Saturday, November 24, 2012


Tuesday, November 20th

Our last morning in Istanbul was an early one, and we were up before morning call to prayer.  Our ride to the Istanbul airport picked us up at 5:50 a.m., and we were at the airport by 7.  We found a small cafe after security, and each had a cup of tea and what we thought was a chocolate muffin, the only thing that looked remotely like breakfast.

Well, it wasn't a muffin, but a molten chocolate cake, complete with a drizzle of chocolate sauce.  Nothing like starting our day with dessert!

We wandered around the airport for a while--and look what we found!  This one's for you Matt and Debber!  And no, they didn't have P-popeye's p-p-peppers or P-p-popeye's p-p-pudding--I checked!

It was a smooth and easy 3 hour flight to Paris; we were given bulkhead seats so we were pretty comfy.  I even slept a little.

We landed in Paris, picked up our luggage and hopped in a taxi to our hotel.  As we were only staying for two nights we didn't rent an apartment as we usually do.  We used points to stay at the Ambassador Blu--and it was lovely!  Much nicer than our usual budget accommodations.  I did feel a bit like the "Beverly Hillbillies" checking in---Granny to be exact!

It was our lucky day, we were given an upgrade to a Business Suite, and WOW! A nice\
 foyer, marble bath complete with real orchids, and a lovely 4 poster bed.  Also included were snacks and drinks throughout the day as well as a really nice breakfast spread each morning.  Oh, don't forget the fluffy robes and slippers, and turn-down service each night--complete with chocolates on our pillows.  For a couple of days I was thinking we just might be related to the Rockefellers!

We did have a long wait for our room, but they gave us free drinks in their lounge, so we relaxed with a glass of really good red wine!

After we got settled in our room, we set out to explore.  We were very near the Galleries Lafayette, so we checked out their Christmas displays and windows--pretty amazing.  Here's the beautiful stained glass dome, complete with huge tree decorated with Swarovski crystals--it was definitely sparkly:

Their window displays were wonderful.  All sponsored by Louis Vuittone--so you know they were over the top!  What you can't see in these pics is the animation--they were adorable, especially the dancing can-can girls and cheerleaders:
The animals were all dancing to the beat of some pretty cool music:

A "break dancing" Panda:

A very silly polar bear--he could really shake his booty!  Note the LV pocketbook:

This dog had on headphones, and was nodding along with the music:

After watching those fun window displays,  we explored the streets around our hotel and found a wonderful passageway full of old book stores, art galleries with antique prints and some great vintage jewelry shops.  I saw many lovely things to bring home--but no room in my suitcase!

We then hopped on the Metro to go to our favorite dinner in Paris--mussels and fries.  While we were waiting for our train we spotted this lady on the opposite platform.  Look at that hat--it was a hot mess of feathers and fur.   We never did see her face--but WOW--that hat was huge!

After our delicious moules y frites we Metro'd back to our hotel and went up to the roof top lounge for a glass of wine and watched the Eiffel Tower twinkle--just for us!

Early to bed yet again--I'm sure hoping we can get our schedules turned back around when we get home!

Wednesday, Nov. 21st

I think our "morning call to prayer" friend has trained us to wake up early, because we were up at 5:30 again on Wednesday.  We relaxed in our very comfy and luxurious bed, planned our day and researched our Metro routes.  Right at 7 a.m. we went to the lounge for our breakfast, what a nice spread.  Fresh fruit, eggs, delicious French pastries and a wonderful espresso machine--Yum!

David had chosen two museums to visit today, the first was The Musee de Cluny--museum of the medieval age.  The museum is located in a beautiful mansion originally built in 1334.  It was rebuilt in the present style in the early 1500's, and made into a museum in 1843. Beneath the building are ancient Roman baths dating to the 3rd century.

The interior courtyard


A well curb with neat ironwork:

The Cluny houses beautiful tapestries from the 13th-15th century, the most famous being the "Woman With a Unicorn" series.  They were displayed in dark room, hung in a semi-circle, and spot lighted.  They were breathtaking, what a treat to see these in person!

There were also many artifacts from medieval churches, including these wonderful hands, a reliquary of St. Jean.  I really need these for my hand collection!

Beautiful jewelry from the 1st century, although these necklaces don't look very comfortable:

These bracelets were amazing--very fine gold wire work.  Sherry--I thought of you when I saw these!

 Incredible old books--the colors were still vibrant and beautiful:

Gold, ivory and gemstone book cover from  the 13th century:

One of the most interesting areas contained statues from Notre Dame Cathedral which were removed during the French Revolution.  As was common at that time, the saints heads were removed:

The heads were recovered:

This statue of Adam was still intact and in amazing condition, although the Eve statue that was next to him was completely destroyed:

A 12th century wooden beam from Notre Dame--interesting horse motif:

There were rooms of stained glass, all beautiful.  It was great to see it up very close to really appreciate the detail.  This was my favorite:

The detail was incredible:

We spent almost 3 hours in the Cluny, and agreed it was one of the most interesting museums we've been to.  I could easily go again, there is so much to see and appreciate.

