Türkiye by Land

4 weeks of land travel in Türkiye

Finding the delicate balance between seeing the places that we missed in our time in Türkiye and not exhausting ourselves while Gratitude is moving is tricky. We have been doing this long enough to know that there is a point of diminishing returns when we try (read I try) to cram too much into a trip. This is especially true when we are living out of a suitcase, missing our Pratt and Gratitude, and the trip is 7 weeks long. For many, it will sound like a trip of a lifetime – and for me as well at another point in my life, I too would look at this as a dream vacation. So, as I write this Im keenly aware that this is a life of privilege. But just because our life lessons are learned in the backdrop of exotic and beautiful locations, we are learning them, nonetheless. One of the great things about taking off on a journey of this magnitude is that you can be assured that whatever lessons life had in store for you at home, you are going to get them in spades on this journey.

That said, this winter we chose to take a few trips further afield knowing that the internal Türkiye travel was going to happen while Gratitude was making her way to Southhampton, and we were “killing time” out of the Schengen and EU areas.    

Side Old Town

First stop, Side.  Pronounced See-Day, when I was doing research, this town looked on paper to be the stuff of my dreams.  Ancient Roman ruins being preserved under a town of cute shops and restaurants.  I would have been terribly disappointed had I traveled from the US for 1 week and we came here.   I know I have mentioned before that my experience of a place has as much to do with my own frame of mind as anything else and I usually try to temper my criticism with that piece of self-knowledge.  So, Im going to completely disclose that this particular week was really hard on me.  Watching our home and kitty leave the dock without us aboard was tough.  Packing belongings for a 7-week trip away from our home and kitty was tough.  Getting Jack ready to finish up his school year while traveling from town to town was tough.    But nothing could have prepared me for the wallop of emotions that I felt as we moved into Holy Week in the Christian calendar in a Muslim country away from all of the homey items that I use to bring these significant holidays to life as we travel around the world.   We survived Christmas in Türkiye with little trouble because, even though there was nothing outside of our boat that reminded us of the holiday, everything on board did – and all of our traditions were mostly intact, including watching Christmas mass via Skype.    Holy Week was different though because in addition to having none of the outward signs of this sacred week, having no family or friends with whom to celebrate, we weren’t even sure we would find a meal on Easter Sunday prior to sunset given that the Muslim holy month of Ramadan was happening simultaneously.  Muslims fast all day even forsaking water during Ramadan and many restaurants closed for this reason opening only after sunset.  This was clearly not the Easter Sunday to which we are accustomed.  And it hit me hard! 


So driving en route to Side, uncertain that we would find dinner, we took Jack to the mall to find some new tennis shoes (very little in the way of shopping in Kas, so he needed them), and we ate Easter Sunday brunch at McDonalds.  If you know me, you know what a blow this was.  For Jack, McDonalds is a huge treat.  He has probably eaten there 5 times in his life.  For me it was a very low point.  Mercifully I had the love and support of a group of friends who lifted me up and a niece who texted and checked on us.  Thanks Jen, Tracy, Anne, Janie, and Sarah for your help during a very difficult time.  Your friendship and love have been a tremendous gift to us more than you could ever know. 

That said, we arrived in Side and I was very underwhelmed. Very. It reminded me of a rundown version of Atlantic City or Vegas. There weren’t casinos but the giant box hotels with over-the-top lights and adornment with cheap t-shirt shops and souvenirs sprinkled along the coast. We stayed in an Airbnb which was too far from the “old town” to be walked easily and the airbnb was also a disappointment. No matter how carefully I choose, there is just something that cannot be conveyed in photos and this place was a disappointment. I didnt take any photos of the unpleasant part but all of the photos here are of the old town.


The Old Town in Side was really wonderful, however.  In antiquity, this city occupied most of the land on a small peninsula and while excavations are ongoing, efforts are diligent to maintain and protect the stories which lie beneath.  Walking through this town, nearly all of my worries were forgotten.  Alec took me for a very long walk, and we meandered through and before long, I was restored to equilibrium, a day after our arrival.   Jack who is less enthused, stayed behind to complete his schoolwork, and I had the pleasure of some exercise, fresh air and “old stuff” dating back to before the 7th century BC.   Even Alexander the Great occupied Side in 333 BC.  From then on, as in much of Türkiye, the past is layered one ruler, or empire upon the next.   These remnants of the past are preserved and evident here and a true treasure if you can get past the miles of big box resorts and hotels.  

The best part of  Türkiye is the people.  One day whilst having dinner with Kim and Steve, we overhead some locals chatting in mixed English and Turkish.  I asked them if they knew if we would find open restaurants along our land travel path during Ramadan and they helped me to refine our land trip.  They didn’t discourage Side, but they added Alanya, and they recommended less time in Konya.  They also recommended some hotels along the way.  Our next stop, which was not planned at all but Im so glad we heard about it, was Alanya. 

Alanya is a resort style town but unlike Side, it maintains the feeling of being a lived in and thriving town for local Turks, not British or German tourists on holiday.  I have nothing against the tourist, but when Im a tourist, as we most certainly are, we are here to visit Türkiye, not hotels, restaurants and shops built solely to accommodate the tastes of tourists.    


In addition to the local feeling of the town, there are long wide beaches and one purportedly where Cleopatra regularly visited.  The Alanya Castle provided a wonderful day of entertainment while the 3 of us climbed all over the Seljuk-era fort.  Wanting to see more of the town, we even availed ourselves of the cable car to the top.  Remember the guys who we met in Kas who told us about Alanya?  They sent text messages and arranged a rendezvous.  We would have had dinner together but I know our dinner hour is more like their late lunch hour, but all good, we appreciated the opportunity to meet and visit them and enjoy their lovely city.   If we were to be here another winter I would consider this for a winter spot.  It had more city amenities than Kas but retained a lot of the charm. 

Originally planned for 4 days, our new Türikish friends suggested that 3 hours would be plenty of time to spend here in our next stop, Konya.  The midpoint between Alanya and Cappadocia it was a perfect place to stop for refreshment.  Due to Ramadan and its reputation as the most conservative city in Türkiye, we expected to find no food whatsoever, but we were pleasantly surprised to find 1 place open and serving in a room upstairs, though most of the restaurants were closed.  The primary reason for the stop was to see Rumis grave.  A pilgrimage site for Sufis, the remains of Rumi are entombed in a Mausoleum here.  We were surprised to see a very busy city and only later realized that Konya is the largest province of Türkiye. 

Rumi was a 13th century poet, scholar, mystic, religious leader and philosopher.  He practiced Islam but founded the Sufi order and discovered that when one whirls in a circle (Whirling Dirvish) one can be in unison with the earth as it rotates and see the face of God or achieve an enlightened state.  Rumi was a revered poet and his work is still being read and translated around the world.  His poetry is absolutely beautiful and he talks of love so brilliantly.  I don’t ordinarily love poetry, but I could read his work for hours.  The meaning doesn’t get lost in the rhythm and it is reasonably easily understood.  In terms of the Whirling Dirvish, we watched a religious ceremony of Whirling Dirvish and I found it mesmerizing.  The photos below were taken only after the ceremony when they did a few twirls for the benefit of our cameras but watching them perform was extraordinary.  The music was enchanting and for the life of me I cannot imagine how they can achieve this without ending up in a heap in the center of the floor, legs and arms akimbo.


Cappadocia had long been on a must see list of Türkish destinations.  The hotel recommended by Mustafa turned out to be both good and not so good.  Good in that it was by far the nicest and most unique property we have ever stayed in, which is saying something since Im a lover of hotel rooms.  Not so good because it was so lovely, none of us wanted to leave.  Given that we were all feeling a bit worn out from the previous several weeks, we decided to treat ourselves to another couple of days here.  The Kayakapi Premium Cave hotel was rated the 3rd best luxury hotels in the World in 2022 and then rated by Travelers Choice 2022 Best of the Best.  All of this is well and good, but for me – the transformed caves, a unique and special aspect of Cappadocia, and preserved history and character were the best part.   The luxury and comfort were what put it over the top though.  The caves were unmistakable, but the newly tiled floors matched nearly perfectly but were heated.  Living in a cave could be dark but they opened the front to bright outdoor light.  We had 2-bedroom suites, so Jack was nearby and both sides were equally impressive.  The bathrooms were actually full hamams and we loved it so much we are trying to figure out how to work this into a bathroom remodel once we return home.  The breakfast buffet was outstanding – the service was impeccable.  The pool was heated and gorgeous and the spa made a couples massage for Alec and me very special. 

Alec and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary on March 22nd and we opted to make our celebration special on our trip rather than try to find something in Kas.  The hot air balloon ride and the amazing hotel in Cappadocia provided the perfect backdrop from which to celebrate. 

We booked for a hot air balloon but it got cancelled for wind.  Lucky for us, the second day was the charm and we made it up.  We also had a very fun ATV trip through the amazing rock formations which make Cappadocia so captivating.  And finally we managed to get in a hike. 

Leaving Cappadocia we headed to Ankara, the capital city of Türkiye.  Running out of time after extending our Cappadocia leg, we opted to take a cultural tour so we could capture most of the highlights.  Our guide took us on a 3 hour walking tour of the capital city, including a trip up to the castle, and around the bazaar.   No stranger to Gozleme, which we have eaten it nearly every Friday from the time we arrived in Türkiye, I can say with confidence this stop had the best gozleme we have eaten.  Rolled out into a paper thin piece of dough similar to filo, the dough is typically filled with cheese and either potatoes or spinach or a mix of meat.  The pasty is then cooked on a special dome shaped cooktop until slightly browned on each side and served piping hot.  We loved it!   All the bazaars have a variety of women cooking gozleme and serving it along with chai and fresh squeezed orange and pomegranate juice.  Every Friday Kim and Steve (sailing mimpi) and Alec and I would go to the market or bazaar for our fruit and veggies shopping and a delicious gozleme.  But I digress….


Ankara is a typically busy capital city.  We only spent a few days here and I was disappointed when we went to the train station that we would miss seeing the mausoleum of Kemal Mustafa Ataturk (Anitkabir).  There is no US equivalent national hero to Türkiyes Ataturk.  He truly is in a class alone.  Born in 1881, he saw the end of the Ottoman Empire at the end of WW1 in 1918, then fought and organized a rebellion which lead to the rise of the first Turkish Republic.  Now in its 100th year, the national pride and love of this hero is palpable at every national holiday or gathering.  Once a year, the entire country stops what they are doing to pay respect for this fallen hero on the anniversary of his death.  Even in my yoga class, when we heard the siren, the teacher stopped for the full 3 minutes as did the traffic on busy motorways, shops and restaurants – everything comes to a halt.   But when we arrived at the train station, we discovered that despite hourly service to Istanbul, there were no seats available for the entire day.  Leaving for a hotel for the night, I looked out of the window and in the distance, there stood the Anitkabir.  Jack opted to stay behind to do some school work and Alec and I took off to see the mausoleum.  It was a very fortuitous stop and we enjoyed our day meandering around the lovely grounds and witnessing a few graduations. 

The next day we did get a train to Istanbul and we stayed there for our final 2 weeks in Türkiye.  The highlight of our time here is the time we spent with Kim and Steve (sailingmimpi) and their daughter, Angela.  We took a Segway tour, we toured Galata tower, walked, ate, shopped, ate some more, and just thoroughly enjoyed our time together.  The last time we were in Istanbul, we managed to see most of the primary spots such as the Hagia Sofie, the Blue Mosque known locally as the Sultanahmet Mosque, we took a Segway tour and we saw the cisterns.   But we didn’t have a chance to see the Whirling Dirvish and we never ate dinner on one of the amazing roof top terraces so common and popular in Istanbul.  Well, we have gotten both of these done before leaving and additionally we saw Galata tower, got a ride down the Bosporus, took a ferry for breakfast in Besiktas, and per Jacks request, we went to the newly opened Istanbul Modern Art Museum.  But for us the best part was the memorable week with our dear friends. 

A few words here and tribute to our dear friends Kim and Steve.  We met in the beginning of the summer 2021 in Montenegro and cruised with them in Croatia that year.  Our friendship really blossomed over the following winter in Montenegro and we buddy cruised last summer in Greece and Türkiye.  Each time we have gone our separate ways, we knew that we would be seeing each other again.  Such is the relationship that one develops with a kindred spirit.   Living aboard a boat and traveling to different countries can sometimes make one feel unhinged.  But the grace and joy of finding 2 souls with whom we share so many values and passions is the rarest of treasures.  Having these spirits also contribute as valued sounding boards and parental role models for a growing nearly teenaged young man is even more rare and we are grateful.  They say it takes a village to raise a child and finding that village when ones geography is constantly changing makes that rarest of finds even more precious.  Kim and Steve, we can’t thank you enough for your friendship, kindness, counsel and love.  It is so hard to head off in such different directions but I remain steadfastly committed to maintaining this precious relationship wherever our roads may lead.  We love you! 

So this is it for Türkiye!  It has been a terrific 10 months but it is time to move on!  We have 2 weeks of land travel left before we are reunited with our precious Gratitude and Pratt (already they have arrived safely in Southampton, UK thanks to SD Captains – thank you Gentlemen for your hard work).  Once we are back on board, we will begin our summer cruise.  Hoping for Scotland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Brussels, Netherlands and finally back into St. Katharines at Tower Bridge in London.


End of Winter Wrap Up – Kas, Türkiye 2023

Kas – end of winter wrap up.


Yoga offered daily at the amphitheater- Thank you YOGI!!

I can hardly believe that this is our final day in Kas, Türkiye.  We have called this lovely village “home” for nearly 6 months.  Im  sitting in our airbnb, staring out into the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, recalling the memories of our time spent here and I feel nothing but gratitude.  Gratitude for the beautiful people we have been privileged to know.  Gratitude for the amazing weather that has allowed us to thrive and exercise all winter long.  Gratitude for the market and the people who spend their lives planting and nurturing the food that we have eaten.  And Gratitude for the yoga classes held daily at this stunning amphitheater.  I can think of no place on the planet more conducive to the peace and health to which yogi aspire. 

This precious kitty was my Yoga cat. He showed up everyday for food and hung with me while I practiced. Sadly he was hit by a car shortly before we left.

We are Florida people and while there are many things we loved about Kas, the weather would have to be among the first mentions.  Nearly as far as one can travel South before hitting Africa, it is comfortable and mild with most days in the winter, clear and sunny.  We were able to be outside for most of the winter, though jackets and sweaters were a staple in our winter wardrobe.  The hiking here is legendary with the Lycian Way trail extending for 760 km  along the south Türkiye coast between the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea.  The footpath is rocky and the gradients steep but Kas sits nestled at the near ½ way point between the beginning and end of the trail.  From Kas you can join the trail or, as we did, just enjoy some day trips noting the plentiful ruins and tombs from a civilization that existed around 400 BC. 

