This Week I Loved…

Reliving our hot air balloon ride in Turkey.Cappadocia096A bill-free day of mail.
1092076_10100582355317315_1430268217_oMy first big install with the designers at work, and these awesome pillows I found for it.1237758_10100586898432875_372879956_o Turquoise and Rose-Violet.1021023_10100582714098315_1416184951_o This week’s Color Theory class project using 6 random colors and abstract shapes of our choice.

1070135_10100583045778625_49520087_oAnd rewatching The Great Gatsby.

Like a Dream: Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey

Well folks, this is my last post on our epic summer vacation. I will leave you with few words, just a photo essay of sorts. During our short stay in the village of Uchisar, we made time for an incredible hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia. There were about 40 other balloons in the air with us, and I have to say it was dreamlike. I have been on one hot air balloon ride before, but I had never seen such beautiful sights as these. So here I’ll leave you with my favorite photos from our time floating over Turkey. Enjoy!

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getting ready for take-off

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lifting off, another balloon just like ours

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beginning our journey

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looking up

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“fairy chimneys” in the valley below

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more fairy chimneys, and some cave houses

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the horizon as the sun rises

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local farms below

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a small farm in Love Valley

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the sun makes its way over the horizon

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a parade of balloons make their way through Love Valley

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lifting upward out of Love Valley

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picturesque clouds beyond the balloons

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golden and green farms below

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drifting up higher

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sweeping landscape below

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natural formations and plenty of vegetation

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balloons silhouetted by the sunrise

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gliding along with our companion balloons

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one of the tallest mountains in Turkey

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pretty high up now, with a great view of the other balloons surrounding us

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gorgeous greenery in the valley

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Delicious Foods of Turkey

As I’m wrapping up the last of my posts on our trip to Turkey, I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to talk about some of the delicious foods we had there. Some of the most phenomenal bites to eat were also the simplest ones! On our first day, as we were beginning to get a lay of the land in Istanbul, we started getting hungry right as we were in an area where few restaurants could be seen. Well, that turned out to be lucky for us! We came across this guy making fish sandwiches.Istanbul072 He was positioned right outside of this boat which functioned as his restaurant.Istanbul073 It was a super simple meal. Just fish, tomatoes, onions, and peppers on a bun. and only for the equivalent of about $3 each. So delicious! It was a great introduction to sea food in Istanbul.Istanbul075 Istanbul076 Later on in the trip, we had gotten a recommendation from a local to visit this restaurant. We walked through a lesser traveled part of town and around a couple of corners before arriving here. Little did we know this would be one of the best meals of our lives!Istanbul411 We were first greeted by these guys before being sat by a host.Istanbul410 Calamari…Istanbul403 Sea bass…Istanbul404 And fried goat fish. Everything was simply prepared, and seriously the best seafood I’ve ever had. (And don’t you worry, we made plenty of jokes about the anecdotal goatfish!)Istanbul405

We had so much fun joking around with the server, that he brought us 3 of these desserts on the house! Turkish ice cream (which tasted not unlike gelato) on top of dried apricots in a sweet syrupy sauce, and sprinkled over top with nuts. I will dream about this dessert until I am one day able to taste it again.Istanbul406 On our last night in Istanbul, we were on a hunt for doner kebab and came across this place. It turns out, this chef is quite renowned! I had to include this photo, because my foodie-husband was so excited that the chef let him into the kitchen to shave off some meat. When he came out from behind the counter, he noticed a few of his arm hairs had been burned off from the heat! And the chef stands here in front of the fire and does this all day, every day… can you imagine?

Istanbul640In search of beverage to go with our doner kebab, we came across this wonderful little wine and cheese shop in the basement of an old apartment building near Galata Tower. They of course had a huge selection of Turkish wines and cheeses, and we happily picked up a bottle of wine to go with dinner.Istanbul643 Istanbul644The morning we left Istanbul to head to Central Turkey, we had time for a leisurely breakfast at this delightful cafe.
Istanbul670 It was here that we had our first full traditional Turkish breakfast. It’s a huge spread of olives, tomato and cucumber salad, cheeses, breads, jams, eggs, coffee and tea. It was the perfect send off from our time in the city.Istanbul665 While our time in Cappadocia was short, and most of our meals were on-the-go, we had one last big celebratory meal with our friends and travel companions in the town of Uchisar. We started with cocktails in this lounge, which I absolutely loved the design of. It was a combination of modern, vintage, and traditional Turkish elements, and felt super comfortable, like a place you could easily spend hours in.Cappadocia423 Cappadocia418 Then we headed downstairs to the restaurant for a rich, delicious meal.Cappadocia451 These were pheasant samosas, and really didn’t need the sauces they came with at all.Cappadocia441 Then some grilled haloumi cheese on a salad.Cappadocia442 And a zucchini salad.Cappadocia444And finally the main course, for me it was a dish of hand-made pasta with lamb meat and a yogurt sauce. So rich and comforting.
Cappadocia447 We just didn’t want the night to end, so we extended the night a little longer with dessert in their cigar bar.Cappadocia472As is tradition in Turkey, every meal ended with a Turkish tea to help digestion. So I will let you finish this visual meal with a Turkish tea as well.Istanbul493Everything we ate in Turkey was so delicious, we’ve already begun searching the LA area for substitutes. We’ve found a great place for traditional Turkish breakfast, and are on the search for more.

