Monthly Archives: June 2015

Last Days in Cappadocia

Two Judith’s stayed behind and didn’t have the 3.45 am wake up call for the second morning in a row to go Ballooning (0ne being me). I would loved to have gone again – but, it was better Hannah got to enjoy the thrill of a balloon ride and best of all to see the Cappadocia landscape from a balloon basket. At this height you can see what must have been a gigantic earthquake  that ripped up this landscape  followed by a huge volcanic eruption  that covered the entire region in volcanic ash and how the wind , rain and extreme weather patterns over millions of years have eroded the valleys and created the surreal fairy chimney and mushroom shaped landscape. My group all came back fizzing  – not only did they get a terrific ride amongst 100 other balloons but they popped through lovely fluffy mist  to see the sun rise and be gobsmacked with the view. The expert pilot even landed the basket on the trailer!


Some in my group felt uncomfortable about the balloon ride and their fear of heights proved not so bad looking out and standing in the huge balloon basket . This morning’s excursion took us to one on the many underground cities in Cappadocca . I have a fear of cramped spaces and the thought of descending 7-8 stories underground through a tight tunnel was pretty scary . Its amazing and by the time we reached the bottom the space was quite large .

Built around 600 BC  these cities could house over 5000 people providing safe refuge and a storage facility with s stable temperature to live in  – most of the towns in Cappadocia have another city underground

Ali told us a really sad story about  mothers who would hide their sons  in the underground tunnels, at a time when Turkey would force young boys into the army during the first world war, virtually by their height and if they could carry a gun. The authorities would block up the entrances but these tunnels would go for miles linking one town with another – hopefully many of the boys escaped.

Underground city

Our last day took us to one of my favourite valleys in Cappadocia  and the old town of Soganli. An amazing landscape where the hill tops looked like they had been chiseled to produce perfect straight sides at the top and the bottom slopes were covered in deserted houses   – once the home of thriving communities. We stopped at what was a deserted village last year (still the local  ladies were selling their fabric dolls and knitted socks) to walk up through the empty  village and along a track past a stunning ancient church carved out of the rock  – but, this year it was evident a lot of work was going on and we were delighted to see we had walked in on a movie set.  There were guys slapping mud on the sides of  a building creating an authentic looking rough surface and the houses had been transformed into all sorts of things from a market place , basket seller to tool maker. It was  so interesting and we were sworn to secrecy !!!!

market stalls



After walking in the hot sun over the dry rocky hillside we emerged by a stream and a little oasis garden filled with tables .We came here last year and sitting surrounded by rowdy geese (thanks to Alison feeding them). We had another delightful lunch with all our favourites such as delicious bread with feta cheese and honey, gozleme, lentil soup, barbecued chicken and lamb, salad and finishing with fresh water melon. Hannah and Laura found a very cute puppy and he was very happy with all the attention and love.

The Turkish hospitality is incredibly  warm and friendly – language is a barrier but, a smile goes a long way and every eating experience for us has been so enjoyable, even if we have eaten too much.


Every tour has to have a “Last Night”  Alison , Hasan and I feel privileged and very happy to have spent another highly successful tour with yet another amazing group of fun, interesting  and vibrant people. This time women from all over New Zealand and who now have another set of friends to call on and meet when they are traveling around New Zealand.

On the sunny deck of Alison and Hasan’s house over looking Urqup and back at our Cave Hotel  we had a pre dinner drink for the last time before dinner at the famous ‘Ziggys’ restaurant .  It was a chance to reflect, talk and laugh about our highlights , of which there were too many.

From Cappadocia we flew to Istanbul and my group dispersed to Croatia, UK, Boston, Milan and only  3 headed home. I can’t thank everyone enough – I can organise tours, provide guides, plan and choose  an itinerary – but a tour success is with a group of like minded people who want company, friendship and fun. They make my job very special!


last night

From Wild Flowers to Fruit and Vegetables

Anatalya to Cappadoccia is a huge drive of  over 9 hours and it’s just one of those times to settle in and enjoy the ride .

Exiting Antalya takes some time and on our right is the Coastline and again it is lined with humungous Resort Hotels with domes that look like you might be in Russia.

