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Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Taking Care Of Health Requirements

Aloha Everyone,

Since our return to California, we are focused on taking care of our health requirements. Both of us had our 2nd COVID booster and I also got the Shingles vaccine.

J.J. and I had no reaction from our 2nd COVID booster. Just a slight soreness on my arm.

Aloha -- Cathi

Monday, May 30, 2022

Have a Safe Memorial Day!

Aloha Everyone,

Have a safe Memorial Day!

J.J. and I got our COVID 2nd booster shots today. So far, we are doing fine.

Aloha -- Cathi

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Getting Back to CA Schedule

Aloha Everyone,

Still suffering from jet lag with intermittent sleep at best. Dropped off clothes at our regular lavandería, passed by Walmart to get a few provisions, dropped off our luggage and my shoes for repair, then to Nijiya Market to purchase Japanese bentos for lunch and dinner.

J.J. is back driving Honu. He commented how nice it is that most drivers in Torrance follow the rules of the road. No cars drive on sidewalks, drivers stay within their designated lanes, and they stop at signal lights.

Aloha -- Cathi

Friday, May 27, 2022

From Istanbul to LAX

Aloha Everyone,

The inflight service of Turkish Airlines is superb, but it was at a leisurely, deliberate pace. I was able to get about 4 hours of sleep using the full reclining feature of my seat. It was not enough to make up for the lack of sleep from the past two nights.

Istanbul Airport is massive. After getting off the taxi, J.J. and I asked a few Turkish Airlines employees for our check in counter. Navigating through the airport with our two luggage and backpacks with unclear directions was not my idea of how to spend our final morning in Istanbul.

Solution was to request for wheelchair assistance for the two of us. What we had were two motorized wheelchairs with two race car drivers who navigated through the maze of huge lobbies to narrow corridors. They did not use horns or flashing lights but somehow the drivers avoided hitting other travelers.

After getting through all official checkpoints, the two wheelchair drivers deposited us at the Turkish Airlines Business Class lounge where J.J. enjoyed his hearty breakfast. An hour later, two new wheelchair drivers came to take us to our departure gate. Getting wheelchair services was a brilliant solution. The four attendants were generously tipped.

We are safely back in California. Our direct flight from Istanbul to LAX took 12 hours and 15 minutes.

Aloha -- Cathi

Thursday, May 26, 2022

COVID Test Results - Negative!

Aloha Everyone,

It took two hours for us the get our Antigen tests back. The process was pleasant. A lab technician came to our hotel and, after taking photos of our passports, she was done in 2 minutes. While we waited in our room, we packed our bags.

At noon, we rode a taxi to Express Plus Hotel located just 5 minutes to the airport. Due to the lack of sleep and extreme rough driving, by the time we arrived, I was not feeling well.

Had a simple lunch at the hotel coffee shop. It looks like most of the food, except for the grilled cheese sandwich, were ordered from an outside source. Hot lentil soup was a good choice.

Restricted WiFi connection. It only works in our room. For other areas, you need a different password.

Aloha -- Cathi

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

We LOVE Istanbul!

Aloha Everyone,

Istanbul with all its challenges is one of the most interesting, beautiful and magnificent cities in the world. Istanbul is complex. The more you dig into its history and culture, the more you are left with questions. J.J. and I are actually reluctant to leave. The two of us will truly miss our daily walks, the hustle and bustle of the city juxtaposed with quiet peace and serenity, and calls of Kazan (prayers) through loudspeakers by Imams. Istanbul is a blend of Europe and Asia.

“Istanbul, a universal beauty where poet and archeological, diplomat and merchants, princess and sailor, northerner and westerner scream with same admiration. The whole world thinks that this city is the most beautiful place on earth.”
- Edmonds De Amicis - Italian Novelist

“If the earth was a single State, Istanbul would be the capital.”
- Napoleón Bonaparte - French Emperor

“All other cities are doomed but imagine that as long as people exist, Constantinople will exist.”
- Petrie Cyllius, French architect, topographer and translator

“Istanbul the constant beauty of the wave of the East against the rock of the West.”
 - Susan Moody, Novelist

Aloha -- Cathi

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Turkish Kebab in Clay Jug

Aloha Everyone,

This signature dish of restaurants around Istanbul is an Anatolian specialty. Prepared in a clay jug, usually the dish is made with either lamb, beef or chicken with an assortment of vegetables.

Having enjoyed the gracious service of Nasif of Fuego Restaurant & Cafe on a previous visit, J.J. and I returned for their famous Kebab in Clay Jug.

While we waited, we feasted on their “puffed bread”. After 30 minutes or so, two of the servers brought out a heated steel plate which was placed in the center of our table.

The process of breaking the clay jug, removing its lid and pouring the content to the heated metal plate is part of eating this dish. Everyone watches in anticipation and cheers and claps when the content is poured out.

