Do-Over Anniversary

Things do not always go as planned. Sometimes you just need a do-over. Our anniversary was not so excellent, so we decided to have a do-over day, and it was awesome.

My last post was all about the travel woes of two twenty something travelers celebrating an anniversary. And then losing/breaking stuff and then fighting. This post is a lot shorter and a lot sweeter.

Recipe for a “Do-Over Anniversary”

  1. Wake up and decide your fight was dumb and get over it.
  2. Road trip with the car you are slightly overpaying for.
  3. Go out to a delicious dinner and order whatever you want. Even that second desert.

Turns out all we really needed for our anniversary was quality time together and delicious food.

Literally all we did was drive all around the island, stopping once and a while to take some photos and read on the beach.

Olive tree stop

Olive tree stop

Beach stop

Beach stop

Then we went to dinner at a restaurant in the smaller town of Pefkos called Tsambikos (which was, ironically, the name of the beach where I lost my phone and the rental car key got ruined).

We sat on a huge glass balcony overlooking the town of Pefkos and the ocean. We shared a carafe of local wine, gazpacho, and mussels.

View for Anniversary dinner

View for Anniversary dinner

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Logan got cuttlefish risotto and I got steak in seared truffle oil.

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We got crème brulee for desert. It was so delicious that we ordered a second one.

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This was the Greek anniversary we had hoped for.

(Un)Happy Anniversary!

­For being less than a quarter century old Logan and I go WAY back. Technically we probably met 1996 when we were in Kindergarten, but boys had cooties back then so needless to say we were not friends. For thirteen years we were classmates, and eventually friends, in our tiny 50-person graduation class. In 2009, right before high school graduation, we started dating and four years later we got married. We have spent over a quarter of our lives as a couple and that percentage grows with every passing year.

Graduation 2009!!

Graduation 2009!!

Our anniversary present to ourselves this year was hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, but we spent our actual anniversary on the Greek island of Rhodes, exploring, swimming, and, very unfortunately, fighting. Yep, the biggest fight we’ve had in a long time happened on our anniversary. While on vacation on a beautiful island. Such is marriage sometimes.

Rough place to spend an anniversary.

Rough place to spend an anniversary.

Rhodes is a pretty large island and since we had forgone visiting other Greek islands we decided to fork over the extra euros and rent a car for a few days. Activity numero uno on our anniversary was picking up our car and figuring out where we were headed first.

Rental car

Rental car

Stop one ended up being the Valley of the Butterflies, where thousands of Jersey tiger moths (yes, moths not butterflies) migrate to each year the island to reproduce. It’s their own personal love valley. Perfect for an anniversary visit. The number of moths reaches its peak in late May, so we were a bit late to observe the phenomena, but there were still some moths flying around and the valley itself is lovely. There are, however, TONS of tourists, which means a slow walk up the narrow-ish paths.

Valley of the Butterflies

Valley of the Butterflies

Stop two was Seven Springs, which looks a lot better on Google Images than it does in person. It was pretty, but honestly it looked just like any other stream in the woods, which there are a lot of in our home state of Colorado. Maybe we are just stream snobs?

Seven Springs

Seven Springs

After feeling underwhelmed by the Valley of the Butterflies and GREATLY underwhelmed by Seven Streams, we were beginning to wonder if we had simply run out of anniversary luck (how can you beat hot air ballooning in Cappadocia?). Hoping our fortunes would turn we headed to beautiful Tsambikos beach for an afternoon of seaside lounging.

Anniversary beach time!

Anniversary beach time!

After grabbing a quick lunch at one of the beach bars (we were saving our money and our calories for a multi course dinner) we headed as far down the stretch of sand as you can go to get away from the crowds and find a sliver of sand all our own. We spent hours swimming, reading, and relaxing on the beautiful beach, blissfully unaware of the nasty, rage filled nosedive our anniversary was about to take.

Happiness before the storm.

Happiness before the storm.

It all started when Logan realized that he had accidentally left the rental car key in his pocket when we went swimming. No big deal, right? Wrong. This is 2015 people and apparently we now put electronics in our car keys that, when destroyed, prevent you from actually driving the car. As in you CAN NOT start the car with a wet/ruined key. Why? Um… because we can? Really I suppose it is for extra security or something, but if you do anything to damage the key you may end up stranded at a beach in Greece in a fight with your spouse because losing/destroying valuables in the pocket of your swim trunks is actually a fairly common problem for you. Maybe that’s just Logan…

Anyway, I was not too happy about the whole car key thing, but that was really nothing compared to the fact that approximately 3 minutes after discovering the car key was broken I discovered that my iPhone was missing. Lost, stolen, whatever. Point is it was in my bag and then it wasn’t. Our cell service was suspended for the trip and there was a lock on it so it is unlikely that anyone could have accessed my information, but I had photos on there I’ll never get back and I was really not looking forward to replacing a $600 Verizon specific phone when we got home. Luckily I had been backing up my photos fairly regularly, so I was only missing the most recent shots.