We then climb up through the Tauras Mountains – through beautiful cedar forests dotted with many villages – these mountains are still the home of Nomadic people and you can see the tents tottted on the hill sides  – School holidays are 4 months in Turkey to accommodate the children living in remote areas during the summer months. These people have wonderful traditions and still prepare and preserve their food the same as they have for hundreds of years- Like : Goat skin is used  as a container for cheese and stored in caves. Yoghurt is mixed with Bulgur-  rolled into balls and dried in the sun for the winter – It is then used to make yoghurt soup. Because these people are travellers many recipes from middle Eastern Counties have become mixed . Ali Gave us a recipe for Gypsy Chicken. It goes something like this ….   1.Steal a chicken. 2. Sit it on a wooden tripod in a clay  dish with rice and water in the bottom . 3.Cover the chicken with a big metal can. 4. Sit in a fire and cover the whole thing with hot ashes. – the chicken will cook and the juices drip down into the rice and water to make a pilaff … Terrific !!!

We stopped at a row of road side stalls all selling fruit and most had their own homemade Pomegranate  and Grape molasses and preserved olives – I loved the preserved olive  below stored in old coke bottles .

Konya 1

On the other side of the mountains is the very large city of several million people called Konya . It is in the heart of Turkey slap in the middle of Anatolia’s wild huge plain, surrounded by a vast endless landscape.

We stopped   at what looked like a Petrol station restaurant and were ‘wowed’ by the absolutely delicious ‘Pides ‘
– Turkish Pizza – served on long wooded trays sitting on stands above the table . With a few sprigs of parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice we all managed to eat far too much . I don’t like yoghurt drinks – but lots of the others loved the fluffy yoghurt drink served here . I had really nice can of sour cherry juice.
Konya 2
 Konya is Turkey’s most culturally conservative city. Here, at the heart of the old city, in his tomb of turquoise tiles, is Jelaluddin Rumi. Rumi is one of the world’s famous  poets. During his life, and since his death in 1273, pilgrims have come to Konya.
Rumi’s tomb is Turkey’s one  of most-visited tourist attraction after the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. He  was a mystic, a Sufi saint who loved all religions, and whose own religion was love. His followers would (and still do) lose themselves in trance and dance, sometimes spinning like tops for hours on end – known as Whirling Dervishes  – they are now the symbol of Turkey’s tourism .Konya 3

Urqup 3


Konya 4

With the two peaked Volcanic Mt Hassan on our right we traveled for several more hours through plains which seemed to go into infinity on either side of the bus  – we passed many herds of sheep and goats , deep golden wheat and vegetable growing areas .

Cappadocia emerged late in the afternoon and the elegant Fresco Hotel drew squeals of delight as everyone was shown to their rooms – some in Cave rooms and others with lovely views – This old Anatolian Mansion- still with original painted walls and frescoes has been immacualtely restored by our delightful host Mahmet.


Cappadocia is located in the centre of the Anatolian Region of Turkey, Its valley, canyon, hills and unusual rock formations  have been created as a result of the eroding rains and winds of thousands of years  on a lava-covered plain, covered in volcanic  ash millions of years ago from the active mountains Erciyes, Melendiz and Hasan.

Thousands of dwellings and monasteries dating back  many  more thousands of years  have  been carved out of the rock, cities were dug out into underground, pigeon houses  carved into the sides ( used for collecting droppings for fertiser )  – all this looks rather weird and creating bizarre shapes called fairy Chimneys.Ali comes from Cappadocia and can remember the skies thick with waves of Pigeons – He is a complete marvel and we are entranced by his knowledge and stories . Stalls are everywhere and the cheap colourful silk scarves  didn’t go unoticed by my girls ….

Urgup 2

Walking through the Fairy Chimneys you can’t help but notice  the abundance of wild flowers and herbs  -even wild asparagus was everywhere. In some areas there were neat rows of grape vines growing  – here, they grow in a single plant close the the ground .

Urgup 1


goreme 1

Saturday was market day in Urgup and since my group was back  – after getting up at 5am to go Ballooning  but…the low cloud canceled their trip – try again tomorrow !!! In case you didn’t know – I love markets and this was a beauty. Bags of local fresh cheese and yoghurt, stacks of colourful shiny  vegetables – including chillies,aubergines,tomatoes, strings of little dried okra, olives, fresh vine leaves  and huge bunches of mint,dill and parsley all for 1 Turkish Lire  (50 cents ) While we were there everyone at the market all stood perfectly still  for prayers then carried on with their business – lots of elderly men seemed to be selling and shopping along with women all dressed in the traditional baggy pants which seem to have the crotch at your ankles  ( heavens not a dramatic fashion statement ) and the boys with the tea tray went around the stall holders giving out the typical little glasses of tea –  you could even buy loose tobacco .



Market 2

Turkey is not Turkey without buying rugs … after egg Gozleme and a sundried tomatoes with pomegranate molasses for lunch  and watching the cutest little boy dance to our music   – OMG …….my group loved Ali  from the Carpet shop and some of them now will get enjoy their purchase for life time .

