More Turkey, please–Izmir

Izmir, the 3rd largest city in Turkey, is one of the very oldest sites of civilization in the Mediterranean basin, dating back 8,000 years. It was known as Smyrna until Turkey’s first president, Mustafa Ataturk decided to push the country into the 20th Century, updating mores, practicing cultural and religious tolerance and requiring the country to convert to the Latin alphabet–thus the name change; these people still revere him, nearly 100 years later, his picture is everywhere.

Arrived in Turkey

WE are safe and sound in Turkey!  Being up over 24 hours, we are beyond tired but things have gone remarkably well.  We were upgraded on the plane and I not only had foot room but I could lie down on the seats!  Traveling off-season is definitely the way to go!
We opted to stay at the Tav Hotel and were upgraded to a very very nice hotel room which adjoining the airport-thank God!–we were almost delusional by then.
This morning’s breakfast was included and served a huge buffet of wonderful Mediterranean foods-fancy oiled olives, a variety of hard and soft cheeses with croissants, sour dough breads and dried fruits including Turkish dates, apricots, prunes, cherries and some which go unidentified–oh my, what a feast!
This place (Izmir, pronounced Ismuh) is loaded with antiquity, dating back 10,000 years-pre-Socrates and pre-Athens to Neolithic times.  Izmir is known as the “princess of Aegean.  You can feel its unique and special lifestyle in every place and every setting… it is also known as the cradle of democracy and has maintained its role of being a leader city throughout history after (the)foundation of the Republic, as well.  Tolerance and freedom the legacies of multiculturalism are the greatest attainments of Izmir…”
Who knew?  Until this trip, I had not heard of Izmir.
And yet, it is the 3rd largest metropolitan city of Turkey and became the center of the world trade in the 16th century.  It can be reached easily by air, sea and road.  It is easy to see why it is known as the “pearl of the Mediterranean”, located on the Izmir Bay, in the northern part of the Aegean Sea.  Best of all (in my opinion), it has 300 days of sun per year!
Today, the temps are in the 60’s and we’re getting on a hop on, hop off tour bus to see what we can see.  Iszmir is on a bay of the Aegean Sea– the Northern part of the Mediterranean.  There are hills all around the city and from this view out our window, it looks like California.

Izmir, here we come!

Northern Italy–Mondovi

 

Italy was not as English-savvy as I’d been led to believe…

 

There are many learning curves involved with traveling abroad and understanding each other is a biggie.

For instance, the first night in Mondovi, we were locked out of our 15th century diggs.  We’d rented a quaint, adorable apartment with a 2nd-story balcony overlooking Italy’s northern country-side, complete with school kids chattering in Italian, lending European flavor to our already exotic trip-along with the distant idyllically situated hills practically oozing with wine-laden grapes, ready for harvest and stomping .

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Fruit of the Vine

Old World Wine Country

Packing into Jim and Leslie’s car, the 5 of us set out for wine country, up-country style.  North of Mondovi, the drive gets steep and the scenery is breath-taking as the vineyards create patchwork-patterns below.

Each vineyard has a villa, it seems, and a label to call its own.  In one of the favored towns, we had ample samples of that fermented grape juice and marveled at the elegant taste of each one.  Again, it was difficult to find food with vegetables–meat dominates the northern climes–but olive oil, bread and cheese suits me fine.

Taking a day to stop for pictures, laughing with old friends awhile exploring God’s green earth is just another one of my favorite things.

Chink, chink… (the sound of glasses toasting)…

On my own in Milano, Italy!

My travel companions headed back to the U.S. this morning, so I decided hour heck out new territory. Having met so many people who get around in foreign countries alone, surely I could figure out the train system and have a solitary adventure…

Except for being sent to the wrong platform and waiting for a train that never showed up, it went pretty well. Milano is a 50 minute ride on the Malpensa Express to Central Station–a good way to see the countryside or take a quick nap at the end of the day (I did both).

Debarking, I was amazed at the size of Stazione Centrale, the 2nd largest railway station in the world (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milano_Centrale_railway_station)

Which way to explore? My SnaZZy instinct was right-on because within 6 or 7 blocks, I was in a high end shopping district, suitable for ‘people-watching’ and bringing home fresh fashion ideas.

Here’s what I observed:

•Many Italians have short legs and longer torsos, so tall shoes woke well.
• Black eye make up that makes me feel under made up!
•Red,of any, nail polish
•Pants with small cuffs
•”Suits” ride bikes and Vespas
•More People walk arm in arm–both sexes, all ages
•Black boots
•Lots of smoking
•Cell phones, of coursE
•Multi layers (3 are fashionable) with shorter ones on top
•High heels with short socks and high boots with higher socks
•Large bags of all sorts but lovely colors in leather
•People walk fast in Milano !
•Dogs on leashes
•Skinny jeans
•Flowing gauchos in fabulous prints

All that observation is thirsty work–‘guess I’ll have a cappuccino before my vino.

Ciao,

Morning in Firenze! (Florence)

I’m up early– my body’s internal clock is keeping Italian time now and it’s my turn to pay for parking, early–before the meter-readers check the cars, competing for scant parking places in a city that wears many faces.

This city is teeming with life, starting early but dwindling off earlier than some cities– earlier than New York, for instance.

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Italy’s Milano


Why do Americans shorten the city’s name to Milan? If the name has been Milano all these centuries, who are we to change a name? Wouldn’t that be like calling “Ohio”, “Ohi”?

It is a grand adventure, coming to Europe for the first time. Long awaited, I marvel that the trees, countryside and people look much the same–was I expecting Oz and orange poppies? Or people with Spock’s pointed ears, perhaps? I probably have “naive American” painted all over my face (it occurs to me that only 1 letter separates “naive” from “native”, after all).

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Puerto Rico

Nada hurricane to worry about after all… And so much to do on this lush island!

Imagine cruising the Carribean in a boat headed to a lagoon of magical sparkles flitting in the sea, seeming to reflect the glitter of stars above. Marine biologists call it chemoluminescence–plankton with pizazz (dinoflagellates)–emitting neon blue/green light, dependent on a very specific set of environmental conditions. Puerto Rico has the distinction of having 3 areas– the most in the world. cid:0006F390-E01F-4C26-A995-72C8CD734C36

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