Monday, May 31, 2010

Reflections on "Ondee" from Istanbul

I know we are backtracking here, but "Ondee" deserves a paragraph in this blog!!
We met the nicest young man from Kurdistan. He was only 19 years old but speaking to him you would guess that he is much older. At Alec's age, only 13 years old, Ondee left his home (he comes from a family of 10 children) to break away from his predestined life of being a sheppard. For generations this is what his family has done but when he expressed interest in doing something else, his ideas were met with resistence from his father. Ondee set off by himself with only the shirt on his back and ended up in Istanbul very hungry and tired. He was taken in by various people and he began working in the local restaurants. Today you will find this handsome young man dressed up in a suit charming people into the restaurant he works for. He speaks beautiful english and makes all of the guests feel special. The boys were princes, me a queen and Eric "Sylvester Stalone"!! He and Ondee share the same birthday and the same entrepreneural spirit. We all fell in love with Ondee and know he'll be a big success one day!!

Carol's add on!

Greece for me, so far, is all about the food and the people. The food has been nothing short of amazing. Its that fabulous mediteranean mix of olive oil, toatoes, garlic and herbs on just about everything and we really can't get enough of it!! Yesterday was the ultimate culinary journey. We had chicken braised and glazed in those beautiful mediteranean flavors and it felt as though it was slow cooked all day! At night, our hotel host served us all of her specialties, tiny lighly fried whole fish that the kids devoured, cut up octopus marinated in onions, peppers, cilantro and tomatoes (one of the best things we've ever tasted!), vegetable (meatballs) that were filled with spinach, herbs and cheese, fried feta with herbs and a casserole of eggplant with more tomatoes and feta cheese grilled on top. It was all to die for. Today we didn't eat anything all day except for having some espressos and apricots. Tonight we'll feast again!!

As for the people, they are so warm and engaging. They speak passionately about everything in life and remind us more of italians and quite the opposite of what we saw in Japan!! Our host, Reina, is such a character. She guided us through our entire stay telling us what we "must" do and "must" eat, and you simply do not argue with her!! Our lunchtime host was adorable. He pulled up a chair and shared stories with us about his country and about his desire to see america. He was robust and friendly, a greek bon vivant!!

It was a pleasure to finally swim in the sea. We haven't done much of that since the beginning of our adventure. Tomorrow its back to discovering!!

Athens, Corinth Canal and Kamena Vourla

Time is flying again!
We left Athens Sunday with not too much regret since we found the town quite dirty yet very interesting! Last day I went alone with Luca to local beach where I was reminded of the crowd found at local Mediteranean beaches! (way too many peoples for me)
Then we went to the Corinth Canal ( an impressive 19th century creation) where Robbie Madison jumped 300 feet (height and lenght) over the canal gap last month (Robbie is unreal!)
Then we drove inland Greece, found a great little town where we had a mouth watering lunch and made friends with locals!
The end of day was a trip on memory lane since we decided to stay where I spend my summer vacation of 1973 (Kamena Vourla on east coast of Greece)
Strangely enough, the Hotel Owner's dad was the camping owner of where we stayed!
She took us to the old location (now closed) where my family and I spent August 1973!
We had a great day swimming and re discovering (for me) this idylic place!
On our way to West coast and then Ferry to Italy!

The Beach were I spent my summer vacation in 1973 with my family!

When I was Alec's age (13) I was at the same spot with my dad!this was the farthest point from home I had ever been.....(for Alec it is not!)

Kamena Vourla

Enjoying a lunch feast with the restaurant's ownner

Bungee jumping the Corinth canal?????

Our buddy Robbie Madison jumped that canal! unreal!

Luca enjoying a busy Athens beach

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Carol's view on Greece

Arriving to Mainland Greece
Pulling into the harbor at 6am was magic, especially after escaping from our ca bin which was at least 100 degrees!! We were lucky to have GPS again which lead us faithfully to our hotel by 7am but we couldn’t check in for another couple of hours! We stopped at a corner cafĂ© with some crusty old guys drinking their morning espresso! Couldn’t resist, so we ordered some caffeine shots for us and some hot chocolate for the boys, some of the best of both we’ve had in weeks!! Crusty yes, but this will be our new hang out!!
So, our first impression is “seedy!!!!” but everything is relative!! We love this place! Its lively and crazy and everyone yells a lot and honks their horns when they drive even if it doesn’t help the situation!!
After a great run, its off to sight see again!! How many more ruins can we see before our feet are in ruins?!! Our first stop was the Acropolis with the beautiful Parthanon . What an amazing sight. We realized that in our entire year of travel, this was the oldest man made structure we had seen-about 400 years BC give or take a few years. There is a big restoration project for the Parthenon which was bombed during WWII. You are not even allowed to sing or speak loudly for fear of damaging the structure.
As usual, us foodies are off in search for some spanikopita and some gyros!! Spanikopita is a spinach and feta pie in phylo dough, my absolute favorite food!!! Also stuffed tomatoes, green peppers and eggplant! Yum!
Off to discover more!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Acropolis! (Athens)

