A Travellerspoint blog

Turkey for a week

So much more than an amusing thanksgiving pun

all seasons in one day 13 °C
View Our OE on iainph's travel map.

There is so much I could write about Turkey. Mostly because I knew almost nothing about it before I arrived. Being a typical Kiwi, I knew it only as a far away place with a mildly amusing name that produces some great kebabs, carpets, delicious sweets with unidentifiable ingredients, and that the people have some odd habits when it comes to public bathing.

Unfortunately it seems that even European tourists come with this limited set of expectations. The main downtown tourist area of Sultanahmet is purpose built to satisfy tourist expectations and is therefore packed full of shops and markets selling kebabs, carpets, ‘Turkish Delights’, and traditional ‘hamami’ bath experiences. All of which is great and delicious and almost convincing. If we had just arrived from Paris or London we probably would have been sold on it and believed we were genuinely experiencing the exotic East. But, we were wiser. We had just arrived from Morocco and Egypt and are no strangers to bazaars, spice markets and the like. The ones in Istanbul don’t feature the mules, carts, motorbikes, snake charmers and loud bargaining exchanges of a real Eastern bazaar. They are nice, but too nice, just a little bit sanitised. We had seen the giant western-style shopping malls on the way in from the airport and so it all just seemed a little contrived.

Fortunately, Sultanahmet is not like the rest of Turkey. The rest of Turkey is the way Turkey actually is, not the way tourists want it to be. It’s actually a modern, fast paced, well-dressed, surprisingly wealthy, surprisingly European nation with a fierce sense of national pride. I think that surprised me the most, and it didn’t sink in until we visited Gallipoli.

Gallipoli is another one of those places that you think you know about because you grow up hearing about it all the time, but when you actually get there you realise you know nothing at all, other than a bunch of place names. I had to find a book and read up on it and realised I was learning most of it for the first time because somehow it never sunk in before. It’s funny how history works like that – the details never seem very important until you are standing on the site of some historic event and trying to understand what you are seeing and how and why it changed the world.

Visiting Egypt and Greece prompted us to spend some late nights in the hotel watching online documentaries to fill the gaps in our collective history knowledge. Visiting Gallipoli made me wonder what I’d been doing every ANZAC day for the last 32 years that I didn’t already know the intricate details of the harrowing tale of that campaign.
So far from home, we suddenly found NZ flags and monuments everywhere, tales of incredible courage by NZ and Australian troops, rows upon rows of graves with familiar names and ranks and regiments. We heard the stories of the brave soldiers and the appalling conditions, dismal planning and gut-wrenching failures of leadership. Finally it all sunk in. I finally understood why it was such a formative moment in the history of Australia and New Zealand.

More importantly, I understood for the first time just how important Gallipoli was in the history of the Turkish nation. The Turks lost more men at Gallipoli than the UK, Australia and NZ combined, but they prevailed, and they ultimately won the campaign. It united a collapsing Ottoman empire, gave new life to a nation falling into obscurity, and ultimately set the conditions which led to modern, proud, independent Turkey. Today, they celebrate the victory at Gallipoli every year with more pride than we celebrate a world cup victory. Ataturk - a leading figure in the Turkish defence at Gallipoli, who later went on to become the first president of Turkey – is revered with almost god-like status. He repeatedly spoke of his respect for the NZ soldiers who fought to invade his homeland, understanding they were simply doing their duty. His famous statement is written on a giant stone plinth near to ANZAC Cove.

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

I’d like to think that the values and determination Ataturk saw in the Kiwi soldiers were an influencing factor in his drive to create the nation of Turkey after the war ended. Perhaps some of these values even became enshrined in the constitution.

It’s the only officially secular nation in the region. Islam is practiced by many, but in a modern, liberal way where women have a voice, are allowed out and about, and are not frowned upon if they choose not to wear a headscarf. The mosques are beautiful, open (for free) to non-Muslim visitors and happy to explain exactly what the faith is about – dispelling a lot of western myths.