Our next stop:  The Pantheon

The Pantheon was built in 1790, almost new by Paris standards! It was originally a church dedicated to St. Genevieve, and now functions as a secular mausoleum, containing the remains of distinguished French citizens.

It is a huge building, in a very classic Greek design:

The columns are massive:

The interior:

One of the most interesting items was The Foucault Pendulum, which demonstrates the rotation of the Earth, and was originally installed in the Pantheon in 1851.  The pendulum rotates 11 degrees clockwise per hour, making a full circle in 32.7 hours.   This original pendulum was moved to a museum in 1855, where the cable broke, the bob crashed to the floor causing irreparable damage to the marble.   This exact replica of the original Foucault's Pendulum has been swinging continuously in the Pantheon since 1995!  It is almost hypnotic to watch:

In the back of the Pantheon there is a magnificent statue, which shows Marianne, the symbol of France, surrounded by soldiers and members of parliament after the French revolution. It bears the inscription "Vivre libre ou mourir"; translated "Live free or die".

Above the statue is a beautiful mosaic (1884) showing St. Genevieve and Joan of Arc on either side of Christ.

 The spiral stairs leading down to the crypts:

The crypt of Marie Curie, the only crypt that had fresh flowers:

The crypt of Louis Braille (1809-1852)  Braille was re-interred in the Pantheon in 1952 on the 100th anniversary of his death.  The procession and ceremony included Helen Keller:

Other famous French who are interred at the Pantheon include Alexander Dumas (The Three Musketeers--"One For All and All For One"; Victor Hugo (Les Miserables) and Voltaire.

After we finished at the Pantheon, it was definitely time for lunch!  We walked a few blocks and chose a small cafe a little off the beaten path.  Since this was our last lunch in Paris for a while, we ordered one of our favorites to share, escargot.  They were delicious--buttery, garlicky and chewy:

I'd been wanting to try beouf tartare, but just hadn't found the right place.  It was on the menu at this nice little cafe, so we ordered it to share.  Tartare is raw freshly ground beef (NOT hamburger!) topped with an egg yolk.  It was very fresh tasting, but didn't have as much "beef" flavor as I expected, probably because it's served cold.  We mixed in the egg yolk and ate it on top of baguette slices--pretty good stuff! We ate most of it--it's very filling:

 David wanted one last salad with that warm goat cheese on toast:

We shared a carafe of red wine, relaxed and talked about our wonderful trip, and I might have even mentioned (about a dozen times!) that I wasn't ready to leave Paris.  I asked David if he though I was a Parisienne in a former life, he said I sounded like crazy Shirley McLaine--Hmmmmph!

We needed to do some last minute shopping, and one of our stops was the Marche St. Quentin.  We'd been there with Matt a couple of weeks ago, and found a great fromagerie.  The young owner was great in helping us choose an assortment of cheese to take home.  He even vacuum sealed them for us.

Hmmmmm-I wonder who we'll be sharing this wonderfully delicious stinky cheese with?

Our very helpful fromagerer, and he's cute, too!

We took our cheese purchases back to the hotel and put it in our mini-bar fridge, and headed right back out.  We're not wasting one minute of our last day in Paris!

We wanted to find a nice box of chocolates for our wonderful neighbor Brenda--she is always so kind when we are out of town, and keeps a close eye on our house.  We have the BEST neighbors!

On the advice of the concierge at the hotel, we went to Galleries Lafayette.   He was right,  they have a huge and wonderful chocolate department.  Aisles and aisles of chocolate from all over the world!  I don't even like chocolate, and it looked pretty delicious to me!  We left with a nice box of chocolates for Brenda, a little airplane treat for us, and maybe even a tiny little something for Jeanne! Framboise & chocolate?  Oh, yes!

By now it was dark, and I was feeling a little blue--did I mention that I really don't want to leave Paris?

We decided we'd Metro over to the Eiffel Tower--one last look at her twinkling just for us.  We sat on a bench, cuddled up and gazed at that lovely tower for a few minutes--I tried to really soak it up, it may be a while before we get back to Paris.

We ate a quick dinner at a small cafe on Rue Cler, one that we'd been to with Matt.  We each had a bowl of French onion soup to warm us up.  I was too tired to eat dessert--that doesn't happen often!

By now it was after 9 pm, and we were just plain exhausted!  We'd really packed in the activities our last two days in Paris, and we both feel that we are really winding down.  We've been traveling and exploring for 4 1/2 weeks, and that might just be a little too long!

