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Bodrum and the Sea

After the one hour flight from Bodrum to Istanbul, we were greeted by a new guide, Yuval, for the 30 minute drive to the harbor.  It is certainly a cute little village/harbor, but unfortunately our first impression of Bodrum was tainted by Sea Song’s (tour company) lunch recommendation, Korfez Restaurant, “the oldest restaurant in town,” which warranted negative feedback on the survey, particularly due to the shrimp plate lacking shrimp and what was there was overcooked, as was the pasta.

Yuval took us through the 15th century Castle of St. Petrus (Peter); interesting for its design contribution from many countries, including England, France, Germany and Italy.  In the castle’s Museum of Underwater Archaeology, we saw artifacts from various shipwrecks, some as old as the 16th century B.C.  While it was a hot day and the guide’s detail was overwhelming (this was our first trip of the year that threw Greek history into the Roman mix), MEM made it through the castle, boosted by the prospect of the afternoon gullet launch.

Yes, we are tourists…





















I probably give the girls too much photo attention in general, so here’s another shot I like of Max, at the castle.  His expression is saying, “I’m hot, I’m thirsty and I won’t admit it, but this place is actually pretty cool.”


From atop the castle…


At last, it was time to board the gullet, Freya.


While everyone else was settling in and before I had a chance to view the boat, I picked up necessary alcohol provisions.  Then, when I arrived on board, MEM were excited to give me a tour of our home for the next 3 days.


Day 1:  Bodrum – Alakisla Bükü

Day 2:  Akbük – Sedir Adasi (Cleopatra Island) – Okluk Koyu (English Harbour)

Day 3:  Çökertme – Orak Adası

Day 4:  Bodrum

We snorkeled every day in the clear and comfortably refreshing Aegean Sea…


With Muca and Ahmed, Maggie drove the little boat back from Cleopatra Island, where the perfect sand was apparently delivered from Egypt for the benefit of Cleopatra.


We feasted on amazing food; note the stuffed mushrooms.  The ship was equipped with a TV so we did observe some World Cup games after dinner, including the U.S. loss to Germany.  The matches were followed by the Turkish game show, “Joker”; even with no understanding of the language, we found ourselves partially able to participate.


Relaxing on the deck, Maggie perhaps creating her “Guacamole” song…


Leaping from the plank…


Observing Chef Ahmed cleaning the fish that we would later consume…


Our final breakfast, with Bodrum Castle in the background…


With the crew, Chef Ahmed, Captain Mehmet, and Muca, at the end of the voyage…





This was it, a final trip, during a year of almost endless travel.  While we were clearly fortunate for the experience, the kids were ready for stability.  Normally, they would long for the long weekend (who doesn’t?), but not in Barcelona, because that meant leaving town and the comforts of home, and likely a museum or tour.  Of course, the standard line from everyone is, “they will appreciate it someday….”

It was June, and we were finished with the long weekends, but there was one last excursion before crossing the Atlantic.  BCN to Istanbul direct and we were at Boutique St. Sophia Hotel by 11:00 a.m. on June 21, and soon after testing the Turkish meatballs.

A midday ferry took us to the Asian side of Istanbul, to Kadıköy, where we were greeted by Evelyn’s college friend, Aninne Schneider, and her sons Teo and Sinan.  We crossed the street to Güllüoğlu for baklava and Turkish Delight and then wandered the local market before returning on the ferry.  I captured these olives on film, not realizing yet that these would be a staple in Turkey, at breakfast, lunch and dinner.


with Aninne and Teo…

DSC_0752_03Back near our hotel, it was time for a Turkish bath at Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamamı, built in 1556.  Max and I were separated from the women and all of us were scrubbed, covered with bubbles, and massaged while lying on towels on the hard marble floor in a setting that made me feel as if I was living several hundred years earlier.

Later we met Aninne and family in the Levant neighborhood at Namlı Kebap to taste traditional Turkish fare and to watch Argentina score late to avoid a tie with Iran.

Our guide, Murat Kaya (guide_mr@hotmail.com) met us at our hotel on our second day and explained the bandaged heads of guests at whom we were staring during breakfast; apparently Istanbul offers very cheap hair transplants.

We walked to the Hippodrome, which was one of the largest chariot race grounds of the Byzantine Empire.  The Obelisk of Theodosius, within the Hippodrome, was brought to Constantinople from Egypt in the 4th century AD.


At the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (known as the Blue Mosque, given blue tiles covering the walls), built in the early 17th century, we donned the necessary garb to enter.  The mosque has six minarets, which equaled the number at the mosque in Mecca at the time of construction, apparently not pleasing some; so, the Sultan had a seventh minaret added in Mecca.


The 15th century Topkapı Palace was the residence of the sultan, his court, and harem, and a total of 4,000 people, as well as the government seat for the Ottoman Empire.