If it wasn’t for the call to prayer 5 times a day and the obsession with soccer, it could be New Zealand. If only the nations further south would take note.

Posted by iainph 10:08 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

It's all Greek to me. And it actually was.

sunny 17 °C

My brain is full. Proper full. Of useful information for once too. After going from Egypt with all its Pharonic history, to Athens with all of its Pagan and Hellenic history my brain is full. To be honest, it couldn’t have been emptier of history knowledge beforehand, but that’s beside the point. Many people will tell you it’s empty of general knowledge too. I always knew (like learning another language) that learning history would be a good thing for me to do. Like reading the classics, it broadens your mind and makes you understand things on a much deeper level than you can read in the newspaper headlines. However my encounters with history have been fleeting up until this point. I did do fifth form history back in the day, and remember only two things from the experience. I remember the beautiful sunny afternoon’s I used to long for, whilst I stared out the window. Secondly, I remember studying for the exam and only then realising that I had been spelling Palestine wrong for the whole year. I still passed and got quite a reputable 65% - thank you rote learning. Can’t remember a single thing now.

Suddenly though, history has become interesting. I think it is because it is finally tangible. I can feel, see and process it. You can’t do that in a country whose oldest building was build in the 1800’s. In New Zealand, the concept of time is stunted. It’s like you only get to listen to the last 10 minutes left on the cassette tape in the tape deck. You know the tape has been playing for the last 2 hours, but you had to listen through the door before that, until they called your name to come in and listen. So the rest of the tape was blurred and fuzzy, you could hear certain bits, but not enough to make sense. Being in a place that has had so many histories, not just one, is enchanting. It makes you back the good guys and scorn the bad, and then scold yourself for backing the wrong side. It’s like a pantomime of people’s lives and countries, battles here and there and trying to understand why these things happened is more often than not left to once piece of paper, or one stone carving. It’s enthralling.

But exhausting. I didn’t realise how much Egypt took out of us until we arrived in Athens. We arrived in a very lovely little hotel on Thursday afternoon and they had given us the honeymoon suite with a view of the Parthenon from our balcony. It was gorgeous. And we slept. All afternoon. And it was a fabulous. My flu is on the mend; only 2 coughing fits a night, 2 lots of drugs during the day, in addition to copious amounts of water and strepsils, but this is an improvement.

We spent 4 nights in the same hotel, it was lovely to not have to move, but it made us lazy. We are not generally lazy travellers, we learn thankyou, please, yes, no and good morning in most of the languages we travel to, but not Greek. It was too easy. Everyone speaks English or enough English to get by, everyone wants your custom so they will make the effort, so Iain and I really didn’t. I am a little disappointed in myself, but from the beauty of Greece we will probably get a do-over at some stage.

Athens was amazing, just in the fact that you walk everywhere and everywhere is coated in ruins. It’s hard to grasp it. There is a balcony here, a viewing platform there and all little lines of bricks in the ground, or mosaics in the middle of nowhere. All preserved, all with interpretive signs. I’m glad we travelled to Athens after Egypt, it showed me everything that Egypt could be, but isn’t.

On our five days in Athens we did all the sights, wanted through the markets, had dinner at the local restaurants and went out to Aegina for the day. The home of Mediterrainean food didn’t disappoint. Greek salads, souvlaki, fresh seafood, pistachios, olives and oranges are abundant and all delicious. But I think to really appreciate the greek culture you have to get out of the city, especially at the moment. It is riddled with graffiti and protesting. Everyone is angry, not angry enough to do anything about it, just spray paint cowardly on walls and yell things on the metro. Its perfectly fine to travel to, you have no real threat, its just the people are tired by the looks, they are hurting because the economy is ruining their lives. The next time we come, we will spend more time on the islands. The people out there only see the demonstrations on the news, they know its expensive, but they live there because they love it and they are prepared for those rises and falls.