 

One of the bars at the beach let us borrow their phone to call the rental company for help. Logan was taking care of getting us back on the road while I scoured everywhere I had been looking for my phone. By the time we were rescued (because we were in so much danger waiting on an idyllic beach) we were not really speaking. We were both just so frustrated and mad and annoyed with how our day had turned out.

So what did these two ultra mature married adults do to remedy this shitty situation? Why we got super drunk of course! Which led to yelling (me), and crying (also me), then some lovely puking (yeah, me again). Good times.

In the grand scheme of things underwhelming tourist destinations, broken rental car keys (which cost 75 euro to repair as opposed to 150 to replace) and lost iPhones are laughable reasons to get into a huge blowout. We are well aware of this fact. Maybe some other underlying issues we were having with travel and each other finally bubbled to the surface. I’m sure our anniversary being “ruined” (according to drunk Heather anyway) did not help. And even though the crappiness of the day felt insurmountable at the time we quickly got over it and woke up the next morning full of apologies and agreements to just let everything that had happened the day before go. It’s only money (and a few photos).

I am so lucky in so many ways, but getting to live my life with Logan is what I am most thankful for, fights and all. Traveling is not always easy, and I think traveling with a loved one can be even more difficult than going at it alone. We get to share magical and wonderful adventures, but we must also deal the ups and downs of any relationship while navigating the stress and confusion that accompanies being on the road (especially on a budget). But he is my family and I love him and I know that at the end of every drunken shouting match he will be there to hold my hair as I regretfully cradle the porcelain bowl. I am one lucky girl.

 

PHONE UPDATE

We are not in a position to drop $600 on a brand new phone and we are still a year away from our upgrade, so I ended up spending hours scouring Craigslist for an affordable phone. Unfortunately Verizon (the service we use) is the only service which requires you to buy phone specific to their company (meaning the thousands of unlocked iPhones available in San Diego we unavailable to moi). Something to do with dual antenna munbo jumbo. I briefly considered getting a different kind of phone, but I quickly remembered that I am one of the brainwashed masses than simply cannot live without an iPhone. Pathetic. I finally found one and promptly began overpaying for insurance on it.

Goodbye Turkey, Hello Greece!

Initially the plan for our “Greece and Turkey” trip was to split our time evenly between the two countries. After spending a couple weeks busing around Turkey the goal was to spend a couple weeks island hopping around Greece. Then we looked up ferry prices to the various islands. Wow-za! Greece is not an expensive country to visit, but the ferries between the islands cost more than our daily budget. At 30-60 euro EACH WAY (in high season, which is when we were visiting), we just couldn’t justify blowing our budget to get to different islands within the same country. Maybe options coming from Athens are more affordable, but coming from Turkey your options are pretty limited and are not very budget friendly.

The luxurious Greek Islands

The luxurious Greek Islands

So we switched gears a bit and decided to focus on one or two islands and travel the much cheaper and easily accessible Turkish coast instead. After a lot of research and adjusted expectations we settled on one island, Rhodes. Why Rhodes? Honestly, location. It is one of the easiest Greek islands to get to from Turkey and it is large enough that five days there didn’t feel excessive. There are beaches and good restaurants and wine and history.

Welcome to Greece!

Welcome to Greece!

We had hoped to take a ferry from Fethiye to the island but for a reason still unbeknownst to us all the ferries from the Turkish city to the Greek island were cancelled the week we were in the area, so we ended up having to backtrack a bit up the coast to Marmaris, spend an unplanned extra night in Turkey and get on an afternoon ferry the next day. We were joined by dozens of day-trippers who had taken the morning ferry over from Rhodes to spend one day in Turkey (because you can absorb SO MUCH CULTURE by shopping in a tourist market for a few hours).

Most of our five days on Rhodes were spent exploring the island by car, but we did spend our first night walking around very cute, but VERY touristy Rhodes Town. The medieval city is the oldest inhabited in all of Europe and despite being stuffed with shops and restaurants catering to the literal boatloads of tourists packing the streets there is a certain charm to the cobbled streets and centuries old architecture.