We took one last Metro ride back to our hotel, finished up our packing and hit the sack.  It will be an early day again tomorrow, and a loooong day of travel to Seattle Thursday night, then on home to Spudville on Friday.

It was a wonderful trip with my two favorite guys, and now it's time to plan our next adventure!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Monday, Nov. 19

Today is our last day in Istanbul, and as much as we've enjoyed this fascinating city, we are feeling ready to go.  We leave tomorrow morning for Paris, we'll spend two days in our favorite city, and then fly home  Thanksgiving morning.  It's been a wonderful trip, and 4 1/2 weeks is just about our limit, we think!

We had only a loose plan for today.  We took the Tram to the main ferry stop, going through Eminonu Square--it was really busy this morning!  Many vendors selling those awful fish sandwiches from their fancy boats:

Carts selling snacks and hot drinks:

Along the way to the ferry pier we saw this old guy.  He had quite a load on his back, he was selling big yellow apples:

While we waited at the pier, we noticed this "garbage" boat--they were chugging along, picking floating garbage out of the water:

We boarded our ferry and settled in for a 35 minute trip to the small town of Eyup, further up the Golden Horn from Istanbul.  I love this view of Istanbul fading into the distance:

On each ferry ride we've been served tea--just 1 Lira a glass--what a nice way to travel:

Pulling into Eyup, with the Eyup Sultan Mosque in the background:

We walked up the street, enjoying the busy scene, lots of people out today; we wondered if it was a holiday:

Soon we came to the Eyup Sultan Mosque.  Eyup is one of the holiest sites in Islam.  Eyup Ensari , a close companion of the Prophet Muhammed, died during the Arab seige of Constantinople in 678 A.D.
His burial place was discovered in 1453, and a shrine was erected on this site.  On Fridays and religious holidays crowds of faithful come to this Mosque to make their devotions.

The Mosque is set on a pretty marble town square, this is the entrance:

 We took off our shoes, and I "scarved up" to visit the interior:

The main dome:

The passageways around the main dome had pretty painted ceilings, with lots of gold leaf:

After we looked at the inside, we came out into the courtyard and sat on a low wall to put our shoes back on.  Two muslim women came over to us, and with sweet smiles, offered us Turkish candies.  Of course we didn't turn them down.  What a thoughtful gesture!  We have been constantly amazed at the genuine goodness of the Turkish people.  We have felt so welcome here, and have experienced nothing but kindness.

View of the inner courtyard, with purification area:

We walked out into the square and saw this family sitting on a bench in front of the Mosque.  I'd read about young boys coming to this Mosque, dressed in white suits for their ritual circumcision.  This little boy's suit was quite fancy, with fur and gold embroidery.

We walked up the street just a ways, and I spotted this ice cream cart.  As I watched I realized this was not ordinary ice cream, but Lokum, a Turkish delicacy that I'd wanted to try.

We stepped up and ordered one cone to share, pistachio and chocolate. Lokum is very sticky and elastic, and is dished up with a flat paddle. This gentleman put on quite a show for us.  He snatched the cone out of my hand a couple of times, turned it upside down and pretended to drop it, all while it was still stuck to his paddle.  He was a real character--it was great fun! 

Lokum is actually ice cream--but it's elastic, very chewy and stretchy.  It's hard to describe, except to say that it's chewy ice cream.

Here I am, playing with my food:

We walked along for a block or two enjoying the crowded streets.  This area seemed to be much more traditionally Muslim, with the majority of women wearing head coverings.  We saw a few black hijabs, but only one full burqah.

Four women in hijabs, shopping away:

Most of the shops in this area sold traditional Muslim clothing for women:

I liked this ad for stylish women's attire:

This area is built on a very steep hillside.  We took a cable car to the top of the hill to eat at the Pierre Loti Cafe.  It's situated above a very large terraced cemetery:

There's a viewing platform right at the cable car exit:

This was the view from our lunch table:

Our lunch wasn't the best, but the view certainily made up for it!  After taking in the view we rode the cable car back down the hill, and it was a short walk to our pier.  We didn't have long to wait for our ferry, and we relaxed with one last cup of Turkish tea, enjoying the beautiful scenery on the way back to Istanbul.

I really wanted to stroll through the wonderful Spice Bazaar one last time, and David was kind enought to indulge me.

I've really enjoyed the Spice Bazaar, much more than the Grand Bazaar--it's smaller and not quite as touristy.  I picked up one last spice mix and a couple of small souvenirs,  I guess I'm finished shopping now!  Oh, wait--there's always the airport tomorrow morning......

We got off at our "home" Tram stop, stopped for another delicious kebap sandwich for dinner, exchanged our remaining Turkish Lira for dollars, and made our way toward our apartment.  I tried to soak up every last bit of that Istanbul magic--it's a great city!

 One last look at the beautiful Hagia Sophia:

 Good bye Istanbul, it's been lovely!