MEM posed outside the Treasury section, which houses the 7th largest diamond in the world, the “Spoonmaker’s Diamond”.


…on the palace grounds…


After lunch at the popular Lale Restaurant, known as “The Pudding Shop”, we visited St. Sophia.  Completed in 537 under Emperor Justinian, it took just five years to build, using 10,000 unskilled slaves and 1,000 master craftsmen.  The dome is the 4th largest in the world, according to Murat, after St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s and the Duomo.  Hagia Sophia remained a Christian structure until conversion into a mosque in 1453; the first president of Turkey, Atatürk, made it a museum in 1934.

DSC_0834We ended the day with a visit to the Underground Cistern, a vast space of approximately 70 meters by 140 meters, built by Justinian in the 6th century as a water storage site for the Great Palace and other buildings.


There are 336 columns supporting the roof, including two with the head of Medusa at the base.


Our favorite restaurant in Istanbul was Khorasani, which served delicious lavash, kebabs and salads.

DSC_0858_02Hagia Sophia in the background…

DSC_0868After dinner we enjoyed tea and another World Cup game outdoors while on comfortable cushions.

DSC_0875We kicked off another day in Istanbul with a cruise on the Bosphorus, the strait of water separating Asia and Europe.

Maggie with Murat…


At the 11th century Church of St. Saviour in Chora, we saw beautiful mosaics with various Mary and Jesus scenes.

At the Spice Market, this brilliant salesman (the store was handpicked by Murat of course) suckered us into purchasing a large amount (rather, a large price) of nuts and Turkish Delight.


After lunch at Hamdi Restorant overlooking the water, we took in a spectacular view from the 14th century Galata Tower (elevator up, walk down), which was the tallest structure in the city for several centuries, at 66.90 meters from the ground and 140 meters from sea level.


Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque in the distance…

DSC_0921Sea Song Tours planned much of our trip, and the company owner’s husband has a large carpet business in Istanbul.  So, where would we shop for carpets?  Murat led (forced) us to Orient Handmade Carpets, where we were given a demonstration of carpet making followed by a strong and admirable sales pitch.  When you really don’t want or need a carpet, the prices fall dramatically, but we still walked away empty handed and happy, even after about 30 rugs were rolled out for us to view; Evelyn’s various comments (“we would want something lighter”) didn’t help our plans for a quick visit!

Our last stop of the day was the Grand Bazaar and its 4,000 shops, a massive operation, although there really appeared to be only about 10 different stores in total, each with many variations throughout the covered bazaar.  The girls came away with key chains and Evelyn a purse.

For our third and final dinner, we found Fuego near our hotel, ranked #4 out of almost 11,000 restaurants on Trip Advisor, an apparent victory for us.  Spain was playing its final World Cup game, against Australia, and while meaningless, we were hoping for a glimpse, yet no t.v. viewing available.  Sadly, Spain’s futbol underperformance compared to that of Fuego; even the enticing Chocolate Volcano which each kid devoured was too cakey and without the expected strong flow of lava.


Every day we take the metro to school, usually the S1 at 8:12 a.m.  We leave home at 8:00 and the walk takes a little less than 10 minutes.

We go from the Muntaner station to Sarrià.


This is our Muntaner sign at our station.  I am with my friend Jaya.

DSC_0563_03When we get on the metro, it is crowded with people going to Sarrià.  It is three stations away, but sometimes we don’t stop at two of the stations.


Wow! This is Sarriá station in the morning!

Sarriá is always crowded with 100 people!

Sometimes people can’t get out of the metro—they push the doors open.

And the station smells HORRIBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


This is the sign that tells us the order of the buses.


Yes! Some fresh air and some space to breathe when I get outside.

Now I can get a seat on the V7 bus that takes me up the hill.


Sometimes we miss the bus and we have to walk four long steep blocks!

That’s why we try to be fast so we don’t have to walk.  From home to school takes about 20-30 minutes.




Costa Brava and Dalí

While we had visited the Barcelona beaches (Barceloneta) and the nearby coastal town of Sitges (40 kilometers south of BCN), a trip north to the Costa Brava had evaded us.  But as our European adventure was coming to a close, we joined a group of several expat families for a weekend in the town of Pals, 130 kilometers above Barcelona.

We all stayed at the La Costa Resort, not fancy, frequented largely by French tourists, and nicely situated across the street from a long and beautiful beach that seemed empty, despite it being a holiday weekend.

It was nice finally to walk the sand of the Costa Brava and to spend time with friends, including the Swifts, Sullivans, Niedzielsky, Worples, and Zieglers.  The kids kept busy with in the water, in the jumpy house (never too old), on the lawn, on the beach and the on the padel court.