Rhodes Town

Rhodes Town

Rhodes Town

Rhodes Town

Hello fellow tourists!!

Hello fellow tourists!!

We attempted to get away from the crowds and were rewarded with some romantic exploration of tourist free side streets.

Also Rhodes Town

Also Rhodes Town

Staying inside the medieval walls in Rhodes Town is pretty expensive (although we found a pretty okay deal for our one night there, only 40 euro), so we had booked an Airbnb in a town called Faliraki, which is one of the main party places on the island. Being the old married couple we are, we had no intention of parting and had chosen this spot solely based on the $28/ night room I had found. Plus there is a beach in Falaraki, which should be a given in picking a place to stay while on a Greek Island.

Our first full day on Rhodes was spent doing a whole lot of nothing at the beach in Falaraki. Some sun, some lunch, some swimming, some more sun, some reading, some dinner, some sleep. A vacation from vacation.

To Asia and Back in a Couple Hours

Backpacker confession… we have never been to South East Asia. Most of you reading at this point probably don’t know how blasphemous that statement is, but trust me, in the backpacker world not having been to Asia (specifically South East Asia) is like a San Diegan who has never been to the beach. While we still have not been to the backpacker motherland of South East Asia, we did make it to the continent of Asia while we were in Turkey, with our first few hours on our newest continent occurring as a day trip from the European side of Istanbul, where most visitors spend the entirety of their stay.

The Asian side of Istanbul is only a short ferry ride across the Bosporus and we had been told it has a very different feel to it. More local, less touristy. Sounded great. Well… I mean I guess technically it felt a little more local since there were far less tourists wandering around, but if you walk a few blocks from the main tourist streets in any city it will always feel a lot more local. But basically it had the same crowded, bustling, kinda dirty city feel as the European side.

Goodbye Europe!

Goodbye Europe!

Maybe we were expecting too much, but we had read and heard about it being like transported to a totally different city, one that is like magic and off the beaten path and different and blah blah blah. It wasn’t horrible or anything, but we got the same feeling as we had walking through the local neighborhood we were staying in, so the “something special” factor just wasn’t there for us.

I have no other pictures of the Asian side. I wasn’t even inspired enough to take out my camera.

Feeling completely uninspired by our day trip, we scrapped the rest of our plans for our Asian adventure (which wasn’t hard since “walking around the Asian side of Istanbul” basically summed them up) and headed back to the European side to finish our short stay as the guidebooks had intended, filled with Turkish merchants overcharging white cruise ship day trippers for trinkets that would end up at the bottom of their grandchildren’s junk drawer. To the bazaar we went!

Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar

Knowing that we would be coming back to Istanbul to do some shopping at the end of the trip, our walk through the Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar was really more of a reconnaissance mission for future purchases, although we did buy enough dried fruit to last us a few bus rides.

Since we had cut our Asia-day extremely short, we had some time after our grand non-shopping adventure to take a sweaty and miserable walk up an intimidatingly large hill (strangely lined with stores that only sold pots and pans and kitchen appliances) to the Suliemanye Mosque. We arrived just in time for the call to prayer (when the mosques are closed to non-Muslims), but our timing ended up being a blessing in disguise since it gave us a chance to observe all the different people showing up to pray.

Suliemanye Mosque

Suliemanye Mosque

Walking around Istanbul it is not easy to forget that you are in a Muslim country. Many women are fully covered, the call to prayer sounds loudly throughout the city and mosques are everywhere you look. But despite a prevalence of long pants on men and headscarves and ankle length skirts on women, there are many, many Turkish Muslims dressing a lot less conservatively, especially in Istanbul.

When walking through the younger, hipper neighborhoods (like the one near the University) it is impossible to distinguish who is a practicing Muslim and who is not based on their clothing. Beyond that, it is often difficult to distinguish young tourists from young Turkish locals based on the length of their skirts alone. Istanbul is still far more conservative than say, Los Angeles, and you will not see booty shorts and low cut tops on very many Turkish women, but jeans, summer dresses and sleeveless tops are not uncommon. Dressing well seemed to be very important in Turkey and there are tons of extremely attractive Turkish men and women who would fit in just fine in any fashion capital in the world.

Nowhere was the wide disparity in conservatism more obvious than at the entrance of the mosque, where women in heels and pencil skirts came to pray alongside their fully covered female co-workers. I loved seeing the modern, professional women putting on the long skirts and head scarves provided by the mosque that I assumed were available because of non-Muslim tourists. It had never occurred to me that the beautiful women on the metro wearing that cute summer dress would be kneeing in prayer later in the day. How narrow-minded is that?