Still a village, there are no cinema, theaters or malls.  The shops and grocery stores are compact and hold locally made handicrafts and souvenirs primarily.  The restaurants are family owned and operated and the food incredibly fresh though simple.  Mezze are my favorite, tapas style meals which include a small taste of several tiny dishes.    We found a wonderful Vet who made “boat calls” which was handy because we don’t have a car here and Pratt is a homebody who stresses anytime we force him to leave the boat.  If in Kas and in need of a Vet, we highly recommend: Destina Veteriner Klinigi +90 543 683 19 87 on WhatsApp Andifli Mah. Eski Ant. Cad. No 150 Kas.   We also found an amazing English speaking Dentist.  We 3 all had cleanings and she came to the rescue on 2 occasions, once with Alec and once with me.  On both occasions (as is typical in Europe but less typical in the US) she came up with the least intrusive and expensive option, repairing a crown which had fallen out for me and essentially rebuilding a tooth for Alec.  I was certain it would involve a lengthy crown process when an old filling broke a tooth.  This dentist, in one appointment, made him a new tooth essentially for the paltry sum of 50. US dollars.  If you find yourself in need of a dentist in Kas, WhatsApp Nese Fettahligil +90 505 675 53 01.

Thanks Dr. Nose

In terms of medical procedures, we did not have any need for one though we had planned to get a complete physical while here, we never managed to get around to it.  We have friends who have taken advantage of the very good and economical medical system in Türkiye and have had nothing but great things to say. 


From a boater and ex-pat prospective I would have to give Türkiye very high marks all around.  While prices are on the constant rise due to 65-80% inflation and the huge influx of Russians (particularly those wealthy and well connected enough to run from the current situation there) has resulted in costs rising exponentially.  We found the costs of berthing still affordable but very quickly the prices will outpace the most expensive marina accommodations in the med.  Getting a yearly contract remains the best defense against the extortionist prices of the short term or daily marina rates.  The marina contract should allow the foreigner to secure temporary residency for the duration of the contract.  This is not a guarantee but I have heard of nobody getting denied (although we had a heck of a problem with our sons residency and if you are considering this, reach out to me personally and Ill talk you through it if necessary).   The Setur marina in Kas is beautiful and the grounds and maintenance staff do an amazing job of keeping it in pristine condition.  The office staff is not the most friendly we have ever met, but the facilities themselves are in impeccable shape.  The cost of utilities- water and electric is very high compared to other marinas in the Med.

Christmas dinner with Turks, Aussies, Brits, Scots, and Americans. Thanks for the friendship fellow cruisers!

The Schengen and EU restrictions on foreigners (Americans, Aussies and UK in particular) remain a real challenge for cruising in Europe.  Türkiye remains one of the few places where one can stop and remain for greater than 90 days. We are grateful for the respite from the struggle of immigration challenges.  Incidentally, there will be a presidential election in May 2023, and we will be gone before then – there may be significant changes after that point. 


So, circling back to the comment in the first sentence about being in an Airbnb instead of aboard Gratitude and referencing the Schengen and EU restrictions on foreigners, the distance between Kas Türkiye and Southhampton England is roughly 3100 miles.  Traveling at 8 knots as Gratitude does, is a nearly nonstop journey of roughly a month.  Of course, we don’t travel for a month non-stop and we are far more restrictive in terms of weather comfort than are our delivery crew.  If we tried to do this, it would probably take us all summer.  Which is to say that the only way we could see Scandinavia this summer is if we had crew, who have no immigration worries, to move the boat for us.  This is the first time since we have owned Gratitude that she has been taken off the dock without us and we hated to see her (and our cat, Pratt) leave, but it had to be.  SD Captains is a company that has a solid reputation for handling this type of work and agreed to take our cat with them. 

Just one of the many kitties who climbing onto our laps and into our hearts!

So, what is next for the 3 of us while Gratitude is making her way to Southhampton England?  Well, primarily we need to stay out of Europe for as long as possible meaning we have a month long trip though the interior sections of Türkiye planned.  Next stop for us is to continue our way East to Side tomorrow morning.  Then Alanya, Cappadocia, Ankara (the capital), and finishing in Istanbul where we will meet back up with Kim and Steve, friends from Mimpi with whom we have been buddy boating for the past 2 years. 


Be safe Assen, John, John and Craig. Take care of our Pratty and Gratitude! See you in Southhampton.

Ill detail our month long adventure into the interior of Türkiye in a future post for but now, this is the end of the winter portion of 2023.


Varanasi and Week 2 India (Cochin, Munnar, Thekaddy, Alleppey)

The enchanting Elephant Passage, Munnar

When I left off on my last post, I was boarding my flight from New Delhi to Varanasi. Clique Holidays driver was standing just outside the doors of the airport with the sign bearing my name and off we traveled to my hotel for the night. It was 10:30 pm when I checked into the hotel and the driver told me that my guide would collect me at 5:30 the following morning.

Since I only had 1 day in Varanasi and it was THE PLACE that I was most excited to see when I began planning the trip, I knew the day was going to be full. If you are contemplating a trip to India, please allow more than one day in this spiritual mecca, but don’t miss it! It was an extraordinary experience, and I can only hope that my deep appreciation for this encounter comes through in writing.

Varanasi is a city in the state of Uttar Pradesh. I read in several places that it is one of the oldest cities in the world dating back to the 11th century BC. Largely considered the spiritual center of India, Shiva, one of the 3 principal deities in Hindu mythology, founded it. It is the greatest desire for all Hindus to come here on pilgrimage during the final of the four stages of their life. In fact, dying in Varanasi or being cremated in one of the 84 ghats, is considered the greatest blessing of all, since doing so, would result in a release from the cycle of birth-death-birth, or reincarnation. The Ghats are a series of wide steps leading down to the Ganges River. Many sacred rituals are performed on these ghats and 2 of them are used exclusively for cremation.

In Hinduism, the body must be cremated before sundown on the day of death, as a result, many Hindus live out their final years in Varanasi, hoping to die here and thus, be released from the cycle of re-birth. In India there are 121 separate languages, 22 of which are official. Each area, or state, built their own temple with their own Pandit or Pujari (priest) so that pilgrims from the state could understand the priest and have rituals performed when they arrive in Varanasi. As a result, there are more than 23,000 temples and shrines (according to NNVNS.org) dotting the landscape both along the Ganges and up and down the streets. Each of these temples hold the records of death for each area dating back centuries.

Walking down the road in the pre-dawn hours as my guide led me to the Ganges River, we walked in the wake of several pilgrims carrying all their worldly possessions on their heads. Venders on the sides of the road sold those things which a pilgrim may need, including what appear to be sticks, used as natural teeth brushes.

My all time favorite photo, there is so much happening in this.

We enjoyed the ritualistic bathing along various ghats in the pre-dawn hours and watched as the river and the temples came to life. Pyres were prepared for the day’s cremations and priests and faithful bathed and performed rituals in the precious Ganges River. We returned to the same place at night to watch the Ganges Artii. For me, this was one of the most surreal experiences. A nightly celebration, 8 Hindu pandits perform several sacred rituals to put “Mother Ganges” to sleep, including feeding her, reading, and singing to her, and fanning her with peacock feathers and giving her flowers. The ceremony culminates in fire whereby the faithful scoop the heat from the flames and bathe themselves in it. There were several thousand people participating in this daily ritual and for me, mercifully tucked into a small balcony overlooking the event, I was able to witness the final fires of cremation happening further in the distance. This was the culmination of an extraordinary day of witnessing people mourning and giving to their loved ones the greatest gift they could. The simple sacredness of birth and death and everything played out in between on this river of life.

When looking at the photos above, note that the body is carried, by the male family members only, to the river and bathed. The body is then placed on the pyre to burn. The eldest male family member lights the fire and performs some ritual. Female family members are “discouraged” since any display of grief or emotion can make it more difficult for the soul to leave the body. It takes about 3 hours for the body to cremate entirely, and when the head “explodes” is believed to be the moment that the soul leaves the body. The ashes are then taken by the family and put in the river.

I have written before about how journeys are really 3 different trips. The one you imagine before you leave home, the one you experience while you are there, and the one you remember the rest of your life. What amazed me about how I envisioned this day, is that while I was really looking forward to “having” the experience of this place, I was not at all looking forward to going. The night before I arrived in Varanasi, I was stressed about what it might smell like with all these burning bodies, I worried about the sanitation, I worried about the Ganges being dirty, I worried about silly nonsense to be honest. And what I discovered was one of the most sacred and memorable places I have ever been. I was calm and utterly enthralled with what was happening around me. I felt separate from, but in communion with, the faithful throughout the world. I felt joyful sharing the celebration of those who were giving their loved ones such a profound and meaningful “sendoff”, and I felt humbled to have been able to witness such an awe-inspiring and mystifying event.

Choosing which photos to include was the most difficult task yet! There is so much happening in each of them, try to notice the individual expressions on the faces in these photos for a real sense of what is being experienced.

Closely related to Hinduism but different, Buddhism is also an important religion, if not way of life here in Varanasi. It is said that Buddha was the last incarnation of Vishnu, (one of the 3 phases of existence of the Brahman). Buddha gave his first sermon in nearby Sarnath after he achieved enlightenment in the 5th century BC. Since Hinduism is more mythology than the life of an individual teacher as in the Abrahamic faiths, when Buddhism began, Hinduism in many ways melded with Buddhism and Hindu priests incorporated parts of Buddhism into Hinduism.

I think that born from the Hindu believe in rebirth, there is a shocking lack of stress or urgency. I believe that on a cellular level there is just a “knowing” that “I can do it in my next life, so no hurry”. I noticed it first while in line on arrival in Immigration. The official examining the papers of each visitor did so at a very leisurely pace, and the people around waiting were equally non – rushed. There was a good-natured laughing and a “we are all in this together” kind of feel and nobody was worked up over it. The drivers are the same, everyone just kind of flows in and out, passing and allowing others to overtake as well. On the other side of the coin, there is a complete lack of personal space. While standing in line, though people aren’t stressed, they also won’t let more than an inch or two separate them from the person in front or behind. I’m an American and crave personal space so wherever I went, I put one bag down in front of me, and another behind me to cordon off an area of space. While standing in line at the Lotus temple, I had no bags and people pushed up against me, literally. I had to step out of line to find some relief. Mercifully my guide held our spot in line.

Far too soon, I had to bid farewell to Varanasi and return to the airport for my flight to Cochin.

A beautiful Kingfisher bird just one of the amazing creatures who call this home

Also known as Kochi, it is a port city in the state of Kerala since 1341 and has been used as a trading center with Arabs, Chinese and Europeans ever since. For this reason, we saw more churches, synagogues, and mosques than I have seen since my arrival in India.

If you read my first post, you will remember that the idea for the trip began to reunite with my friend Janie from the US, and her husband’s aunt and cousin from Dallas and Bombay respectively. Well, Janie was denied a visa so she couldn’t come, but I came as her proxy and had the pleasure of meeting up in Cochin with Khala (means Aunt) and Iffat.

We had never met each other but you would never know that we weren’t long lost relatives ourselves (except to look at us). We enjoyed getting to know one other and sharing stories about our mutual friend (Janie) and cooking, growing herbs and plants, and families.

Day one in Cochin we went to Jew Town (I’m not making it up, it’s what the town is called) and enjoyed the colonial buildings and streets but my favorite was the perfume shop where essential oils were customized for your preference. I wish I had purchased more than I did. I loved it. We had a 4-hour drive to our first hill station, Munnar.

A Christian festival with hundreds of people in the procession. Unusual as thus far I had only seen evidence of Muslim and Hindu religiou

If there are two cities more different from each other, I haven’t found them. The hill station of Munnar is deep in the mountain forest with tea plantations all around. There was a gentle mist hanging in the air and the temperature was several degrees cooler than down at the beach. Even though we didn’t see wild elephants, looking out over the dense trees I felt as though one was just beyond the site line.

From Munnar we traveled to Thekaddy where we learned about the ancient practice of using plants for medicine (Ayurvedic medicine) and we even purchased some to take home. Unlike Western medication, the potions are all natural and thus have no side effects. But the downside is that they must be taken sometimes for months for any benefit. Ill report back in a few months as to whether these work for me.

The backwater Delta was very lovely though and I loved the Periyar Lake in Thekkady. Brimming with wildlife, it is called a Tiger Preserve. We saw no tigers, but we did see a wild elephant roaming around and countless birds and water buffalo. Wild monkeys of several varieties call this area home, which was also a treat for this Florida girl.

The tea co-ops and spice plantations were beautiful, and we filled our bags with both to bring home.

Since I’m from Florida, it is difficult to entice me with a beach, but show me a mountain stream, and I’m duly impressed. For this reason, I didn’t love the final stop on our tour, Alleppey beach. I know many people travel to India for the sea and beach in the South and I don’t doubt that it’s a wonderful vacation for many, but for my taste, I’d prefer more time in the mountains.

In a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, pollution and litter are real problems, and the beach showed some of the evidence of this struggle. There are some real efforts underway to improve the situation which surprised me. I was not given plastic disposable bags for any of my purchases in any of the places I visited. There are no plastic straws, and I was given biodegradable utensils with which to eat. In Varanasi I was given Chai in a disposable clay cup – and the guide tossed it to the curb when finished and said – back to the earth as the clay was. There are emissions tests required for vehicles, and inspection points along the way. We were stopped to check our papers while enroute. There are many electric cars and tuk-tuks as well. We can only pray that we are all not too late to fix some of these environmental problems that plague us all.

I have been home for a few weeks now and I would like to add that few places have infused me with more wonder than India. I had nightly dreams of India for the first 2 weeks since my return and it will always be high on the list in the “highlight reel” of my travels. I found it utterly enchanting and memorable and special beyond belief.

I think there are several reasons why my experience was so positive, after hearing the first-hand accounts of experienced travelers who never wish to return. I went with a completely open mind, looking forward to whatever experience came my way. I went having done tons of research on how to avoid the infamous “Delhi Belly” and I was careful. I drank only bottled water; I skipped all raw fruits and veggies (my favorite) unless they were cooked to steaming or I peeled them myself. I tried to see the human and humanity in every experience I had, and I fully embraced the amazing culture that surrounded me. I didn’t try to save a dollar here or there. I went expecting to pay for creature comfort, and even then, it was shockingly inexpensive. I expected that people would charge me more as a tourist and I accepted this in advance and came ready to pay it. Put simply, I let go…. And this trip truly was the adventure of a lifetime. Add it to the bucket list for sure!!!

