30 August 2009

Turkishly Delightful

Mosque, Istanbul

Istanbul is cool. Not London black-skinny-jeans-attitude-with-punkish-haircut cool. But cool in the style of a Uni student with funky clothes and bouncy enthusiasm. The place has a non-stop energy about it that we felt the minute we stepped off the hydrofoil from Greece. Totally different from the slow island pace of Greece.

I loved the shopping here. The Grand Bazaar is totally touristy but the men (and yes, it is almost entirely the men being shopkeepers) are particularly charming about it. I heard so many lines today, most of them beginning with "Hey lady!" My favourite was "This scarf will change your life." Lauchlin says they are silvery-tongued but I think it's genuine. I think these people, although they are of course trying to sell stuff, are just being... nice.

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul Topkapi Palace Tiles, Istanbul
Apple Tea and Borek (Pastries!), Istanbul Along the River, Istanbul

Other highlights of Istanbul for me have been: the pastries (SO GOOD), the apple tea and the tiles at the Topkapi Palace. Photo of one of said tiles above. My already rampant tile obsession (specific to Moorish tiles and Turkish Iznik tiles) has had fuel added to its fire.

On our way back to the hostel tonight we passed lit up mosques and sizzling grilled fish. We went back to the turkish delight specialist we went to last night. The man recognised us and greeted us effusively (helpfully informing Lauchlin that turkish delight is an aphrodisiac) and we spent the last of our Turkish lira on turkish delight. I couldn't think of anything I'd rather spend my last lira on, on my last night in Europe.

26 August 2009

Sea-Dog (Salty)

I didn't want to say anything... but I've been worried about Lauchlin lately. The longer we stay on the sea, the more his personality seems to change.
At first I thought it was just me. But then I noticed other people looking at him slightly strangely too. It began with a tendency to call people 'Matey.' Then exotic talking birds started to flock around him, sometimes landing and perching on his shoulder. His usual bushwalker's gait turned into more of a swagger. And even for an Australian, his language became saltier than usual.

Finally, today I saw it. The gleam of gold and adventure in his eye.

Now I know what it is.

He's turned into a pirate.

I always knew that beard was up to no good.

Salty Sea Dog
Arrrrrrrrgh, me hearties.

21 August 2009


Santorini, Greece
Santorini, Greece

I'd been itching for days to sample a frappe, as enjoyed by many old Greek men. They appear to sit for hours in cafes. Nursing a frappe, chairs facing the street, calling out every now and then to their fellow shopkeepers, next door neighbours, mothers' sisters' cousins, lovers... when you don't understand a word, a handshake and a clap on someone's shoulder could mean anything.

Oia, Santorini, Greece

In Santorini, find appropriate cafe with incredible view.

Santorini, Greece

Cost of frappe is only slightly ridiculous. Frappe arrives immediately in slick-looking glass. First mouthful... DISGUSTING! How can this be? Tastes of... COFFEE... but cold, without even heat to take the edge off foul taste. Even the froth is sludge-brown coffee flavour not the milky escape it should be. UGH.

Frappe, Santorini, Greece
Evil frappe

Decide foul taste is reason Greeks linger so long over their latte, not delicious flavour as previously imagined. Deceptive Greeks!

16 August 2009

City of Athena

Part of the Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Athens is somehow exactly the way I thought it would be. I'm not sure how this has happened - did I somehow see photos of everything or read a guidebook that described it perfectly? Is it deja vu? Was I Greek in a past life?

Either way, it's a strangely satisfying feeling.

Yesterday I did a walking tour run by an expat American from South Carolina, who showed us all the old stuff. Like, you know, the Parthenon, Hadrian's Library, the Acropolis, the Agora (market place) - it is all lying around, piles of old stones scattered between tufts of dry grass, pine trees and the constant creak of cicadas. Nothing feels too grandiose until you're standing nose to nose with a big fat column of marble and you look up.

Part of the Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Somehow, we managed to end up in Athens on a public holiday weekend, which means the city has a very relaxed vibe. A tapas-eating, Greek dancing, balalaika-playing, ouzo-drinking relaxed vibe. All of which I have eaten, watched and drunk. Now I'm off to shop for sandals.

View Over Athens, Greece

14 August 2009


Chiesa di Santa Maria Novella, Florence
Piazza Santa Maria Novella, Florence

Travel is really about passing through, passing time. Waiting for buses, trains, planes. Planning. Doing the washing. Sleeping. The other stuff is hyped, the seeing of great sights, eating of great meals. People don't so much mention the drifting time.

I'm sitting here on this lush grass - if we were in London you wouldn't be allowed to sit on it - and it's that time of day when all the shadows disappear. Nothin' but sun. Nearby are some workmen in florescent orange pants, sweeping and shovelling and scraping. A group of hipsters on the grass, wearing aviator sunnies and eating a picnic lunch. Tourists passing through, pausing and posing for goofy photographs.

And me. Lying in the sun. Wearing a giant hat and a lot of sunscreen and just lazily watching the time pass. Because after two and a half weeks on holiday things have finally slowed down and all I can say is, it's good.

4 August 2009

That Cash Cow Feeling

Atlas Mountains in Morocco
Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Lauchlin and I are up in the Atlas Mountains. Across the way is the highest mountain in North Africa. We are staying in a most luxurious place with two tiny grasshoppers wandering around the walls, hot water in the showers and 360 degree views of mountains.

I came to Morocco determined to respect the (Muslim) culture. Since it's not really safe for women to travel alone, I've been everywhere with Lauchlin, wearing full length trousers and long sleeved shirts all the time. I'm wearing my wedding ring (dont worry mum, we haven't eloped!) and I'm speaking as much French as I can.

But still.

I have this feeling that I have suddenly stopped looking like my usual gangly red-head self and turned into a giant white cash cow. Whenever we buy things people try to charge us double, or triple - or even, like at dinner last night, FIVE TIMES the price that things should cost! It can be a little stressful trying to pursuade people to charge us fair rates.

However, people seem friendly, it is interesting eating tagines from terracotta tagine pots, and the night market in Marrakesh was fascinating.

Night Market in Marrakesh
Night Market, Marrakesh

I will write some more about the beautiful bits of Morocco when we get back to Marrakesh.


1 August 2009

South of Spain, North of Africa

View Over Tarifa
View over Tarifa, Spain - those blue hills are Africa

Hello from Tarifa!

I'm siting on the roof terrace in my fisherman pants with crazy salt-caked hair blowing in the breeze. We went swimming in the sea today. It was warm and calm and there were maybe a few thousand tanned people swimming. There were topless ladies.

I'm watching the moon rise and the horizon dim. Listening to goat bells clunking on the hill, ships honking dimly. Here, the wind BLOWS that's why there's a hotel called the Hurricane Hotel. The Spanish have names for the different strengths of wind.

We're staying in a house with no doors and no locks; a dog like a wolf and a couple of strange looking tomato plants tucked away behind a chimney pot. You can see Africa from here.