Tuesday, April 07, 2015

21 October: Istanbul

We woke up late-ish and had a slow morning ... we had a free day in Istanbul!

Showers were lukewarm, but I spose that's cause we were late. We had a quick breakfast and then The Trucker had to quickly login and sort some work stuff out. This is what he's been lugging our cute new slim little laptop around Turkey for!

After that we headed out. We borrowed a Metro card from the hotel and walked up a long hill to get to the station to load it with credits. 2.25Tl a trip. First we headed to Eminonu, the harbour stop to find out about Bosphorus Cruises. The ones the hotel was offering were 40EU, including a meal etc. I'd found one online for 12Tl. Unfortunately when we arrived they were closed. Ticket sales for their 14h30 trip would only open at 1pm!

So we decided to kill some time with one of my Istanbul picks, the Archaeology Museum. Unfortunately a large part of it (and many other things around town) was under renovation / construction. Not sure how much of a difference that made but, it certainly wasn't as impressive as I was expecting. And The Trucker was terribly bored.

I'd hoped for more (anything) about the Giant Heads at Mount Nemrut that were too far off our tour path for me to include ... and something on Gobekli Tepe! Didn't see a thing!

Just after 1pm we headed back to the harbour and bought our tickets for the 2hr cruise. Then we had to wait till 2pm before the gates opened for boarding. Luckily The Trucker and I split up so I got us great seats upstairs on the balcony and he got us the 10Tl Audio Guide.

I'm not exactly sure why everyone recommend a cruise up the Bosphorus. I didn't find it any more interesting than the museum. And my ears got tired of the Audio Guide around all the "Summer Residences"!

After that we wandered the Spice Bazaar and then walked back to our area. We ended up stopping at the Best Western for a drink on their terrace to watch the sunset (and play with our new selfie stick). And ended up having a little dinner there too. Biggest starter plate of chips I've ever seen!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

20 October: Kusadasi to Istanbul

We got collected by our next tour guide at 9am. I think this lady was my least favourite. Wish we'd had the guy from yesterday again!

She first took us to Mary's Church (or House). I didn't really follow it all. It sounds like somewhere along the way Mary swapped Joseph for John the Baptist (or did Joseph die?) and ran off to Turkey to hide (and apparently died here).

I will say it is surreal and a little hard to follow the history which overlaps with names we're very familiar with (Cleopatra, people from the Bible etc.).

We whirled thru the 2 room house that was clearly a religious experience for others (Catholics I presume ... apparently all the Popes have been to visit too). I quite liked the jam-packed wishing wall. Did consider wishing for a girl - haha.

From there it was off to Ephesus for a long day. Shewee. It was pretty cool but, I could've done with more unguided wandering on my own. The problem is, as fascinating as all the history is (and parts of it really are!), t is all very overwhelming to absorb or contextualise there and then. Impossible, even. It's amazing to see that so long ago, the Romans were so advanced ... central heating, saunas, plumbing in the communal latrines.

We walked thru a special section of terraced housing which had incredible mosaics. It was truly amazing. As much as we know tho, it's still hard to picture or imagine living then!

We saw the ancient library, which was very cool. And the much larger theatre, which although it seats far more than the one at Heirapolis, wasn't nearly as impressive (I didn't think).

From Ephesus, we went for lunch. Seriously, THE BEST lunch we've had on this whole trip! Finally, no touristy buffet but a selection of local dishes. Manti and Gozleme were my faves.

From lunch we stopped briefly at the Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - probably the only thing impressive about it).

And then The Trucker and I decided to skip the leather & carpet sales-y portion of the day and got to spend an hour wandering the Kusadasi coast with a Starbucks caramel frappachino in hand instead. Yip, we totally scored on that one!

And then, at 5pm we left for the Izmir Airport to catch our flight back to Istanbul. We arrived back at the same hotel, checked in, got a different room and pretty much went to bed.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

19 October: Pamukkale to Kusadasi

Our experience with the hotel (Hotel Koray) just deteriorated. And after we looked it up on Trip Advisor, we were amazed at how many of our complaints were the same as people had listed there!

The wifi signal was rubbish. After I was already in the shower, The Trucker had to go and find clean towels! The breakfast was the least impressive we've seen so far (except there was watermelon :) ). The owners (or managers ?) were also not very helpful.