Max with Owen Worple, Jacob Swift, and Joe Ziegler


Ella with Marisa Niedzielska and Lily Swift


Maggie with Sarah Wolfe, Jacob Niedzielski, and Peter Wolfe


Our first night’s dinner was at the hotel, with service as slow as we have seen it in Spain; normally, the snail’s pace of a restaurant’s staff can be attributed to Spanish custom—meals are lengthy, while at La Costa there was a competence issue.  Fortunately, the kids had a resort in which to run around during the wait.  On night two, we dined on the beach, about a 2 kilometer walk from La Costa, at Solimar.  The company was great and we were beautifully positioned on the beach; and, in general, our meals were good, but the paella incorporated overcooked seafood.

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On Monday morning, we drove into the medieval town of Pals, a few kilometers from the beach.  The 15-meter-tall “Romanesque” tower was built between the 11th and 13th centuries.


Much of the architecture in Pals, including this square tower, dates back to the 12th century.


The Mediterranean coast is in the distance, including the Islas Medes, also visible in the above beach photos from the prior evening.


Fifty kilometers north of Pals is Figueres, Dalí’s (1904-1989) birthplace, and home of the Dalí Theatre-Museum, which the artist created and opened in 1974 as “the World’s largest surrealist object.”  The building is on the site of what was the Municipal Theatre, where Dalí gave his first painting exhibition.  After being destroyed by a fire at the end of the Spanish Civil War, the Municipal Theatre sat in ruins until Dalí decided to construct his museum here in the 1960’s.



It was difficult to see Lincoln at first, but at the appropriate angle…


The Mae West Room…





One year is not enough in Spain.  I feel as if we have barely scratched the surface.  And while we learned our way around Barcelona on foot, on a bike, and on the metro, we did not really figure out the city by car; a year without a four-wheeled vehicle has not been difficult in this town and it has truly added to our experience.  Still, on our drive back from Figueres, we went through the Tunnels de Vallvidrera (one way to enter BCN) three times, into the city, out and then in again, in order to find our way home…



Roland Garros


From Normandy, we drove the lovely Renault Kangoo back to Paris to meet Dad, who had been with us in Barcelona for a few days, but chose to skip Normandy, given a previous visit.  His nice little hotel, Hôtel Sèvres Saint Germain, was well located around the corner from our not so nice airbnb apartment at 81 Rue de Sèvres in the 6th.  We picked Papa up and found Le Bistrot Landais, on Rue du Cherche-Midi, not bad but far from a dining recommendation.

On Saturday morning, the metro put us directly at Roland Garros, for the 3rd round of the French Open.  The grounds were packed, and we made our way to Court Suzanne Lenglen, where we would spend much of the day watching 4 singles matches.


First, we saw the 15th seeded American, Sloane Stephens easily top the 22nd seed, Ekaterina Makarova from Russia, 6-3, 6-4.


Next, the velocity was turned up a notch (these girls crushed the ball), with the 23rd seed, Lucie Safarova from the Czech Republic, defeating the 11th seeded Serbian, Anna Ivanovic, 6-3, 6-3.

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After lunch, Dad treated the kids to Roland Garros hats…


On to the men, and the French crowd went crazy for the native, Gael Monfils, the 23rd seed, who upset the 14th seeded Italian hothead, Fabio Fognini, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, 0-6, 6-2.  Monfils seemed to expire completely during the fourth set, and he eventually handed the last few games to Fognini, in order to save energy for set number 5.  Then Monfils somehow found the body, mind, and heart to reverse the momentum; the Italian’s temper helped Monfils’ cause (Fognini lost a point/game after throwing his racket) and Monfils prevailed in a perfect demonstration of why tennis success is due to a combination of physical and mental ability.




Next up was the 7th seed, Andy Murray, who was paired with the 28th seeded German, Philip Kohlschreiber.  We only had time for the 1st set, which Kohlschreiber seemed to win handily, 6-3.  Still, we learned later that Murray had prevailed, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 12-10, with the lengthy match extending into the next day.


It was a special treat to have Dad (Papa) visit, but we were sad that Mom could not make the trip.


Back in Paris, we met our Barcelona neighbors (one floor below on Calle Josep Bertrand), the Sullivans, for Ella’s birthday dinner at Vagenende Brasserie, which served delicious steaks, not to mention the crab and avocado appetizer, as well as profiteroles; envision the wonderful problem of too much warm dark chocolate to pour on top of your perfect cream-filled pastry treats…


On Sunday, Ella’s actual birthday, June 1, she awoke to macaroons.


We grabbed a late breakfast at Cafe Le Bonaparte.


…and then our business school friend, Yves Hannania, made some croissants for us at his well decorated apartment in Neuilly-sur-Seine.


Our cab driver dropped us off at Place de la Concorde, and we found the trampolines in the Tuileries.


DSC_0538_03DSC_0534We took a walk along the Seine; I agree with Dad that walking through Paris should make anyone happy…


…lunch at Le Recrutement Cafe (fair food, agreeable atmosphere) in the 7th on Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg, and a final stroll, past the nearby Les Invalides.


Au revoir!



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