So, this wraps up my trip to India. I returned to Kas, Turkiye where we are spending the next 6 weeks preparing ourselves and Gratitude for her trip to Southampton, England.


India – The Golden Triangle

India – The Golden Triangle

The first part of my trip to India involved a sequence of cities commonly referred to “The Golden Triangle”, with a couple of additional stops thrown in.

I arrived at New Delhi in the early hours of day 1 and due to the “all night” nature of the flight from Istanbul, I didn’t get much sleep. Janie had warned me that New Delhi was a chaotic, noisy, and polluted city so I wasn’t heartbroken to spend the “lost” day 1 continuing the journey to Jaipur. I can’t describe my relief seeing my Clique Holidays representative holding the sign with my name on it given the more than 2-hour delay while clearing immigration and customs.

A 5-hour drive from New Delhi was, surprisingly, a delightful way to become acclimated to the new sites, sounds and smells of this exotic country. While sleep was a near impossibility due to the sharp stops, starts, turns, and horns on this trip, the miles after miles of beautiful mustard plants in bloom and the surprising sights of the drive including monkeys dancing from trees and fences, camels shuttling cargo and even an elephant walking down the road. Traveling from the west, nearly everything was new and elicited a chuckle. Cows meandered wherever they liked, sometimes just lying prone in the middle of the road. Carts full to overflowing with produce, tuk-tuks carrying passengers and all of them competing for space on the 2-lane highway as though there were 4 lanes -sometimes driving on the left, sometimes the right and occasionally right down the middle. There seemed to me an elegant, if chaotic dance to this rhythm and had I considered driving the trip myself, the results would have been the same if I had joined the Miami City Ballet company performing Swan Lake with no training – disastrous.

But several hours after meeting my driver at the New Delhi airport, we arrived in Jaipur. Also referred to as the “pink city” due to the dominant color scheme of the walled city, painted this way in 1876 to welcome Prince Albert, it has been maintained in this soft rose pink ever since.

Palace of the wind

The Capital of the Indian state, Rajasthan, Jaipur still has palaces with royalty among the occupants. Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2019, Jaipur is a fortress city surrounded by defensive walls.

The first day I essentially rested and re-set my internal clock, ready to hit the ground running on day 2, leaving me only 1 full day here to get my fill.

The Hawa Mahal was the first stop – the palace of the wind, it is striking in its beauty but, it is just a façade, built to allow the royal women a way to observe special parades or functions without appearing in public. The Hawa Mahal got its name (the palace of the wind) for the venturi effect of concentrating the breezes during the warmer months. Constructed of hundreds of windows, and painted the obligatory pink, it was built by Pratap Singh, the grandson of the founder of Jaipur in 1799.

My guide and I crossed the street for a better view, and there we saw a snake charmer sitting with a black cobra in a basket. I hate to admit that I was totally caught up in the event and sat to have my photo taken while appreciating this enchanting tradition. I learned a week later that it is illegal in India for anyone to use any animal or creature for entertainment purposes. Further, regrettably, I learned that this poor animal certainly had his venom or teeth removed, thereby shortening his life. A classic case of just being swept up in the moment, I regret having the photo taken and later posting it on social media. For this reason, I’m only telling the tale here in the hopes that it may give future travelers a heads up on this illegal practice.

If we are talking about animals here, there are also elephants who are available to carry tourists to the top of the palace. I opted out of this as I was told it is difficult for the elephants to go up and down. And certainly, this qualifies as entertainment, but my guide suggested an activity which I preferred greatly. At the end of the day, we visited the elephants in their small sanctuary. There I paid a small fee to feed them and interact with them in a way that was more to my liking. I had the opportunity to really feel their energy and to offer her mine. All females due to their consistently docile nature, they were sweet and offered my first chance to touch and interact with an animal that I have always called my favorite. Staring into the eyes of this lovely gentle giant was an experience I will never forget.

I visited the city wall of Jaipur, the 3rd longest in the world, the Jal Mahal, and the Amer Palace. The Amer Palace once housed the Rajput Maharajas and their wives. The palace is connected to the Amer Fort and was declared a UNESCO world heritage site.

And finally, I visited the Jantar Mantar, a collection of 19 astronomical instruments built in the 18th century. Yet another UNESCO world heritage site, this site contains the world’s largest sundial and several working instruments.

I loved the 18th century Astronomy instruments. I also learned that there is a huge astrological component to the tradition of arranged marriages, still the primary means of marrying.

Exhausted from the day I arrived back in my lovely hotel in time for a fantastic dinner and straight to bed. The next day we got an early start of 0800.

Jaipur – Agra

One of the places on my special requests list was the Galtaji Temple. Off the tourist track, I’m so glad we made the trip. This felt to me like a truly authentic temple with worshippers and visitors who were local. Clearly the monkeys called this home and though the site was generally run down and in poor condition, the temple and my experience with the priest here was as true an experience as I had anywhere in India. We were just in time to witness the ceremony and my driver, a Hindu worshipper who has a small temple in his car (not uncommon for many Hindi), began running up the stairs as he announced “quickly, we are just in time”. We watched the priest perform his rituals and I followed along mimicking the actions of my driver while praying my rosary to my God. It is a fine line showing respect and reverence to other cultures in their worship while staying true to one’s own faith but observing others in their beliefs is for me, one of the greatest aspects of travel. There was a large basin of water where women were performing their morning bath which somehow just added to the enjoyable and authentic nature of this visit.

A couple of hours closer to Agra, we stopped at the Chand Baori. One of the largest stepwells in the world, this well provided water to the women who lived in the village of Abhaneri. Constructed in 800-900 AD, it descends 100 feet down into the water and consists of 3500 steps over 13 stories. While, at first glance, walking down 13 flights of steps to get water to drink, then making the return journey with water weighing nearly 8.5 pounds per gallon might seem like a miserable job but in fact, according to my guides, this was a pleasurable activity enjoyed by the women in the village. An opportunity to gossip and catch up on news, women were the only ones permitted. Men never came here. Further, at the bottom of the well the temperature was nearly 20 degrees F cooler. It is moments such as this when I wonder who had it better? Western Women today heading to the gym to workout but opening a tap and water flows? Funny just considering how simple, if difficult, life must have been. And proving also how some things never change, on one side of the well sits a pavilion where the wealthy and royals could sit and rest.

Arriving in Agra, our final tourist stop for the day was Fatehpur Sikri. Coordinating all of this behind the scenes for my benefit, the tour guide met us as we drove into the lot.

Another shout out to my tour agency, Clique Holidays. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I receive NO compensation whatsoever for referrals or for mentioning someone in my blog. So, this is an honest testimonial for which I have received NO compensation. But having never experienced this level of care while traveling, I cannot say enough about it. At each stop I was dropped off and picked up with my guide, not looking for buses, or parking or managing traffic, I never waited for the driver or guide, they just “magically” appeared ready to take me on a new adventure. I was able to leave behind valuables in the car with full confidence they would be there when I returned. And with no running to busses or waiting for errant lost people, we moved at my schedule, staying longer when I wanted, or leaving early when that suited. So, I was nearly surprised when we arrived at the Fatehpur Sikri and my guide opened the door, introduced himself and whisked me off for another experience.

Note my “talik” from my visit earlier in the day to the “monkey temple” (Galtaji temple)

Once the capital of the Mughal Empire in 1571 by Emperor Akbar, the palace was completely abandoned in 1610 due to, I think, problems with obtaining water. Yet another UNESCO world heritage site, the building was constructed in the Hindu and Muslim architecture popular at the time in India. The structure itself contains a mixture of religious (Jama Masjid) and secular (a winter and summer palace for Miriam), buildings. Miriam was Akbar’s favorite wife and the mother of his son Jahangir.

I must confess to a bit of lethargy on this visit. It could have been the long car ride from Jaipur, but I wasn’t excited about this visit. It is a classic case of another time, and I may have loved it. But my guide, an amateur photographer enthusiastically snapped photos for me and I didn’t have the energy to refute. Knowing that I would have the same guide for my visit to the Taj Mahal the next day, I knew his skills at photography would not go to waste.

The Taj Mahal

Full disclosure, my guide took nearly all of the photos you see here

Clique holidays arranged all the stops on this tour, with the only input from me being the sites that I wanted to see. They could have arranged it in any order, and I would not have known any better – meaning had I done this myself, I would have had a vastly different experience. I know that it is not unusual for tour guides to suggest an early morning arrival at the Taj, and this is for good reason. Watching the sun rise and the warm color spread across the gleaming white marble façade that is the Taj Mahal was breathtaking. Viewing this masterpiece of Muslim art, I was exceptionally lucky in that there was no fog, no precipitation and very few (relatively) tourists. It was high season, and yet we were nearly alone. Seeing this “Wonder of the World” which I had seen in photos since I was 12, live and in person, was just something I can’t explain. It was far more beautiful up close than even my wonderful tour guide was able to capture in his photos. And since I was alone on this tour, I was able to just meander freely around and take it all in. My guide shared with me the important details, but he allowed me to just walk alone and really feel the place and appreciate the intricate detail and symmetry of the building, the minarets and landscaping.

The Taj Mahal was commissioned by Shah Jahan in 1631 upon the death of his wife Mumtaz Mahal who died while giving birth to their 14th child. In her final moments, she asked her husband to promise her that he would not father any more children with another woman, and that he would build a mausoleum for her. Reportedly thoroughly devoted to her, and devastated at her passing, he kept both of those promises.

The only unsymmetrical aspect of the entire project is the tomb of Shah Jahan himself which was added later and not planned for originally. But looking at this masterpiece from every angle and side, there is nothing out of proportion or unmatched on both sides. Even the buildings which flank the mausoleum itself were only added for the benefit of symmetry. The minarets are ever so slightly bowed out so that in the event of an earthquake, they would fall away from the primary structure. The marble is of the highest translucent quality, the black onyx and jewels are inlayed so flawlessly as to appear to be painted. The writing is verses of the Koran which are bigger in size as your eye travels up to appear the same. More than 20,000 artisans are said to have been employed on this project, many of the descendants of these artists are still creating equally beautiful if not much smaller works of art in the local area. All these years later, this unequalled structure stands as a beautiful symbol of love the world over.

New Delhi

I’m glad that I “arrived” at New Delhi after I had a few days to “come into” India. I do not know if Clique Holidays knew the effect that arriving in New Delhi has on the average traveler and “saved” it for me (or more likely saved me from it). I don’t usually have too much unpleasant stuff to say about the cities I visit. Even in places where I may never return or wish to live – there is usually enough good, I hardly have space to write the stuff that isn’t so good. But I don’t want to leave you with the wrong impression either. New Delhi is – wow – just LOUD – BOLD – heavy – and unquestionably it pulses at a vibration which might challenge the average visitor. While efforts to minimize pollution are real here – emissions tests on cars, electric vehicles and tuk-tuks common etc., the pollution is unmistakable. I felt my throat irritation while sitting in the line at immigration and I felt it again nearly immediately after the second time.

The chaotic traffic, which was otherworldly, and again, the cacophony of noise while animal, beast and human attempted to make way in any direction possible – was really something to behold. All of this is to say, had I experienced this after a flight with no sleep and a 3 hour wait in immigration, my humor may have been suffering.

I checked into the hotel and my guide arrived early the following day to whisk me off on my New Delhi tour.

New Delhi is the capital of India and all 3 branches of government call it home. There are 2 sections, the Old Delhi and New Delhi. The “New” section is characterized by gorgeous old colonial mansions, government buildings. But my favorite part of the day was the Rickshaw ride in Chandni Chowk and the spice market. My guide took me to a favorite place for a delightful snack. To say that a person could get lost doesn’t do it justice. The turns and snakes of the walkways felt like a maze I may never find my way out of again. But the energy, like most of the cities I had visited, was palpable and enjoyable.

Raj Ghat, a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi was high on my list of places to visit. So, here I’m going off on a tiny tangent which I get to do because this is my blog ha-ha. My guide asked me, as a Westerner what I thought of Mahatma Gandhi. Like most Westerners, I have an idea of who I think he is. Based on the facts of his life, Gandhi was born to a wealthy Hindu family, schooled in law, and spent most of his life advocating for civil rights. He employed nonviolent resistance in a campaign to end British rule. He ushered in a new era of independence in India and advocated for the end of the “untouchables’ caste. He was imprisoned, he went on hunger strikes and he was nominated several times, though never won, the Nobel Peace Prize. My guide then went on to say that many Indians are not fans of Gandhi and that there is a social media drive in effect sharing all the reasons that Gandhi was no friend to the Indian population. While my guide did not dispute any of the facts of Gandhi’s life, he found Gandhi’s position too Muslim friendly resulting in the Pakistani/Indian partition and the resultant wars between the two countries. My guide opted to allow me to visit the memorial alone. Possibly he had a phone call to make, but given the context of our conversation, I feel he had another reason.

This is exactly why I love travel. I love having honest discussions with people in their country and learning their point of view. To be clear, there was nothing that this guide was going to say which would change my view of this peace-loving advocate for the poor and for the people of India. But I appreciated hearing his viewpoint. I then suggested to my guide that perhaps any life, when viewed through a microscope, would show cracks but taken as a whole, as any life should be, was the world left better because he was there? And clearly few could argue that his life left the world and his community better than he found it.

We next visited the Lotus Temple, or the Bahai’I House of worship. Most noted for its construction, it is a non-denominational place of worship open to all faiths. And our last stop on the way to the airport was the Qutb Minar founded by the Rajputs built roughly in 1200. A beautiful example of Hindu-Muslim art and architecture, it is a UNESCO heritage site and one of the most visited sites in New Delhi.

Leaving this site, I bid farewell to my tour guide and my beloved driver who protected me all week. I boarded my flight to Varanasi which is where I will begin the next blog update.

If you are considering a tour to India – I highly recommend clique holidays. Their details follow:

WhatsApp +91 88006 55713


India – The Prelude…

India – the prelude…

I once heard that the more money you spend on a trip to a foreign country, the more distance you put between yourself and the culture you are trying to enjoy. I always believed this to be true and certainly, it makes sense. Riding in a bus or train like a local, living in a homestay, shopping at the market, all these things really tie you to a culture in a way that is more challenging when staying in an American brand hotel serving up American food with American television and entertainment.

So, when I was initially planning my trip to India, I did so with my normal routine – looking at an overview of the country and prioritizing the must-see cities of interest to me, then figuring out transportation between the cities and finding appropriate Airbnb’s in each locale. But while researching transportation between Agra and Varanasi, I only found a night train. Since I would be a solo woman traveler, this wasn’t ideal. Needing to do more research, I put out requests to other travelers on message boards, asking if women travel alone on the night train. I had very varied responses including “make sure you lock your suitcase and belongings IN CASE you fall asleep” (of course falling asleep is the goal on a night train, otherwise, you have completely lost a day when you arrive), and “try not to travel to unfamiliar areas alone if you are a woman”. Both the destination and the origination are certainly going to be unfamiliar…

This got me thinking….