When the prayer ended we were allowed to enter the mosque. Shoes come off, knees and shoulders (and heads if you are a woman) need to be covered and a respectful silence is expected. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that these beautiful buildings are not there for us as tourists to snap a few pictures and leave, they are places where people find their peace and solace and they need to be respected.

Fitting in at the  Suliemanye Mosque

Fitting in at the Suliemanye Mosque

With our final bit of sightseeing/ culture soaking finished we headed back to our Airbnb to grab our bags and eat a delicious kebab dinner on Istiklal street before making our way to the gargantuan Istanbul bus station to catch our overnight bus headed for the destination we were possibly most looking forward to… Cappadocia!!

I May Not Love Istanbul (Yet), but I LOVE Topkapi and Kumpir!

After a full first day of falling in “like” with Istanbul, we set out on day two, in search of some city-love.

Hoping to beat the forecasted insufferable heat and the even more stifling crowds, we made a point of waking up fairly early and hightailing it (via the metro) to the Grand Bazaar to do a bit of shopping (well, looking more than shopping, to scope out of the copious amounts of crap I was planning to buy later in the trip). Unfortunately for us (and anyone else who assumed the market is open every day), you cannot visit the Grand Bazaar on Sundays. So picking up from where we stopped caring the day before, Topkapi Palace became the goal for the morning.

We had read and heard very mixed reviews on the Topkapi Palace, but I honestly don’t know what those crazy haters are talking about. IT IS BEAUTIFUL. And interesting. And, unfortunately, very crowded. Logan and I generally have SHORT attention spans when it comes to the visiting and exploring of churches, art museums, historic homes, basically any place which you are supposed to stand in awe of anything located inside of a building. But we lasted 3 HOURS at Topkapi Palace, and I almost think we would have stayed even longer had it not been for the mind-melting heat and pushy crowds.

I LOVE geometric patterns!

I LOVE geometric patterns!

I mean, look at this place!!!

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Nuff said.

Plus there is a lily pond.

Plus there is a lily pond.

While inside, stop and stare type of activities are not typically our cup of tea (cups of tea are, incidentally, my cup tea…haha?), laying/sitting in a park/garden reading/relaxing is one of our absolute favorite pastimes and right outside the walls of the palace is an amazing, shady, slightly trippy outdoor space where we were able to get our read on.

The park, like everywhere else in Istanbul, is extremely crowded, but the energy is different and after a full morning of doing the tourist thing we were happy to take a reading break in the shady, almost comfortably cool-ish grass.

We spent a few hours in our city oasis surrounded by young couples sit on park benches canoodling (Muslim appropriate canoodling of course), teenage boys taking “look at how sexy I look against this tree” selfies, and joyful children running around playing with local and tourist friends alike. It was marvelous.

But, since we are alive, we eventually got hungry, so back into the crowds we went in search of food, settling on kumpir, which is basically a baked potato on crack. When describing kumpir I must first make very clear that the potatoes used to created this magical twist on a down-home classic are GIGANTIC. Like a big as a small human head. Okay not really, but they are HUGE.

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Preparation of the Kumpir

  1. Make a baked potato.
  2. Take insides out of baked potato and mix them thoroughly with enough cheese and butter to give you a heart attack.
  3. Put buttery, creamy mixture back into the potato and fill with toppings such as sliced hot dog, relish, mayonnaise, corn, olives, sour cream, meat stuff. Ketchup is not optional.

I’m not really into potatoes and at home baked potatoes rarely make an appearance on our dinner/coffee table. In fact, in five years of living together I am not sure we have ever had baked potatoes. But I gotta confess, I LOVED kumpir. A lot.

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But did I love Istanbul? I still wasn’t so sure so with only one day left (for now) we wanted to explore a different side to the city. So on our third and final day we decided to take a day trip to Asia. Haha… a different side… went to another continent… no one has ever made that joke before…

Beautiful Istanbul?

It turns out that Logan and I are really not city people. The noise, the smells, the crowds, not really for us. We much prefer to travel to places with lots of fresh air, very few people and space to lie around reading. Generally we now plan our trips “city-lite”, preferring to cram all the sightseeing into a few busy days so that we can get the heck out of dodge (or Rome or Prague). There are, however, exceptions to our anti-city attitudes. Paris, Budapest, Edinburgh, Vienna, we love them all. The culture, the food, the energy. All that stuff can make up for any middle-of-the-night screaming or the ever-present smell of garbage and urine.

Beautiful? Hmm.....

