Thursday, September 18, 2014

mother's day in france and ireland

one final update from this past year, and then i promise i have more recent news for you all!!

after three weeks in turkey and greece with some fantastic friends, i made my way back to paris at the beginning of may to intercept my final two visitors – my mom and aunt!! we had planned a sort of dual-purpose mother’s day trip, splitting my final two weeks in europe between france and ireland. it worked out perfectly, because i needed to get back to dublin for my flight home anyway, and they both had dreamed for years of visiting ireland. but first, we had to get the bags i had left in excideuil, and of course i had to show them around paris!

we rented a little airbnb apartment near the gare du nord in paris, and used it as a home base for a whirlwind two days in the city of lights. in order to hit the ground running and beat the jet lag, i pretty much dragged them all over the city on their first day. they were total troopers, humouring me as i offered sight after sight, in an effort to keep them awake until a reasonable hour. we finally hit the wall around 4pm at the musée d’orsay, and we headed back for a light dinner and early bedtime. we even saw the eiffel tower twinkling in the distance from our apartment window. :) the next day was our only full day in the city, and we made it seriously full. i like to walk when i travel, so we covered a good bit of ground – shopping in montmartre, strolling along the champs elysees, treating ourselves to a nice dinner near the arc de triomphe, and then ending with a trip up to the middle level of the eiffel tower. if you’re going to visit paris for only a day or two, that’s the way to do it! see the sights, get a taste for the local neighborhood flair, and soak up the atmosphere. a wonderful visit!
in order to get back down to excideuil with all our belongings, we decided to forgo the train and just rent a car. thanks to the mobility inherent in controlling your own methods of transportation, we even got to make a pitstop at versailles on the way south! i had already visited a few times, but neither my mom nor my aunt had ever seen it. we kind of breezed through the palace (it was majorly crowded, and difficult to enjoy) and then took the little palace train out to marie antoinette’s hamlet. back when the palace was still a royal residence, the then-queen had a little faux village constructed on the grounds, so she could go play peasant whenever the fancy struck her. it makes sense when you think that this was the woman who, upon hearing that the people of her country had no bread to eat, responded with “let them eat cake!”… still, though, the hamlet was so beautiful and charming and cool. definitely my favourite part of versailles. despite the pouring rain as we were leaving, and my inability to determine the proper route to take in the car, we finally got on the road to excideuil after lunch.

it was so strange to be back in my little village with my family. after the hustle and bustle of paris, it was such a relaxing few days, despite all of the tasks i needed to accomplish before leaving. it was great to see my friends again, and i was happy to have a chance to say goodbye to everyone officially, but my favourite part was getting to show my mom and aunt the area. we took advantage of having the rental car to go a bit further afield, checking out the chateau de hautefort and a few antique shops in the area. thanks to the generosity of one of my colleagues, we got to stay in a beautiful guest house just outside of town, and we were invited to eat with the family two of the three nights we were there. heaaaven! i never got over how kind and generous everyone was in excideuil – it’s one of the best aspects of living in the countryside. i was sad to leave, but the next step was so enticing that i couldn’t help but be excited as well!

on mother’s day, we loaded up the car for a relatively short drive to bordeaux, returned the rental car at the airport and finally made our way to dublin! it was so great to be able to accompany my mom and aunt to such a meaningful place. the first few days of our trip were spent in the city, exploring and shopping and just generally enjoying the atmosphere. we ate at several excellent pubs (including a touristy one in temple bar, but i love it anyway), saw the sights, and i tried to give them a sense for why i love ireland so much. truly, though, you have to get out of the city to really understand… so the second half of our trip was a four day tour of the country! we rented a car (with only a few hiccups to start the adventure) and headed west. our first stop was the true homeland – county mayo, where my maternal great-great-grandmother, delia, was born. after several more children were born, the family emigrated to the united states in the 1860s. my mom has done so much research over the years, delving into records of births, baptisms, marriages, immigration, deaths… you name it. all her work paid off, though, when we finally arrived in the teeny parish of islandeady and got to browse the church’s documents. we found the original, handwritten record of delia’s baptism, signed by her parents, william and anne. we enjoyed a stroll through the parish cemetery and a lovely night in a b&b nearby. the next day, we hopped back in the car for the drive down through country galway to county clare. we stopped to check out the cliffs of moher, which were soon covered in the thickest white fog i have ever seen, and then made our way to ennis. one of the best moments of our trip for me was getting to introduce my mom and aunt to my dear friend shane’s parents. they only live half an hour from ennis, so they kindly agreed to make the drive in for a few pints with us in town! it was so fun to spend time together, chatting away in a cheery local pub.