What Turkish bite would you most like to taste?

A Peaceful Cave Village in Cappadocia, Central Turkey

What can I say really, except that Cappadocia is a magical place. After spending some time in Istanbul, we relocated our journey to Uchisar, a small town in Central Turkey. It was an incredibly quiet, peaceful place after having been in a big, crowded city. Cappadocia is best known for it’s cave homes and underground cities. (Oh, and for hot air ballooning… that post is coming up soon!) Some of the caves are still people’s homes, while others have been converted into hotels and bed & breakfasts for visitors. Cappadocia333 We were lucky enough to secure a cave bed & breakfast called Taka Ev. The owner was always there to help, made every arrangement for us from airport transportation, to our rental car. We had such an amazing time staying there!Cappadocia297 Our room was set back into the mountain just past this sitting area.Cappadocia006 Cappadocia007 Cappadocia008 And it was indeed a cave! Some of it had been renovated to be certain. But the seemingly random hole in the wall to the left of the bed… well, that was once used for crushing grapes to make wine!Cappadocia001 Cappadocia003 Cappadocia004 The town was a combination of caves, homes and business that partially used caves, and structures that were built on the mountain (rather than in it). They used materials that blended seamlessly into the mountain and surrounding landscape.
Cappadocia134 Cappadocia136 Cappadocia137 Cappadocia138It seemed that every hill was speckled with caves that had been dug out hundreds and hundreds of years ago. And many of them were easy to access. You could just walk right into one and check it out. Sometimes you could even clearly see the distinction between a living room, a room for cooking, and a room for sleeping, really not at all unlike a small suburban house.Cappadocia293 Cappadocia159 Cappadocia160 Cappadocia162 Cappadocia168 Cappadocia169Nearby in a town called Goreme (a little more highly traveled by out-of-towners) we went into their open air museum, where they had some incredibly elaborate, almost high-rise style cave structures to wander through.Cappadocia248 Cappadocia234 Cappadocia252 Cappadocia255 The most incredible thing about the open air museum was that there were several ancient Christian sanctuaries with these unbelievable frescos painted from floor to ceiling. We got in trouble for taking these pictures, but I had to include them… and trust me, these weren’t even the most amazing ones there! The columns were perfectly carved and the colors were so vibrant. There was one sanctuary (no pictures, sorry) that actually had the only known depiction of Jesus as a teenager!Cappadocia240 Cappadocia247 Cappadocia246 We made sure to do some hiking through Love Valley. Some of the vegetation reminded me of California in the summer. This farmer had a business set up, off the main road and out of sight. You wouldn’t know it was there unless you hiked by like we did!Cappadocia189 Cappadocia202 Cappadocia230 See why it’s called Love Valley? No I’m not joking, that really is why it’s called Love Valley.Cappadocia195 We also did a little hiking through the valley just below Uchisar. There is a footpath that connects all of the towns in the nearby area, so you can easily walk from Uchisar to Goreme and beyond.Cappadocia353 All along this path we came across small local farms. Everything seemed to grow without effort, and we only ever saw one person, or maybe two (usually an old couple) tending to the farms.Cappadocia361 Cappadocia364 There is actually a small wine industry in the area as well, and they really were good wines! Any vineyard we passed by seemed tiny, but thriving.Cappadocia378 In some areas they had even gone so far as to terrace up the hill to make more space.Cappadocia379 Cappadocia167 We spent some time wandering through the “downtown” if you can even call it that. Yes, we did indeed bring home a Turkish rug, and it came from this shop. The owner was such a friendly guy and had grown up in the area. He had this incredible collection of keys. There must have been hundreds of them!Cappadocia323 Cappadocia328 Cappadocia324 We loved coming across this group of men hanging out on a bench in the middle of town. They were happy to pose for us, and I like to imagine they’ve been friends since they were kids. Who knows, but don’t they look like it?Cappadocia409 Looking at these photos again, it’s surreal to think we were ever there. Admittedly we didn’t do as much site seeing as maybe we should have, but we were all so relaxed and felt so peaceful there. It felt natural to just rest, wander, and enjoy the view.Cappadocia316 This last photo was taken the morning we left as we were just about to get into our shuttle to the airport. It was so hard to leave! We hope to get back there again one day.Cappadocia481Wouldn’t you love to take a nap with this view in the backdrop?

