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Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

On our first day in Istanbull we visited the Grand Bazaar. It is collosal, it has over 4,000 shops. It has a long history as do maby things in Istanbul. It was fun to wander around in it. When you levae it there are outside markets as well. Of course it attracts tourists, but I think it serves many of the residents in Istanbul as well.

Click Here for larger version of the pictures: </a


Basilica Cistern

Near the Hagia Sophia (and our hotel) was the Basilica Cistern. It is a huge huge cistern constuircted for purifying water in Constantinople and was construted under the site of a Basilica. Now it is a tourist site - mostly quite dark. Especially noted are several columns with Medusa's head at the base. Also a tank with fish swimming around.

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Hagia Sophia

As a very simple desciption of complex history, the Basilica of the Hagia Sophia was built in 360 as an Eastern Orthodox church in Constantinople. Earthquakes, wars, political disruptions, etc. caused it to have a complex history with considerable damage and rebuilding at avrious times - it was turned in to a Mosque in 1453. In 1935 it was turned into a museum. There is a movement to turn it into a Mosque again. As in many historical building there is renovation work underway so some of the views are messed up.

We could see it from the roof of our hotel. and it was the first place that we visited.

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with camera

Our recent trip to Georgia and Armenia - with several days in Istanbul

We went on a Ken McFarland trip to Georgia and Aremnia (this was our 15th of his trips) and spent two full days in Istanbul on the way. This was not a dancing trip as are many of Ken's trips, but many of his travelers are dancers and of the 14 people, only 5 of them had not been on other trips that we've been on,

In Istanbul we visited Hagia Sophia, the Basilica Cistern, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palice, the Archeological Museum, the Grand Bazaar, and the Spice Bazaar and lots of walking around. Amazing city - with lots of history - Constantinople had such an important role in that region as a European/Asian gateway.

In Georgia we had a few nights in Tbilisi, and several long trips to see mountains, monastaries, caves, old villages. and the Black Sea. Nice meals and local folk dancing. We just had two days in Armenia. Gorgeous vistas everywhere - interesting architecture in Georgia. Some of the roads aren't in good shape - especially in the mountains where threwe small landslides. And often there were cows nonchalantly walking on the roads.

Both countires have unique alphabets - I learned (and forgot) a few letters. Many of the signs were also in phonetic English and/or Russian (which I can read). And the explanations in museums and other sights were in multiple languages incljuding English.

More posts and pictures will be coming.


A vist to the Dalí Museum

We went to Espace Dalí Paris in Montmontre which was full of incredible examples of Dali's work. Lots of fun to walk around and see huge amounts and variety of his work. Of course if you want to find out what time it is the clocks aren't very helpful. In 2012 when we were in Barcelona we went to the Dalí museum in Cadaqués which is located in a house that he lived in.

I always wonder what a session between Salvator Dalí and his psychiatrist would be like...

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In memory of Martin Luther King

On the left (MLK's right) is the late Rev. Ira Blalock, on the right is Rev. Gordon Gibson. They were in jail together with Martin Luther King in Selma, Alabama in 1965. I went to a UU church in Wellesley, MA for a while - mostly because my roomate's friend was the organist there and several other friends where in the choir. (This was the only church or synagogue going experience in my life.) Ira Blalock was the minister; his services were very interesting and always dealt with current reality. Gordon Gibson was the minister in another Boston area church and when I got married. In 1966 he conducted the ceremony because Ira had moved away.


Seen while wandering around

Wandering around Paris is always interesting - day or evening. Churches, people, shopping... And the bridge with locks.

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Père Lachaise Cemetary

On our first day in Paris in May we went to visit the Père Lachaise Cemetary, a huge cemetary in Paris with over a million people buried there. There is a Crematorium and Columbarium with even more people's remains. It is still an active cemetary; you have to live in Paris or die in Paris in order to be buried there. Graves are often opened and additional family member's remains are placed in the same tomb.

It's a beautiful place with gardens, trees, and a wide variety of tombs and monuments; it is very interesting to walk around in.

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with camera

Our trip to France last May

Last May we went to France for 2 weeks but I never posted any journal entries so here we go. The official reason was to go on a Ken MacFarland English Country Dancing trip where we stayed in Château des Briottières in the Loire valley near Angers, touring every day and dancing at night. We went to some amazing places some of which we've been to before - it is such a beuatiful area - of course France is full of beautiful places.

And before this part of the trip we stayed for 5 days in Paris, my favorite city to visit. I love walking around the streets in Paris, we stayed at Hotel Eugenie on rue Saint Andre des Arts in the 6th, a busy street and the area I always choose to stay in. The Louvre, the Salvatore Dali museum, the chocolate museum, Ste Chapelle, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, a boat on the Seine, the Eiffel tower were all places we visited.

Ste Chappelle:

Our room in Château des Briottières:

And the field/pond behind the chateau:

And there was an American Contra Dance in Paris that we went to one night while in Paris.


Our Columbia / Ecuador trip - Recap

It's been fun looking at a few pictures every day since we came back and making a post. Get to relive parts of the trip over time. The trip was from Nov 11 to Nov 26. It was an extremely enjoyable trip.

Very interesting history of these two countries - indigenous people, the Spanish conquest (always amazing that they traversed around the bottom of South America to settle/conquer the west coast of South America), liberation, modernization and population increase - recent high crime now under pretty good control in Colombia. It looks like the indigenous people are treated pretty well these days.

We flew to Cartagena via Panama City where we had a canal tour. Glad we had the opportunity to see that. Building that had such a huge effect on the world; and they have recently expanded it to accomodate larger ships.

Cartagena's walled city is really neat; it was hot and humid but still really nice walking around looking at people, houses, and street scenes. A good way to start the trip.

Then we went to Bogota. The altitude (8,662 ft) kept the weather cool. Bogota is a huge city - really nice museums, not as pretty - very impressive bus transportation system. And we definitely felt the altitude. Spectacular churches in all the cities we visited.

Then we went to Quito. From Quito we took a short trip to Otavalo, the site of a huge market. I really liked walking around the streets of the old town of Quito - it is surrounded by slightly higher mountains with houses on the hillside. so lots of scenic views. There were a couple of side trips up hills that we could have taken, but the weather wasn't quite clear enough to merit doing it.

Then we took the four day Tren Crucero trip from Quito to Guayquil. It was a nice refubished train - with very nice and well-informed guides (English and Spanish speaking) and we made various tourist stops. We were at the end of the rainy season and this part of the trip had clear skies most of the time. Saw lots of high mountains and volcanoes on the way. A highlight was the visit to the Rose factory/plantation. There were various forms of entertainment with visitors on the train. I highly recommend it.

Rail South America runs various other trips - some are one day and then there is the three week Buenos Aires trip to Peru including Machu Picchu. And I've been tempted by the Lima to Huancayo trip where I read once that conductors carry oxygen in case you need it because of the highest point which is 15,686 feet.

Then a day in Guayaquil including walking around an old section on a hill - nice small church of course and a pirate ship. We did spend a bit of time in Guayaquil in 2010 on the way to and from the Galapagos.

We stayed in several small boutique hotels that were quite nice: Casa Pombo in Cartagena, Casa El Éden in Quito, and two nice Hosterias on the train trip: Hosteria La Andaluza in Riobamba and Hosteria D'Franco in Bucay.

I recommend this trip and note that wasn't my first time: 51 years ago I went to these cities and took the then one-day train trip from Guayaquil to Quito. It was not a tourist train - at one point a woman got on carrying a bag of chickens (live). It is interesting to note that the population of Bogota then was under 1 million; now it is about 8 million.