the following day was simultaneously the best and most stressful day of our trip, in my opinion. we made the drive down to blarney castle without a hitch, and enjoyed a marvelous afternoon exploring the gardens, visiting the castle, and even kissing that stone. which, in actuality, is part of the wall just under the battlements, requiring you to lean backwards and several feet down to reach it. thank goodness for the guy who holds you while you make the effort! we left blarney in time to head into cork for a late lunch and a walk around town. the stress came later, when we decided to get as much driving as possible out of the way that evening, in order to lessen the road time back to dublin the following day. we made it all the way from cork to waterford, hoping to find a nice b&b to stay in for our last country evening. waterford proved to be too urban, so we ventured past the city and towards the coast… not wanting to settle for something just because it was there, we kept driving until it was nearly dark. we were starting to get a little nervous, because eventually there was nothing around us… so we stopped to ask two ladies out walking, and they pointed us down the road to the haven hotel. and truly, it lived up to its name. one of the most beautiful country manor homes i’ve seen, and the staff was absolutely delightful. we arrived just around 9pm, and they happily offered to feed us a full meal. the whole building was splendidly decorated, and our room was so charming… we couldn’t have asked for better. we passed our final night on the road in high spirits, praising the irish luck that brought us to such a fabulous spot.

the last few days in ireland were spent winding down – my mom and aunt from their two week trip, and me from my 9 month one! we drove back up to dublin, stopping in a few villages along the way, and ended up at the airport hotel. the following morning, we drove into the city, returned the car, and spent the day visiting the guinness storehouse and having one last pub dinner. it was a great way for me to officially say goodbye to europe – one last pint! i did get one bonus day with my friend shane, after seeing mom and aunt sandy off to the airport. we spent the day just hanging out and enjoying the company. it was a nice bookend to my trip, because shane was the one who picked me up at the airport back in september, and he also came with me as i left. he truly is a precious friend! it was hard to leave such an amazing year behind... and that finally wraps up the blog posts! if you want to see pictures from our trip together, you can check out the album here. :)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

frunneymoon, part two - island time

after soaking up the history in athens, the second half of our trip was spent gallivanting around the islands. (man. just reading that sentence makes me want to pinch myself – i have had so many cool adventures, i sometimes can’t believe it’s real life.) we had organized a three-island route, starting in serifos, passing through paros, and ending in santorini. our plans started off perfectly – we got the ferry to serifos with no problems (except a little seasickness on my part) and made our way up to our first b&b, which entailed a fairly long up-hill evening hike with our bags. little did we know, our host was waiting for us at the dock in his truck… whoops. we found this out by taking a wrong turn at the very end of our hike, and ending up in a very dark, very isolated little courtyard of houses. no b&b in sight. after a few minutes of deliberation, we decided to knock on the door of the nearest house and ask for directions. slightly intimidating, and even worse because of the language gap – thank goodness for those few phrases we had learned! we eventually got our point across and the man called our host, michael, who came to find us. so.. all’s well that ends well, i guess. due to funky ferry schedules, we only had one night in serifos, so we took advantage of our nice b&b to relax, take a hot shower, and just decompress from the hustle and bustle of athens. it was a fabulous evening!

our ferry the following day wasn’t until after dinner, so we had the whole day to explore the little island. we packed our things and brought them down to michael’s little grocery shop on the bay, where he let us store them for the afternoon. after buying a few snacks, we headed to the beach, where we proceeded to plop down for at least an hour. since we were there at the end of april/beginning of may, the true summer season hadn’t yet begun, which meant we basically had the place to ourselves. it was pretty hot, but we were on the windy side of the island, so the breeze kept us cool... too cool, actually, because we didn’t realize how fried we got until way later… whoops. after having a small lunch at a restaurant on the beach, we decided to hike up to the ancient capital of the island, chora. it was only a mile and a half, but it was honestly all uphill. like, a mile of stairs. it was so amazing, though, because the path took us through the old village, past the classic little white houses with blue shutters and big red bougainvillea bushes, and once we reached the top, we had an unbelievable view. really windy, though!! we spent a few minutes taking photos and admiring the view and then started making our way back down to the harbor. we grabbed our bags, said goodbye to michael and his wife, and then stopped for a cup of tea on our way to the dock. that tea break ended up being one of our coolest memories from the islands, all because we met a 98-year-old woman named maria out on the terrace. the waiter translated for us for a few minutes, and we chatted about her experiences as a native of the island. eventually, though, the waiter had to go help other customers.. but that didn’t stop maria from talking to us! we sat there for nearly a half an hour, laughing along with her to jokes we only sort of understood. she had two cats with her, and i’m pretty sure she explained that one of them was the other one’s mother, and also that her husband had passed away a few years ago (she mimed a dead person to explain that one, hands crossed across the chest and eyes closed). but regardless of the fact that we hardly understood each other, it was awesome to sit and share a moment with someone like maria.

