The #layover: Istanbul. 9 hours isn't a whole lot of time, but it's just enough to: make it through customs, freshen up in the ladies', drop my carry-on at left luggage, cop a metro card and take the train, then the tram to #Sultanahmet, a district that is home to several of the touristic sites in #Istanbul. My flight landed at 5a, so the sites are free of tourists by the time I arrive. Even the sun hasn't fully shown up yet. I stroll and snap, stopping to chat with stray cats and seagulls. Soon, the early shops begin to open and food smells start wafting in the air. I spy a side street spot packed with people... a sure sign that something good is being served. After eating, another tourist attraction and a brisk walk through the gigantic Grand Bazaar. "Hello! Good Morning!" Many of the shop keepers cheerfully call as they prep their stalls for the day. I smile and reply, impressed that they guess English on the first try. Only 1 offers a tentative, "Bonjour". I must already look like home. Too tired to buy, i exit, then zombie-walk a bit more, trying to decide if i should enter 1 of the now-open attractions or... i see a sign. '300-year-old Turkish bath'. Hm. When in #Turkey.... I descend into the coolness, hand over the last of my lira. A motherly attendant greets me on the ladies' side. I'm assigned a changing room with a key, some clog-like slippers, a light towel, metal bowl, soap and scrub mitt, then pointed to the common bath. Shyness quickly dissipates, and once an attendant gently scolds me on how to correctly use the ancient taps, marble basins and metal bowl, i conduct my own ritual of soap-and-scrub, rinse, steam-and-sleep for the next hour and a half, before reluctantly returning to the changing room. I hit the streets and reverse my arrival procedure. As i board, i sigh a little. Content that i'll be arriving in ATL feeling so fresh and so clean.
My flight from Morocco to South Africa included a 17-hour layover in Cairo. Which was plenty of time to see 1 of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. I had stayed out well past bedtime the night before and slept poorly on the plane, so exhausted was an understatement. My tour driver met me at the airport after a long wait for my free hotel voucher from the airline. The first part of the tour was just what I’d hoped, but it quickly turned into a shill show that ultimately left a sour taste in my mouth. Still, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I won’t soon forget.
Booked a shuttle to Cape Point, aka, the Cape of Good Hope, and along the way we stopped at Boulders Beach, home to a settlement of #penguins. I was absolutely giddy to see these #birds in natural habitat, plodding about officiously on the sand and darting through the water with amazing speed. Truly one of the most delightful #nature excursions i've ever had. #capetown #southafrica #indianocean
When the shuttle driver to Cape Point turned and announced to us, "I'm not supposed to do this," I knew good things were in store. Instead of driving us to the top of the #mountain for scenic views only, he dropped us at the bottom and gave us time to #hike up and meet him at the top. We were 4 in total: me, Laura - a US expat living in Uganda - and her 2 boys. During the drive, Laura and I had already discussed our shared idea that time spent in #nature is a form of medicine. That day, we all got our doses while scrambling over rocks, marvelling at the views, snapping countless photos and spotting wildlife on the hour-plus hike. Every time i thought i had seen the most beautiful #vista there was to see, we'd round a bend and... bam! Even more eye-popping beauty. We finished with a short funicular ride up to the so-called 'invisible #lighthouse'. A few more pics, a brief and much-needed moment of silent meditation for myself and we headed back 2 the shuttle... 15 minutes after we were supposed to return. Our driver scolded us 4 being tardy, but soon got over it as we all shared fruits and other snacks on the drive back to the city. #capetown #southafrica #capepoint#capeofgoodhope
Day 2 in #haiti. After a quick morning walk in #Petionville, breakfast, then our driver Paul arrived to whisk us away to Côte Arcadains for some #beach time. Whisk is an oversell, since the tangled streets of Port Au Prince took almost as much time to navigate as the potholed road through the countryside. And there was also that police stop for some minor offense (tinted windows) that required Paul to pay up for us to keep moving. Still, the ride was an eye-opener as we passed several small towns with bustling markets along the way before arriving at our destination. #portauprince#thisishaiti #caribbean
I speak only a scant few words of French and no Kréyol, but when a #Haitian dude in a boat at our resort mimed eating and said the word 'poisson', my response was an enthusiastic, 'Oui!' Crew assembles and 'Frizzy' rows us over to the plage piblik for some fresh-caught, fire-grilled #fish followed by a big ol' #lobster for dessert. It was so good, we repeat the trip the next day. This time we're greeted by what must be an entire regiment of the Haitian National Police. Clearly, they weren't expecting 3 caramel mermaids to wash ashore, but they welcomed us accordingly. One officer was being particularly flirty. I reminded him of the very prominent band on his finger. "No. No. I'm not married." Oh yeah? I'm sure your wife would disagree. "No," he reassured. "I'm not married to a girl, I'm married to a spirit. To Erzulie." Oh. Yeah. Well... super naw, then, officer. #aintnobodygottimeforthat #haiti #onlyinhaiti #lifesabeach #eatinghaiti
Final 24 hours in #haiti. (part 2) We eventually arrive at the Marche en Fer (Iron Market) - which could best be described as a supercenter for #vodou items, home remedies and other #artisanal wares & services (you can even get yo' crochet braids done here!). We haggle for #souvenirs - the most sought after are Haitian vodou flags - hand-beaded representations of #lwa, or spirits, that make up the vodou pantheon. I decide on a large flag of #bossou, but have to settle on a smaller version after I realize I'm cash-tight #sellersmarket. Our purchases secured, and back in the car, we pass the ruins of the main #cathedral, more street scenes, make a quick stop at a downtown park, then a long, slow climb up into the hills, where we marvel at the view of the entire island and finish with a celebratory birthday dinner. My entree of vermicelli #djondjon with lobster is a fitting last item on my must-try list of #haitiancuisine. Back at the hotel, we cap the night off with drunken trivia, and E'lon gets a final birthday surprise delivered to the room by one of the staff. Next morning we say our final #aurevoir to the hotel and to Haiti herself. Mesi!!