Monday, July 10, 2006
Table of Contents
96/10/30 Egypt & Israel: London, Cairo, Aswan, Nile Cruise, Giza, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem 2
96/12/08 Dubai, London, Madrid, Toledo 11
99/11/20 Morocco: Casablanca, Marrakesh, Fez 14
99/12/23 Greece: Athens, Delfi, Heraklion, Rodes, Lindos 18
00/04/28 Colombia: Medellin 24
00/12/01 California, Arizona: San Francisco, Carmel, Esalan, San Diego; Phoenix, Grand Canyon 27
01/01/15 Iran: Yazd, Kerman & Bam, Hamedan 29
01/06/04 Thailand: Bangkok, Floating Market, Ayuthaya, Phuket, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai 34
02/04/17 Peru: Lima, Iquitos, Amazon, Leticia, Cusco, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu 39
02/10/06 Bermuda Cruise: Hamilton, Horse Shoe Bay 45
02/10/18 Hiking: Huntington State Park 45
02/12/12 France: Paris, Dijon, Lyon, Geneva, Avignon, Orange, Marseilles, Nice, Bordeaux, Nantes, 46
03/01/12 Cross Country Skiing: High Point, Sussex County, NJ 54
03/01/18 Cross Country Skiing: Mountain Trails, Catskill, NY 54
03/09/17 Turkey: Ankara, Cappadocia, Konya, Antalya, Fethiye, Kas, Aphrodisias, Pamukkale, Ephesus/Kusadasi 55
03/19/07 Turkey Notes 57
04/05/29 Boston: Boston Common, Harvard Square, Faneuil Hall 59
04/09/04 Italy: Rome, Perugia, Siena/Chainti, San Gimignano, Florence, Lucca, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Bellagio, Como, 60
……… Italy notes 63
05/03/17 Iran: Semnan/Susangard, Caspian Sea (Chalus, Jadeh Do Hezar, Fuman, Masule, Rasht) 69
05/10/29 Iran: Rezvan Shahr, Bandar Anzali 69
06/09/12-09/28 Panama: Panama City, David, Boquete, Volcan, Cerro Punta, Boca Chica 70
…………… Panama Notes 73
08/04/20 UK: Bournemouth 76
09/03/18 Iran: Tehran 76
09/11/27 Argentina/Chile: Buenos Aires, Rosario, Cordoba, Mendoza, San Rafael, Tuyun, Topungato, Santiago, Montevideo 77
10/17/10 GA-Smokey Mountains: Blue Ridge, Atlanta 81
11/09/01 Turkey: Istanbul, Fethyie, Oludeniz 81
12/02/01 Panama: Santiago, Santa Fe, Pedazi, Boquete, Guadalupe, Cerra Punto 16
12/09/01 Turkey, Portugal, Spain Istanbul, Fethiye, Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra, Obidos, Evora, Faro, Tavira, Seville,Dusseldorf 19
96/10/30 Egypt & Israel: London, Cairo, Aswan, Nile Cruise, Giza, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem
This week is the last week of my assignment at SCB. Today I decided to take two weeks off and materialize my childhood dream _a trip to Egypt. I went to a travel agency near the World Trade Center in the afternoon and met an Egyptian travel agent who said he would take care of my reservations to Egypt and Israel and that he would contact me the following day. He did not call the next day. I called the British Airways and made a round trip reservation for $1256 (NY-London $387 + London-Cairo $869).
I bought “Let’s go to Egypt and Israel” book and started to read it. I also took a few passport pictures and called the Egyptian Consulate to get information on the requirements for a visa.
I went to the Consulate of the Egypt on 2nd Avenue and 59th Street. I had called them the day before and they had told me that they would be open at 9:00am and it would take about an hour to get my visa. I had to wait until 9:30am till the clerk arrived, was setup at his desk, his tea was brought to him and then I could submit my application. He told me to return at 11:00 am The whole process took a bit over two hours which was not too bad after I saw how slow things could be there.
I had lunch with Trevor Seeney at etc. Jay Maruzewski joined us. After lunch I went to British Airways office to pickup my tickets but their computer was down. I went to American Express to purchase some travelers checks. I had to go through some final handover with Luis Rojas and Christine Sheehee, then said good-bye to my colleagues and left the office at 5.30pm.
I read my travel guide, packed, left messages for Domenica and Greg and talked to Marica. Fred Hood called to say Good-bye and wish me a good trip. I had left a message for him the previous day thanking him for his help on the project and he said he had played it for Al Beck. I’ll miss the old man.
Hiroko called to say good-bye. She called a second time and asked to meet. She came over at 3:00p. We talked for a while and went to one of the neighborhood restaurants and had a civilized dinner. After dinner we came back home, I picked up my bag, took a taxi, dropped off Hiroko at her place and continued to the airport. I went to the ticket office to pickup my ticket; I also changed my return date from Saturday to Sunday 11/17/96. This way I could use one extra day of the weekend. The 8:30 pm flight was over-booked and I had to take the 9:00 pm flight. We took off at 9:30p and arrived at London’s Heathrow airport at 8:00a (+5) after a 5.5 hours flight.
Sunday, 11/3/96 London/Cairo
I exchanged $40 for 23.07 BP (@1.734 rate plus 2.50 commission), bought a one-day underground ticket for 3.90 BP and took a one-hour ride on Piccadilly Line to New Hyde Park. It was damp and drizzling. The bridle path at the park looked beautiful. I purchased a 10 BP ticket for a 2-hour bus tour on “The Big Bus Tour”.
I took visited the Parliament Square, Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London Bridge, Tower of London, Thames, and Buckingham Palace. After a quick lunch of smoked salmon sandwich I walked around for a while and then took the Underground back to Heathrow. The city was very lively and charming - more than what I had expected. We took off at 4.30pm, moved my watch two hours ahead and arrived at Cairo’s new Airport at 11.30pm, after a 5-hour flight. I spent three hours on the line for passport inspection; exchanged $300 for 1016 EP (@3.388) at Thomas Cook and shared a van with a German who paid 50, a suspicious Japanese couple who paid 30 and myself who paid 10. I got off at Horris Hotel on 26th of July Street - it was recommended in my guidebook. The rooms were on the 13th floor and the restaurant on the 14th floor of the building. I got a quiet room for 43 EP per night. When I was going back to my room for the second time the elevator got stuck between floors; we waited for about 10 minutes until the staff could open the door from outside and I was asked to jump out.
I went to the restaurant to ask for some mineral water and had to wait for about 15 minutes for somebody to go out and get the water. I went to my room, took a shower, sat down in the balcony which had a good view of the city and wrote my journal. I can see the tower of Cairo from here. It’s 3:00 am and last night I only dozed off for a couple of hours in the plane. It is time to go to bed.
I woke up rather late at 12:00pm. I could hear the chaotic sound of the traffic from my room. I went to the balcony to get my first glimpse of the city in daylight. I could see the roofs of all buildings around; it seemed as if they had been bombed during WWII and never repaired ever since. I walked to Obera Sq., Ataba Sq., Adli St., and Talat Harb to Tahir Sq. and stopped at a restaurant recommended in the guidebook for their “Koushry” but they were out of it. I tried a cheese pizza; it was really Egyptianized (10 EP), went to American Express and booked a Nile cruise tour from Aswan to Luxor for $416 + $289 airfare.
As I was walking around the city I met Frank, a great salesman. I asked him for an address, he took me to his a perfume shop, showed me his picture with Mohammed Ali, and started his sales pitch. I told him I might come back the following day. He said that they would be closing the shop the next day for six months to go to his village to make perfume. I ended up buying a perfume holder that had been made by his mother for 20 EP after haggling it down from 25 EP. A person, possibly the store owner who had hired Frank on commission basis, brought a Fanta soda which was so sweet I could not drink more that a few sips of. I left the shop before he could talk me into buying a silver necklace. I felt dizzy for a few minutes, possibly from the soda; walked to the Tahir Sq. and asked a cab driver named Hisham for the direction to the Nile. He started talking about himself and the fact that he had taught himself English and that he would take the tourists for tours of the city. He showed me a book he had compiled of recommendations from his satisfied customers; it was a great portfolio. We arranged for a full one-day tour of the city and the pyramids for 100 EP after my return from Luxor. I walked to the Nile and took a boat ride for 10 EP. The captain said they would leave in 5 minutes for a 40- minute ride; I had to wait for 40 minutes till the boat was full and then we went for a 20-minute ride. I was the only single person on the boat and the rest of the passengers were young couples holding hands. It seems the Nile is the hottest dating spot.
I walked back to the hotel to make sure I can get back my passport that they had held, possibly for registration with the police, at the reception desk, paid my bill, walked to my room and saw a black cat straying in my room. I had left the window to the balcony open but I could not figure out how the cat got to the 13th floor of the building. I walked back to Tahir Sq. and at a popular restaurant on Talat Harb St. I had a Shawrwa and Koushry - a filling dish made of macaroni, fried onion, chickpeas, yellow peas, barley and a tomato based hot sauce. I Walked around for a while, stopped at a gahwah (coffeehouse) and visited a couple of small ancient food markets. At one stand I picked up two dates marked for 2 EP for a kg. When I asked the price for two, the salesman said 2 EP; I put them back and kept walking and then went back to the area near my hotel. At 11pm the shops and streets were still crowded, even the barbershop had customers. I walked through another vegetable market that was very lively before going back to my hotel at 11.30pm
Tuesday, 11/5/96 Aswan
I woke up at 1:30am and could not go back to sleep. I thought it should be a bad omen when I saw the stray black cat in my room. The wake up call I had requested rang at 3:58 am - not bad at all. I had a 25-minute cab ride to the airport, settled the price at 20 EP before boarding the small Fiat; the car was so tiny I has to squat all the way to the airport to avoid smashing my head on the roof when we got into potholes. The police had sealed off section of the road to the airport so the driver had to take an alternate road. When I arrived at the airport I had to go to four different desks until I was able to get my boarding pass. It was amazing how efficient these guys were in wasting time. The flight was scheduled at 5:45am and we took off at 6:00am, and landed at the Aswan airport at 7:00am. I negotiated the cab fare to “Presidential Nile Cruise” with a few drivers and brought down the price from 40 to 15 EP. We had a speedy ride to the sailboat, handed a 20 EP bill to driver and the driver, Misham, did not return the change. He said 20 EP is a good fare and added I could complain to the police if I wanted to. I finished my registration quickly and was the first passenger on the boat at 8am I napped on the deck for a while. At about 11:30 other passengers started to show up. At 1:00 pm. we had a buffet lunch; it was very good. I had a feast on the delicious cucumbers, tomatoes, and lemons. At 3:00pm we started sailing on Felucca on the Nile to see the mausoleum of Agha Khan, the Nubian village, a Nilometer, Elephantine Island - a name given by the Greeks due to the shape of the rocks in the island which are very similar to elephants. The Felucca is an old fashion speedy sailboat that seats about twenty passengers. We had afternoon tea after returning to the boat. I met Omar H. Tiwana of Pakista, a lawyer at Asian Development Bank, 6 ADB Ave, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila POB 789, 0980 Manila, Philippines Tel: 632-632-4410, and his wife, Aishe, an educated nice couple. At 7pm in the company of Omar, Aishe, Rita Lockhart and her mother _ Janet Tite of Medina, Ohio _ took a van which Omar had reserved through American Express to a boat and rode to Aglikia Island to see the Sound and Light Show. The temples on the island were removed from Philae Island when the Aswan dam was being built. The island consists of three temples: Temple of Isis - the Mother of the Nature, the goddess of purity and sexuality and sister and wife of Osiris - Osiris and Isis’ mother. The show was OK at the cost of 100 EP.
After the show we went back to the boat and had dinner. I then walked on the port along the boats; there were at least one hundred of them; the Nile Cruise seemed to be a booming business. I met Captain Cook (Hamido) who insisted on selling his services or at least some marijuana; I had to walk away from him.
I woke up at 7:30am and after breakfast took a bus ride to Aswan dam with the boat group. Fourteen temples had to be relocated prior to building the dam in 1970’s. I visited Aglikia (Philea Islet) again - the Temples of Isis, a papyrus and perfume shop; it was a sales pitch and a total waste of time. I wished they would stop marketing activities here. Finally after lunch we started to sail. At 4:00pm we arrived at Kom Ombo temple (45 km north of Aswan) located on the Nile. We toured the temple that was mostly built by the Romans. We arrived at Edfu at about 8pm and toured the town for a while. I was stopped by a young gift-shop owner, Mohammed, 29, who was from Luxor and has three shops in town but was unhappy because he could not find a good wife in Edfu and had to ask the female tourists to have sex with him.
This is our third day on the boat. After breakfast we took a bus to the temple of Edfu; It is a magnificent, well-preserved monument. We walked around the market and as usual were pushed to buy something by the many vendors. Omar recommended buying a Gabalay for that evening’s party on the boat; I picked up a white one and paid 35 EP for it. We visited the cemetery. At about 1:30pm we started to sail to Luxor. We passed by the locks where we had to wait for a couple of hours; at peak tourist season the wait can be up to three days. After dinner I took part in the play “Murder on the Nile” with Rita. Tarak, our guide had insisted on having the play. In the practice session I initially had the role of the director and Omar the role of the husband, but since I could not interrupt the play as often as I should have, I took the role of Rita’s husband and Omar played the role of the director. I participated in the potatoes rolling contest in Gabalay dress. A string was tied around my waist with a potato attached to the other end of the string. I had to roll ahead a potato on the floor by shaking and aiming the hanging potato at the potato on the floor. I won the contest. Our guide, Tarak, took my prize _ a bottle of wine. It was a fun night. I also attended in the mummification contest with toilet paper with Rita as my partner; we lost; Rita was too slow to unroll the toilet paper and wrap around me.
We visited the Valley of the Kings, Ramsses II, Thutmosis III, the Temple of Hatshepsut - a huge temple not unlike the facade of a modern cement office building. We took some pictures with Omar at the Memnon Statutes.
In the afternoon we visited the Temple of Karnak, a magnificent temple with sphinxes on the road leading to the entrance, followed by halls and yards with a total of 132 great columns and a 150-ton obelisque carried from Aswan in one piece. The temple was built by a series of kings from the Old Dynasty through the Romans; it had been covered by sand and Napoleon undertook the task of uncovering it. Later on we visited the Temple of Luxor, another impressive monument that at one point had been covered fully by sand over which the Ottomans had built a mosque. After the discovery of the temple they left the mosque intact atop the temple. I went to the mosque and sat there for a while watching the crowd and the site. When I left the mosque a teenager asked me to buy liquor for him from a liquor shop that only sold to foreigners. I took a horse carriage ride back to the boat. At night I went to the Karnak Light and Sound show with Rita, her mom, Omar and Aisheh; the temple looked very impressive under the lights (ticket 60 EP). After dinner we watched a belly dancer dancing on the boat.
Today was the check out day. I woke up at 6:00am and took a taxi from the Sheraton Hotel to Hotel Novotel (5) and ferried to the West Bank (5). I then took another cab to the Valley of the Kings (15), purchased tickets for Rita and myself for the Tomb of Nefetari (100); it was discovered in 1904 and just last year was reopened to the public after a long closing for renovations. Only 150 people can visit it each day in order to preserve the site. I walked around; the small village with the surrounding hills in the early morning hours looked very pretty. A few kids approached me and asked for money. I gave them all my small bills; then one of them - an eight-year old girl - followed me until I had to give her a dollar bill. She gave me a small statute in appreciation. Only when I thought it was safe, I saw a two-year old boy chasing me and crying for money; I had to run away to the hills. I came across the Temple of Ramsses III, a great monument which I entered from the back. A self-proclaimed guide finally showed me a real Nilometer. After leaving the temple I passed by a small very scenic village, walked back to the ticket office and waited for a while for Rita, her mom and our guide, Mr. Williams, a 68-year old charismatic Coptic Egyptian from Thomas Cook Tourist Office. They arrived at about 9:00am. We drove to the Valley of the Kings and visited the tomb of Nefetari. It was amazingly well preserved. The colors of the paintings were extremely bright and lively. The artists were able to use the minerals from the mines in the area for the coloring. We then visited the Tomb of Tutan Kanum, another well-preserved tomb; also visited the Tomb of Ramsses II. We drove to the Temple of Hatshepsut that I had already visited. I hiked on the nearby hills while my company visited the temple. The antiquity was felt all over - it was part of the scenery. I then walked to the main street and as usual was stopped by many vendors. One of them tried to sell me the sculpture of hand for 500 EP that he claimed he had excavated himself. He reduced the price to 100 but when I told him I need to show it to my guide, he backed off and said it would be dangerous. We drove back to the boats after my company showed up and ferried back to the East Coast. I said good-bye to Rita and others, walked around for a while, stopped at a decent cafe and had lunch, and sat at a coffee shop for a while. At about 4pm I visited the Luxor Museum; it had a small but rich collection of artifacts from the area. I walked back to the boat area. On the way I saw a teenager American girl who dropped a few postcards in a mailbox, and then prayed for their safe trip to their destinations. I had a few fruit cocktails at Sheraton, picked up my luggage from the boat and took a taxi to Luxor Airport. I settled the fare for 12 EP with the driver. On the way, he asked for 5 EP for a toll that I gave him and then again he asked for a 1 EP toll that I refused. At the airport I gave him a 10 EP bill. He asked for more; I told him to go get a police; he sped away. I checked with someone about the toll and he said there was only a 1 EP toll. The flight to Cairo took about an hour. I took a taxi to the city. The driver, calling me his Moslem brother, recommended I stay at Girsham Hotel on Talat-Harab Street. The hotel was OK but had cold water most of the time. I went to bed at about midnight.
I woke up at 9:00am and walked to Tahir Sq., bought a metro ticket at Sadat Station for .5 EP or 50 piasters (Pt or Irsh, Plural: U-Roosh). I kept the ticket to pass through the turnstile at the destination and got off at Mar Girgis (St. George) station to visit the Coptic Cairo.
Visited the following:
• Coptic Museum, a beautiful collection of Coptic artifacts.
• Church of Mari Grigis, a charming circular church where the somber Orthodox Christian prayers were in session.
• Church of El Mu’allaqa (the hanging church, St. Mari) where the prayers were going on. I met Omar and his wife.
• Walked down a narrow alley to Abu Serga, St. Barbara (Inside: St. Cyprus and St. John chapels). These two churches were restored during the Caliph who did not like this act therefore he ordered the architect to destroy one of them. The architect walked so long between the two to decide which one to destroy that he finally died of exhaustion, as a result the Caliph spared both churches.
• Ben Ezra Synagogue: Well-restored.
• Fustat - City of the Tents: I walked about 500 meters north on St. Marie Grigis to the Mosque of Amr, Egypt’s first mosque, a very huge site with beautiful columns in covered areas all around the yard. On Friday afternoon prayers up to 70,000 prayers attend. Two guides and two shoe keepers asked for bakhsheesh.
• Abu Saffein: I walked about 500m past the Mosque of Amr to Abu Saffein and visited:
Virgin Mari church (El-Dem Shiria): A beautiful, simple, small church
Church of St. Shenouda: Very old, brick walls and wooden ceiling
At none of the churches anyone asked for donations or entrance fee.
I asked for directions from a Coptic family and they gave me a ride to Nilometer; it was a charming building on Roda Island, about 20m deep. It is now dry but before construction of the Aswan Dam the water could rise all the way to the top. I took the spiral staircase all the way to the bottom. I then walked around the area for a while but could not find a decent place to have lunch. I found a bakery where ants were walking over loaves of breads in the window shelves; I entered and picked up a loaf on the inside trays but the cashier could not change my 20 EP bill. I walked around in vein for a long time to change the note. Finally I came across another bakery where I could get a few loaves of bread before taking a cab ride to the Islamic Cairo. The traffic was very bad. The driver would shut off the engine after every few yards where he had to stop. An 8-year old girl student was trying to board a bus and a man pushed her aside to get on board. A woman in full Islamic cover had put her child on her shoulder in a way that the child was covering her view from the incoming traffic. She crossed the street with no hesitation, expecting the cars to stop for her.
I visited the following sites at Islamic Cairo:
• Ahmad Ibn Tulun Mosque: a grand, old (879 CE), most sublime building
• Rafaii Mosque, I had to recite: ”Ashhado An La Ella ha Ell-lalla” to get in with no admission. It had a huge interior with four columns in the center and four adjacent to each wall with beautiful artwork on the walls and the ceilings. Initially I mistook the mosque for Sultan Hassan Mosque that was across the street; I went back to Hassan Mosque later on.
• Citadel (El Qal’a):
• Mosque of Sultan En-Nasir Muhammad Ibn Qaaoun, small, beautiful with pharonic and Coptic columns.
• Mosque of Mohammad Ali.
Interior: Alabaster walls with wood on the upper parts and beautiful ceiling with possibly the world's largest chandelier (365 lanterns).
Courtyard: A 17-m deep well in the center of the court with the greatest echo. My shouts resonated for about one minute. Also a pretty ablution dome and a beautiful French clock on a tower, a gift of King Louis Philippe of France to Mohammad Ali in 1845 in appreciation of Ali’s gift of the obelisque from Luxor Temple that now stands in Palace de la Concord in Paris.
• Museum of Qasr el-Gowhara: Built in 1811 by Ali and named after one of his wives. Ali invited 500 of his mamluk allies and slaughtered them here. In one room there were a few tapestries on the walls. A few of these were presented to Ka’ba in Mecca.
• Suleiman Pasha Mosque: Built in 1527. A charming small garden and a pretty small prayer hall behind the Military Palace.
• Court of the Military Museum that consisted of a few tanks and airplanes that seemed to be from WWI era.
• Revisited Rifai’s Mosque. The attendant opened the door to the burial chamber of King Fouad, King Farouk who was Egypt’s last king, and the Shah. The tombstone of the Shah read:
Born: Aban 1, 1298.
Died: Mordad 5, 1359.
• Sultan Hassan Mosque (1356 CE), Jewel of the Mamluk architects, built by stones from the pyramids at Giza. In the company of a guide and a group of French tourists I walked to the roof and all the way atop one of the minarets.
I stopped by at the Tourist Police to find out how to get to Tahir Sq. Two policemen and two young civilians had to consult
to give me a bus number and finally one of the young guys walked me to the bus stop.
I stopped at two Egypt Air offices to buy a ticket to Israel and both told me I had to go to Air Sinai, a subsidiary of Egypt Air which was closed at that time. They could not tell me if I could book a flight through a travel agent.
Monday 11/1/96 Giza
I woke up at 7:00am, checked out from the Gresham Hotel and walked to Tahir Sq. to take a bus to the Giza. At the bus stop met Ali, a law student at the Cairo University who works at a restaurant at nights. The streets were very crowded and the traffic was awful. The bus ride took about 45 minutes. Near Giza Ali pointed to me one of the pyramids few miles away; it was a hazy day and when I looked at his direction I saw the awe inspiring pyramid at a distance. Ali recommended I should also visit Saqqara, and he said since there were no roads between Giza and Saqqara he would take me to a government agency, possibly hi buddy, where I could hire a camel or a horse. After arriving at Giza, we went to the second floor of a building with a stable on the ground floor. I paid $80 for a full day trip on horseback with a guide and left the stable for Giza about 2 km away but the horse was too slow and Omar, my guide, mentioned that after visiting Giza I could take a car to Saqqara. I went back to the stable and asked for my money back. We settled at a Giza tour for $40 and a faster horse. The horse, Kanni, was much faster than the first one and I enjoyed the many fast trots on the open vast dessert. I visited Cheops (2250 B.C.E.), 146m high, and Chephren, 143m high. I walked through a long tunnel to the burial chamber. Since I had no camera flash I asked Hirokoni, a Japanese tourist to take a picture of me and gave him my address and 10 EP to mail me the picture. He asked me to pose for a second picture in case the first one was not good. He did not accept my additional 5 EP; I never received a picture from him. I visited the pyramid of Mycerinus and then rode to the Sphinx a few hundred yards away. Omar, my guide, said I could get a cab ride to Saqqara for 60 EP. At Sphinx, a driver, Hosni, offered me a car ride to Saqqara. I asked him to give me a price with no haggling. He offered 20 EP. I got in the car and asked Hosni to buy some bread for lunch. He stopped at a bakery and bought bread and then some cheese at a grocery. The hot bread wrapped in newspaper was really delicious. We arrived in Saqqara in half an hour where I visited the Step Pyramid (2630 BCE), the oldest, and an inspiration for the construction of the other pyramids by the future pharaohs. I then visited the Tomb of Mere-ruka, a burial site with many rooms and beautiful drawings on the walls. Before leaving I decided to take a picture of one of the walls. While preparing my camera the attendant showed up, waited until I took the picture and then asked me if I had a ticket for the camera. I gave him some bakhsheesh. I walked to the Pyramid of Titi, a very small one. The guide entered the site, turned on the lights and we walked to the burial chamber. I touched the burial stone and a piece of amber came off into my hand.
I left the site at 2:30pm and arrived at Memphis in about 30 minutes. The site consisted of the following:
• Ramsses II statue, about 18m long lying down; it was the main piece at the site.
• The temples of Ptah, Apis, Hathor, Ramsses, sarcophagus of Amen Hotep and Sphynx of Ramsses.
We drove back about 20 km to Giza. After saying good-bye to Hosni who seemed to be a nice Egyptian man. He said the next time I’d go back, I could be his guest at his home. I took a bus to Tahir Sq. at 3:30pm. At one stop six men boarded the bus, five of them were smoking. I went to the American Express office at the Nile Hilton and booked a flight to Tel Aviv for the same day at 10:30 pm for 1180 EP ($350).
I tried to contact Omar by calling information to get his phone number at Ramsses Hilton but the operator hung up on me. I went back to the Nile Hilton and got his number but he was not in his room. I left a message for him and rested for a while at the Hilton and did soe writing. On the way to hotel I met Adel, a sergeant in the army who invited me to dinner. I told him I was in a rush to go to the airport therefore made plans to meet after my return. He complained about the low pays and he also knew about the perfume salesmen trick - Frank about whom I wrote before. He told me that Egyptians think of foreigners as wallets who have to be turned over and shaken empty.
It seems the friends can get very intimate with each other here. It is very common to see two men _ with big mustaches _ walk hand in hand and they do not have to be gays. Basically the scene of men walking hand in hand or arms around each others’ is very common. It seems that the sense of touching is very strong here and since until just recently people of the opposite sexes could not touch each other in public, touching among the people of the same sex has become commonplace.
Another interesting scene is the bus scene. The buses are so full that people have to hang up to three layers from the doors. There are no official bus stops therefore it is common to see people jumping on and off the buses at each corner. The drivers do not even have to slow down. The most common sound is the sound of the horns of the cars. In high traffic intersections there are five to ten policemen who control the traffic, otherwise in other intersections with no traffic police, the red light has no meaning. It is a wonder a people who have so little value for the time can get in such a rush once they when sit at the wheels. Passers-by have no fear of the cars and they jump in front of the cars to cross the streets.
I stopped by at a restaurant that Adel had recommended. Inside looked sleazy, with two ugly waitresses. I asked for the menu; there was none. I asked for a Stella beer, the national Egyptian beer. The male waiter said they just ran out of it and tried to give me an imported Stella at three times the price of the local one. No surprise! I left the place and found a clean restaurant for dinner; after dinner since still had a long time before my departure I went to a cafeteria for a cup of tea before going back to the hotel to pick up my luggage. I was not in the mood to haggle with the cabdrivers and had enough time therefore I took bus #27 at Tahir Sq. to the airport. The bus must have been one of the busses taken from the Axis _ possibly Italy _ at the end of WWII. At least this nation does not have to impress the tourists with anything since its monuments do the trick. The bus was filled with fumes. After few minutes _ sharp at 9:30p _ the bus driver left the station. I arrived at Terminal 1, the old airport, and at that point I found out that the bus does not go the New Terminal (#4) that is mostly for international flights; The sales agent had told me that my flight would take off from that terminal. I took a cab to New Airport and asked a guard for El-Al Terminal and he said it was at terminal #1. My cab driver, Mahmood, drove back to terminal #1 as if in a suicide mission and he did ask for a big tip. When I finally arrived at the security desk at 10:30pm the guards said the plane had taken off. I went to the office of El-Al and a clerk OK’ed my ticket aboard air Saina which had a flight the following night. When I left the terminal I saw Mahmood waiting outside patiently. He drove me back to the city. The salesmanship started as usual; he said I should go to Magie Hotel that is a much better hotel than Horris. I told him I was too tired and just wanted to go back to my own hotel to rest. He did add that if I go to Magie hotel, to tell Mr. Mokhtar that Mr. Mahmood from the airport has sent me and to ask for ‘special discount’ that in my guidebook was translated as “rip-off”. I arrived at the hotel and checked in. I went to the restaurant across the hotel to get a soda, but the boy at the counter said they were closed. I went back to the restaurant of the hotel and asked for a soda to take out and they said they have no take out service. I went back to my room and left my luggage and went to a juice shop and had two mango juices and a mineral water. Four people had to collaborate to come up with the price in English. After a very long day I went back to my room to sleep.
Tuesday 11/12/96 Tel Aviv
I woke up at 8:30am and after breakfast at the hotel went to American Express and changed my ticket. I will be flying tonight on El-Al and return on Saturday on Air Sinai. I went to Egyptian Museum at Tahir sq. The building does not look enormous from the outside but inside there is an endless array of artifacts from Ancient Egypt; there should be at least one million different pieces on display. If one spends only a minute to view each item, it should take about three years to go through all the items at the museum. The were no descriptions for majority of the objects on display but the task of collecting all of these artifacts under one ceiling should have been a tremendous effort. It seems that everything ever made by the ancient Egyptians have been excavated and gathered here. Some of the most interesting pieces were the elaborate horse carriages, the huge (20’ x 30’) wooden and golden burial chambers, the tools used in daily life and of course the Royal Mummy Room (separate admission of 60 EP). In the room there were eleven mummies and some of them were extremely well preserved with all parts of the face, hands, teethes, eyelids and ears still intact. They were the Mummies of Ramsses II (about 4’ long), Amen Hotep I, Thumosis IV, Seti I, and Ramsses V. By this time my legs were sore from yesterday’s riding. I left the museum at 1:0pm and took a cab to Fatimid Cairo.
Fatimid Cairo - Visited the following sites:
• Madras of Sultan El Ghouri where they have the dance of the Whirling Dervishes on Wednesdays and Saturday nights. Omar had seen this dance and highly recommended it.
• Mansion of Gamal ed-din (16th Cen.), spacious with many rooms for him and his three wives.
• Mosque of El Muayyad, 1415, very old with original interior, beautiful alabaster multi-color walls
• Bab Zuweila, one of the three remaining gates of the Fatimid Cairo
• Mosque of Sahib Tala, 1160
• Street of the Tent Makers and Saddle Makers
• Al Azhar Mosque: It was not as magnificent as I had expected. Part of it was closed and under reconstruction due to a fire. The guide “butcher” Mahmood Mohammad walked me inside and to one of the minarets. As he was showing me around, he was trying to sell copies of Koran to western tourists. I wanted to see the famous library but after talking to a guard, a sheik and a translator did not succeed and had to give up.
• Mosque of Sayydinn el-Hussein, Cairo’s most venerated Muslims' shrine. It was beautiful. I did manage to take a picture.
I took a quick tour of the Northern El Muizz St. and then took a cab to the Nile Hilton were I relaxed for a while and then went to Restaurant El Haty near the Horris Hotel and a dinner of pigeon - a delicacy here. It was a large, well-decorated, clean restaurant but throughout the dinner there was only one more couple at the restaurant. I went to Horris, picked up my luggage, took a cab to the airport and arrived there at 9:00 pm thinking I had to waste 1:30 hours until my departure time. When I arrived at El-AL ticket booth, a young woman asked me to follow her, asked for my passport, and I think once she saw the country of birth in my passport she was sure that I was a terrorist on a hijacking mission. For the next one hour a team of five people were questioning me and inspecting my luggage. It seemed that I would miss my flight again in which case I had to forget about going to Israel. Throughout the questioning everybody was rather polite except at the very end, when I thought I was cleared, they walked me to another room for a quick body search where a new woman told the Egyptian staff “ Search this man” while pointing to me. At this time I was ready to start cursing but I resisted the temptation. They searched me from over the clothes and I did not even have to take off my sneakers - that surprised me. I was also surprised that they had to use Arab staff for the body search. I was finally finished by 10:15pm; boarded the bus to the plane and took off at 10:30pnm. It was a short and convenient flight. We arrived at Tel Aviv at 11:30pm. At the immigration desk I was the second person in the line. I noticed the clerk, a young oriental girl, stamped the passport of the passenger in front of me. When it was my turn, I asked her if she was going to stamp my passport and she said yes. I asked her to let me talk to her supervisor. She asked if there would be a problem with stamping my passport. I nodded and she just stamped the card that was handed over to me on the plane and I was finished in less than twenty seconds _ I thought of Cairo's Immigration where I had to wait for three hours even though I had a visa. I stopped at the Information Desk to inquire about transportation to Jerusalem. The clerk said I could use a ‘sherut’ (van). I found a sherut where a college professor from Ohio was waiting. I waited for some time for more passengers. I checked again with Information for a hotel in Jerusalem; the female clerk called a hotel and confirmed a room for me. I waited for a bit longer until six passengers showed up but since the sherut had the capacity of eight passengers, we agreed to pay 34 shekels (normally 30) so that the driver would not wait any longer. We departed for Jerusalem at 12:30am.
There was such a huge transformation in just a one-hour flight from Cairo to Tel Aviv; an organized airport, transportation and decent highways. The grass around the airport was being sprinkled. We arrived at Jerusalem (60 km) at 1:30am. I found a hotel with the help of a few young men who were hanging around. I checked in at Hotel Arcadia at 57 Jaffa St. Tel: 972-02-6221998, a clean nice room for $50 a night. I went to bed at 2:30 am
Wednesday 11/13/96 Jerusalem
I woke up at 7:30am and showered; the water pressure was even better than that in New York. I noticed the pins were pulled out from my brush and holes made in my soap bar during the search at Cairo’s Airport. After having breakfast I walked to the Old City and booked a walking tour at Zion Walking Tours at the Citadel (Jaffa Gate). We started the tour at 11:00am. Our guide, Stanley, was an American College professor who had also served in the Korean War. We visited the Armenian Section, the Ruins of the New Church, Cordo (corridor, Latin: heart), Mount of Olive and the Western Wall. The first temple was built here by Solomon in the 10th century BCE. It was destroyed by Nebu Chadnezzar in 587 BC. The second temple was built in 516 BCE and in 70 CE, the fourth year of the Jewish revolt; Romans destroyed it again. The Jews believe that the Holy Ark was located closest to the Western Wall, making this wall the holiest site in Jerusalem. After Omar and Moslems arrived in the 7th Century, the Umayyadd Caliphs built the two Arab mosques that still dominates the Temple Mount: the silver-domed Holy Al Agsa Mosque (built 715) and the magnificent Dome of the Rock (691). It was one of the more quite days at the Wall and there were not too many people praying there, nevertheless one could feel the extremely spiritual sense of the site. I entered the prayer hall, left a wish in the stones which were full of other prayers left by the people _ they are removed every year _ wondered around for a while and by the time I went back to join my tour group, they had left leaving me behind. I walked out of the Old City through the Dung Gate and passed by a long stretch of land which was the Moslem’s Cemetery by the walls of the Old City at the Golden Gate and St. Stephen’s Gate. I reentered Old City through the Damascus Gate. In front of the “Dome of the Rock” two Israeli police officers asked me to show them my passport to confirm that I was a Moslem from Iran since the 7:00-13:00 visiting hours were over. Inside the mosque a Moslem man again made me show my passport to make sure that I am a Moslem. My trying to proof my religion by reading a verse of Quran did not work. I finally entered the mosque; It was indeed magnificent, I sat down for a while to absorb and praise its beauty. Anything more than this would possibly have been perfect and therefore blasphemous at the time of construction since perfection is only for the God. Every square centimeter of space was a world of wonders and art. The symmetrical and asymmetrical patterns on the columns and the walls were just magnificent. A stone that looked like raised rocks covered one side of the pillars. I had to touch them a few times to feel smoothness of marble. The walls all the way to the ceiling were covered with beautiful drawings and Arabic writings. At the center of the mosque, a few steps under the ground the huge 8x8 m Rock was located. Finally the guardian showed up and this time he did not ask for bakhsheesh, bust asked for sadaghe (a different form of bakhsheesh) for the sheik; I refused to give him money in this holiest site. I left the mosque and walked around the courtyard. Every small pillar or altar was built extremely tastefully. I walked to the Al Agsa Mosque that is on the same Courtyard and sat there for a while to enjoy the visual beauty of the site. The task of building these two mosques was nothing less than pharonic. I circled around the Islamic and Jewish sections until 7pm. The beautiful all stone walls and roads in the Jewish Section were restored between 1948-1957. The white stones give the area the impression of an ancient city. By this time my legs were sore. In the Islamic Section a young shopkeeper, Ayer, son of the owner, invited me to his clean restaurant. He complained about the discrimination of the American tourists who do not eat at his restaurant. The customers were mostly Germans. Another shopkeeper invited me to his shop and reduced the price of saffron flowers from NIS30 for 10 grams to 20 for 50 grams. I went to my hotel to sleep early so that I can get up earlier to use more of the daylight. I was very fascinated with what I’ve seen today and glad I was able to make the trip. It’s been a great visual and spiritual experience. The city is a great historical site; it’s peaceful, very spiritual and the crisp fresh fragrant air is very uplifting; it’s the perfect place for the resurrection of a prophet.
I woke up at 6:30am and after breakfast took Jaffa Road to Jaffa Gate, took a walk around, sat down at the Citadel and read my tour guide until 9:00am when my tour started. At exactly 9:00am I heard the owner of the tour company, an interesting 72-year old man, calling me from down the block. I started the tour with a group of ten people and our knowledgeable and dedicated tour guide, Ellen, an American who had immigrated to Israel. We strolled on the rooftops of the Old City’s Market. The highlight of the tour was the walk on the underground passage of the Western Wall. The tunnel runs for about 1km and exposes the many facets of the ancient cultures, the Herosd’s Road, his bridge, and the Wall (one of the rocks weighs 500 tons and measures 42’x10’x10’. In one of the chambers we could see the ashes left behind after the Romans burned the city. I left the tunnel from the new exit. This new exit was completed about two years ago but the old government delayed opening it to avoid any confrontations with the Arabs. After the opening by the new government of Netanyahu there were some serious protests by the Arabs claiming the exit would deteriorate the structure of the Dome of the Rock, but in reality the exit was far enough from the mosque not to affect it in any way. The tour was a great observation of the ancient history of the city. After the tour I lunched at Cordo Culinaria, a restaurant decorated in the fashion of the old Rome. As the customers entered, the waiters would start playing their trumpets and then clad them in robes and put headbands on them and after sitting them fanned them with long straw fans. The olives were great, the pea soup was delicious and the main dish, chicken and grilled squash was mouth watering; it was a fun experience. At the end of the meal, taking a picture of the customers lying down on a sofa with the waitresses feeding them grapes was in order.
I walked to the Islamic section one more time and entered the Dome of the Rock. I entered the prayer hall but the afternoon prayers were in session and a big crowd of men and women were praying. I was the only one not praying which looked awkward therefore I left the place hoping to go back there the following day. I walked to Damascus Gate and at the bus terminal took Arab bus #75 to At Tur Village atop the Mountain of Olives. The fare was NIS 1.50 but I had only 1.40 of change. The driver accepted my change. I got off at the Jewish cemetery. There was a beautiful view of the city from the hilltop. I climbed higher to the Chapel of Christ’s Ascension; it was closed. I walked down the hill and visited the Church of Pater Noster (also called Elona, Greek for ‘Olive Grave’). The prayers were written in 77 languages on tablets all over the church. I visited the Church of Gethsemane and then another fascinating church that looked like a deep dark dungeon with many lights on. I walked down, looked around and tried to ask about the church from an orthodox Christian but he did not stop reading his prayer book.
I started walking back to the Old City. On the way met Ellen, my tour guide, who stopped and gave me a ride to Jaffa Gate. She was a godsend; my legs were in pain from all the walking and the soreness from the riding at the Pyramids. On the way to my hotel I met Suki, a Korean girl who was studying Judaism for one year in Jerusalem. I also met Owen from Rochester who said he was going to the Dead Sea on a one-day tour. I inquired about the transportation for Saturday’s trip back to Tel Aviv and then registered for a tour to Masada and the Dead Sea at Benyehuda hustle, on Benyehuda Street and King George, starting at 3:30am the next day, Friday. I had a quick dinner on Benyehuda. An eight-year old Arab boy asked me for money or my pen while smoking. He reminded me of another six-year old boy I had met at the Valley of the Kings who was smoking and asking for money. I went back to my room for an early sleep. Tomorrow I will see the sunrise from Masada at the Dead Sea. It is 450m below the sea level.