Greece was like a holiday, during a holiday. It was perfect and well timed. Now functioning at 90% we are back at the airport now, ready for the madness of another country – Turkey.

Posted by kayles 07:20 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

From Tutankhamen to Tooting-car-men.

sunny 26 °C

If you had asked me after three days if I was enjoying Egypt, I would have said yes. The Egyptians that we encountered were friendly, courteous and so appreciative to have you in their country that they would do anything for you. They went out of their way to ensure you were picked up and dropped off on time, they would wait with you until the cows came home to ensure that you were safely aboard your next transport and not hassled by anyone else, and they would make sure you got a fair and reasonable price on any items you wished to buy.

Since the revolution, Egypt’s tourism has suffered immensely. They used to have 6000 people through each area each day, now they struggle to attract 1000. At some of the sights we went to, Iain and I were the only tourists, which was amazing for the serenity and unobstructed photos but it made you feel incredibly sad for the thousands of boats and ferries tied up with no hope of a fare.

We arrived in Cairo and spent the first day travelling around the Pyramids, Memphis and Sakara. Our accommodation overnight, airport transfers and full day English speaking driver cost 300 Egyptian Pounds – which is around $60 NZD, for both of us, crazy cheap. Everyone that we met gave us their phone numbers and made sure that if we had any problems, all we needed to do was call, day or night. But we felt safe, it was not any different from anywhere else Iain and I have travelled, together or separately. There was evidence of past unrest, but on the surface the Egyptian people wanted a new Egypt. One built on democracy and accountability. People wanted the tourists to come back so they could show them what the new Egypt could have the capacity to be.

The evening after our Cairo sights, we joined our tour that was going down to Aswan, travelling up to Luxor and then back to Cairo. All the way seeing the temples and tombs that line the River Nile. We would see a half dozen temples and tombs, sleep overnight on a felucca on the Nile (the one Michael Palin sailed on during a recent BBC documentary – apparently) and marvel at the lengths taken to relocate relics from the rising waters of Lake Nasser.

However as you may have seen on the news there was a terrible train versus bus crash in Egypt that killed approximately 50 kids. The bus went over the tracks for two reasons, firstly because the man who was meant to stop the traffic had left his post to go buy some hashish, and secondly because everyone in Egypt drives like a maniac. The bus filled with kids on the way to school was struck by the oncoming train and dragged for 4km’s while the train attempted to stop. For some reason, which we are not 100% sure of (as my Arabic now extends to the numbers and 3 words) the Minister of Transport resigned immediately after this happened and the Egyptian people were calling for the Prime Minister to step down as well. It was the third serious traffic incident in as many weeks. But we were beginning to see the cracks in the new administration, people weren’t as happy as they had been letting on. Anyway, because of this accident, when we arrived to catch our 10pm train, the 7pm train was still in the station. Everyone was onboard and they were not letting anyone off, or telling them anything. We later spoke to a couple who had been onboard this train. They said at 1130 (after sitting in the station for 4 ½ hours) they served everyone dinner and left the station. They only went 30 mins down the line before they stopped just outside of Cairo… for 16 hours. And they were the lucky ones, most trains just stopped where they were and didn’t move for a day. Some were in the middle of the desert, most don’t serve food, and most stopped trains are a visual representation of the government not running efficiently. We owe our sanity, if not lives, to the guide who got all the information for us, found out what was going on and they proceeded to book flights for us to Aswan to join our tour. It might have been a bit more expensive, but we would have missed about ½ of our tour if we had waited for the train, which didn’t leave Cairo until 7pm the next night.

Once we arrived in Aswan we were both running on about 3 1/2 hours sleep, so we curled up in our accommodation for a little kip before heading out to the sights for an afternoon tour to the High Dam and Philae Temple. This will give you a picture of the good intentions the Egyptian people that we dealt with have. The man who picked us up took us to our room, and told us he had picked this room especially for us because of the view. He was right the view was very nice. However only one light worked, there were no sheets on the bed, no toilet paper and no air conditioning. It was perfectly adequate, just amusing. Over the course of the trip, Iain and I decided that the Egyptian way was 100% good intentions, just 5 degrees off the mark every time.