We compared it to the showmanship of Benihana of Tokyo. People dine there as much for the food as the entertainment. Yes, it was one of the memorable meals the two of us enjoyed in Istanbul.

Aloha -- Cathi

Monday, May 23, 2022

Hotel Fire

Aloha Everyone,

The two of us were fast asleep. Someone started banging on our door. I thought perhaps a hotel guest made a mistake trying to access. However loud banging elsewhere continued. I opened drape and saw 5 fire trucks, plus ambulance and police cars. All the room lights were off. I woke up J.J. and we used the stairs to the lobby and out to the building. The illumination came from the flashlight feature on my iPhone.

There’s no water sprinkler in our rooms. No emergency lights. 

Crisis bring people closer. We were being approached by other hotel guests asking us if we knew what’s happening. A duo from Canada had their packed suitcases. Their complaints were why no emergency back-up generators and whether or not we will have a hot breakfast served in the morning.

A woman from Quito, Ecuador was huddled with her mother. She somehow twisted this fire to the current US government’s immigration policy. Interesting how people react under pressure.

Hotel staff were passing bottles of water, but none could tell us what was happening.

The incident lasted about an hour from 10:30 pm to 11:30 pm. Although the electricity was still off, we were permitted to return to our room. Pretty frightening.

Our normal hot breakfast was served in the banquet room of the basement. The management of the hotel tried to minimize the incident by saying “it was nothing.” “No problem”. Seeing electrical repair company trucks unloading large supplies at the hotel, J.J. suspects that, at a minimum, they need to replace electrical wires. The fire was probably at their top floor breakfast room.

Grateful that no one was hurt, and the hotel can continue to serve its guests. The only inconvenience is the elevator is not working.

Aloha -- Cathi

Learning About Turkish Carpets

Aloha Everyone,

Túrker Ayaz’s retail shop is located on the same street as our hotel, at the corner of a busy intersection. Last Friday, we spent nearly 45 minutes with him. Here are some of the things we learned about his business.

Sources of handcrafted carpets are scattered around the remote mountain areas of Turkey. The Taurus Mountains region and Capadocia (semi-arid central region of Turkey) were mentioned by Turker. To procure handcrafted carpets, traveling salesmen visit these villages bringing household goods and whatever that remote communities need to barter with village people.

Túrker‘s store is approximately 20 x 20 feet. His carpets are displayed all around the wall. There is also a storage space in the basement. A large bare area in the center is perfect to spread his carpets when showing them to customers. 

Turkish carpets are double knotted whereas Persian carpets are single. Túrker graciously stated that they are both beautiful and his store sells both.

Interesting information about prayer carpets. They have direction which you can face towards Mecca. Prayer carpets are asymmetrical in design whereas non prayer carpets are symmetrical.

How can you tell handcrafted carpet from machine made? He simply stated that it is very difficult to differentiate. You have to trust the honesty of the carpet seller. Hopefully, other carpet salesmen would be as honest and forthright as Turker was with us.

Aloha -- Cathi

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Tour Guides

Aloha Everyone,

Tour guides in Turkey, as in most countries, are required to complete a set of training programs to get their tour guide license. Having said that, the two of us have been approached by devious individuals offering their tour guide services.

Majority of tourists to Istanbul usually stay for 1-3 days to take in the amazing cross cultures of Europe and Asia. Most popular and affordable are 6-8 hours of walking inclusive of lunch.

As I walked along a group of English-speaking tourists, I overheard the tour guide asking if they have any questions. This group consisted of mostly senior citizens not accustomed to walking. A woman who seemed in pain and was dragging herself on her companion’s arm shouted back, “How long before our bus picks us up?” Walking tours are usually priced between €25 to €75 per person (about US $25 to $75 in today’s exchange rate).

Official tour guides are easily spotted by the item they hold up such as paddle, flag or my favorite, umbrella, which comes handy in most type of weather. There is a strong push for shopping at certain stores because they are willing to give guides up to 30% commission.

Aloha -- Cathi

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Turkish Tea & Turkish Coffee

Aloha Everyone,

Tea is a very popular drink in Turkey. The country also has the highest annual per capita tea consumption in the world roughly translating to plus or minus 7 pounds per person. Tea is served at social gatherings, business meetings from morning to night. I have so far drunk at least a dozen cups of tea. Some taste aromatic and sweet, others resemble English Breakfast tea. It is impolite to decline a cup of tea that’s offered. You simply take a small sip and thank them before parting company.

Turkish Coffee is a style of coffee prepared in a 
small, long handled pot with a pouring lip designed specially to make Turkish coffee.

The drink is 50% granule, extremely potent and J.J. claims that it makes your hair standup. It’s true that if you stand the very tiny spoon in the coffee pot, the spoon could very well stand up.

Both of these beverages are considered medicinal. I am a tea drinker and I appreciate a cup of tea in the morning but will stay away from the local coffee especially at dinner time. Too much caffeine keeps me awake.

Aloha -- Cathi