I woke up at 2:45am and walked to Benyehuda hustle. The van arrived at 3:30am. I was the only passenger. We drove to Jaffa Gate and picked up the rest of the passengers who were mostly staying in Moslem Section where there are many inexpensive hustles. We arrived at Massada a little past 4:00am. I started hiking and arrived at the hilltop at 5:00am. I waited until sunrise appeared at about 6:15am. It was a time of silence to absorb the density of history of the site and the fresh air. It was a bit cloudy yet the sunrise was just perfect. The patches of the dry and colorful ground at the Dead Sea were glowing under the sun.
I met Asami Honda of Nagoya, a young girl who is a part -time waitress and more of a full-time traveler. I took some pictures. After the sunrise I walked around and visited the remains of the fortress. I descended the hill at 7:00am and arrived at the van at 7:30am. We drove to the Dead Sea and arrived there at 8:00am. I swam for about an hour. It was an interesting experience; the water is so heavy filled with the minerals that one cannot sink in it, but it was extremely bitter and acidy. After the swim I showered but Owen, the student from Rochester left the thick layer of minerals all over his skin. After breakfast we drove to a nearby site and took a nature walk. We drove to Jericho and visited a monastery and the Jericho Wall. Had lunch and stopped at Qumran to see the excavations at the site of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We drove back to Jerusalem and arrived there at 2:00 pm It was a great trip even though our driver, Mohammad was the least helpful. He would just drive and at each stop would just mention the name of the site and the departure time. He must have been bitter showing the sites of this land that now belong to another people.
I went to the Old City and walked to the Western Wall and back to the hotel to take a shower and a nap. I then went back to the Old City and tried to enter the Dome of the Rock but I was told that they are closed after the evening prayers. I asked for directions from a few Arab kids. They followed me for a few steps and then asked for money. When I told them I would not give them any money they became very offensive and one of them started looking for rocks to throw at me. At this time a few Israeli soldiers showed up and the kids backed off. I walked to the Armenian Section Restaurant. Before I enter I could hear the sound of a magical flute being played. The player, Valodya of Armenia, had come to Jerusalem four month earlier for a festival and had stayed. He was a great master of the instrument. I cried during his playing and had to go to the bathroom to wash up. I sat at his table and tried to talk to him but he spoke no English. I asked Genya, a Russian waitress to act as our translator. I would not forget the sound of his music. Su, the other waitress, was an Australian woman whom I had asked for directions to the Old City on my first day in Jerusalem - it’s a small world. She has studied journalism, came to Jerusalem for political writings and had initially hated the place because of the roughness of the Jews to Arabs but now has adjusted to the situation. The wine was good; the appetizer, Armenian yogurt, cucumber with tomatoes and olive oil was delicious. I had a great time. Tomorrow I will go to Nazareth.
Saturday 11/16/96 Nazareth
Today is my last day in Israel. I woke up at 6:30am, packed, checked out and left my bag at the front desk. I went to Ron Hotel next to Egged Tours on Jaffa St. and asked if I could go on the tour to Nazareth. The person at the desk made a phone call and they sent the bus to pick me up ($54). After a few more pickups we changed to a van and started the trip. Our guide, Yuki (Yukivet), was a very knowledgeable person and did a great job of describing the history of the places we were driving by. We drove by the Judea Mountains and the Bedouin tents.
In Nazareth we visited the Church of the Annunciation and then drove to Capernaum to visit the House of St. Peter. We also visited the Sea of Galilee where we had lunch (a local fish called St. Peter, similar to bass which Jesus fed one thousand of his followers with one of them) and went for a boat ride. We visited another synagogue and a church and a park where the Christian would come to baptize in the waters of the Sea of Jordan. The religious fever was very high.
We arrived at Jerusalem at 6:15pm. I tried to find a sherut to the airport but because of the Shabath there was no service to the airport unless I would get a private ride for $80. I took a sherut to Tel Aviv at 6:30p. The driver was kind enough to stop on a fork on the highway near the airport and let me off. He said I could walk 1-2 km distance to the airport. It was about 7:30p and I had enough time until my departure. I decided to take a shortcut; went down a ramp and walked through a citrus grove for about 20 minutes in the direction of the airport where I could see the bright lights. The smell of the tangerines had filled the air. When I arrived at the other end of the grove I faced a long wire fence; took a detour and walk for another 10 minutes until I arrived at a place where the wire fence was shorter and I could climb a few tree stems to the top of the fence and jump over it. I walked along the highway for about half an hour. When I hailed a cab the driver told me I was on the wrong side of the road. I crossed the road and walked for a while before getting a ride to the airport.
Since I was flying on Air Saina, I thought going through the passport check would be faster but I was in for a big surprise. The checking of the luggage was even more exhaustive than that at Cairo’s Airport. The fist woman involved five other people to find out my motives for taking this trip and to check my luggage. They inspected my luggage for an hour and the inspection of my camera took about 1:45 hours. This time they also checked the sneakers I was wearing. At the end the woman apologized for the delay and walked me through the gates to the departure hall around 9:50p. The flight was one hour late and we took off at 11:30. I took a taxi and the driver started the same familiar act of recommending a cheaper and better hotel. At the hotel asked for a wakeup call at 6a and went to bed at 2 am
Sunday 11/17/96 Departure from Cairo
Today is the last day of my trip. I took a taxi to the airport and arrived there at 7:00a. I was lucky to get to the airport since the cab driver did not know exactly where to drop me. He had to stop near the airport and ask for help from a waiting passenger who happened to work at one of the currency exchanges at the airport and shared a ride with me. At the airport the ticket agent asked if my ticket was confirmed or not. I had all forgotten about it but I had to tell him that I had confirmed it at the American Express. It seemed he had no way of verifying it; I was able to get a boarding pass. I waited at the departure hall for a while, watching the sparrows who had nested there. The flight took off at 8:30a; I took a seat at the business class. We arrived in London where we a 1.5 hours stop over and finally arrived at JFK at 4 pm
At the immigration desk, I was the very first person on the line. An old passenger tried to get ahead of me but the officer who had just finished with his last passenger noticed this and asked me to go thorough the other side of his desk. The officer at the customs said ‘welcome back’ and let me through. I hailed a cab and got home at 5pm.
96/12/08 Dubai, London, Madrid, Toledo
Tomorrow I’ll be leaving for Dubai.
Woke up rather late. Hiroko called in the afternoon. I went out for an evening walk at Carl Shultz Park.
I gave exclusive rights to Kenny Shusterman of Bellmark Realty to rent Vanderbilt apartment, paid some bills, took care of the gifts for the doormen, packed, and called Marica and Faramarz. Hiroko called again to say good-bye. I arrived at JFK at 9:30pm to find a long line at Virgin Atlantic’s check-in counter; their system was down and my flight was postponed from 10:55pm to 2:00am.
Tuesday 12/10/96 London
I arrived at Heathrow at 1:45 pm; just late enough to miss my connecting flight to Dubai aboard Emirates. I took a Flight Interruption Manifestation for British Airways at Virgin Atlantic’s Desk to depart at 11:35pm and then took the Speedlink, a very convenient 40-minute bus ride (normally 15 pounds) to Gatwick using my voucher. I called Phil Tumminina at home in Dubai. He told me that the visa they had obtained for me when I was in Egypt had been expired and I had to wait until they could renew it. I stopped at Thomas Cook office and made a reservation for a bed and breakfast (38 pounds + 4.5 charge) at Kitsbridge House (Tel: 01342-714422). The Greek owner showed up in ten minutes to pick me up and we drove for five minutes to his place. There were four rooms on the second floor; mine was a clean one with double bed and shower with shared bathroom. I watched TV for awhile and went to bed at 10pm but had a difficult time sleeping because of my coughing.
Wednesday 12/11/96 Madrid
I woke up at 7:00am and after breakfast the female housekeeper gave me a ride to the airport. I called Shandra, an Indian, who works for Phil and is responsible for the application development. He said I should be working through a vendor and we would discuss the rate when I arrived in Dubai; this new arrangement was different from our first conversation when I was in New York and he had said I needed to discuss the rate with John Malcombson, a British who was in charge of the operations. He had no news about my visa and asked me to call him back at 1:00pm. I left my luggage at the airport, bought a one-day underground pass for 10 pounds and took the Gatwick Express to Victoria Station (1/2 hour). I toured the area for a while and then took the Victoria Line to Green Park, changed to Piccadilly Line and got off at Leicester Sq. (the theater center). I called Shandra and Phil, took the Piccadilly Line to Russell Sq. to the British Museum; it was one of the sites in London that I wanted to see. I headed back to Victoria Station at 6:00pm. Since I did not expect my visa any time soon I decided to go to Madrid to be away from the cold and damp weather of London; I checked the flight schedules and called Phil to tell him of my plan. I took the Gatwick Express to Gatwick and arrived there at 7:00pm, bought a round trip ticket for 218 pounds, bought a book on Spain, picked up my luggage and rushed to the boarding gate. Only 10 percent of the seats were filled, therefore I gathered it was not tourist season. We took off at 8:30 pm and arrived in Madrid at 11:00pm after 3.5 hours. The grounds were wet; it had just stopped raining. I withdrew 20,000 pts from Chase ATM and took a cab (2,000 pts flat rate) to Central Madrid and checked in hustle Montalvo,c/Zaragoza (Tel: 265 5910) , between plaza Santa Cruz and Plaza Mayor. I took a small but very clean and convenient room for 3500 pts a night.
I had a very difficult time to go to sleep last night; I could hear the rain most of the night. My coughing did not help the situation much. I woke up at 10:30am showered and went out. My hotel was just a few steps from Plaza Mayor, a huge courtyard with buildings around it. There were many vendors' stands in the middle of the plaza selling their wares; it looked like a temporary flea market setup for Christmas; it was still raining. I Walked to Puerta de Sol and on to San Jeronim. There were a large number of video game arcades and lottery salespeople. I went to the Tourist Office to get some maps and guides. On the beautiful Passe de Recolectos I walked by Fuente de Neptuno, Plaza de Cibeles and Plaza de Colon. I lunched at a restaurant and at 2:30 took Madrid Vision bus tour. We drove on de la Castellana to Serrano and Goya to Genova, Sagasta, San Bernado, Bailen (Royal Palace), and Calle Mayor. I got off at Royal Palace, and visited Cathedral de la Almedena. It was raining most of the day.
It has been raining nonstop since last night. I had breakfast in a coffee shop near the hotel, bought a subway ticket (130 pts.), and entered the metro. I asked a few people for the train to Muse des Padro. The language barrier became a problem; I could not find anyone who spoke English. Finally a young guy who was going to make a phone call talked to me in broken English; he then closed his notebook, walked with me to the subway and we boarded Ventas Line and got off at Bauco; at this time the rain was coming down heavily. He asked the directions from a passer-by and walked with me to the museum; he then apologized that he could not accompany me any longer since he had to go to school. I called Phil a couple of times but each time ran out of change and the line was disconnected. I spent a couple of hours at the museum which has a selection of 7000 (1500 on display) of 16th century of El Greco, Diego Velazquez, Goya, Rubben, and many other painters. I then I walked to the Retiro Park. By this time the rain had stopped and the sun was shinning. The huge peaceful park _ with very symmetrical design _ reminded of a similar park in Vienna. The sun was glowing at this time; and it was indeed great walking in the park. After walking for a couple of hours in the park I continued to Huertas and the Plaza Santa Ana; lunched at Cerveceria Alemana, a place frequented by Ernst Hemingway; it had an old cafe charm. I then stopped at Viva Madrid _ a charming bar with beautiful tiles and ceiling _ and then went to Los Gabriels bar that had many museum quality tiles on the walls. I went to Lavapies and La Latina, two neighborhoods comprised of working class people; continued to Gra Via to telefonica office and called Phil and tried to make a reservation to Dubai. I had a few beers, sandwiches and tapas at a few bars. The rain continued on and off; by this time I was looking forward to warm and sunny skies of Dubai.
I planned to go to Toledo the next day. I was exhausted by this time, went home and had a good sleep.
Saturday 12/14/96 Toledo
The man at the concierge who looked like a distinguished politician knocked on my door at 7:00am to wake me up. Last night I had not heard the rain therefore I was hoping that after three days it would have stopped but still it was drizzling. At 7:30am all stores but a few coffee shops were closed; it was still completely dark. I had breakfast at “muse de Jambon”, took a cab to Atocha (370 ptz), bought a round-trip ticket to Toledo (2160 ptz), waited for about twenty minutes and took the 8:25am train. The conductor punched out both of my tickets assuming the person next to me was with me. When we arrived at Toledo I had to go to the office with him; after consulting with a few of his colleagues he wrote a note on the ticket and stamped it; on the way back, the conductor accepted the explanations. At this time the rain had finally stopped and one could see the patches of sunshine through the clouds; Viva Sunshine. After three quarters of the way we arrived at Agador, the first time I could see a fully Islamic architecture influence in Spain; I had seen two other Islamic sites in Madrid. One was across the street from “Nuestra Senora De la Almundena” where there were some rock and brick relics on one corner of the block with an Islamic name for the street and the other one was a few Arab shops in Lavapies borough.
We arrived in Toledo at 9:50am. The station was the replica of an Islamic building; even the bathrooms were squatting style. Toledo was the capital of Spain until 1500’s. I headed towards the town that is located on a series of hills with a very picturesque view. Many people were walking in my direction - naturally I followed them until we arrived at a military academy that I mistook it for Alcazar. I entered the compound and arrived at square building with a huge plaza in the middle; three floors of terraces were packed with people. I found out that there was a graduation ceremony of the cadets and the crowds were the relatives of the cadets. The flags of Spain were hanging from everywhere; it was a picture perfect scene for a Franco movie. It was around 10:30am and the ceremonies were to begin at 11:00am Having seen enough, I decided to leave the place; I walked back on the downhill road and crossed a bridge and passed a gate to enter the town. After a short walk I arrived at “La Cathedral”, a magnificent church completed in 1500’s. There were many statutes and artworks on the walls. I believe the church could be one of the most artifacts-packed churches in the world. There were many chambers all around the church. I left the church and started walking around and enjoying the beauty of the town; everything was beautifully constructed. I could not stop taking pictures of (I had to buy a disposable camera) many curvy steep narrow alleys to the houses, their balconies, hanging plants and of course the monuments. The weather and the sunshine were just perfect. I visited the El Greco museum and Muse (hospital) Santa Cruz - a charming building with two floors in the form of a cross with very high ceilings. I crossed the bridge and left the town and continued to the train station. I left Toledo at 4:30pm. and arrived in Madrid at 6:10pm; tTook the Metro to Anton-Martin Station and started walking around before going to Plaza Santa Ana for tapas and beer at a restaurant. It was a beautiful Saturday evening and it seemed every body was out to enjoy the weekend; the crowd was very festive as Christmas was approaching. I called Greg Joshua in New York but could not contact Phil. I tried to pay for my hotel by credit card but the old man at the desk said he could not process the card and added that only the younger man who works during day time can process it. I went to a bank and took some cash from ATM; paid my bill and asked for a wake-up call at 6:00am. I went to bed at 1:30 am.
I woke up at 6:0am and took a 20-minute cab ride to the airport for my 7:55 flight. There were less than a dozen of people on the plane; the line for the Heathrow Airport was much more crowded than Gatwick’s. I took seat number 10A, right behind the seats by the emergency exits, therefore I had a great legroom. I should remember next time to ask for seats 10A or 10F on 737’s. we had a smooth two-hour flight to London.
I was not yet sure if Phil had been able to obtain my visa. I had called him from Madrid and had left a message for him to fax my visa to Emirates Office at the airport. After arriving in London I checked with the Emirates’ office to see if they had my visa; since it was Sunday, there was no one at the office to check that therefore the supervisor had to walk to the office and after a while came back empty handed. I had called the British Airways from Madrid and the earliest flight I was able to make a reservation for was on Monday at 15:45. Emirates had an 11:00am from Gatwick and a 13:45 from Heathrow on Sunday which both were full. Asked a clerk to put my name on the waiting list for 11:00 am, but my ticket which was issued by Virgin Atlantic was transferred to British Airways, therefore things did not look too good for that day. I called Phil again and he said that he had just faxed my visa. I asked another lady to check for the fax; by the time she called back to say that my visa was there it was 10:20. The clerk asked for my ticket to put me on stand-by and when she saw that my ticket was for B.A., she said I should go back to Virgin Atlantic, switch my ticket back to Emirates, and then try the 13:45 flight from Heathrow. I ran to the train station and took the train to South Terminal, explained my situation to the staff, got a new receipt for Emirates, took the train back to the North Terminal and arrived at the desk at 10:50. surprised clerk told me they just closed to doors to the plane. I insisted on getting on board; they gave up and gave me a boarding pass but said that they would not guarantee a seat. I picked up my garment bags at the storage desk and ran to the gate. I was at the gate right at 11:00 am and there was still a line of 20 people waiting to get on board. I was issued a ticket and took my seat. We took off at 11:30 am I remembered the saying of Churchill, “We shall never surrender”.
Monday 12/16/96 Dubai
We landed in Dubai at about 12:15 am I took a cab to Hotel Forte Grand cross the street from the airport. Phil called; in the morning we met at the restaurant and after breakfast drove to the office. I met Chandra, the Indian who is in charge of the development and discussed the rate and when I told him I was asking for $100-120, he said he could get Seri Lankan contractors for $25 an hour. We discussed the possibility of working on a fix-price project for the conversion of the system S/36 code to AS/400; I gave him a proposal with a price tag of $100K. By the midweek Phil told me that London had told them to work with another firm, therefore I ended up doing some reports for them. The response time of the AS/400 was so bad that the task became very frustrating.
Thursday 12/24/96 Christmas Eve.
The past nine days things were very uneventful. By the midweek received a call from Bill Greban at TSR saying that Pfizer wanted me to work on their project as a Systems Architect. On Sunday night, 12/27/96 decided to leave since my visa was going to expire in a couple of days and I had to leave the country to reapply for a new one. I told Chandra of my decision on Monday and took my original flight to New York on Tuesday.
While in Dubai, I was not able to figure out how it had become such a successful country in attracting businesses. The city was very much developed and still construction was going on everywhere at full speed. The manager at Shahrzad, the great Persian restaurant at the Marriott said that only 20% of the income was derived from oil and the rest is from commerce. All the work force were Indians, Pakistani and African males or Filipino females. The service was very good and the government has kept the prices in check. The native population is about .5 million and there are about 1 million visitors. The city looks like a modern American town for the most part.
99/11/20 Morocco: Casablanca, Marrakesh, Fez
Sat. 11/20/99 I boarded Morocco Royal Air at about 7pm for a 7:30pm depature, but due a problem in the cockpit we were held till 11:30pm.
Last week I had decided to take the week of Thanksgiving off. I could not find a flight to the Islands therefore I checked the Internet for a tour to Morocco. The only name that came up was Sarah Tours. I called Hamid at the company and made a reservation for an 8-day trip for about $1,500 (land). I booked a flight from Pan Express for $700 that was less expensive than that quoted by the airline office. I received the itinerary and got a LP guide to read on the sites that we were going to visit.
I talked to a middle age lady from Washington D.C. who was sitting next to me and was going to Morocco for two weeks for trekking in the desert. We arrived in Casablanca at 11:00pm after a 6.5hrs flight.
The immigration desk was rather fast. I bought a train ticket and boarded a fast train to Casa du Port and then took a short taxi ride to Hotel Afna that is the old name of Casa. The driver gave me a quote of 20dm ($1 = 9.7 dm), but when I gave him a 50dm note, he gave me back only 20. After check-in I had lunch at Pizza Hut, took a cab to Hassan Mosque, the second largest in the world at the cost of $750m paid by the people. It was a huge hall with rather beautiful tile-work and wood ceilings _ though it was not comparable to Dome of the Rock. I took a cab to the old Medina and walked around for a while. I tried to find a couple of sites using the directions given in my guidebook but did not succeed. Nobody knew the name of the sites I was looking for. While looking for the Central Market, I met Mohammed. He showed me his student card and said he was a student of Economics though he did not look like a student. We walked by the Central Market that was closed by this time. He insisted that I join him for a drink. We went to a bar where I ordered a mint tea. He talked about his country, his trips, politics and everything else. I finally got up to leave after leaving some change for my tea on the table, but he asked me to pay the bill for the four beers he had had. I told him I did not have money and left the place. I looked for a French restaurant that my book recommended as having the best seafood. I asked a few people and finally when I found the place, I found out that it was closed on Sundays. I found another restaurant, but no customers were in sight. The last restaurant was more like a bar. I stopped at a full-house McDonalds' and sat down to eat my Big Mac. As I was eating I was wondering about the cause of the popularity of the brand. It is that not McDonalds' food is more delicious than the food of any particular restaurant in a given country. I was also wondering about the similar tastes that people around the world have. It was interesting to see that people around the world do enjoy the combination of the sandwich and the fries. I left the place and asked for the directions to my hotel from a Traffic Police who was ticketing a driver. He kindly drew a map for me and said goodnight. After about 20 minutes I was about one block away from my hotel when I saw two guys walking towards me. One of them, a teenager asked me the time and when I stretched my arm so that he can see the time, they noticed that I am a foreigner. They accosted me and started walking with me and when I ignored them, one of them said that they were not asking for money. At the reception I asked for my messages. I had one from someone by name of Abdul Latif Chakir. I called him and he said he would be my new guide. He said that we would be going to Marrakech the following day whereas based on my itinerary I was supposed to meet my tour group at the airport and then drive to Rabat. I told him to call Hamid, the tour agent in U.S. to clarify. He called back after a while and said he could not reach Hamid and asked if he could come to see me to explain the situation. After a while the phone rang, I went to the lobby and met him and another huge guy that later I found out was Abdul's boss. He showed me a new itinerary that was faxed to him on Nov. 20th. He said he would pick me up at 9:00am at the hotel. I was not happy with the situation but did not have much choice. I think it was a mistake to look up a tour agent on the Internet and give him my business. OK, I told myself; I am one of the pioneers of shopping for a trip on the Net.
Monday 11/22/99 Marrakesh
I had breakfast at the hotel. Abdul showed up promptly in a Mercedes. We had an uneventful pleasant 200km drive to Marrakesh. The countryside was mostly green. As we entered the old Medina, my guide Hussein was waiting for us at the gate. He drove to Hotel Alomorvid. They told me they had no record of reservation for me. I had to get a room on my own (380dm). I visited the following sites:
Koutoubia A 12-century Mosque with a 70'' minaret that is visible from most of the town
Menara Gardens It leads to a site containing a huge pool and a small post house for the king. The pool was used to train soldiers for sea wars.
Bahia Palace: It contains a series of courthouses indicating it was built in stages.
The Dar si Said: Museum of Modern Arts and Crafts: There was a big collection of carpets in a beautiful building.
The Saddian Tombs:
A series of tombs inside and outside of a mosque. The tile designs were pretty. This huge site was discovered in the 9th century by the French. I could not figure out how it could be hidden.
The Badia: Also called "The Incomparable". It is the most impressive ruin in the city. Sadly, it was mostly ruined. Only a huge pool in the center, sunken gardens, a shell of a hall on one side, and some rooms in the lower level for the visitors to the Palace are left. Its construction was started in 1578 by Ahmed el Mansur. At the opening ceremony of the Place the king asks his fool to comment on the building. The fool says 'it will make a fine ruin', and a fine ruin it was. In 1696, it took a new king 12 years to destroy the Palace to use the pieces to build a new palace in Meknes. My guide did not mention this. I read it in my guidebook.
In one corner of the yard there was a room with a 10th century Menbar in it. I took a picture from it; the guard noticed the flashlight of my camera, entered the room and asked me to give him the film. I apologized and told him I will not print the film, but he did not back off and said he could loose his job for that. After a few minutes haggling - with Hussein translating - I gave up and took out my camera to remove the film. Only at that time he gave up. Hussein told me to give the guard some money. I had to shake the guard's hand. It cost me 50dm.
Hussein also selected two shops for me to visit. Prior to each visit he gave me an introduction about the quality of their merchandise, the first one an antique shop and the second one a leather shop. I had forgotten to tell him in the beginning that I was not there for shopping. Finally we drove back to the hotel. Meanwhile Abdul had checked with the office and had found out that a reservation was made for me under the name of another travel agent, Zinab Tours.
Abdul picked me up at 9:30am. We drove to Majorelle Gardens, a tropic style dense garden owned by Yves Saint-Laurent. I asked him to drop me off at Kotabbia Mosque, said good-bye to him and finally stated tour of the city on my own.
Medresa Ben Yussef: The dorm of the students on the second floor was interesting. Each room had a tiny hole in the ceiling leading to a private flat.
Muse Prive de Marrakech:
The most impressive palace; maintained by private donations. It contained some beautiful paintings and crafts, a pretty hammam, and the nicest bathroom in town.
The kobba Ba'Adiyan: The charming dome is the only thing left.
The Mouassine Mosque: A small unimpressive building.
I walked around the souk and then went back to Jama El Fana Square. I took a long walk to Mellah (Jewish neighborhood) and visited the Jewish Cemetery. By 2:30pm I was so tired that I could no longer walk. I entered the small yard of a small movie house on a narrow alley and sat on a bench for a while to recover. I then walked back to Jame el Fana and had a tagine at Argane. I asked the recommendation of the waiter but ended up having an oily tagine. I went back to the souk and walked some more. Finally I did my first shopping, a small backpack for 150dm haggled down from 370dm.
I woke up at 4:45am. Abdul picked me up at 5:30. We arrived at Casablanca airport at 8:00am where I met Javad, my new guide and the rest of the group, Joyce, her daughter Lee Ann of West Palm Beach and her friend Ilene from Boston. They had just returned from Agadir. We drove about 90 km to Rabat and checked in at Meridian (Tur Hassan). I took a nap by the pool under the pleasant sunshine and had lunch with the girls. I then walked to the mausoleum of Mohammad V, where his son, King Hassan who just died a few months ago is also buried. I walked towards the Medina, but could not find it and had to head back to hotel. I asked for direction from a traffic cop who was very friendly. He said that U.S. and Morocco were friends. I then again had to ask direction from a well-dressed guy. He told me in French that he was going in the same direction and said I could walk with him. He was a student from another town. As we arrived at the hotel he told me that he had not eaten and asked for some money. I met the group at 3:30pm. We went back to the mausoleum and then to Chellah. It is the impressive remains of a fort with a beautiful garden and a magnificent view and the ruins of a few buildings.
Visited Hassan Tower, another fort. We then drove to the Mellah, the Jewish section, which was on the outer walls of the old Medina. Apparently the rulers would house the Jews outside the Medina to have them under their protection. We toured the Medina and then headed back to the hotel.
Thurs. 11/25/99 Meknes and Fez
I was ready in the lobby at 9:00am but the girls did not show up till 9:30am. We boarded the van and drove to Meknes. We only made a couple of stops there to take picture and have lunch. I had a good tagine.
On the way we stopped at a stand and after the usual haggling, Javad bought two buckets of olive oil each weighing 5 liters for 170dm -
Moulay Idris: I entered the complex for a tour. It was a combination of a mosque, a shrine and a few more halls. It was located in a nice village.
Volubilis: The gorgeous ruins of the Roman city. It is the finest archeological site in Morocco. There was a well-preserved olive oil pressing room, the Triumphal Arch with clear Latin writings on the top, the penis sculpture at the entrance to the whore house and beautiful tile-work on the floors, all overlooking an expansive beautiful green field. We finished the tour in about an hour. I asked for a 15-minute break and wondered around alone. When I went back to the van, I asked the group if they would like to stay longer to see the sunset that I thought would have been magnificent _ all the arches, columns, and the walls should have been magical under the sunset. I could not talk them into it and we left the site.
Throughout the drive we passed beautiful fields and short hills covered with olive trees and green with the produce. The best wine of the country is made in Meknes. We arrived at our hotel (Sheraton) in Fez at 5:30pm, checked in and had dinner at 7:00pm.
Friday 11/26/99 Fez
We met Javad at 9:00am and drove around the walls of the town before entering the Old Medina. It was older than the Medina in Marrakech and had more character. There are no streets here _ only alleyways; so narrow that when a donkey is going through, passer-byes have to get in stores in order to avoid being run over by the donkeys.
Bou Inania Medresa: With impressive old wooden doors and tile works.
The Karaouiyne Mosque: A huge mosque with a capacity of 22,000 covering a large area in Medina.
As we were walking in a narrow alley, Java turned into a doorway; we followed him in. Suddenly we felt a very strong stench. There were lots of animals’ skins on the ground; we were in a tannery. There were many vats filled with different vegetable colors. Many young people were in them up to their knees. We walked upstairs to get a better view of the place. The workers would first soak the skins in vats with limestone to remove the hair. Then they would soak skin in vats with vegetable colors. The leather was then placed under the sun to dry up. We saw many fresh skins and even cows' heads with the horns attached. One of the workers picked up a skin from a cow's head and showed us how to cut it to make slippers from them. I was thinking about the book titled "Sinuhe, the Pharos Physician" and the description of the place where he would mummify the corpses. I thought the stench would have been similar to him.
This one was not a historic site but my group ended up spending a few hours at this carpet shop. The salesman first took us the rooftop for a view of the city. He then took us to the workshop where three young cute girls were sitting at the mill and weaving at a very fast pace. We listened to his speech about the quality of his carpets. By this time Joyce was so impressed with what she had seen and heard that she moaned, "I am ready to buy". I am sure the salesman was as excited as Joyce was. We went to the main room and the show began. At this time I left the place to do some walking. After a couple of hours when I went back the show was still on. Finally Joyce ended up buying three carpets for herself for about $5000 (after a generous flat 15% discount), one for her daughter and one for Eileen. I think Javad did very well on his commissions.
Javad took us to a run-down but well-decorated restaurant. The couscous I had was not good. I should have selected the restaurant before giving him a chance for another commission opportunity. I thought he would be happy with his commission on the carpets and would not try his game for a lunch - I was wrong again.
After the meal Javad lead us to a Kaftan (local dress) shop for more shopping; this was getting to become shameful - almost all of the day was planned for shopping and making commissions. I walked out of the place to walk around. Then we drove to a pottery shop for even more shopping. There were about 18 kids and men working in a dusty room cutting tiles - it was a good case of child and adult labor abuse. Javad had already justified the scene by saying that they make good money; I guess enough not to starve. Then we saw a very fast potter at the wheels, the paint room, the kiln and finally the shop. The place was not inspiring at all.
We then visited the exterior of an old palace still used by the Royal Family. Javad took me to the train station to purchase a ticket (131dm for first class) to Casablanca for the following day. I had called the airline in the morning but could not get a seat. We then drove back to hotel. I met Rachid, another guide from Sarah Travel. Javad and the rest of the group were heading for Marrakesh in the morning and my train would leave at 7:00pm I had the whole tomorrow to myself. Javad recommended that I have Rachid to show me the sites around the city. Javad said he would also reserve a room for me in Casablanca. I was to take my 11:00am flight from Casablanca to NYC; I wanted to make sure that I could take my flight on Sunday. When I had called to confirm my flight, I was told to be at the airport three hours prior to departure time.
I said good-bye to Javad and the driver; then sat by the pool and had a beer. The weather was cool and pleasant. Tomorrow is my last day of sightseeing in Morocco. So far Volubilis, the Roman Ruins, has been the most impressive thing I have seen here. I can claim that there was no mystery about Morocco for me. It has been a typical Islamic country similar to Egypt. Each greeting is initiated with the intention of some personal gain. On the van today I was thinking about the God and Islam as his last religion; how Islam and its teachings have resulted in such attitude of dependence. It was hard to count the number of the beggars all around. The country should have a huge tourist income in addition to its rich land and agricultural products; though one cannot see many signs of a relatively decent standard of living.
I Met Joyce at breakfast table; then walked out to meet Rachid, my guide for today. Javad had introduced him to me the other day for a one-day tour of the suburbs of Fez. When I asked him for the price, he said it would cost $50 for the car and some tips for himself. We drove by the following sites:
Ifrane: A one-hour drive from Fez in the Atlas. It is built in a beautiful surrounding by the French. There was a very nice lake with ducks in it. The town was under police control since the new King was staying in town. There was some snow on the ground and the hills were covered with evergreen trees.
Azrou (stone): A clean small town. Took a walk around without any annoyance from the vendors.
Sefrou: This is a city older than Fez. It is very clean and built well planned. I walked in the charming Medina. At the end of the town as I was approaching a rundown alley a man approached me; I avoided him. As I was returning he again approached me and apologized. He then introduced himself as Zakaria and said he was not asking for money; he said he was a Zen follower and his dream was to go to India someday. He said he had convinced the captain of a Phlippino ship to take him to India but when he was boarding the ship he was arrested by the Police and was sent back. He said he had obtained a passport and is selling legume (vegetables) in the market to save enough money for his trip. He seemed very free spirited. He had read many Western authors and had traveled all over Morocco. He said he was living in a cave where he was paying only 10dm rent a month. He invited me to visit his cave and have tea with him. The idea seemed enticing but I told him that my friend was waiting for me to go back to Fez. Then he asked for some money to buy cigarettes and newspaper to do the puzzles; I told him I could not help him. He followed me to the car and talked to Rachid but Rachid was not very friendly to him. Once he found out that Rachid was my guide he turned to me and said, "You are not a free man"; that hit me. We left Sefrou and made a couple of more stops along the way before heading back to Fez. At the recommendation of Rachid we visited another tannery where I ended up buying a backpack. I stopped at a few ATMs since I was out of cash. Finally I was able to use my Visa Card. Rachid then took me to Hotel; I paid him 900dm, picked up my luggage at the reception and waited in the lobby until 6:00 pm I walked towards Gare de Fez. Near the train station stopped at a local restaurant and had chicken (pollute). I boarded the train at 6:40pm and left Fez at 7:00. A man with his old blind grandfather entered my wagon. The old man was talking for most of the trip. I shared the wagon with two couples and a few other guys each for a few stops. We arrived in Casablanca at about 11:30pm. I walked to a hotel next to the train station where Sarah Tour had made a reservation for me. They could not find my reservation but I ended up getting a room anyway.
Sunday 11/28/99 Casablanca - New York
In the morning as I was checking out, the receptionist told me that I had a room reserved for me and that I should have told them about it. I told him I had mentioned that. I had breakfast at the hotel and walked to the train station to go to the airport. As I was entering the station, a cab driver invited me to ride his cab. When I told him I was going to take the train, he said the train to the airport was not running!
99/12/23 Greece: Athens, Delfi, Heraklion, Rodes, Lindos
Kiki Zikou/Dolphin Hellas: 16 Syngrou Ave. 117 42 Athens Greece
Telephone (011-30-1) 922-7772 or 922-7773 or 922-7774 or 922-7775 FAX (011-30-1) 923-2101
When to Go
Spring and autumn are the best times to visit Greece. Winter is pretty much a dead loss outside the major cities as most of the tourist infrastructure goes into hibernation from the end of November to the beginning of April. However, there are initiatives to extend services, so this may slowly change.
Conditions are perfect between Easter and mid-June, when the weather is pleasantly warm in most places, but not too hot; beaches and ancient sites are relatively quiet. Public transport operates on close to full schedules; and accommodation is cheaper and easier to find than in the mid-June to end of August high season. Conditions are once more ideal from the end of August until the end of November as the season winds down.
PACKAGE TO GREECE AND THE GREEK ISLANDS FOR MR RAY 13 days /11nights
Mr. Ray below is a suggested itinerary for Greece and the Greek Islands at the best possible price. Please have in mind that no reservation has been made as of yet Please e mail your response or call us at 718-9323232 and ask for Jeanie. Thank you for your request and we wish you happy holidays and a healthy New Year
DEC 23 New York - ATHENS
Departure on your overnight flight to Athens. Meals and refreshments served on board.
DEC 24 ATHENS
Morning arrival at Athens International airport. Our English-speaking guide will meet you and you will be transferred to a class Best Western-Athens Gate hotel. Balance of the day at leisure.
DEC 25 ATHENS
Merry Christmas. Full day at leisure.
DEC 26 ATHENS
After breakfast you will take 1/2 day Athens City tour. Guided visit to Acropolis and sightseeing tour of the Greek Parliament building, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Adrian's Arc, Temple of the Olympian
Zeus, Zappion Gardens, Royal Palace, Kallimarmaron Stadium, National Academy, etc.
DEC27 ATHENS HERAKLION (CRETE)
After breakfast you will fly to Heraklion Crete and transferred to A class Capsis Hotel for your 4 night’s stay.12/27-30
DEC 31 HERAKLION - RHODOS
After breakfast take the flight to the island of Rhodos & stay at A class hotel Mediterranean Hotel - 4 nights.12/31-1/4
JAN 04 RHODES-ATHENS-USA
After breakfast take the flight to Athens to connect for your international flight back home.
TOTAL COAST $1830pp. Plus airport taxes $89 PP Plus $94 travel insurance (optional)
Thursday 12/23/99 I woke up early and arrived at the office at Phizer at 7:30 am. I had to resolve a problem with Mexico. The rest of the staff went to visit the Chairman _ most of them with their children. I left the office at 3:30p.m, took a bus and arrived at JFK Delta Terminal at 5:00 pm. The traffic was heavy with Holiday travelers. When we hit the jam on the highway I was concerned that I might miss my flight. We took off at 6:00 pm and arrived at Athens Airport at 9:15 am (8:15 flight time – 7 hours time difference). We were one hour ahead of schedule. It was drizzling but the weather was mild. I exchanged some money (1USD = 324 dr.) and went through the immigration desk very quickly. My driver was waiting for me at the terminal with a dog next to him. We left the building and a few more dogs started following the cab. He told me he would bring them food sometimes and that was why the dogs were jumping all over him. We boarded his clean Mercedes and took a 30 minutes ride to St. George Hotel in Kolonaki. It is about a 15-minutes walk to Plaka the old part of town. As I was registering at the hotel, Patrizia, a young girl from the travel agency, with a helmet under her arm, showed up to give me some tourist information. I was a bit sleepy, so after unpacking, took a nap. It was a bit chilly but I did not turn on my heater. I walked to Plaka and walked though the beautiful old streets and around the magnificent Acropolis. I stopped at Bretto, a very old ozo bar with ancient barrels stacked against the wall and color bottles all around and a very delicious ozo. Later as I was walking around I saw four men who were pointing a laser light around the ground as a dog was chasing the spotlight frantically; it was very amusing. I met Andreas, a guy from Cyprus who was there on business. He invited me to a tea but I asked for a rain check. I then walked back to my hotel at 11:30 pm I could not go to sleep until 2:00 am The music from the hotel restaurant below me was too loud.
Saturday 12/25/99 - Christmas Day.
