Monday, October 5, 2015

The Flight.

We flew to Bangkok with Turkish Airlines. Our original plan was to fly to Hanoi separately, Kathleen from Dublin and I from Istanbul. Searching for the best value flights possible, I suggested to Kathleen that she fly to Bangkok return and buy single flights, then on to Hanoi she could then get a return to Bangkok from Siem Ream. It made good sense as multi city flights were coming in around €1000 and the return to Bangkok was €498 return with the flight to Hanoi just under €70.

I planned to fly with Asiana from Istanbul to Hanoi and return with them from Siem Reap. This came in just under €800. Once I knew Kathleen was flying to Bangkok and thinking she might stay a couple of nights, I decided to get the same flight from Istanbul. It would be cheaper again.....or so I thought. But I was wrong. To get on Kathleen's onward flight from Istanbul would cost me €800, €300 more for two flights less. 

I decided to spend the same money as originally budgeted, fly back to Ireland, see Mum and then join Kathleen. Amazing! Four extra flights and almost the same cost as flying from Istanbul,  €800.

Turkish Airlines are a comfortable airline to fly with. The food is good, there is in flight movies and the seats are comfortable. The second leg of our journey from Istanbul to Bangkok took just over 9 hours, I watched several movies, did my knitting. Hurray for bamboo needles, there is no problem bringing them on a flight and knitting both relaxes me and helps me pass the time. The thing I did least of on this flight was sleep even though I was supplied with a "flight kit" from the airline.

Landing reminded me of Ireland. We came down through thick grey cloud. It didnt bode well for the next couple of days.


The Holiday begins.

On Thursday we did a whistle stop tour of Sultanahmet, but not before we had a lazy breakfast on the sixth floor of the And Hotel. Kathleen was in her element, olives and tea on tap, not to mention the wonderful views of the Aya Sofya and The Blue Mosque.
I loved the cloud in this photograph of the Aya Sofya

The Blue Mosque by day

Looking towards Topkapı
We parked our overnight bags in the storage room and set out to see the sites.

As we only had a day, I suggested Topkapı Palace

The gates to Topkapı but who is that lady posing in my photo?

There is so much to see there and it is ideal for a lazy amble. I was pleased to note the short queues. I have been here before and they can snake back for miles. I renewed my museum card, one of the bonuses of having a residency permit. At a cost of 40tl for the basic or 50tl to for the Muze + card you get free entrance to most of Turkey's museums. We also bought the extra tickets to visit the harem. It would be such a waste to visit the Palace and not see the harem.

An inner courtyard in the harem
It was our first stop. I love this building and I find myself transported into another age. The first time I visited here, it was 2006 I think, there were actual guided tours, so much better than the audio guides available now. You can't beat the human touch, someone to answer questions, add the extra bit of information and to crack a joke. I imagine myself living there in Ottoman times.

Comfy places to sit and read.
However, in reality, instead of, as I imagine myself, a beloved wife of the sultan, lounging on cushions, sipping coffee (sorry even in my dreams I can't bring myself to drink tea) I am sure I would have been the poor servant girl, dragging buckets of coal for the don't spoil this this fantasy by telling me it was the eunuchs that performed this task.

Doors tiles and domes, you need to look left, right, up and down,

After a wander around some of the other rooms, including the circumcision room,  it was time for coffee overlooking the Bosphorus. These are places I only read about as a child, never dreaming that I would visit them later in life.

The Bosphorus.

The next plan was to visit the Treasury and also the displays of clothes. One look at the queues for these sent us hurrying in the other direction towards the kitchens. We also had a quick run around the Weapons room. I can't imagine how they hefted some of those swords.

With time marching on, we headed for the Blue Mosque. It was Kathleen's first time inside a mosque. It is a beautiful building,  once you have fended off the tour guides and the carpet sellers on the way in and out. Speaking Turkish helps. I found that while they still chatted for a couple of minutes, they quickly gave up on the hard sell.

Inside the Blue Mosque

It was time to return to the hotel, grab our bags and head for the airport! My holiday is about to begin.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Room with a View.

Yesterday, my friend Kathleen and I set off on our big adventure. I had been planning a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia for over a year. I had planned a solo trip but then Kathleen decided to celebrate a significant birthday by joining me.

We then tweaked the original itinerary, a 17 day/ 16 night tour of Vietnam and Cambodia, a GrabOne Voucher, with the help of the ever patient Mr. Anthony of Go Asia Travel, until we ended up with a glorious 5 week trip of a lifetime.

 On the first leg of our journey, we flew from Dublin to Istanbul. It is Kathleen's first time in the city. Therefore I presented her with her birthday present, a room with a view. Of course this was a "rebound" present as I get to share the room too.

Aya Sofya

The Blue Mosque
Interestingly, I discovered I felt the holiday begins for me tonight when we fly to Bangkok. Flying into Istanbul, I just felt I was coming home.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Diary of a Desperate Housewife Part 2. Jak, Reflections and Fly Spots!