Alec told me that he would be far more comfortable if I was part of some organized tour. Jack though, looked at me dead seriously and said “Mom, I think you are trying to relive your glory days”.

Out of the mouths of babes…

So, approaching this from another angle, I went back to my computer and tried to find an organized tour from an agency. But here it got tricky… Mostly the tours offered were from companies that have been around for dozens of years and offered tours with busses filled with travelers. This is NOT what I wanted at all. First, I didn’t want a cattle car tour where I would be shuttled on and off busses full of tourists taken from one shop to another to peddle local goods. While there was little chance of me getting out of India without filling up a suitcase with treasures from this magical place, I wanted it to be on my own terms.

And then, I found Clique Holidays. I decided to send a Whatsapp +91 88006 55713 message and see if they could arrange what I was looking for without breaking the bank. After a VERY short wait, they got back to me and quoted me a price for a 5–6-day tour including all the places I wanted to see. After a bit more research I realized that I was missing a place that was on my “want” list and I asked if they could incorporate it. The schedule was very aggressive but yes, they managed to make it all work. And the best part, I would be traveling solo with just me and a driver and tour guides would meet me at each destination. The tour included 6 hotels, 3 airplane tickets a driver in each city, and a tour guide everywhere and the price absolutely did NOT break the bank. So reasonable in fact, I worried that the entire operation might be a scam. Back to the computer to do more research, I learned that this company was only in business from June which explained why there were only 4 or 5 reviews. This was good news and bad news. Good in that I wanted a new company trying to make their way in the world. And bad because I had no idea if they would be in business when I showed up. I slept on it, and the following day I decided to pull the trigger and book it. I just had a feeling that this was the way to go.

Now, some of you are wondering why I would want to be alone instead of part of a large group. A little bit of self-confession here, I’m an introvert if I’m totally honest. One of the great gifts of age is the ability to look honestly as oneself and know where you are likely to thrive and where you are going to have challenges. I have a core group of friends whom I adore. I adore my family. I welcome true and honest communication with people, but “cocktail party” chit chat doesn’t appeal to me. And when I travel in a large group, I usually get annoyed in the company of people adjusting to the vagaries and sacrifices of travel. All adventures involve discomfort to varying degrees and travelers having dietary, sleep, communication, or culture shock issues just stress me out. In any bus load of travelers, someone is going to lose a passport, wallet, cell phone or some treasure along the way. Someone is going to be unable to eat spicy food in India or live without their daily meat requirements. People will be acting out due to lack of sleep etc… and given that the likelihood of me making any lasting friendships on such a trip are incredibly low, I’d rather just avoid the downside of small talk with a busload of people wondering why I’m traveling alone in India, or worse, having any of the unfortunate aforementioned conditions happen to me, thus suffering the resultant embarrassment and guilt over having affected anyone else’s journey.

Additionally, all these bodies truly disrupt the energy of a place. Landing in Varanasi on a busload of foreigners would absolutely detract from the unbelievably spiritual nature of this special place. Alternatively, I was able to feel and enjoy Varanasi in the company of just one local guide taking me to all the quaint and special street food places to which he could never take a bus load.

Clearly you can see the benefits of going the way that I did, but many people reading this will choose the busload all day long. The joy of experiencing travel with others is certainly worthy of consideration. But self-knowledge is the crucial element. Knowing in what conditions you are likely to thrive, and where you will struggle is key to planning a holiday that will be unforgettable for all the RIGHT reasons.

As long as I’m climbing down from my high horse here regarding travel via bus and backpack vs. a hired car and driver with a sign bearing one’s name everywhere they go, I’m going to dive right in on the benefits of the car and driver which were previously unknown to me.

On any given trip, cell phone and google maps in hand, I’m navigating my family from one bus or train to the next. Whole cities disappear, swallowed up as they are lost to all but the route I’m navigating. Further, in India, the buses and trains would have seriously impacted the joy I felt observing this amazing place from the (relative) safety of the back of a car, rather than clutching all personal belongings that I felt the need to keep safe. Personal space (or lack thereof) in India, a country roughly 1/3 the area of the US but with nearly 5 X the occupants, is nearly non-existent. Nearly every time we passed an overcrowded bus careening around a bend on what appeared to be 2 wheels, I thanked Clique Holidays and my lucky stars that I was in a private car.

WHY INDIA? And where were Alec and Jack?? Some background…

The convo about India happened several months ago with my friend Janie. Janie shared that she was planning a trip to India to escort her husband Azam’s Aunt to see family members. Azam is an American citizen, born in Pakistan where much of his family still lives. Azam’s aunt is an American citizen born in India. She moved to the US shortly after marriage when her Indian husband was accepted to Case Western Reserve University to study. She has lived in the US ever since, currently residing in Dallas, TX. Her family (nieces, nephews etc) still live in India. Here is where it gets a bit complicated. For those who are not well versed in India/Pakistan politics… I’ll do my best to share my understanding with you. Please don’t take this as the gospel truth but rather, if this is of interest, do more research since I’ll be largely sharing what I learned from tour guides and is an overview at best with sweeping broad strokes.

In 1947, the British, as part of their departure from India, partitioned the country with the West (Pakistan) being primarily Muslim and the East (India) being primarily Hindu. One of my guides said this was because at the time of the partition, both Hindu and Muslim followers wanted a Prime Minister from their religion. It was so big a point of contention that the partition was created, and the 2 countries borders were created. After the partition, Azam’s parents opted to move to Pakistan, while Azam’s aunts’ family opted to remain in India. The entirety of both countries is filled with families who have been separated by this partition.

So, Janie and I talked about how we could parlay this trip into an opportunity to see one another. I have always wanted to visit India and knowing that Alec was less enthused, this was a perfect chance to go. Janie, always happy to help a family member and always up for an adventure, offered to bring Lilli Khala to India. She also mentioned that she enjoyed visiting India and since Azam was Pakistani, he would no longer be given a visitor’s visa, so it was the perfect chance for Janie to see his family. As an American born citizen, she was expecting to have no trouble getting a visa. As the conversation evolved, I learned that Janie absolutely didn’t want to see the places in the North of India that I wanted to visit and further, she would be spending time in Bombay with family, so we decided that I would travel for a week alone in the north, then fly to Cochin to meet up with her and her husband’s Aunt Lilli and his cousin Ifaat. We were going to have a “girls’ trip” to Kerala in Southern India.

I got busy making plans, purchasing my visa for India and arranging travel documents, and Janie did the same. Jack, thrilled to have located a “mule” to get his prized Legos from the US to us in Türkiye asked Janie if he could mail some minifigs to her to carry. I sent a few things that I can’t get in Türkiye and all that remained was a few details.

Then I got the call,

Wah!!! Janie’s application for a visa was denied!! She was not permitted to go to India. The only possible explanation is her marriage to a Pakistani born man. I was heartbroken! I felt horrible for her, she had arranged this trip for Azam’s aunt, she had planned the time off. We had all purchased tickets and now the lynchpin of the whole trip fell out.

Breath…. Just breath….

I spent a night thinking about how I felt about the trip if Janie wasn’t going and the bottom line was that, while it was an unfortunate turn of events, I wanted to go to India. I was uncomfortable as heck planning a 2-week trip in India alone, but I was going. Plus, the second part of the trip I would rendezvous with Azam’s Aunt and cousin whom I have never met but whose names I had heard many times over the years. All would be ok.

But here is the broader point here. Can you imagine one of your aunts moving to another state after marriage and suddenly, because the Governors of the 2 states were squabbling, none of the residents of the two states are allowed to travel to see one another??? Because the politicians can’t figure it out, family members are forced to fight with family members?

Anyone else thinking about Ukraine and Russia about now?

It reminded me of a sweet Iranian couple we met in Istanbul who said “We Iranians LOVE Americans! It’s our politicians who can’t get along!”

It reminded me of the heart wrenching moment in the village square in Kas last November when chatting with an adorable couple with 2 very small children (one a newborn). Upon learning that we are American she said she Loved America (though she had never been). I asked where she was from. Her shoulders slumped and I saw unmistakable shame on her face as she said “Russia”. My heart broke as I walked up to her, and we embraced. We both cried in this intense moment of shared humanity as our husbands and friends looked on as we held the embrace for what seemed like minutes. It is always the citizens who suffer when our politicians can’t put humanity first. This poor family has had to uproot and move to Türkiye, leaving behind family members. They are just one family of the roughly 700,000 Russians who have fled to avoid conscription according to one source. She shared with me her pain that her parents either wouldn’t or couldn’t choose more than one source of news long enough to see another side to the story. Rather than be pressed into military service and risking his life to fight his Ukranian “brothers”, he chose to leave and move his family to Türkiye. What a painful decision that would have been.

This lovely lady asked me to have my photo taken with her -little did I know it would only be the first of dozens of times I would be asked this. turns out I was a but of an oddity in In

That is why we travel. For the shared humanity of our experiences. So, while I may not choose to travel and make small talk with a bus full of strangers, I look for these opportunities at finding our shared humanity. Of making meaningful connections with people. And that I did in spades in India. I found so much shared humanity in this beautiful rich country.

So standby for the travel part of the journey in the next blog update. Places I visited in the 2-week trip were:

Jaipur, Agra, New Delhi, Varanasi, Cochin, Munnar, Thekaddy, and Alappuzha.


Jerusalem and Jordan Part 2

The view from Masada looks like a lunar landscape

Built before 31BC, the Masada, built by Herod the Great, was home to Israelites who lived there until the invasion by Roman troops in 74 CE at the end of the First Jewish Roman War. The archaeological evidence contradicts some claims that during a siege by the Romans, 960 Jewish rebellion occupants were locked in the palace fortification on the top of an isolated rock and when their capture was imminent, they committed suicide. Regardless of that part of the history, the fortification is remarkable in the relics left behind of the way the occupants lived. Roman baths, a hot room, storerooms for food and munitions all sit atop a massive hill with cavernous craters reminiscent of the Grand Canyon. The vistas in all directions are shocking in their stark relief and though we had an overcast day, we had the distinct sense of being on another planet. In one direction lies the Dead Sea but in all other directions, stark rock formations in muted brown and sand rise in canyons and jagged cliffs. Jack took advantage of the stark surroundings and filmed his mini-figs.

I would have typically preferred to hike to the top but since we were on a tight schedule, we had to take the cable car where we were whisked above those hiking laboriously. We spent about an hour meandering the site, then ran to catch our bus to the Dead Sea.

Public transportation is efficient and an economical way to travel in Israel but 2 caveats to keep in mind… They often come early – So make sure you are 15 minutes or more early to your bus our you may miss it. And getting signed up is not simple so better to buy a card at the airport station that you can then add money to as needed. One card is sufficient for multiple riders on the bus, the train, and the rail.

We made it to the Dead Sea stop and though it was chilly and overcast, nothing was going to keep us from the dead sea soak…

The lowest point on the planet Earth, The Dead Sea is 431 meters or 1,414 feet BELOW SEA LEVEL. As we traveled from Jerusalem, we could see markings on the sides of the hill indicating our travel below sea level and feel the accompanying ear pops.

Arriving at the entry point to the Dead Sea, we learned that at more than 34% salinity it is one of the saltiest bodies of water. This density made it possible to nearly sit straight up and float above the water. While it left our skin feeling smooth and silky (surprising), plants and animals cannot live there. Sadly, the Sea is receding quickly, and multiple efforts are underway to mitigate its recession. We all giggled like children as we enjoyed the hyper buoyancy and salt filled mud. Alec and I were freezing though and didn’t wait too long before heading to the showers and getting dressed again.

We ran the 4 km back to the bus stop in the middle of nowhere hopeful to not miss it – and we made it! Enjoying the relaxing 45-minute drive back to Jerusalem we all sat back to enjoy the ride.


The tour bus and the Taco Cats

The next day – we took a tour on Abraham Tours to Jordan. While there is certainly enough to see in Israel to more than fill a week, I have had Petra on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I could not be this close and not see it. So, we booked the Abraham Tour for 2 days to Petra. They did a fantastic job or organizing a very full 2 days with an early morning departure from their own hostel in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and transporting us to the border with Jordan. Once we cleared ourselves and belongings across the border, there was a Jordanian representative and tour guide who drove us the rest of the way.

We stopped at Mt. Nebo which is where Moses led the Jews from Egypt to the Promised Land, and from this site, on a clear day, one can see nearly the entire Holy Land. It was not a clear day for us, but we were able to see in the distance, Amman.

Mt Nebo, which is managed by the Franciscan Order, has a basilica with some of the most impressive mosaics we have ever seen. Also, there is a monument to Moses.

Continuing our bus trip, we managed to make it to our Bedouin Campsite just before dinner and with barely enough time to eat, check in and off we went to see Petra at night.

We had on our bus, tourists from the USA, France, Germany, Columbia, England, and others. We all laughed and enjoyed each other’s company, and I was so impressed at how we all communicated (thank God most people speak English) and got along. We looked after each other and everyone engaged with Jack and Travis as though they were their own. I’m not sure who on our bus asked the guide if he could arrange to take us to Petra at night, but only once or twice a week this is available. Someone who did more research than I had discovered that on this day we could make it. If you are planning a trip to Petra, I can’t urge you enough to make sure you visit, if possible, on the day when you can see Petra by Night. It was a surprise and unplanned but having seen it at night, we enjoyed seeing it during the day even more. And the experience of exploring and seeing the rocks bathed in candlelight under a moonlit and star filled sky, then arriving at the treasury to beautiful flute music and more candles was a chilling and inspired experience that we will never forget. We began our day at 600 in the morning and ended falling into bed at the campsite at 12 but it was truly an unforgettable day and worth every moment.

The following day, we awoke before dawn and as we meandered to the breakfast room, I saw the most magnificent shooting star I have ever seen. The sky was the darkest black with more stars than I have seen in my life combined.

Hopping aboard the bus, we made a few stops to see the gorges in the daytime, then arrived just after sunrise to Petra. We only had about 6 hours before we needed to meet back to board the bus back to Jerusalem. We 6 are all fit and wanted to see as much as possible, so we broke with the group and took off first to the Monastery, then to the Royal Tombs.