I woke up at 11:00 am and walked to Kolonaki Sq. and Vasilisis Sofia section; visited the National (Royal) Gardens and it's zoo - it was very crowded with families taking their children out for the Holidays. The weather was very mild, unlike the previous day. When I left the park I almost ended up at Syntagma (Constitution) Sq. the main square in Athens. Walked to Plaka. By this time it was past noon. I had lunch outdoors at one of the restaurant on the main Street Kidathineaon with my companion _ a stray dog with beautiful innocent eyes that I felt bad not to share my lunch with. I then walked up the hilly alleyways up to Acropolis where I could get a panoramic view of the city and then headed towards the back roads around Acropolis. I came across the Temple of Agora, which was closed. By this time two stray dogs that had been following me for a long way stopped _ I assumed it was the end of their territory _ and a new dog took over as my guide. I was planning to get to the train station at Monastriki but ended up at Theosesis, a different station. I bought two tickets (170 dr. each). The train arrived shortly and it took ten minutes to get to Pireaus, the port section of Athens. I walked along the port packed with huge ships. The port was very quiet due the Holidays. I took the train back to Monastriki. There were many shops around but they were all closed. I walked in the pleasant back alleys of Plaka _ a place called Psiri, a Soho-like area to the North of Plaka. There were a few tavernas open but with very few customers. I walked back to the Plaka and Syntagma. This time I walked along Acadimias and then cut into Lycavitos Road. It was a very hilly street with some part covered with steps. On the way stopped at a church. Many people were buying candles and waiting in the lines to get to the altar to light them. There was a Mass going on inside. I continued on Lycavitos and suddenly ended up in front of my hotel _ St. George. I climbed the beautiful hill to the top of Lycavitos. It was a beautiful green area filled with plush evergreens and cactus. On the top I could see a magnificent view of the whole city with Acropolis and the sea behind it. I sat down at a bench for an hour and watched the sunset. The rays of the sun were reflecting on Acropolis and the motionless ships behind it as if the time had frozen. It was a scene as unforgettable as the sunrise over the Dead Sea from atop Mossad near Jerusalem. I walked back to the Kolonaki Sq. and stopped at a very crowded coffee shop filled with mostly young couples. It did not feel like Christmas there any longer. By 6:00 pm I was hungry but I could not find an open restaurant in Kolonaki area. I walked to Hilton Hotel to try a Cypriot restaurant _ Othello, but I could not find it. I assumed it was closed like all other shops in the area. I walked back to Kolonaki and had a Souvlaki with a double order of roasted potatoes at Café Neon. I then walked back to my hotel and went to bed at 9:00 pm
I woke up at 2:00 am and could not go back to sleep. I left my bed at 4:00 am, showered and left my room. There was only one person at the taxi desk in the lobby. I walked along Kanari to Syntagma and then onto Monistiraki; passed a large church with a sparkling Platia in front of it. At the end of the street turned right onto Athina and walked for about five minutes till I arrived at the Meat and Fish Markets; they were both closed. At the end of the Meat Market there were two large restaurants packed with younger well-dressed people; they should have come here from Christmas Eve celebrations. It was 5:30 am by this time. I chose the first restaurant called Giannopolous and took a seat outside. I happened to get an unfriendly waiter. When I asked for pasta soup that based on my Athens' guide was supposed to be a tripe soup the waiter said they did not have pasta. I walked into the restaurant and showed the guy what I wanted. He said something that I did not understand but he did show up with the dish shortly. It was a hearty soup. There was a couple sitting next to me who had ordered the same thing. When they got up to leave I noticed that the plate of the woman was still full to the rim; I guessed whose idea it was to go there that morning. Later on a drunkard guy showed up who stood near me and started to drum on a butcher's stand; he was not obnoxious though. I asked my waiter for the check and he complained again about something; I thought he must have been really overworked. I then headed back to Monistiraki and walked the back alleys to the ancient ruins. The sun was not up yet but under the moonshine I could see. I walked around the ruins and then up a hilly street to the stairs leading to the road around Acropolis. There was no one around, not even the stray dogs. I saw only a few cats. I arrived at the top of the hill at 6:20 am The city below was bright with many glowing lights. At 6:30 am the church bells started ringing. I waited for the sunrise to appear from Lycavitos Hill from where I had watched the sunset over the Acropolis the night before. I could see the whole perimeter of Athens. It stretched about two miles to the East, about a mile to the South and about three miles to the North. I was surprised that these dimensions could house about 4.5 m. people _ about half the population of the country where the typical tall building is only six stories high. Gradually the moon disappeared under the clouds. At 7:15 am the city lights went off and all I could see was the city filled with plain white buildings. It was Sunday therefore not many people were up yet. At 7:30 am I started to descend the hill passing through the beautiful narrow streets on the north side of the Plaka _Psiri before getting to Plaka. Most places were just getting ready to open. I walked around for a while before one of the cafes was ready to serve me a cup of coffee. I walked back to the Acropolis and waited for the opening time. Based on the sign at the door the hours were 8:30-2:30 but the gate was not opened at 9:00. I walked along the fences to the north. I came across a guard who told me the first gate was for the theater and asked me to continue further north for the entrance to Acropolis. When I arrived at the north gate the guard told me that they were closed for the Christmas Holiday. By now the image of the site was so set in my mind that I felt I did not have to see the place from a near distance. I crossed the street and climbed the slippery cliffs to get on top of a hill to see another panoramic view of Acropolis and the town. I circled around the Acropolis and walked on the alleyways of Psiri, and then went back near the meat market to try Dippo, a famous restaurant at the corner of Sokratus and Theatrou but the place was closed. I walked to Monistriki and went to Sigalas, next to the church on Ermon. It was a very old restaurant with a very warm atmosphere; old barrels of wine and many old pictures decorated the walls. It was just before 11:00 am; I ordered some red wine and lunch. A nice Greek music was being played. Later on an couple showed up who asked for soup. The old man returned his dish because it was not hot enough - I had read that Greeks have their meals not very hot. Later on an old lady showed up who had purchased her souvlaki next door but insisted on taking a seat here. The waiter gave up after a short argument. After a satisfying lunch I walked to the Temple of Agora and lied down on a field for a while. The sunshine felt good on my face after having the bottle of red wine. I then walked around Psiri and continued onto Plaka and then back to Kolonaki. I was hoping for an early sleep but when I arrived at the lobby of the hotel I heard a very loud music from the restaurant. When I checked it out, I found that that there was a wedding reception going on. I went to my room and tried to go to sleep with no avail; left my room and walked to Kolonaki where I had an ice cream and a cheese pie. Then I walked back to my room and again tried to go to sleep but the music was just too loud. The music stopped at 2:00 am but then I could hear the sound of the furniture being moved around until 3:30 am.
I woke up at 6:00 am, showered and had breakfast at the restaurant of the hotel. Today I planned to visit Delfi which my agent in New York had arranged. At 7:20 boarded the hotel van - I was the only passenger. We drove to Syntagma and I boarded the Go Tours bus and departed at 8:00 am We had a three-hour ride - about 150 miles - including a stop for coffee and anther one for shopping where I left my group and went for a walk in the charming hilly back alleys of the town. When I returned, our guide, John complained that they had been waiting for me for 20 minutes.
Delfi is the beautiful ruins of a complete ancient city one on side of a beautiful hill. It is comprised of Temples of Apollo, Athenians, Delinas and a few more sites. There were a theater and a stadium in perfect conditions _ specially the stadium which was located at the end of the compound in a very serene area - it should have felt great to work out there and mingle with young boys. After the sightseeing we took a short drive to a restaurant for lunch. I shared a table with a couple of Japanese who live in London and the husband works for Arthur Anderson. There was another single Japanese guy who was taking a few days off after a business trip to Germany. At 3:00 pm we started the ride back to Athens with a stop at the same coffee shop we had tried in the morning _commissions please? I went for a walk this time. The wind was so strong that I had to hold on to a wall to maintain my balance, though I did enjoy the scenery. We arrived in Athens at 6:00 pm. I got off the bus at Syntagma, walked to my hotel and rested for a while. I then went to Plaka at 8:30 and had an ozo at Bretto before going to Byzantinum at 18 Kidathenon St. that was recommended in both of my Athens guides. The grilled octopus was not on the menu, but I was able to get it and it was delicious. I had lamb fricassee. Five young guys from Seattle and Portland took the table next to me. They had taken a couple of weeks off and had already been to France, Amsterdam and Rome with a next stop in Cairo. After the dinner I asked my waiter - a middle age guy with salt and pepper hair - if there was a backgammon club in town. He turned to a well-dressed guy whom he was talking to on the sidewalk and asked him if he could help us and then left us alone. The guy introduced himself as Alex; he said there are two casinos, one in Parines about 60 km away and the other one in Corinth, about 180 km away. He told me that he had been to Iran and Saudi Arabia and owned a nightclub so he could have an excuse for his wife to stay out. He invited me to his club for an ozu with orange juice. We drove in his car to his club near Inter Continental hotel - a place called Mullen Ruz as I later learned. We sat at the bar where he ordered an ozu with orange juice for me. Then he introduced me to the bar lady, Catherina, a very pretty girl who quickly took a seat next to me at Alex's suggestion. She started talking and said that she has been working there for three weeks and was looking for a day job; then she started asking me to order champagne for her. Each time the waiter would return with a bottle - labeled Pirna similar to Perrier with a similar top that he would unscrew and pour but there was no fizzle in the glass. I did not mind the phoniness of the whole affair assuming I would pay a reasonable tab. We talked for a while and finally when I felt that Catherina was not going to stop ordering the drinks I decided to asked for the check and leave. The waiter put a check in front of me for 126,000dr (about $430); I was shocked. I asked for Alex who showed up quickly. I told him he should not try to screw me after I had told him in the car that one reason I had chosen Greece to visit was due the honesty of the Greek I had heard of - though I knew I had only myself to blame to accept the first request from Catherina. Alex accepted to cut the amount in half. I gave my credit card to the waiter but Alex said he would prefer cash. I gave them 50,00dr in cash and asked them to put the balance of 13,000 on my card. The waiter came back requesting for some form of picture ID. I signed the blank slip and before I had a chance to get my copy they took a taxi for me and sent me away. I was so upset that I could not go to sleep for a couple of hours and woke up at 4:00 am
Lessons of the night:
• When travelling do not ever accept invitations of any kind from anyone under any circumstances.
• Do not trust anyone regardless of your judgement of the individual - it is not to say that no one can be trusted - rather my judgement of an individual must not be trusted. In this fashion I do not have to pass a judgement at all _ either right or wrong.
• Learn to say 'No ', firmly and decidedly. It can save one lots of trouble. I could have told Catherina that I would have loved to keep her company but I could not spend the time there.
• Do not make any assumptions. I assumed I could afford the drinks therefore allowed myself to be cheated. It turned out to be a huge rip off but hopefully a lasting experience.
Tuesday 12/28/99 Heraklion, Crete
I left bed at 6:00 am, showered and packed, had breakfast at the hotel, checked out at 7:30 and took a taxi to Olympic Domestic Terminal and checked in for the flight to Crete. I then went to a Police Station across the street from the Terminal. I explained the story of the previous night and asked if I could file a complain there. One of the officers said I should go the Police Station where the club is located at and said I should possibly go to court which was a lengthy process. I went back to the terminal, boarded the bus and waited until it was full before heading to the plane. We departed at 8:45 am and arrived at Crete's Capital - Heraklion Airport at 9:30 am I waited for 5 minutes till my driver showed up; we had a short ride to my hotel - Capsis Astoria at Platiea Eleftenas. I told the person at the reception that I had not had a decent sleep for three days and asked for a quiet room. I went to my room on the top floor of the hotel facing the back street. All I wanted was to go to sleep. As soon as I hit the pillow I noticed the annoying buzz of the motorcycles from the street. I picked up a towel from the shower and walked towards the sea, but there was not a sandy beach to lie down. I went back to the hotel and called Anna of Merridian Travel in Athens who was the counterpart of Agean Travel in New York and told her I needed a place to sleep and requested a room in a quite hotel. After 15 minutes the nice attendant from the lobby called me and said they have a room in the inner section of the hotel on the same floor but with no view and sent someone to show me the room. I moved my stuff there but when I went to bed still I could hear the buzz from the street coming through the roof. Finally I was able to sleep for about an hour. I woke up at 1:00 pm and walked to Archeology Museum just across the square from my hotel. There was a very dazzling collection of the artifacts of Minoan Civilization, almost as rich as the one in Cairo Museum with some similarities. The elaborate artistic expression in the pottery, sculpture and jewelry was just amazing; I thought every artist should visit this collection to realize how creativity can soar - especially in a civilization four millenniums old. I saw the gold pendant of two bees depositing a drop of honey in a comb - the one that Ann, the lady I had met at a bookstore before my trip, had praised so lovingly. Later I noticed that piece was the imprint on the museum ticket. I had a simple lunch at a restaurant in the square and then walked around and went through Dedalon Street to get to Morosini Fountain and the small park next to it which was filled with the deafening sound of the singing sparrows. I came across a maze of streets filled with coffee shops and bars packed with young people; I sat down at a chair but the seat made of a sinking fabric was very uncomfortable; got up and walked around only to notice that all shops were using the same type of seat - was it possible that all these places were owned by the same entity? I finally found a bar with different chairs where I sat down to have an orange juice. I opened my journal to write but I could not keep my eyes open; I walked to my hotel and went to sleep at 8:00 pm
Wednesday - 12/29/99
I woke up at 6:00am; bought two bus tickets from the stand next to my hotel and walked to the nearby Venizelon Plateia - next to Morosini Fountain for a ride to Konossos. At 8:00 am, as the church bell rang, all three ladies in the line _ a young, a middle-age and an old one - who were the only people in the line, started crossing their chests. I saw that gesture again repeatedly done by the older people in the bus every time we crossed churches. After a 20-minte ride got off the bus, paid the 1,500dr. admission fee and entered the compound. The site is the ruins of a 1500-room Minoan Palace of 1700B.C. after an earthquake destroyed the first palace which was built in 1900B.C. The ruins were reconstructed during a 20-year period by Evans, an Englishman who used his own inheritance. He managed to ship a few of the excavations to the Museums in London and Paris - I guess just to keep the tradition of British looting. During the first 1.5hrs I was the only visitor - besides a few construction workers. On departure used the bathrooms almost complete with toilet seats, soap and dryers _ a rarity _ though there were no locks on the doors. The site was so heavily reconstructed that is was difficult to appreciate the site for its antiquity. This site attracts more the one million visitors annually.
After leaving the site, I climbed an alleyway across the street and walked for a while. A van passed me as the driver was sounding his horn on the peaceful hours of the quiet morning. At the end of the alley the driver turned around and started selling bread from the back of his van to people who had came out of the homes by this time. I took the bus back to town and got off at the Stone Gate, one of the a few built around the town in 1500's. I walked along the wall until I got to a place where I could climb it. It was more than 30 feet wide at some places; there were even a few garden atop it. I then visited a few churches and the Market before walking to the port to the huge Koules Fort. Climbed a wall that had been built to protect the port from the waves and walked on it for about half a mile into the Cretan Sea; a young guy followed me. We came across each other at the end of the wall where I pointed out to him to tie his shoe laces since that was not a place to trip. We took pictures for each other. I turned around and after walking a few hundred feet looked back but could not see the guy. I hoped his shoe laces had not been untied again. After arriving at the shore found Ippokampos restaurant across the street from the Fort; it was recommended in my guidebook. It was a good seafood place with great calamari. The stray cat, my lunch companion had a feast on all the fish bones I gave him. After lunch I walked around the town. I checked with a couple of travel agencies to find out if I could arrange any plans for my last day in Heraklion. I was hoping for boat ride to Santorini or a hiking trip to Samaria Gorge - it is said the 15 km. hike is a must-do. I was told that since we were out of the season there were no ferries to Santorini and that the Gorge was closed during winter. They did recommend that I could take a trip to Town of Rethymno on my own. I walked to the popular hangout place on Dedalou to spend the evening.
Thursday 12/30/99 Rethymno
This is my last day on the Crete Island. I woke up at 4:00 am and could not go back to sleep till 7:00 am. I went to the bus station at the port near the Koules Fort; I had just missed the 9:45 bus. I bought a two-way ticket for 3,000dr. for 10:45 departure for the 1.5 hrs. ride to Rethymno. The two buses at the station had different spellings of the town on their front signs. I saw the only eastern style bathroom at the station. Item three on the Rule of Conducts Sign at the bathroom read "Do not piss out of the toilet."
The ride was through the windy hilly green mountainous roads with a good view of the Cretan Sea. There were two conductors on the bus; one of them seemed to be a guest conductor who was treated very nicely by the driver and the other conductor. He was offered a seat and tangerines from a bag next to the driver's seat. The main conductor would sell the tickets and the guest conductor would tear them off - I thought it should be easy to have a low unemployment rate in this country but the extra manpower could be put to a better use; for example cleaning up the environment from al the empty plastic water bottles. I got off at the main station at the end of the town and walked along the street by the sea; climbed some stairs to a small church built just under the old rocky walls of the Old Town and then to the Old Town and in a short time was able to walk most of the alleyways three times. The town was overbuilt with the usual buzzing motor cycles. I just could not imagine how noisy this place should be in peak summer time. In the wide boulevard they were building a row of shopping stalls. I thought in a few more years all the land will be covered with commercial space and maybe that would be the nail in the coffin of the tourism in the country. I saw a sign that read "Parking is starkly prohibited". Lunched at Samari on the Veneitian; it was O.K. Two guys and a woman took the table next to me as each put his/her cell phone on the table and reached for cigarettes _ what a homogeneous society. The use - or rather misuse - of the cell phones is a phenomenon here, though I had noticed their widespread use in Morocco and Turkey also _ I should have bought the stock of Nokia. After lunch walked along the street by the beach until I came across Boom - a quite coffee shop with seats facing the beach. I had tea and was served a local liquor similar to ozu to mix with my tea. I walked to the bus station and took the 3:45 bus to Heraklion. The bus had the usual pair of conductors. This time the driver was smoking. The clouds started moving over for a change in scenery. We arrived in town at 5:15 pm. I bought some oranges from a young vendor near the station, walked to Koules Fort and watch the sunset - the boats at the port had given the sunset a beautiful backdrop. I walked along the 25 Aguoustou which is the lifeline of the city and is comprised of Titos and Markos Churches and Loggia, a building with charming arches used as an administrative building. The street leads to the Town Market and then extends to Morosini Fountain and Parko El Greco which is so heavily filled with birds that one can see a dark rain. The street extends to Dedalou filled with cafes and young customers. When I got there, I had sat for a drink before dinner.
Friday 12/31/99 - Last day of millennium Rhodes
I had breakfast at the hotel at 9:00 am; this time there were a few other customers besides myself. I then went to the Tourist Office next to my hotel and asked the receptionist for some suggestions. She said I could visit some of the nearby villages. I had a 4:30 pm departure time; I thought I might not have enough time for that; walked around the center of the town and some of the back alleys which were not too appealing. There were a few tourist-oriented bars and restaurants but they seemed rather fake. Walked to the port and then back to the town center. At this time the stores were starting to close for observation of the New Year. I went to the square in front of my hotel; they were setting up a platform for the New Year's Eve celebrations. Went to my hotel at 3:45, packed and took a taxi to the airport. I checked in quickly but I was told there was a half hour delay. Left the terminal and sat outside under the sunshine; there was a pleasant breeze blowing. The plane took off at 5:00 pm - I thought they were punctual to call the delays. I watched the last sunset of the millennium; it looked beautiful. I was thinking what the new millennium would bring to mankind - an impossible prediction. Would the man the at start of the millennium been able to predict what would be in store for the human race - electricity, phone, film, flying and cures for many illnesses. I thought about the pottery works I had seen at the museum in Heraklion. With all the advances in science, it seemed that Man's expression of inner feelings and emotions a few millenniums ago was rather comparable to today's Man.
We landed in Rhodes after a short flight. My friendly driver was waiting for me; we drove about 15 miles to Hotel Mediterranean on Cos Street. My diver was giving me information about the island and small towns as we were passing them. After checking in at my nice room and shower I went for a walk. Almost all business were closed by this time. I was getting hungry but could not find a decent place to eat. The only place I entered told me their kitchen had already closed. I went back to my hotel. The guests were already waiting in the lobby for a New Year's Party at the only restaurant in the hotel. I went to my room and asked for room service but they told me the only thing they could serve me was toast. I asked for the manager who called me later to apologize and tell me all the cooks were all working at the restaurant. He recommended I go to the restaurant in a nearby hotel. I went there but they were closed; I walked to town center at about 10:00 pm. By this time the town was preparing for a big celebration in the Main Square. I finally bought a sandwich from a truck selling food. The square was almost packed by this time. Soon the food stands that were setup on the sidewalks started to serve food including paella, sausages, souvlaki, pastry and hot wine. I was still so hungry I ended up trying all the different foods. By 11:00 pm the musician started performing on a large platform setup for the occasion in the huge square. Behind us was the harbor with a lighthouse in the background. It is supposedly the site of the famous Colossus of Rodes (as the story goes it was made by the bronze remains of a ten-story helepolis siege tower built by Alexander's general to capture this island but it was capsized in a hidden hitch dug by Rodians in 305B.C.). There was a stone church to the right of us and a small charming fountain the middle of the square. In front of us were the beautiful rocky buildings of the town administration. A young guy in long hair and a long coat appeared and sang; he had a beautiful voice. His hair was blowing with the pleasant breeze as the stage mist was rising under the colorful lights; the choreography was splendid - it was an enjoyable moment. Even though the place was packed the cowed was very reserved and well behaved - there was no pushing or screaming. I was very glad to be there at that moment. Had I not left my hotel in search of food I would have gone to sleep and have missed this moment. As we reached the midnight there was a choir, champagne opening, a speech and then the fireworks on tiny sailboats on the water. Then the young singer started to sing again and before long it started to rain. It was the second time I saw rain in Greece - the first time was when I arrived at Athens' Airport. It was a beautiful way to end the celebrations.
Saturday 1/1/00 - The first day of the New Millennium Lindos
I woke up at 9:00 am, walked to Old Town and visited various sites for about four hours. The most impressive building was the Palace of Grand Masters. It was completed in 1346 by the Knights. After the fall of Jerusalem in 1291 the Knight Hospitallers of St. George - dedicated to protecting pilgrims and running hospitals in the Holy Land, took refuge in Cyprus and then by 1306 they had become more interested in the wealthier and better-positioned Rhodes. As we were landing in Rhodes I was looking at the map of the location which is very close to Turkey. I was wondering that island had not been captured by the Turks. Only after visiting the Old Town I could figure out why the Turks could have not captured the town. Around the Old Town there was a pair of huge moats, each over 60 feet wide. It seemed impossible to cross them. The main street descending from the Palace is called Odos Ippoton (Knights Street). It contained the Inns for the Knights of Spain, France, Italy and England. The buildings are now occupied by administration offices of the Preservation of the Town and a couple of French associations. The Palace and the Municipal Bath were closed for the Holidays but the town and its many alleyways were so charming that I ended up walking around for hours. I entered a deserted school built by the Turks. It was filled with old books and paintings on the floors and walls of the classrooms. I went through them for a while. I walked out of the Old Town, had lunch and visited Smith Park. It was a short walk from the Old Town along the beautiful narrow long Pindon Street. I visited the Temples of Zeus, Atinas, Aphrodite, Sanctuary of Arthemis and the well-preserved Stadium. This stadium was very similar to the one I had seen in Delphi. A father and his two children were playing soccer there. I walked back to the top of a hill in the Park and sat on a bench. I could see the beautiful tall green cliffs descending to the beach and all the mountains in the horizon.
I walked to the Square near the Old Town and took the 11:30 am bus to Lindos. This small town is located about 50 km. from Rhodes. Along the way the driver picked up her young daughter who sat on the dashboard and kept her dad's company throughout the trip. It was a nice drive passing through the scenic countryside and a few villages and the seashore. I had jotted down the last return trip at 15:30 from the schedule posted at the bus stop. When I wanted to confirm it with the conductor, he told me that on Sundays the last return bus was at 14:30. After arriving at Lindos, I walked up the narrow alleys - covered with steps at some points and with beautiful pebble work at others. The pebble work reminded me of the gorgeous pebble-works made by the Romans at the Volubilis ruins near Fes, Morocco. The Acropolis of Lindos was a stunning site on top of a mountain with a magnificent view of its surrounding sea and mountains. The ruins of the Temple of Athina date back to 340b.c. The site also contained a 13th century Church of St. John among a few other temples. I met two Israeli girls. We took pictures for each other. I walked back to the town and then to the beach. I saw a restaurant located a couple of hundred yards away. I walked there and asked the waiter if he could serve me in twenty minutes I had before I had to go back to the bus. He recommended fried calamari vs. grilled octopus that I wanted. I ate and had to run back to the bus stop. The bus driver was a friendly old man who would wave to many people on the road and would cross his chest every time we passed a church. I wondered how his acts would be treated back in States. I asked the conductor to let me off at Bodini Park in the Rhodes. Since it was the last bus of the day, the conductor got off before we arrive at the city. He had told the driver to let me off at the Park though. The park was an old small narrow charming landscape with a long wide canal. I Saw a few peacocks but could not find the deer mentioned in my guide. I walked around the park for a while to enjoy the peaceful quiet though I still could hear the motorcycles afar. I left the park and walked towards my hotel. At one point I had to ask the directions to the main square from a family who were leaving a house. The husband confirmed the direction I was pointing to but the wife said there was a shorter way and asked me to follow her and her young daughter. As we walked we talked about New York City and Disneyland. She offered me some popcorn and said she knew that popcorn was very much an American thing. We then said goodnight. I offered a chocolate to the young pretty daughter who gladly accepted it. I went to my room to rest for sometime. I then walked to nearby restaurant Ellinikon on Kos Street; this was the same place I was that their kitchen was closed when I wanted to eat there on New Year's Eve. It was a large floor with a few rooms connecting through charming arches and was very tastefully decorated. There were only two tables occupied, one consisting of a large party and the other one occupied by married couple. I was seated at a table next to the couple who were both smoking. The swordfish and the local red wine I had were both excellent and the service was very attentive. An orthodox priest and his wife (?) took a table near me - that was a good place to spend some of the donations.
This is my last day in Greece. I was planing to go to Kamiros today. It is a less visited site with a large Acropolis. I left my hotel and walked across the street to the beach. The beach was so inviting that I lied down there to enjoy the sunshine, even tough it was windy and it was the coldest day I had spent in Rhodes. I saw a young guy who was snorkeling. Later on two old ladies got in the water. I was tempted; I went back to hotel, picked up a towel and put on my bathing suit and headed back to the beach. I took a dive and swam for a while. I then walked to the Old Town, lunched, and walked to Ippoton. The street was very quiet by this time and the place seemed so fascinating that I just sat on the steps of one of the Inns to absorb its rich history and wonder how well the site was preserved. I then walked back to Acadia Gate and the park behind it. On the way back to my hotel I stopped at an Internet café. I had dinner at the hotel's restaurant where I was the only customer. Later on only one more party showed up.
I woke up at 6:45 am and took a cab to the airport. The plane took off at 8:20 am for a 45-minute flight to Athens. My New York Delta flight was at 12:00. After check-in called my credit card company to find out if I was overcharged at Mullen Rouz. I was told that the company had rejected an $850 charge from them, and that the fraud department had already contacted me - I was disappointed and relieved. There were many smokers at the terminal. I went out and lied down on the grass under the sunshine. I went back to the terminal at 11:30, waited in line to exchange some currency. By the time I was waiting in the passport line they announced my name and asked me to rush to the gate. As I was walking to the gate, my name was announced two more times. By the time I arrived at the gate the bus had left. I had to wait a couple of minutes until a van showed up to drive me to the waiting plane. We had a 10.5-hours flight to New York.
00/04/28 Colombia: Medellin
Monday, April 28, 2000
Mun Chan has been persisting that I should go with him to Colombia. On one conversation with him - after going through the flight schedules and the long layovers - I told him clearly that I was not going with him but he called me the next day anyhow and told me that he had made reservations for me. I gave up and decided to go. In the afternoon I went to Liberty Travel to pick up the ticket. When I arrived at the office Mun was waiting for me. He told me that the family of Olga, his girlfriend in Medellin, has been stopped on the highway and their car and their belongings stolen. He was concerned abut his safety but by this time I had decided to go therefore I shrugged the danger and told him to go anyhow even though every one had told me it was a dangerous place to go.
Thursday, May 4 - To Medellin, Colombia
Woke up at 4:30am. Mun ringed me down in a cab at 5:00 am. He already had an argument with Mohammed, the doorman; apparently Mohammed was not at the door when he had arrived.
We boarded the American Airlines at 6:30 am. and arrived in Miami at 9:30 am. Our connecting flight was at 3:00pm. We rented a car and drove to South Beach where we lied down near the beach and the had lunch at a sidewalk restaurant (La mamba) where a few of the waitresses from time to time perform a group dance. After lunch we drove back to the airport and boarded the ACES airline at 3:00pm and arrived in Medellin at 5:00pm. The plane was 1/3 full and we had a nice flight. As we were landing at the small airport we could see the beautiful scenery of the very lush green hills all over. We landed and went through the small airport. At the exit John Sepulveda (Tel: 270-5602) was waiting for us. He is a cab driver and was asked by Olga's friend to pick us up. He had studied in NJ but had gone back to Medellin. His wife would come to US and work here during golf season. We had a pleasant one-hour ride to city and checked in at Sheraton Four Points ( 574-321-8088). We walked to the next-door mall where I had a small dinner. Since I was tired I went back to my room early and went to bed.
Friday, May 5, 2000
I woke up and Mun called me to tell me that Olga was with him. We had breakfast together. Mun and I went for a walk in a nice neighborhood near the hotel. The streets and houses were pretty similar to a decent place anywhere in the rural areas in States. We changed some money at the mall ($1 = 1830 pesos). We then went to Olga's house (313-8907) where his mom has setup a restaurant in the backyard of the house; it was a very cozy place. I met the family - mom and Pablo, his very nice brother who said he was working at the restaurant to save five hundred dollars so that he could go to Ecuador for a one-month vacation. Later on his father who is divorced and lives nearby showed up and joined us; he was a very interesting person. He had lived in US in the sixties and spoke fluent English in addition to a few other languages; he had taught English before his retirement. He told me he had never heard the Iranian dialect and told me he would like to ask me a couple of questions and wanted me to answer them in Farsi. His first question was "How's your sex life?" I had to describe it to him followed by full translation. His second question was "Do you believe in religion?". Again I answered him in Farsi with subsequent translation. I think it was very effective way for him to get to know me. By this time a typical Colombian meal was served; it consisted of beans, rice, eggs, sausages and fried pork skin. After lunch we went back to hotel where the guide (Robinson Restrepo- 0334488228) I had called earlier for a tour of the city ($6 per hour) was waiting for me. He had lived in Miami for seven years before deciding to go back home. We drove to El Tosoro (gold mine) , a mall with a panoramic views of the city where I could use a PC in a store to check my e-mails free of charge. We then drove to Endigado that is a middle-class neighborhood and to Pablito Paisa Park in the West. The park had a good view of the city and many couples were hanging out. We then stopped at a park where there was the huge sculpture of the "Men rising from the water to the stars" of Rodriguez Aranas Buttancur.
We then visited Parque De Bolivar, the main square of the city where the large brick Cathedral Metropolitania is located. Later on we drove to a poor neighborhood though the houses were relatively decent and the area was clean and again there was a beautiful view of the city. By this time it was raining hard. We then drove back toward the hotel. We stopped by a fruit stand where we tried a few of the native fruits, including a juice called Mara Kuja extracted from a fruit similar to passion fruit. John - the taxi driver - called me to thank me for the offer of a one-day tour of the city I had asked him but since he could not find a baby sitter he told me he could not make it. He asked me though not to go to Peneon (the Rock), since the guerillas had more presence there.
At night I had dinner with Mun and Olga at a restaurant in the mall where Linea, Olga's sister and her husband joined us. We then drove to a disco where we took a table and had a lot of drink and danced; no one got drunk. At 3:00am, Pablo who had joined us gave us a ride back to hotel.
Saturday, May 6 2000.
I called Robinson in the morning for a tour of Oriente - the mountainous countryside. I had originally wanted to go to Santa Fe - an old city about three hours away from the city but Olga told me the road is dangerous. Robinson showed up in a short time. We drove toward the airport and then to El-Retiro, a charming small village. We drove though a narrow street filled with houses and small shops till we arrived at the main square. There was the butcher stand followed by the vegetable vendors in front of the square and then the church on the north side. We walked to the south side of the square, took a seat in the porch and had black coffee (tinto) and empanadas. I then walked into the church where the priest was christianizing a dozen babies by robbing a wet cotton over them as the acquaintances filming the ceremony. I then left the church and told Robinson to meet me at the end of the street. As I started to walk the heavy rain started and I had to take shelter in a very small coffee shop at the invitation of one of the two women.
Two kids where in the room I got in; the room was filled with very old movie posters and it seemed as if the time had stopped in that particular room. I waited there for about one half hour until finally Robinson showed up to pick me up. We then drove higher in the mountains, passed by the horse farms and the flower farms and a waterfall. We visited San Antonio, a small village similar to El Retiro. We had lunch on a roadside café and then visited Tutucan, another park for the middle class people with pools, restaurant and a mock small town. We drove to Reonegro - an unimpressive sprawling town and then headed back towards the City. We stopped at a roadside café where we had a delicious arepa, made of corn bread and a rather sweet cheese.
Sunday, May 7 2000.
I had breakfast with Mun and then took a taxi to Parque De Bolivar. At the square a band was playing classic Spanish music. I visited the Cathedral Metropolitania again and then we did some shopping in the market. The prices were rather firm. A guard holing the leash of a vicious dog was walking around which scared Mun amusingly. We walked to Parque De Berrio where Mun took the metro to the hotel and I went to the opposite direction to visit the Botanical Garden. The metro was rather new and had a very neat design with beautiful stations. At each station and on each platform a soldier was on guard. I got off at the wrong station. Two soldiers were doing a body search of two young guys. When I asked for the directions from an attendant he used his card to let me in and told me to get off in the next station in the opposite direction. The Garden was rather a nice place; I was hoping to be able to see the orchid flower show my guidebook had mentioned, but there was none. I left the park, walked around the University and then took the metro back to Parque Berrio. I decided to walk back in the same direction. I walked along the left sidewalk of the Street (Carrea 51) that was occupied by the vegetable vendors and at one block by fish vendors selling fish. It was surprising that they were not using ice to keep the fish fresh; that block stunk. I then turned to a side street and walked along the junkyards and factories before walking back to Carrea 51 and taking the other side of the street covered with vendors selling junk stuff. Both sides of the street were lined up with many funeral houses. The nicest one was called "La Esperenza" - The Hope (it is also a female name). I passed by a butcher shop whose sign read "Yoko Carne". I walked back to Paque Berrio Estacion where a band of musicians where playing guitars and singing a sad song. When they finished one of them took a bottle and two cups from his back, poured the drink and shared among three of them. The last person - a woman who the surest way to identity her sex was her nail polish took the bottle. After a few sips they played a happier song though there were not many contributions yet. As I was walking to Paque De Bolivar, the thunderstorm started; I ran to a restaurant with a great view of the street leading to the square and the square itself on the second floor where I took a seat. Subsequently a fight stared on the street between two guys; one of them had his elbow in cast. Immediately six soldiers showed up of nowhere to separate them. They performed the usual body search concentrating mostly around the groins and then they were let go. At this time about one dozen harikrishnas approached the square, and started the music and dance. The peace settled quickly. I had a lunch of picadas consisting of fries, beef, chicken, sausages and fried pork skin though it was not good. I sat there for a couple of hours watching the activities of the people below. I saw many vendors selling all sorts of things on many different sizes of trays or carts.
I took the metro to the last station and then returned to the station near my hotel where I took a cab to the hotel. The taximeter stated at 10 pesos and at the hotel it read 36; I gave a 2000 pesos note to driver he and gave me back a 500 p. coin. I talked to Mun and we decided to meet at 8:00pm for dinner. I went to the mall, walked around for a while, and took 50,000p cash from ATM using my visa for exit visa at the airport. I met Olga and Mun and went to a bowling alley and played bowl for a while and then went to the Pink Zone for dinner. We ordered some crêpes. The conversation turned to the possibility that I may take a long vacation in South America and I asked if Olga would be able to teach me some Spanish. At this time Mun suddenly got furious and got the impression that I was after Olga trying to pick her up. He reminded me that I had mentioned that if he broke up with Olga I would go out with her; an issue I had brought up just to indicate his pointless relationship with Olga after a few breakups. We had an argument, ate, and took a bus ride back to hotel.
Monday, May 8 2000.
I woke up at 5:30am checked out and took a cab in the front of the hotel. The driver could not close the trunk and he had to use a rope to hold the door halfway closed. It crossed my mind that this maybe a trick to separate me from my bag on the road so I had to watch the trunk until we got out of the town and there were no more traffic lights. In my guidebook it was mentioned never to separate your belongings from you. I had all my documents in the bag. After about 50 minutes we arrived at the airport and I paid him the pre-negotiated fare of 24,000 pesos plus tip. The check in line was long and there was a long desk with three guards checking the contents of the bags; I bypassed the table without anyone noticing me and went on the line but made sure that they were not using any tags to mark the bags. At this time Olga came to me and told me that I could give her my passport and ticket so that she could have them stamped at a different desk in which case I could pay half the usual exit visa. I had to wait in front of the line for a while till she came back and said she was at the front of her line and asked me to go in person to get the exit visa. I changed lines and took the stamped paper, went back on the first line and had a short Q&A session with an inspector and finally got my boarding pass after paying $24 exit visa. When I entered the gate I had to wait in another line where my bag's contents were searched thoroughly. The guy tried to open my mouthwash and could not; I had to help him. Another soldier inserted a screwdriver into my slippers to make sure they were not hollow; they did not check inside my shirts though. The plane took off at 10:00am and arrived at Miami at 1:30pm. I was supposed to fly back to New York on Tuesday morning. I decided to go back the same day. Went to American Airlines desk, paid a $75 fee and I was put on the waiting list. I could not board the 6:00pm flight but was told there was another direct flight at a different gate. This time I could board and our flight took off at about 7:00pm; we arrived in La Guardia at 9:20pm where I shared a cab to the city with Vipol, an Indian web programmer.
00/12/01 California, Arizona: San Francisco, Carmel, Esalan, San Diego; Phoenix, Grand Canyon
Friday, 12/1/00 Cindy was working late; she got home at 11:00p. We had the dinner I had cooked.
Cindy was deep asleep at 5:30a. I woke her up, we packed and left home at 6:10a for our 6:50a Delta flight to San Francisco. Our car service did not show up; we took a taxi to JFK and arrived there at 6:35a. We then ran to the front of the line and after check in rushed to our gate; we were the last passengers who boarded the plane. We had a four our flight to Salt Lake City and then after a 1.5hr layover arrived in S.F in 1:20min. We rented a car at Hertz ($940 for 11 days), checked in at Aterthon Hotel on Ellis and walked to Union Sq. where we took a cable car to China Town. It was quiet at 8:00p. We had Chinese dinner and took a cab to our hotel.
When I went to pick up the car I noticed I was given a ticket for parking violation (street cleaning). We drove to Golden Gate. It was rather cold; we bought a pair of fleece jackets. We drove to the beautiful Palace of Fine Arts and the Marina. We lunched at KFC and then drove to Presidio and Twin Peaks. Met Judy Kim, Cindy’s friend at border Café. Drove to Coit Tower, it was closed. Drove to Japan Town and had an uninspiring buffets at Umeko.
Checked out from our hotel and drove to Napa Valley; we were lost a few times even though our car was equipped with navigator, a real life saver. We stopped at Mondavi for a one-hour tour and tasting. We then drove to Stag’s Leap winery, had a great tasting and purchased a Fay for about $100. We then drove to St. Helena, checked in at pleasant El Bonita (707-963-3216). We went to bed at 7:00p.
Drove to Bodega Bay where we had a pleasant brunch and took the scenic Highway 1 to San Francisco and continued to Santa Cruz and Monterey; we checked in at Monterey Bay and had dinner at 10:00p at next door hotel.
Drove to 17-Mile-Drive (Pebble Beach), the quaint Carmel with a beautiful beach and finally the scenic Big Sur. The scenery between Carmel and Big Sur was magnificent. We checked in at Esalan Institute, a self-improvement center. The staff was friendly and the guests were typical West-Coast middle age people. The meals were health-oriented buffets. We saw one of the most beautiful sunsets. At night we went to the mineral spa; it had a view of the beach underneath.
We went to the spa and did laundry, walked at the beach prior to heading for LA at 1:00p. The scenery on Route 1 was very pretty. We arrived at Santa Barbara at 6:00p. The main street was filled with shops with charming Latin arches. It took us one hour to drive to beautiful Ventura. The Townhouse was magnificent. We had a memorable dinner at Carpaccio. We then headed to LA and arrived at Hollywood at 12:00a. While we were parking to check in at Roosevelt Hotel three suspicious looking Spanish were hanging around outside the hotel. I asked for a quiet room at the front desk but was given one facing the street; I had to change it to a pool front room.
Drove to Beverly Hills and brunched at French Country Café. I called Eftekharis and drove there. After lunch drove to Bahram’s store and then drove to his house to meet Banafshe and Parsa.
At 4:00p drove toward San Diego with a stop at Marina Del Rey. In San Diego as we were looking for a restaurant a man approached us and told us his car had ran out of gas and he had lost his money. He asked for $16 to buy gas and promised he would mail it to us; I had no change therefore he got away with a twenty dollar bill. We dined at Old Town and drove to Tijuana; it was a wild place with young people crowding the streets. On a few occasion I saw the police arresting offenders. Passing red lights looked the norm. We stopped at a disco for a couple of hours. When we were passing the border back to US I hesitated showing Cindy’s passport to the agent. He said, “Speak” to find out if she spoke English. I had to present her passport.
Saturday 12/9. Drove to Old Town for brunch and then headed for Arizona. The drive was uneventful and fine. I called Behjat to tell her that we were going there; she gave us her home address. When we finally got there we noticed that the house was located in a closed off complex with a gate but no attendance; we needed to punch in a code to open the gate. We waited for a while wondering what to do. At this time a car left the complex; Cindy drove in quickly before the gate closes. We found the house with the help of navigator. The door was open but no one was home. We entered and after a short time Behjat and Massoud showed up; they were coming from a catering. We had dinner and went to bed.
Sunday 12/10. We headed for Grand Canyon after breakfast and packing a lot of food they had prepared for us. The drive was nice except a speed and illegal pass ticket for $135. By the time we arrived there it was dark. We checked in at El Tavor Hotel ($276 for two nights), had dinner at the old restaurant. It was Cindy’s birthday. We finally opened the bottle of Fay and had it in the lobby in front of the fireplace.
Monday 12/11. We walked around the park enjoying the beautiful scenery and the brisk weather. They were some deer around the park that amused us for a while – we took many pictures of them.
Tuesday 12/12. We decided to walk down one of the trails. We walked downhill for about an hour. The cliffs looked splendid. It was cloudy. By the time we decided to return it started to snow. It took us about three hours to get back to the base. It was rather cold and especially Cindy was exhausted. The snowflakes were the largest I had ever seen. We had never expected to see snow here. Overall it was a great experience. Early in the afternoon we headed back for Phoenix. It was snowing heavily throughout the trip. The roads were getting more quiet but dangerous to drive. We finally made it to Phoenix late at night. The city was dry and there were no signs of snow. When I told Massoud that it was Cindy’s birthday and I could not get her the cupcakes she had wished to have he suggested we get some. We ended up having a very pleasant small party in the backyard filled with flowers.