We're actually a little confused right now as they seem to have us registered as Graziela Someone-or-other?! Our itinerary says we're where we should be. Perhaps Graziela booked for us, but none of it left us feeling overly confident about this place.

We're being collected for Heirapolis and Pamukkale tour at 11h30. And at some point after the tour we have another "approx 3hr" bus ride ... let's hope it's better than the last one!

While we were waiting, we took a stroll around the area surrounding the hotel. The town seems in terrible disrepair. I would not advise staying here.

Needless to say, everything worked out and improved exponentially as soon as our tour arrived to collect us.

Our guide for Pamukkale was great! And again, we met some interesting people, for the day. We headed to the top entrance of Heirapolis and took a wander thru the unexcavated town up to the theatre. Which took our breath away!

Wow. Seriously, wow. It was amazing. I was completely in awe. I do think it helped that we watched Spartacus earlier this year. It really made the experience more real, imagining the people who lived here and attended the theatre (which was used for gladiators and animal fights as well as plays and other things).

On our way down the hill, we saw the tomb of St Peter being excavated in the distance. And then we wandered down to Cleopatra's Pool. Which wasn't at all what I expected. We decided not to pay the 32Tl to swim there but, rather visited the museum in the old bath house and then went down to the actual pools and "swam" there.

It wasn't quite what I was expecting, but it was pretty cool. The calcium deposit is just a large clump in the middle of perfectly normal mountains. Reminded me a bit of the stretch of fake snow in Lesotho at Afriski! Haha.

They divert the water regularly to different pools to allow others to dry out and kill the algae. But the pools we could go to were quite shallow so the water had lost it's warmth. The real fun was sitting in the canal with the warm water rushing past you!

After that our tour drove us to Kusadasi, our next overnight stop. The hotel here, Hotel Sozer, is awesome, with a sea view! Which definitely makes up for the last one. Reminds me a little of our experience in Nah Trang.

We checked in and immediately headed to the stretch of restaurants along the coastal road. We (oddly) settled on a Chinese spot and had a very nice dinner. I had Chicken with Satay sauce and The Trucker had Sweet & Sour Beef.

After dinner we headed to the Doubletree where the people we'd met on the tour had promised to leave some of their famous chocolate chip cookies for us. The Trucker is such a sneak! Delish :)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

18 October: Fethiye to Pamukkale

We were up before 8am, showered and had breakfast at the hotel before checking out. We left our luggage at reception and hopped on the scooter. Lots of exploring today!

By chance we passed the Lycian Tombs carved into the side of the mountain (in 350BC apparently!) (we had planned to find our way to them later in the day) and then continued on our way to Kaya Koy, the nearby ghost town.

What a gorgeous ride over the mountain thru pine forests (looked like Tokai forest!) ... although we were a little nervous about our scooter's ability on the steep uphills, we managed just fine.

Kaya Koy was pretty cool. Although, again, it's all Greek houses that were abandoned after the "swap" in the 1920s. What was amazing was going into one that had been preserved. Wow!

Read a little online about the whole swap. Sounds like it was all religious #sigh. People do dumb things in the name of religion. I mean who cares what someone else believes? Why do countries even have religions anyway? Should be down to personal choice. Also weird is to think that less than 100 years ago ... how few people were probably openly atheist? Frowned upon, I imagine. I find the whole religion thing quite surreal.

Then we headed back to Fethiye. Took a bit of a ride thru more suburban bits before taking the coastal road back to the city centre.

Stopped for BK for lunch haha. And then took a stroll along the harbour side. Such a nice walk. Although I did expect more in the way of beaches.

The Trucker decided he needed a beard trim at one of the many barber shops. It is quite amazing to watch these men, such a craft really. And you can't rush them!

And then we returned our scooter and collected our bus ticket and our laundry and returned to our hotel to wait for our transfer to the bus station at 4pm.

Our bus to Denizli left at 16h30 and our itinerary said it'd be an approx 3 hour trip. But I doubt it ever is ... ours took 4.5hrs. So instead of arriving at 19h30, in time to get some dinner, we arrived at 9pm.

And then struggled to find our hotel transfer. They said sorry, no one had phoned to confirm what time :/ Urgh, so we grabbed a quick toasted sarmie at the big Denizli Bus Station and then grabbed a local bus to Pamukkale.