Goreme 2


Carpet shopping is exhausting – probably not nearly as much as the poor guys that have to lug them around all the time. Wine was waiting and needed  – Dinner at the hotel cooked in the ancient tandoor oven found in the rocks was delicious. Its been a busy two days and I love being back here…

Good Bye Kas – Hello Antalya

We have loved you again Kas –  just as much as last year .  This town is a perfect size with lovely restaurants,beautiful shops selling bright coloured Turkish towels and of course the Gullet trips out into the mediterranean. Our hotel this year was right in the middle of the town and had its own resident gorgeous Sharpei puppy .Kas 1

Traveling away from Kas, I remember being amazed at the endless acres of plastic tunnel houses  – growing everything from Tomatoes ,Capsicums,  Oranges, and Bananas. This region grows and exports a huge amount to Russia, Eastern  countries and the UK. It looks like the area was covered in snow and the tunnel houses popped up on every available piece of land.


We are on your way to Antalya  – A large city on the Mediterranean coast with most of its coastline covered in enormous resort style hotels –  We are not in one of these this year – but instead are in the old walled city and  Roman port of Kaeici.
Before arriving though we had a visit to the town of Myra -This is the  Pilgrimage site for 16th century orthodox church of  St Nicholas.   St Nicholas was was born here  – and is the saint of children, thieves, prisoners and the down trodden. He was a  known as Noel Baba – was a real person and a favoured  archbishop of the area He lived to the ripe old age of 73. In 1866 the church was sold by Ottomans and purchased  by the Russians  – consequently there are lots of Russian tourists.
Walking over the smooth marble slabs in the church of St Nicholas I wonder how many millions of people have walked on these incredible floors , some still with beautiful mosaics in delicious muted colours.
Looking up the ceilings the  soft colours  of the frescos  are still intact  and recognisable.
St Nicholas
Among the forested hillsides many restaurants are advertised the we returned to my favourite trout farm…
Its hilarious – walkways and eating areas have been built  ontop of the flowing river .I took a visit to the kitchen to meet the staff producing the mouth watering grilled trout, and lamb dishes . I was meserised watching a chef make a giant Kofte and it was served on flat bread garnished with frilled chillies , tomatoes and fresh herbs .
 We still haven’t seen a gas barbecue  – the food has so much flavour  and vegetables a deep smoky taste .
trout farm
I was ultra excited – My daughter Hannah arrived a day ahead of us to join the tour for the last 5 days – I haven’t seen her since I said good bye to her on the train station in Seville Spain last September.
Our bags traveled by taxi and we walked through the old cobbled streets to our hotel -which turned out to be a oasis in the narrow maze like streets . Hannah was there to greet us and had made an over night friend with the owner of the hotel – Rengen – a gregarious ex financier from Istanbul – now running her private hotel – just big enough for our group.
With our own private courtyard and swimming pool it didn’t take long before we were in the pool and sitting with a glass of wine in our hands.
Dinner was around a large table outside  – another delicious meal planned especially for us by Rengan.
Antalya Hotel
Hasan has lots and  lots of contacts and one of them is the manager of a hight end leather manufacturer called Punto.
Well – 3 hours of mayhem .. starting with a fashion parade we had a minder each that helped us find our way around the store ( which was enormous)  ‘Everyone ‘ bought a coat or jacket – some two !!!and also bags, belts and wallets.
No one bought anything from the VIP floor which sold  mink , chinchilla and lots of fox  .. Jude really like d a short Chinchilla jacket for $15,000 US … we didn’t stay long up there.
It was so…. much fun trying on outrageous coats in every colour of the rainbow.

Kas Sitting on the Azure Blue Mediterranean

Turkish roads are full of road side stalls, shops selling nuts and dried fruit and people with a camp like set up selling tea and freshly cooked corn on the cob. Ali knows the best ones and we  stocked up on roasted chickpeas,almonds and hazelnuts. This shop was amazing and many bought lovely knives  and wooden spoons . I bought a gorgeous brass spice grinder.

Roadside 1There is nothing like a disruption in the day and when the bus breaks down, due a faulty fuel gauge – we spent a couple of hours on the side of the road  – reading, chatting and making wild flower posies!!! A can of petrol  that Ali sourced after taking off on some randoms motorbike along with the local mechanic and his trusty CRC we were under way again in a couple of hours

bus 1

Good always come from bad and the mechanic suggested a great local family run restaurant  selling Gozleme – the ” can’t stop eating ” filled type pancake .Wow, in minutes we had 3 girls cranking up the fire , rolling out the dough, cooking the filled pancakes on a hot griddle and serving with a fresh salad  – Yummy varieties all kept coming and coming ..The family including the children served us a deliectibale lunch in  no time at all.