Wednesday 12/13. I woke up early in the morning but had not left the bed. Massoud knocked on the door to wake us up. The alarm clock we had set did not go off. We drove to airport, dropped off the car and flew back to New York.
01/01/15 Iran: Yazd, Kerman & Bam, Hamedan
Cindy was off for Martin Luther King’s Birthday but had to go to office for a couple of hours. The day before she had invited Parviz to move in with us from his hotel (Bentley). He said he would be seeing his friend for an apartment and will be moving out in 7-8 days. I picked up Cindy after packing. We had lunch at Korea Town and did some gift shopping and Cindy bought some vitamins (Royal Jelly and Deah) for mom. I then got a haircut at Cindy’s suggestion. Parviz showed up at 8:00p. At 8:50p I called Tel Aviv Car Service. Cindy went to kitchen to cook for Parviz. I left home at 9:00p and arrived at JFK at 9:30p. I checked in at Virgin Atlantic in five minutes.
11:10p. The plane took off for London on time.
10:30a. (+5). I arrived in London’s Heathrow, Terminal 3 & checked in at Iran Air.
4:00p. Left London for Tehran. I was able to bring my 2 carry-on bags with the help of the lady who had done my check in.
Arrived in Tehran after 5 hours (+3.5) flight. The sky was rather black with smog as we were landing. I used a free phone to call dad to tell him I was on my way home. Dad was waiting in front of the house at 2:00a. We sat down and talked until 5:00a.
Thursday 1/18 Feri came in the afternoon. After picking up Donya, I picked up Tahmineh from a birthday party. Farshid, Nasrin, and Sana came over for dinner.
Friday 1/19. Feri, Farshid and Fariba came over. I went to Fariba’s so that Donya can get her Barbie’s clothes. Met Habib and he drove us to Sologhun, the nearby village. The snow-filled hills looked beautiful. After coming back home we again drove to that area and had dinner in a coffee shop.
Saturday 1/20. Drove to Sangan with Feri. Again there was a beautiful snowfall.
Sunday 1/21. I took the 7:35a metro to Imam Khomeini, had Halim and walked around bazaar and Sirus. I met Feri at 9:00a. We walked to Golestan Museum but it was closed. We visited the charming Glass Museum. There were two pieces dating back to 7 to 8 millennium B.C. I tried to get in at Church Enjili to no avail. Visited the eye-popping National Jewels Museum and stopped at popular Naderi Bakery for a coffee.
I went to National Museum. It was closed. I visited Malek Museum - a collection of furniture, paintings, stamps and rugs. I then met Feri and had lunch at bazaar where a beggar was arguing with the cashier – they had given her leftover food that she did not approve of. We then walked to Golestan Museum; there were seven separate halls and exhibitions with some interesting paintings of Iranian artists. In one gallery there were some pictures taken by Naser-Addin Shah, some from his wives dating back to 1890s – they had scary faces with hair and legs like tree stumps. We stopped at Sofre Khaneh Sonnati Sanglaj in City Park for tea; there were some nostalgic pictures and décor. Feri tried a travel agent for ticket to Yazd but we were too late for our departure date. We stopped at Feri’s. I met Hediye. We then visited Fekrat, DDS. When we got home mom said she had talked to Farshid; he had apologize for his forgetfulness and ignorance and had said whatever I say he would agree. Farshid and Ms. Sarkhosh came over for dinner. Dona came over with some flowers for me. Ebi called in from Germany.
I went to the nearby Internet shop (T1800-hr. T800=$1). Feri came over for dinner. We had a heavy snowfall.
Wednesday 1/24. We visited Mahin with mom and Feri. She looked rather fine but was aggravated with the behavior of her children; they were making life so difficult for her. Majid seemed to be very sick and impossible to deal with.
Thursday 1/25. It snowed again. Taheri’s came over for dinner.
Friday 1/26. Farshid and Feri were over for lunch. Cindy called me and told me I could stay longer. Susan, Mr. Sadigh Shahin and Habib came over. We made a snowman.
Saturday 1/27. I took a car service to Fekrat, DDS and went to Feri’s for lunch.
Sunday 1/28. At 8:30a Donya’s aunt rang the door looking for Donya. She had not shown up for her exam. I told her she was not there. I then got dressed and went to Fariba’s. Donya had slept over. We got her dressed and sent her off. We went to Farshid’s for lunch. Taheri’s came over.
Monday 1/29. I took the car service to Fekrat, DDS. The driver was talking throughout the trip, complaining about life and people. We were lost and I was late for our appointment. I then visited Hediye and we talked about her marriage issues. She said Feri treated her like a child and she had lost respect for him due to his pessimism. We went out for a ride but the traffic was so bad we returned home. Later that evening we went to Mr. Sadigh. Aunt Mehri and Taheri’s came over. Susan had prepared the most delicious eggplant I had ever had.
Tuesday 1/30. I went to Fekrat, DDS, and stopped by at Feri’s. We wnet to Sa’ad Abad Palace in Tajrish and visited the charming grounds and Reza Shah and Shah’s palaces. I slept over at Feri’s.
Wednesday 1/31. We went to book fair where Hediye bought me a couple of Hafez books. We then lunched at Nayeb. I went back home. Mom said that Donya had gone there directly from the school and when she could not see me there had started to cry.
Thursday 2/1. It was the 22nd anniversary I had left Iran. Fariba brought Halim for breakfast. Feri brought white fish. I went out for a walk with Feri, Tahmineh and Donya. I called Cindy.
Habib also brought some Halim. I took a nap with Donya in the afternoon; I was up until 2:30a reading “Baghe Marshal”. I called Cindy; she was upset since I had not called her as promised; she hung up on me.
Friday 2/2. Cindy called at 8:00a and ended up crying. She said the “M” word and asked me to return. She cried again. I talked to Parviz for a while. Cindy called me a second time to convince me to return home. We went to Taheri’s for lunch; Habib, Aunt Mehri, Nasrin/Rayhane were invited. For lunch we had Fesenjan, eggplant, Baghali and shirin polow. We had ash in the afternoon. I went to bed at 10:00a exhausted.
Saturday 2/3 Yazd
I woke up at 2:00a at left bed at 4:00a. Feri came over. We had halim and took a taxi to airport. We had a one-hour flight to Yazd and arrived there at 7:00a. We took a cab to Amir Chakhmagh Sq. Visited Hamameh Khan, a charming teahouse in a converted public bath.
We walked to the old bazaar and the ancient back alleys. We entered an old caravanserai where a friendly worker took us to the roof and gave us a brief description of the sites. We visited the charming “House of Malek Khan”, converted into a guesthouse with a helpful attendant. We then took a taxi to “Masjid Jameh”; it had a beautiful tile work and open partly without a wall. The attendant opened to door to a 4000-year old Qanat and we walked about 30 meters down to its opening. We could then walk to the roof of the masjid for a view of the surrounding neighborhood. We then walked to “Six Badgir” located inside a shrine; it was closed and we could not find the attendant, Mr. Mohammad Razavi even after finding his house and knocking on his door. We also visited the following sites:
Alexander (Eskandar) Prison: It was a rather new building. We asked for and were given access to next door “Tomb of 12 Imams”, an 11th century mausoleum; it was one of the most original sites with a rather intact dome.
Baghe Dolat: Summer resident of Khrim Khan Zand with a 33m tall badghir.
We then had a good lunch at Zeytun, a newly opened restaurant on the edge of town and then checked in at Safaiyeh’s hotel (T15,700). We took a taxi to Dakhmeh (The Tower of Silence), visited a Zoroastrian cemetery and walked towards the hills. There were two circular structures atop two adjacent hills. In old days the Zoroastrians would place their corpses there to be eaten up by the birds. In that way they would maintain the purity of the soil.
Mirror House: It was closed for the day.
Ghal-eh Assadan: This is a temple where the sacred fire has been burning since 470A.D. (it was transferred here from its previous site in 1940.
We then waked in the back alleys and visited the “Mola Esmail Mosque”. We then went back to hotel and had a light dinner.
The driver, Mr. Honarbakhsh, was waiting to drive us to ChakChak, a Zoroastrian temple 60km away in the mountains. During the drive he talked of decency of the Zoroastrians. They are supposed to take the annual trip to this site at least once in their lifetimes. He dropped us at the bottom of the hill where the temple was located and we climbed for about 20 minutes. Feridoun, the friendly attendant came to welcome us and open the door to the temple for us. The temple was located underneath a 50m cliff with a couple of trees projecting out of it. The site felt holy. One of the signs inside read, “There is one road in the world and that is the road of righteousness”. As we were walking in the grounds I was thinking what would have been the fate of the country had Islam never penetrated it. We then drove back to the city and visited Mirror Hall (Talar Ayneh), previously a house of Zarafzadeh; where Reza Shah had spent a night. After the revolution the government took it over, the heirs returned to country from abroad and after reclaiming it they donated it to be used as a museum. We then visited a few factories where they would grind henna and spices using stone wheels. We then shopped at bazaar for Yazd silk napkins and body wraps, lunched at hotel and departed for Tehran at 3:15p. Mom and Donya returned from public bath. Donya said she had a GPA of 20 in her exams. Mom said the Mr. Sadigh and Susan have had a fight after Susan tells him that that they were invited to Taheri’s but when hey show up there late everybody had left. He thinks that Susan had lied to him. Cindy called at 9:00p. She said Parviz had quit his job and was driving her crazy.
Monday 2/5 Kerman, Bam
Ms. Taheri called us to invites us for Halim on Friday. I asked mom to call Mahin but we could not find her phone number on her phonebook; apparently the children needed a piece of paper and they had ripped off a page from hers. I took a taxi to airport and met Feri for our 3:15p flight to Kerman. The plane was packed and it had very little legroom but it took off on time. We had planned to go to Bam overnight but Hamid, the driver that took us to city told us that the roads were dangerous at night. He took us to bus terminal but there were no buses at night. We agreed to get a one-way ride from him at 7:00a for T7000, with a stop in Mahan. We checked in at Akhavan Hotel (recommended in Lonely Planet – T11000) and went for a walk. Feri asked a young man for a decent place; the young guy walked us to a street and showed us Alborz, a new and very good restaurant (T6200).
Hamid was waiting for us at 8:00a. We drove to Mahan (35km) and visited:
Aramgah Shah Nematollah Vali: An old tomb with beautiful garden, tile work and seven old doors given as a gift by Shah if India.
Bagh Shahzadeh: A 130-year old very beautiful garden built by Abdol Hamid Reza Farmanfarma, a grandson of Naser Addin Shah. He used this garden at night for smoking opium. It is said that they have the most beautiful moon and the best opium in this town. I talked to Mehrdad, the brother of the girl who was selling postcards. He said that he was almost blind and was asking if there is a technology whereby he could read using a computer. We then drove to Bam for about 1:20min and Hamid dropped us off at Citadel, a 2000-year old and the largest dirt building in the world. We spent there a couple hours and then took a cab to Ali-Amini Hotel; it was full. The driver, an opium addict and dealer, was complaining of the bad drug market due to high prices. We had lunch and walked around the back alleys and the market. We then boarded a bus to Kerman. Met the 13-year old illiterate Farhad and his twin brother Iraj. Their sister is a college student. Their teen-age friend told me the large number of the young girls in the bus was going to Kerman to look for husbands. Checked in at Akhavan Hotel and visited the contemporary Art Museum (Sanaati); There was an exhibition of the proliferate Seid Ali Akbar Sanati, displaying a large selection of painting and sculptures.
We then dined at excellent Khaneh Sayyah located on the grounds of the museum. It had a pleasant ambiance and live music and good food (T5700). We then walked back to hotel and had a chat about family affairs, mom and Hediye.
Wednesday 2/7. After breakfast we walked to Tourist Office (Miras Farhangi) near Vali Asr Sq. The site was the house of Harandi; Reza Shah had used the renovated dirt (khesht) building. We asked for a guide and were given a booklet from the Shah’s time. We then visited the following sites:
National Library: A beautiful yard and a very large interior with many arches. It had previously been a textile factory.
Moayedi Icehouse: A fully renovated dirt icehouse now used as a children library. When I got in there was a children play in session and the place was packed with children.
Gombade Sabz (The Green Dome): A 9th century – mostly damaged in 1896 earthquake. We had to look for a while to find the place; it is in an alley cross the street from Agha Ali Mosque. The Dervishes Center is located across from it.
We visited “Eebrahomi Complex”, including a working public bath; there were two customers bathing in the very old building. We then walked through the Blacksmiths Market to get to “Ganjali Khan Sq.”. There was a caravanserai on one side and the Hamman with wax dummies on another. We then visited the teahouse “Chai khanehe Vakil”; it had elegant brick arches and tiles. We had lunch and teat there. There was a very old man playing tar and singing. We walked through the Bazaar to “Masjed Jameh”, built in 14th c. with beautiful tile-works.
We took a taxi to “Gonbad Jabaliye”, an octagonal rock structure dating to1st millennium. it was adjacent to a cemetery with a row of mountains in the background and a man-made forest nearby it. We then walked for about 1.5hrs on the straight street to Shohada Sq. On the way we stumbled upon the ruins of “Ghal-e Ardshir” and “Ghal-e Pol Dokhtar”, two adjacent 1500yr old citadels. We also visited the grounds of a hospital in a charming building and also an icehouse.
At the Shoda Sq., we visited the “Tomb of Moshtaq Ali Shah”, a dervish who was stoned to death in 1206h.g. His crime was to recite Quran while playing a tar. The site was attractive; it had three green domes. There was only one beautiful girl meditating. She said the following story about him:
At the time of his sentence he begged, “If you have no mercy on me then have mercy on your town”. People kept throwing stones. He then said, “Have mercy on your woman” with no avail. He then said, “have mercy on the cats of your town” and still people kept throwing stones at him until he died. In one year Agha Mohammad Khan Ghajar attacked Kerman, destroyed the town, his soldiers raped the women, killed all the cats and blinded 60,000 men.
Masjid Pa-mennar: A 12th c. mosque with attractive tile-works.
Ebrahimeh Religious School: It has 150 students. I checked inside on of the rooms, it was dark and covered with mattresses; each room housed at least ten students. There was a tall beautiful Badgir on one side. We then walked to “Ghanj Ali Khan Sq.” and walked through the rest of bazaar to Tohid Sq. We had tea in a teahouse. Feri made calls to Tehran from a phone center. I tried to call Cindy (T450m) but there was answering machine. We then took a very long walk and dined at Alborz.
Thursday 2/8. We visited the bazaar again and killed some time by a man who had put on a show of strength. We then did some shopping (cumin, 16k/kg) and picked our luggage from the hotel. We bought some “Kolompeh”, a cookie filled with dates. We were at the airport at 4:15 for our 5:40 flight. We were advised that we security may be tight for the anniversary of the revolution. The inspection was rather through. The person in front of me was arrested for hiding drugs in the hills of his shoes after they were taken off and placed under the laser.
We went to Taheri’s for Halim. We then visited aunt Shamsi and went to Feri’s for a rest. We were invited to Mr. Ziaii and his wife Manizheh, Nasrin’s sister.
Saturday 2/10. It was the anniversary of the revolution. I finished reading “Baghe Marshal” by Hassan Karimpoor. The main character of the book faces the woman who was chosen as his bride after 30 years – after falling in love with another woman, abandoning the first woman and spending 20 years in jail in London. The woman who had longed him for so many years says, “I do not want to give up the joy of being in love for 28 years”, and later on writes the following poem by Sohrab Sehperi to him:
Naresideh be derakht
Kuche baghist ke as khabe khoda sabztar ast
Va dar an eshgh be andazeh parhaye sedaghat abist
Mi ravi ta tahe an kuche ke az poshte bolugh sar be dar mi arad
Do ghadam mande be ghol
Paye favareh javid asatir zamin mi mani
Va tora tarsi shafaf fara mi girad
Dar samimiat sayyal faza khash khashi mi shenavi
Kudaki mi bini
Rafteh az kaje bolandi bala, jujeh bar darad az laneye nur
Va azu mi porsi
Khanehe dust kojast
Also quoted in the book, “Human being is strange. As long as his wishes re not met he assumes that his happiness depends on achieving them. When he has achieved what he had wished, he assumes his well being depends on what he has not achieved yet and is unable to do so”.
I had a chat with mom about Feri and Hediye but she was unyielding.
In the afternoon I went for a walk toward Kan; the gardens on the two sides of the road were filled with trash. Signs of poverty could be seen everywhere. The people passing by were workers with filthy clothes. In the evening we went to Nayeb for dinner. I had invited Tahei’s, Sadigh’s, Shafaii’s and Habib. It was a decent meal (T117k for 24 people).
I visited Museum of Iran Bastan. The pottery works from 3-5M BC were splendid and well preserved. There was also a very well preserved carriage wheel made of fine wood and metal from 500BC. I then walked to Naderi; it was packed with mostly young men and a few girls. I met Feri at 4:00p and went to his home and then went out for a pizza.
We drove to Ushan, Fasham, Meigun with Feri and Hediyeh. We took a ski lift ride; Feri and Tahmineh were somewhat scared initially. We then drove to Dizin.
Nasrin called me to talk about her bad situation with Farshid. I met Farah and her daughter Elhm tat Fariba’s.
All family gathered for the delicious kebab that Habib brought over.
Wednesday 2/14 Hamedan
We took a 5-hour ride to Hamedan with Feri, Hedi and Tamineh. The ride was pleasant. We visited:
- Gombade Alavian: A well-preserved 12C mausoleum
- Aramgahe Baba Taher: The grandson of Omar Khayyam; he developed the mystic form of poetry.
- Tappe-ye Hekmataneh: The ruins of the ancient city consisting of mostly well-preserved walls and rooms and a small museum.
We drove to Emam Sq., a large, old and charming square packed with people. We then checked in at the best hotel of town, Bou Ali, dined and went out for a ride. It had started to snow. The weather was cold but not as much as I had expected. The city is surrounded with snow covered mountains.
- Aramgah-e Ester va Mordekhay: The most important Jewish pilgrimage site in Iran. It contains the tomb of Esther, the Jewish wife of Xerex. It had beautiful dome and small interior.
- Avicenna Memorial: Modeled on Gombad-e Kavus Tower near Gorgan, built in 1954.
We set for Ali Sadr Caves, the cave containing a few lakes. It is located about 100km from the city. The road to it was mostly deserted with a lot of snow. We then saw a road sign for the cave but as son as we entered it we got stuck in the snow. We had to push the car out and turned back. It seemed that the cave was closed. We then drove to the nearby village. Feri asked for directions from a shopkeeper and he asked we had seen the cave. When we told him that the road was closed, he said we could walk there and pointed to the site just behind his site. We were very happy that we could finally see the place after the long drive we had taken. It was a majestic cave, up to 40m high with 12km of water up to 8m deep, covered with stalactites. We took a rowboat and toured the site with a guide.
We drove back to Tehran, went for dinner at Nayeb and I stayed over at Feri.
I went to see Daryush with dad. All his hair had turned white. He was in good moral and a good speaker as always. His daughter asked for my help for going to Canada after finishing her college.
This was my last day in Iran; I had my last dinner with all the family. Fariba and Donya stayed over. I woke up at 5:00a; Donya was asleep next to me. She looked like an angel. I kissed her and then said good-bye to family, Farshid drove Feri and me to the airport. The inspection and check-in were easy but I had to run around for a while to pay a tourist tax.
I had an 8-hour layover in London; I took the underground to Hide Park, walked around there and visited a few sites, including the Buckingham Palace and the beautiful Westminster Church. I then went back to the airport for my flight to NY. Cindy and Parviz had come to pick me up. Parviz had brought the bottle of Tequila and we had a couplef shots in the car.
01/06/04 Thailand: Bangkok, Floating Market, Ayuthaya, Phuket, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai
Avia Travel 800-950-AVIA - from West Coast Air Brokers Int'l 800-883-3273
Thai Air Pass 4 domestic flights for $259 - s/b purchased in US. Check for flexibility in schedules.
Before departure Read "Love in a Duty Free Zone" by Pico Iyer in Travelers' Tales Guide Thailand, the Stories
of Life on the Road. The article is excerpted from "Video Night in Katmandu"
The following two phrases are from article "The Secrets of Wat Krabok" a temple for cure of the drug addicts by the monks.
"Travel can be a form of escapism as addictive as drugs”.
"Travel is limiting the comfort of the body to gain freedom of the mind".
ATM Card Thai Farmers Bank or Bangkok
Safety Deposit Box: Bank Skok's Safety Deposit Center. 34th fl. Chan Issaro Tower, 942/81 Rama IV Rd. (near Silom Rd. Intersection). 150b mo.
Traveler's Checks get a better rate than cash. 10b for each exchange so bring $100-checks.
Festivals Royal Barge Procession. Elephants Roundup (Nov.)
Loi krathong-Nov. The tradition of setting baskets of candles on water in Nov. so that the water spirit will carry last year's
Song krau-Apr.: The start of Thai New Year
Vi sakha puja: The celebration of Buddha's birthday
Excursions Chao Phraya- Reua duan: Express boat
River cruise to Ayuthay Historical Park
1-day cruise Muang Boran (Ancient City-1/2 hr South of B.), Crocodile Farm, Sam Phrau Elephant Village (Nakhon Pathom)
2-day cruise Kanchanabrui, Hua in, Phetchaburi, Pattaya, Khao Yai National Park
Quiet Site Temple of Dawn - Sunday morning
Sites in Bangkok Buddha Monthon, Damnou Saduak floating market, The Grand Palace, Chinatown, Taoist Temple, Guilded Buddha, excursion to Nakhon Pathon, River Wai Bridge, Jim Thompson's House, Susan Pakkard Palace, Boat tour of the Thonburi Klongs & visit Wat Aru.
Chatuchak Weekend Market – On the highway to the Airport – Saturday 6:00am
Wat phra ko Royal Temple
Wat Po the 50-m reclining Buddha (emerald-actually jasper) Statute.
Wat Trimit House 3-m statute of Buddha cast of 5 tons gold
Wat Benchambopit The marble temple - modern
Wat Saket Contains one of the largest bronze statutes of Buddha-at the base of Golden Mount
Can be seen from all over town.
Monks allowed only 2 meals a day, both before 11:00 a.m.
West of B.: Rose Garden - Susan Sam Phrau 8-6.
Phra Pathom Chedi: Beyond Rose Garden-Town: Nakhon Phathon. 130 m. high, the tallest & oldest.
Bars, Restaurants Sios off Thanon-sukhumwit. Thanon Luang Susan in Patpong
Boxing Patchadamneon Stadium (Mon. Wed. Thurs. Sun.). Lumphini (Tue. Fri. Sat.)
Cooking School Oriental Hotel - Weekly courses by the finest chefs - 02 47 2918 x1044
Horse racing Royal Turf Club & Royal Bangkok Sports Club on weekends
Hotels Very exp. > 4500b exp. >3000, mod. >1500 inexpensive: < 1500 Ko Samui: Hotel Bann Talig Ngam: 5000b Hua Hin: Hotel Sofitel Centra - elegant 5000b L.P. p226 Parallel to Khao San but more quiet is Truk Mayom, an alley reserved for mostly pedestrian traffic. J&Joe (02 281 2949) is a sprawling old teak complex w/ pleasant rooms (100-260b). always full. New Joe-380b. Orchid House-upscale-near Vieng Tai hotel on Rambutri - apt. style rooms - 400b Massage Wat Po (140b). Best & kosher. Also Wat Mahathat & Parinayok Thai Dance Drama: The National Theater (Ratchin rd. tel: 224-1342 - weekends) The Chalerm-krung. Royal Theater at intersection between Charon Krung & Triphet Rd. Tel: 22-0434 - twice weekly Best resorts: Phuket's Amanpuri 10-70k. Ko Samui's Bann Taling Ngam Unspoiled Islands Ko Phnagan, Ko Phi Phi, The Similian Islands Phuket: 1 hr flight. Take boat tour to Phi Phi & Phang Ngaby Samui: 1 hr flight. Ang Thong Marine Park. Hire boat to ko Phngan & ko Tai Phitsanuloki Magnificent architecture at Sukhothai Khorat 45-min. flight, 4hrs train, ruins at Phmai - 37 miles & Buriram: 94 miles. Krungthep Bangkonk kloong Canal sampnas canoe-shaped boats Bhikhus Gautama Buddha San phra pjam spirit house Bot Building of worship, housing one or more statutes of Buddha - for important ceremonies Viharn " - for meetings & meditation-sermons Stupa Building topped with a spire, built in the honor of Buddha Fun Sanuk no fun mai sanuk Cheers Chai yo Cool heat jai yen Never mind mai pen rai Papaya malagaw lichee linchee mango mamuang Pineapple saparot Wednesday 6/4/2001 I woke up early in the morning for our 11:00a flight to Thailand. Cindy had arranged it a few days prior to our June 6th engagement. I packed, woke up Cindy and went down. I could not find a taxi to the airport. Sixto called a limo service; it showed up in 5 minutes and we arrived at the airport just on time. We arrived in Tokyo in 13 hours in the next day due the 13 hours time difference. The plane was rather empty and I found a seat to lie down and take a nap. Before arriving in Narita one of the flight attendants gave us a bottle of Champagne; I guess she had assumed we were on our honeymoon. We had a 4-hour layover in Tokyo. We walked around the airport, took a shower in a very clean rest area and had coffees. The second leg of the trip from Tokyo to Bangkok took about 6 hours and we arrived there at 22:00 local time. Pomm, our guide was waiting for us; we boarded the car and were driven to hotel Peninsula. It was after the rush hour and we missed the traffic I had heard about. After check in we found out that our room had only a sliver of river view we were supposed to get. We agreed to pay $10 extra a night for a room which had a nice view of the river. Friday 6/6 We woke up at 6:00a and went for a swim in the beautifully designed swimming pool and then had a big breakfast at the dining room. Pomm picked us up at 8:00a with the driver and she gave us a tour of the beautiful Wat Phra Keo (Emerald Buddha) and Grand Palace. She then took us to two jewelry shops but we did not buy anything. After she saw some interest from Cindy she insisted on going to a third shop; I asked her to drop us at Wat Meung Lak; it was drizzling. We walked around a couple of beautiful streets and arrived at Wat Pho at 1:00p. A street vendor approached us and said that the Wat was closed. He recommended that we visit a few other wats and then go back there. He then called a tuk tuk, negotiated a rate of 30 bahts ($1=B45), a low rate since it was the Amazing Thailand promotion week and the tuk-tuk was a government controlled tuk-tuk. We drove to Standing Buddha and visited a 30m statute of Buddha built by two monks in 60 years. A young man approached us and introduced himself as Nun, a journalist who had written an article about that wat. He then said that it was the Amazing Thailand week and recommended that we visit the Export Center, a Jewelry shop; he added that it was the last day of the sale. The tuk-tuk driver took us there but the prices were high. He then drove us to the Temple of Sitting Buddha. We met a man there who said was from Phuket and showed us his Bank ID card and album of his visit to Australia. He then talked of gems and suggested we pay a visit to Tiffany Center, where they had the best prices and he had bought a piece of Jewelry for his wife. We drove there but again the prices were more of a rip off than a good deal. Then the tuk-tuk driver recommended a shop but by this time we had had it. We then drove to another wat, the Lying Buddha and then finally drove to wat Pho. It had a huge ground with many ornamental chedies (burial structures) and the famous 30m Reclining Buddha. They had a massage hall where we had a very satisfying massage (B250 for an hour). My masseur gave me the phone number of her boyfriend for our drive to the Floating Market the next day. We then took a taxi and asked the driver to recommend a good Thai restaurant. The drive took a while; he crossed the river twice and when we complained, he said he wanted to avoid the traffic. He took us to Silom Village, a touristy shopping mall and we had a decent meal. We then took a taxi to Shangri La Hotel where we took the hotel ferry cross the river to our hotel. Saturday 6/7 We visited the Jim Thompson House, the house of an American entrepreneur, an ex-CIA agent who revitalized the silk industry in Thailand. The charming house was an assembly of teak houses brought over from parts of the country. We then took a taxi to National Museum. Somsak, the driver (Tel: 587-7154) was very helpful and agreed to take us to the Floating Market the next day. We spent a few hours at the interesting museum. We then asked for the direction to the Royal Barge from a man who was sitting at the ticket booth; he took us a tuk-tuk, negotiated the rate (B60) and give him directions to the location. When we got off the tuk-tuk a man approached us and told us that the place would be closed until 3:00p; he was not pushy and did not offer us a ride. We ignored him, walked through a very poor area with many shacks (later I found out that the residents were Vietnamese refugees) and arrived at the Royal Barge. It was open. It was a collection of a dozen ornamental boats for the kings mostly built in the 19th century. We then took a fast boat (B200) to Wat Arun, another tall colorful Chedi visible from a distance. We then took a tuk tuk and I asked the driver to take us to a wat in Chinatown. The driver stopped at Wat Rajanadda and offered us to go and visit it. We then drove to Wat Sudit; it was a beautiful wat with many sitting statutes of Buddha all around the yard. The Prince was visiting the wat and it was filled with the uniformed staff. We then visited Wat Trimit where a 4-ton gold statute of Buddha is located. A monk ordination was in progress in the main hall; in another section a Chinese funeral was under way. The driver then dropped us off at wat Bovonives. We visited a bridal shop, bought a pizza hut and took a taxi to Lumpinee Park for a Thai Boxing match. It was exciting. Cindy placed a bet with a funny Chinese bookie. Prior to the end of the match the guy came over and handed B350 winning money to Cindy. We then took a taxi to our hotel and arranged with the driver (Budd: 01-731-9651) for a ride to the Floating Market the next day for B1200. Sunday 6/8 Budd picked us up at 6:45a. We arrived at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in 1.5 hours. The boat drivers had lined up on the street and were inviting the cars to their sites. Budd stopped at the first site; they showed us the engine boat and asked for B2000 for the tour. We negotiated the rate down to B1200 and invited Budd to join us and set for the market. We used the engine to ride along narrow canals but when we arrived at the crowded market our guide turned off the engine. We rode slower than other boats using the oar due to the weight of the engine. The market was lively; many food vendors were selling food out of their boats. There were also stalls along the canal and the vendors were selling souvenirs. We then rode along a wider river with houses built on the water, visited a wat where Cindy bought some fish food and fed the hungry fish. We then rode back to our starting point where Budd was given his cut. We drove to the nearby Nakhon Pathom and visited Phra Pathom Chedi, the tallest (127m) Buddhist Temple in the world. It had a large ground with bells and halls all around it; it was crowded with many visitors. We then drove to Samphran Elephants Grounds (B350) where we saw a magic show and an elephant show; we had to leave prior to start of the crocodile show to make it on time to our next stop, the Rose Garden (300B). They performed shows on Ordination into the Monkshood, Fingernail Dance, Boxing, Ethnic Dance and Swordfight. Budd then drove us to city and we went to New Cosmo, a seafood restaurant he recommended for dinner (B2,800). The food was good. After the dinner he dropped us off the hotel where we signed up for a Ayuthaya (B1,200 ea.) tour for the next day. Monday 6/9 We woke up at 6:00a and after breakfast rode the hotel ferry to River Sun Cruise. We boarded a bus at 8:00a and drove for an hour to Ayuthaya. Our guide, Paisan was giving us some information on Thailand as we were riding. We visited Bang Pa-in Palace. We then drove to the impressive ruins of Wats Mahathat, Virhana Phra Mongkol Bopit and wat Nah Phra Mane. We then drove to the river and boarded a boat at 1:00p. We had lunch on board and then sat on the deck watching the scenery along the river. There were many wats built on the water. We arrived in Bangkok at 4:15p. Tuesday 6/10 We woke up at 5:30a and after breakfast took a taxi to airport (B500) and bought two r-t tickets to Phuket (B4,600 ea.); the plane took off at 8:00a for a one-hour flight to Phuket. The scene of the small rocks coming out of the water was magnificent as we were approaching the island. We purchased bus tickets (B80) and waited for half an hour until the van was full and took a 40-minute ride to the city. The van stopped at Diamond Travel. We booked a room at Phi Phi Island Village Motel for two nights (B3300 ea.) and r-t ferry tickets (B650). It was 10:30a and the ferry departure time was 2:00p. A young guy at the travel office approached us and offered a tour of the city for B40. We boarded the tuk tuk and he told the driver to drive. He took us to a jewelry shop despite Cindy’s objections. I then asked him to drive us to a restaurant of LP’s choice, but he said that it was not a good place and insisted on taking us to a place of his choice. I did not budge but when we got there the place was closed. I asked him to take us to another restaurant. This one was located on a hill with a good view of the city. After lunch we drove to the ferry and waited for a while until the departure time. We met an Italian couple on their honeymoon. The ferry ride was fine even though the ferry was an old one. After a 2-hour ride we arrived at Phi Phi where the Motel’s boat was waiting for us. It took us 20 minutes to get to the motel which was located on the Northern part of the Island, a rather more quiet and beautiful part supposedly. After checking in at the motel the attendant asked me for my ferry ticket. After he saw that we had a 3:00p departure time he said the free water taxi is only at 11:30a otherwise we had to pay a B100 for a taxi. They had prepared our room as honeymooners room with flowers on the bed, floors and the bathroom per as Cindy’s comments at the travel office. We went into the water but noticed that the beach was very shallow. We then noticed that loud noise of the boats continuously hovering around the motel; it was not unlike the drills they use to dig the streets of New York. After swim we went to bed rather early and fell asleep. Wednesday 6/13 I woke up early in the morning. The sound from the boats was still filling the air. We decided to cut short our stay and go back to Bangkok. Cindy called the travel agent and they agreed to refund our money for the second night. We signed up for a 4-hour tour of the Phi Phi Li (B500+B200 for snorkeling equipment). It was well worth it. The Island was magnificent with emerald waters and a small beautiful sandy beach. We snorkeled in a couple of places. We entered a small strait where the water was the most beautiful and the scenery was just heavenly. We passed by a prehistoric cave but we did not have time to stop by. When we got to the ferry we still had some time; the ferry was newer and the ride much more pleasant. We took a shower in the bathroom of the ferry and went to the deck to enjoy the beautiful scenery. At the port in Phuket the Travel Agent’s driver picked us up and took us to the office. They gave us a cash refund even though we had paid by credit card. We went to dinner at Mae-porn and went back to office to pick up our luggage. Someone at the office gave us a ride to the airport (B400). The 7:40p plane was cancelled and therefore we had to take the 8:40p flight. We had planned to take the 10:30p bus from Bangkok to Sokhutai. We were not sure if we had enough time to make it to the bus. Cindy tried for some concession from the airline to no avail. We were able to get to the Northern Bus Terminal by 10:15 but were told that the only bus leaves at 11:45p. We bought two first class tickets (B256) and boarded the bus. They had assigned seats. There was a stewardess who gave us blankets. We slept through most of the trip. Thursday 6/16 We arrived at Sukhotai at 5:30a. There was only one tuk tuk driver with his agent. They came to us and encouraged us to take their tuk tuk to town. They wanted to take us to a hotel of their choice but when I mentioned Sawadiphongs, a L.P.’s choice they both agreed that it was a good hotel. We took a super deluxe room for B500, took a nap and had breakfast at Northern Palace, a hotel cross the street from ours. Upon leaving the restaurant a young tuk tuk driver offered us a ride but another driver approached us; he spoke some English and showed us the pictures of the Sukhothai National Park we planned to visit. We agreed on a 4-hour tour for B250. Suko, the driver picked up his wife on the way and dropped her off at a hospital on the way to the park. The park had manicured grounds and about eight Wats. Suko stopped at a site where some pottery pieces were placed on a table. I assumed it was a stop for shopping. When we approached the table we met three archeologists of Duke University of Australia. They had removed broken pottery pieces from a furnace and had separated them into bags. They said after they have studied the pieces they would put them back underground. The site has been from a few periods and therefore their findings could not be conclusive. They talked about glazing materials and historical sites. They recommended that we visit Si Satchanalai-Chaliang, another historical site more original and less restored than Sukhotai. Suko then drove us back to the city. We took a walk around the streets and the market. The city was small and lively with many motorcycles. We stopped at a monastery where the young monks were relaxing. We talked to them for a while. One of them, Monet, a 7-year old shy boy got the attention of Cindy and she teased him for a while. We stopped at fancy Dream Café and had a mediocre dinner. After dinner we decided to skip visit to Si Satchanalai and go to Chiang Mai the next day. We checked with the bus company and found out that the last bus was leaving at 1:30a. I arranged for a tuk tuk at 1:00a, asked for a wake up call at front desk at 12:30a and went to sleep at 10:00p. When we woke up it was 2:00a. We did not have the wake up call and had missed the bus. I went down to inquire. They found my wake up call request in the garbage can. Since they did not speak English I could not find out why the piece of paper had ended up in the garbage. The girl had assumed the call was for 12:30p. That still did not explain the situation. I went back to room and slept. Friday 6/15 We went to Northern Palace Hotel and after breakfast asked for a cab to Si Satchanalai (B1000). In a short time a driver with an old car showed up. The ride was just over an hour. The park looked more original than Sukhothai. There was one impressive sitting statute of Buddha visible from a large opening in the surrounding wall. At one of the stops the car did not start; we had to get off the car and push it until it started. On the way back we stopped at the bus station and inquired about the departure time for the bus to Chiang Mai and then went back to our favorite restaurant at the Northern Palace Hotel. We placed our orders. After 15 minutes the young girl came back and said we could not get our Phadthai since they were out of shrimp and noodles. We asked for vegetables; it came with pork and we had to return it. By this time it was about 3:50p and our morning driver was waiting to take us to the bus station for our 4:15 bus. I thought it would be a complimentary ride since the guy had made decent money in the morning. Cindy said he would ask for the fare, we bet for an ice cream and I lost. The 4:15p bus was canceled and we had to wait until 5:30p (B170). The bus was full and we had to stand for the first hour of our trip until people got off and seats became available. We arrived in Chiang Mai at about 11:00p and took a tuk tuk to Galare Guest Host (B720). We then went out to Night Bazaar. The street was packed with people walking around and the business was in full motion. We went to an open air Chinese restaurant and had a decent meal. When Cindy asked the proprietor about the night life, the guy paused for a moment and then said, “Disco; no that is not for you; how about a massage? I will arrange for a driver to pick you up and drive you back to your hotel.” The driver showed up in a short time and took us to the massage parlor. It was not as good as wat Pho’s. The driver then took us back to our hotel. Saturday 6/16 We left our room at about 10:00a. The streets were deserted. We had breakfast and took a tuk tuk to old city. We visited a few wats and then started to walk to Dukswam wat but found out it was far away. We then saw a golden temple far away in the mountain. It was Wat Suthep. We took a van that drove us to the University where we took another van to the wat high in the mountain. The weather was cool and refreshing. The wat was a very large lively complex; it is one of the holiest sites in the Northern Thailand. Many people, especially young kids were paying their homage. We took a lift up and enjoyed the peaceful ambiance of the site. We then took the very long staircase down and took a van back to the city. The van fumes made me queasy and by the time we got to the city I was not feeling well. I had to lie down for a while to recover. We then took a taxi to the travel agency we had been to in the morning and booked a two-day trekking trip (B1000). After a rest we went out to the Night Bazaar. We then had a delicious meal at an open-air restaurant in the Ansula Market. Sunday 6/17. I received a phone call from the front desk at 8:00a. The two trekking guides were there looking for the copy of our passports. The travel agent at the office had asked us for them the day before. Due to the robberies of the trekkers the police requires these copies to fight the robbers. We went to a couple of places but could not find a place. Ya, the younger guide asked me to give him our passports so that he could get copies; I did so. At 9:00a the van showed up with a Canadian couple on board. They had to wait a few minutes until we check out. We then drove to a travel agency where we had a quick breakfast and other members of the group joined us. One of them, Paula, was an American living in Australia. Another girl was from the West