after our tea, we headed down to the dock to catch our ferry to paros. as we waited, a man who had talked to us for a few minutes in the café came up to us and handed me a small gift bag, saying it was a “memory from serifos.” when he walked away, we looked in the bag to find two coffee mugs, painted with typical mediterranean villages. mine had a sailboat and liz’s had a donkey! very random and very kind. kind of like greece. the night got weird, however, when our ferry showed up an hour and a half late… which meant we got to paros very, very late. urgh. and due to the may 1st holiday, the ferry schedules were limited for the following days, so we had to reevaluate our timing a little bit. we ended up deciding to just spend the night in paros and take a 10am ferry the next morning, in order to have a more relaxing stay on santorini. we managed to walk around the main town on the island that morning, but it hardly counted as a visit to the island. oh well.. next time!

in retrospect, our decision was an excellent one. we got to santorini in the early afternoon (a day early) and found the shuttle for our hostel. it turned out that the place liz had found for us to stay was like… the greatest hostel that has ever existed. i cannot express how nice it was. the place was pretty new and beautifully maintained, in the classic white/peach mediterranean style with a huge pool and cabana bar. we had our own suite, with full beds, a huge (clean!) bathroom, a kitchenette, wifi… all for 13 euro per night. and they didn’t care that we were showing up a night early. it was unreal. plus, we met two sisters basically our age on the shuttle who were staying the same days as us, so we had friends for our visit! the extra day we had on the island meant that we could do a fun tour and have a day to just bum around on the beaches, plus we had three evenings to go into the villages. we literally could not have dreamed up a better situation.

our first full day, we were talked into taking an adventure boat tour by poppy, the amazing woman who runs the hostel. she signed us up the night before and told us when to catch the bus down to the harbor. amanda and brianna (the sisters we met) had decided to come as well, so, around 9am, the four of us found ourselves on a big boat full of tourists, heading out to sea. the boat looked kind of like a pirate ship – it was all wooden and had the rope rigging and big masts and everything… it was cool. our first stop on the tour was the volcano in the middle of the caldera. santorini is famously crescent-shaped – the island itself is actually the rim of the volcano crater, sticking up out of the water. we popped over to a volcanic island in the middle of the bay, where were were allowed to get off the boat and walk around. i may have snuck some volcanic rock for my amateur-geologist mom. as it turns out, volcanoes aren’t very interesting if there’s not like.. lava. it kind of just looked like a very arid, rocky, hilly island. but, anyway.. our second stop was to a hot springs near another island in the volcanic grouping. normally, the boat goes way closer to the spring, but there were other tours there already, so we had to drop anchor about 100 meters away from the spring. they had announced that anyone wanting to swim to the springs needed to go downstairs and change clothes as we approached… the four of us waffled for about 10 minutes, and then finally bri said she was going to do it, which propelled the rest of us into action. a quick minute later, i found myself jumping off the side of a (rather large) boat, into the very cold mediterranean ocean. brr. the swim wasn’t very long, but it was tough going with the waves. to make matters worse, when we got to the hot springs, we discovered that it was really more of a tepid spring. to call it warm would have been generous. plus, we had waited so long deciding that we were called back to the boat within like 2 minutes of getting to the spring. sigh. the swim back was even harder, going against the current, but we all made it back and quickly dried off. all in all, kind of a disappointment, but a worthwhile experience, just for the story. the rest of the day was much less exhausting. we stopped at a different island for lunch, and then made our way over to oia, one of the more famous villages on santorini. it’s where you see all those pictures of the homes clustered together on the cliffs, little blue domes of churches poking out here and there. as we hiked our way up some more nearly vertical steps, we stopped to admire the progressively more impressive view. we made it to the top and explored shops lining the single pathway through the village. after grabbing a quick dinner, we headed to the very end of the village’s main thoroughfare… along with a whole drove of fellow sunset spectators. oia is best known as the place to watch the sunset on santorini, because it has an unobstructed western-facing view. and boy, is the sunset worth seeing in oia. we admired the fading pastels (along with hundreds of others) until the last sliver of the glowing sun slid beneath the horizon… and then there was applause. literally. people applauded the sunset. as twilight fell, we made our way to the meeting place and got on the bus back to our hostel. such an adventurous, memorable day!

