Tuesday, January 24, 2017


I had a somewhat eventful return journey to Bodrum.  To paraphrase John Denver, my bags were packed and I was ready to leave. But messages were pouring in from friends saying they hoped my flight was not cancelled. Istanbul was experiencing major snow storms.

On Saturday afternoon, I went back to Tomsollagh,  the family home. My daughter was to drop me to the bus at 05.45 the next morning. Holding my breath, I logged on to the Turkish airlines site to check in online. Several flights had been cancelled. But all went to plan. I chose my seat carefully.  If you don't want the pasta dinner you need to sit near the front or the rear. The food service starts there. Usually if you are in row 16 or 17, the chicken or meatballs have run out by the time they get to you. The pasta is the only dinner they serve that is not good, in my opinion.

The messages from friends continued. Should I be worried? They seemed anxious I should leave? I was I quick to reassure them. "No problem, I checked in an hour ago, all is good! When I am ever going to learn?  Complacency is my downfall!  6 pm and the dreaded message arrived, my flight was cancelled.  At least I wasn't stuck in the airport. It was Saturday evening and the Irish sales office was closed, but the message told me I could change my booking online. I tried that, I got a message on the website telling me I needed to ring the sales office.  I tried ringing the customer service number in Istanbul line. After 20 minutes holding I guessed the line was so  jammed there was not a hope of getting through and it would be cheaper to book a new flight than hold the line any longer.

Daughter informed, I decided to leave my suitcases in Tomsollagh  - there was no way I was hauling them back up the stairs to my bedsit -  and return to my "bijou residence.  I placed my contraband back in the fridge -My suitcase was full of cheese and bacon - and went back to Wexford. The internet is better there, I would have a better chance of re-booking my flight. Hard to believe in this day and age, but the internet speed in Tomsollagh often doesn't exceed 0.2m.

I am one of those people who ignores the health warnings not to bring your phones or iPads to the bedroom. And anyway my bedsit is only one room so there is no avoiding They say that even if you are sleeping the ping of a message or email coming through will disturb your sleep even if it doesn't wake you. Well, that night, unlike many others, the pinging woke me.

It started about 1 am.  Ping, ping, ping. Three emails  back to back and messages to my phone. The first a copy of my ticket, the next reminding me to check in an hour before my domestic flight. None of them said the flight was rescheduled and I was flying. What was going on? Were these just automated messages?  Was the flight actually rescheduled? What should I do? If I ignored them maybe the airline wouldn't honour it's promise to reschedule or refund my flight? Wide awake now, I checked with  the Turkish Airlines website again. No, my flight was still cancelled. But I was uneasy. I was definitely not going to get much sleep now. It was 5 am in Turkey, probably not to many people ringing customer service at this hour. I rang them from Skype  to avoid massive phone bills and after only a 5 minute wait I was through.

The person on the end of the line was wonderful. It must be hard to be patient when dealing with hundreds of delayed passengers and especially at that hour of the morning. She checked and told me it looked like the flight was going ahead. I told her again I had got a message to say it was cancelled. She re-checked and said I was right, the flight was cancelled. She proceeded to re-book me for Monday, but again said it looked liked Sunday's flight was going, maybe I should wait to cancel. Go to the airport and if the flight was cancelled, re-book then.

My mind was racing. My daughter had gone to a party and I am sure she had stayed out late, knowing she didn't have to be up before the crack of dawn. I would have to go and wake a household to get my suitcases and then ask someone to drop me to the bus, probably all for nothing. Way too much bother and it would mean I would get no sleep. I decided to re-book for Monday. It would still get me back to Bodrum in time for our photography workshop.

Done and dusted. The booking was made for Monday, the afternoon flight . I thanked the customer services rep and finally settled down to sleep. I could have a lazy Sunday, spend time with my mum and get the bus to the airport at a civilized hour the following morning. It worked out well for me. The only reason I hadn't originally booked this flight was it  had been over a €100 dearer than the Sunday flight  Result!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Wexford at Night.

