Friday, March 30, 2012

Belle's Life in Turkey

I will preface this post by saying that I started to write it from the dog's perspective.  Yes, you heard me right, a post from Belle.  After about a paragraph, I decided I just couldn't do it. I may talk to Belle, but she doesn't talk back, so who knows what she's really thinking? That and I thought it may be the first step to becoming crazy dog lady.  You're welcome Belle (and readers).

In Texas, Belle had a nice yard, lounged around all day while we were away, got excited when we got home, played and sometimes (probably not as often as she should have) got a nice walk around the block in the evenings. It was the life.

Or was it?

At first, when she got to Turkey, she wasn't so sure.  Grass? Steps? No other puppies? I think that Turkey has won her over though.  It's a dog's life.

She loves the balcony, the queen of her domain, watching over the birds and cats and water below.

Luckily for Belle, there is a cat lady who lives in the apartment next to us.
This provides hours of entertainment from her perch on the balcony

She loves the cats. I hate that she loves the cats, but she loves them nonetheless.  Every walk she is trying to sniff them out under cars, under trash cans, in the park. The other night, I sat and watched her in a 5 minute stare down with a calico cat in front of our apartment.  Someday perhaps she will finally make a cat friend.

She loves all the exercise. She gets more walking now than she ever did in Texas. I mean, the walk up to the street is enough to make me tired, not to mention the walks to soccer games, the park, the water. Pretty much walk everywhere since we have no car!

Pass it to me! I have been working out to become the next Air Bud!

She loves the people.  They may not all love her yet, but she is slowly winning them over and it gets better every day as people start to recognize her, or notice that she wags her tail, not barks to attack.  A few of my favorite stories of her new friends:
  • The Valets - we walk sometimes with Paul to work or meet him over at his office building; as we walk, we pass a lot of valets. People tend to shy away but one of the valet beckoned her over to him. As Paul loves to show off her tricks, he said BANG and down she went to play dead. They loved it. That may be an understatement because they still say BANG whenever I walk by, whether or not Belle is accompanying me.  And yes, I probably walk this way at least 4 times a week. 
  • The Park Manager - we take Belle everyday to our neighborhood park to play or take care of business.  If there are not many people there, we let her off the leash and sometimes there are other dogs that she can run around with.  The Park Manager seems to know these other dogs by name and one day asked me a question in Turkish. There was some shrugging on my end and pointing on his end, and finally I decided that I thought he was asking for the dog's name.  To help clarify, I answered in English "Her name is Belle." Now, he calls her "Hernameisbelle". 
  • The Neighborhood Men - this may be my favorite story yet. Yesterday during our jaunt to the park, she caught some of the men's attention as she almost literally inhaled the little pieces of bread they were throwing for the birds. I was embarrassed, thinking they thought she was an out of control dog (which she sometimes acts like in the park). Instead of getting mad, they got more bread. They just threw more and more bread at her and laughed as she ran around with giant pieces of bread in her mouth. As much as I did not want her eating more bread, I couldn't help it and just laughed with them.  Goofball/spazz dog? Absolutely.

    Ropes AND hot dogs? Awesome.  
    Note: this toy now is just a rope.  Hot dogs have been destroyed!

    Sunday, March 25, 2012

    Spring is Here

    Let me just say that barring some strange interference from Mother Nature, I think that Spring is finally here! We had a beautiful weekend here with sun and warmer weather.  I cannot wait to do more exploring around Istanbul, Turkey and Eastern Europe.

    Despite the less than Spring weather, my friend Katie and I were able to do lots of exploring during her visit a couple of weeks ago.  Without it being a crazy week (she was here for 5 days), we were able to be the MOST productive tourists EVER. At least in my humble opinion :)

    During those 5 days we visited Ortakoy, the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar, Eminönü,, Galata Bridge, Taksim, Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cisterns, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the city walls, St. Chora Church, Aquaducts, Süleymaniye Mosque, Dolmabahçe, Taksim (again, via tram), Galata Tower, Bosphorus cruise to Anadolu Kavağı where we saw Yoros Castle.

    Yes, most productive tourists. EVER. Well, except for perhaps someone like Rick Steve's who wrote the book on Istanbul.

    Anyways, her trip gave me an opportunity to see lots of new things that I hadn't ventured out to in Istanbul and we became experts on the bus system. I personally love this because for 2 lira, I can just sit on the bus, ride into Taksim and not have to worry about the traffic, versus sitting in the cab watching the fare tick up. It has made me much more confident to get around Istanbul too.

    Here are a few pictures of my new favorite spots we tried out on her trip:

    Inside the St. Chora Church - the halls were covered with these beautiful mosaic tiles. Too bad it wasn't a sunny day to get some better pictures!

    Close up of tiled ceiling in St. Chora Church

    Süleymaniye Mosque built for Süleymaniye I by Mimar Sinan. We got a little lost getting there, but it was worth it. 
     Süleymaniye Mosque
     View of the Bosphorus from the Galata Tower. It may be the best view in the city.

    Friday, March 23, 2012

    Jet Setting

    I have been slacking in the blogging over the last few weeks – my apologies.

    BUT, the reasons being that I was:
    a) Visiting the States getting in my fill of family, friends, American food (think Sonic happy hour, Honey Butter Chicken Biscuits and bacon daily) and margaritas. Yes, margaritas make the list
    b) Busy being a tour guide to my old college roommate Katie! She spent her last spring break ever with me traipising around Istanbul
    c) Working from my company's London office for a week, catching up with my colleagues, doing a little bit of sight seeing and TONS of reading the Hunger Games which they got me addicted to.

    I have really enjoyed the last three weeks, but alas, back to reality – and blogging.

    Over the last few weeks, I have spent a lot of time on planes which has been unusual for me as of late. I used to travel a lot when I lived in Dallas. I wouldn’t necessarily have called myself a “road warrior,” but I often was travelling at least 3 times a month to all kinds of places – California, Canada, Philly or glamorous South Texas.

    Even after all that time on the road, I still have to say that flying in Turkey is different than anywhere else I have travelled before.  The planes are mostly the same, you have little legroom, loud passengers, entertainment system (which I will say is nicer than a lot of planes) and even bagged nuts; the experience though?
    1. Ataturk Airport. Never until flying through this airport have I had to go through security twice. Once when you first enter the airport before you even can get your boarding pass, and another time before you go to the gate.  Not necessarily complaining and I can see more airports doing this in the future, but just more times of being stuck behind those slow pokes in line who can’t figure out how to remove their liquids (have I mentioned that I am not a patient traveller?) 
    2. Boarding. I do not think that any type of boarding is efficient, and yes, that includes Southwest, but this is especially inefficient. As soon as they announce that they are ready to start boarding, the whole waiting lounge goes up to the gate to board.  Who cares about boarding groups? Elderly and children? Pshaw.  Everyone for themselves to get on board and claim the overhead space. 
    3. Arrival. Once we make a safe landing, you hear people clapping. Not the whole plane, and not always loudly, but people are definitely clapping. I think this perhaps intrigues me the most. Is it a way to say thanks? Are they saying job well done? If that is the case, it scares me a bit. I would like to hope that we should always land safely and while it deserves thanks to the pilots for their service, not necessarily a congrats of a job well done.
     Despite some of the hassles of international travel, I wouldn’t change it in for the world. As Paul said this week, a year ago, who would have thought we would nonchalantly be discussing heading to Italy for the weekend for a quick getaway, or could take a 3 hour flight to almost anywhere in Europe? What a wonderful life.
     My London stay - the heart of Picadilly. I love Turkey, but London has my heart too.