day two of santorini was perhaps equally adventurous, in a totally different way. along with amanda and brianna, we rented four-wheelers and took off for the beaches! i’d only driven a four-wheeler a couple times, but the guy at the rental place showed me the basics and i picked it up pretty quickly. once we were squared away, we picked up a picnic lunch at the grocery store, checked the map and hit the road. i distinctly remember the feeling of the wind on my face, as we zipped along a wide stretch of road overlooking the ocean. that was a glorious moment. even though we got slightly lost, the whole island is small, so we made it to the beach we had been looking for in good time. we chose a beach on the southern side of the island, known for its red and black sand. after hiking over the rocks to actually access the beach, we settled in for a few hours of blissful mediterranean beach lounging. we played in the water, ate our lunches, and laid around on the sand for a few hours, until we were all simply too hot. so, we packed up the bags, and headed to akrotiri, a cool archaeological site nearby. it had been destroyed pompeii-style by a volcanic eruption many centuries ago, but we got to see a little bit of how the city would have looked just by observing the way the foundations were structured. very historical, very interesting. we made our way back to the rental shop, returned the four-wheelers, and grabbed some take-out gyros to eat by the pool for dinner. we sat and talked for a long time, finally saying goodnight (and goodbye!) as we went to our separate rooms to pack.

we woke up bright and early to catch our flight off the island, heading back to istanbul. the teensy little airport was basically just big enough to manage one flight at a time, so there were only maybe 50 or 60 people there. although our flight plan was changed a little last minute, we eventually made it back to istanbul for a two day whirlwind visit. we stayed with my friend alex again (bless her, and her darling flatmate liz), so liz could have a quick taste of turkey (hah!) before we both flew away to our next destinations! it was incomprehensibly fun to have liz come traveling with me – i love seeing new places, but i love seeing them with friends even more. we had an amazing experience in greece - i would go back in a heartbeat! if you’d like to see some pictures from this trip, you can check out the album here, starting at photo #51. :)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

frunneymoon, part one - athens

never one to do things halfway, i wrapped up my birthday week with the boys juuuust in time for another wonderful trip – my college roommate / soul sista liz came over for a mediterranean-style friend honeymoon (we coined it the “frunneymoon”). for the sake of efficiency, she arrived into istanbul just a few hours after the boys had departed. we hung around for one night with my friend alex (of previous post fame), and then left together the following day for 10 wonderful days in greece!

our first impression of greece was highly favourable. it wasn’t necessarily unexpected, but it was certainly a pleasant confirmation. everyone was exceedingly kind and helpful, from the concierge at the airport to the bus driver in the city center (who let us ride for free because the ticket kiosk was sold out - what?!). moreover, most people spoke excellent english, which was a definite surprise (and relief) for me. we did put some individual effort into learning some basic phrases before we arrived, which always makes a huge difference; starting with a few words in someone’s native language can result in a major change in the attitudes of people you meet along the way! plus, it’s fun to learn new ways to communicate.

the first half of our frunneymoon was spent exploring the city of athens, another amazingly historic place. if you can’t see the trend here, i like history-cations. we had an absolute blast for four days in the city. my favourite part (no surprises here) was seeing the ancient ruins; the enduring presence of millennia of history never ceases to astound me. i loved climbing up the acropolis, seeing the remnants of what was once the shining city on the hill that birthed modern democracy. we stood under the shadow of the parthenon, and it wasn’t difficult at all to imagine what it must have been in its glory days. (the full-scale replica in nashville helped a bit on that front.) we walked along the same paths that some of the greatest thinkers in history – plato, socrates, aristotle – might have strolled down, expounding on their philosophies to the young men who followed in their wake. it was so easy to picture that ancient city, the thriving culture that truly believed itself to be the pinnacle of all human history.

