Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kusadasi & Ephesus, Turkey - Fake Watches, Biblical Ruins & A Virgin

The Virgin Mary House
A Christian and Muslim Shrine located on Mt Koressos
Pilgrims visit the house based on the belief that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken to this stone house by Saint John and lived there until her Assumption (according to Catholic doctrine), or Dormition (according to Orthodox belief).

We rented a car (as usual) and drove out of town towards Ephesus... We spent about an hour or so at the Virgin Mary house and headed on to Ephesus.  I could have taken or left the Virgin Mary house... a historic and religious place to have seen and been to but really not a lot of pizazz here.  If and when you go out to Turkey - Ephesus is a place to see!  It is HOT there... so plan your day to start here and hit the beaches later. 
A Lot of Rock and a Lot of People! 
Ephesus was an amazing place to visit.... the history of this place is incredible and the mere fact you can stand where Paul spoke is awesome.  Plus Artemis - one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World!  Really an abundance oh history and relevance. 

These are a few pictures of the Library of Celsus... this was my favorite!

Ladies Beach
It wasn't hard getting my hubby to a place called Ladies Beach!  This is the most popular beach in Kusadasi and known as the Turkish Riviera.  It was named ladies beach as back in the day the beaches were segregated by gender.  A great place to spend the afternoon lounging on a beach chair and watching all the people.... definitely not a secluded beach. 

Turkish Bazaar

Now this was FUN!  Strolling the alleys of the Turkish markets was quite fun and amusing.  Hookah shops, handmade Turkish rugs being made and oh the haggling!  My favorite were all the "genuine" fake watches... they had everything in the "genuine" market!  I walked away with some quirky handmade (I think) pottery.  This is the place to go if you love to bargain with the shop owners...

Our Princess Cruise Ship in the background of this amazing shot from a hillside...Gorgeous! 

Ahhh...and what afternoon is complete without Happy Hour on the Turkish Riviera.  Taking in the sights and the sea and ending our day in Turkey.  I am so glad I had the opportunity to visit this diverse country... I still have a lot of exploring to do here but for my first time if was FAB! 

Ill leave you with a Turkish Proverb....
Bir elin nesi var, iki elin sesi var.
    Two heads are better than one.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Mykonos

Mykonos, Greece
Mykonos was one of my most favorite Greek islands...  Captivated by the whitewashed buildings, the colorful busts of color and the cobblestone streets make this an island you must visit.  We started our day by renting a car and traveling to the famous Windmills.  The windmills are one of Mykonos most recognized landmarks...and of course a must see!

We had a amazing morning strolling through the cobblestone streets.  The best laid plans in Greece are sometimes no plans at all.  Around every corner were little hidden secrets of this amazing town. 
So go get lost in these streets and see what you can find. 
Ahhh....perfection - Handmade Pasta!  Really, I mean really!???  Where can you turn a corner and find something so cool to experience!  I wanted to put this guy in my suitcase and take him home! 

We didn't get a chance to eat here but if we ever go back it is on the list!  Seemed to be a very popular place - probably because the greek man making the pasta on the street.  Fabulous!

Ahhh...and meet my little pelican pal - Petros (well the legend of Petros)!!!! The pelican is known to be the mascot of the island.  There are 3 pelicans that currently reside in Mykonos and they love spending their days drawing attention from passerbyers and lounging around the harbor.  The fishermen feed them the catch of the day.... nom nom nom!  What a life! 

Yet something else I wanted to put in my pocket and take home!  This is NO small animal...yet so cakm and relaxed!  And when one strays too far... they get a chariot ride back to the town!  They are considered royalty.

Little Venice! A Charming Neighborhood with Magnetic Appeal!
Little Venice is one of the most romantic spots in Mykonos. 

The Aegean Sea rolls up to these beautiful and colorful whitewashed buildings.  Further down the way the walkways open in front of the buildings offering up artist galleries, shops, bars and cafes. 
Perfect for an afternoon stroll and if you are lucky the best sunsets on the island!

And We Took to the Beach for Yet Another Afternoon!
Mykonos has fabulous beaches - ah's a GREEK ISLAND! 
What best to complete a day in Mykonos but visiting a great beach... and bar!
We found this great hotel (Manoulas) that was recommended to us and just down the hill from there we encountered this amazing beach and beach bar.  Feet in the sand and whisky umbrella shades made this my island paradise! 

The beach bar there was Grrrrreeeeaaaatttt! Perfect scenery for a few appetizers and happy hour! 