We arrived at our hotel around 10pm.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Final Countdown

Morning! Shew, that was likely the "last" weekend of "Just the 2 of us". Nope she still hasn't dropped. And it didn't really go as planned ...

On Thursday night we decided to try a new (for us) restaurant in Rosebank called Hashi. We've been slacking a lot and figured we should try cram in as much "Date nighting" as we could before The Arrival. OMG it was exactly what we needed. The food was incredible. Although we both completely over indulged. If you enjoy sushi I would highly recommend it! It's not the sort of place that would end up being my local, regular sushi spot, even if it were close enough because it's expensive and the portions are large, but for a treat it is perfect!

I wish I could remember all of what we ordered but even when it arrived we couldn't tell what was what so I can't even recommend my favourite dishes. But go, try it, it was delish!

On Friday, after working from home all day, I headed to the office for a good friend's farewell and The Trucker had gone to play cricket. There was also an office braai on the go so it seemed like a good opportunity to say goodbye to people as many seemed surprised that they wouldn't be seeing me a) for a very long time (maternity leave) and b) possibly ever again (moving to Cape Town). It turned out to be quite a nice evening and good to spend some time with everyone :)

I don't know what we thought we'd be spending the rest of the weekend doing ... I had a vague notion of cramming in as much "us" time as possible ... but doing what, who knew? It didn't happen that way. There were too many last minute things that needed to be done. The Trucker has spent the last 2 weekends fixing up little things at my old house so we can put it on the market. Damp proofing and painting was last weekend. This weekend was finishing the painting and putting new counter tops in the kitchen because we'd bought a built in oven-stove to replace the stand-alone one. He had guys come in to actually do most of the work, but needed to be over there to supervise most of the time.

Also, he'd hurt his back at cricket the night before so was pretty miserable and walking hunched over like an old man when he came home around 6pm.

We did see each other earlier than that ... he managed to pop out for a bit before lunch so we could go to Baby City. Here comes a disappointing story! Remember that awesome incredible amazing Baby Monitor we bought last November at the Baby Expo? The one we were so excited about?

Well, he tried to set it up last weekend. And very sadly it doesn't do what it says on the box :( We tried to get it to connect to our home wifi: nope. We tried to get our smart phones to connect to it from the spare room (4m away, maybe?): nope. Well, it'd work for about 10 seconds and then you'd lose connection and never seem to get it back. Pretty unreliable if you're hoping to monitor an actual child of yours. Luckily I'd kept the slip and the CPA says you have 6 months to return something that doesn't work as advertised (or something). So he'd taken it in during the week to get a refund so we could get the older (working) video-sound-movement monitor instead.

They kicked up a bit of a fuss but the manager of the store got the Area Manager on the phone and they issued the refund. So on Saturday we went to get the replacement and a few other things.

More disappointing is when I was sorting thru the nursery on Sunday afternoon (this is about as close as I get to nesting, I haven't been down on my knees scrubbing floors or anything - haha), I realised that they'd also sold us the large mattress instead of the standard for our cot (after he'd asked while we were there, able to show them exactly which cot we had bought) during our previous big shop there. So we have to now return that along with the linen (all still packed and with slips, I am getting good at keeping them!). AND we have to return the baby gate we bought on Saturday's shop (I know the babe won't need it yet, but it's more for the dog at this stage ...) because when he took it out of the box to set up, it's bent and physically the lock can now not even connect :/

I am a little over Baby City right now to be honest. In our 3 big shops with them, all where we've spent over R2500, we have to go back and return something. How freaking tedious!

On Saturday evening, we took it easy at home so The Trucker could rest his back. It's still not 100% today, but definitely a bit better.

On Sunday we headed to Salvation Cafe with friends ... gotta have that breakfast if we're cramming in our favourite things to do! And they spoilt us by buying us the base for our car seat! I am so thrilled ... we tried to put the car seat in for the first time on Saturday. Trying to strap the seat belt into all the right places in no easy feat and I can't imagine it'd be easier with a baby sitting in it either! I am sure it probably gets easier with practice, but now I, at least, won't have to worry.

From there is was grocery shopping and then home for a relaxing afternoon - The Trucker very much needed to rest!

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