even apart from the overwhelming historical significance, athens was wonderful. we had some truly excellent food – i never liked gyros until i went to greece! like morocco, everything was fresh and often made right in front of you… also, the feta cheese was incredible. the best thing we ate, though, was the yogurt. yes, greek yogurt. on the recommendation of one of liz’s belmont friends, we went and found the yogurt shop “around the corner from the acropolis metro station, across from the gelato shop” and it. was. incredible. we went the first day.. and the second.. and the third.. and the fourth. literally, we ate this yogurt every day we were in athens. it was so fresh and creamy and delicious, and you could add fruit or cereal.. and then the honey. oh my lord, the honey… i have never had anything so delectable. i got the same thing every day – regular yogurt with bananas, corn flakes, and pine honey. the last day i added strawberries. i had to ask panos (the worker, who i ended up friending on facebook because he was so awesome) to give me the same quantity in a bigger cup so i could mix it all better. sigh… i miss you, fresko yogurt bar.

our time in athens wasn’t just spent eating yogurt on the acropolis, though. we saw a good part of the city in those four days! everything from the more modernized “academy” and national library to the little shopping streets of the plaka neighborhood. we checked out a couple museums, the panathenaic olympic stadium (the birthplace of the modern olympics), saw an enormous group of soccer fans gathering in a huge park on their way to a game, and even made some friends in our hostel. on the recommendation of the internet, we took an afternoon/evening trip out to the coast, to the temple of poseidon at sounio. it’s this isolated little temple on the tippy top of a cliff, overlooking the mediterranean on three sides. kind of makes sense why poseidon would want a temple there! we enjoyed watching a gorgeous sunset before taking the final bus back to the city. our last night, we hiked (read: took the cable car) to the top of the tallest hill in athens, lycabettus hill. there’s a teeny little church on top, and a restaurant, and that’s about it! we treated ourselves to a nice dinner, looking out over the city as the sun set and the lights started to twinkle. seeing the parthenon lit up from a different vantage point was certainly awe-inspiring!

on the fifth morning, we headed to the port to catch our boat for the second half of the frunneymoon… but i think that’s a story for a different post. :) if you would like to see photos from greece, check out this facebook album!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

istanbul: a bi-continental birthday with my boys

okay, okay. i know. this blog is embarrassingly far behind… i got so busy with traveling (without my laptop, no less) that it sort of just fell down the priority list. then i got home, and i was too overwhelmed to sit and blog… and then, all of a sudden, it’s been over 4 months since my last post. yikes. in an effort to not leave this year’s documentation in limbo (like i did three years ago after my semester abroad), i’m going to try to catch up. slowly. i’m fully aware that you, as my faithful readers, might have completely lost interest by now. but if any of you hates incompletion like i do, and if you have been wondering how my adventures ended, then you’re in luck. just pretend like the forthcoming entries were published 4 months ago.

when last we left our friend jill… i had just finished school. the previous post outlines how i felt leaving my little village, but shares basically nothing about what my next steps were. the curiosity must have been killing you! essentially, the week after work was one slow transition from normalcy to exploration. i spent a few days packing up and cleaning my apartment, stowed my big bag and a few boxes in the attic of the café, and took off with my backpack. since i lived so far from basically everything, even getting started on my traveling took a few days! i spent one evening in bordeaux with my friend emma and her little group, enjoying some rare and precious (and slightly alcohol-blurred) moments together. the next night, i had the absolute joy of spending some time with my dear friend devon in paris, and then i started the multi-step process of getting to istanbul the following afternoon!

this year had many, many plans with many cool people… but few had me more excited than my birthday week in istanbul with two of my absolute best friends. months beforehand, i had convinced two of my closest high school friends, ben and sam, to come explore the city with me for a week in april. step one of getting there involved a 7 hour layover in amsterdam with one of the boys! sam arrived just before i did; we stored our bags in the luggage lockers and took the train into the city for a few hours. it really is a cool place – different from any city i’ve ever visited. i loved the canals and the slightly off-kilter architecture. the clichés were all there, which was interesting. definitely challenges the concept of propriety! after walking for a while, taking some photos, and grabbing a bite to eat, we returned to schiphol airport for our flight to istanbul. a few short hours later (in the middle of the night), we touched down in turkey! getting through border control was a breeze, as we’d already procured our visas online, so it wasn’t long before we were meeting our third musketeer at the airport starbucks. ben had arrived about an hour before us, having come from visiting friends in london. it was so surreal to all be together again, feeling so normal in such new place! we settled in for a little airport camping until the shuttles into the city started running. (in other news, two velvety chairs pushed together makes a fairly decent bed!) around 6am, we caught the first bus into town and made our way to the hostel. unfortunately for us, we weren’t allowed to get into the room until 2pm, which gave us 7 very sleepy hours to kill… we did get to leave our bags though. we passed the morning by grabbing breakfast along the bosphorus and then taking a nap in a park near taksim square. once we got into the room and had a proper nap, the real fun began!