It was at this point that everything started to go a little bit sour for me. You know how I said being in a foreign country so different from your own requires you to act a little like seaweed (see Morocco’s blog if you don’t have any clue what I am on about). Well, it was about this time that my seaweed got bogged down with didimo. I got so sick. I don’t know what it is from or what it was exactly, but all I know is that I have lost my ha-ha. My seaweed’s ebb and flow is trapped by snot rock – without the rock. Being sick is average at the best of times, when it is compounded by travel, early starts, extreme temperatures and belligerent people, sickness becomes unbearable.

After a night of cold sweats, 3 bottles of water and very little sleep we boarded a van out to Abu Simbel, at 3.30 am. It is very hard to sleep when your body is telling you it is hot, and then it is cold every 10 minutes, and the driver is insisting on hitting every pot hole at 100kms an hour, and speeding past every vehicle he could find – even though the intention is that the group travels in convoy to ensure the safety of its passengers. Abu Simbel is beautiful and the fact that it was moved stone by stone 60 metres up a hill to save it from the creation of Lake Nasser is incredible. In the 1960’s Egypt built the high dam to generate electricity for the nation, regulate floodwaters and create the ability to consistently irrigate up and down the Nile. However in the process of doing this, they failed to take into account the thousands of Egyptian artefacts that would be lost during this process. Not just a couple of bowls and a drawing here and there, these were entire elaborate temples and tombs. It makes you question the lack of foresight regarding the harm floodwaters and the delayed appeal to the international community for money and help moving these relics. I understand it is the world’s history and not just Egypt’s, so why should they front all of the money for the restoration. But I also know they receive the tourism dollars for these objects and without the Pharonic history, I am unsure of how much tourism Egypt would get on its own.

I will clarify this comment, when you visit Egypt you feel like you came to visit the ‘Old Egyptians’, the Tutankhamen’s, the Queen Hatshepsut’s and great gods of the time, you don’t come to visit the ‘Current Egyptians’. Apart from the ones that deal intimately with tourists, the rest of them are rude, abrupt, bolshie and extremely chauvinistic. Egypt made me so mad and infuriated, that the only solitude I could find one of the days was in my hotel women’s bathroom. Anyone who knows me, knows one I am not a crier, and two not many things phase me. I have my rants now and then (lets be honest, hourly), but most of the time it troubles fly past on the breeze. However the Egyptian culture teaches them to be aggressive with tourists, treat women like meat, and demand money for nothing. Now don’t get me wrong, this is not all Egyptians, those who are educated -understand tourists are their livelihood. Without tourism they only have income from the Suez Canal, that’s all. Egypt is not an easy place to travel anyway and not for the faint of heart, so to be constantly harassed ever step of your day just makes the going so much harder. I know being sick probably didn’t help, but after being stared at all day, having people try and take photos of me, grab my breasts and yell out obnoxious and obscene things, I was over it. Today is day 5 and I am glad Egypt is over.

If you haven’t been, you have to go. I am glad I have come to the country. Don’t make what I said put you off; it is an experience that you have to see and appreciate. People 7000-4000 years ago made a civilisation that was beautiful, organised and majestic. I would be interested to see what today’s Egypt would leave behind in 4000 years. It is maddening, saddening but fulfilling in its own way. They are trying; some are just trying harder than others. I believe that western media has to give Egypt a fair go to resurrect its tourism trade, but Egyptians need to understand that tourists have a choice where to spend their tourist dollars.