Today Turkey goes to the polls and election voting takes place evidently in schools and village town halls – There is nothing around to indicate where to vote , the buntings and hoardings have all come down. You are only eligible  to vote if you are in your own town on the day !!! so sadly Ali and  Hasan and Ghengis our driver miss out.

Kas sitting perfectly on the coastline was a welcomed stop and our hotel was right in the middle of the town.  Although we were all hanging out for a glass of wine  – due the the election Alcohol was forbidden to be served until after midnight…This is a perfect place for the shoppers  among us and boy did they do well. My favourite Turkish towel shop had  terrific new colours and the variety makes it hard to choose!!!

This is a lovely town and sitting on a high balcony on a warm night over looking the boat harbour was pretty nice .


The following day was our day on the water -Hasan had negotiated  a Gulet -( wooden traditional boat) the night before and as the group walked down to the boats lined up ready for daily excursions I am sure they wondered what was in store for them.

Swimming in the Mediterranean was a first for many and it’s very salty water means you can float and  acqua  jog effortlessly. The owners of the boat Mustafa and his wife went out of their way to make our day special and memorable – including their son ( sorry I can’t remember his name ) he looked about 10 and ran about helping everyone. He loved bombing us in the water and Rae enjoyed getting him back. It was so relaxing and perfect after some of the long bus trips.  A pre- lunch wine sitting on the top deck before a lunch with platters lined up down the dining table including delicious barbecued chicken cooked on charcoal in a barbecue attached to the side of the boat, along with typical wonderful salads and Meze.


Boat day boat 2

This coastal region of Turkey is known as the Lycian Coast. This was a political and Cultural centre from the 4th century BC for over 500 years. But, like many of the incredible Greek and Roman cities it faded into obscurity and became the home of goats and Fishermen. Today it is experiencing a huge tourist revival and attracting visitors from around the world.

We passed the coastline of Kekova – a long skinny island known as the sunken city. The city drowned after a massive earthquake and today its amazing to see the some of the walls, steps, sarcophagi and the outline of houses – now visible just above the water line. We stopped at the ancient city of Simena – some walked to the fortress at the top – others negotiated the uneven steps  – we had a very funny time buying very cheap batik dyed dresses – edged with crocheted cotton edges and little shells along the bottom. Some bought jewellery and scarves . They are incredibly cheap – Vegetables and herbs were planted in old olive oil cans and made wonderful garden on the edge of the water.Kevolakera

This was a terrific, fun relaxing day –  we feel rejuvinated and this day will sit with the other  wonderful set of memories to store and dip into when the tour is over .





Figs, Lamb and Thermal Pools

It is Turkish custom  and good luck to throw a jug of water after your vehicle – ‘travel like water’    As we left our lovely hotel in Kusadasi the staff threw water over our bus. This was a special and lovey visit and if you are planning a visit to Kusadasi  – La Vista is the place to stay.
 Kusadasi 1
Today we are heading for Pamukkale . Last year we included this visit and returned to Kusadai – this year we are staying a night so we get more of a chance to enjoy the thermal water.
Our day starts driving through Olives Olives and more Olives and I think of the huge job when the Olives are ready for picking – evidently it is all done by hand.   As we continue through a vast plain called Meander Valley , (Meander is  the name for the god of rivers ) it is obvious this is a massive area for fig production.
1 million tons of  figs are harvested each year and accounts for – 80% words supply.Road side stalls are everywhere selling dried figs and apricots, walnuts and hazelnuts and the large dark green leaves of the trees look so lovely on mass.
It is a rule not to  plant a fig near the house because of the roots  – they are very invasive and can be destructive .
I am dreaming of fresh figs, mozzarella cheese, prosciutto and hazelnuts …with extra virgin olive oil.
But the specialty in this region is roast lamb/ Hogget. On the side of the road  there are spit roasting set ups with 3-4 carcasses rolling round and round. Behind is a restaurant and this case huge..
simple, delicious and fresh – no horrible sandwich in a plastic case here..
the bread was puffed up and so soft – its hard to resist and desert was a sweet caramelised pumpkin with hazelnuts onto.
We haven’t had a disappointing meal – each region is different and yet all healthy and interesting –
Haven’t seen a deep fryer, chips, fizzy or bad bread…
meandering Valley 1
By the time we near Pamukkale we are surrounded on both sides of the road with Pomegranate trees all looking gorgeous covered in scarlet flowers. This is a very popular fruit here and I often have freshly squeezed pomegranate and orange juice.
Oh my goodness yet another incredible ruin  – Hierapolis  – built by the same king that created Pergamum (we visited several days ago ).  It was always popular because of the thermal springs and mineral water.
Pamukkale x 2
Like all Thermal Springs world wide, visitors come to swim in the mineral rich pools and it ‘s no different here in Pamukkale but, also to see the stunning white travertine terraces – flooding down the hillside like icing on cake — Pamuk – cotton  / kale castle
We arrived prepared this year to go for a dip in one of the many pools down the side of the walkway through the terrace. If the water is not flowing over the travertine it slowly discolours  and turkish brownish – its very easy to walk on as the calcium deposits create a slightly rough surface and gives you a great pedicure on the soles of your feet.
Pamukkale 1
Our hotel was very new and typical of the accommodation up here. It also provided a hot mineral pool and as we returned the sky had turned a very dark shade of grey and it stared to rain – to the point it was a huge thunder and lightning storm. It was fun sitting in the hot pool  back at the hotel being pelted on by the rain. What wasn’t so funny infact, tragic was the wedding that was set up out side with white table cloths, meters of pink tule and tables decorations.  At least it was before the quests arrived but, it was ruined and eventually the quests were moved to the reception below our rooms – without the decorations – OMG how disappointing would that be..
We were looking over the balcony at the ‘Goings On ‘  a beautiful bride and groom and lots and lots of quests. The cake was enormous 5-6 tiers high and was actually iced cardboard !!!! they made an imaginary slice down the side and a little piece of cake is in the side where the bride and groom taste by giving each other a spoon full .
wedding 1
I drifted off to sleep with the sound of Turkish music and iI found out in the morning the balcony watchers were invited down to join the wedding and danced with the quests ..
What a day !!