A few words about this site. Petra, the Capital of the Nabatean Empire, grew rich from the spice and incense trade in the 1st Century BC. It is not known when Petra was built but it thrived even after the Romans came and annexed them to the Roman Empire. Petra continued to thrive up until an earthquake destroyed much of the city in the 4th century AD. Like so many cities in this region, Petra was abandoned. Petra was not only significant from a building and trade prospective, but the Nabateans were brilliant at controlling the water in this desert region. They found ways to store water during drought and direct water during floods. Deserted by all but a few Bedouin from the area, this was all but lost and forgotten until a Swiss explorer set out to re-discover Petra and in 1812, Petra was officially on the map. The Jordanian government promised the Bedouin occupants exclusive rights to all of the vender and tourist trade in the area if they would move out of their campsites here and allow the government to make it a tourist destination. That information made me WANT to buy something from the people selling along the footpaths. Unfortunately, most of the stuff is junk imported from China but if you look carefully, you can find incense, and handcrafted items which we did buy.

Hardly a week passes that Alec, and I don’t thank God that we are doing this now while we are still young and fit enough to appreciate it. But never more so than when visiting Petra has our fitness really paid off. From the entry gate to the treasury (the tip of the iceburg) is about 6 miles. More than 25 miles of trails which wind through the deepest caverns and climb up the mountains cover this area and we saw as much as was humanly possible. We made it to the Monastery, Treasury, the Theatre, the Royal Tombs, the Nymphaeum, the Street of Facades, and the Siq, the Church, as well as others. Jack and Travis played as only kids with limitless energy could and I was filled with Gratitude that Jack has the privilege of exploring these magnificent places as his childhood playground. This is absolutely a magnificent example of human ingenuity and as happens when I’m in a highly inspiring place, I wonder what people will discover of our accomplishments in 2000 years from now. I pray that we use our brilliant minds to solve some of the bigger issues of pollution and global warming and we can leave behind something that the occupants of our planet in 2000 years’ time can appreciate and marvel at and gain inspiration from.

Petra is not only a UNESCO world Heritage site, but it was added to the new list of the Seven Wonders of the World.

I would love to leave it there but there is 1 more highlight from our trip that I’d like to cover: First, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem includes a very impressive 500,000 artifacts dating back thousands of years. But for me the most impressive item in the collection was the Dead Sea Scrolls. Jack is at that time in young man’s life when he is questioning some of the more existential aspects of life and its meaning. He is curious about God and Jesus, and he is honestly questioning every single thing that emerges from our mouths. Most of the time we inwardly laugh, and I’m pleased that he doesn’t just take what we offer as the gospel truth. I want him to ask questions from everyone and everything he learns and reads.

I’m keenly aware that the greatest gifts in my life are gifts I can’t give to Jack, he must discover them for himself. One of those gifts is my happy marriage. And the other greatest gift, is my relationship with God. Sometimes when Jack questions his own belief in God it hurts my heart, but I’m often reminded that that IS THE VERY PATH to God. It doesn’t come from blindly walking someone else’s journey, but from asking and wrestling with your own questions and allowing God to come in. I pray daily that this wrestling will bring God into Jacks life, but The Dead Sea Scrolls are one of the proofs that the words we read in our bible are the words that were written so many hundreds of years ago. Believed to have been written in 1-3 century CE, the religious manuscripts were only discovered between 1946-1956. These precious pieces of papyrus and parchment are housed in the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book are the most complete and extensive collection of the scrolls on Earth. On our last day in Israel, we wandered through this incredible collection.



The stunning Temple Mount with the oldest Mosque in the world Due to strict laws, we were not permitted access during many hours and absolutely no contact with persons of the opposite gender

Jerusalem and Jordan Part 1

Ever since we set off across the Atlantic, I have had visions of travel dancing in my head. I knew that we would be primarily cruising only in the summer – and that has worked out perfectly allowing us to catch up on boat projects, chores, and Jacks school. But I had always imagined that we would be doing more land travel in the winter. I had hoped that we could take advantage of the near flight travel so close to some of the interior locales that I had always dreamed we would see.

Well, honestly, our winter travel has happened -but only to a much more limited extent than we had hoped. The primary reason is that we just get busy settling into our routine and, just as at home, the inertia of the day to day gets in the way of breaking the seal and just leaving.

This year is going to be different though. For one thing, the reality that we are in the final 1.5 years has really sunk in. We can’t believe that we are looking to the end (or the break) instead of working out plans to travel to another continent, country, or adventure. So, to be this close to countries that are so far from home and not take the quick flight to check them out is simply unacceptable. So, we did it! We bought tickets and took the trip to Israel and Jordan.

Alec gave me a very strict budget of 1 week. We were not allowed to spend any more time there than that. If you have been to the holy land, you know that there is far more to see than can be easily covered in a week. But we did it. We saw as much as we could, and we left feeling like we have a much better sense of this area of the world than when we arrived.

I know that there are times when my family wishes they could tie me up and send me away and this week was one of them. Given that we only had 6 days, I crammed alot in. It is not the way that Alec likes to travel – well, to be honest, none of us likes to spend the day going from one to another thing. We like the laid-back relaxed way of “living” in a foreign land and absorbing as much through the monuments and buildings as we do from sipping a chai at the local café. But I just couldn’t bear to leave any of the bigger stones unturned. So, we hit the ground running and this is what we learned, saw, and experienced.

From where we are living in Turkey, the flight was a very short 1.5 hours to Israel. In fact, we spent far more time getting to the airport and in the airport than we did on the plane. But given that the flight from our home in the US would have been excruciatingly long and the time change profound, this was a must see while we are so close.

We landed in Israel and the public transportation was fantastic. We easily navigated through the airport to the train and the ride to Jerusalem was a simple 35 minutes. Easy peasy. We had planned to take a bus to our Airbnb, but the day was gorgeous, and we had been cooped up in the airport and plane, so we decided to have a nice hour long walk. This was serendipitous because it took us through one of the most enjoyable places to see, the Yehuda market. We found a delicious spot to enjoy 2 of our favorite things, Halvah and Hummus. Yum! And we enjoyed our first introduction to the spirit of Israel. There is nothing like a lively local market to infuse you with the culture, food and sounds of a country. Once we arrived at the Airbnb, we spent the night resting up for our day ahead.

The first full day in Jerusalem we met up with our friends Francois, Colleen, and Travis. They are just beginning their great explore having just moved aboard a catamaran, and we were thrilled to be able to meet up with them for a short time in our early days in Kas, Türkiye. Unfortunately, we are not in the same marina all winter, and they are doing more land travel anyway, but we had an amazing time with them in Israel. Colleen had arranged a tour with a fantastic guide. If you find yourself in Jerusalem and looking for a good guide, this is your guy. His name is Julian Resnick, and his WhatsApp number is +972 50 767 4260. Julian is Jewish and lives in a kubutz, but he travels extensively and is well educated about not only his region, but most of Europe. I have received a lot of advice from travelers about who one should hire and not hire. What I can say is that to have any sense whatsoever of the complexity of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, one should try to get a guide who can share both sides of the issues. If I’m honest, I would say that I can appreciate the conflict and the history of the region far better having visited, but I cannot nearly “know” the conflict. I don’t believe anyone not living in the thick emotional air that is Israel can possibly understand it fully. I think that all conflict of this magnitude is a bruise on the soul of the planet, and I believe that we are all affected by it. But there is simply no way to “know” it without being born to and living in it day in and day out. And we can’t judge the ability to resolve these conflicts as being one or another’s fault. I think that all we can do is what we would do for a loved one in a serious dispute with a family member. Hold the space for honest conversations on both sides, brace yourself for the inevitable tears and pray like crazy that cooler heads will prevail. Since politics is way beyond the scope of this travel blog of our family’s experiences, I’ll leave it there. On to the travel…

Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and all 3 Abrahamic religions (descendants of Abraham) claim it as their holy land. Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital but because this is an ongoing dispute, very few nations recognize either claim. The possible exception to this is that the US moved their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This was a move which upset most of the Islamic world and was done in 2019.

This plaque is up outside the newly erected US Embassy 2019

The tour we had took us through the Old (walled)City. Some of the city walls are from 200 CE but others are more recent as most of the city was rebuilt under Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire. Currently the city is divided into 4 quarters known as the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Armenian. According to Wikipedia, the population is comprised of roughly 60% Jewish, and 38% Palestinian with Christian accounting for a mere 1.7% but these numbers fluctuate depending on the site. Our tour guide told us that in each quarter you could sell your property to someone of a different faith but doing so would not only excommunicate you from your neighbors, but your life would also be in peril. So, it is simply not done. Property in the quarters changes hands only to people of the same faith and background.

We are Christians by faith, so our experience was felt through the prism of the many bible stories that we were brought up with. Standing in a place that you had heard about every Sunday of your childhood couldn’t help but be powerful. Standing in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, built by Constantine I in the 4th century, and believed to be the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial site, was for me, the most profound experience of the day but I had goosebumps when, while standing at one of the most sacred sites in the Islamic faith Julian pointed to the place where Jesus was sentenced to death.

There are 6 denominations of Christians who pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and they are all given their own section and hours to worship. It is fascinating to me that in a city rife with conflict, even people of the same essential faith can’t manage to get along. They all share the same church, but no changes can be made without all 6 of them agreeing. Our guide told us that for this reason, a ladder that goes nowhere has been standing in the place for years because nobody can move it since they don’t all agree to it. I pray that it is not true because if holy people living in a holy land can’t even agree on the placement of a ladder, what hope is there for humanity or any of us.
But I digress…

The walls of the old city are themselves a history lesson spanning millennia rather than centuries. One of the funniest anecdotes we were told is how the Jaffa Gate was re-bult to accommodate Kaiser Wilhelm I during his visit insisting that he enter by carriage. So clearly egoic leaders are nothing new…

And the Western wall which we saw both at night and again the following day, is all that remains of a retaining wall that surrounded the second Jewish Temple which was destroyed in 70AD. This is such a holy place for Jews that there is a separation between the male and females. Watching the faithful pray before this wall after leaving the church of the Holy Sepulchre allowed me to understand exactly how the faithful praying before the wall of their second temple must feel. Julian shared that Jews the world over pray facing Jerusalem, but Jews in Jerusalem pray facing the wall. The Western Wall, sometimes called the Wailing Wall, is a holy pilgrimage site for Jews all around the world. Having only regained the right to worship here following the 6-day war in 1967, there is a site paying tribute to those who gave their life in this war.

We were treated to several 13-year-old children coming of age in the Old Town. Their Bar Mitzvah was celebratory and joyful with music and dancing and (unfortunately) balloons released in the air. Regular readers remember that we have had a family embargo on balloons since the summer of 2018 when we saw dozens if not hundreds of balloons floating in the Atlantic Ocean on the US East coast – a terrible hazard to marine life and pollution.

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem is a site that has been venerated as holy by all 3 religions. According to Wikipedia, the site surrounded by retaining walls were built by King Herod in the 1st century BC with plans to expand the Second Jewish Temple. During the city’s capture in 661, the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock were completed in 692. The oldest existing work of Islamic Architecture and more significantly, according to our guide (though I didn’t find any information to confirm this,) Muhammad ascended into heaven from the Temple Mount. There are 11 gates through which Muslims may access the Temple mount. One of the 11 is where non-believers must pass. Guarded by Israeli guards with machine guns and metal detectors, one can sense immediately the tension between the 2 groups who regularly interact in this holy place. We were advised by our guide that we must be respectful and reverent. Non-Muslims are only permitted access to the mount during certain hours on certain days. While we were there, we were told no touching each other at all – no arms around each other during photos. Which explains why we are all standing as work colleagues rather than beloved friends in the photos. Considered the holiest site in Judaism, this was the site of the First Temple built by King Solomon. So sacred is this site that some Orthodox Jews will not even enter it since according to rabbinical law, only the Holiest were permitted inside the temple. Other jews however, enter regularly so that their presence is noted and presumably they maintain a type of occupancy in this place that they consider their own since the 6-day war. The agreement which they have with the Palestinians (referred to as status quo) is that they will maintain the security of the Temple Mount and are permitted access to it during certain hours, but they will not pray there, so the Jewish people who go there are not allowed to open prayer books or appear to be in prayer.

Our day spent with Julian was priceless and afforded us a closer understanding of these amazing holy places revered by all 3 religions who call this home. We could never have come close to grasping the significance without this guide and I thank Julian for spending his time with our two families. To Colleen, Francois, and Travis, thank you so much for sharing this visit with us. We loved traveling with you 3 and our memories of this special place will forever be infused with our affinity for the 3 of you.

Since this post has already well exceeded the usual number of words, I give to a post I will stop there. Part 2 will include the rest of our stay in Jerusalem as well as Petra in Jordan.

A final note – with this olive tree and symbol of peace between the mosque and temple I pray that we can all find ways to live in peace together with our neighbors wherever we live.

Kas, Türkiye

Kas, Türkiye

We are now a full month into our winter contract, and I still haven’t shared how much we love this place.

You may have read that we had a bit if trepidation since this is one place that I had very little knowledge of before we committed – indeed had to commit, to our winter home.

But I’m pleased to report that not only has Türkiye surpassed my wildest dreams in terms of hospitality and sheer enjoyment, but Kas is also the perfect place to spend the winter.

I’ll be honest, it was a slow building love affair. I didn’t (as I sometimes do) fall head over heels in love the moment I arrived. Perhaps it was the sheer fatigue of a long (but glorious) summer. But more likely it was how “foreign” everything felt. A funny aside here is that the very thing that made me nervous is the thing that I have been most craving. We have loved cruising in Europe and while every country has been incredible, it has felt a bit – well, Western. I have been searching for something that feels totally unique and with nary a hint of home. Well, my dear reader, we have found it. Türkiye is exotic and as spicy as the donor at the local market.

Having cruised Turkey for a full 3 months before arriving in Kas, we had a real feel for the country and had (mercifully) learned a few basic words in Turkish. Another aside here, the language and many other elements of the Turkish culture are a bit Westernized. This is thanks to President Kemal Ataturk who brought Turkey to independence 99 years ago. After the 1st world war and the fall of the Ottoman empire, Ataturk fought for independence and the country won. A few of the changes that were ushered in this new era, a change from the Arabic alphabet to the Roman which is the only reason that I have a prayer of understanding or communicating in this language. Ataturk also brought about a commitment to a more moderate approach to religion and dress which is why women in Türkiye are free to dress and worship and shop in any way they wish. The current administration is slightly less liberal, but I won’t get into local politics except to say that the reason we love Turkey as much as we do can be traced back to Ataturk who won this country’s liberation 99 years ago.

We have had the distinct pleasure to witness, in our short time here, the respect that this nation has for the flag, their country, and their country’s founder.

First, the flag. I’m not sure how many countries we have visited up until now, but we can categorically state that without a doubt this country has more national pride than any other. Flags, and not just little wimpy ones, but giant car dealership types are everywhere.