Man it was hot!
We finally have the summer we were looking for couple weeks!
We are in the mid 90, in Athens discovering the Acropolis!
Since we saw Hierapolis in Turkey few days ago it feels less spectacular but nevertheless it is a thrill!
We walked the town all day since we were here at 6am!
Right now drinking ouzo and rose wine at a cafe's terrace and loving it....

Ferry to Athens!

Short and exciting night ferrying to Athens!
We left Chios around 10 and arrived in Athens at 6am for sunrise
We had a comfortable cabin and a great ride but waking up at 6am was not fun for kids!
Sunrise in Athens

the 3 boys ready to sail

Sunset in Chios

Luca very tired and not smiling for once

Our cabin!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Leaving Turkey (sadly) and Chios island (Greece)

Sea sun and....?
Welcome to to the Greek Island of Chios where we have been the last 24h!
We were sad to leave Turkey where we really had the best time and weather...we are now in the 90"s and sunburns are chasing us!
Last day in Turkey was great, we followed the coast to our first ferry ride to Greece!
The Ferry ride was epic and vintage, only 3 cars in in the belly of the beast (boat) and here we we were in Greece!
Different approach here, people seems to be more tense and serious than the Turks!
The turks were SO nice!
That said, the ambience is great and the party like feeling is fun as well!
Tonight we will take another ferry to Athens after chilling (burning!) 24 h around the island of Chios!

Alec admiring the sea!

Greek island beach!

View from our room in Chios

Waiting for Ferry to Greece in Turkey

picnic in Greece

seafood lunch in Turkey...yam yam

cool little ride in Greece

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hierapolis/Pamukalle and Turkish riviera

Superb day with summer like temperature in Turkey!
We went to Pamukalle for hot springs and sceneries and we discovered one of the best preserved Roman cities from 300 AD!
Hierapolis was the nicest town east of Rome in 300 ad! that says it all!
After several hours of hiking, swimming and discovering this site we drove couple hours to the mediteranean coast for a taste of the Turskish Riviera...and once again we were impressed!
Tomorrow we will ferry to the greek Island of Chios!

Turkish riviera

Map of Hierapolis 300 AD

Unbelievable sceneries and ruins!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Driving to Central Turkey and wild night in Pamukkale!

Another great day in Turkey and what a surprise it is to us.....!
We had no expectation for this country and we are blown away!
The scenery is beautifull everwhere (very green) and people are the nicest! (The food is also the icing on the cake!(
We drove 400 miles on 4 lanes highways mostly without tolls and beside of a little Asma crisis for Luca had no worries.
Just a pit stop to use nebulizer, have lunch, refill the car and have it clean and we were on our way again!
In the evening we arrived in Pamukalle(incredible place) where a thermal hot springs has been covering an entire hill with travertine (a lot a calcium in water!)
The view of this while hill in the middle of nowhere is simply breathtaking!
In the evening we had a great meal but then the restaurant owner (mamet who sounded like Borat) invited to try another Turkish specialty : the Hooka pipe!
We all had a blast, the kids we laughing so hard to see their parents smoke water pipe and get dizy......LOL
Another day we will not forget soon...

Our little hotel in old Istanbul

Car wash at gas station (White car in background was my first car in 1979, Renault 12 wagon)

Nebulizer stop!

Beautiful scenery in Central Turkey

Luca making friends.....Luca is our best passport!

Arizona or.......Turkey????


Wild night in Turkey

Us with trouble maker Mamet that made us do it!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

We love Istanbul!

Just few more pictures to show you how much of a great time we had In Intanbul!
Istanbul is kind of like an oriental San Francisco!
Yesterday was our first dry day since we landed in Europe and let me tell you we enjoyed it!
Today Monday we will go farther south to explore the other side of Turkey!

PS: we finaly gave in to the kids and saw Iron man 2 last night.....!!!!with Turkish subtitle!