The Wonders of Ephesus and Finding Sumac

From our magnificent hotel over looking the Agean Sea we set off to Ephesus early in the morning  hopefully to bet some of the crowds.

Ephisus 1

I find it hard to do justice to a monumental giant such as Ephesus. To understand how this  huge city was built and functioned is difficult to comprehend – thank goodness we have the Ali who knows ‘everything ‘. Started by the Greeks in  the 10th Century BC Ephesus thrived for hundreds of years  before being taken over by the Romans in 129 AD. During this time it was the third largest Roman city and had population of over 50,000 people.Ephisus 5

The city was famous  for the Temple of Artemis ( Diana) – one of the 7 wonders of the world.  The library of Celsus and a theater which was capable of holding 25,000 spectators. This open-air theatre was used  for dramas, but latterly gladiatorial combats were also held on its stage.We had our own performers – Ali obliged with a poem and Caroline sang – The acoustics are amazing.They do have live concerts here and that would be amazing – I think the sound would be better than the Dunedin Stadium..

ephasus 4

Ephesus also had several major bath houses and an incredibly advanced aqueduct system for houses, industry and even the public toilets – evidently the wealthy would have a slave sit on the marble to warm it up in cold weather!!!  Schools and Gymnasiums were part of every day life .

Our visit started off on a very pleasant morning and there wasn’t a cruise ship  in today  so compared to last year the crowds were good -however by the time we climbed up through the marble main street to the top it was incredibly hot.

Ephesus 6



Ephisus 3

So… How do you loose an  incredible city like this ..

Being sacked and plundered by Goths, Arabs, Ottomans, Crusaders  and anybody else wanting control – plus a huge earthquake destroyed many buildings .The importance of the city as a commercial centre declined as the harbour was slowly silted up. Today, the harbour is 5 kilometres away. With the harbour gone Ephesus lost its access to the Agean Sea, which it needed for trade.  Malaria killed many people and they started leaving the city for the surrounding hills.Many ruins of the temples were used as building blocks for new homes. Marble sculptures were ground to powder to make lime for plaster.Ephesus was completely abandoned by the 15th century and  was named Selçuk in 1914.

The site today is a huge tourist attraction and work continues with archaeologists  and universities from all around the world. Maybe my son Richard would like a survey job here!! We spoke to a girl from  Czechoslovakia working on a site and she was a private archaeologist working under contract.They have only uncovered such a small part of the city and I suppose it will never end.



Following our visit to Ephesus we continued on the the unique picture perfect village of  Sirince which is about 30 minutes from Ephasus.