Egypt is an amazing place, that as a New Zealander it is impossible to comprehend the length of time ago the tombs, temples and pyramids were built. It is something I am thankful to have seen. I feel my Egypt visa, entry and exit stamps are like a gold badge I can pin to my chest, proudly. Go and see it before some extremist bombs it off the face of the earth. I’d make your trip sooner rather than later – and only make it 5 days.

I have just realised how Jekyll and Hyde this blog is. A little like Egypt I suppose.

Posted by kayles 10:22 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Add a little bit of Moroccan spice to your day.

sunny 20 °C

Morocco is an amazing place. It is rich with colours, smells, noises beyond your wildest imagination. Its like every one of your senses is blasted within an inch of itself in the medina before being pulled back to a serene reality within the many riads that line the streets. It is an experience that you cannot explain fully unless you have experienced it, and even then, the ability to create a word picture of the encounter is quite a challenge.

We arrived in Casablanca quite early, and dropped our stuff off at our hostel. The man who ran the place was a character, his English was pretty good (in comparison to some of the Arab-fren-glish we have had dealings with) and offered us a traditional Moroccan breakfast along with a mint tea. Mint tea is like crack over here – it will be served to you morning, noon and night, and the only thing that differs is the amazingly ornate silver trays, teapots and glasses it is served in, along with the amount of sugar in the mixture.

The more I travel the more I have found one cannot come to another country and place rigid western structure and beliefs onto a culture. You must always enter a new place like a piece of seaweed, ready to push and move with the sea around you. If you arrive expecting to keep a diet, or write an essay or accomplish some task outside of the wishings of the country you are visiting, you will fail. And if by some chance you succeed, you are not experiencing the country in the way it was intended. We have met a lot of people on this trip who in some way or another have not experienced Morocco as it should be. People who stay outside the Medina (a massive maze of stores, homes and riads within the old walls of the city), people who come with intolerance to the Muslim faith, people who complain at the first test of character, challenge or strength. These are the people that will never return to Morocco. For the rest of us, Morocco is a country with anything and everything you could ever need or want.

Our first encounter with Casablanca was through tired sleep deprived eyes, and really I found this is all your first day in Morocco should be. After wandering around and losing ourselves in what turns out to be a very small and easy medina to navigate (in comparison to Marrakech). We spent the afternoon sitting on the rooftop of the riad in the sun, listening to the sounds of the city – the call to pray, the seemingly endless run of motorbikes and scooters, the sounds of kids playing, men laughing and relentless beeping of taxis and cars trying to squish their way through the tiny side alleys.

The next morning we headed off early to our train to Marrakech, the train winds itself through little settlements and big towns on the way to the sprawl of the city. After a long discussion with a taxi driver and what was seemingly his pimp, we managed to get a definite direction to our riad and the promise that someone from the riad would come and get us. We managed to get there and settled in before heading out into the medina for delicious market food and a NZD$12 pair of converse sneakers. This day was our NZ wedding anniversary and Iain had sneakily organised a nice flash dinner out in one of the riad’s off from the square. For those who haven’t been to Morocco or don’t really understand a riad, it is bit like this… Imagine if you will, the dodgiest looking area you know. Small side alleys, minimal street lighting, intimidating men standing on the street corner… now imagine a little wooden door somewhere near the end of that. This is your entrance into the Riad, and when you walk in it is magical. Peaceful, calm and elaborately beautiful, these places are 2/3 story open buildings with an open central courtyard. They are everything that the outside is not. For some this is their refuge, they come to Marrakech just for this experience, not the bustle and madness of outside. But for those that come to experience both, the juxtaposition of this far exceeds anything in the western world. The only thing I could compare it to would be the equivalent of being outside in a windy whiteout blizzard and stepping into a private tropical beach, behind one mysterious door.