Coast living in Pennsylvania. She was carrying a huge backpack - too big for her petite size. There was a tall Irish girl, Channels; and there were two European girls who did not talk much. We stopped at a market for some shopping and then drove to Huay Namdung National Park, about 1 ½ hours away. We took a 1/2h walk to a waterfall where we went under the cool water. We then had lunch and walked to a hot spring. There were two geysers where boiling water was bubbling out from the earth. There were a couple of hot bath cabins down the river. We walked there and Cindy and I were the only ones who tried them; the water was too hot though. We then hiked for about three hours over a scenic path; at times it was exhausting. We finally arrived at our destination. It was a small location where only one tribe family lived. Our hut was located behind theirs. All nine of us were going to sleep in one large wooden room. We took a bath in the river and then sat on the terrace while Ya and Poon, our older guide were preparing our dinner in the next door room. Cindy joined them and helped them with grinding garlic. I stopped by there and they offered me some Thai whisky. The dinner was plain rice and soup. We then went to bed; I woke up many times. It was rather cold and uncomfortable floor. Only after sunrise I was able to go to sleep for a couple of hours. Monday 6/18 When I woke up Cindy was already up. After breakfast we walked for about half an hour where we boarded elephants and took a relaxing fun 1½ hours ride. The elephants were very tame and knew the road. The trainers basically did not have to do much. Our guides swam down the river. After the elephant ride we walked for another ½ hour to our raft camp. Poon and Ya helped the local person to make a new raft while we were resting. A few of the tribeswoman showed up with the wares pushing every body to shop. The pushing became more of harassing. Cindy called me at one point asking for B45 to buy something. An old tiny tribe’s woman was chasing her and chanting “Chagi, 45 bahts” as she was dancing in a funny way. It was very amusing to watch her. I swam in the river and then we had some plain noodle soup for lunch before setting out for our rafts in two groups. The river’s current did not seem to be very much but on a few occasions we were almost capsized. In one occasion we almost lost our luggage after the makeshift tripod where our luggage was placed broke. In one occasion I fell in the water and my leg was caught between the raft and a rock; I could have lost my leg. In another case Poon and I were in the water and lost the raft and all the girls ended up riding in the raft alone. At one time the petite girl from PA fell in the water; I had to help her to swim to the other raft while trying to save her camera from getting wet. Throughout the trip Poon stayed calm; he managed to have fun (Sanuk in Thai culture); at times he would hit the water hard with his staff pretending he was hitting the crocodiles in the water. After a two-hour exciting ride we arrived to the end of our adventure, stopped at a shop where we were served some fruits and then took the van back to the city and our hotels. We showered, dined at our favorite open-air restaurant in Anusula Market and did some shopping at the Night Bazaar. Tuesday 6/19 We stopped at the travel agency to pay for our 7.45p flight to Bangkok. There was not much to do for the rest of the day. We walked around, did some more shopping and then checked out and took a tuk tuk to the airport. After arrival we took a taxi to Peninsula Hotel. This time we were given a room with a full view of the river. At night we decided to go to the night market; it happened to be the same as Patpong, the infamous red-light area in Bangkok. We walked around for a while and then were invited to go-go bars by a tout. The young guy said there would be no cover charge and we had to buy just one beer. After we sat down and got our beers and paid for them (B100 ea.) someone approached us and asked for the cover charge; when we protested he backed off. We watched a boring show for about ½ hour and then left the place. I then stopped at Super Girls for a short time before taking a taxi back to the hotel. Wednesday 6/20 I went for a swim and then breakfast. I wasted some time changing my travelers’ checks to Bahts. I left the hotel and walked the streets for some time before taking a 1-hr cab ride to wat Pho for a massage. A tuk tuk offered me a ride to Wat Saket (Golden Mount). We arrived there at 7:00p but the wat was closed. The area leading to the wat and the wat itself were very peaceful and pretty. I walked around for sometime. I noticed a nice bar with wooden windows and decided to get a drink there. I entered the bar and asked for the Thai whisky. The two young girls took out a bottle from the shelf and offered it to me. I could not make them understand that I needed only one shot to drink there; I gave up and left the bar. I walked back to the alley where the wat was located, sat at the sidewalk at enjoyed the beautiful view of the wat in the sunset light. At one point two monks left the wat and left the door open. When I approached the entrance to try to sneak in a guard dog started to bark. I had to back off. I took a taxi back to the hotel and went back to my room. Thursday 6/21 Pomm, our guide, picked us up at 6:00a. We were driven to the airport for our 6-hour flight to Narita where we had a 4-hour layover before starting our 11-hour flight back to NY. After we had left the airport Cindy noticed that I had left my backpack at the airport. We had to go back to United Terminal. My bag was sitting at the service bag area. I picked it up and then we took a taxi home. 02/04/17 Peru: Lima, Iquitos, Amazon, Leticia, Cusco, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu Telephone Operator 100 International 108 Directory 103 Peru: 51 Lima 01 Cusco 084 Iquitos 094 Per Capita $3,800, 26 millions, 89% Literacy Literature: Mario Vargas, Joe Maria Argudas, and Cesar Vallejor 800-523-3273 Airlines Continental http://www.continental.com/onepass LX837614&EJ831469 4085 POB 4365 Houston, TX 77210 74k 800-231-0856 Cfm# of cxl’d flight-Toronto OFTPSD 542.79*2 Use by July 18, 2001 for int'l flights only 45-Ontario: 26+D.C.:35 800-525-0280 NY-Cancun 35000 Phoenix Peru: 5/17/02 #1952: 15:35-22:30 6/1/02 #1953 23:20-08:00 May 19 2111 Lima-Iquitos 0700-0830 Be at office at 1100 (take a taxi) May 25 Ship docks at 0700 full day in Iquitos May 25 Iquitos-Lima 1900-2030 (also 0900-1030) May 26 Lima-Cusco 0630-0730 June 1 Cusco-Lima 1100-1200 Air: 160 * 4 = 640 + Cruise: 975 *2 email@example.com Fernando: As discussed, please make reservations for: Mr. Ray ******AS DISCUSSED, YOUR OFFICE MUST CONFIRM ALL FLIGHTS FOR US!!!! 1) MAY 18, 2002 SATURDAY Areo Continente #2111 Depart LIMA @ 7:00AM Arrive Iquitos @ 8:30AM 2) AMAZON RIVER CRUISE -"THREE FRONTIERS"-RIO AMAZONAS Sunday May 19 - Saturday May 25 Depart NOON 5/19 Iquitos Dock; be at Amazon Tours, Requena Street #336 Iquitos, Tel: 233931 ext. 1 BY 11:00AM Double Occupancy Cabin w/window Arrive Iquitos Dock 7:00AM 5/25 3) MAY 25 SATURDAY Areo Continente #SJ518 Depart Iquitos 7:00PM Arrive LIMA 8:30PM 4) MAY 26 MONDAY Areo Continente #N6 1141 Depart LIMA 6:30AM Arrive Cuzco 7:30AM 5) JUNE 1 SATURDAY Areo Continente #N6 1144 Depart Cuzco 11:00AM Arrive LIMA 12:00PM ******AGAIN, AS DISCUSSED, AMAZON TOURS MUST CONFIRM ******ALL FLIGHTS ON AREO CONTINENTE FOR US!!! TOTAL AIR $640 TOTAL CRUISE $1950 TOTAL: $2590 What to bring Insect repellent – Avon’s nontoxic (no DEET) Skin So Soft Oil (not the lotion) Lotomil or imodium Puncho, Boots (rainforest), Flashlight, clock, penknife, sewing kit, cord, small padlock, plastic bag, Rubber band, Safety pins Soap, toilet paper, sun-block, first-aid kit Earplugs for noise, Student Card, spare glasses, Cap, Uumbrella Money Currency Nuevo Sol/100 Centimos 1999 exchange rate: S/3.35 2002: Airport: 2:38 – Cusco: 2:44, Travelers Checks: 2:37 Bring fresh bills Traveler’s Checks: Up to 10% commission, at Banco Credito and Interbank. Use Amex, Bring mostly as insurance policy. VISA ATM To use, pay entire bill and add enough money to cover withdrawals; Check with VISA MBNA: 4% charge (1% going to VISA corporation) Make sure PIN has only 4 digits (know the numerical values of the alpha codes) Chase: ATM: $3 per withdrawal To Change PIN: Go to branch with 2 valid IDs Traveler’s Checks Through American Express: 800-221-7282 Lost cards Lima: VISA: 441-2112, 428-9898 MC: 422-1290 AX: 424-6410 Cab Do not change large bills. Ask, “Tiene cambio de cinquenta soles?” Do you have change for 50 soles? Costs lowest hotel: $15 Economy: $25 1st Class: $50-80 Taxes High-end (but not low-price) hotels charge up to 25% for taxes and services. Some better restaurants may include it in the prices on the menu (IGV or Incluye Impuesto) Miscellaneous Time GMT – 5 NY: GMT – ? (10 Lima == 11 NY) Jellyfish Dousing in vinegar will de-activate unfired stingers; Use Calamine lotion or antihistamine to reduce pain Fabio- Taxi 917-559-6244 www.Rcp.net.com http://www.rcp.net.pe When you arrive at high altitude, try not to over exert yourself. Drink the coca tea (mate de caca). If you sleep in a bus with a camera around your neck, it will be cut off by a razor. Train Buy tickets at least one day in advance. Travel Council travel 212-661-1414 – for tickets to Peru eXito Latin America 800-655-4053. Exito@wonderlink.com short/long term tickets Purchased outside Peru for Trips in Peru: Number of Coupons & Price: 1-$96 2-$190 3-$278 Roy: Said I can book the flights in Lima cheaper. Peak travel is mid June – Mid August. Lima – Cusco: Lan Peru Leave May 21: 07:45 – Return May 27: 06:00 Special Visit Peru Pass = $190 + 67 (tax + fee) Groupa Taca Leave May 21: 0600-0715 Return May 26 08:00-09:25 $128+67 (Asked Roy to keep this ticket for me) Lima- Trujillo Lan Peru Leave May 26 17:15-18:00 – Return May 29 18:45-21:00 (stop at Chiclayo) $190+67 Aero Continento 877-359-7378 2 $182 Leave May 25 07:45-08:45 (17:16-18:15) – Return May 29 09:00-10:00(18:45-19:45) Early morning flights are more likely to be on time Cusco No PM flights due to winds – sometimes they leave earlier than scheduled to beat bad weather www.traficoperu.com Check for new flights 20 May Lan Peru - LP 35 J Chavez Int'l (LIM), Lima 11:10AM - Velazco Astete (CUZ), Cusco 12:25 PM. Non-stop 320 1h15min 134.00 + 24.12 = 158.12 Wilderness Travel 510-558-2488 Sends small groups; call for info. Will mail catalogue. See PDF catalogues at http://www.wildernesstravel.com International Expeditions 205-428-1700 Offers the best tours in the Amazon. 888-228-1232. Carolyn mailed me a nice catalog. May 25th: Hotel in Lima May 26: To Aquitos for one week. $3,185.00 (Flight from Miami to Lima: $313 - optional) InkaNatura 215-923-3641 Asked to call Peru for tour info. In Peru: 84-243-408 Postmaster@Inkanatura.com.pe Peru Tourist Center 212-398-6555 AMAZON WWW.IETRAVEL.COM Exploration 800-446-9660 http://www.ticotravel.com/peru/tours/best.htm Wildland Adventures 206-365-0686 Tour operators Lima Lima Tours 424-7560 firstname.lastname@example.org Fertur Peru 427-1958 Use for countrywide info and good prices on national/int’l flights. Ask for Siduith Ferrer Herrera. Infotour 431-0117 Cusco United Mice 221139 calle pelateros Peruvian Andean Treks 225701 Avenida Padro 705, Cusco email@example.com Contact for brochure Hotels Lima Room rates Posada del parque 433-2412 Monden@telematic.com.pe parque Hernan Velarde 60 Monica and Leo.~$30 breakfast Hostal El Patio 444-2107 firstname.lastname@example.org Diez Canseco 341a $38 San Antonio 447-6766 email@example.com Ramon Ribeyro 301 $50 $40. Pickup $9 Aleman 445-6999 firstname.lastname@example.org Arequipa 4704 $60 Cusco Marquesas, Amaru, San Blas Amaru hostal email@example.com Casa de campo firstname.lastname@example.org Hostal El Arqueologo 23-2569 email@example.com Cusco, Ladrillos 425 $30 Sites to visit Trujillo(truhiho) Good base for seeing Chan Chan (the huge adobe capital of Chimu) and Moche pyramids Ausangate and Machu Picchu are main hiking center in Cusco. Huaraz Spectacular Cordillera Blanca Bus in and fly out of the Manu National Park ACEER (Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research 88-255-8206) Canopy walkway near Iquitos – 1 week Cusco Flight From Lima to Cusco - Sit on the left side for views of Salcantay’s 6271m peak. Buy Boleto Turitico $10; access to 16 sites. Buy at travel agents. Check the dates of validity. Plaza de Armas with Avendia Sol being the main business street. Take the pedestrian plaza between Plaza del Tricentenario and Huaynapeta for great views. Take a bus to Pisac (at calle Huascar 128. $.20) and ask to be dropped off at Tamo Machay (stunning Imperial Baths) and take a 2-hour walk back to city with stops at: Puca Pucara fortified hunting lodge Salumpuncu Moon temple Sacsayhuamau Fortress above Cusco Take a 1-2 day trip to Urumba Valley. Train ticket to M.P. Huauchaq Station reservations: 238722. 6am Mon-Sat. 90 min. to Allantaytambo + 90 min to M.P. The Camino Sagrado de los Incas - A truncated Inca trail, starts at KM104 of the Pan American Highway, 8KM from M.P. Gastronomy Water Do not drink, including ice. Boiled OK but remember in high altitudes water boils in lower temperature. Salads worst culprits for causing illness and un-peeled fruits Typical dishes are: Kapchi, brad bean or mushroom stew, or soup with potatoes, milk, eggs and cheese; Adobo de Chancho, pork stewed with chicha de Jora (corn beer) and condiments; Also Puchero (vegetable soup) and pepian de conejo (rabbit stew). Dictionary Lavanderias Laundry Almuerzo lunch, main meal of the day Chifas Chinese restaurants - offer a good value. Tallarines: noodles El menu inexpensive set menu La carta menu Spicy foods la criolla Mate de coca coca tea – good for acclimatization Café con leche coffee with milk Cuzquena Peru’s best beer Picanterias restaurant0 Arroz rice Pan bread Huevos eggs Queso cheese Cuy guinea pig Chicharrones deep-fried pork skin Carne de res beef Aji Chili Frijoels beans Hangos mushrooms Yuca yam Helado ice cream Creveza beer Baja down – when getting off the bus Esquina corner – to stop at the next corner _________________________________________________________________________________________ DAY 2 / URUBAMBA VALLEY Visit the colorful Indian market in Pisac to see a blend of color, tradition and people. At a distance of 30 km. (19 miles) from Cusco, and an altitude of 2,970 meters (9,700 ft.), Pisac is located right at the entrance to the Sacred Valley. After lunch, continue to Ollantaytambo, the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the Americas, its narrow streets, complete with canals unchanged Dear Ray: Here we send you this tentative itinerary because we don't know how long you would like to spend in our country. If you like this we will send you the quotation, also you can make the necessary changes if you want. TENTATIVE ITINERARY 01-Arrival Hotel in Lima 02-Lima/Arequipa by plane Hotel in Arequipa 03-Arequipa/Colca Canyon Hotel in Chivay town 04-Colca Canyon/Arequipa Hotel in Arequipa 05-A.M.: City Tour +Visit to Sta Catalina Monastery. P.M: Flight Arequipa/Juliaca. Hotel in Puno 06-Full day tour to Uros+Sillustani. Hotel in Puno 07-Full day tour to Taquile. Hotel in Puno. 08-Puno/Cusco by bus or train. Hotel in Cusco. 09-Cusco:P.M.:City Tour +Visit to the 4 nearby ruins:Qenqo, Puca Pucara, Tambomachay and Sacsayhuaman. Hotel in Cusco. 10-Full day tour to the Sacred Valley: You will visit Urubamba, Chincheros, Ollantaytambo, Pisac and its Indian Market. (This tour is offered only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Hotel in Cusco. 11-Cusco/Machu Picchu by Vistadome or Inka Train (the best classes). Hotel in Aguas Calientes. 12-Machu Picchu/Cusco Hotel in Cusco. 13-Cusco/Lima by plane. Hotel in Lima. 14-A.M.: City Tour +Visit to the Gold Museum. Transfer to the airport to take your International Flight. If you want to make a extension to the Jungle of Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado only let us know. Please, check all the information and let us know what kind of accommodations would you like to make the quotation. Best Regards, Patricia ERTUR PERU. ________________________________________________________________________________________ http://www.silvanatours.com.pe/documents/pdf/Eng/Cusco-ing.pdf M.P. PDF Site - Sites & Pictures INFORMATION Dirección Regional de Turismo La Cultura Ave. 734, 3rd floor, Cusco. Phone number: (084) 263176 - Fax (084) 223761 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Tourist Information Bureau Portal Mantas St. 188, Cusco Servicio de Protección al Turista (Tourist Protection Service) PromPeru/Indecopi Portal Carrizos St. 250, Main Square, Cusco. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Hotline: Lima (01) 224-7888 24 hours Toll Free (from Peruvian provinces): 0800-4-2579 E-mail: email@example.com WEBSITES http://perutravelnet.com/atractivos.asp http://www.raingod.com/angus/Gallery/Photos/SouthAmerica/Peru/IncaTrail/index.html http://18.104.22.168/viaje2/ciud9.htm http://22.214.171.124/viaje2/ciud18.htm http://www.magicperu.com/places.htm Various towns/areas http://www.travelfile.com/go/PERU.html http://www.cbc.org.pe/CMUNDO.HTM http://geog.gmu.edu/gess/classes/students/studgeog411/miked/library.html http://www.machupicchuperu.com Friday, May 17, 2002 We boarded our Continental Flight at 4:00PM and landed in Lima at 10:00PM local time (7 hours flight time). Naster, our guide was waiting for us. We boarded the minivan and drove to Manhattan Hotel near the airport ($50>40), where we picked up our domestic flight tickets.
Sat., May 18
We woke up at 6:30AM and after breakfast were driven to the airport for our 8:30AM flight to Iquitos aboard Tran Peru. After check-in we walked to the gates but we were told we had to go to the bank to pay $4 airport tax. I had to rush to the bank and by the time I got back to the gate it was 8:20 and we had to run to catch our flight.
When the plane landed we got off and walked to the building as Cindy was filming the scenery; meanwhile a guard approached us to hurry up. When we got to the building we were accidentally told that we were not in Iquitos. The stop was not mentioned in our tickets therefore we assumed we had landed in Iquitos; we had to rush back to the plane for the remaining 50 minutes flight.
Apparently Fernando, the person who had booked our tour had changed the itinerary.
At Iquitos airport I called El Dorado Hotel to make a reservation but they hang up on me. Meanwhile Cindy found the Tourist Desk where we able to book a room at that hotel for $40(<60) including transportation. After check in we took a tuk tuk to Pascana, the seafood restaurant recommended in LP. It overlooked a slum of shacks built on a tributary of Amazon. The kitchen was dirty but the ceviche was edible. We happened to see a couple whom we me again on our Amazon cruise. After lunch we walked to Belene Market. By this time it was raining and the smell of the rotten food in the market was unpleasant. We took a tuk-tuk to Plaza des Armas and had a drink. Sunday, May 19 We were picked up at 11:00am and driven to the dock. We sailed shortly after aboard Amazon, a rather old boat that soon we found out had a broken engine. It was supposed to be pushed by another boat until the broken part was purchased from Miami and flown in. After a simple lunch we went for a sunset nature sail in the evening. Monday, May 20 We woke at 6:30am and sailed to a tributary for bird watching. We then sailed to a native Indian village where they put a dance show for us and then they started the trade (sale) of their merchandise. T-shirts were hot commodity. The chief offered the largest blow dart for my T-shirt but since my denim jacket was soaked in the rain I had to forgo his offer. We visited the gallery Francisco, a semi-famous painter with close ties to Paul White, the owner of Amazon Tours. A few people from our group purchased $1000 painting. After lunch and a rest we headed for jungle walk; the ground was too wet and after Cindy got a few bytes from the ants we decided to return. At the edge of the jungle we saw a chained monkey who had gone crazy and was jerking off and rolling over on the ground. Tuesday, May 21. We went for a nature sail at 6:30am and saw mostly birds and monkeys. In the afternoon we docked at Caba Concha village and sailed to Caba Concha (horselake) lake where we fished for Pirhana for a couple of hours; they would byte frequent but only few of us was able to catch one. When we returned to the village, Cindy started to film the kids to their great amusement. The residents of the village seemed to be very happy and were enjoying the evening dip in the lake. Wednesday, May 22 We had anchored at Santa Rosa when we woke up in the morning. We then rode to Leticia in Colombia where we took a tour from Anaconda hotel to the zoo where I had a painful bite by a fleece? We then drove to the border of Brazil, the city of Tabatinga. There was along line of Peruvians waiting in the line for free immunization by the Brazilians. We then visited a dirty meat/produce market; overall the standards of living seemed to be higher in Brazil than in Peru or Colombia. In the evening a group of Germans boarded our boat. Thursday, May 23. We set for a jungle walk at 9:00am on the high lands for a couple of hours. The jungle was lush, mostly dry enough to walk and the scenery was very Amazonian. Segundo, our guide, did a great job explaining the trees and bushery. Towards the end of the trip we had two people with cuts from their falls and one person who fainted. Friday, May 24. We set to visit the natives’ village of Iagus; there was a welcome dance and the usual trading. After lunch a group of passengers went to Francisco party. I went for a nature ride in the afternoon – Cindy stayed back due to fear of mosquitoes. Alfredo spotted a boa on a tree and Segundo was able to use a pose to capture him. We also spotted an owl that escaped when Alfredo tried to capture him. After dinner Alfredo said that the boat was moving too slowly upstream and we were to use two speedboats in the morning to make it to our 9:00am flight from Iquitos to Lima. Sat, May 26. We woke up at 4:30am. At 5:30am the fist speed boat loaded the luggage, Eric and Isar Shy, and the Germans. Cindy and I were the last two people on the line and ended up on the front row seats of the second boat. After ten minutes the second boat had engine problem; we tried to tow them for a short while but the captain of our boat gave up and left them to be picked up by the boats from Rio Amazon. A heavy was pouring throughout the two-hour trip but we made it to Iquitos on time at 8:00am, took the van to the airport and flew to Lima at 9:00am. At Lima’s airport we took a cab (S40>15) to town. The driver took us to the wrong hotel and we had to get another taxi to our beautiful hostal San Antonio ($49>40). When we left the hotel the driver was still waiting for us. We drove to Plaza des Armas, visited La Cathedral and took a tour of San Francisco church. We then took a carriage ride, had a break at Vehjo Passage, and took a taxi to the beach in Mira Flores to see the sunset.
Sunday, May 26 - Cusco.
We woke up the driver who was sleeping in his car while waiting for us; took a ride to the airport for our 6:30am flight to Cusco. At Cusco’s airport a driver offered us S5 for ride to town. The second driver asked for a $1.00. We took his cab; he gave us some useful information about the town and finally introduced himself as Jose Cuba (226176 C: 651576 firstname.lastname@example.org ) and showed his name as a recommended guide in LP to us. He said he would give us a tour of Pisac Market for $40. After check in our hostal, Corihuasi ($40>30) I called him, he drove us to:
Sacsayhuman A huge impressive rock ruins; the massive rocks were accurately fitted atop each other.
Tombo Machoy A beautifully wrought ceremonial stone bath.
Puca Pucara A stone fortress
Jose then stopped for lunch at a local market where we had a very original native food of potatoes and ox tail in a small tent. We then drove to Pisaq Ruins along a lovely road and visited Pisaq Market where Cindy and I did some shopping and had a few servings of orange juice at the lively market. We returned to Cusco at 5:30pm.
Our room was extremely cold and I was shivering under four layers of blankets until we ordered a heater. Cindy was getting sick too.
Monday, May 27.
We both woke up sick in the morning with pounding headaches, the symptom of high altitude sickness. We took a short walk around the Plaza des Armas and visited La Campania Church before going back to our room in the afternoon.
Tuesday, May 28.
We took a taxi to Sacsayhuman and rested under the beautiful sunshine on the splendid grounds facing the majestic rock structure. We the hitchhiked to town.
In the evening as we were looking for a place to dine we were approached by Arturo Baez (email@example.com) who asked us to try the restaurant he was working for. The Alpaca dinner I had was decent.
After dinner we went for a walk around the plaza. We saw a stray dog who would run from one garbage can to another, put his head into them and bend them to pull out the food scraps; we followed him for a while amused by his behavior. Cindy ran to a deli, picked up a sandwich fed him after we found him in the Plaza. We then spent some time surfing at in Internet café.
Wednesday, May 29.
Visited the following sites:
- Muse de Historia Natural
- La Merced, consisting of a church, a charming yard and a museum with a solid gold monstrance covered with over 1500 diamonds.
- San Francisco: The museum was closed but the keeper approached us and gave us a detail private tour in Spanish. There was a large collection of painting including the largest in South America (9*12m), and a room with a great echo.
- San Perdro and Santa Barbara Churches
- Muse Inka, a large collection of Inka Artifact in a beautiful house
- Viewed the Christie Corpus Parade for a while. It was going on for the whole day.
In the evening we went for the 7:00pm mass at San Francisco but there were only a dozen of worshippers.
Thursday, May 30.
Jose Cuba picked us up at 8:00am. We drove to the following sites:
- Chinchero: A charming village about 20 km from Cusco with a beautiful church. The natives were getting ready for the parade.
- Moray: The impressive experimental terraces that look like an amphitheater about 100m below ground level. The Inkas experimented the optimal climate for the crops here. It was a dusty hard-to-reach drive from Maras.
- Salinas: The fascinating 3000 Salt Pans filled by a mineral spring; the water is vaporized to generate the salt.
- Urumba: A small town along the Sacred River Urumba. We lunched at a pleasant garden restaurant.
The ancient town with the massive fortress built in the form of terraces Jose took us to a hostal owned by his friend where we took a rest before visiting the fortress.
During a break in a restaurant we had a big argument.
Cindy talked about a few items (Nescafe, shearling, Cognac and $USD) that were prized to take to Korea.
I asked “Was it easy to bring it in?”
She answered “To bring in what?”.
I felt that she was not listening to me.
The day before we had the following conversation:
Cindy: They found the body of Shandra Levy in a park. There were a few other murders in the park
I: In the same park?
Cindy: In the same park.
I left Cindy in the restaurant, walked in total darkness to the train station and purchased tickets to Macch Picchu after waiting for about 15 minutes. Since there was no time left to 7:30 departure time I took a taxi back to restaurant to picked up Cindy, drove back to hostel and picked up our luggage and then drove to train station.
The train ride was slow; it was as if we had gone back in time. Jose had arranged for us to be picked up by someone from hotel Ima Sumac but since there was no one there we walked to the hotel.
Friday, May 30.
I woke up at 5:00am and after shower and breakfast walked to the bus stop and purchased a round-trip ticket ($9) for the first bus departing at 6:30am. By 6:20 the bus was full and we departed for Machu Picchu (Old Mountain). As soon as we started the road became heavily misty. When we arrived at the site the mist was so heavy that we could not see much for an hour until the sun came up.
The site was an impressive massive rock structure. It was built by carving a huge hill and building the stone walls and rooms around it while leaving the huge boulders on the hill alone. The rocks were transferred via the river from long distances and then heisted the to site. The site was a wonder by the sheer amount of the earth that had to be removed and the amount of the rocks that had to be bought up on the hill and carved. The site has 300,000 visitors a year. There was another very impressive hill across the river.
Pat & Alpert PO Box 72516 Las Vegas, NV 89170 702 795 2674
Nitza & Izhar Shy 15505 Grove Oak Dr. Santa Ana, CA 92705 714 544 1314
02/10/06 Bermuda Cruise: Hamilton, Horse Shoe Bay
Sunday October 6 – Sunday Oct. 13
$499. Left Sunday 4:00pm. Arrived Tuesday noon. ~700 miles. Hourly speed: 16 knots.
Took a taxi to Horse Shoe Bay, a beautiful, clean, private beach. He weather was very nice.
One day we rented a scooter ($68) and rode to the beach and Hamilton.
Met Ray & Peggy of NYC, and Brian and Melissa of Long Island at Dinner table.
02/10/18 Hiking: Huntington State Park
Saturday Oct. 18
We woke up at 7:00 am and met Charlie Cook at 8:00am at the museum of Natural History for the 1.5 hours rise to the park. The park was magnificent with beautiful Fall Foliage.
- Turn right on 72 St, follow to West Side Highway
- N. to Saw Mill pkwy
- N. to Cross Country Pkwy
- E. to Huchinson Pkwy
- N. to Merrit Pkwy to Exit 44
- N. on Rt. 58 for about 10.2 miles to Sunset Hill Rd.
- Right on Sunset Hill Rd, follow about .7 mile to parking area
Also Path stated in New York Times – October 8, 2004
Harriman State Park, about 30 miles north of NYC.
Trail: The Long Path: It extends from GWB to Windham, in the Catskills. Pick up a map at the visitors center (between Exists 17 & 18 on the Palisades Parkway; $4) and make sure to include Turkey Hill on the itinerary. Starting from the hikers’ parking lot off Route 6 about a mile from Exit 18, the moderately steep half-mile section of the path ascends Turkey Hill to a panoramic view of a valley and vibrant fall foliage.
02/12/12 France: Paris, Dijon, Lyon, Geneva, Avignon, Orange, Marseilles, Nice, Bordeaux, Nantes,
Depart: JFK - TERMINAL 8 ' Thu, Dec 12 at 6:15pm American Airlines flight 44 (Non-Stop) Arrive: Paris de Gaulle, France (CDG) - AEROGARE 2 TERMINAL A ' Fri, Dec 13 at 7:20am Seats: 34F, 34G
Depart: Paris de Gaulle, France (CDG) - AEROGARE 2 TERMINAL A ' Tue, Jan 07 at 5:55pm American Airlines flight 121 (Non-Stop)
Arrive: JFK - TERMINAL 8 ' Tue, Jan 07 at 8:25pm
Tourist Office: 444 Madison Ave. @50 16th Fl. 838-7800 firstname.lastname@example.org
Pass Visite Zones 1-3 1-5 1-8
1day 55 110 155
2 90 175 225
3 120 245 280
www.sncf.com Tickets to be mailed free time-table horaires
http://www.raileurope.com/us/ 877 456 7245 Reservations: 0 836 35 35 39 Discovery: for 2 w/ Sat. night stay
From-To 1 / 2 w 1st 1 Discovery peek/off Time Distance
Paris-Lyon 1 $101 $74 2000-2200 320m
p90 p68 p Thu 12/28 Thu
p71 p54 o Sat 12/30 Thu
p71 p54 o Sat 12/30 Sat
Paris-Cannes 1 p127 p95 1620-2159
France Saverpass: 2 adults, 4 days unlimited in 1 mo.
1 Additional day (6 max) $25 $25
Total: 442+ 15 (shipping) = $457 Cfm. #: 7357129 85% Refund if not validated
Period: 12/13/02 – 1/7/03 392+17=409
To Begin Travel on Your Pass
To validate your pass, present your passport and your pass to a railway official at the ticket window in the train station (not the conductor) who will enter the first and last date of your travel period. This must be done before boarding a train, bus, boat, plane or renting a car for the first time.
As You Travel On Your Pass
Before boarding the first train or ferry of each day, write the date in ink, in the appropriate box on your pass. At the time you rent a car, present your pass and 1 car voucher for each rental day.
Seat Reservations and Overnight Travel
A pass allows the boarding of a train, bus, plane, or boat, but does not guarantee a seat. Seat reservations are optional for most trains but are mandatory for all TGV, Thalys, Cisalpino, AVE, ES* (Eurostar Italia) and X2000 trains and selected EuroCity and InterCity trains and for all sleepers and couchettes. Reservations are subject to availability so reserve in advance. Reservations for all seats, sleepers, couchettes and trains noted above are subject to an additional fee for pass and ticket holders. Seat reservations, sleepers and couchettes can normally be purchased from Rail Europe at the same time that you buy your pass. Use the special notes box on the Order Form to specify reservations when you book your pass. Travel on certain high-speed trains (such as the X2000 in Sweden, ES* (Eurostar Italia) in Italy, AVE in Spain, Thalys and Eurostar) require a supplement.
Q: Can I get off the train for a few hours, and then get back on later that day if I'm holding a point-to-point ticket?
A: Yes, you may get on and off at as many stops as you wish, as long as you continue proceeding toward your final destination.
Q: If I take an overnight train, do I have to use 2 days on my pass?
A: If you board a direct overnight train that departs after 7:00 p.m., then you use only 1 day on your pass.
If your overnight train requires a train change before midnight, then you will use 2 travel days.
EuroPass $348 5-days $728 – 15-days 20% discount for 2 adults.
120,000 km of sentiers balises (marked walking paths)
Hotel: Formule 1, budget hotels in the outskirts of towns. 150F
Bike: VTT 60-100F day. Also some municipals rent inexpensive bikes
SNCF Runs bike rental service (Train + velo)
La Carte Musees et Monuments
Valid for 70 venues in Paris; 1/3/5 days: 80/160/240F
Paris Mosque Mint tea
Pantheon View from the roof (Cemetery of Hugo, Voltaire)
Restaurant: Auberge Nicolas Flamel at 51, rue Montmorency.
The oldest house in Paris owned by Nicolas Flamel (Harry Potter), died in 1418, the alchemist; book binder.
Vienne Echo of Roman glory
Arles 2000-yr old amphitheater
Vieux Near Avignon. Splendid church of St. Trophime
De l’eau some water
Une carafe d’eau a jug of water
Tel Aviv car service picked us up at 3:50p; with some traffic we arrived at JFK at 5:00p. We could not use the electronic machines for our International flight and therefore had to get our seat assignments at the check in desk. The security was tight and we had to wait for about 30 minutes in line before finally boarding our plane at 6:05p for our 6:15p flight to Paris.
Friday 12/13 Paris
We arrived at Paris Du Gaul at 8:00a; it was still dark and drizzling. We bought 2-day unlimited tickets (zones 1-5, 16.8€), took the B train to Bastille and checked in at Pax Hotel (62€). We went to be for a nap and woke up at 4:00p. we took the metro to St-German des-Pres, walked to St-Michel, Sorbonne – where the guard let us in the building), Pantheon (Odeon, the doomed landmark tomb of a few French writers), walked around the charming old streets and went back to Sorbonne and dined at a restaurant. We then took the metro to Montmarte and walked around the sex shops and Mollen Rouge; we missed to visit Sacre Coeur. We then took the metro to Ave. des Champs-Elysee. The trees were illuminated on the beautiful boulevard. We visited the Virgin Records. When we went back to the hotel the Chinese attendant could not register us for one extra night at the hotel.
We woke up at 11:00am. When I asked to extend our stay another night, I was told that they had no vacancy. We had to go back to our room, pack and leave our luggage at the front desk. We took the C Metro to Versailles where we took an audio-guide (9.50€ after 3:30p). We took a walk in the beautiful garden. We then walked back top the metro station where we bought some pastry and cheese and took the SNCF train back to Paris and got off at Eiffel Tower. It was beautifully illuminated. At this time it was drizzling. We walked across the bridge to the beautiful Fountains of Place du Trocadero. We were able to book a new room at Hotel Herse D’or in Marais near Bastille (45€). We then walked to Pax Hotel, picked up our luggage, dined at a Moroccan restaurant (La Kbylie) at Bastille and checked in our hotel.
We stooped at the bakery near our hotel and picked up some bread and had coffee there.
We walked to Palais Gernier (L’opera de Paris), the splendid Rue de la Paix, Place Vendome (where JP Morgan had a beautiful building) the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries, walked along the Seine and crossed the Pont (bridge) Neuf to Plais de Justice, St. Chapelle, the Bird and Flower Markets and Notre Dame where the mass was in progress. We had lunch at the nearby restaurant, La Rosace and then walked to Louvre where we ended up taking a nap. We made a failed stop for Mint tea at the Moroccan restaurant before retiring for the day.
We woke up at 12:20a with a knock on our door by the cleaning person. I had stayed up overnight for a few hours. After a breakfast from our neighboring boulangerie we took the metro to Place du Trocadero where we saw the girl taking picture with a crab as a pet; walked through Eiffel Tower to Champ du Mars’ shrubbery, Ecloe Militaire to Unesco. We visited Les Invalides, the beautiful tomb of Napoleon. In the Photo gallery of the WWII Jews, I opened a door and saw the boardroom in session. We saw a person carrying a box of champagne into the room. We walked through another huge square of shrubbery to Pont Alexander to Champ Elysee and continued onto Ave. de. Morigny to beautiful rue Faubourg St. Honore, comparable to Madison Ave., with Elysee Palace located at the beginning of the street. We visited Palace de Madeleine on rue Royale, created by Napoleon as a temple of victory. We then walked to Palace L’opera and took the metro to Port D’ivry (Chinatown). Due to an accident we had to get off 2 stops before our destination and take the bus. We could not find the restaurant that was recommended by Lonely Planet and found another decent restaurant, Chinatown. When we went back to our hotel I tried to call TGV train but the voice message said that their hours were 07:00-22:00. We asked for a wake up call at 7:00a.
Tue. 12/17 Dijon, Lyon
I woke up at 6:30a and took the metro to Gare de Lyon. We inquired about Dijon and Lyon departures. The TGV to Dijon was scheduled at 8:45a. We made a reservation (3€ on our Eurorail; we had purchased our tickets back in U.S. for $196 for 4 segments + 1 additional segment for $25 + $15 shipping) with a continuation to Lyon at 8:44p. We sat in the 2nd class and when we found out about it we moved to 1st class. The train was very fast and we arrived at Dijon at 10:21a, left our luggage at Left Luggage (2 for 5€) and walked to Cathedral St. Benigne, a 12th century structure. On the way out we entered the University Student Union Building where Cindy smelled food, found the kitchen and we found out we could lunch there. They told us the ticket booth would open at 11:45a. We then walked to Old Town, walked back to the Student Union, bought lunch tickets (3€), waited in the line, picked up our lunch and ate at the cafeteria. I tried a squat style bathroom. Cindy tried the ladies room but the door was locked. I told her she should use the men’s room I walked her there. As I was leaving I noticed a hole on the door. When Cindy came back she told me that a man had exposed himself from the hole on the door. We then walked back to Old Town and to Rue Liberte and Rameau. We visited the beautiful Plais des Ducs et des Etats de Bourgone where there was an exhibition of German Water Project in German. I stepped into another huge room where the construction workers were renovation it; I noticed the beautiful marble-like walls and when I paid more attention I noticed that it was paint on plaster walls.
We walked around the old street and the main shopping area and visited Notre Dame Cathedral where there was a baptism in progress and we ended up signing the register book. We stopped at a beautiful coffee shop and I wanted to try the Caspian tea on the menu but all the people around us were smoking, we had to leave. We stopped at a shop and Cindy bought some mustard. By 3:45p we had toured most of the town therefore we walked back to the train station and took the 4:45 train (SNCF, non-TGV) to Lyon and took an empty cabin in the 1st class car.
We arrived at Gare de Perrache in Lyon at 7:00p. After calling a few full hotels for reservation unsuccessfully, we were able to get one at Hotel de Vichy, the name mentioned in Lonely Plant. We had to ask about half a dozen people how to get out of the train station and the connected metro. We finally found the hotel not too far from the station. We found out the name of the hotel was changed to Le Lys Bleu (at 60 bis, rue de la Charite – 04 7837 4258). We paid 34E for one night stay and then went out for a walk along river Rhon in the light drizzle. The streets were mostly quiet and by 8:00p most stores were closed. The fair in the nearby park was over also. Nevertheless the city looked lively. We settled for Munzur restaurant for a Turkish dinner. We had a chat in mix French, English, Turkish and Arabic with the owner, a Kurd refugee. He played tar for us until a new customer interrupted him. He said he had a good life in Lyon and added that Bush was a bad man.
We walked on famous pedestrian rue Victor Hugo to Place Bellecour, one the largest public squares in Europe. People were skating on one corner. We stopped at Regent brasserie for a drink, For dined at Le Nord, a restaurant that was recommended to use by a cooking school where we had not been able to make a reservation. The food was OK. I had oysters, goat cheese salad (not very strong like that in U.S.), salad, cod fish and fromage blanc (yogurt). When we asked for pepper, it was placed on the table, the wine was poured only once, my salad arrived wrongly and had to be returned and we go the wrong check and it had to be returned also. The service was un-rushed and casual (87€).
We bought bread from the boulangerie, cheese and butter from Fromagerie, had coffee at a charming coffee shop and picked up some fruits and juice from the supper market under our hotel and ate at our hotel.
We then walked to SNCF office at Bellacour and booked a ticket to Geneva (28€) for the following day. We walked to Bonaparte Bridge on Saone River to Vieux Lyon (old Lyon). We walked on the narrow cobblestone streets. St. George, St. Jean and St. Paul cathedrals were all closed. We visited a few of the Trabooules (secret passages) linking two streets. We then took the uphill street to Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere (hill of prayer); the view of the white structure was beautiful, so was the beautiful promenade surrounding it. On the way out we saw a well-dressed man who was urination on the back of the basilica. After walking down a long set of stairs to town level we visited St. Jean. We walked back to Presequile in Lyon and visited the beautiful Place de Terreaux with its magnificent fountain of chariots with a woman and four horses built by Frederic_Auguste, also responsible by New York’s Statue of Liberty. We entered the beautiful Hotel de Ville on the square. When we tried to enter the backyard the guard stopped us; we tried to peek through a jar door and the same guard opened it and let us to take a look inside. It was a huge lobby with a magnificent 3-storey round staircase with gilded walls. We then walked to Roman Amphitheater remains. When we arrived in our hotel we asked for a 6:00am wakeup call but the lady at the front desk said that her alarm radio was broken. We went out to look for an alarm clock to no avail.