And while on the subject of Happy Hour... Who can visit Greece without experiencing OUZO!  96% alcohol by volume... It was very much like drinking liquorish.  Strong and not my drink of choice but another "when in Greece moment!"  Again on my soapbox about traveling.... for goodness sake - if you go to these place...please experience them!  Experience everything about them that you can in the time allotted!  Eat like a local, drink like a local and engulf yourself with the wonders around you.  Chances are you wont be back!

We enjoyed traveling here in the month of May and the weather was PERFECT!  Tourist traffic is lower on the edge of the high season which is mid to late May and early June.  Safe travels my fellow globe trotters!

The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience.  The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him.  He goes "sight-seeing."  ~Daniel J. Boorstin

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A City in Ruins... Athens, Greece

ATHENS - The Acropolis "High City - In Greek"!
We had one crazy day in Athens....Since we were traveling by cruise ship we had made a plan to make a mad dash for the Acropolis first thing in the morning.  We disembarked the ship, negotiated a taxi and were fortunate enough to be one of the first on the hill that morning.  This place gets insane not to mention hot as the day progresses.  So my advice - be there when it opens to enjoy it as it should be enjoyed and not with thousands of strangers.  As you can see from the shot above, people were just arriving.  This is an OBVIOUS Athens MUST DO and seeing the Parthenon was amazing. 

From the top the views are infinite of the city.  That's a lot of rock and stone for one city!  Another MUST DO - Is the Changing of the Guards at the Parliament Building in Syntagma Square.  A very cool thing to watch and it happens every hour.  These guys called the Evzones represent the best of the best as they have to stand over 6ft tall and remain motionless for extended periods of time.  And who can pull off shoes with pom poms on them any better!
And while you are there you might notice hundreds/thousands of pigeons!  Buy a bag of corn to feed these hungry birds and see what happens.  I was a little shocked at the aggressive behavior but it made for a great memory and picture!  Do take note that there are people here that will give you a bag of food and then offer to take your picture.... this is a money making scam. If you want a picture - great - if not - stay away and don't take anything from anyone you don't know. 
The PLAKA!  A City within the city in the shadows of the Acropolis.  The Plaka is an awesome way to spend the late morning/early afternoon.  Strolling these streets in what is notably the nicest neighborhood in central Athens will charm you.  The streets are lined with cafes, jewelry shops, art galleries and tourist shops.  We had a wonderful morning here as we people watched and enjoyed a java and a coke.
In the afternoon we did as we normally do and got off the beaten path.  We found the Athens Flea Market and made our way inside and outside of this open air market.  Locals buy their fish, beef, poultry, produce and fruit here and it is a sight to be seen!  Flopping fish and hearing the locals negotiate with each other in Greek is mind blowing.  Note- don't wear open toed shoes or flips through this place... fish juice!

  We found a hole in the wall place, he disappeared inside and came out with an authentic gyro!  This thing was the size of a small animal and cost about a buck fifty!  Getting away from the tourist areas will save you money and buy you more authentic cuisine.  So when in Athens... do as the locals do! 
It's All GREEK to ME!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik, Croatia - The Pearl of the Adriatic

A day can easily be spent roaming on and inside the old town walls.  History abounds as you step back in time.  Start your morning off by buying a ticket and talking the long stroll around the old town walls which were constructed in the 10th century (fortified considerably in 1453).  A full walk around the city on the walls is 3.5 miles - It was the best way to start our day and get our bearings in Dubrovnik!

Rent a self guided tour contraption where you buy your tickets for a full history report of what you are seeing as you walk the walls.
The old town is a fully working and functional town.  It was so neat seeing the ladies hanging out their laundry on the lines, gardening and going about their daily lives in the midst of touristville!  After our journey around the city we did what we do best...found a cafe on the stone streets and shared a drink.
I will say the best place to catch the view and have a beer and glass of vino is BUZA!!  This place is hidden in the walls of the city but when you walk out to the cliff you find this amazing place! 
Grab a table on the cliff and enjoy the day!  We actually tried to find this place when we walked around the city but never could find it.  It wasn't till we took a boat ride around the harbor that we saw it!  Worth the adventure of finding it...well besides the interesting bathrooms... cliff side! 
My Wine at BUZA!  Yum... well hey walking the city earn it! 
Enjoy Dubrovnik if you ever have the opportunity to explore this gem!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Oh Canada! Oh Canada!


 I have to say this was one of my favorite trips of all time...  It was a time to get away and totally disconnect from cell phones, TVs and computers.  A wonderful time to just "be". 