We were privileged enough to witness the country celebrating their independence day on Oct 29th. And when I say privileged, I really mean it. This tiny town in which we are residing has a scant population of just 7,000 residents according to http://www.propertyturkey.com. But there must have been bus loads arriving in droves because the roadways were utterly clogged with the thousands who turned out to celebrate this special day. There were boats of all sizes in the harbor, parades with thousands walking in the closed roads and streets, and a large closed off square where carnival food was offered with bands playing Turkish music. But what made us so grateful to have braved the crowds at this hour of the day (it was late) was to watch how these lovely and gentle people celebrated. Old, young, and teens in between showed respect, reverence, and joy. There was no drunkenness, no excuse to behave poorly, just proud citizens showing their solidarity. During the national anthem, you could have heard a pin drop. Not one person failed to show respect for the flag and their country’s anthem. It was heart rending and we all left with tears in our eyes even though we didn’t know a word that was uttered. It would have been impossible not to feel the emotion that was emanating from the crowd.

And finally, Ataturk himself. Each year, on 10th of November, the entire country of nearly 85 million people, stop what they are doing to show their respect for and commemorate their deceased hero. Cars stop on the roadway; grocers take a moment of silence to show respect. And even where I was, doing yoga at the amphitheater, the teacher stopped class and we all resumed whatever asana we preferred for the 3 minutes of respect paid to the founding father Ataturk. Incidentally, the name Ataturk was given to him in 1934 and means “Father of the Turks”. I wonder in moments like these if we have any such respect in our country. I’m certain in the UK there was this moment of reverence for the Queen when she passed and was buried. But I’m not sure we have this level of “one voice” necessary for such a moment of solidarity. Regardless, we certainly enjoyed being a part of both of these celebrations.

So now, a short recap on the things that I ADORE about Kas and Türkiye in general.

-Yoga classes daily at the ampitheatre
-Medical care that is affordable for us and Pratt
-The market on Friday with the most abundant and delicious food in the world.

-The gozleme and fresh squeezed juice at the market on Friday
-The pide delivered to the boat when I don’t feel like cooking OR eating out.
-The abundance of vegetarian restaurants all over town.
-The care and love people here show for the stray animal population (of course here they just “belong” to the community – they aren’t really strays)
-The blessed Hammam. If you know, you know! And if this list was in order of love, it would be much higher up!

-The weather here is currently glorious with temperatures in the 60s during the day and 50s at night with sunny skies.
-And the friends who are here with us this winter, both new and ones from Montenegro. We are so very grateful.

And the things I don’t like about Türkiye (although this is true of most of Europe)

-The prevalence of smoking.

Ok – so, here is a little re-cap on our summer for those of you who like the data….

From the time we left Tivat, Montenegro to our arrival in Kas, Türkiye, we were traveling for 172 days, and we were underway for 2,354 miles. We spent 107 of those days at anchor and 65 tied to a marina dock. We had a couple of big milestones for us… we reached 15,000 miles while Sarah and Ryan were aboard in Greece and I posted my 100th blog piece, 15 of which were made this summer. Our combined and total generator usage was 370 hours which, compared to last year, before we got the solar and Victron upgrade, was a MASSIVE improvement. We will do even better next year after we manage to get the water maker on the house battery rather than the generator. We made 36 stops in 2 countries, and we hosted 7 people for what we hope was a vacation they won’t soon forget. We know we will treasure the memories of their visits for a lifetime. As a family, we continued to work through challenges that only this type of life can deliver, and we managed it in the space of a scant 64 feet. We grew closer, as we always do, and we learned and loved and thrived.

The questions we get most frequently are: “What was your favorite destination/country/city/island?” and I’m pleased that I finally have an answer. I have struggled with this question trying to think of some profound or deep sentiment that conveys the spirit of our adventure and I finally know that the place that is my favorite is the one in which I currently reside. I have loved every place we have been and there have been a few that I thought would make the top 3 (I couldn’t ever choose just one). But the more we travel, the more I can see that my favorite is and will always be the place where I stand.

And the second question we get all the time is “When are you coming home? This is the first time that we have a plan in place for coming back to the US so I thought I would share it with you.

I have already written that we want to get Jack back for high school, but we were advised by the High School administer that regardless of what school he ends up in, we should get him back by 8th grade. The reason for this is because the grind” (his word, not mine) is so tough in 9th grade, getting him back in 8th will give him the time to transition to the daily load and expectations of a brick-and-mortar school.

So, when we talked about this, and considered our existing plan to head to the South Pacific, we realized that we wouldn’t have the time to get back if we stuck to our original plan. And since Jack really wants to go back for High school and we believe he needs to be “all in” if we decide not to, we needed to do some re-vamping of the original plan.

So, we now plan to have SD Captains move Gratitude from Turkey to Southampton, England, while we do some land travel (mostly) out of the Schengen area. You may remember, we only have 90 days to enjoy most of Europe due to immigration restrictions and if we don’t allow someone else to move our precious Gratitude, we will be out of time before we get where we had hoped to cruise. We hope to be back on-board Gratitude by June 1 to head up the West coast of Scotland, through the Caledonia Canal, across the North Sea to Norway, down the South coast of Norway to Sweden, cruise the Western archipelago down to Denmark, then Germany, Netherlands, Brussels and finally into the Thames to return to the amazing St. Katharine’s dock at the Tower Bridge, London for winter. We may do some land travel during the winter, but it is our fervent hope to leave England in April 2024 and slowly make our way across the Atlantic via the Northern route, stopping in the outer islands of Scotland, Iceland, and Nova Scotia. All of this is, as they say, written in sand at low tide but we now have a firm idea and plan for our return. Which means we have only 1.5 years remaining of our “Great Explore” – but we have added “Part 1” since we both feel strongly that this isn’t the end for us – not by a long shot.

But that is all for now. The next post I write will include some of the incredible sites from around Kas and our most recent land travel trip to Israel and Petra, Jordan.



This was the final week of our amazing summer cruise. Knowing that soon we would be tied to the dock for months, we wanted our final week to be swinging at anchor and untethered to land except by our hook. We specifically wanted to relax and have completely chilled family time with no plans, no expectations. Jack and I did some building legos, Alec and I had some date coffees, and mostly the week involved doing very little.

We were warned before arriving that it was incredibly crowded and finding a place to anchor very difficult. It is true that the roughly 7-mile stretch of protected bay was very deep which limits the number of places we could safely anchor and there were tons of boats – I know, “tons” is not a specific number, but it was busy even at the end of the season.

Unless you have been living under a rock or away from all media, you know about the Russian/Ukraine “situation”. For various reasons, Türkiye is the only country currently allowing Russian boats in. Some of the massive Russian pleasure boats are subject to EU sanctions meaning they cannot go anywhere in the EU without being impounded except here in Türkiye. Currently a non-EU member and with friendly relations toward both the US and Russia, Türkiye is in the unique position of being the ONLY game in town for Russians, and given that they are non-Schengen, they are one of the 3 only games in town for Americans, Aussies and UK citizens among others for stays of longer than 180 days. So, obtaining winter berthing in Tükiye has been a challenge. And Gocek seems to be a favorite spot for Russian boats large and well, larger.

Kitty for sale – cats make themselves home in Turkiye

Our timing could not have been better however, and we arrived to find the town very relaxed, yet the shops were open and anxious to serve. We found some specialty foods only available in the US and several amazing restaurants. We had a rainy day, something that we have been sorely missing in month after month of gorgeous sunshine (really, not kidding, even sunshine can get old without the occasional rainy day to help you appreciate it. But overwhelmingly, the only thing we did was total relax and recharge.

Türkiye has some of the strictest regulations we have encountered regarding treatment of black and grey water (euphemisms for poop and shower water respectively). Believe me when I tell you, we support it, and we thoroughly appreciate it. It is one thing to have the regulation, but it is something else altogether different when the country puts services in place which support the regulations. Not to point fingers but Italy was the worst country in terms of regulating and handling the black and grey water of boaters. The only cita we even encountered a regulation was in the island city of Venice. In a place where traveling by boat is not only ideal but mandatory, there was a regulation of no discharge whatsoever but there was no facility to pump out. We ended up hiring a barge which services cruise ships to handle our pump out at an ungodly price, but we were clearly THE ONLY BOAT to do so. After a month in the marina, we never saw anyone pump out and we saw plenty of evidence of people resorting to their own devices…. So, this was a classic case of making a regulation but then having nothing in place to support or encourage the following of it.

But not in Türkiye. The regulations regarding the discharge of Black and Grey water are strict. Once a vessel is cleared into the country, the owner/operator are issued a QR code unique to their vessel. Every time the vessel pumps out, the QR code is scanned as proof of compliance. It’s rumored that the coast guard checks compliance regularly though we haven’t been checked yet ourselves. But there is no reason NOT to comply. There are pump out stations at every marina we have visited and in Gocek, there is a mobile pump out facility in the bay as well as mobile pump out boats offering the service to all the yachts in the anchorage. This was truly amazing to us. You could get pumped out, while at anchor, without even moving. One would expect this service to be pricey, but it is only about 10.00 to pump out what amounts to 3 weeks of use for us on Gratitude. This is a BARGAIN! And we are delighted to comply and pay. And it shows! This is the first time we have stayed in a marina that we would be comfortable paddle boarding or swimming in. The water is crystal clear.

This was also the first place we found grocery stores on boats traveling around the anchorage. 2 of the biggest stores operate boats to deliver groceries and they carry most basic goods you might find in a convenience store. One could hang at anchor without taking the dinghy to shore for weeks!

Ok so not to pick on Italy but if I was excited about the pump out facilities, I was over the moon, not only in Gocek but everywhere in Turkiye, with the availability of trash/garbage/recycling disposal. In every place we went to town, we found clearly marked and convenient trash disposal. The ONLY exception was in Bodrum where we found it difficult to offload trash. In Gocek there were clearly marked, clean and large receptacles to take the trash. It is no wonder that this country is the cleanest we have visited. They should be very proud. Again, not to pick on Italy but I’m reminded of the beach cleanup we did with several families on Earth Day in which we filled 15 huge yard size trash bags in a short 100 meters of beach and then had no place to dispose the bags of trash we collected because nobody would take the trash! It is easy to see the values of a country when one lives there for more than a few weeks. And Türkiye is very quickly becoming a favorite. The parks, beaches, cities, and marinas are all pristine.

This we have never seen before… an island with nothing on it but trash receptacles to collect trash. Brilliant!

I have no doubt that Gocek has far more to offer than we experienced while lazing around at anchor but for us, it was the most idealic and pleasant week we could ever have imagined.

After a week here, we traveled the final 52 miles to our winter home, Kas, Türkiye. We were met by friends Kim and Steve aboard Mimpi and we had a delightful welcome meal right at the marina. In our next post we will do a breakdown of the miles, fuel and basic wrap up of our summer cruise, but I can hardly begin writing about Kas. It is an amazing place, and we are the most fortunate people to have found it! A complete accident of fate, we couldn’t be happier for where we landed. Stay tuned!!!


Marmaris and Dalyan

Marmaris as viewed from our slip

Our first trip to Marmaris was a week prior via bus from Selimye to purchase a sim card for internet and it was a good reminder that experiences of a place change largely depending on the circumstances of your visit.

We were harried and we had specific tasks on what would be a short visit on our first Marmaris trip, since we came by 40-minute dolmus (bus) ride. Now is a good time to share with you that the bus in Tükiye is called dolmus which translated means “stuffed”. All the dolmus in Türkiye involve being stuffed at least part of the way. But they are efficient and ridiculously inexpensive. I believe we spent 5 euro for 3 people to travel 60 miles. People are courteous and there is a sense of “we are all in this together” rather than “every man for himself”.

So, with little time to waste, we first went to the Turcell shop to get the sim card but as luck would have it, the shop system was “down” for the next few hours. Long story short, we managed to get it just in the nick of time before leaving on the dolmus back to Selimye. But other goals for the trip included visiting a mechanic to see if we could get Jacks AC fixed and visiting another shop to inquire about obtaining a part we need for further changes to the Victron Battery installation.

Bringing the blog up to date on Jacks AC/Heat, it broke early in the summer. To make matters worse, his ports don’t open since his stateroom is near the water line. Essentially, we needed to move him into a guest room for most of the summer. And even though the AC is now fixed, he is still in the guest stateroom because the breezes are so cool, and we prefer not to use electricity that we don’t absolutely require. That said, winter is on the way, and we would like for him to return to his stateroom, with the heat working.

We tried everything to find a repair solution in Greece and again in Istanbul. For the most part, the only solutions offered us were an unacceptably long wait (9 months or more) or changing the entire unit and replacing with different vender. If this was the ONLY solution, we would have had no choice, but it isn’t optimal. We have 6 AC units on board and Alec carries spares for them which can be interchanged one for another. Having a different AC unit would involve us having to carry spares for just that 1 unit – among other problems.

Alec discussed the issue with Buz Ali Abi (WhatsApp +90 5322722704) in Marmaris and we made an appointment for them to see us in Marmaris when we arrived a few days later.

Arriving in Marmaris by boat, everything felt completely different than our earlier trip via dolmus. We were able to get Gratitude’s black water tank pumped out simply and efficiently, and marineros offered to come aboard and handle lines for us. I’ll be honest, I did think about it for a few seconds… no dirty slime lines, no stress, no throwing heavy lines to shore and (if you will recall Gibraltar) no chance of swimming unexpectedly. I’m pleased to say that I still have my pride and declined the invitation of extra hands aboard, but it was a nice offer.

This marina even has a pool!

We made appointments for a boat cleaning inside and out, the carpets cleaned, and the 2 outboard motors for our dinghy’s were both serviced. The people who did the work were a sailboat charter company called Miknatis Yachting – Whatsapp number +90 532 673 3171 – cagla@miknatisyachting.com . The work they performed was fantastic, and very reasonably priced. We would give them our highest recommendation.

The people who fixed our air conditioner were also fantastic offering to rebuild and repair the old one. For us, this is always preferable as it obviously costs less, but equally important, it isn’t going into a junk yard when there is still life left in it. How much better is it to re-use or repair what we already have on board? They cleaned, sandblasted, repaired, painted, and delivered it to us working perfectly (and looking brand new) and at about ¼ the cost of purchasing a new one. Alec decided to secure parts for the additional Victron work we are doing later, and we enjoyed our time exploring Marmaris.