There is a story that the village was settled by freed Greek slaves who named the village Çirkince meaning ugly in Turkish to deter others from following them.
It has a sad past. This village used to be home to a large strong Greek community. In 1923 they had to leave their village and Turkey as part of the population exchange – where all Greeks had to leave Turkey and be settled in Greece and all Turkish Muslims tranfer to Turkey . Its hard to imagine uplifting yourself, the elderly , children and minimal possesions  within a moments notice after living for generations in a country you called home.
Sirince 2
Sirince 3
 The town is surrounded by olive groves, vineyards, tangerine and fig gardens. Its  narrow paths were lined with locals selling handicrafts – from felting, knitting and crochet to head pieces made from dried flowers and herbs.
Today tourists arrive in great numbers – in a quiet alley along a stone lined path we ate at a typical local restaurant serving delicious Mezes one after the other.
It doesn’t matter where you go in Turkey ,wonderful vegetable based meze are offered everywhere and are so healthy.They use great quantities of vegetables, yoghurt, wild greens and herbs.
While wandering the alleyways after lunch I found some gorgeous old women selling their handwork  – I now have baby shoes , gorgeous knitted fingerless cloves, crocheted necklace . but.. my best find was spotting Sumac seeds still on its branches – I always wondered what they looked like.
 We had a few hours this afternoon to spend time  around the pool at the hotel . Some had a massage but a deckchair and several dips in the lovely infinity pool was magical. We stayed at the hotel for dinner – why leave !!

Long Distances in a Big Country

For the second year in a row I feel lucky and privileged to visit the Gallipoli peninsula.

 It’s a 5 hour drive from Istanbul and after a ‘light’  lunch ha ha… beside the lovely fishing boat harbour in Gelibolu ( Turkish word to Gallipoli ) – where I fell in love with the fresh lemon stuffed olives .
Gallipoli 1
We traveled a further 10 minutes and drove up the one way road to the Memorial sites.

The Gallipoli peninsula sits on the edge of the Agean sea the Strategic Dardanelles waterway continues onto  the Sea of Marmara , the Bosphorous and the Black  Sea.
It is now dotted with cemetaries  and monuments acknowledging the 500.00 allied and Turkish soldiers who never made it back from form one of the bloodiest battles of world war 1

The crowds of Turkish visitors is humbling and  it was noticeable to see the Australian  and New Zealand  visitors on this 100th commemorative year.
Gallipoli 2
The loss of life is hard to comprehend and impossible to imagine the horrible conditions and despair when our young men were faced with the steep hills  and trenches – in some cases  only meters away from the turkish troops .
Chunuk Bair  Is the highest point and here – 28,00 men who died here in August 1915
 The bottom right photograph is the Mehmetcik Memorial – unveiled in 1985 – Atatturk eulogy unites the fallen sons of Turkey with the Allies dead .
Cannakle 1
Cannakkale sits on the narrowest point of the Dardenelles  – it has always been a site of battles from as far back as 400 BC
Today the ferry links the European side where Gallipoli Peninsula sits to Cannakale  in the Asian side and what we know as Turkey – although once called Anatalolia.
A city with a big university and army base . Its  a lovely stop for a night and our seafood restaurant provided  more delicious food.
 Distances are long in  Turkey  and our next day started with a tour through the historical site of Troy.( Trova)
 This is one of the most excavated sites in Turkey – and ruins have been excavated from  as far back as 4000 BC – Troy was the site of huge city – its massive neat stonework and walls change gave us a brief glimpse into this famous site – and of course the story of the Trojan horse .
 Troy 1
 Its a good long drive today .We passed  the small town of Ezine – famous for its cheese and I had seen this in the market in Istanbul.
For the next hour we  drove with the edge of the Agean sea on our right  – on the opposite side of the road there was miles of miles of condominiums  surrounded by thousands  of olive trees  – I am not sure where all theses people swim in the summer , the beach is so narrow and  very pebbly
By 1pm we arrived in the city of Edrimit. Alison and Hasan returned to the same amazing local restaurant as last year –  which has been in the same family for many generations.
Don’t know why but I chose  what could only be called a ‘hearty’ lunch of stuffed Eggplant , slow cooked lamb and spinach .. it was followed by a very nice sweet baba made with ricotta cheese and served with icecream on top.
I desperately needed a coffee and braved a Turkish coffee – I had to add little sugar !!! and it was OK !!
 Lunch 1
Evidently there are a lot of Nomads living in the hills behind the city and on our return to the bus  we passed women selling baskets full of black and white mulberries and bright red cherries – I did buy some cherries – they cost  6 lire for 600 grams — approx $3 -pretty cheap .I am very weak when it comes to market stalls and would love to have bought lots more.
 vendors 1
Our planned afternoon visit was to the dramatic ancient city of Pergamom, which sits above the city of Bergama. It was founded about 250 BC by the Greeks and became a huge metropolis with massive temples, a stadium , theatre, a huge forum and  the steepest Amphitheatre  I have ever seen – big enough to hold 10,000 people.
It was a famous learning centre and the library was renowned  throughout the classical world .It supposedly had over 200,00 volumes made of fine calfskin – which Mark Antony later gave to Cleopatra as a wedding present.
It is extraordinary to walk through the excavated remains – huge perfectly chiseled blocks of stone, massive archways and beautifully carved columns.
It would certainly be a great visit for the Otago Polytechnics dry stone wall class.
It seems incredible that most of the artefacts are in the Bergama museum in Berlin.
Sadly many of Turkeys treasures are housed in European Museums.
Its humbling and a huge learning curve for most on my group . I wish my son Matthew was here – he studied classics and I know he would just love it.
 We still had a good 2 1/2 hours to go to our two nights stop in Kusadasi . I know this hotel is going to be gorgeous and I am looking forward to the pool..