I belong to the H3A Photography Group in Bodrum. Our "homework" for the last fortnight was Celebrations. I was pleased with the theme. I would be in Ireland where the Christmas madness would be in full swing. No problem coming up with ideas. I had great plans. What followed showed I should never get complacent.

Plan No. 1: The Christmas Dinner

 I had visions of photographs of a wonderful plump turkey, glistening brown, fresh from the oven, the table set for Christmas dinner, the family gathered around. Christmas is always a wonderful celebration for us.

I forgot that when I would take the turkey out of the oven, I would also be dealing with several veg, making gravy and more than a few impatient mouths who did not have time to wait for their dinner while I played around with my camera. That plan was scotched. Not a single photograph!

Plan No 2: The Christmas Tree

I have seen wonderful photos of decorations on Christmas trees with the lights creating wonderful bokeh in the background.  This is something I wanted to try.  It  didn't work out as planned. I blame not having my tripod with me. It was nothing to do with me fiddling desperately with different camera settings, not having a clue what I was doing. Note to myself: Next year research the topic!

This is the one that came closest to what I wanted to achieve/
 Plan 3: Wexford by Night, The Christmas Lights.

I was getting desperate at  this stage. I had little to show for what should have been an easy topic. If only I could show my photos from Kew gardens last year,  We went on Sty Stephen"s night and the gardens were lit up like a Christmas tree...actually better than a Christmas tree. So it was time to put what I had learned about handholding my camera and taking night photographs because there was no way I had been dragging my tripod from Turkey.

Finally I had photographs which I was happy to share with the group, though we always share the good; the bad and the ugly. It is okay sharing the bad and the ugly when I have the good to counterbalance it. Oh vanity!!

I also took a  few taken near the temporary skating rink, Wexford on Ice. Not too many people around to celebrate though!

Funnily enough, it was the fountain I took at Johnstown Castle, which I felt in the end best represented the topic. This was the only one in the set which I didn't intend to represent celebration. I took this photograph experimenting with shutter speed, something I really haven't got to grips with yet. When editing I cropped into the photograph and the end result reminds me of an exploding bottle of champagne.

I wonder is it significant that there is not a single person in my celebration photographs? Even the ferris wheel is empty.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Johnstown Castle

Johnstown Castle is a place we regularly took our small children for a walk. The last few times I have been back in Ireland I have wanted to go back there for a visit and of course take my camera. But with the mad swirl of things to do, people to see, there never was time.
Beautiful grounds
Yesterday, I spent in torpor, a bad start one might think, but maybe a good start to the New Year, actually giving myself permission to be lazy. Today dawned bright and sunny and so I decided to make hay while the sun shines, as they say, and head off. It is just a short drive from Wexford town.
Not quite the 40 shades of green.

 Luckily, for once I checked my camera before heading out the door, no memory card. It was still in the laptop. I also changed the battery. I was all set to go.

It was evident as I turned into the driveway, it is still a popular destination with families, I heard more Polish voices than the familiar drawl of the  Wexford accent. The car park was full and I was lucky to get a space as another car pulled out. There were young families, the little ones bringing their bikes, the dog walkers  and there were some elderly couples

Enjoying the winter sunshine.
It was bright but it was cold. I had no gloves and by the end of the walk my hands were almost numb from holding the camera. In spite of the cold I don't think I have ever seen the place as busy.
The castle

One of the fountains at the castle
Playing with different shutter speeds on the fountain

Here, very season has it's own beauty. I especially love it when the rhododendrons bloom in May, or in the autumn when the ground is littered with the bright colours of the fallen leaves Today the winter trees were reflected in the lake.

Looking back towards the castle from the end of the lake,

The algae breaks the reflection

The building in this picture houses an agricultural museum and the tearooms.

I couldn't decide whether I preferred the colour or the sepia photograph. What do you think?
My girls were all home last week, but are now scattered again, As I walked around the lake in my mind  I heard again, their excited young voices as they fed the ducks and swans and raced their leaf boats in the stream that runs from the lake to a second lake hidden behind the trees.. It may have been over twenty years ago, but it seemed like yesterday.