The Marmaris Fort which dates from the Ottoman Period sits atop a hill which feels to me like California. Inside is a museum with relics dating back to before the Hellenistic (330-30 BC) era but included the incredibly rich history leading up to the Ottoman Period (15th century). Walking up to the fort one meanders on the loveliest stone paths winding and curving and impossible to traverse in anything with wheels. Tiny shops and inviting restaurants beckon one to appreciate the stunning views offered from the top and Alec and I stopped to enjoy a new favorite treat, fresh squeezed orange juice.

The city planners have done a wonderful job of limiting the “big box” hotels and instead there are smaller boutique hotels or pensions in the city. As one might expect in a city so popular with tourists in the summer, there are tons of wonderful restaurants and shops to support them, but all the locals treated us kindly and restaurants, even at the end of the summer certainly worn out from the season, were gracious and hospitable.

Accomplishing all of this in only 1 week was nothing short of miraculous. We also visited a few chandleries for items for our list and for friends in Kas who had discovered that the inventory there is somewhat lacking.


Leaving Marmaris, we traveled a short 2 hours to an anchorage called Dalyan. Dalyan means fisheries and the river is full of life as mullet swim upstream to spawn in the fresh water. Every stop we make involves a new discovery or history lesson and this next stop involved a family fun day that we all loved.

Türikish archaeologists are continuing the work of excavations nearly throughout the country and the Western coastline is FULL of sites revealing their histories and treasures. History books are being re-written and new discoveries of ancient wrecks and sites are being added daily to the treasure trove of knowledge of the past.

Our early research indicated that while we were not permitted to take our tender up the river, there are guides who will solicit the trip on their small boats for either ½ or a full day tour. The guide we had was very nice and spoke passable English but I’m not going to include his information here because I don’t think he offered us anything that you couldn’t easily find on your own or with even the most basic guide.

We took a full day trip, so we were collected on our boat at 0800. We enjoyed a lovely day of meandering past and up to the truly unique formations of the caves, then we entered the river. Along the way we passed Iztuzu Plaji which is a beach where a very large population of the endangered Loggerhead turtle; known locally throughout Greece and Turkiye as the Caretta Caretta, nest every year. It is already well past the time of turtles nesting but we did see a few in the water on the way up the river.

Continuing our trip we stopped at a blue crab farm, and ordered some for dinner which we collected on our way back home. The only place in the world we have seen stone crab is in Florida and the only place we have seen blue crab is in the Chesapeake, so it was fun to enjoy crab that we only associate with one place, in Türkiye. This should come as no surprise as the conditions in the Dalyan river are very similar to the Chesapeake, both being brackish (salt and fresh water mixed) and very similar lines of latitude.

The first archaeological site we visited in this area was the ancient city of Caunos, which dates to the Hellenic period although relics have been found here from the 9th century BC. The fortifications present in the excavations are from Mausolus’ time (377 – 353 BC). Caunos thrived until the 3rd century AD when due to invasions by the Goths as well as disease, the city fell into ruin.

Lycian tombs from 4th Century BC

Lycian rock tombs were the other main attraction for me on this amazing day with my family. I cannot imagine how these tombs might be carved today with all the modern equipment at our disposal, but how could these tombs possibly have been carved in the 4th century BC?! They are truly a tribute to the craftsmen of the area. The largest and most prominent would have been for wealthy noblemen but there were others in a place of honor which was for soldiers. Stay tuned for more tombs from the Lycian era. We are now safely tucked into our winter home in Kas and there are tombs all over the town!

The final stop on our trip up the Dalyan river was to the mud bath and sulphur springs. Promised to improve aging skin and work miracles on one’s health, I first went to mud baths in Calistoga in California. This was decidedly not a spa experience and with our guide waiting patiently in the boat, we didn’t feel as though we should linger too long, but it was a great fun experience, and we were all good sports and covered ourselves in the mud, then trekked over rocks to the showers for our second freezing cold shower and returned with the promise of a nice hot Sulphur spring bath. The attendant sprayed us once more with the force of a firefighting hose in COLD water, then we plunged into the warm Sulphur natural spring. I don’t have to tell you what Sulphur smells like, but I will anyway, it felt divine but it smelled like we were wading in rotten eggs. We all laughed and enjoyed ourselves nonetheless and hurriedly dressed for our final stop, an amazing lunch and delightful walk around the sweet village of Dalyan.

Having eaten one of the most amazing meals we have ever had, there was no chance we could eat crab for dinner, so we instead saved them for our lunch the following day.

With the number of “summer cruise” days dwindling, we are squeezing enjoyment out of each and every moment knowing that the winter is on the horizon. Next and final stop before Kas for the winter – Gocek!


Bodrum and Selimiye

castle of St. Peter, Bodrum

Bodrum and Selimye

Two of my favorite aspects of living aboard our boat while traveling the world is: 1. Taking all my favorite things – (pillows, boots, blankets, and outerwear for any weather) with me, and 2. Living wherever I feel like living. I’m not someone who loves the city or loves the country but rather, I love them both. Living on a boat allows us to find the best of both worlds and it’s our time in the city that allows us to appreciate the anchorages and the quiet peaceful anchorages that help us to enjoy the cities.

We enjoyed the city life in Istanbul and Kusadasi, but we were all looking forward to some time at anchor by the time we arrived in Bodrum. To be fair, Bodrum is a big-ish city, and it has shops, restaurants, a killer bazaar, and some fun tourist stuff. So, we hadn’t really found peace and quiet, but we were only there for a couple of nights. The marina, too full to accommodate us, was massive, but I was secretly a little pleased that we would be at anchor in the harbor. And the anchorage was also large and full of boats, but we had a nice place to drop and swing freely without a problem – allowing us to be our own island in the midst of “busy”.

Under a different circumstance, we may have passed Bodrum completely since we were all looking forward to the quiet anchorage, but I’m so pleased that we stopped. One of the few regrets we had with going to Istanbul is that we were missing some of the best known and epic “cruising” that Türkiye has to offer and Bodrum is right in the heart of it. For us to have passed it by while we still had time to explore, would have made the regret permanent. Since we stopped, we had a chance to see and appreciate it – no regrets!

Likely the best-known thing in Bodrum is the castle. Built partly from stones from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the castle has been reconstructed and is now one of the most well-known underwater archeological museums and sits prominently on the peninsula.

Jack has had more than his fill of sightseeing and Alec and I wanted to take our time in the museum, so we gave Jack the “day off” (it was Saturday and he had been working hard in school all week). When we got home, we showed Jack photos of our adventure, but he truly enjoyed his day of hanging out and resting. Win-Win and everyone is happy.

The archeological finds are amazing! Thousands of Amphorae have been recovered and are displayed all over the museum. Sometimes, when we stroll through a museum, I play a game with myself. If I could, which of these treasures would be the one that I took home? Well, I found my favorite! It is pictured below. Mentioned in Homers Iliad as the only type of writing tool of the time, it is made of wood with ivory hinges. The middle is filled with wax, and one may write on it with a stylus. SO COOL! What a discovery.

Old writing “tablet” only about 2 inches in length

The medieval Castle of St. Peter was built by the Knights of St. John in 1402 – a transnational effort by the Spanish, English, French, German and Italians and each country is represented by a tower with the crests of the builders carved into the entrance. It served as a hospital for Christian crusaders who were fighting in Jerusalem. The castle was taken over in 1523 with the Ottoman Empire defeat. I love how the Ottomans didn’t destroy what was here but rather converted it for their purposes. In this respect, the chapel was converted to a mosque and a minaret was added.

Once one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was built in 350 BC. Unfortunately, through successive earthquakes, it was destroyed but remnants from it exist today (though we didn’t visit) and some others were taken and are evident in the Castle of St. Peter.

Bodrum was a fantastic stop but for a couple reasons, 3 days was enough in the anchorage. The nightclubs are very loud and with the ports open, music blared until 2AM. Add to that the many mosques begin the first of 5 calls to prayer at 0550 am. Once that begins, I’m up. And in Bodrum there were a few mosques with speakers pointed in our direction. I would hate for anyone reading to get the wrong idea about my morning aversion to the call to prayer. I love it all day long and appreciate the sweet reminder to have a few words with God. I even enjoy (though I obviously can’t understand a word of it) the sound and cadence. It reminds me of the catholic ringing the church bells which happened all hours of the day when we were in the Venice at the Santa Elena Marina just adjacent to the Sant Elena church and convent.

A very fun aspect of cruising is running into “friends” that we meet along the way, and Gratitude tends to stand out in a crowd, so it is not unusual for someone we have met to drop anchor next door and re-connect which happened in Bodrum. We met Jonathon, aboard Aphrodite in Bozcaada and while we were only in the same place for 1 night, we shared a mutual admiration for each other’s boat. I am such a firm believer that the right people come to you in exactly the right moment and Jonathon was that for us. We have had an administrative challenge that we have been grappling with and without getting into it here, Jonathon was the absolute perfect person we needed to meet at the perfect time. When we met again in Bodrum, we owed him a drink for his earlier help, and he generously shared more knowledge with us. Following his suggestion resulted in a most delightful week at anchor in one of the sweetest harbors we have ever been. Selimiye, Türkiye is a place unlike any other and we fell in love.

Selimiye, Türkiye

An amazing “Mezze” Dinner with a View

The restaurants, the hotels, the shops and beaches, the harbor are all lovely. It is a tiny little place but just what we were looking for to get off the beaten path and find a place few know about, and this is it. The challenge from a boating perspective is that the water is all very deep and except for a few tiny spits of land shallow enough to anchor, the entire harbor is surrounded by 150’-250’ depth. We have been reluctant to anchor, then back to shore to tie lines as we did in a few places in Croatia -basically because- well, we haven’t felt like it. But here we really had no choice, so we dug out the bags of lines and chain and Jack and I transported them to the rocks on shore. Here are some photos of this idyllic spot. What is particularly fun when we do this is I feel like we have our own private beach club. We can drop the SUP’s in the water to explore and Jack just spends the day snorkeling. This feels to me like the perfect vacation and just the right counterpoint to all the city stops we have made lately. We were fully stocked up on groceries from the fabulous market in Bodrum, so I was perfectly happy to stay for a week or more.

Approaching the end of our monthly contract for internet, we needed to find a Turkcel telecom shop to top up our card. This is a challenge here because it can’t be done remotely (as we were able to do in MNE) and it can’t be done for several months at a time (as we did in Italy) so we must make a monthly pilgrimage to a shop for them to top up the wifi. Alec and I may have just embraced the lack of connectivity but since Jack is back in school, we needed to get this taken care of.

Remember I said that this was a tiny place that nobody has ever heard of? Turkcell isn’t here either, so we had to take a 40-minute bus ride to Marmaris to get the internet card topped up. This turned out to be a good thing since it allowed us to see if we should come here next on Gratitude.

Jack making friends while waiting for the bus

After a week of mostly boat cooked meals and relaxing – it was time to move on. Next stop…



Kusadasi/ Ephesus

The library of Celsus with our guide Ilker to the left


Leaving Istanbul, we had a 40-hour non-stop passage to Kušadasi. A port town, but clearly an inexpensive stop for holidaymakers from the UK as well, Kušadasi is busy town with the usual shops and cafes that cater to cruise chip customers. Our primary reason for coming is that it is the closest marina town to Ephesus.

Once the former capital of Asia Minor and the second largest city in the Roman Empire, Ephesus is an archeologist dream come true and is still revealing her treasures and secrets today.

I first came to Ephesus on a cruise ship whose itinerary included Kusadasi. It was probably 3 decades since I was here, and a lot has changed since then. I remembered the amphitheater large enough to hold over 20,000 spectators. But I didn’t remember the Library of Celsus, built in 110AD as a tribute to a wealthy senator. Currently residing in a sarcophagus beneath the library, Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, was a well-loved senator and benefactor of ancient Ephesus.

Jack getting a photo of the sarcophagus of Celsus

2 other important monuments remaining are the Temple of Artemis completed in the 6th century BC and was designated as one of the 7 wonders of the Ancient World.

While there is evidence of some reconstruction, the original work is evident and remarkable. Directly adjacent to the Library of Celsus, once the 3rd largest library of the Roman world, sits the agora. It takes no imagination whatsoever to picture the traders from all over Asia and Europe meeting here to conduct their business. If ever there was a reason to visit foreign countries and archeological discoveries – Ephesus, is it. Reading books and watching documentaries on television simply cannot convey the spirit or energy of a place that walking in the footsteps, on the same pavement, and in their homes can convey. It was remarkable seeing the graffiti on the walls and artifacts left behind revealing the interests, and the politics of the people who lived in that time. Imagine the conversations that must have taken place whilst sitting in the communal toilets or bath houses. Walking in the agora it was easy to picture the merchants and customers conducting business. There is just nothing like it.

We were collected from our boat in the Setur Marina in Kusadasi by our guilde Ilker Avci (Port of Call Kusadasi Travel Agency. Whatsapp +90 535 559 00 57. I found Ilker on Airbnb. I find many of our guides there because unlike Travelocity and other large booking sites, Airbnb seems to handle more small and personal guides. Frequently when I book a guide from Airbnb, we get someone who is working for themselves rather than a large tour agency. With few exceptions, they are usually local, impart the spirit -as much as the information – of a place, and they have relationships with the smaller shops which I love. When possible, we try to leave whatever dollars we spend, in the local places and with the local people.

The problems of the ancient world were likely solved here…

Before Ilker collected us, we gave him a rough idea of how we wanted to spend our time. I didn’t really expect or want to go to a carpet shop or leather shop since we were more interested in the archeological parts of the city but I did tell him that I would be very interested in learning about the silk process, the silk worms, the natural way of dying the yarn and I had also heard that there is a unique ceramic that comes only from this area and I would be open to that as well. Ilker suggested that we get an early start (8:00) which would give us some time in the ruins by ourselves before the tour busses showed up. Also, September is still warm here, so it gave us some cooler weather. We did enjoy probably an hour of peace and quiet before the busses unloaded and the masses descended on us. What a huge difference it made to be able to appreciate the sanctity of the place without the energy present with the arrival of thousands. I could feel the people from thousands of years ago and imagine what their life was like. The terrace houses were spectacular! Constantly being excavated, they are revealing their secrets every day. I would love to ask the archeologists who spend their days with the artifacts of these families if they feel a connection to them.

Have they given them names, do they feel their energy or presence, or ghosts left behind. It was for me surreal to look at the almost childlike graffiti on the walls and wonder about the person who left these behind. Could you imagine knowing that your etchings on the wall, the marks we pencil in Jacks bedroom marking his passage through life in terms of his growth, being discovered even 300 years, never mind 3000 years from now.

Having crawled all over the ruins we had hoped to see, and given that the crowds were now arriving en masse, we were ready to move on.