Fours days in Istanbul

We have had 4 busy amazing days in Istanbul –  this huge cosmoplitan city of  12 million people – and over 30 million in the greater city is 7 times the size of  New Zealand and jammed with over 3 million cars .The city goes on forever in the distance – over 90 kilometres and now outlying villages have been incorporated  into the growing city.


 The skyline  is punctuated with enormous mosques – the pointed minarets  tops  tower over the domes. The call to prayer  5 times  a day is a rhythmical chant that have come to enjoy from sunrise to sunset.
The tourists passing though Istanbul each day reach over 10,000 and I am sure they are all in the Sultenhamet area where the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofia, Topkapi Palace and the Basilica Cistern are all within metres of each other . Our hotel is situated within walking distance and the lovely little adjacent souks make a great place for a spot of shopping or a glass of fresh orange juice.
Istanbul 1
The historical sites especially the huge Blue Mosque and the Palace of the Sultans have interiors covered in exquisite blue tiles portraying flowers like tulips and carnations – the tulip has become a symbol of Turkey and you see it stylists and adorning many decorations.
We had to prepare our selves by  wrapping scarves around our heads and for some sheets had to cover shorts – ( no knees  showing ) before entering the Blue mosque – lIfe as praying mosque continues as  tourists flow in with their camera  and hideous selfie poles – most taking time to absorb the enormity of the interior – decorated in wonderful blue tiles.
Almost beside The Blue Mosque is Aya Sofia – Again enormous and built in the Byzantine era as a  church in 200 AD.  It is one of Istanbuls iconic structures  and was the words largest cathedral for over 1000 years before being converted into a mosque, which also meant the fabulous mosaics which once covered the interior were plastered over. Today some have been uncovered  and it now stands as museum.
Istanbul 2
I think if you ever want to understand how a city works take a taxi ride … Oh my goodness. We travelled to  our lunch restaurant – Asitane  – the same  as last year where they create recipes and food based from the Ottomans.
But ….getting there was an experience – traveling at incredible speeds though streets filled with cars , people , children selling water, tooting at anything and every car in sight, talking to other taxi drivers  out the car window – at least you get to see ‘real life’ and we did make it and back !!!.
Istanbul 3
Our lunch was flavoured with dill, cinnamon ( even in the hummus ) saffron,dried fruit  and nuts  and sitting under large umbrellas was like an oasis in the bustling city.
The classic byzantine church called Chora is immodestly beside Asitane. Here the mosaics are mostly intact and adorn all the  surfaces – depicting g the life of Mary stories from the old and new testament.
This was a Sunday and the park areas  beside the Golden Horn were filled with families out for a picnic  – the air was thick from smoke from the charcoal barbecues cooking kebabs and Kofte – no gas here , many use disposible  cookers and it smelled delicious.
The hotel roof top bar was once again a favourite meeting place in the early evening – it has a birdseye view of the the Sea of Marmara, the dozens of ships waiting to get into the port and the Minarets of the Blue Mosque.
Our second day in Istanbul started with a short walk to the Basilica Cistern- Built around 200 AD -It was an amazing underground water storage area under the city built from columns taken off roman buildings and  down in one corner  – once sitting under deep water is two upside down heads of minerva.
Istanbul 3
Over the road and past wonderful architectural wooded houses sitting on the out side walls  of Topkapi palace we entered the gates of the last and largest palace of the ottoman empire.
Over 5000 people lived and worked within the walls  and it housed areas such as the harem, caged rooms for the Sultans brothers, Council chambers for the Sultan,  huge kitchens, armouries and stables  and many other buildings.
I loved the rooms of the Harem – again every wall was covered in glorious blue tiles and in some rooms you could have been in Venice  – the gold and opulence was very similar .
Istanbul 4
Our lunch was typical of the Istanbul city – Sultenhamet Koftecisi – wonderful kofte
(like a flat meat ball ) Hasan tell me they are so delicious  because they include the meat from sheep tails -I believe it is a secret recipe….served with pickled peppers and a chili sauce . It was great  – floor after floor was filled with locals and tourists  all eating the same . The food was cooked in a minute kitchen – of course over charcoal.
A huge mound of Halva ( made from Semolina )was carved away for desert and served with a type of Rum Baba with out the rum .
Istanbul 6
Everyone was let loose in the Grand Bazar for the remainder of the afternoon . Pauline, Laura and I didn’t get past the shop selling colourful fabrics from Kurdistan  – after pulling what seemed like hundreds of Pillow case covers off the shelves we eventually chose fabric and the cushion covers were to be made over night and delivered to the hotel the next day (they did arrive)
Shopping became complete entertainment  and many of my girls are coming home with beautiful fabrics, luscious towels,colourful tiles  and cashmere scarves .
Istanbul 5
Although tired and somewhat wiery you can’t sit in your hotel room. so… Ali our wondrous guide lead us by tram and  funicular train over the golden horn to the area near Taxim square.. we walked up the busiest walking street I have even been on and is crowded 24 hours a day.
Hasan has a favourite restaurant in this area and we meandered through an old flower market – now restaurants to a narrow street again lined with restaurants – I’m so glad Hasan new which one to choose.
The Family was Armenian and the food simple and gorgeous – when we thought we were off home to a relatively early night we were entertained with gypsy Romany music and our own Ali on the Tamborine – of which he is a master.
 Istanbul 8 Istanbul 9
Our last morning in Istanbul starred with a visit to the Spice Bazar – full of beautiful colourful piles of spices, turkish delight, nuts and dried fruit. On the outside wall  – Venders sold everything from many cheeses, fresh fish and mushrooms to vine leaves,Tomato and Capsicum paste and lots of olives.
We traveled up the Bosphorus to Sariyer ( means yellow place )  and back down a little by bus to my surprise the group .. Lunch at Peter Gordons Restaurant called Muze de Changa.
Set in beautiful grounds of the Sakip Savanci families former private home – now  a Museum
Well  the food was ‘Quite Good’ !!!! and the marble table was quite lovely too.
This was one of those wonderful memorable lunches- sitting outside on a verandah overlooking the Bosphorous in a quiet gorgeous green garden  – it doesn’t get much better.
It is pinch me material ..
Itanbul 10
Our fours days in Istanbul finished on a highlight  with a hilarious visit to the Hamam – for most it was their first visit to a Turkish bath . This is where you leave your inhibitions at the door , relax and enjoy the experience . Over a glass of wine back at the hotel we laughed and laughed. It is certainly great to do with a group.
Four days in Istanbul has flown by – I am extra lucky to be returning after the tour with my daughter Hannah for two more days .  Istanbul is  captivating and  its  hard to feel you get enough of this amazing East met West city with an history that is difficult  to comprehend .