This is where the girls raced their leaf boats, they went under the concrete "tunnel", First leaf out  the other side was the winner

The swans would not co-operate. I know you shouldn;t take pictures of "go away birds" but they just did not want to look at me....and I hadn;t my zoom lens.

Showing me a "clean pair of heels" though one is a reflection of the other.

If you look carefully, you'll see someone doesn't want to get their feet wet.

Most of all, I smiled as I remember the laughter around the table last week as No 1 daughter put the fear of God into Daughter No 3's boyfriend! Daughter No.3 was bringing him to visit the castle for the first time when the eldest slid it nicely into conversation that the castle is now a great wedding venue. I am not sure boyfriend is ready to plan a wedding yet.
But I can just see the family photos taken on these steps. Ssssssshhh don't tell D. Maybe when the rhodenderons are in bloom. :-)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Beginnings............ again.

Today is the first of January 2017. The weather is a mixed bag here in Wexford, a mixture of sunhine, wind and showers. As I am recovering from a bout of flu I decided not to risk getting wet but instead opened my window, stuck my head out like a dog does in a moving car, and got my breath of fresh air. I am now sitting at the kitchen table having decided to be a little retrospective.

 For many of my friends 2016 was a bad year, several lost loved ones. Many agree the world has gone crazy, the country where I live has undergone traumatic events, bombings, a coup and the devastation of its tourist industry. Many wondered how I could return to Bodrum after a visit back to Ireland last summer. Mum's birthday was July 16th and the only topic of conversation was what on earth was I doing going back to Turkey the following week.

 I explained it was like living in Ireland in the seventies. When foreigners asked about the war, we would look at them in puzzlement and wonder "What war? The penny would drop and we would say "Oh you mean the troubles?" In the south east of Ireland the problems in the North barely touched us. And so it is with life in Bodrum, for the vast majority life goes on as normal.  We still sit outside in the cafes and drink our coffee. I swam in the sea daily until the end of November.

2016 was a very mixed year for me, I spent the early part of it dealng with the frustration  of the broken arm I sustained in Vietnam and wrestled with some major life decisions. On the other hand, I travelled to the Maldives and  Iran and celebrated my Mum's 90th birthday, my daughter's wedding and also that of my nephew, with family and friends. So in many ways it was a year of joy. One friend said to me, she is so tired of the constant negativity expressed daily around her, we still belong to the privileged people, sometimes it is good to shift perspective and remember. This resonates with me. It is easy to become weighed down under the weight of our own and others problems. It is important to shift our perspective and hold onto the joy, the good things and the people who walk beside us and offer to share our load, to remember we are the lucky ones who have choices!

Over the past few days I have had the urge to write again. How long this will last I don't know. I have had this impulse before. and it has fizzled out. I logged onto my blog and found several draft posts from my earlier travels, going back to 2014 all awaiting the addition of photographs. My last post was in October 2015  as I started my travels to Vietnam and Cambodia before I fell and broke my arm.

It is not as if I have been sitting down doing nothing since then, the adventures never stop. I refuse to become an "Altin kiz- golden girl" though my hair and wrinkles belie this. I remain a cilgin kiz. When I did sit, it was to work on my hexipuff quilt, which is now complete...minus a few threads to be tidied up.

Therefore, I have a lot of fodder for my blog. I can't and won't promise what form it will take in 2017 or even if my refound desire to write will continue. However, I promise if it continues it will reflect me, it will probably it will be as disorganised and as messy as my mind.

Like my mind. it will probably wander backwards and forwards, There may be posts from past travels mixed with past and present photos and random musings, including my recent brief stint as a chicken minder, but always the adventures of a cilgin kiz.

After a brief thought that I should  change the title from  The Adventures of Cilgin Kiz. to the Adventures of Altin Kiz, I can tell you now it is not going to happen. While my friend decided instead of sitting in she would go out and dance in the New Year, I will stick my nose out into the wind and breathe in God's good air.

Through the open window, definitely light on the horizion.

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 fire.....now 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.