The next couple of days Iain and I went out on a tour to the desert and the mountains. In one day we experienced the city, snow and desert – a very surreal experience. We visited a 12th century village which is now a UNESCO heritage site and has been used in many films, ironically mostly about Egypt. But Babel, Gladiator, Prince of Persia and Lawrence of Arabia were among the long list our guide rattled off. After heading across the High Atlas Mountains – the highest mountain Range in Africa we headed out to a Berber camp in the desert, by camel. They put on an amazing dinner and included us in their evening drumming and singing, and we chilled out in (as they call it) ‘The Hotel of a thousand stars’. This was our actual wedding anniversary.

The next morning, we got us early to watch the sun rise over the sand dunes and ride a camel back to our guide. He then took us into Toubkal National Park. Here we stayed with a Berber family, put on a traditional Berber wedding for us (hehe… photos to come), showed us around the villages in the valley and took us for a hike up to a look out point for a view of Jebel Toubkal the highest mountain in North Africa (4167mtrs).

Our final full day in Morocco was spent doing a cooking class, run by a very eccentric gay Frenchman. Who knew the best dinner we would have in Morocco we would make ourselves? It was a beef, pear and caramelised orange tagine with handmade breads and salads topped off with a glass of vino and mint tea. After this we headed to a Moroccan spa for a Hassam (what an interesting experience this is) and massage, before heading back to the square for some delicious drink and dessert thing. I can’t with full confidence tell you what it is, apart from that it is delicious, so delicious we had it two nights in a row. Its like gingerbread dough coated in coconut – but the consistency is different. And the drink is a mixture of all-spice and ginger – I was convinced it would cure any cold. This was at least until last night, where we had obviously made friends with the man and he showed us a different concoction – one with ice mint. Wow does that clean out your senses, it is like an icicle attempting to drive itself to the back of your brain through your nose. Iain had to hold its nose to even taste it. It is incredibly powerful. I think the man just gave it to us for a good laugh.

Now we are back on the train to Casablanca, to head straight to the airport, Egypt is our next port of call. But I think Morocco will be in our hearts for a little longer. Even with very little French and absolutely no Arabic we seemed to get around just fine. There were no major dramas and although the hustle and bustle make you feel like its touristy, if you look deeper you have this feeling that even without the tourists this place would still run exactly the same way. I imagine it is different in the high season, but November was the perfect time to go for us. Au reviour Morocco, however I imagine it is more like goodbye for now, we’ll see you again soon.

Posted by kayles 13:52 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

Europe finally! Language skills tested immediately.

rain 12 °C

So we made it. I feel like we just made it through the last scene of Argo (although without the angry men firing at our plane). Many intrepid travellers would have flummoxed at the challenges set in front of us this morning, however as I write we are on the plane to Casablanca right on schedule 3 hours after getting up.

Let's start with this morning, before my stressed brain tries to eradicate it from my memory, like a PTSD sufferer. Are you sitting comfortably? Well let’s begin. The tale starts and Iain and I are at a campground in Cascais. We awoke at 0415 for 15 minutes pack up and an hour to get to our destination only 35 minutes away. The GPS was not working, so we decided to follow the signs to Aerodromo. It has a picture of a plane; surely that’s the right place. Fail numero uno - although my Portugese is average to non-existent, I still should have realised that Aerodromo and Aeroporto would be different places. Middle of no-where. Oh well no problems at least we gave ourselves extra time.

Once we arrive, we are in a rental car so we decide instead of paying for parking god knows how far away, I would wait in the car in the drop-off zone whilst Iain checked in. He managed to do this, although the line was so gigantic that Iain made the lady check us both in at a domestic counter. The deal is he has to drop our bags off at another counter though, so he comes out to the car to tell me what’s going on.

This is a 0555. The car rental place doesn’t open until 0600, 5km’s from the airport but we needed to be back for boarding by 0630. An ambitious plan if everything had worked out for the good, but without it, a completely impossible plan.