Fri. 12/20 Geneva
After waking up a few times throughout the night I went to sleep at 4:00a and woke up at 5:40a by a wake up call from the front desk. We took the tramway to Port-Dieu and barely made it to our 7:39a train to Geneva. The scenery was varied with some shabby farmhouses and frosty fields. We saw one of the most beautiful sunrises where the whole horizon was fiery red like a melting rod. We arrived in Geneva at 9:34a. We stopped at the post office for some maps. We tried to change some money but the line at the post office was too long. We walked along rue Monte-Blanc to Pont (bridge) Monte-Blanc. The Rohn River was one of the most beautiful river I had ever seen; it was clear with a fast current and the snow-white swans and the geese were swimming on the banks of it. When we passed the river we came across a skating ring where mostly kids were skating. The streets were packed with people. We walked to the old town where the streets and buildings were most charming. Most of the stores were antiques shops. We stopped at a nice restaurant where I had a very good smoke salmon salad and Cindy bought some very delicious chocolates.
We stopped at a music shop where I was able to open a CD, sit on a couch and listen to the CD. We stopped at a few bank to get information on opening an account. Finally we were able to meet someone at Credit Swiss; the minimum balance was $350k with 1% interest and 1% in commissions. We took a bus to the beautiful Jardin Botanique where we sat down for a while to enjoy the scenery before taking the bus back to city. We stopped at watch shop where Cindy wanted to buy a pocket watch (Aerowatch – Nuntucket) for 380E but when Cindy offered 350E he rejected it.
We walked back to river and had a drink and took the 8:00p train to Lyon. We moved to a beautiful room with a fireplace.
Sat. 12/21 Avignon
We woke up rather late. After check out we walked to Munzur restaurant for lunch and then walked to Gare Perrache where we tried to look for the bus station but nobody knew where it was, even at the information desk with a sign reading “Metro, train, bus”. We decided to the metro to Gare Port-dieu. The ticket line was very long with Holiday Season travelers. I tried to get guide to help us to show us how to use the automated machines but it was getting too close to 2:19p departure time. I decided just to run to the platform and use our Eurotail ticket by the time we got to the platform the train was pulling out. When we went back down stairs and tried to use the machine we noticed that our credit card was missing a chip required by the machine. We had to wait in the line again to buy our 17:31-19:59 ticket to Avignon (24.60€). The train was about 10 minutes late and crowded. We sat down in a car with 4 other passengers. At the start of the trip a young girl received a phone call and kept taking until another Fabriz, another fellow passenger asked her to stop. She stopped quickly and then apologized. After arriving at Avignon and leaving we left the train we came across the beautifully illuminated rue de la Republique. We took the 5-minute walk to our hotel Innova (36€) that Cindy had reserved earlier in Lyon. The proprietor had given the code to front door to Cindy and had left the key in our room. We went out for a walk. The city looked splendid with most charming streets and buildings. When we arrived at the end of rue de la Republique we saw the most beautiful square at the Place du Palais with Palais des Papes on the right of it. The square was beautifully illuminated. We dined at Le Vietnam before going back to our room.
Cindy was not feeling well due to the antibiotics she was taking for her tooth. We asked the kind professor-looking proprietor for help. He looked up the yellow pages to find out the on-call doctors on Sundays and then made a phone call for a home visit. I went out to get some breakfast and stumbled on the Sunday Market by the Gare SNCF where I bought some fruits. I went back to our room and shortly the engineer looking doctor showed up. After examining Cindy he prescribed a doctor. His fee was 45E. The proprietor looked up the Sunday paper for an open pharmacy. We walked there and picked up Cindy’s medicine. Cindy felt better shortly after taking it.
In the afternoon we visited the beautiful Palais des Papes. This was where a series of ten popes resided over a period of 100 years beginning in 1309. The Palais was a huge complex, including two rooms each larger than 50*15m.
We dined at Song Long Vietnam restaurant.
Mon. 12/23 Orange
We went to the bus station next to Gare SNCF and took the 14:15-15:05 bus to Orange (4.80€). We visited the beautiful Theatre Antique, the only Roman theatre in Europe with a fully standing wall; the other two are in Turkey and Syria. We then walked to Arch de Triomph and walked around the City Hall area. A band in black suits was walking around the square and playing Christmas music as a juggler was accompanying them.
They had set up a fenced area in the square and had filled it with donkeys, lambs and goats. As I started feeding the fig biscuits I had they managed to squeeze out of the cage and caused a chaos before the attendant showed up and took them back into the cage.
Tues. 12/24 Marseilles
We took the 8:00-9:50 bus to Marseilles (16€). The scenery was beautiful with the early morning fog and vineyards on both side of the two-lane road. Densely planted trees covered both sides of the road. There were only 9 passengers in the bus and every one except us got off the bus at Aix. When we arrived at Marseilles we called a few hotels and finally booked a room at Grand Hotel (32€). We took the metro to our hotel, checked in and then walked to Port Vieu. On the way we stumbled on the Arab Market; it was very lively. When then walked to the beautiful port where the fish sellers were finishing their day. We stooped at haagen Dasz for ice cream where Cindy bought me a tiny chest for Christmas.
We took the 14:00 ferry (8€) to Chateau Dif (Dante’s Monte Crisco was filmed here). The clear waters were beautiful and the view from the Chateau was magnificent. On the way back we stopped at the Arab Market after getting lost for a while and bought a lot of stuff for a big salad. I went out to buy some water and flowers for Cindy.
Wed. 12/25 Christmas Day
We walked to Arab Market where we bought pizza and pickles and had it at the side walk café. We walked to Port Vieux and continued to the beach across Fort St. Nicholas where we sat down on the rocks and enjoyed the views. We walked to Jardin de Pharo and then continued through the uphill streets to Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde. The view of the city from the top of the cathedral and specially the sunset were beautiful. The Christmas Mass was in session. We descended the hill to Vieux Port, stopped at the Arab Market to pick up some bread, chicken, vegetables, pickles and wine and went to our room for a Christmas dinner feast.
Thurs. 12/26 Nice
We made a salad for breakfast. Cindy went to do laundry and I went to SNCF office to book seats to Nice. The office was moved to 9 Montegrand. There were 6 people waiting and only one staff (of the three desks). I got the info I needed and went back to our hotel, found out were the laundry was and went to meet Cindy. We went back to SNCF office one more time to reserve our seats to Nice and Bordeaux. On the way to Viuex Port we stopped at Arab Market again. We walked to St. Jean along the beautiful port. We then stopped at our hotel, picked up our luggage and took the 19:50-22:26 train to Nice Ville. Our hotel, Les Orange (36€) was 5 minutes walk from the station. We then walked to the beach in the light drizzle. The water was turquoise and the pebble beach was only 20” wide. We continued to Vieux Nice; it was lively at midnight. There were many restaurants and cafes with many customers. On the way back to hotel we got lost and had to wonder for a while before making it back to our hotel.
I woke up at 6:30a. we had planned to take a walk in Nice, op the train to Monte Carlo, return to Nice and take the 13:33-22:27 Train to Bordeaux but we liked the city so much that we decided to stay the day in Nice, I went back to sleep and woke up at 11:00a. We had breakfast at a nearby coffee shop and then walked to the beach; it looked beautiful. By this time it was raining. We walked to Vieux Nice, visited the Flower and Produce Markets. On the way to Parc du Chateau we stumbled on a very ornate cemetery. The chateau was an huge park with a very beautiful waterfall on the peak and a good view of the city and the beach. On the way back to hotel we got lost again.
We took the 17:00-17:17 train to Monte Carlo. When we arrived there it was raining. We visited the Price Palace located on the top of a hill. It was rather quiet and most stores were closing. There was a good panoramic view of the town. Before returning to Nice we stopped at a super market and had some very delicious yogurt. The 19:44 train was cancelled
And the 19:58 train was 10 minutes late. When it arrived it was packed with Italians and we almost could not get on.
Sat. 12/28 Bordeaux
We had a salad with the ingredients we had bought the night before from Rue d’Italy from the Arab Market. We walked to the beach and sat there for a while to enjoy the sunshine, returned to pickup our luggage and took the 13:33-22:27 train to Bordeaux. Prior to boarding the ticket agent said I did not need a reservation since the reservation on EuroRail had to be done one day in advance. We sat down in an empty car with six seats. I did not notice that the label on the car indicated that two of the seats were reserved. On the first stop an old lady with her small dog entered our car. Cindy complained that she was allergic to the dog and insisted that she would take another car. The old lady pointed out that had a reservation. I had to ask Cindy to give in. At the beginning of the ride we had a great view of the beaches of Cor d’azur. After passing Marseilles we found an empty car to sit in. At Bordeaux’s gare St. John we took bus No. 7 to Place de Tourny, buying the ticket ion the bus. When we got off at our stop most restaurants were still crowded. We checked in our room (29€) at hotel De Famille (76, Cour George Clemenceau). The hotel was an old (300-400 years old per as proprietor), elegant building and our room was rather large. We went out for a walk. The city looked beautiful with mostly conformed 3-4 story buildings, wide streets, many plazas. We both loved the city.
By the time we left our room it was 12:00p but the streets were very quiet. We stopped at tourist office for maps and info. As we were walking we stumbled into the magnificent Great Theatre, built in 1773. There was a line; the attendant let us to walk in the lobby to view the beautiful grand design. The performance was “La belle aux bois dormant” (Sleeping Beauty) by Tchaikovsky. We found out there were two performances and decided to come back at night. We had some tea at the adjacent beautiful restaurant filled with the theater customers.
We walked to the huge Esplande des Quinconces with its tall tower and huge fountain. We walked in the beautiful jardin Public. We then dined at bistro Romain at Place Gambetta. The meal was rather ordinary; I had my tiny Caprese’s mozzarella balls and paper thin smoked salmon. We went to the theatre at 7:00p, bought our tickets (14€ ea.) went back to our room to leave our backpacks and returned to the theatre. The interior was as impressive at the exterior. The 50-person plus band great as were the dancers. The theatre sat about 700 people and it was almost full.
Mon. 12/30. Bordeaux - Nantes
We walked to SNCF office to inquire about the schedule to Nantes and St. Malo. After some talk we decided to stay one more night in Bordeaux but after going back to SNCF and finding out that on Jan. 1 there was only one morning train to Nantes we decided to leave in the afternoon. By the time we had breakfast and got back to our room it was past noon but the hotel proprietor did not object to our checking out. We left our luggage at the office and continued our walking tour of the city from where we had left out the day before. By this time the drizzle had started. We visited many beautiful streets, plazas and buildings including the beautiful place de Parlimant where we sheltered in a beautiful bookstore and Cindy decided to get a haircut. By the time we got back to our hotel it was 16:00. We picked up our luggage and took the bus for our 17:09-21:12 train to Nantes.
At Nantes I bought two train tickets. Cindy asked a Chinese cab driver if he knew where our hotel (St. Patrick) was located. When she inquired about the fare the driver responded: “The fair for the train?” We took the taxi for the short ride to our hotel. After checking in, we went out to the Old Town. The area was lively with many students crowding the small restaurants. We dined at a Turkish restaurant. The architecture of the town was unique with some similarities to a Spanish/Latino town.
Tuesday 12/31 Nantes – St. Malo
We walked around the Old Town and visited the following:
- Passage Pommeray, a delightful shopping arcade opened in 1843
- Cathedral St. Pierre et St. John, the magnificent gothic building with mostly white interior, one the best we ever saw.
- Chateau de Ducs de Bretagne (Brittany), a medieval castle with a moat, high 6-feet thick walls. The interior buildings were closed and we could not get access to the rampart. The attendant said the building will reopen in 2006.
- Jardin de plantes, the beautiful park near Gare SNCF, with a lake and a large variety of ducks and trees including sequoias from U.S.
We took the 17:58-19:13 Nantes-Renne and the 19:56-20:50 Renne-St. Malo. At Renne Station there was a glass room with a dozen seats for non-smokers cordoned off from the rest of the smoking floor. A few minutes prior to our departure from Renne Cindy called a few hotels and luckily Hotel de la Mer told us they would live the key to our room on the door.
On the train the conductor found a passenger without ticket and had she leave the train at the next stop.
At St. Malo the buses were not running on the New Year’s Eve and we had to wait for a taxi for 20 minutes.
At the hotel the proprietor had left a note on the door indicating our room number. We then headed out; the streets were quite (about 10:00pm). Our hotel was in St. Servant, about 15 minutes walk from the Old Walled Town. We tried a couple of restaurants for dinner but they said they were full. At the last restaurant the chef greeted us and gave us the last available table. The dinner was the most pleasant surprise. The delicious menu consisted of the following:
The oysters were great, so was the creamy delicious foie gras and the lobster ravioli. The champagne, Nicholas Fonnttain was also very good. At midnight as I was getting up to kiss Cindy the lights were turned off and everybody got up to kiss his/her neighbors; it was rather quiet and reserved. We could see the harbor in the light. The dinner was overall memorable.
We walked to the Old Town I the rain. The walls and the houses looked impressive. We walked around the charming town with beautifully organized rock-façade 4 to 5-storey buildings. The town was full of creperies and we tried one of them but it was nothing to write home about.
We climbed the wall. It was about 20 feet tall and 20 to 25 feet wide. As time went by the number of visitors scrolling increased. We walked on a jetty, a wall built stretching into the water; it was windy. The view of the sea and the islands on the horizon was picture perfect. We then walked on the beach along the eastern wall. It was drizzling on and off for most of the day. I asked a few people for the directions to Gare SNCF but it seemed every body was from out of the town.
In the evening as we were walking the port we came across a beautiful catamaran with a spaceship like cabin. As we were praising it a guy came us to greet us. He then told us he did not speak much English and asked hid girl friend, Ann to help answering our questions. They invited us inside for a tour of the boat. It had 2 30hp engines with maximum 25 knot speed for a prize of 450K.
Later that evening as we were walking along the wall we noticed a crowd. When we approached we noticed that they were looking at the high waves hitting the 30’ tall wall and then jettisoning 20 feet into the air. It was a very amusing scene.
Thursday 1/2/3 Mont St. Michele
We woke up rather early and made it to tourist office by 9:30a to inquire about the means to get to St. Michele. Per as Lonely Planet the buses to Pontoson and then onto St. Michele did not run that often specially in the winter. Fortunately there was a 10:00-11:00 bus across the street.
The small village was filled with tourist attractions, gift shops, restaurants and even museums. The abbey, visible from a few miles afar was on the top of a hill. On top of the abbey there was one of the heaviest winds I had ever experienced. The clouds looked beautiful as did the waters below and the rainbow that appeared for a short time. We were finished visiting the site by 1:00p and decided to take the 1:00p bus back. On the way out the line for the tickets (7E) had become very long. On the way back we got off at Gare SNCF to get schedules to Dinan and Honfleur. We then walked around St. Malo and had some very delicious ker-y-pom (a crusty apple pie).
We then walked to the beach to watch the high tides hitting the wall and roll back to hit the incoming waves. We watched the beautiful sunset. After going back to our hotel we asked the lady at the adjacent bar to make a 6:15am taxi appointment for us.
Friday 1/3/03 Dinan, Honfleur
When we left the hotel at 6:15a our taxi had not shown up. I tried to look for the public phone that the night before we were told existed outside the hotel but I could not find it. Cindy saw a passing car and ran towards it screaming, thinking that it was our taxi. The car happened to be a police car; it stopped and Cindy told the story to the two male and a female cops. One of the cops loaded our luggage in the trunk and we got in. they drove us to Gare SNCF while passing a few red lights and we barely made it to our 6:44-07:03 Dol and then the 7:16-7:39 Dol-Dinan train. In Dinan we took a short walk to the old town, bought some delicious croissants from a bakery and went inside a brasserie for a cup of coffee and waited there until it got brighter. We then entered the walled old town and walked in the most charming street, rue du Jerrual and its continuation, the steep rue to petit Fort. The houses were colorful and ancient, some 400-500 years old. The timber on some of houses was bending and it looked as if the houses were imploding. We arrived at a small river and a beautiful bridge. On the way back we came across the rampart and walked on it for some time watching the city below. Near the charming place des Merciers, we came across a beautiful promenade with a small park in lower level where there were a few pretty deer. Cindy threw them a piece of bread and they ran to pick it up. Soon we ran out of bread but they kept looking up on us as if begging for more good French bread. I had to go and buy some bread from the bakery we had stopped at earlier in the day. We then came across a beautiful tearoom. The owner, a tall well-dressed guy told us that his tearoom with 200 tea warmers was the second largest after the one in Trenton, Tennessee. He was an ex-banker who was raised on Long Island. I had a meticulously prepared Darjeeling; he used a timer for brewing each tea.
We boarded our 12:43-13:10 Dinan-Dol train but it did not leave the station on time and after a short while we were told that the train was out of order. We had to wait for more than 1.5hrs until they arranged for a minibus to pick us up and drive us to Dol. We had a quick lunch and, picked up our luggage we had left at the office earlier in the morning and took our 15:00-17:29 train to Caan.
When we arrived in Caan, I bought a bus ticket to Honfleur (13.50€) and took the 50-minute ride to that town. In Honfleur, across the bus station, we checked in at the clean Etap hotel (31€), with a great space-age shower and finally a soap holder.
We took a short walk around the picturesque small port, picked up some bread, wine and cheese and went back to our room.
We left our room at 12:00; our checkout time had passed and the code to our room was expired. The cleaning lady left her lunch to open the door for me to get my watch.
We had a delicious seven-course meal at La Tortue, walked around the few streets of the town a few times, and stopped at the tourist office, the library and the bookshop.
In the elevator of our hotel the only other passenger looked at the bread I had bought and said, “No good pain”. I had already mentioned that to Cindy.
Took the 10:00-10:30 bus to Le Harve, crossing the sleek bridge and got off at Gare SNCF. The first train to Paris was at 14:30. We tool a short walk around the town that looked like a US town, sat at a Kebab house until our departure time. We arrived in Paris at 16:30, checked with information and found out we could use the last segment of our ticket to go to Brussels. We then took the metro to our old hotel. When we got off the station, the area looked almost like having gone back home. We checked into our hotel and then walked on St. Antoin to beautiful Hotel De Ville (City Hall) and George Pompido Center, where we rode the tube like escalator for a nice view of the city and visited a modern art museum. We then took the metro to Sacre Coer, used our Metro ticket for a ride up the hill on Furnicular and visited the beautiful church.
Monday 1/6/03 Brussels
We woke up early for our 07:15 TGV train to Brussels; the train was about 20 minutes late. After a 1.5-hrs ride we arrived in Brussels, took metro to City Center and visited the Palace and a few streets. It was very cold and we decided to take the 4:00pm train back to Paris. By the time we got to our hotel I was feeling rather sick. Cindy went out and came back with some sushi.
We packed and then walked to Les Halles ands along the Sain before going back to our hotel and taking the train to the airport.
03/01/12 Cross Country Skiing: High Point, Sussex County, NJ
We woke up at 6:00 am and met Charlie Cook at 7:15am at the museum of Natural History for the 1.5 hours ride to the park. It was cold and windy but sunny. We skied from 9:00a to 2:oop. It was exhilarating; we were sweating from the activity; had lunch outdoors on a tree trunk.
Phone: 973 02 1222 1489, Rt. 23, Sussex, NJ 07461 Trail Pass: $15 Rental: $16
03/01/18 Cross Country Skiing: Mountain Trails, Catskill, NY
Saturday We woke up at 6:00 am and met Charlie Cook at 7:15am at the museum of Natural History for the 2.5hrs ride to Catskill. It was very cold but sunny and no wind with lots of fresh snow. We were sweating after a short time. There were many trails with very few skiers. It was a great day of skiing.
Phone: 518 589 5361 Rt. 23A, Box 198, Tannersville, NY 12485 Trail Pass: $13 Rental: 15 email@example.com
03/09/17 Turkey: Ankara, Cappadocia, Konya, Antalya, Fethiye, Kas, Aphrodisias, Pamukkale, Ephesus/Kusadasi
Depart: Thurs. Sept 18th _ #401 JFK-FKF: 4:00p-5:35a+1 #3396 FKF-IST: 9:10a-12:55p
Return Wed. Oct. 8th _ #3461 IST –FKF 1:50p-3:55p #404 FKT-JFK 5:20p-07:30p
Pacha Tour 212 764 4080/4 Clara 226 5th Av. 3rd Fl. (26&27th) Grand Turkey Tour: $3,017 http://www.pachatours.com
http://www.fezbus.com Fez Tours – Bus, Gulet Cruise. LP/p101. From Fethiye, 3-day cruise $104
https://www.compassyachting.com https://www.blueguide.com 0252 612 5921 firstname.lastname@example.org
Fethyie – Marmaris: 4-day Sept: $175
Pacha Cruise: Antalya – Kas - Finike – Genovese - Antalya 4-days - $340
Single Best day cruise: Kas to Simena Islands
Antalya- Kas 185km
Visit the old quarter of Kaleici
Excursion boats: Roman Harbor at Kaleici; visit the Lower Dudden Falls, Gulf of Antalya Islands - $14 incl. Lunch.
9/18 1. Thu. Departure to Turkey.
9/19 2. Fri. Arrival in Istanbul
Pacha Tours guide and driver picked us up at the airport and after a short ride we checked in at the hotel. We then waked to the market, Soleimanieh Mosque, the Port, we then headed back to hotel for a nap and a simple dinner at the cafeteria where we met our two fellow travelers, Marsha & Ken from Arizona.
9/20 3. Sat. Istanbul/Ankara
Morning drive to Ankara, the capital of Turkey since 1923. Visit the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations a converted Roman bath to explore Ankara's ancient past, which dates from the Paleolithic Age.
Our bus picked us up at 8:00a for a 5-hour drive to Ankara. The scenery was nice and the roads were fine. Alp, our guide told us about the country trough out the trip. We met Feri at Ankara Civilization Museum and then we drove to Ataturk mausoleum and to our hotel. We then took a long walk in the clean well-planned streets of the city.
9/21 4. Sun. Ankara/Cappadocia
See the accommodations of the 13th century traders, as you visit the Agzikarahan Caravanserai. Continue to Cappadocia where you will explore Ortahisar in the afternoon.
We took a 6-hour drive to Cappadocia. We visited the Whirling Dervishes performance at night.
9/22 5. Mon. Goreme/Avcilar/Pasabagi/Dervent/Ozkonak/Uchisar
Entire day to enjoy the natural beauty and the cultural depth of this unique region: watch a demonstration of how the colorful kilims (carpets) that incorporate the earth tones of the region are created, explore the frescoed interiors of Goreme's cave churches, which date from the 8th century, stroll through the underground galleries of Ozkonak where the first Christians hid themselves from rivals for months at a time undetected, take a walk in Avcilar, Pasabagi and the red valley of Dervent where you will admire the chimney like volcanic formations and a brief photo stop at Uchisar.
Feri & I had joined a few other travelers for dinner/cultural dance at Sara Yaki restaurant, built in a cave.
9/23 6. Tue. Konya/Antalya Area
Morning drive to Konya, Turkey's oldest city and home to the world-renowned sect of the Whirling Dervishes. Visit the Museum and the Mausoleum of their founder -- Mevlana. Continue south to the lovely Mediterranean coast.
We took a pleasant walk along the Med after check in at the hotel.
9/24 7. Wed. Perge/Aspendos/Antalya
Explore the remains of the Greco-Roman cities of Perge and Aspendos, where you can sit in one of the best-preserved ancient theaters in the world. A coin dropped on stage can still be heard in the last row today. In the afternoon, visit the Antalya Museum, home to many of the treasures excavated in the region.
Perge was a huge town (pop. 150,000) with a large cladrium, tepidarium, and frigidarium (common to most Roman baths) and a covered path with running streams. Two of the marble stone on a corner wall were still standing with vivid green colors.
Aspendos was a theater very similar to the one we saw in Orange, France. In orange I heard the best kept Roman Theater was in Aspendos and that’s how I decided to visit Turkey.
We had a nice alfresco lunch, a backgammon game with our driver, Memet, had a Jewelry stop, and at the town museum with a large collection of statutes, including the impressive Hermes and ½ of Hercules (the other half being at the Met.).
Mid Tour Break
9/25 8. Thursday, We left our tour in the morning, took a taxi to Fethiye (300km, 3 hours, $80) and drove to Oludeniz, checked in at clean Hotel Arlik near the beach. (50m ($1=1.35m) for two rooms). We then had lunch and swam in the salty green deep waters of the Med. We then took a dulmas (minibus) to Fethiye and had a nice dinner at Megir, in the main restaurant alley of the town.
9/26 Friday. The bus we had reserved (50M for 3) the day before at the beach for the 12-island tour picked us up at 9:30am. The boat departed at 11:30. The cruise was fun with a few stops for swim at beautiful shores.
We met Captain Durmus Oztas, the owner of a new boat on one of the islands; he gave us a tour of his nice boat and told us we could charter it for a group of 10-12 people for one week for $7,000 including food and domestic drinks. There would be additional cost for imported wine. Greek islands charge $350 per island.
Address: Buzburun B.L.D. 48710, Marmaris
We able to find the fish market after landeding at the port. We bought some fish and left it at restaurant Osman and then walked to the travel agency (Sepmatik Yachting http://www.blueyachtcruise.com) for a 4-day cruise to Demre ($130 each). As we left the office we saw a big crowd entering the Antique Theater for the Annual Presidential Concert. We were allowed in. The concert began with a piece from Strauss and a couple of Italian arias by a very good tenor. We left at the intermission. We had a very good dinner at Osman, but when we got the bill ($40), it was more than what we had thought the bill would be since we had already bought the fish. Osman agreed that we pay him the next day and offered us some Turkish coffee. He sat with us and talked about his son who is back in U.S.
9/27 Sat. We took a dulmas to Fethyie and stopped at Osman to pay him. We then walked to Sempatik to make the payment for our cruise to Appo (Abdul-Rahman). We then walked to Lycian Tombs and enjoyed the hike and the views of the Med from atop the hill. We then had a very enjoyable lunch at Pasha Kebob (L.P.). later that day Feri and I went to the beach and had a drink at a local bar.
9/28 Sun. We checked out from our hotel and took a taxi to Sempatik. We bought some drinks and walked to our boat.
Our fellow passengers were 2 German brothers (Ruff & Christian) and a few four Australian couples.
Rolf.email@example.com Badenhoopfirstname.lastname@example.org Klausbadenhoop@guix.de
The cruise was fun. Due to high winds we anchored at Oludeniz. Cindy swam the ½ mile to the shore and went to Arlik hotel to get our security deposit back. At night we slept on the deck under the beautiful skies and a nice breeze.
9/29 Mon. We cruised by Sunken City at docked at beautiful Simena. Hamideh, an old lady, became our tour guide and directed us to the castle on the hilltop; the view was beautiful. On the way down we came across some Lycian Tombs (pictured in L.P.). At night we docked at Pirates Bay. We went to bed at 9:00pm; a few couple went to the village disco and the music could be heard till 3:00a.
9/30 Cruising the Med.
10/01 Wed. We watched the sunrise before a swim. After arriving at port, we took a short bus ride to bus stop where we took a minibus to for our 3-hour drive to Antalya (3m ea.). The first half part of the trip the road was very scenic with the shore to our right. Right before arriving at Antalya the bus broke out; we called Pacha Tours in Istanbul and they told us to wait at nearby Hotel Sea Surf to be picked up by our bus.
The bus picked us up in an hour and we drove to beautiful Festival Hotel near Antalya.
10/02 8. Thu. Aphrodisias/Denizli
Morning drive to Aphrodisias, a cultural center of the ancient world renowned for its school of sculpture. See an outstanding selection of statues in the local museum. After lunch, drive north to Pamukkale, the ancient healing city of Hierapolis. Soak in the soothing splendor of its cascading hot springs. "
Aphrodisias, a park-like Roman ruin was magnificent. The snow-like dried-up cascades of Pamukkale were beautiful.
10/03 9. Fri. Ephesus/Kusadasi
Proceed to Ephesus one of the best-preserved ancient cities in the world. You will truly feel you have traveled back in time as you stroll along the 2, 000-year-old marble streets to such famous sites as the theatre where St. Paul preached and the Celsius Library. In the afternoon, visit the last earthly home of the Virgin Mary.
The library of Celsius and the public open toilets were fabulous.
Stayed at nice Kusadasi/festival Hotel on the Med.
10/4 10. Sat. Pergamum/Troy/Canakkale
Drive along the Aegean coast to ancient Pergamum, the city where parchment was invented and home to the famous physician, Galen. Stroll through the remains of the Asclepion, one of the foremost medical centers of ancient times. Continue to the legendary city of Troy immortalized in Homer's Iliad. Continue to Canakkale.
Pergamum was a cute small town with some leftover Greek homes. The hill top Pergamum was splendid and was the remains of Asclepion and the 7 layers of old civilizations at Troy.
At night stayed at beautiful Kale Resort Hotel on the Med in Canakkale (0286 232 83 32, http://www.kaleresort.com)
10/05 11. Sun. Gallipoli/Istanbul
In the morning, cross the Dardanelle Strait to Gallipoli, site of the infamous World War I battle. Visit the museum, Anzac Cove and Lone Pine. Lunch at Gallipoli and drive to Istanbul, the only city that truly bridges Europe and Asia.
At night stayed at hotel Aziyade (Festival http://www.aziyadehotel.com) in an old charming local neighborhood.
10/06 12. Mon. Istanbul
In the morning you'll tour the Roman Hippodrome, Suleymaniye Mosque and the Blue Mosque. In the afternoon, continue with Topkapi Palace and shop at the Grand Bazaar.
In the afternoon, went back to Sulan Ahmet Sq. for a walk.
10/07 13. Tue. Istanbul
Watch Istanbul come to life as you enjoy a morning cruise past the Roman walls, palaces and mosques along the Asian and the European coasts of the Bosporus. After lunch visit Saint Sophia where Christian mosaics dating from 536AD and Islamic calligraphy from 1453 live side by side in testimony to the beauty and longevity of both religions. Then, add spice to your life back home by bartering at the Spice Market.
Our guide dropped us at Taksim Sq. at the end of the tour. The area was an old European style neighborhood.
At night Feri & I went to Kumkapi Meidani Fish Market for a nice dinner and live music.
10/08 14. Wed. Departure (B)
Transfer to airport. Fly to USA
03/19/07 Turkey Notes
Istanbul Erboy ***
AC, Erboy is located at the old city center and in walking distance to main historical places such as Topkapi Palace, St. Sophia, Blue Mosque, Covered bazaar, underground cistern. 85 Rooms with private facilities, direct dial phone, Satellite TV, Hair Dryer, 1 Bar, Terrace Cafe and Restaurant with Panoramic view of the Bosporus, 1 Restaurant with Indoor Capacity of 80, Safety Box at Reception, Laundry Service. 13 miles from the airport.
Tel: (212) 513 3750 Fax: (212) 513 3759 Address: Ebusuud Cad No:32 34410 Sirkeci ISTANBUL
Ankara - Esenboga *****
Tel: (312) 399 4700 Fax: (312) 399 4703 Address: Esenboga yolu 16. Km Saray Beldesi Kecioren ANKARA
Surmeli: Tel: (312) 231 7660 Cihan Sok. 6 Sihhiye 06430
Cappadocia Kapadokya Inn ****
No AC, 200 rooms, 420 beds, private bathrooms, telephone, music, restaurant, 2 bars, cafeteria, TV hall, parking, shopping center. 24 hours a day at the reception, where free of charge safety boxes are at your disposal for your valuables. Rooms all equipped with mini bar, satellite antenna television, radio, direct telephone and bathroom with hair-dryer and toilets. A laundry, dry cleaning and ironing service delivers your clothes within 24 hours. The distance to Nevsehir airport is 20 miles, to Kayseri airport 50 miles.
Tel: (384) 343 3470 Fax: (384) 343 3480 Address: Goreme Kavsagi Ortahisar 50650 Urgup NEVSEHIR
Antalya/Kemer Festival Tekirova ****
AC, 116 Rooms. Music, Direct Dial Telephone, Telephone, Private Bathroom, Shower and Toilet, Hair Dryer, Balcony, Restaurant(s), Breakfast Hall, Snack Bar, Cafeteria, 3 Bars (Lobby, Cafeteria, Pool). Internet, Health Cabin, Babysitting, Market, Parking Lot, Dry Cleaning, Laundry Service, and Generator. Outdoor Swimming Pool, (with children section), Turkish Bath, Sauna, Jacuzzi, Fitness Center, Coiffeur, Garden, Playing Ground for Children, TV Room, Disco, Tennis, Table Tennis, Volleyball, Jogging, Cycling, Water Sports} Banana, Jet ski, Canoe, Windsurf. 65 miles to Antalya Airport.
Tel: (242) 821 45 45 Fax: (242) 821 45 50 Address: P. O Box 111 Tekirova 07995 Kemer ANTALYA
Pamukkale Traverten ***
AC, 57 rooms, 7 Suites. Direct Dial telephone, Balcony. 2 Bars, 2 Restaurant- Indoor Capacity: 150, Outdoor Capacity: 250, Safety Box at Reception, Laundry Service, Parking, Garden, Outdoor Swimming Pool, Pool for children, TV lounge. The distance of airport is 45 miles
Tel: (258) 272 2154 Fax (258) 272 2004 Address: Pamukkale Kasabasi DENIZLI
Kusadasi Festival ****
AC, 250 rooms satellite antenna television, direct telephone, and bathroom with hair-dryer and toilet products. A laundry, dry cleaning and ironing service delivers your clothes within 24 hours. In the basement, a Hamam and sauna. The distance to Izmir airport is 50 miles.
Tel: (256) 614 4800 Fax: (256) 612 6000 Address: Kadinlardenizi Mah. Kusadasi AYDIN
Canakkale Iris ***
AC, 74 Rooms, 1 Suites, Direct Dial Telephone, Private Bathroom, Satellite TV, Minibar, Hair Dryer, Balcony, Safety Box at Reception, Laundry Service, Dry Cleaning, Doctor, Health Cabin, Generator, Market, Parking. Tennis, Billiards, Outdoor Swimming Pool, Children Swimming Pool, TV Hall, Disco. The distance to Istanbul airport is 200 miles.
Tel: (286) 232 8100 Fax: (286) 232 8028 Address: Mola Cad. 17070 Guzelyali CANAKKALE
Pupa Aug: 900E/day w/ 3 cabins 2,600E/day for 12 cabin 90 252 316 7715 www.pupa.com.tr
Flama Aug: 820-3,5700E/day + food 25E/day www.flamatours.com
Financial Times Article on Joys of Istanbul Oct, 2005 Tyler.email@example.com
Istanbul hit list
Buy lamps & kilims from Elements
Enjoy a late-night supper at 360
Walk, eat, walk, drink and walk along Baghdad Street
Visit the Princes’ Islands & ogle at the architecture
Pretend to be a local at Bebek Café
Order a cruiser from Vicem Yachts – Turkey’s answer to Riva
Stock up on slippers at Narin
Go for toasted sandwiches at Mamaris Bufe
Go house-hunting around Gukurcuma
04/05/29 Boston: Boston Common, Harvard Square, Faneuil Hall
We took the 9:00 bus at 139 Canal Street (FungWah Bus Co. $10 one-way) and arrived in Boston at 1:00pm. A Chinese Street fair was in progress. We stopped at the famous China Pearl (9 Tyler St) for Dim Sum and then walked to Boston Common and walked in the park until our hotel shuttle picked us up at 3:00pm. After check in at DoubleTree (400 Soldiers Field Road, reserved on PriceLine for $80), took the shuttle back to Harvard Square to visit Harvard Campus. We then took the subway to Boston Common and walked around quaint cobble-stone Beacon Hill streets.
We took the shuttle to Long Wharf and walked to Charlestown Bridge for our 3-mile Freedom Trail walking tour, ending in the crowded Faneuil Hall/Quincy Center/Boston Common.
We then rested at Boston Common for a while before walking to Pier 4, Anthony’s Seafood restaurant with a nice view of the harbor; it was overrated. We took a can back to our hotel
We took the shuttle to Harvard Square where we had breakfast and then took the subway to Boston Common and rested around Faneuil Hall. We took the bus at 6:00pm and arrived in New York at 11:00pm.
04/09/04 Italy: Rome, Perugia, Siena/Chainti, San Gimignano, Florence, Lucca, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Bellagio, Como,
Milan, Venice, Bologna, Modena, Parma
After returning the A/C to Home Depot, had a haircut, packed and tool a cab to Delta at JFK where we were told that our flight was on Alitalia; we had to take a shuttle to their building. Cindy asked for a bulk seat and we ended up right behind the partition separating us from the business class, net to Barbara, an Italian woman with her 2-year old noisy son Johnny. We had an on-time departure at 9:35pm. The flight was full; the service was just enough to get by. I had a good sleep. We arrived at Rome Leonardo Davinci Aeroporto. I exchanged $100 for 62€ (including a 20% commission @ $1.28).
We then took the Leornardo Express train (9€) to StazioneTermini (45 minutes), and took a 20-minute walk to hotel Tizi. We then walked to Piazza Republica, via Nazionale to Quatro Fontani to Piazza di Spagna (the Spanish Steps). It was very crowded. We walked on the area’s charming alleyways. We continued on via del Corso to beautiful Fontana Di Trevi; at 10pm it was still very lively. We had a pizza at Crispi, where the owner happened to be Iranian and started a heated conversation on American government atrocities.
Walked to Piazza Venezia and visited Foro Romano, Campidoglio and continued to Coliseum and Piazza Navona to Pantheon. After marveling inside for some time, bought a Chianti and some food for a nice impromptu picnic at the piazza for a lovely meal while enjoying the view of the gorgeous building around the square.
We then walked to Piazza Novana and hopped on the first bus that arrived; it took us to Vatican City where we walked around and sat to watch the nightfall on the square.
Walked to Villa Borghese and enjoyed the tranquil grounds waiting for the next admission; visited the opulent Galleria, a rich collection of artifacts compliments of Cardinal Scipione Borghese (10€ + 5 for audio guide). The highlights were statutes of Apollo e Dafne, Rape of Persephone and David by Bernini. We then had a decent lunch at Cantina Cantarini at Piazza Salustio 12 followed by a siesta in our room.
We visited the Vatican City once more where the line was curve for half a mile. We took the Metro to Ostia Antika, the remains of a huge Roman city over 2000 year ago; it was a pleasant area to explore with very few visitors.
At night walked to the charming Tratsvere area and enjoyed the village-like surroundings of the restaurants and streets.
I took the Metro/bus/walked to Villa Adriana in Tivoli, the huge villa built by Emperor Hadriana, with many parts of it still standing.
I then walked for some time before taking the bus to villa D’este, the magnificent multi-level garden converted from a convent be d’este in 1550. It had many terraces with water spouting grotesques and spectacular fountains and water falls all powered by gravitational force.
In the evening too the train to Prugia (2.5 hours) and checked in at the lovely Hotel Anna, in a 400-year old building.
We visited the lively town piazza with Fontana Maggiore in its center. It was filled with students sitting at the steps of the cathedral and enjoying beer and coffee. We had a delicious pasta at Victoria, at the piazza.
We walked to the other end of the town to the municipal offices and after a detour entered a formidable arched fortress with very high ceilings before stumbling into a series of escalators that took us of the old town and into the new town. We found the bus station where we bought tickets for Siena (10€). At night attended a Calabrian folk dance at the main piazza. For dinner we ended up at Victoria again; Renault, our French waiter the tough life in Italy, its bureaucracy, the high inflation of the EU and stagnant salaries, 60% taxes and the burden the Arabs are imposing on the society. He said Fabio, the chef, with a great international experience made only 2000€ monthly.
Woke up at 6:30 and took the 8:00-9:40am bus to Siena. The scenery was nice with some of the most beautiful farmhouses. In Siena, took the escalator up to the old tow, a hilly 13-c city with charming narrow curvy stone-paved streets frozen in time. Most of the buildings were built by brick, unlike stone-built Perugian ones. To find our charming hotel Alma domus (next to St. Catherine) we ended up circling the area three times while asking for directions. Siena is a city of 50,000 people with 23,000 students.
We enjoyed the serene walk around the town. In the afternoon, took a bus tour of the Chianti with our friendly guide, Marco, with a few stops to enjoy the beautiful scenery under the gray skies, similar to that in Napa valley, before arriving at Zonni winery and tasting a few of Chianti Classic wines. They are aged at 14-18c temperature, 80% humidity, aging 1-2 years in barrels. They are aged in large oak barrels (3-7000lt, up to 30 years old) for a few months. If the wine shrinks (using a glass meter atop the barrel), they pump more wine into the barrels to extract the air in order to avoid causing the air to spoil the wine. The wine is the switched into 350lt French oak barrels (2-3 years age) to avoid too much oak flavor. These barrels are then used for scotch, grappa or balsamic.