We flew into Calgary and rented a car... 75% of the rental cars we saw in Canada were PT Cruisers... interesting but true.  Gangsta!  We found a liquor store and bought a few bottles of wine to take to our cabin.  Interesting that a bottle of cheap Yellow Tail wine was double what we pay in the states... It was over $12 a bottle.  Canada uses the money they make on the wine/beer/liquor to pay for their citizens health interesting concept.  We proceeded up the Trans Canadian Highway into Banff National Park. 
A quaint little town named Canmore is where we choose to stop for lunch.  This town was adorable..a bit of an artist town.  Streets lined with shops and art gallery's and many patio style eatery's.  A street fair and art in the park was going on the day we were there...made for some great people watching as we ate at THE GRIZZLY PAW BREWING CO!  Rarrrrr!  Great variety of beer and a great beer tasting menu.  This aways makes the men so happy... for me a Vodka!  Edward's favorite was the Nut Brown Beer. 

 Moraine Lake Lodge...
A Romantic, Secluded, Magical Mountain Getaway!

A view from our cabin!

Moraine Lake Lodge is a cabin system - We had cabin #9!  It was perfect!  It was just a small stroll from the main lodge and it was set back in the trees with the view above.  Floor to ceiling windows, a king bed, a wood burning fireplace and a small deck made this cabin absolutely amazing.  The lodge supplies you with everything you need to make fires from dawn till dusk... Every evening we would fall asleep to the crackling pops of wood and every morning I would awake to my sweet hubby making a morning fire. 
From the front steps of the cabins you can take off for some amazing hikes... Our first night there we just explored Moraine Lake...there was a nice trail around the lake and a towering 10 peaks as your backdrop. .75 miles each way with a platform overlooking a glacier water stream that feeds Moraine Lake. AMAZING!


 Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

A little German Pub on the golf course at the Fairmont - Great place to grab a few drinks and some sunny rays!

Banff is a cute town... but it is very much a touristy town.  Typical things like souvenirr shops and bars line the streets.  Great place to stop in for an afternoon.  Canada has so much to offer and Banff National Park is full of fun if you just dare to venture out.  We just took off in our car one day and found a lot of special memories along the way.  We came upon Natural Bridge and the Canada's 2nd largest/tallest waterfall - Takkakaw Falls...just because we got out of town!  YoHo National Park...

 Emerald Lake... A Hidden Gem!  Emerald lake is worth a visit or a stay... Emerald Lake Lodge is on this lake.  A place we are sure to stay in the future! Pictures don't do this place justice....just like Moraine Lake.  I never knew places like this existed till my trip here.  Quintessential nature and God's amazing creations. 

The Rockpile at Moraine Lake...
After our day of exploring we headed back to our lodge for dinner.  Before dinner we made one last hike to the "Rockpile".  A short walk/hike in return for these amazing views... speechless!

A view from the Rockpile of Moraine Lake Lodge.....

Oh a Hiking We Will Go!
Larch Valley
This was a steep and long climb to the top with 10 switchbacks leading into the valley.  We started off with many layers of clothing and as we hiked and our bodies warmed we shed them.  Then they were back on again.  This hike was like walking into Narnia.  We started in sunny cold weather and hiked into snowflakes and ultimately into frigid pelting ice storms... It was like walking through the seasons.  I have never experienced anything quite like it!  We climbed over 2000 ft in elevation and hiked 3.7 miles to the top.  The highest point you can climb on a marked path in Banff National Park. 

Off For Another Hike....
Lake Agnes Tea House
This tea house that was build in 1901 sits high up in the mountains and is only accessible by hikers.  It is a great place to stop for a cup of coffee or coco as you take a break from the hiking.  There is no other way to this place besides hiking to it.  Everything sold up there has to be brought up by the employees on their hikes into work.  Also all trash has to be hauled down each day.... Makes for a limited menu but a very special place.  It's worth the hike of 3.4km. 

Some of my favorite things from our Canadian Getaway:
Canadian Wild Flowers
The smell of wood burning in our fireplace
Oodles of covers to keep you warm in the cold nights
Sleeping with the doors open
Clean Mountain Air
Cold Yummy Water straight from the faucet
No power lines at our Lodge - pure and clean!
Blue water lakes - rock flour!
Random Mountain Streams and Waterfalls
Hiking through the seasons
Northface Fleeces
Trading in high heels for Uggs
Being the first set of footprints in fresh snow in Sentinel Pass