Iain and I have always said we would win ‘The Amazing Race’ – this is how we did it.
0415 – get up
0430 – leave campground
0430-0530 drive around a lot, get lost, find oneself again, drive the car into a giant curb which pops the bumper completely out of the sewing machine masquerading as a car that we have been driving, get fuel, find Airport.
0535 – Iain disappears into the airport with both our bags and passports, I fear I may never see him again, whilst I am trying to avoid the stares of the traffic mover-on-er’s.
0555 – Iain comes out to tell me he’s checked us both in however he needs to take the bags somewhere else. 5 minutes tops he says.
0600 – Iain comes running out of the terminal – although anyone that has seen Iain run will know this just makes him look like he is attempting a slow motion Baywatch montage. Wow I think, 5 minutes spot on, and he’s running, I must have influenced him into understanding urgency and time constraints. Wrong. Apparently he needs the boarding passes that he has left with me in the car on his previous visit.
0607 – we start making our way to the rental car company garage with the worst map ever seen by anyone. With the technological advances the world has made, there is no excuse for poor map’s, these people founded continents! How can they not effectively use Google Maps! After 4 attempts of taking exit no. 5 and then the first right, we realise that we are poked. We are currently in an industrial area and buggered to make it to the rental company and back through to our departure gate on time. The time is now 0626.
0627 – An executive decision is made, we will drop the car at someone else’s rental car company and get our rental car company to pick it up. By this stage it has not enough petrol in it, 6 euro’s of electronic tolls that we haven’t paid, a half fixed bumper and is in an Avis car park.
0628 – Iain displays his assertiveness with the man at Avis who is telling us we can’t park there in Portugese, whilst he is grabbing my arm and pulling me out of the carparking garage.
From 0630-0638 we wait in the line to get through security, at this stage they start boarding the flight, this is when we start getting security officials to usher us through.

It is only once through security that we realise the gate is miles away, Portugal is a country of forts and castles so by my deduction, that is how they laid the plans for their airport – secret alleys, miles of useless corridors. Which Iain and I are moving so quickly by this stage I’m almost at full-walk-sprint (when you are walking so fast and extending your legs as far as they can possibly reach with each footstep you think you would be better off running, but then you don’t want people to look and think – ew, shame on them they are late and give you the disapproving stare….)

Finally when we thought we were home free, as the gate appears to be around the next corner and they are calling final boarding call. Oh what is this? Another checkpoint? Oh apparently no one has checked passports yet… this is what this giant line is for. Without the help of security guards I assertively announced that we were going to the front of the line, and with very few English speakers in the line, and my Portuguese non-existent I think they just decided it would be easier to submit to this yelling English lady. Only one bus ride left to go (yes bus ride…. you heard right…. to the plane) and we made it. By the time I sat in the plane I feared their may be armed militants ready to shoot the plane off the runway (Argo reference – if you haven’t seen it, go, it’s good. Apart from the lie about Kiwi’s being mean. Screw you Ben Affleck.)

Anyway Portugal (without the comprehensive ending) was really nice. Not really what I expected at all, but charming and otherworldly. It has so much history and such a strength in its own cultural identity that at times it seemed indifferent to its beauty and majesty. We spent 2 days in Lisbon, one in the city and one out in Belem. Both have amazing buildings, castles and forts built to protect a country that did a lot of the world’s exploration. Then we got (that godforsaken) car and drove up the coast. Unfortunately it was raining so badly on the way up we decided to go straight to Porto and spend a couple of days there. So much delicious Port to consume. Oh and chocolate to compliment (don’t mind if I do). Porto is a stunning city right on the river. On the way back to Lisbon we went through: Nazare, a beautiful seaside village which has stunning views out onto the Atlanic Ocean; Obidos, an walled village that sits majestically on the hill and towers over the nearby vineyards and Sintra, which we didn’t really get much time to do – probably needed at least 2 full days to do it justice.

That gets us to our exciting journey to the airport, and our next destination to follow… Morroco.

Posted by kayles 10:22 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

(Entries 46 - 50 of 70) « Page .. 5 6 7 8 9 [10] 11 12 13 14 »