The next stop was the carpet shop. Even though this was not something I had planned on, I trust that when something comes up on a tour or doesn’t come up on a tour, it is all as it should be and I try to lean into it. As it turns out, ALL of us loved this stop. Even Jack who was clearly not going to be buying any carpets. I suppose part of my reticence in the carpet shops is the overwhelming sense that I don’t know enough about any of it to feel confident in buying them. Also, I didn’t imagine that the carpets would really “feel” at home in our Florida home.

But this was not about “selling” us something as much as it was about us learning and appreciating the cultural impact and significance of carpet weaving in the heritage of this region. And that is exactly what we ARE doing here. In addition, and a big highlight of the stop, we learned not only how the carpets are made, but how the silk is woven from the silkworms. We witnessed the silk being extracted in one long thread, from the cocoon, then weaved. I hated to learn that the worm must be killed to get the silk but that mercifully the worm dies only 2 days before they would have died naturally. Small consolation …. The dyes are natural and watching the woman weaving was at once therapeutic and mesmerizing. I’m sure sitting still to do this for hours at a time would be a real challenge, just as knitting is, which is why these women only actually weave for 4 hours total per day, but there is also something meditative about it. We truly appreciated the work and the workmanship that went into the creation of these special treasures. Of course, choosing a carpet is another matter entirely!

Have you ever gone into a car dealer or a repair shop and just known to the core of your being that you were about to be “ripped off”? I have had this unshakeable feeling too many times to count, and the less I know about the subject at hand, the greater the feeling that there is no chance that I won’t be swindled. Well, that is how I felt in the grand Bazaar in Istanbul. I feel this even more so when it is incumbent on the buyer to negotiate (something with which most Americans are very uncomfortable), there is little chance that I’m going to feel ok negotiating a price involving such a capital expenditure. We aren’t talking about peaches in the market where I am sure we are paying way more per kilo than any other shopper there. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m buying amazing fruit from the farmer with dirt under his nails, I’m delighted to pay more – and will often leave behind more money than it cost.

But I didn’t feel swindled. I felt educated well enough and the price calculated methodically enough that I didn’t think the salesman was picking numbers from the air and changing the decimal based on the person standing in front of him. Now granted, he may have been, but I just didn’t feel that the price that we paid was in any way unfair or unwarranted. Is it possible that we paid more than someone else walking in the door the following day? Of course, it is. But we were well satisfied with the price that we paid for the carpets we bought.

There were hundreds if not thousands in every shape, color, and material and only the most experienced vendor could have helped us choose but choose we did. There are a couple of long hallways in our home which need rugs so we were able to support the local economy, the local artists and we will have a treasure waiting for us at home when we rejoin them in a couple of years from now.

I can’t recommend this carpet shop enough and if you find yourself in Kusadasi, pay Can Karaer a vist. Nakkas Carpets +90 (537) 75 95

Our next stop involved one of the very best meals we have ever eaten! We love discovering new ways of eating old ingredients or discovering new ingredients we have never heard of before. Mezzes are a common way of eating the salad or appetizers in Turkey. Like the tapas in Spain, mezzes may be a cold or hot salad, or dip and served at the outset of your meal. It is common to choose from the display case which mezzes you would like. Muammara, a dip made of roasted sweet red pepper with nuts and spices, is a new favorite mezze we have found and here is where we had it first. I have all the ingredients and I can’t wait to make it on board.

Fortified and replete, we next went the house of the Virgin Mary. Dying on the cross, Jesus instructs John to take Mary as his mother and Mary to take John as her son. John’s grave is nearby (though we ran out of time and energy and never made it there) and I have only just discovered that John is believed to have ascended into heaven as his remains are unclaimed by any church. But we did see Mary’s house. There is a saint who has had apparitions instructing her that this is Mary’s house. It is now the sight of holy pilgrimages for Christians and Muslims as well.

Several hours past our agreed upon 6-hour tour, Ilker made one more pass by the town of Selçuk. Alec and I had planned to grab a cab or bus and have a walk around. It is certainly cute enough to have made the list but having seen it from the windows of Ilkers car, we were satisfied to cross it off the list. But if you are here for any time, it may be worth a closer look. We were needing to move along so we began preparations for the next leg of our trip, Bodrum. Below are a few more photos from our walks around town included Pigeon Island.

If you find yourself in Kusadasi and in need of a tour guide, give Ilker a call Whatsapp +90 535 559 00 57




A photo of our chart plotter. Each of the blue triangles is a massive ship – some 600′ long

Approaching the city of more than 16 million inhabitants, it looks as one might expect. Container ships abound awaiting their turn to offload or upload or transit the Bosporus canal. These ships were EVERYWHERE. Buildings and the beautiful minarets with the domes of the mosques are the most prominent land feature. But surprisingly upon closer inspection, there is an abundance of green space uncommon for a cosmopolitan city of this size.

Istanbul – Constantinople… just the names conjure images of spices and tea and exotic people and food. And with such a rich tapestry weaving its place in history, I couldn’t possibly convey the experience of this visit without a few words of the history and the geography which makes Istanbul what it is today.

A word about the geography… Few if any, countries in the world can boast a presence on 2 continents. Divided by the Bosporus canal into Europe and Asia, each side, in fact each district feels special. The other notable geographical feature is its position between the Mediterranean (Aegean) Sea and the Sea of Marmara – a totally landlocked sea bordering all sides by Türkiye, and the Black Sea. Approaching from the Sea of Marmara as we did, the most obvious feature on the European side is the former largest mosque in Istanbul, the Süleymaniye Mosque. Built in the mid- 16th century for its namesake, Süleiman the Magnificent, it boasts 4 minarets and contains the remains of both Süleyman and his wife in the mausoleum. Until 2019, it was the largest mosque in Istanbul but was replaced by the most prominent feature on the Asian side, the Grand Çamlica Mosque.

According to Wikipedia, starting with the Greeks who colonized the area and established Byzantium in 660 BC, it fell to the Roman Republic in 196 BC and was known as Byzantium until 330 CE when the city was renamed Constantinople after emperor Constantine and became the new capital of the Roman Empire. During the reign of Justinian the first, Constantinople was the largest city in the Roman Empire until the fall of Constantinople as the head and the cradle of the Orthodox Christian Church. Undefeated and impenetrable for nearly 900 years, Constantinople suffered defeat by the Ottoman Empire in 1453 and remained under its control until after WW1 and the Turkish war for independence 1923. This is truly a simple distillation, rather than a full and complete history which is so storied as to be impossible to cover here. But this snapshot will help in the appreciation of some of the places and photos which follow.

We have been wandering in and out of Christian churches all over Europe for the past 3.5 years. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that the number is easily in the hundreds of churches that we have walked into to say a prayer and have a look around. What continues to inspire and astound us is how, in every city we visit, the churches are the finest example of architecture and commitment to aesthetic beauty the city can offer. The finest workmanship, artistry and love is evident in each church we visit. The finest Renaissance art is not necessarily housed in museums but rather, breathtaking examples abound in churches all over Italy. The finest craftsmen weren’t employed to build houses but rather churches. Innovations in design and architecture were first poured out in love to God in Cathedrals. Since churches are such amazing repositories of architectural information, we love to meander in and out as well as stop to say a prayer while there. So, it has troubled me that we haven’t had the same freedom to stroll into Mosques. I was so pleased to experience our first visit to mosques in Istanbul. I may get some details wrong, but it is my understanding that the Imam, or Sheik has the authority to grant admission to non-believers in a mosque. Given that the mosques in Istanbul are such architectural wonders and given that Istanbul is such a contemporary and cosmopolitan city, non-believers are granted access to many of the mosques here. We were even permitted to take photos, though obviously not of individual people while praying. The only requirement is that all visitors dress modestly, men and women both need to cover their bodies, knees, shoulders etc, and women must cover their hair with a scarf. Additionally, no shoes may be worn inside the mosque. Americans may be surprised that the same – or similar requirements exist in monastery’s, convents, and churches in Europe. While slightly more relaxed, or probably more accurately, less enforced, most of the monasteries we visited offer a selection of fabrics to cover oneself while visiting a church. It is expected that skirts/shorts cover the knees and shoulders are covered while visiting a church. Though notoriously casual Americans wander in and out surprised such a requirement exist, I too frequently forget to bring my scarf to cover up if we find a church unexpectedly along the way.

The Hagia Sophia was originally opened in 537 CE as a Greek Orthodox church, but it was redesigned as a mosque after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 by Sultan Mehmet II. We made our debut into our first mosque in grand style! Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1985, I loved the integration of the storied history on the walls of the building. Since Islam doesn’t permit any face, statue or person depicted in a mosque, the original biblical frescoes of Mary or Jesus were covered by cloth but not damaged permanently. One can make out some of these images still and just outside the walls of the mosque, in the vestibule area are images of Mary and Jesus as well as crosses. There are several mentions of Mary, Jesus’ mother in the Quran so the Muslim people have a very high regard for Mary, though they do not believe that Jesus is the son of God. (This is based on my understanding, but I do not claim an education in Islam so please, if someone reading this has more knowledge, feel free to comment). Currently a museum but still open and serving as a mosque, it is so unusual to see people praying whilst tourists jostle for photos. Our tour guide did not love that it was still a working mosque and felt that it should be converted permanently into a museum. We had a different tour guide talking about the Suleyman mosque and the new Camlica mosque and it was interesting to hear the perspectives of the younger and more progressive tour guides against the backdrop of the current and more conservative political leaders. Both of our guides felt that the newer largest mosque was not necessary (built by President Erdogan) as there are more than enough mosques for the need. Also mentioned was that during prayer times and on Friday, the equivalent of our Sunday mass, there is little more than 20 percent occupancy. Our guide said, and I quote “We are faithful, not show-ers” We don’t go to mosque, but we are followers and faithful.

The Hagia Sophia (white drapes at the top of the photo cover the images of the Virgin and Jesus)

Nearly as famous as the Hagia Sophia, we visited the Blue Mosque but were surprised at how small it seemed comparatively speaking. It was currently undergoing renovations so much of it was covered.

The most impressive relic of the Byzantine times was the cisterns. Built by Emperor Justinian I by 7000 slaves in the 6th century AD, this enlarged system of holding water continued to provide water to the Topkapi palace after the Ottoman conquest and into modern times.

Speaking of the Topkapi Palace…

The Topkapi palace was the main residence of the Sultans into the 17th century. Constructed 6 years after the fall of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror, the rooms, the opulence, the history – wow. Our guide was fantastic and enthusiastic as he shared the history of the Ottoman Harems with us. We laughed as we all shared our impressions of what we thought the harem was, and our guide laughed as he shared what the harem was not. To be fair, as he explained, nobody knows for certain what happened in the harems. But for the most part, the Western depictions were not accurate and were wildly exaggerated in Hollywood films. It is true, the Eunuchs guarded the harems meticulously and the mother of the Sultan was the only person who had access to the harems. Essentially the harems housed slaves and young girls who would be brought here to be educated. The girls in the harem (together with their virginity) were closely guarded and from this population, the mother of the Sultan could choose a selection of women from which the Sultan could choose his wives. Or Concubines. Further, those women not married or taken by the Sultan to be the mother of his children (and there could be dozens if not hundreds of children born to a Sultan), these women would marry important people in the government.

Many important treasures are on display here including weapons clothing, manuscripts but perhaps the most amazing treasures housed here are the Spoonmakers Diamond and the Topkapi Dagger. The Diamond has many stories associated with it but essentially it is a stunning 86 carat pear shaped diamond and believed to be the 4th largest in the world. The dagger was to be a gift for the Sheik of Iran but while being transported by horse, the Sheik died so the dagger was returned to the palace. It is stunning and pictured below.

During certain times of the year, many Catholic churches will display the body of Jesus continuously around the clock with faithful witnesses signing up so as not to leave the body of Jesus (in the form of the wine and bread) unattended. The final incredible item worth mentioning is the continuous singing of the Quran in Topkapi palace. It has been continuously read 24 hours a day/7 days a week for 400 years and continues today. What a scheduling nightmare- but what a labor of love!

No trip to Istanbul would be complete without a stroll through the Grand Bazaar. The oldest undercover marketplace, the Grand Bazaar houses over 4000 shops accessed through 27 different gates. Because it continues to expand, the entire area is an enormous shopping trip with everything from the most precious and rare gems to knock off underwear available. Also, clearly no copyright laws here – one can find anything from a fake Louis Vuitton (remarkable imitations) to a fake Rolexes, or you name it designer clothes and shoes.

But for my money, the real gems were the tapestries, silks and yep you guessed it, carpets. We did see 1 shop outside of the grand bazaar which housed the most stunning collection of hand-woven silk pillow covers and fabrics I have ever seen. Here are a few samples below.

I was so proud of us for making it through the grand bazaar without buying a Turkish rug!! So much has been said about the stunning art of these incredible designs that I worried that there would be little chance that we would escape without a major purchase. Well, we did escape but our victory would be short lived – stay tuned for our memories of Kusadasi….

And finally, a word about the people. Because for us it is always about the people. I love the Turks. Evidence of their kindness, generosity and hospitality are everywhere:

Exhibit 1 – There is virtually NO homelessness. This is incredible to me during a time with run-away inflation and a city of nearly 16 million people. No homeless at all. I asked a guide about this and talked to the friend of a friend (Hi Birsen). There is such a strong social structure that it is inconceivable that someone would end up homeless. They would first be taken in by family members – no matter what! And next, the mosque would see to the person. But a person would never fall so far as to be homeless. There is a saying in Turkish that one buys 3 loafs of bread – 1 to take with them and 2 for the basket meaning that 2 loaves are given for a person in need. One can also leave money in a restaurant for a person in need to eat. And nearby the mosque – like our soup kitchens at home, is a place where anyone can get a free and hot meal.

Exhibit 2 – There are also no “old folks homes”. The families take in their elders – They aren’t sent to homes to live.

Exhibit 3 – There are no homeless cats! They all belong to the community! There are cats EVERYWHERE in Istanbul. They wander into and out of restaurants, homes, shops, and grocery stores. They jump up on counters, they snuggle up to people standing at the bus stop and they visit tables in restaurants looking for dinner. But they aren’t strays in the meaning that we associate with strays. They appear reasonably well cared for, there is cat housing and shelters in parks, and wherever one finds cats, one finds a community feeding them. There are containers for water and food stations dotting the walkways and parkways throughout Istanbul (and in fact, all over Türkiye. The estimates of the numbers range from a New York Times estimate of 125,000 but Wikipedia has the number at between 100,000 and over a million. But these cats are truly a part of the community in which they live. On our pontoon where we stayed at the Setur Marina, the crew (captain and mates) of the 2 boats adjacent to Gratitude collected fish by using old bread. They would then take fish from the traps 2X a day and feed the local cats on our pontoon. These