7 Star Afternoon Tea at Burg Al Arab


My girls were good shoppers and day two started with a late leisurely breakfast after some did a few lengths in the pool ( some more then others ) a few hours in the Dubai Mall .
By 2.30 the black hotel car was transporting us in our dresses  to the World famous 7 star Burg Al Arab for afternoon tea.
PicMonkey Collage dub6
What do you say !! – Opulent? Exquisite?Incredible ? yes all of the above.  A 6 course afternoon tea – including Beef and Mashed Potatoes !!!(Very odd )  We spent 3 hours enjoying the experience accompanied with a glass of champagne – followed by a tea menu. We were surrounded by gold, and  the beautiful colours of the Emirates. It was an experience full of laughter and good fun.
burg 1
PicMonkey Collage dub20
You don’t have to be in a 7 star hotel in Dubai to get good service. Its a given and  we had some great chats with the Pakistani and Indian waiters about cricket.  They love Brendan McCallum and support  New Zealand
burg 2
Dinner was not a going ‘Thing “  It was Friday – The day off for a muslim country – the mall  and fountain area was heaving with people . We finished our two days  with a cocktail on the 63rd floor of the  Address hotel – I don’t think they get too many groups of women up there … The young man we asked directions from turned out to be a  Croatian waiter and we had great service. He said we were leaving too early it was only starting to get busy !!! Ha Ha .
Dubai didn’t disappoint – It ticks all the boxes for the perfect stopover . As they prepare for the 2020 World Expo I expect when I return in September with my Italy France tour group  many of the building that were not started in September 2014 and are now many stories high will be finished .
Istanbul awaits and my group will come together to start another adventure. It’s amazing how, year after year tour groups form and some how they just seem to suit.
My group last year was terrific and I know and feel this all girls trip is going to be a beauty.