Jak has a lot to answer for. He has over twenty people dementedly wandering around praying for a calm day to take photographs of reflections in water,  taking photographs of windows, sunglasses, anything with a reflective surface. Click on the link to see what Annie was up to on Hydra

The pressure is on. At our last photography workshop, Jak went from singing our praises and telling us how wonderful we were to telling us we had disappointed him with our  " Shadow" homework. It wasn't creative enough.

This one passed the test. I "borrowed" the idea from  Darek Grabus, I found it on Pinterest. The original I tried to recreate is here

Shadow or reflection? This is the shadow thrown by a wine glass. I was holding the glass in my hand. I never thought of shadows in terms of  colour so maybe this is a reflection?

I got approached by a member of staff  outside of Carrefour moving these trolleys around to take their photograph. I told him I was doing a photography project so avoided being arrested for being crazy!

It is not our fault if we set the bar so high in the beginning. We were bound to hit a wall somewhere. So we had three weeks to redeem ourselves with our "Reflections" homework.  We were warned to submit good work. He knows what we are capable of. He has seen some of our pictures in mirrors. We were warned not to submit any more. These were not what he is looking for. 

Jak wants reflections in water. It would be good if it would rain, I could do with a puddle or two. I am five minutes from the sea but anytime I have gone there it has been breezy or the sun has been too high. 

I have all the excuses in the world. For two weeks I have been building a garden....not finished by the way. And now I have finally started to spring clean the house. Again doing photography homework for "Portraits" I was horrified to see how the camera exaggerated - not -  the dirt and sand blown onto my windows. My story is, "I am a pensioner and I cannot afford net curtains." After all, there are 10 windows and 5 sets of double patio doors in this house. It is much more cost effective to let the dust build up and stop the neighbours peeping in. That is until visitors come.

So with a visit to Ireland looming, cat sitters coming and Reflections homework to do I decided it was time for the spring clean. In spite of what Jak said about reflections in water - I have a few of those in the archive - I thought I would capture a few reflections in all the glass.

Unfortunately I submitted this one when the topic was trees.

So there is this one, though I have not got the sky right.

My evil grin.
After all windows are not mirrors and I can be creative by how much I angle the window. And it just might mess a little with Jak's head.

Not my door but they are my cats, reflected, if you look carefully. 

Decided to go the whole hog and do a reflected selfie!

Which led me to my present plight. I have successfully cleaned the middle floor of my house, my main living space. Today, the plan was to clean the cat sitter's room, the one which originally called attention to the grimed windows - think in terms of Dickens - and the dust elephants and hippos that gamboled under the bed.

 I am pleased to announce that the hippos have been reduced to bunnies. I know all their secret hangouts and now deal with them on a slightly more regular basis. Which led me to the shutters and the windows. 

Shutters no problem. Water, sponge and Cif had them shining in minutes. The windows should have been no problem. With my trusty Karcher window Vac I should have them dealt with in half an hour. That is about as long as the battery lasts which is good news for me. It gives me time for a leisurely coffee break while waiting for it to recharge.

I would be lost without my Karcher, It cleans windows in a jiffy and insists on being recharged at regular intervals, perfect for those who need a coffee break! Please ignore the colour of the water......and you thought I might be exaggerating!

I started well.  The first window, the offending one from the portrait shoot, was dealt with in minutes. So on to the next one. This is where disaster befell. FLY SPOTS!!

Half way through cleaning I was writing this blog post in my head. I grabbed my phone and snapped a couple of pictures for the post. Those black dots to the side, by the way, are on an electricity pole, they are not the offending spots.

The window is a double window. Amazingly there is not a single fly spot on the left hand pane, whereas the outside of the right hand pane was dotted with them. I tried everything. I soaked them in hot water, I used window cleaner, I used Cif cleaner. I tried gently scraping with a knife, knowing I was likely to scratch the glass. But fly spots? How would I ever capture a clear reflection in the window? Oh dear, Jak will not be pleased.

I swear the window was not this bad. This is just the way the light fell trying to take the photograph with my phone.

  In the end I sat down and googled easy ways to remove baked on fly spots. Believe me they are baked in this heat. It was 29C yesterday, and who knows maybe they are there since last summer...oops did I actually write that. Not true, not true at all.

Consulting Google, I learned that  apart from lots of water and elbow grease there is no easy solution. I also learned the fly specks could be a) fly poo b) fly spit.....after it regurgitates its food or c) be nothing at all to do with flies but shooting spores from the cannon fungus projected on to my windows. To be honest I don't care what causes them. I want to know how to remove them!

I have managed to bleach them from all the household products I sprayed on them, I removed some, I have also slightly scratched the glass in places. At one stage I considered getting a marker and joining the dots. I think it might have made a pretty picture. If there are glow in the dark markers I definitely would have done it. It would have resembled several new constellations. I could drive my visitors mad by telling them I had drawn a map of them for them to locate these constellations in the night sky.

What the window could have looked like, only I didn't fancy cleaning it when the novelty wore off.