Beautiful? Hmm…..

So how did we feel about Istanbul? Did the delicious food and wonderful sights make up for the throngs of people and dangerous taxi drivers constantly threating life and limb? Does it have enough culture and energy to make up for constantly having to question if you stepping in water or pee? In short, mostly. Istanbul is big and loud and smelly and full of cats and shops and people. And it is pretty wonderful.

Beautiful.

Beautiful.

After a seven-hour bus ride across the Bulgarian border and through the insane Istanbul traffic we successfully figured out the metro system and found our Airbnb in the Beyoglu neighborhood. This proved to be a great home base from which to explore the city. It was much cheaper staying in the Old City and much less touristy, while still being close to the main sights and lots of great restaurants on Istiklal Street.

Our bus "conductor".

Our bus “conductor”.

Our first food stop on our first day of sightseeing was the famous fish bread boats along the Bosporus. These perfect sandwiches consist of bread and fish (grilled mackerel) and onions and are greasy and delicious.

Nom nom nom.

Nom nom nom.

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After stuffing our faces full of fish bread (the official name by the way) we lugged our full butts up the hill to the main sights of the Sultanahment neighborhood. Our first stop was the line to get into the Basilica Cistern, the very one in which the climax of the Dan Brown novel Inferno takes place. Being underground in the eerily lit cistern was very otherworldly and strange. I loved it. The only downside was other tourists constantly jostling you to get the best picture (but isn’t that always the main downside at major sights?).

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Basilica Cistern

Next we headed to the line to get into Aya Sofia, located right across the road from the cistern. Aya Sofia was a Christian church, then it became Muslim mosque, and now it is a tourist museum. Because of that there are both Christians portraits and Muslim symbols, all of which are beautiful and sparkly and golden.

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Aya Sofia

Just a short stroll across a beautiful square filled with flowers and a bubbling fountain is the equally famous Blue Mosque. The Blue Mosque is a working mosque, meaning visitors need to be mindful of their clothing and need to plan their visit around the call to prayer, during which non-Muslim visitors are not allowed. We hopped in the longest line of the day and prepared ourselves by removing our shoes and covering our knees and shoulders (and my head).

There's the Blue Mosque!

There’s the Blue Mosque!

Inside the Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque

With all this sightseeing and line waiting we had somehow not noticed how hot and humid the day had become. The original plan was to visit the Topkapi Palace, but we felt tired and cranky and sick of pushing our way through crowds so we cut our day a little short and headed back to our room for reading and relaxing (and air conditioning!) before feasting on kebab and fresh cherries while taking a nighttime stroll down Istikal Street.

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Nothing quite like a relaxing post dinner stroll.

It’s always a good idea to end a chaotic day in crowd filled streets with a calm stroll down even more crowded streets.

Welcome to Istanbul!

Reunited At Last! (Sozopol, Bulgaria)

Logan’s journey to meet me in Bulgaria was a long and slow one where patience and flexibility became extremely important and where we were reminded that sometimes in travel you really need to go with the flow. We had booked our tickets for this trip using United miles, so for only a small fee we were able to move Logan’s travel date up, meaning he would be meeting me in Bulgaria, instead of Istanbul. Unfortunately we were not able to change his destination, meaning he still flew into the Turkish city and then took a bus to meet me on the Black Sea. Enter bad travel luck. Every single one of Logan’s three flights was delayed, getting him into Istanbul too late to catch a bus to Bulgaria. Then, both of his debit cards wouldn’t work, despite the fact that we did everything we were supposed to banking-wise before we left. So, Logan was stranded in Istanbul with no money. I on the other hand was alone, literally ALL ALONE as I was the only one staying at my hotel, in a Bulgarian hotel where NO ONE spoke English. I cried.

Look! It's Logan!

Look! It’s Logan!

The next day luck was a little on our side and Logan was able to borrow some money from someone at the hostel and pay for the bus with the credit card. I waited and waited, and late in the afternoon Logan finally arrived in Burgas, Bulgaria. I cried, again. Together we went to Sozopol on the Black Sea for a couple days of sunshine and beach.

Sozopol, Bulgaria

Sozopol, Bulgaria

We ate mussels and anchovies and fish and super delicious pita. We swam in the Black Sea, got bit by what the owner of our hotel called “sea scorpions” (hopefully a mistranslation, we were assured “it is no problem!”), and we wandered around the old town. We watched movies in our room overlooking the water while it rained. It was the perfect start to the next chapter of the trip.

Black Sea Beach

Black Sea Beach

Welcome back to the blog Logan!!