The wine is normally 80% Sangiovese grapes. In Reserva, they use up to 90% Sangiovese and 10% of up to three varieties of other grapes to balance the final flavor of the wine.
Shopped for breakfast and had a pleasant one at Piazza del Duomo, before walking to piazza Grasci for our bus to San Gimignano. We checked in our room atop restaurant Vehicco Mura overlooking the beautiful Chianti valleys. The city is a small version of Siena with stone buildings from the 13th century, with twelve towers up to 150’ tall. There was a charming park. We spent some time around the two beautiful piazzas of the town filled with tourists. We had a nice meal on the terrace of Le Vehicco Mura overlooking the magnificent green valley.
Note: Visit neaby charming towns Colie Val d’Elsa and Volterra.
We had a long hike on the beautiful Chianti valley; the scenery was great, filled with the vineyards, olive and corn fields,
Walked to a few beautiful houses mostly turned out to be agro-tourism bed & breakfast. We talked to the owner of one of them, Gino, a charming old man, owner of Casa Marina & Gino, asking 6.5m for his house and land. After a full circle around the valley, we arrived at porta san Jacopa, on the opposite side of the town.
In the afternoon, shopped at one of the gourmet shops and had a lovely picnic supper at the terrace of our hotel which is closed on Tuesdays.
At night listened the thunder and the rainfall for a few hours
I looked out of the window and saw most of the valley in a heavy mist from the rainfall the night before. We picked up some delicious biscuits at Bobli. Cindy purchased our bus tickets to Florence from the office of Hotel Promotions near Porta San Giovanni; we took the bus to Poggisbani and changed for the bus to Florence. The bus left us at near the train station and it took us ten minutes to walk to hotel Armonia. Marco, the attendant gave us a hard time for not calling in advance to confirm our reservation but finally gave us a room. We walked to the nearby Pizza del marcato Central, the huge indoor market where we had a decent lunch. After leaving the market, we stated walking in the charming historical area of the city. Within a few hours we managed to see most of the points of the interest, del duomo with its magnificent tile works specially on the floors, the great piazza Republica with imposing buildings, and piazza della signaria, with more
meautiful buildings and cathedrals on its perimeter, uffizi, and the bridges.
We attended a concert at St. Stefanno church at night.
We stopped at Mercato Central and bought some delicious fruits for breakfast. We then visited galleria Academia, ate at Nerbone at the mercato, walked around the town and visited porta vecchio, and hiked to michalangelo park, where the African vendors were blasting the music. We had a brown out and managed to have a quiet picnic and a beautiful view of the city.
Walked in the residential part of the town and stopped at Citibank for some advice. We then walked to Santa Croce, the largest Franciscan church, a remarkably elaborate structure with many sculptures and paintings. We then tried to visit Uffizi, after waiting for some time in the line, give up and reserved two tickets for Sunday (11 + 3 fee).
We woke up at 6:30 and took the one-hour bus to Lucca; walked around the old wall to enter the town and stumble into the large number of antique vendors setting shop on the streets; using all the space around the town center. We managed to have a nice walk around the charming town over the walls before the tour groups show up.
We took the train to pisa, walked across the town and visited the impressive Cathedral; I hiked to the roof of pisa for a beautiful view of the surroundings.
We visited the Uffizi museum. It was a large collection of 11-15c paintings including those of Michaelangelo. We had a pleasant dinner at Il Latini with our fellow diners from LA, Japan and Puglia.
We took an early train to La Spezia/Corniglia, (part of Cinque Terre) where we took a 5-minute bus ride (vs. hiking 360 steps) up to the small town. After check in at Da Cecio, we hiked the easy path to Manarola & Riomaggiore. The scenery of the tall cliffs and the water were splendid. We descended the cliffs and swam in the beautiful green waters.
We watch the beautiful sunset back in Corniglia.
We hiked the scenic challenging path to Vernazza & Monterosso (3,5 hours). Vernazza, the smaller town was more charming but both packed with tourists
On the return we checked into room #6 with double large windows and beautiful view of the waters and the mountains.
We heard the four bells as usual; the third bell rang 55 times at 7am. We also heard the interesting whistle of Merlot, an African gray bassaro, filling the valley.
We took the path down to the beach but ended up in the rocky part with strong waves. After return and lunch, took the correct path to the beach. The waves were strong and were hitting the rocks hard. We had a short swim but had a hard time getting out of the water. We both got some bruises.
I went back to town and picked up some cold cuts, wine and grapes, and with the tomatoes and basil we had picked up earlier, had a beautiful supper, while enjoying the romantic sunset over wavy waters.
Our train to Monterosso was late and we missed our connection train to Como. In Monterosso we had time for a drink and for a short swim at the public beach. We took the 13:00-17:05 train via Milan. We then took a one hour bus ride to Bellagio.
Walked along the beautiful alleys of the charming town; it was not too crowded. In the afternoon took a boat ride to the spanish-style town of Verrena and had a nice meal at Vecchia Varena. By the time we left the restaurant the wind was getting very cold. After a 40-minutes wait took the ferry back to Bellagio. After a 40-minute arrived at Bellagio. We almost missed to get off the boat as it was docking from the back.
We visited three properties around Bellagio. One in Gineva for 300E on a 1000m hilly lot was the most charming. We walked around the charming alleys of the town, rested at the lake and Cindy fed the ducks
We picked up some wine and stuff at the Deli (with the friendly old lady) and had a nice picnic lunch on the grounds of our hotel, with some grapes that the father of the proprietor pick up for us. We then took the last tour of the lovely town and took the 17:00-19:00 boat to Como. The ride was a pleasant one with a great view of the villages on both side of the lake.
In Como we had time for a dinner where I left Cindy and had a long walk to the train station to but tickets to Venice. We then took a short walk in Como and then headed to train station
After a long wait at the deserted station, we boarded our 1:30am train to Chiasgo where we had to wait again for a long time. We had a hard time to find out which platform our train will be arriving at. There were no attendants and the platforms were partitioned for visa checks. Finally our 2:45am train arrived, but to our dismay we found out that it was a sleeper train and all cars were full and without a reservation we could not get on board. We had to wait at the station for 5:00am train to Milan. We tried to take a nap in the waiting room but it was very cold and smoky. The Milan train left at Garibaldi station, where we had to take a taxi to Milano Centrale for 7:15-11:30 train to Venezia. We spent the day walking around piazza St. Marco. The piazza was magnificent, with its open square with shops all around and two bands at restaurants across each other play familiar theme while crowds feeding the many pigeons looking for handouts. The alleys leading to pizza were packed with tourists and shop and many beautiful views of the canal. With no cars, the town was peaceful fun to walk around.
The architecture was splendid the old structures standing for so long intact were amazing.
We purchased a one-day canal pass and rode the vaporetto a few times. On the way back from Lido, across the great canal, we got off at Gardinos and walked the pleasant non-touristy alleys lined up with charming homes. We asked a couple for a good restaurant and they recommended Giorginio. We we’re the first customers at the door and the kitchen help invited us to take a seat. We sat in the sidewalk and before long all the seats were filled with tourists. When Cindy asked from the Romanian waiter about their customers, he said that they got only tourists. He complained about life in Italy and 17-hour workdays.
We walked to San Marco once more. Parts of the piazza were flooded. We had a salad at Brek and took the train to Bologna. We walked around the piazza Maggiore, the main square of the city located just behind our hotel. It looked very impressive in the lights of the night. In another street on the opposite side of our hotel we stumbled into a few bars packed with beer-drinking students. Further down on the same street there were many students hanging out on the grounds with their beer bottles.
We took a train to Modena and visited the Cathedral. For lunch we stooped at a restaurant with good antipasto and tortellini.
Marco, a fellow diner, joined us and with little English he spoke, he told us of his love of American movies, John Wayne and William Holden, music (Elvis and Polanka) and his live of American liberty. He said America was like a bear, strong and likable; it should be treated with respect not to anger it. He was a very lively conversationalist. He talked of Pavoratti who lived in Monte Carlo in order to avoid taxes.
We then took another train ride to Parma and visited the 14-c university still in use.
After an espresso in our hotel, visited the lively food market and piazza Maggiore, had a god lunch at Tamburini and took the 14:38 train to Rome.
We revisited Piaza di Spagna (Spanish Steps) and Tivoli Fountains. We stumbled into a church where they had a Opera performance that we decided to see. It was a good program and we enjoyed it. It was a good program and we enjoyed it. We walked to Piazza del Popolo which looked splendid at night. We stumbled into a church where they had a Opera performance that we decided to see. It was a good program and we enjoyed it.
We tookthe bus to the train station and barely made it to our plane. We had an un-eventful flight back home.
……… Italy notes
09/4 – Sat: JFK 9:30p - ROM: 12:00n $595 David
10/2 – Sat. ROM 9:45a - NWK: 12:35p
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thurs Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 Rome
5 Rome 6 7 8 9 Perugia / train 10 11 Siena / bus
12 13 San Gimig 14 15 Florence 16 17 18
19 20 Pisa, Cinque T 21 22 23 Como / train 24 25
26 27 Venice 28 29 Bolognia 30 1 Rome 2 Rome 9:45a
09/4 – Sat: JFK 9:30p - ROM: 12:00n $595 David
10/2 – Sat. ROM 9:45a - NWK: 12:35p
American Express - Lex. T.C. Euro: $1.30 (9//1/2004) Euro TC to USD TC: $1.15
Tourist office: 630 5th Ave. & 50th (Rockefeller) 245-4822
Country code: 39
Italy Rail 8days 299-199 (Flo-Rom: 48-30
Kilometric 364-256 up to 20 trips/3,000km (1-5 people use)
Flexible RailPass: After 19:00 will count toward the next day
Europass Saverpass: Unlimited 1st Class for 2 for 5,8,10 or 15 days in 2 months.
Days Air Cash ATM TC CC Total
Italy 28 2*595 100E 1600 1000
www.cts.it Student travel org.
http://www.mondoweb.it/home_eng.htm English Yellow pages
www.excite.com Key in Italy
www.travel.it Useful Tourist info
www.wantedinrom.com Events, classified (Share an apartment)
Check for tour packages 800 366 6387
www.railpass.com 800-722-7151 car + gas + insurance + tolls expensive
www.eurail.on.ca 888-667-9734 L.P.
Meals: Three courses: antipasto (appetizer), primo (1st course, pasta or soup), secondo: (main, meat or fish)
Hostelling Int’l www.hiayh.org Collect 6 stamps (L5,000)
Rome http://www.hotelkennedy.net Info@hotelKennedy.net 09/05: 85€, then 129€
firstname.lastname@example.org No Vacancy
http://www.bandbinrome.com/BedandBreakfast/BB_Eng1.htm Check the site, many hotels, Safety ???
http://www.bbitalia.it email@example.com Rome – B&B - 4 days ~ 250€ See email
Florence http://www.emmeti.it/Welcome/Toscana/Firenze/Alberghi/azzi.it.html 46-77€ firstname.lastname@example.org (+39) 055 213806
Mia Cara 055 290 804 Angela - ask for back rooms 60€
Venice http://www.veniceby.com/ilgambero email@example.com 65-170€ 190€ Vacancy
Bellagio Giardinetto Piazza del Cheisa 52€ D/B, breakfast 6€ 031 950 168
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thurs Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 Rome
5 Rome 6 7 8 9 Perugia / bus 10 11 Siena / bus
12 13 San Gimig 14 15 Florence 16 17 18
19 20 Pisa, Cinque T 21 22 23 Como / train 24 25
26 27 Venice / train? 28 29 Bolognia 30 1 Rome 2 Rome 9:45a
Sun 9/5 12:00 Arrive Rome DaVinci
Check – in: Hotel Tizi, Via Collina 48, ROME (4 nights) - Tel: 011-39-06 482 01 28
62 E/248 E – Bathroom. 8/23 confirmed Antonio & Marie-Elena.
PM Explore Trastevere area / Rome at Leisure
Mon 9/6 AM Piazza Venezia
Aracoeli (Church of)
PM Piaza di Spagna (Spanish Steps)
Trinita Dei Monti
Fontana Di Trevi
Tue 9/7 AM Castel S. Angelo
Piazzale del Gianicolo
PM Terme di Caracalla
Porta S. Sebastiano
Domine Quo Vadis
Circo di Massenzio
Tomba di Cecilia / Metella
Villa dei Quintili
Wed 9/8 AM S. Maria Maggiore Basilica
S. Giovanni Basilica
S. Paolo Basilica
EUR – modern quarter
PM Villa Borghese
Piazza del Popolo
Via del Corso / Via di Ripetta / Via del Babuino
Thur 9/9 AM Depart for day trip to Tivoli – Tivoli Gardens
PM Depart for Perugia
12:14 Direct Train #2482 depart Roma Termini
Arrive Perugia 14:50 – 2nd Class 10,12 E (2hrs 36mins)
13:48 Direct Train ES #9340 depart Roma Termini
Arrive Perugia 15:53 – 2nd Class 17,15 E (2hrs 5mins)
18:14 Direct Train #2484 depart Roma Termini
Arrive Perugia 20:50 – 2nd Class 10,12 E (2hrs 36mins)
19:46 Direct Train ES #9342 depart Roma Termini
Arrive Perugia 21:53 – 2nd class 17,15 E (2hrs 7mins)
Check – in: Albergo Anna, Via dei Priori 48, PERUGIA (2 nights) Tel & Fax: 011-39-075 573 6304
Lonley 42 – 46 E / website also 42-46 E / Phone quote 48 (??) – NO Bathroom. Faxed confirm 8/23/04.
Fri 9/10 Day at Leisure
Sat 9/11 AM (ck departures) Depart for Siena (not on a major train line – no direct)
(10:30) Sena bus: Lazio-Umbria-Toscana line. Depart (daily) Perugia 10:30
Arrive Siena 12:00 - 9 E - (90 mins)
Check –in: Albergo Alma Dolmus, SIENA (2 nights) - Tel: 01139-0577 44177
Phone quote 55 €– No Bathroom. Faxed confirm 8/23/04.
Sun 9/12 Day at Leisure
Mon 9/13 PM Depart Siena for SAN GIMIGNANO (thru Poggibonsi)
13:29 -13:52 14:00 -14:27 14:34 -15:03 15:37 -15:59
16:35 -16:57 17:39 -18:08 18:38 -19:03 20:10 -20:33
21:22 -21:44 2,05 E
PM Check – in: Le Vecchie Mura, Via Piandornella 15, SAN GIMIGNANO (2 nights)
---a twisting walk down the 1st right off V. San Giovanni as you walk up from Porta San Giovanni)
Tel: 011-39-0577-940-270 / email: firstname.lastname@example.org
50 € – Bathroom. Email confirm: 8/23/04. Phone confirm 8/27/04 – Roberto.
Dinner Break – Le Vecchie Mura
Tue 9/14 Day at Leisure
Wed 9/15 Breakfast
**** Marco / Armonia - requested that we call on 9/15 AM to advise what time we will be arriving to Firenze – will hold room only until 3:00PM.
PM Depart S. Gimignano for Firenze
13:53 -15:06 16:00 -17:08 16:58 -18:12 19:04 -20:07
20:34 -22:08 21:45 -22:45 4,55 E
PM Check – in: Armonia, Via Faenza 56 (1st floor), 50123 FIRENZE (5 nights) Tel: 011-39-055-211-146
8/27/04 – Phoned reservation, spoke with Marco. 45 € – NO Bathroom (7 rooms total / 3 toilets & 2 showers).
Mon 9/20 AM Depart Firenze S. M. Novella for Pisa Central (pass thru)
9:25 -10:27 10:25 -11:27 10:50 -12:17 4,95 E
Pisa Leaning Tower of Pisa
PM Depart Pisa Central – Connect La Spezia - for Cinque Terre – CORNIGLIA
17:03 -17:55/18:15 18:29 17:35 -18:44/19:02 19:17
19:03 -19:52/20:20 20:34 19:38 -20:45/21:10 21:25 10,25 E
PM Check – in: Da Cecio, 19010 CORNIGLIA (3 nights) Tel: 011-39-0187 812 043 / Fax: 011-39-0187 812 138
8/27 – Phoned reservation, spoke with Carmello (owner).
60 € – Bathroom & sea view – rm no. 2 or 6.
8/30 – Confirmed rm w/credit card no via phone w/Geshinto- advised to call again 9/19 to advise what time we will arrive.
Tue 9/21 AM Hike to from Corniglia to Vernazza
PM Hike from Vernazza to Monterosso
Transport via local train/shuttle from Monterosso to Corniglia / or HIKE
Wed 9/22 AM Hike from Corniglia to Manarola
PM Hike from Manarola to Riomaggiore
Transport via local train/shuttle from Riomaggiore to Corniglia / or HIKE
Thur 9/23 PM Depart Corniglia to connect La Spezia - Como
Check – in: Giardinetto, Piazza del Chiesa, 22021 BELLAGIO (3 nights)
Tel: 011-39-031 950 168
8/27 – Phoned reservation, spoke with Eugene. Confirmed again 8/30 phone – rm no 18 or 20.
52 € – Bathroom. Will hold room until 4:00PM. Must call/pay in advance if later than 4:00PM. Breakfast NOT INCLUDED 6 E/person.
LAKE COMO – BELLAGIO
Fri 9/24 Day at Leisure
Sat 9/25 Day at Leisure
Mon 9/27 1:31 Depart Como S. Giovanni – Train # 10746
1:36 Arrive Chiasso – connect to Train #303
2:45 Depart Chiasso – Train # 303
7:36 Arrive Venezia S. Lucia
Check – in: NO HOTEL - Night train to Venice
Mon 9/27 7:36 Arrive Venice
AM Drop off luggage & Check – in (room ready by 11:00 latest): Albergo Santa Lucia, Cannaregio 358 (on Calle della Misericordia), 30121 VENEZIA (2 nights)
Tel: 011-39-041 715 180
90 € – Bathroom. Breakfast 5 E/person addtl.
Confirmed via email 8/30 w/credit card.
AM Breakfast – Brek (Lonely), Rio Terra Lista di Spagna, Cannaregio 124. 7:30AM – 10:30PM. 4 – 6 E. (near hotel).
OR – Mercato Rialto (7:00AM – 1:00PM) – principal open-air market north on the San Polo side of Ponte di Rialto – produce/bread/cheese/salami are concentrated around Campo Beccarie – next to city’s main fish market (closed Mondays).
*** Do not order fresh fish/seafood on Monday’s at restaurants in Venezia – fish market closed on Mondays.
Tue 9/28 Day at Leisure
Wed 9/29 Depart for Bologna
7:23 Direct Train # 713 depart Venezia S. Lucia – Arrive Bologna Central 9:16 – 2nd Class 12,09 E (1hr 53mins)
7:30 Direct Train # 2953 depart Venezia S. Lucia – Arrive Bologna Central 9:44 – 2nd Class 7,90 E (2hrs 14mins)
8:04 Direct Train # 2229 depart Venezia S. Lucia –
Arrive Bologna Central 10:07 – 2nd Class 7,90 E (2hrs 3mins)
8:44 Direct Train ES #9465 depart Venezia Mestre –
Arrive Bologna Central 10:18 – 2nd Class 18,33 E (1hr 34mins)
9:19 Direct Train # 703 depart Venezia Mestre –
Arrive Bologna Central 11:16 – 2nd Class 12,09 E (1hr 57mins)
AM Check – in: Albergo Garisenda, Galleria del Leone 1, Via Rizzoli 9, BOLOGNA (2 nights)
90 €– Bathroom. 8/30 Confirmed on phone w/ Lora w/credit card.
Fri 10/1 AM Depart for Rome
Sat 10/2 9:45 Depart for New York – DL 8244
12:50 Arrive Newark
Hotel: Tizi, Via Collina 48, ROME (4 nights) Tel: 011-39-06 482 01 28
Airport (Leonardo Da Vinci/ Fiumicino) to city - 8.80$, pick up maps at Tourist info beyond Customs
Bus/Metro .77€ Day pass: 3.10€, weekly: 12€ print map: http://www.atac.roma.it
Tabularium: The 1-C underground gallery connecting the buildings of Capotoline / warehouse of official records
Foro Romano Poetic collection of architectural detritus
Domus Aurea Palace
Market at Camp Del Fioro: Freshest produce, before 9:00am
Opera Coloseum & Baths of Caracalla
Nightlife inner at a trattoria in working class of Trastevere & stroll the cobblestone alleyways, climb the Gianicolo
hill for a moonlight panorama
Festival of the grape 1st week in September – at Basilica of Maentius
Fiachetteria Beltramme ultra traditional 7-table bistro, hallowed recopies
Ditirambo outstanding innovative Italian cooking 06-687 1626
Hole in the wall La Vinera Wine bar
Ostia Antiga at Viale dei Romagnoli: Well-preserved, can be reached by metro,
Piazza Navano, nightlife - try Tre Scalini Café ( tartufo)
Café Greco/bar Rome’s oldest café (casanova, Gothe)
Da Meo Patacca: Food&Ent. 30 Piazza Mercanti 06-583-31086
Hassler Hotel, Overlooking Spanish Steps 06-699 340
2001 Food Articles :
La Buca (hole) di Ripetta Near Piazza del popolo, between Tiber & The Villa Borghese
Taverna Falavia in Dolce Vita
Casala On via Flaminia, a few miles outside Rome; 18th Century castle. Lunch, Anti-Pasta, Lamb
Il Fico Vecchio In Grottaferrata, in the Caselli Romani, hills a few miles S.E. of Rome. Lunch, best pastas.
Hotel: Albergo Anna, Via dei Priori 48, PERUGIA (2 nights) Tel & Fax: 011-39-075 573 6304
The Ancient ruins of Roma (Lazio)
Hotel: Albergo Alma Dolmus, SIENA (2 nights) Tel: 01139-0577 44177
Wine tasting Enoteca Italiana Permanete – military fortress of 1560 / Chianti
Osteria le Logge Great pasta & grilled meats off the gorgeous Piazza del Campo
Hotel: Le Vecchie Mura, Via Piandornella 15, SAN GIMIGNANO (2 nights) Tel: 011-39-0577-940-270
Florence / Firenze / Tuscan
Hotel: Armonia, Via Faenza 56 (1st floor), 50123 FIRENZE (5 nights) Tel: 011-39-055-211-146
Tourist info http://www.firenzeturismo.it/Categorie/English_version.asp?IDCategoria=529
Medieval village of San Gimignano (Tuscan & Umbrian countryside)
Excursion to Siena & Pisa, Cinque Terre
Free bikes at train station, Piazza Strozzi, large public parking lots, from 7:30am
Free tours at Duomo, by church volunteers
San Miniato Late afternoon Gregorian chant/vespers by monks at this 11c most beautiful Romansque Church
Sunset hike up to Oltrano’s Piazzale Michelangiolo
Listen to music Piazza della Repubblica (from café Paszkowski), campari at next door neighbor, Gilli’s
Mercato San Lorenzo Marketplace / butchers, fish, cheese + flowers & fruits . 0070:14:00
Boboli Gardens picnic spot, behind Palazzo Pitti, hike to the top
Il Latinin Great unlimited memorable food & wine/grappa at long shared tables 32€ 055 210 916
Café Caruso One block from Ponte Vecchiho, lunch,
Cantinettta del Verrazzano wine bar – Chainti /self service lunch, sandwiches @ via dei Tavolini / 2+6 ***
Vivoli Via isole delle Stiche 7r, one block west of Piazza Santa Croce
Carabe Via Ricasoli, 60r
Festival del Gelato Via del Corso -
Gelateria delle Carrozzo at the foot of Ponte Vecchio
Venezia / Il Veneto
Venezia-Firenze: 36-23€ 3hrs via Bologna
No.1 & 82 motor coaches (vaporetti) on Grand Canal, passing Gothic and Byzantine palazzi
Bologna / Modena
The Quadrilatero, Food District in medieval city, food emporium, 66mi N. of Florence http://www.tamburini.com
Pmpeii 15mi S.E. of Naples, 147mi SE of Rome, buried 79AD, excavated 1800s
Amalfi Coast 30mi stretch of hairpin curves, South of Naples, awe-inspiring, SITA buses 2€
(sail the Amalfi coast, on island’s cooperative water taxi (15$) + thermal water swim .
Positano: Limoncello, mozzarella, rent a car in Solerno (17mi E. of Positano)
Napoli / Campania– Capri, Pompei, Paestrum, Costiera Amalfitana
(Parco Naturale Fanes-Sennes-Braies (Trentino N.W.)
Hot in summer
Day excursions to Bologna, Genoa, Lugano (Lake) on Swiss border, Venezia
Milan – Venezia: 0705-0957, 0605-1057, 0905-1157 & hourly till 1600
Apunas NYTimes, 5/21/06
In Tuscany, dozens of high villages clinging to mountain flanks, and Italy’s largest cave system -
66 miles from Florence, near Lucca, a rental car needed.
Tourist office www.garfagnanaturistica.info
Stay in huts (rifugios) thru summer
Rifugio la Mesta, in village of Trassilico 39-0583-722150 all-year, 20E,
Antica Trattoria dell’Emremita inside 1000-yr old monastery at the Eremo di Calomini
See Ponte del Diavolo, the Devil’s bridge, 14c
05/03/17 Iran: Semnan/Susangard, Caspian Sea (Chalus, Jadeh Do Hezar, Fuman, Masule, Rasht)
Took a Taxi to JFK for 5:45pm Turkish Airlines Flight to Iran ($816 PRERSVOYOGE)
I slept most of the way; we had a full day stop IN Turkey. We were picked up in a van and taken to a Hotel. I showered and walked around town before being picked up and flying to Iran at 11:00pm. I arrived at Tehran at 3:35am, waited until 5:30am, took a taxi to home. I rang the bell and a young girl opened the door, I could not recognize her until Fariba showed up at the door and only then I figured the young girl was Donya. Feri showed up later in the Day.
- We took a one day trip (about 3.5 hours) with Feri, Hedi, Tamineh and Donya to Semnan and visited the old Bazaar before a 30min drive to Susangar (the birthplace of Leila, Vahid’s wife). It was a charming green town.
- Drove to Emamzadeh Davud with Feri, Fariba, Tami & Doya. It was a nice drive.
- Drove to Kan for the food donations by Habib’s family on the eve of Arbain.
- Drove to Kan and visited Emamzaded Shoaib, Mohammad (Mr. Akbari) and the gardens of Kan
- Drove to Chalus (nice road) and Jadeh Do Hezar, lunched at Feri’s friend, and the drove to Fuman and Masuleh, the beautiful village where we stayed overnight
- Met Hedi’s sister, Sima & her husban, Mr. Mahjubi (the best cook of Mirza Ghasemi) and nephews, Ashkan, Bijan, and Siamak.
- Dined at Nayeb and Alborz w/ Feri, Hedi & Mom & the girls
- Lunched at Amir & Ellen
- Dined at Ghasem Abedi’s with Mansur & Amir
05/10/29 Iran: Rezvan Shahr, Bandar Anzali
Feri and I picked up Mr. Poor Amini and drove to Rasht, Bandar Anzali and Rezvanshar where we stayed at Mr. Nouri’s for a night.
Both men were fellow roommates at the hospital where dad was staying.
Next day we visited Mr. Nouri’s lot on Jedeg Gas, just before the city limit. It was a 10Hec. lot; he was asking 6m/H (for official 6H size).
06/09/12-09/28 Panama: Panama City, David, Boquete, Volcan, Cerro Punta, Boca Chica
I had barely finished packing, cleaning and laundry of my jeans when the taxi service showed up at 2:00pm for a 15-minute ride to Dover Train Station ($19), took the 2:29-3:35 train to Newark Broad, transferred to the Light Rail to get to New Penn where I took the Trenton Line train to Air Rail ($5.50) to get to Newark Airport. I used a machine to obtain a boarding pass. I had a toothpaste and mouthwash therefore waited in the line check in my bag due to the new law barring liquids in carry-on luggage. Since there was less than an hour to the departure time they did not accept my bag. At the security they confiscated my liquid items, even the cream for my dry skin. I made it to the gate at 5:00pm for the 5:15pm flight for the 4 ½ hours flight to Panama City. We arrived at Panama at 9:00pm local time (-1). At the immigration desk I had to purchase a $5 tourist visa and then waited for 20 minutes for the collectivo cab to pick up two additional passengers to go to the city ($11 each). I asked to be dropped off at Hotel Centro America but the cab driver told the lady in the cab to tell me that the location of the hotel was not very safe. The lady said I could have the room that she had reserved for her friend at Hotel Milano since the friend had canceled the trip. After check-in ($33) I went to super Mercado (more a mini Mercado) to purchase the hygienic stuff that were taken from me at the airport Security Desk.
I woke up at 7:00am, checked out and took a taxi to hotel California. The taxi driver insisted on taking me around town and I had to tell him I am renting a car. I left my bag at the desk since they did not have a quiet room yet vacant. I then took a taxi to Casco Antigua, Park Santa Ana. I walked along Ave. Central to visit the Cathedral, Minstrio de Cobie o Justica, Teatro Nacional and circled the area a few times. I then walked back to Santa Ana and lunched the popular Coca Cola café. I walked along the long Avenue Central to Plaza Cinquo de Mayo and took the Paraiso bus for a 15-minute scenic ride to Miro Flores Locks. I took a 10-minute walk from the road to the locks, purchased a ticket at 1:00pm and waited till 2:40pm for the passage of two large ships across the dual locks. For each ship 52 million gallons of water is discharged from the lake into the ocean within ten minutes. The lake water is replenished by the rain. I stopped for a coffee at the nice 2nd floor restaurant for a cup of coffee.
I took the bus back to Plaza Cinqo the Mayo, walked along the resolute street to the left of Ave. Central before cutting to the other side checked the neighborhood around Hotel Centro America which did not seem too bad compared to the other side of the town. I then had a garlic steak at Hotel Roma - an unfitting recommendation of the Lonely Planet. I then walked to Hotel California for an early sleep.
09/14 Thurs – 09/27– Boquete
I woke up at 6:00am and took a 20-minute bus ride to Allbrook station Terminal where I purchased a bus ticket to David ($12) for the 8:00am bus. I had breakfast, picked up a coffee at Dunkin Donut and then took the 8-hr bus ride along the scenic Pan America Highway, even though most of the windows were darkened and covered with red curtains to stop the sun heat. At the lunch stop I picked my lunched but when gave a $50 bill to the cahier she refused it. I had to dig in my pockets to give her the exact change. I later found out from a bank clerk that counterfeits are rampant. I overheard two men discussing Real Estate. One of them happened to be my fellow traveler and after lunch I went to him for a chat. Grayson of www.chiriquidiving.com 6571 7512 had leased a seven room hotel in Boca Chica on the Caribbean Coast, two hours from David. He said had had moved here from Honduras for the safety and good diving. He knew of a 700h finca (farm), being sold in 1h lots at $15/m2. He also mentioned the lobsterman of the town with a 700h finca. He had a contact for a 3-acre lot for 100k but the deal fell through.
We arrived at David at 3:25pm after a nice ride with a couple of movies - fifty first dates and a space movie with Tom Cruise.
I took the 4:00pm bus to Boquete. The scenery was very green and lush. It was raining and the mist rising to the sky. It was just as beautiful as I had expected, not unlike the Napa Valley. Many “For Sales” signs were noticeable on many lots on the way. I found Hostel Boquete on a quiet road by the bridge. Margarita, the attendant, showed me the two back rooms on the 1st floor facing the river. I took the smaller one ($11). The town surroundings looked lovely. I showered and by the time I left my room it was raining again. I picked up the usual suspects – Cheese, bread, grapes and wine – at the market and had a feast on the porch.
I checked a couple of motels in town. Topaz was not serving the wonderful breakfast mentioned in L.P. due to low season. I came across café Puna Enucuentro. I ordered the omelet which was delicious but when I asked for a toast, I ended up getting a full continental breakfast basket at the full price. The coffee was cold and so was the condensed milk. When I complained to the owner, she introduced herself as Olga – It was where Jack Bale, the contact I had found on the web, had mentioned as a handout for the ex-pats. I asked Olga for a Real Estate contact. She called Luis, a friend with whom I made an appointment for 9:00am the next day.
When I went back to the hostal, there was a sign on the door that another party had already reserved my room. I agreed to stay in the cabin for one night and move to another available room the next day.
I then made an appointment with Ulysis of Boquete Highland for 2:00pm. When I went back to the office, his brother, Omar showed me a couple of decent properties in Palmira and Jaramillo Road.
I met Luis at Olga’s at 9:00am and he showed me two properties
When I went back to the hostal, Dana, the owner, said since I was not there to move my stuff, the available room was given to someone else. I went to the hostal next door, Dunes del Rio (River Dreams) and met Sal White. He had quit his job as an Hospital Admin and had settled in town a month ago. He had one room available ($7), with a shared living room. An English couple from Jersey Island (Howard, a postman and Luna, a zoo worker) were staying in the other room. They had been traveling the world for the past three years.
I had dinner at Maccu Pichu, at the recommendation of Luis; it was special 2 for one lobster night. The grilled octopus and the lobster were delicious. I was charged for the salad that I never ordered and $29 for the lobster where all other entrées were around $12. When I complained, the owner took $1 off my bill (for the $2.95 salad).
By the time I left my room it was 10:00am. Luna had told me that I could take a taxi to the entrance of the National Park for the 4-hour hike to Cerra Punto. When I check with the tourist information office, they said it was a 6-hour hike. With the rain expected I decided to postpone the trip.
I took a long walk around the town; I then went back to hostal and since I had left my keys in the room I waited for a couple of hours for the owner whose car was parked in the front but he did not show up. I went for another walk. When I returned to the hostal, Sal and Howard had moved my sheets to the other room, facing the river and sharing the living room with Sal and his human-like dog, Spur.
While Sal and I were dining at El Sabroson we met Austin, a Texan retiree, who took us to his house on a development with a nice view of the valley. He made a sales pitch.
I met Joe, the Real Estate guy from Boquete #1 at 6:00am for a showing in Abajo Potrrillos. He asked for help with the gas. He pumped $11.00 of gas and asked for $30 and said he also has to change oil. I shook his hand and got off his car.
I attended to 10:00am meeting at Panamento Hotel. I met Hershel Stolebarger (507/720-1793 507_6616-4462 of www.boquete.org who was very informative.
The speaker was a xx who talked of her solar energy project in a small village.
We met Domingo, a coffee producer, whose wife had met a Canadian on the internet and had dumped Domingo for the new guy. He was totally devastated. We had dinner and then he took us to Louis, a smart salesman who bragged about himself for a couple of hours
We met Plinio, the young bartender at Zinzebar whom Katherine, the Belgian owner of Folklore Gift Shop, had recommended. He showed us a few lots in Volcancito.
We met Lisca, of Rea lEstate in Panama. Her company was recommended by Irene at Panamento Hotel and by Domingo. She showed us a finca in Volcancito.
I called Continental Airlines to postpone my return flight from 9/22 to 9/28 ($50 charge).
I waited for Luis, the R.E agent, from 12-2 but he did not show up. I bought a pair of plastic boots since I was tired of walking with wet sneakers. I met Luis, Domingo’s friend who showed me a 2 hec/$35m2 finca in Volcancito (passed the charge) with a shack that he called a house.
Itsa, our hotel owner drove us to Jaramillo Rd, Caldera and then to David for her car inspection where we had a veggie lunch. She made a few stops at the car repair shop where her car was sitting for a few months, a wood truck and fruit stand.
I had a good omelet and coffee at Grand Central ($2) - the locals’ hangout - then took the 8:00-9:10 bus to David and took the 9:15-11:00 bus to Cerro Punta. The scenery was beautiful, particularly as we approached Volcan, with lush farms, herds of cows and horses and the rising mist at the Volcan. I had a pancake at the Cerro Punto Hotel, walked towards Los Nobus and back on the road towards David. On km2 - after passing a couple of fruit stands - I turned onto a road where there was a “Villa for Rent” sign. I could not find the villas, but ended up taking a long walk along the farms. I then checked out the tranquil Hostal Cerra Punto ($75/day), and took the 5:00-7:00 bus back to David.
The scenery was awfully beautiful. The rising mist was mixing with the descending clouds on the East, forming a mirage of a grand lake, with patches of the low clouds looking like sunken cities in the waters in the golden glow of the sunset. The yellow and pink houses looked ablaze as the sun rays hit them. Old women on the porches were gazing at the road. The herds were huddling, surviving another beautiful and plentiful day and awaiting the next day. The dogs were sitting in the front of their houses, resting after a long days of barking - as they most do that here. Children were playing in the fields. The large black birds were rushing to their nest, as if remembering their hungry offspring. The bus made frequent stops to unload and load passengers who were carrying produce and other foodstuff. One was holding a large rooster carefully. Kids would chase the bus as they drove off, waving at the departing relatives. It was hard to decide which direction to look – at the beautiful sunset to the West, or at the glowing clouds on the Volcan to the East.
After arriving in David I took the 7:30-8:45 bus to Boquete. The bus was playing the rap videos on a monitor, with children at full attention. After arriving, I took a shower and went to ElSabroson for dinner. The old man selling flowers – whom I had read about on the web and had seen often on the streets – came and sat at my table, opening his bag and stated having his bread. I asked him if I could buy him dinner. He said only coffee. I left a dollar bill on the table; he put it in his pocket and continued having his bread. He offered me his leftover flowers a couple of times. I told him the next time when I am with my love, I will buy his flowers. I walked around, up to the street by the bridge across my hotel. The smell of the roses from the flower garden at the beginning of the street had filled the street with the help of the pleasant breeze. I went back to the hotel, sat at the porch and listened to Caldera. And watched the bright stars – not as glowing as the stop between Macchu Picchu and Cusco, but pretty anyhow. I was getting to feel the same as I had felt in Jerusalem. I had a feeling of attachment and uplift.
I woke up at 6:00am but stayed in the bed till 7:00am. I ate at Central Park, my new favorite place - besides Shalom Bakery where the Ruiz Café con leche and the mini not-very-sweet scones were great. It was Sunday today and the Plaza was very quiet and peaceful – very few cars or pedestrians.
I walked to El Salt towards Volcancito and stopped at the 6,000m2 lot Plinio had shown me. I could only hear singing birds, the neighbors’ roosters and the river at the Valle Escundido below.
I then headed to the other lots on km7, off the main road where I walked around. I was getting hungry, and my feet tired of the long walk with the plastic boots. I headed back to town.
I had a quiet day. My toes were hurting from the long walk the day before.
In the evening Sal and Raul, our fellow hostal guest showed up with a farmer who took us to his 40hec finca on Alto Boquete. He was selling a 2 hec. lot for $25m2. the view was nice.
A quiet day in town, trying to get hold of the owner of the 6000m2 lot. Plinio was trying to call him at his cell with no luck. I stopped by at the bar at 4:00pm and Elmer, Plinio’s brother said that the owner will be there at 7:00pm. I went back at 7:00pm and met Kerry the owner. I found out the Plinio had given me the wrong info. The 6000m2 lot was actually a 1hec lot and it was already sold a couple of months ago at $26m2. Now only the triangle lot was available at $30m2, not the $20m2 he had told me.
I was supposed to go to Volcan with Raul but he was not ready. I met Itsa Guuera? (War). She was not feeling good after a dog bite and a few stitches on the ankle but was still working. I said good-bye to Sal and Itsa and headed for Boca Chica. I took the bus to David and then another bus to the road to town. A taxi driver asked for $20 for the 18km ride. I did not have enough money on me, therefore I started walking. Jose, a construction contractor, gave me a ride to Playa Heromz. I walked for a couple of hours before getting another ride to town. It was a small town on a placid bay, with just fifty families as Grayson had indicated. I talked to George the owner of the town hotel who said he was a resident of Boquete but he had moved out since it was getting too crowded. He said the same thing was happening in Boca – gringos were coming and buying anything.
Grayson was not in town and since there was not much to do in town I hit the road. I got a ride in the back of a truck up to next town where I was able to hitch another ride with Terri, a Floridian who had purchased a villa in Valle Escundido. He was worried about the Real Estate market crash in U.S.
In David, I walked around for a while, purchased a 12:00am express bus ticket to Panama City, picked up my bag at the storage room and took the bus to Volcan to watch the roadside. I arrived in Volcan and since it was close to the time for the last bus departure, headed back to David after a short walk. I waited for the bus for till 12:00am. I was able to get a long nap in the chilly bus.
I arrived in Panama City at 6:00am where I looked for a bus to Bella Vista for 20 minutes before finding out that I had to go to Albrook terminal first. It was a 5-minute ride but had to wait for 8 minutes for the driver to pull into the station. I then took another bus to Hotel California where I was able to pick up the jacket I had left behind in my previous stay there. I then boarded a bus to Tocumen airport – the sign on the window said so – but ended up at Cinque de Mayo. The driver told me to stay in the bus since he wouldl go back to the airport. After unloading all passengers at Albrook he stopped on the highway, went to the front of the bus where he relieved himself and got back on the bus for the one-hour daring drive to the airport while he had his hand on the horn most of the time. I arrived at the airport at 8:30am and waited for my 10:10am-4:20pm flight to Newark. On arrival, I rode the Air train to Newark Int’l Airport stop where I took the train to Newark Penn, switched to Light Rail to Newark Broad and took the Dover train. In Dover I had a delicious Mexican food at Taqueria and took a cab home ($12).
