


While waiting patiently for the clock to strike 10:15 pm, check-in time for our flight, I filled the evening, last night, with a Village Board meeting where the residents came out with proverbial pitch forks to storm Village Hall. All's well that ends well and we got a necessary vote on a very important issue. 

Back home, I quickly logged into Turkish Airlines website to print the boarding passes, only to find our flight to Istanbul was cancelled.  WHAT?!?! Living near a major airport is great. We can fly to San Francisco at least 40 times on any given day with various airlines...but, my mind many flights can there possibly be from Chicago to Istanbul?

A quick call to Turkish Airlines cleared up the problem. Boarding passes were printed. Bags were packed. All the "t's" have been crossed and the "i's" are dotted. We are ready for our spectacular adventure. 

Our amazing itinerary began with a taxi ride to O'Hare Airport.  Impossible traffic makes it challenging to make a necessary left turn on a major road.  No problem for our "pilot," he turned into oncoming traffic causing lanes to stop in both directions. A precursor to driving in Turkey, Greece, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Oman or the United Arab Emirates?  If we've survived out-of-control tuk-tuks, reckless drivers seem tame in comparison.

Forty-five minutes till boarding.  We're relaxing in the business lounge having a light snack and enjoying the free wifi.  And, the restroom!  Delightful! A full wash and dry...who needs TP.  I never knew a nice perk like this existed at ORD!  

All set to explore the world!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

My "All-Inclusive" Vision of the World

Hands down, this luxurious, all-inclusive, Voyager ship is amazing; so in keeping with their brand, I am creating a blog that will offer my followers a unique, "all-inclusive" travel experience, seen through my eyes. 

My vision always includes people.  I'm a portrait artist.  When others are looking at buildings, I am looking at faces. I will be drawing portraits of the people I see in Turkey and the Middle East as well as those I meet onboard. I'm ready! Two high-quality sketch pads are packed with plenty of ball point pens and, for bravado, no erasers!

I hope they speak to you, like they do to me.  Here's an example of what you might expect to see on this journey....

The portraits won't be for sale, but they will be available.  I will happily arrange donations to the Crew Fund in exchange for any drawing someone might wish to take home with them.

If you have ever sailed on a "no-tipping" ship, you know that the crew, and the service they provide to every guest, is exemplary. The Crew Fund covers all sorts of needs, including emergency airfare home, perks in crew quarters and well-deserved crew parties.  From the people who serve us meals and clean our cabins to the crew we never see, who wash linens, prepare our food and keep us afloat, this is a small gesture to express gratitude for their care.

Oh, I Know We Are Going to Overpack!

Back in the day, when we traveled at least half the year, I had everything perfectly organized.  Bags were prepacked with every conceivable item we might need on our voyage.  All I had to do was throw those goodies in a suitcase along with clean clothes and off we went.  Over time, those bags were unpacked and the contents were scattered in places I don't often check.  I feel like I am starting from scratch as I start stacking items to pack.

First, before even getting on the plane, we had to buy new suitcases! Our "world-weary" bags have had it and if our belongings are going to keep up with us on this adventure, we better put things in sturdy suitcases. 

Preparing for this trip is a flashback in time.  We're finding old itineraries, key cards from previous voyages, extra passport photos that are really, really old and we looked really, really young.  Fun memories of non-stop adventures to all seven continents, over 95 countries, two and a half world cruises and many more voyages in between. I've lost count, as well as the list on which I recorded every journey.

Four more days until we board Turkish Airlines to be whisked away to Istanbul.  Well, it not quite a "whisk"... the flight is 11 hours long, but according to my friend, the flight to Turkey, in business class, is a special experience. We popped for a comfy ride and look forward to seeing the tea light "candles" on our dinner trays  and flickering throughout the cabin after “lights out.” The soothing ambiance will lull us to sleep.  We'll be alert when we arrive to greet the driver waiting to take us to our hotel. A special thank you to our dear friend for all of her expert help with our travel arrangements.

Our excitement is building. Hope I remember all that needs to be done before closing the front door of the house.