This story does not end well. The "fly spots" remain though they are now bleached. I spent over an hour wrestling with one window pane. I have checked my room, it's next on the list and yep, they are on the lower left hand pane of one of the windows there too. So if anyone, anyone, knows of a way to remove them easily please let me know as soon as possible.  There most be a home brew, a natural concoction that can cope with pooing, spitting flies or fungi. The sun is shining, I want to go out and play.

View through the cleaned window. I can't see the fly spots. All occupants of this room will have to look at the view through the camera lens.

The reflection of the opposite hill. Hard to find those bleached fly spots. I might even go back and play with this reflection with my "real" camera, if time allows.

....and the reflection through the other window.

Seriously Jak, instead of saying you have a lot to answer for, I should tell you I am very grateful for all your hard work putting the workshops together.. You are challenging me creatively and also inspiring me to finally clean my house! I hope you are learning to deal with the Irish sense of humour.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Friday Reflections : Go Confidently in the Direction of your dreams.

My choice for this weeks post is the quotation by Henry Thoreau, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."

Last April, I took a flight from Kathmandu to see Everest. This is the photo I took. It is the closest I want to get to that mountain peak!
I am so sad to see the devastation now in the city where I spent several days this time last year.

This quotation is on a plaque on my kitchen wall. My brother gave it to me Christmas 2013, not long after I retired.  I had just been through a stressful time, I had moved country and and spent two months camping out in the bedroom while I renovated the house and made it fit for winter living.

The house is actually looking quite tidy here. It was much worse and it was November. Not the time to be missing a window!
This was a post I really wanted to write about. I wanted to give it due care and consideration but as usual I seem to have run out of time. Why?

When my kids were small, I dreamed of the day when they would be grown up, independent and I would be retired.  I dreamed of lazy mornings, lots of books, and travel. Just look at the clipart I found when I googled. Are all retired teachers the same? This just describes it perfectly. I worked to live, not lived to work.
Got it in one!
I drafted this post. As I did I realised something. I am not moving confidently in the direction of my dreams. And this is why my time seems so scarce.

I have spent the past couple of weeks making a new garden. I had some help with the structural work but the rest I have done myself.

I have barrowed tons of earth. I have planned, dug and planted the new beds.

The herb wheel I bargained like hell for. Had done the deal on  a bigger one but couldn't get it into the car. This one fits the patch perfectly

Basil is in, am waiting to get the rest of my herbs.

The veggie patch is prepared. It's next.

The veggie patch is prepared. I have visions of juicy tomatoes dancing in my head.

Through the work, there have been countless coffee breaks. The garden seems to be a magnet and so is the smell of coffee. It seems to bring everyone passing in to sit and chat. Lots of Turkish practice for me.  Lots of coffee and cake for them.

The terrace waiting to be planted.
In addition, I have been following my passion for photography. While I haven't got to the sea yet this week, to do my "reflections in water" homework. I have revamped some of my older photos and am learning to edit.

 Kyemore Abbey in the West of Ireland, great reflection but the sky was overexposed.

Improvement but still needs some work.
Sikh Temple in Delhi 

Better fits the homework brief when cropped in tight.
These swans became.......

........these, using the drama filter in Snapseed.

Random girl at the Taj Mahal

I inverted the reflection to make for a more interesting photograph , in my opinion.

Today I spent in the kitchen. Tomorrow I have planned a picnic with friends. We will meet, with our cameras and have a ramble. I am even bringing my swimsuit with me, In hope of having my first swim of the season..........on the 29th of April .

This is where we will go tomorrow.
My home wafts with the scent of fresh bread, brownies and muffins.

Hot out of the oven, Garlic, herb and cheese rolls.

Lemon Cream Cheese Muffins, easy to make and nice and light.

Chocolate brownies.......look my hand shook taking these, not so easy to make, definitely not nice and light but seriously good. Did I mention one never made it back safely to the tin? 

I love these ginger snaps, especially as they have sour pomegranate sauce to add a little kick to them.

Oh yes, the salad greens. This is  my carbon offset, sorry, sugar overload offset!

Of course there is a very healthy salad first!

Thursday is singing group and on Friday I will meet with my knitting ladies. That leaves the weekend to get my tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and courgettes planted.

One last thing for today, I have booked my flights to Bangkok for the end of September, the first leg of my upcoming trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. This was going to be a solo trip but in December a friend decided to come with me. We will be away for a month.

Looking forward to this trip in October. Vietnam and Cambodia with a brief stop in Thailand.

 I have planned a photography day tour in Hanoi, we will cruise Halong Bay, take the sleeper train to Da Nang, bus it from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh as well as fly to Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat. 

We have booked a four night stay at the Secret Paradise Resort on Koh Rong Samloem pictured above.
This will a penance for me.....very limited internet access...I am going into rehab!!

I think I can safely say, I am not  moving confidently in the direction of my dreams. I am living my dream every day, be it digging the garden, baking, singing or knitting with friends, recording it all on camera. 

This is why I have so litle time to sit in front of the computer and write As I sit on my garden swing I realise my dreams are actually my reality. I am living them every day. Lucky me.