Top Vacation Photos: Turkey

Everywhere we went in Turkey was so beautiful and interesting, it would have been very difficult to take a bad photo. It was so hard to narrow these down, but this will give you a taste of some of the places we saw while we were there.

Note: I pre-wrote my blog posts for the weeks we were away, and so I didn’t have a chance to mention the protests going on in Istanbul while we were there. Between what was likely sensationalized news and the travel advisory issued by the US, we heard of many, many people cancelling their plans to visit Istanbul. It’s such a shame, they missed out on experiencing an incredible city! We generally stayed away from Taksim Square, the area where the majority of the protests were, but we were only staying about a mile or two from it and never ran into any trouble. All protests we encountered were peaceful, and we never felt in danger. In fact, in the heightened energy of the city it was kind of exciting to be there during this time! I understand that in recent days the prime minister has indicated that the police will be instructed to take more physical action against these protesters if they do not back off. I hope that the people are able to accomplish what they are after in their intended peaceful manner without any further injuries. Good luck to anyone fighting for this cause in Istanbul.

After a few days in Istanbul we moved to Cappadocia, which was otherworldly. It was so beautiful, relaxing, and the people were wonderful. In fact Uchisar, the village we stayed in, was not unlike a village you might see on the Mediterranean… just without the ocean. We’re already dying to go back!

Here are some of my favorite photos from Turkey. Enjoy!

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We wandered through this otherwise tourist free side street on our way to the Sulemaniye Mosque. (Istanbul)

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A sunset view of the Sulemaniye Mosque from a boat tour of the Bosphorous. (Istanbul)

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Tempting floral teas for sale in the Spice Bazaar. (Istanbul)

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A Turkish Coffee break while deciding what to see next. (Istanbul)

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The Basilica Cistern, built by the romans to store the city’s water. (Istanbul)

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A woman posed for us in her window on a little-traveled side street away from the tourist attractions. (Istanbul)

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A peak at the Hagia Sophia, built in the 5th century as a church then converted to a mosque in the 1400’s. Now it is a museum for all to enjoy. (Istanbul)

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A peaceful march, protesting Turkey’s prime minister. (Istanbul)

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Hot air balloon ride over the valleys of Cappadocia. (Uchisar)

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The village of Uchisar, one of many towns in Cappadocia with hundreds of homes created by digging caves into the sides of the mountains. Some of them are abandoned, but many still serve as homes, or have been converted into cave hotels like the one we stayed in. (Uchisar)

This Week I Loved… Travel Edition: Turkey

(aka This Week in Turkey We Hope To Have Seen…)

The Blue Mosque (Photo Credit – http://www.bestourism.com)

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Hagia Sofia (Photo Credit – http://istanbulvisions.com)

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Spice bazaar (Photo Credit – http://commons.wikimedia.org)
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The Bosphorus (Photo Credit – http://www.turkeyvacationplaces.com)
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Hot Air Balloons (Photo Credit – http://www.travelpackagesturkey.com)
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Underground Cities (Photo Credit – http://cappadociaturkey.travel)
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Star Cave Hotel (Photo Credit – http://www.cappadociatoursguide.com)
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Next week I’ll be back blogging in real time, and I’m sure I’ll have lots and lots of blog fuel! Stay tuned for photos and stories from our travels.

Today We Are In: Cappadocia

At this point in our vacation we just arrived in Cappadocia yesterday, and we’re really excited about this part of the trip. Cappadocia is located almost smack-dab in the middle of Turkey, and the city dates all the way back to the 6th century. It’s known for it’s incredible network of underground cities. We’re hoping to spend a fair amount of time exploring them. Some are still fully functioning, and there are even some caves that have been converted into hotels.

Cappadocia is also known as a great place to go hot air ballooning. The hubby and I have been on a hot air balloon ride once before on our honeymoon, but certainly not over terrain like this.

Plus, there’s a little-known wine region in the surrounding area, and as the great wine appreciator, my husband is totally looking forward to tasting what will likely be wines unlike anything we get here in the states.

Because this is a much more remote area of the country, I’m expecting that we will be a bit more challenged to use our Turkish translation book and get some practice in this language far different than any of us will be familiar with. Hopefully we won’t offend anyone!

What would you most like to see in Cappadocia?