we had one full week together in the city, which called for a little strategizing – there is so much to see! i tried to stay flexible (occasionally a challenge for me) while still ensuring that we covered good ground each day. in typical me fashion, there was a lot of walking involved.. my travel style has evolved into simply picking a neighborhood and trying to see as much of it as possible before moving on to the next one. this strategy actually worked well for us, because we didn’t have too many specific items on our “must-do” list… generally, we just picked a few sights to see, and explored the surrounding area until it was time to move on!

one of my main reasons for wanting to visit istanbul is the history of the place – it may not stand up to the likes of jericho or damascus, but still… the site has been continuously inhabited for almost 3,000 years and that is nothing to shake a stick at! thanks to centuries upon centuries of the influence of various people groups, the culture in istanbul is incredibly vibrant and unique. i particularly loved the architecture – there is a distinct islamic vibe, evidenced by countless mosques, beautiful mosaic work, and arabesque and geometric patterns everywhere. my favourite building that we visited was the sultanahmet blue mosque – an enormous place of worship, filled with light and colour. i also loved the hagia sophia, which is situated just across from the blue mosque. we visited both of those places on my birthday, which made for a very happy history-lover. :)

one of the more surprising elements, however, was the prevalence of water-related activities... or, at least, the necessity of ferries. not including our handful of ferry rides back and forth across the strait, we took two separate boat trips during our week. our first trip was a tour up the bosphorus, bringing us to a village on the shores of the black sea. since it was on the eastern side of the river, it was technically my first visit to the asian continent! (hey, the line has to be drawn somewhere, and i crossed it!) we hiked up a big hill to the castle ruins perched high above the harbor, appreciating the views of the black sea and the bosphorus from the top. our second boat tour came on our last full day, when we took the hour-long ferry to the island of heybeliada – one of a group of islands called the “prince’s islands” in the sea of marmara. the islands are awesome – there are no cars to speak of, and locals get around on bikes or in horse-drawn carriages. seriously. we rented bikes for a few hours and rode around the whole island before grabbing a delicious dinner on the boardwalk. it was certainly a workout, but worth it for the gorgeous views. heybeliada is also famous for having some prime examples of the unique architecture in the area. coming from europe, i was so used to the yellow and gray stone so often used for homes – in istanbul, there were some really gorgeous wooden houses, almost reminiscent of a home in the french quarter of new orleans. i loved taking pictures of the old homes – they have so much character.

in addition to being an exceptionally historical place, istanbul is known for its lively nightlife… which we definitely witnessed. there were no all-nighters (much to ben’s chagrin), but we went out most nights, to a different bar (and even a club, once) to see what all the hype was about. different bars impressed me for varying reasons; some had great drinks and food, others had awesome entertainment and a neat atmosphere, and still others impressed me with their sheer awfulness… but regardless, we had loads of fun meeting people and spending time together. i do not miss that beer though… ugh. if i ever have an efes beer again in my life, it will be too soon. i will say, though… despite all the great nightlife in the city, my favourite evening was the one we spent on the asian side, watching the sun set over the old city. the minarets of the hagia sophia and the blue mosque gave the skyline a delicate silhouette against the dramatically fiery sunset, and the lights of the city twinkled in the water... it was magical.

the best part of the trip was, without a doubt, the friend time. seeing my boys after such a long separation was a blast! we enjoyed discovering new foods together (and also finding that nyc-themed café next to our hostel), walking through the back streets of various neighborhoods, and soaking up the culture in the streets and markets. honestly, we just goofed around a lot and reveled in the fact that three kids from franklin were halfway across the world together, living the adventurer’s dream. the cherry on top of that sentimental sundae was that i got to spend some time with one of my first-ever couchsurfing friends, alex! she was one of the flatmates in the place where i stayed in london, back in 2011. we kept in touch via facebook over the last 3 years, so i already knew that she’d relocated to istanbul over a year ago. when i decided that i’d be going to turkey, she was my first thought! we saw her several times throughout our week stay, and then i got to stay at her flat once the boys left. it was absolutely lovely.

this post seems disjointed… i tried to go for an overall review, as opposed to a day-by-day recounting. suffice it to say, i loved visiting such a wonderful city with such awesome company. and that’s enough about that. :) if you’d like to see a few pictures (also uploaded embarrassingly late), feel free to click here! next up is greece – stay tuned!