…………… Panama Notes
http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/RetirementandWills/RetireInStyle/PanamaIsParadiseForRetirees.aspx ******** Wow
When you compare Panama with its neighbors, you'll see that it has more amenities than traditional retirement spots such as Mexico and Costa Rica, with lower costs and crime rates. In Panama, you'll encounter less red tape and less interference from local authorities.
Newcomers who buy or build a new house won't owe any property taxes for 20 years.
Residents pay no taxes on foreign-earned income.
one of the world's best discount programs for retirees, with up to 50% off everything from public transport to movies, mortgage rates, doctor's visits, electricity, restaurants and airfares.
In fact, anyone over the age of 18 may apply and can qualify as a pensionado in Panama. All you need is a guaranteed pension income of $500 per month ($600 for a couple). It must be a pension from a government agency (e.g. Social Security, disability, armed forces, etc.) or a defined-benefit pension from a private company. Sorry, but an immediate, fixed annuity doesn't qualify.
Cost of living
Panama has one of the lowest costs of living in all Central and South America: A U.S.-style home can be built for about $40 per square foot; unskilled labor costs $6.40 per day; a full-time live-in maid costs $120 to $160 a month; a beer at a bar costs 35 cents; a cup of coffee, 30 cents; a haircut and shave can cost as little as $2; an afternoon at a beauty salon is $8; electricity is about 10 cents per kilowatt-hour; water bills are $18 per year; telephone service costs roughly $30 a month; Internet access is $14 a month; wireless is available for a bit more; cellular-telephone service costs about $30 a month plus a per-minute charge of around 22 cents; and cable TV will cost you about $30 a month.
Boquete: Boquete sits in Panama's mountainous Chiriqui region at an elevation of about 3,500 feet. It's quiet, unspoiled, uncrowded. Mountains, rivers, waterfalls. Lush green hills and great masses of red and purple flowers. This is coffee country.
Three-bedroom custom-built houses start at $138,000 and ocean-view lots are under $30,000.
Pearl Islands: If you're searching for sand and sun, Panama has that in abundance.
The island of Contadora, the seventh biggest of the 90 named islands in the Pearl Islands archipelago, is in the Bay of Panama, just off the coast of Panama City.
Today the island is a closely guarded secret playground for wealthy and famous political leaders, writers, entertainers and businessmen -- not just from Panama but from all over the world.
Renovated beachfront villas start at $160,000.
Distance from Panama: 480km 50 minutes from Panama City's Paitilla Airport to David / Express Bus: 6hrs
Hotel: http://www.hostelz.com/hostel/3748-Valle-Primavera $10 37 km from David, 3rd largest city, near coffee plantations
Check out Red Frog Beach area
http://www.continental.com/web/en-US/apps/booking/flight/searchResult1.aspx?SID=4ECF29022B6540769C0DF4DDE8CE3A67 NWR-PTY Continental - 5.5hrs
As a Frequent Flyer member I can keep reservation for 10 days (online: 1 day)
$50 fee for chage of Return Flight
$50 fee if reservation is < 14 days prior to departure
9/12 CO887 5:15pm 9:28pm $498 + 73 or 35k miles for Central America
9/22 CO886 10:10am 4:21pm
Dover-Hoboken:4:23, 5:05…7:18-8:32 751-908 759-923 822 1031 1128 1229 129 2:29 3:18 3:35 4:29 4:47 5:22 6:02 7:17 8:35 9:06 9:44 1037 1137 1235
Hoboken-Dover 5:43-7:09 615 634 717 756 850 943 1043 1145 1245 145 233 302 347 355 429-545 436 510..706 742 751 815 854 858 1004 1103 101 145
NJT: 800 772-2222, 5, 2 Newark Penn Station: - EWR 2:27pm (6minutes), 2:35, 2:52, 3:11, 3:26
Take bus or train from Newark Broad St. to Newark Penn Station (every 5-10 minutes) - 2 minute ride
Arrive at Panama City's Tocumen International Airport. Transfer to Marcos Gelebert national (allbrook) airport and fly to David (55 min.)
Hotel California 507 263 7736 Via Espana at Calle 43 Este $25
http://www.aeroperlas.com/ 507) 315 7500 PAC-DAV
PANAMA - DAVID 06:40 07:45 $65.99
PANAMA - DAVID 09:55 11:00 $65.99
PANAMA - DAVID 16:10 17:15 $65.99
DAVID - PANAMA 08:05 09:10 $65.99
DAVID - PANAMA 12:05 13:10 $65.99
DAVID - PANAMA 17:35 18:40 $65.99
CUBA https://res.copaair.com/itd/itd/DoAirSearch JFK: 1-800-FLY COPA 800 359 7211 Onepass miles: PTY/HAV: RT : 20,000miles
Flight Tue, 19 Sep
Panama, Tocumen Intl
Panama, Tocumen Intl
Panama, Tocumen Intl
Flight Tue, 26 Sep
Panama, Tocumen Intl 07:52
Panama, Tocumen Intl 16:05
Panama, Tocumen Intl 16:28
Nash Travel 866-537-7608 New York / Kingston / Havana on Air Jamaica only on MON & THURS both ways
Air Jamaica 800 523 5585 / 2
Sept 11: NY KNINGSTON/Havana 10:00am-12:45pm 6:15pm 9:15pm $434+457=984
Sept 18 HAVANA/KINGSTON/NY 10:15pm-10:40pm 5:30pm - xxxxx
http://www.panamarelocation.com/living_in_panama.htm Book - Living in Panama
Read Back Issues
http://www.theboquetetimes.com/3-4-2004/ Good R.E. Info - Contact the developer
I learned that it showers here every afternoon from May to Oct., and rains hardest in Nov. The "dry" season is Dec. through Apr.
A small finca or coffee farm would be priced in the range of $50,000 to $75,000 per hectare (2.47 acres).
Many lots (1/4 acres) have terrific views and their prices ranged from $19,000 to $39,900.
Then of course, there's the climate. The sun rises and sets the same time every day of the year 6:am-7pm
You can rent a nice two-bedroom casita for about $350 per month. Maybe furnished, if you work at it.
How cheap is cheap?
It depends on what you want. In Panama City you can spend $100 or more a night for a really nice upscale hotel room or you can spend $30 for a sparkling clean but modest hotel room. You can eat well with wine or beer for under $10 or you can spend a lot more. Tipping is 10%. In Boquete, you can spend $10-$20 for a room at a hostel, $50-$100 at a nice B&B, and there are lots of other desirable options in between. An excellent filet mignon dinner at Boquete Bistro (a favorite expat hangout in Boquete) costs $10; flautas with all the trimmings at one the Mexican restaurant are $2.50. A bottle of very decent Chilean cabernet is under $5 at the grocery and produce is so cheap it’s unbelievable: large, ripe avocados are 5 for a $1; mangos are 20 cents, ripe tomatoes are 30 cents a pound. Utilities such as basic phone, electric, gas, and broadband internet service are a similar to US costs (though cell phone service is pricey). Gasoline and diesel fuel are comparable to current prices in the US.
Calling all Canucks http://www.theboquetetimes.com/3-4-2004/html/new.html
President of the association of Canadian is Firdaush Enayati
Request for contacting Firdaush Enayati in Panama
I read your article in Boquete Times. I am planning a trip to Panam in September and considering retiring to Boquete. I would very much appreciate if you could give my email to Firduash or give me his email or phone number for a few questions.
Thanks very much for your response. Actually my purpose of the trip in September is to look for a property in Boquete, possibly a coffee farm with an existing building - or possibility of building a house on it- to purchase, initially as a part time residence and later as a place to retire to. Would you kindly be able to recommend a reliable Real Estate broker or any advice that can help with my search?
Gardens: Mi Jardin es Su Jardin and El Explorador
Hike: Parque Internacional La Amistad- near Cerro Punta.
Los Angeles Times MSN Money Wall Street Journal
http://www.internationalliving.com http://www.internationalliving.com/free_reports/05-01-06-24hours_in_panama.html ****
Dollar Rent a Car 866 700-9904 14 days: Manual: $513 Auto: $554 Inclu. Tax + Basic Insu. Gas: $3.52/ga
Hotel: PTY Covadonga Hotel Lonely Planet, cheap but clean. Excellent Italian restaurant across street.
Panama Department of Immigration.
The cost of regular phone Internet access is $24 a month unlimited access. DSL is $59.00 / month and dial up is around $25.00 / month.
http://www.boquetehighlandsrealestate.com/ Farms & homesites - Other info, FAQ, Community Info: Prices
Highlands Real Estate, 5722 Ave. Central, Boquete,Chiriqui 507-720-1864
http://www.viviun.com/Real_Estate/Panama/Boquete/ 8 acre: 160k 1 acre: 175k 1/2acre: 45k
email@example.com John Villegas office: +507.720.2584 mobile: +507.615.6450
http://www.businesspanama.com/business_group/contact_us.php 1200m:156k 2400m:156k 1100m: 90k
http://www.boquetehighlandsrealestate.com/Sections/small_farms.html firstname.lastname@example.org Palmira Farm: 4ha: 240k ($6/m2)
http://panamaatyourservice.com/Listings/viewListing.php?lID=42 Palmira, 10 minutes from Boquete 2.11a: 109,000 3 small br w/ ocean view
The Inside Story Tuesday at 10:30 AM, Panamonte Hotel 1 ½ info session
http://www.viviun.com/AD-58680/ Call owner – 4-8 acres, 85k
http://www.businesspanama.com/investing/opportunities/real_estate.php Call 800 number
Restaurants: Sarabone? Auroa?
08/04/20 UK: Bournemouth
I planted the seeds on the lot I had prepared the day before with encouragement from old John and prayed for rain during my one month absence. I did it much faster this year and was done un under two hours., then showered, packed and the driver showed up fifteen minutes early while still I had to get dressed. We had a quick ride to Newark, waited for 10 minutes for check-in and then waited for another two hours before 21:10 Virgin Atlantic departure.
Monday: We arrived in LHR; the captain had to taxi off for some time before landing. After leaving the plane, as soon as I arrived at the baggage claim my luggage was pushed onto the tracks. The driver was waiting as I got out. We took the 80-mile drive within 1 1/2 hrs. I checked in at the Bournmouth Village Hotel, showered, lunched, ant arrived at JPMC about 2:00pm. I met Richard Fithch, Keith Martin, Arthur B Campbell (ex-IBMer, with disabled wife), Daren Hearne, Dave J Wicks (ex IBMer), Simon Higgins (professor), Stephen X Blair (old balding guy), Steven X Bate (Irish consultant), Aaron X Cain (American consultant).
After worked walked to nearby Castlehill Mall, and dined at nearby Harvester bar, where the service was non-existence and the barman had no idea of wine.
After work I took the bus to Town Center, walked around the pier and the Royal Bath Hotel, came across Ciao at 144 Old Christchurch Rd. The food was wonderful, especially the appetizer of smoked eggplant with goat cheese that the South African Indian owner accepted to use in lieu of feta cheese. The cook was a young white South African girl.
Wednesday After work bused to Town Center, found the Indian restaurant Indian Ocean on 4 West Cliff Rd. It was overrated.
At invitation of Richard we went for a drink during lunch hour. Martin Williams joined us.
After work - at invitation of Martin - joined his team for an annual JPMC quiz night. The quiz was performed in four rounds with around 20 team, each consisting of 6 members. Every one was very enthusiastic and competitive, especially Keith Martin. This time my team came seventh out of ten. I did not know the answers to most question that I should have known. Keith dropped off Arthur Campbell and I at the hotel where we had a drink and chatted for a while.
After work took the M1 bus to Town Center and changed for bus to Poole and found 37 Seamoor St. where Basilica is located; had a great meal of smoked salmon and sea bass (on a bed of large cherry tomatoes, baby potatoes, baby artichokes, greens). Everything was perfect. The service was great. The chef is Albanian. The mix rustic & modern décor with some food presented at the front was very inviting. I then took M1 bus – with the funny Spanish driver - to Charminster, walked around the mix euro- Middle Eastern restaurants, stopped at a Turkish place for coffee and bakhlava, and then in order to burn the calories I took a long walk to Castlehill and back to the hotel
09/03/18 Iran: Tehran
Through Sat. April 4 KLM; bas service
Ticket: Pres voyage: $1030
09/11/27 Argentina/Chile: Buenos Aires, Rosario, Cordoba, Mendoza, San Rafael, Tuyun, Topungato, Santiago, Montevideo
11/27 Fri: In the afternoon, my co-worker, Scott Jarvis, gave me a ride to Morris Town train station. I had decided to park my car at the office.
Took the train to Penn Station and then rode E train to Bus to the airport for my 10:20pm AA flight to Buenos Aires.
11/28 Sat: Arrived at B.A. to 11:00AM local times (two hours ahead of NY), took the MTL shuttle which made a stop in midway to transfer us to minibuses based on our destinations. I was dropped off at my hotel (130P), Hotel Goya, in Micro Center; walked along Cordoba and Florida Avenues, hade my first of many Argentine steaks, “bife de chorizo”.
11/29 Sun: It was raining heavily. Sebastian, the concierge said it would be raining for two days. I had a decent breakfast at the hotel and then walked to San Telmo. I was greeted by the mosquitoes of B.A. which was hard to get rid of. San Telmo was a charming area where I stopped at the Mercado for a cup of coffee before taking a walk along the river to Retiro, where I got the bus schedule Rosario. I then walked along the beautiful few blocks nearby and continued to Recoletta to visit the elaborate cemeteria – where Eva Peron is buried – and then walked along the Hays park before taking the bus to Retrio and walked to Goya Hotel. After a short rest went out for dinner at nearby Chraraca parrialla and had a château briand (130p) and some wine (130p).
11/30 Mon: I walked to Plaza the Mayo to look for bus # 8 to aeropuerto to Eziza International airport, then back to my hotel to get my luggage and cab to Retiro for my 12:30-04-30pm bus to Rosario. At the bus terminal in Rosario took bus 143 to Plaza Santafe and walked 6 blocks to hotel Lapridu, on Lapridu. After circling the main streets of the town, and being greeted again by the mosquitoes, headed for Ave xxxxxxxx, which was a very long street, with many restaurants, pastry shops and ice cream shops, stopped by a church and then after dinner, took a long walk to coastnra, the Pirana river, and then back to my hotel. The city was quiet by this time, but still the ice cream shops and bars were buzzing with customers.
12/01 Tue: After a good coffee at the corner Uruguayan Bar, checked my email and took my a bus to the bus terminal; A lady in the bus pointed to my backpack and I saw that the zipper to the bottom portion of my backpack was open and I had dropped my slippers. Fortunately my under garments were still hanging in there. I would have missed my stop if another young girl had not pointed it to me. I purchased a ticket for the 12:30PM bus to Cordoba, but I got on the wrong bus – it did have “Cordoba” sign in the window. When the conductor came to collect the tickets he told me that I was in the wrong bus. I got off and by this time my bus had left the station. I went back to the ticket booth were the kind clerk made a phone call and then changed my ticket for a 2:45pm bus. I finally took the 14:45-23:00 bus to Cordoba. The scenery along the road was green. In Cordoba bus terminal, I got the schedule for Mendoza buses and took a cab to Hotel Garden.
12/02 Wed: I walked around the town; for lunch had a good huge steak; bought a pair of slippers,
There was not much to do in the city. I walked to the bus terminal to purchase a cama coche (sleeping bus) bus ticket to Mendoza, walked back to hotel, packed and went to plaza xxxx to sit for a while and watch the crowd. The young girl sitting next to me left and came back with a large bottle of Fanta and sat to finish it. I got up and waked to the bus terminal. Along the way bought a couple of empanadas.
12/03 Thurs: We arrived at Mendoza at 08:15am. I took a cab to Petit Hotel (120p) and after check in went for touring the town. The city is beautifully designed, with huge Plaza sorbemente, and then four smaller plazas around it on the adjacent blocks. The streets are covered with tall sycamore trees. The area has more of a dessert climate but the irrigation canals flowing with water from the snows of the Anders keep the city very green and pleasant, though the loud noise and fume of the buses interfered with the greenery of the town. For lunch went to a restaurant on San martin where the owner had locked up the wine cabinet and I ended up having a beer with lunch; the owner showed up too late with his purchase of the meat and other foodstuff for me. I then took a bus to the huge park xxxx for a walk, back in town booked a winery tour for the following day before walking to bus terminal to get the schedules for San Rafael and Santiago. At night walked to Colon street, which was packed with sidewalk customers having mostly drinks and more drinks – it seems you do not see too much of food in the country - the land of the beef.
12/04 Fri: Bought a delicious lunch of merluza? fish at a City Mercado stand, run by a few women who looked like nuns and ate at a sidewalk. I then walked to the tour office for the 14:00 winery tour and waited till 14:45 for the bus to show up. We spent another 45 minutes to pick up other passengers and then visited a couple of wineries/Olive oil fincas. I meet Eesha, whom I had seen in the Cordoba-Mendoza bus ride. I was not able to pickup her British accent; she is a mixed Brit, with a Sri Lankan father; both her parents are college professors and she is a teacher who took a year off to travel the world; she was taken in for signing a $2000 credit card slip for an average camcorder in Miami, run by foreigners, and her police complains went nowhere. She had great hopes in Obama’s success, saying that his failures would have a negative impact on the lives of the minorities in the world.
I again went to mercardo to pick up some fish and empanadas for dinner and walked to the park to eat.
12/05 Sat: By the time I got to the bus terminal all 08:00 buses to San Rafael were sold out, so I purchased a ticket for 11:00 and went for a good cup of coffee and a long wait in the quiet 2nd floor coffee shop. As we approached San Rafael the scenery turned direr with the land covered with mostly bushes. As we arrived near the town, the long trees forming an arch over the streets changed the scenery again. We arrived at S.R. at 14:30. I checked in at Espana Hotel (80p), where I was shown a room in the dungeon section initially, even though the hotel did not look busy; I asked for a room in the colonial section and was given one in that section; the courtyard was very pretty and I ended up having my breakfast there every morning. I went out for a walk, sat at a sidewalk table at Nina – the site of Gath and Chavez mentioned in L.P., where the landlord had taken over the property. I then walked into the small next door wine shop, and met the owner, Alfredo Serra, an Spanish born war child – being transferred to Mexico in childhood along with his brother by government of Spain to keep them safe from the war in homeland. The mother had joined them later on and they had emigrated to S.R. where he became an international photographer, with stints in most of the world – including the 2500 year Iranian kingdom celebrations - before purchasing a winery and now was running the winehop of her daughter who was living in Spain. He took me to parquet, a nice parrilla, near sorbimente, where we had a fine dinner.
12/06 Sun: I went to Remax, where Scott, the real Estate agent I had met in Mendoza, had referred me to and found Ms. Carmenchu Mirragi and family sitting in the living room watching an old American movie. She showed me a listing of a few properties.
I walked to Tienda del sol for a nice steak and wine (Jean Rivea Malbec, by a namesake Swiss winemaker, which Alfredo had chosen the night beforer. After lunch I went for a long walk around the Sorbiment Park where I got lost and by the time I got back to city and checked my email, I had missed the 2:00pm appointment the Robert and Elizabeth had given me to meet them and their farm, which I had found on the web, and had emailed them the day before for an appointment. I emailed them and asked for a new appointment.
Met Alfredo who told me the owners of Nina had another property (four stores and two flats) two blocks away that they heirs wanted to sell for $600k.
12/07 Mon: It was raining hard. I called Robert. He and Elizabeth, his wife came to Nina and where we had a chat and they said they will send Nick, The Ukrainian taxi driver to pick me up to drive to their farm the following day.
12/08 Tue: Nick was waiting for me at 10:30 and drove the 15km distance to the finca at 2700 La Villain, Cama Raida (130k) email@example.com . The owners showed me around the neat house and the lot. The had decided to move to Montevideo, getting bored of lack of cultural activities in S.R. and also because of the allergy that Robert had developed needing better medical care.
We then drove to the city and had a pleasant lunch at Tower Hotel (55p prefix).
I then went to meet Ms. Marragi and visited:
1: a large old dark house, with 6 bedrooms, and a nice yard for 300K.
2: a newly built house, yet unfinished, where due to the financial crisis the owner had stopped finishing the construction. The lot was too small and they had dried up the lot’s wine trees. The neighbors were to close for comfort (200k).
3: A 12-hectares finca, half planted with vines and fully automated.
12/09 Wed: I took the bus to Rama Caida, and walked about an hour to find Robert’s house. They drove me around to show me the neighborhood. We saw some wild horses and a ram on the hills and stopped at a sausage shop, before driving to Alqodong, the 800-heacares project were the restaurant, golf and tennis courts, and hotel residences were built but no purchaser had started to built a house on the expensive lots for sale. We had a very good lunch (70p) there.
Back in town, at night, as I was watching the dinner menu at restaurant next to La Fuesta, I saw Alfredo who was getting a Sandwich. He told me his woman was visitng relatives in Santa fe. I invited him to sit down with me at the side walk table.
12/10 Thur: I met ms. Mirragi, who showed me:
1: the big dark house (280k) belonging to an old Architect who was moving to Cordoba to be with his daughter.
2: the house (200k) belonging to Molly, a Brit, from Oxford, who had married a guy from Spain. They are selling the house so the that husband can use the proceeds to build cabanas; their daughter works at Francesco, a nearby restaurant, where she earns up to $80 in tips since she speaks English; that surprised Ms. Mirragi.
3: A 3.5-ha finca/house (250k) in Rama Caida, belonging to a Russian couple who want to move to a colder place tin the south. We were shown around by a young caretaker who looked like a gangster. The back of the house if the largest fruit drying plant in the city, so I guess the disturbances should be plenty. Incidentally, Robert had told me the previous day that the farmers in that plant had shipped their product to Russia without being paid for it; possibly this family was the go between and had to escape town.
We then drove to a few more houses in the city but I was unable to see inside of any of them.
I picked up a bottle of Malbec, some tomatoes and cheese, and had the sausage that I had bought the previous day at the colonial yard at the hotel.
12/11 Fri: I took bus No. 510 to Rama Caida, to Rte 143 fork and walked the one hour distance to Robert’s house. The road to the house was very pleasant and quiet. I sat around for a couple of hours during which only one car, one motor cycle and a few bikes passed by. The only sounds were the breeze and the sound of the water flowing in the narrow canal I was sitting by. Christian, the young neighbor, was working the vegetable garden using the horse. The couple returned home later on. As I got hungry, I walked to the main road but after walking for some time could not find a place to eat –all closed for siesta – so I took the bus to bus terminal, lunched, and found the library and its tiny collection of English book; I then wondered the town for the rest of the day.
12/12 Sat: I went to a Real Estate Agent, whose ad I had found in the local paper I had picked up the day before. The partners, Pedro and Jose drove me to a 22-ha lot in Rama Caida ($7-8k /ha). The few sheep on the lot managed to escape through the gate that Pedro left open.
The owner is selling this finca since his operation is on another finca- where he plants fragrances (lavenders). At he end of the street a secondary agricultural school file was located.
I then stopped at Alfredo’s wine shop where his old bookkeeper showed me a collection of beautiful pictures of the S.R. from the 1890-1910 era.
I went to Tower Hotel for lunch, where Kelly/Ruth Jarvis ( firstname.lastname@example.org ), a kind Mormon Missionary couple from Utah working in Mendoza took a table nearby. I asked them if I could join them and the agreed. They were very helpful in providing lots of information about the area.
After lunch, I walked to San Jose Church, on Libratador, where Kelly had told me I might find the Mohamades, the seven Iranian sisters turned nuns. I asked a few people about them but no one knew them.
I went to Alfredo’s again to say good-bye. He showed me another collection of very old pictures from S.R. that he had acquired from the residents of the town just by asking them. I then went to dine at La Fuesta II; as I started my meal Alfredo and his wife walked and took the table adjacent to mine. S.R. seems like a really small town.
12/13 Sun: I walked to Belen bakery and picked up a few whole wheat rolls for breakfast. After returning, I saw the hotel resident dog was sitting by my room. I had not been friendly to him since I saw him often running to the bushes in the back of the yard and rubbing his body against them so I assumed he should have ticks and had avoided him. That morning, before leaving, I have left my leftover sausage by the bushes where iwas sure he would find it. I walked towards the end of the yard to see if he had taken care of the food and as soon as I turned the corner towards the bushes he got up and sprinted towards the location, assuming that I was going to put more food there. I was amazed at the power of his recognition – my mind then turned to another situation; I had left my personal toilet paper in the bathroom after I had ran out of the one provided by the hotel, to find it was placed on the holder by the kind hotel maid. She could not deduct what would happen when I ran out of that one. I thought what the world would be like today had the dogs managed to stand up on their feet and grasp the stick with their thumbs. Would they have their own god and prophets? Droning the breakfast the dog sat nearby and I obligingly had to feed him.
At 09:45 the tour operator came to colonial yard and I accompanied her to the bus for a day tour in Valle Grande which everyone spoke so highly of. Basically it was an artificial lake, created by four small dams – of which the tour guide spoke with high praise. There were some deep canyons formed by the volcanic actions of the earth.
At lunch stop a few of the customers decided to go for a raft ride on the rived. I opted out and went to the hills for a walk and a quiet moment. As we headed back towards town it started to rain again; we stopped at a finca where we saw some wine making operations and tasted a couple of sample, including a decent sweet wine in addition to some dried fruits.
After returning to S.R. I called ms. Mirragi to thank her for her help; I then called Robert to tell him that I needed more time before I could come back with an offer for his house. I then wondered the beautiful town enjoying the beautiful crisp air and the quiet of the Sunday afternoon and felt somewhat nostalgic leaving it soon. I walked to San Martin Park to enjoy the surrounding once more. I then stumbled into de Generals, a wine shop in a converted huge hall and beautifully designed, at the end of San Martin. I asked for a glass of wine and sat down to enjoy the moment. The cashier walked to the end of the shop, made me a procittuo sandwich and brought it to me say that it was not good to have solo wine. I then saw the bar girl who started to clean the glasses using a Windex like solution. I felt sick for some time after that.
12/14 Mon: Today is my last day in S.R. When I went for breakfast, Eli, the maid, had not arrived yet. The man at the front desk, after having waited for some time, brought my breakfast which I took my breakfast to my room. After a rather lengthy checkout process, I walked to the bus terminal and took the bus for a 2-hour ride to Tuyuan; it was recommended by Kelly Jarvis. It was a non-descriptive town where the landscape turned drier. I used my bus ticket stub to get on another local bus for the one-hour ride to Tupungato. After wondering for some time to find a place to get a coffee with no success, I stumbled into a nice restaurant where I had a decent steak and ended up ordering a dessert that the old couple next to me had requested. It was a layer of cheese, topped by condensed marmalade. The waiter sprinkled some olive oil and some grounded some pepper on it. it was delicious – with a few distinctive flavors.
I then walked around for some time before I felt really sleepy. I figured that the Spanish did not come up with siesta, but siesta was forced on them – was it the sun? I found the grounds of a small hospital where I leaned against a tree and rested for a while before walking to bus terminal for my bus to Mendoza. Once we arrived there I left my backpack in ‘Gurdia el equipaje” (luggage room) and bought a 22:40 cama coche ticket to Santiago. I walked to the town and visited the Mercado. The stand run by the old women was closed. I ended up having a pizza before some more walking and then going back to the bus terminal.
12/15 Tue: I woke up at 01:40; the bus had stopped at the border crossing for immigration check.. it was a two hour slow process for most of which we just waited doing nothing, as did the officials. We finished at 04:00 and boarded our bus. We arrived in Santiago at 06:00. after getting rid of a stubborn can driver at the bus terminal I took the metro at Santiago Station to University de Chile and walked to Londres street. The hotel I had found on the internet was full therefore I checked in at Heotel Plaza Londres ($45=22,000p) at Londres 7 (www.hotelPlazaLondres.cl ), a nearby hotel after a shower I headed out and walked along Libratadore, lunched at Cal y canto, walked back to my room for a short rest and then walked to the lively Mercado where the action was winding down by the time I got there. I then walked to the very lively and grand Plaza the Armas, where a band was playing a pro/anti life demonstration was in motion and the chess players were in action, and many people were strolling around. I then walked along Cathedral Street, with its many colonial buildings. I had a good sandwich at a local restaurant before taking a long walk and ending up on Libratador again.
12/16 Wed: After breakfast at the hotel I looked up the address of the Aerolineas de Argentina on the net at “2921 Roger de flor”. I asked a guy for the directions who kindly tried to call to find out but got a voice mail. I then went to bus terminal and after some confusion found the one we had arrived at the day before and purchased a 22:30 semi cama coche ticket to Mendoza. I was given the wrong train to La Cisterna, where two transit guide had to search for some time to find the street I was looking for. I was able to get back in Metro without paying, saying “perdida” (lost), and boarded the train with a transfer to “Tobalala” where I found the airline office nearby the station. I purchased a one-way 09:45 Mendoza-B.A. ticket ($133) for the following day. I then went to a nearby food mart where I had lunch and then sat down for a coffee, some resting and writing. I then took the #1 train and got off at Salvador to walk to mecado central. By the time I arrived there they had shut down the doors. I stumbled into a very lively bar, la Piojera, which seemed to be an institution, with many foreigners devouring a local specialty drink. I tried one severed by the funny barman. I then looked for the fruit market I had visited the day before. A native woman, pointing to the camera in my hands, said it was not a good idea to walk there at that time; another woman who was standing in front of the door to her house, pointed out her house; possibly noticing that I was a bit tipsy. I walked to plaza de Armas, and then along Estados St, where I stopped at a busy pancho (hot dog) café to try a couple of the specials.
I met Orlando Galvez, a Hasidic Jewish, Iranian-Syrian-Argentine-Chilean standing on a corner and promoting his message, written on a tablet. We got into a conversation about the god, “the mystery” as he put it. I took a picture of him and we shook hands.
I then wondered around some more, took a few pictures of the beautiful buildings which in the light of the night looked more so. I then took the train to Santiago U. station for my 22:30-06:00 bus to Mendoza, with a 01:30-03:30 immigration checkpoint at the border, where I stepped out to enjoy the beautiful stars while my fellow travelers waited on the line, not wanting to be the last one who is processed.
12/17 Thurs: I took bus # 68 to the airport and waited for my 09:30 flight to B.A. In B.A. I took bus # 45 to the Buqebus, guided by a young girl, where I purchased a r.t. ferry (680P) to Montevideo, Uruguay (680p), walked to Cordoba Ave and had a very good pasta at Sabato, before having to rush back to the ferry to pass through immigration and board my 15:30-17:00 ferry. The ride was very comfortable, though the scenery was the muddy river for the most part. I found that hotel Soltis on Mitre was renamed to “Splendid” where I checked in ($47/day, 1 USD = 50 P). I went out to the bank to get some cash and was confronted by a couple of stubborn teenage beggars. I then went for a walk around the city, made up of many beautiful 18c buildings, some vacant and some still in use. The city seemed to be a very prosperous port before B.A. taking over most of the trade.
At night, back in my room, I had no problem falling asleep, with the boisterous customers filling the sidewalk tables at the bars on my street.
12/18 Fri: A Princess cruise boat had anchored at the port and the town seemed a bit crowded with 2,700 hundred American passengers filling the streets. By the afternoon I had walked most of the old town, so just took it easy for the remainder of the day. I just walked around and enjoyed the charm of the buildings. I walked to the end of the port where I lied down for a while to enjoy the breeze and the sound of the water. I then walked to the town, sat at a plaza and reflected on my trip. Even though Argentine was a bit of disappointment - because of the mismanagement that for example could be seen in the long lines formed in front of the national bank, for the ruling party to give handouts to the masses to keep them in power – still I enjoyed this trip so much that I started planning my next trip – Jordan, Syria, Lebanon while trying not to think of other destinations.
The other thought that crossed my mind was the possibility of making this trio maybe fifty years earlier, where the sound and pollution would have been a less distraction to the beauty of the sites, but would I have been able to make these trips then?
12/19 Sat: I wondered some more around the town before picking up my backpack to head for the ferry station which evidently I missed and passed it by. By the time I noticed it was getting too late; I asked a tourist police for help; he called a cab which I took to the ferry station just to make it on time. In B.A. walked to Florida Ave where I had lunch before walking to street along the cathedral to take bus # 8 to Eziza airport for my 21:30 flight to New York.
12/20 Sun: New York hard its first snow storm of the year. The air train was running only on one track. I Jamaica station, the attendant declared the ride was free. I took the E train to Penn Station. In Morris Town the taxi service was not accepting rides due to snow. I found a cab driver who accepted to take me to my office to pick up my car. I arrived at the office at 11:00 and could not find the key to my drawer where I had left my car keys and cell phone. The security and maintenance had to check with three levels of management to get approval to open my drawer; one manager rejected the requested. I called for a cab and finally was picked up at 4:00pm, after a five-hour wait and see period.
12/21 Mon: I walked to Classic taxi service and find out that they had relocated. I walked the 4.5 miles distance to Arlington Train Station and after a one hour wait finally boarded the train to Morris Town to cab it to office. Finally later in the afternoon the maintenance person showed up and unlocked my drawer. I was fully dependent on my car again.
10/17/10 GA-Smokey Mountains: Blue Ridge, Atlanta
I woke up at 6:30 and left home at 8:0 AM for Blue Ridge, GA. For lunch, had the delicious Chinese eggplant and peppers that had picked up the night before and grilled. The drive was very pleasant, with good traffic and beautiful tree colors all along the way. Drove on I81 though Virginia, Tennessee, with an overnight stay at Relax Inn (7253 Lee Hwy, $38)
Arrived in Blue Ridge, GA and drove to the property at 875 DOGWOOD LANE, Mineral Bluff, GA 30559, only to find it the road to the house was a windy road that ended up on top of a ridge where the traffic could be heard from the passing cars.
I drove to city where I checked in at Days Inn.
Dan Easton picked me up in the morning and drove me to three properties, the first two on woodsy lot with some sound of the traffic and even airplanes, but the third one – 1061 Geisky Creek Rd, Hayesville, GA 28904 (MLS# 199062, $194,900) Dave & Cathy 828 389 4987 - Seemed ok, with a flat land and a nice creek running around the lot but few windows.
In the morning walked around the town, and stopped at United Community Bank.
I drove to Crane Creek Winery near Young Harris-Blairsville, about 30 miles away from Blue Ridge. Dave, the Chef, greeted me. I met Karen (a school teacher) and her husband, Mac, a nurse from San Antonio, Texas. He was born to an Irish farther in Air Force and a hot-blooded Mexican mother. He has four more brothers in GA, and one dead. They have moved from Texas to here 30 years ago and have never been back.
Dan Easton, the real estate agent, showed up and introduced me to Diana and her husband, Bruce of Miami who moved to Blairsville in 2004. She retired from shipping Norlesk?. She loved living in this town, involves in gardening, baking, walking. I also met Lee, an IT person from WFC and her wife Sally, who works at VA. They moved from Charlotte to here and Dan just bought them a house in foreclosure.
The event for the night was the release of 2010 Hell Bender Red. Eric, the self-taught wine maker, who was stationed in Italy for ten years while in army, made a short speech and we enjoyed the cheese hors d'oeuvres. I bought a white (Sayval $19) for myself and red Hell Bender ($26) for Dan. The landscape of the farm was splendid.
I checked out of Days Inn ($65/night, owner: Moish, who was not happy with the business) and drove to Blairsville (32 mi) to check in at Season’s End ($60), run by Chris and Colleen, which Dan Easton had recommended. I then had a good cup of coffee at Grinds & Glazes where I met Sally (pickupMoreDaisies@hotmail.com ), the girl I had met at the winery the night before. She recommended I visit Lake Santeelah, in Robbinsville, NC. I then had a lunch of smoked BBQ at Popeye’s and the headed for Hayesville. On the way stopped at an organic spice and vitamin shop – 2996 NC 69, Hayesville, NC 828 389 2244). Joey Vello, an Italian New Yorker who had moved here forty years ago also sold frames there but the wife had turned it into a women’s clothing consignment shop. Joey was not too optimistic of the future of the country and economy and even though seemed to be a devout catholic, was critical of the influence of the church on people’s life here. He was upset after a short phone conversation with his wife, saying that she expected him to take care of everything. He also said the natives, even though very friendly, never mingle with outsiders. He recommended to dive on Blue Ridge Highway.
I then drove to the house on Geisky Creek where I met Dave, Cathy and Lucy, the dog. I then walked around and met Tom, a minister, who was selling his house to move to Atlanta to be close to his children.
11/09/01 Turkey: Istanbul, Fethyie, Oludeniz
11/27 Fri: In the afternoon, my co-worker, Scott Jarvis, gave me a ride to Morris Town train station. I had decided to park my car at the ..................... . . . 12/02/01 Panama: Santiago, Santa Fe, Pedazi, Boquete, Guadalupe, Cerra Punto http://travel.travelocity.com/flights/InitialSearch.do NY-Panama City - EWR-PTY Wed 02/01 17:00-22:15 EWR Wed 02/22 10:05-15:15 618+97>716 CO1021/CO1022 COPA/CA Panama City Hotel Lisboa 0111 507 227 5916 hang up L/P http://www.hotelcaliforniapanama.net $55 http://www.hostels.com/hosteldetails.php/HostelNumber.56811 Colonial Las CumbresLas Cumbres, Panama City http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Hostal-Aleman/Panama-City/55771?sc_sau=sfab Hostal Aleman Private $22 Calle Anzio 56, Panama City, Panama Hostal Panama $32 Via Porras, Calle 62 Este, Boquete Suenos del Rio (River Dreams 720-2736 / C: 6-601-7771 http://www.serasphere.net/boquete.htm 02/01/2012 Wed. After my appointment with Dr. Sidiqqui at 13:00, I went for a haircut, drove home, packed and at 14:45 Ernesto, the Colombian taxi driver I had called earlier picked me up for the ride to Newark. On the phone he had quoted a fair of $50, but at the destination he asked for $70. I took the on-time 17:00 flight and arrived in Panama City at 22:00. The immigration was very long and after waiting for about 15 minutes and seeing that the line is not moving, I had to cut through the line. I took a semi collectivo cab (2 passengers) for $20 to Albrook bus terminal for the 24:00 bus to Boquete. At the bus terminal, a soldier was standing guard and when I told him I wanted to go to Boquete, he said the road was closed. I took a cab to California hotel, but they had no vacancy, so I checked in at the run down hotel across the street, Hotel Espania ($49). I noticed that I had forgotten my toothpaste and it was too late to buy one. The clerk forgot to give me back my credit card and after I went to bed, someone knocked on the door and gave it to me. 02/02 Thursday. I went to Albrook bus terminal and found out the native Indians had closed down the main Transamerica highway so the buses were not running. I went to Albrook airport but the earliest flight I could book was for four days later, therefore I went back to bus terminal and bought a ticket for Santiago (12:30-16:00), where I took a minibus for the 1 ½ hour ride to Santa Fe. In Santa Fe, I checked in at Santa FE Hotel ($22), managed by Greg and Les, guys who were renting the place from the mother of a friend. The owner was gambling away the rent in Las Vegas. I stopped at Blue Iguana, managed by an American couple, Edwin and Maureen, for a decent burger. 02/03 Fri, I walked to the cascades (waterfalls). Midway, Phil and his dad, Shawn of Los Angeles whom I had met at the hotel picked me up. I ate at the cooperative restaurant, walked around the peaceful and quiet town, before going to the river for a rest. At night, Chip, a psychologist from PA, who was travelling from Peter and a German friend, Ingel, invited me to join them for dinner at the hotel. I had a decent trout. 02/04 Sat. I took a long walk outside the town, and finally found the organic finca of Chon and Maria, who grows orchids. Once there I saw Les, Chip, Ingel, Peter, and the Dutch girl Cassandra sitting under a canopy and listening to Mr. Chon. We then took a tour of the finca. The coffee crop of 200 tree was destroyed by fungus, and the rest of the finca did not look too productive. We then saw a demo of coffee roasting and grounding and had a cup of fresh coffee which did not taste too good. Maria showed us her orchids and we then had a lunch of chicken and rice that caused Chip to get sick badly the next day. In the afternoon, I walked to the river for some rest and when returning, I met Peter who had driven there for a swim. He had recently learned about Rumi from a Persian friend. When driving back to the hotel, the car was stuck on the uneven dirt road and he had a hard time getting out of the mess. For dinner, we went to Blue Iguana, where there was a long conversation on men, women, and relationships – courtesy of the pretty Cassandra’s presence. 02/05 Sun. After some last minute planning I decided to head for Pedasi, a coastal town recommended by Chip, also mentioned in LP. After saying goodbye to Greg and Chip who was still recovering from the Stomach upset from the food we had at the organic Farm of Maria and Chon the previous day, I took the 11:35 shuttle to Santiago where a young man told me the road was open. I took a taxi to the express bus station where i was told the road was not open yet, so i took a taxi back to the main bus station, took a bus to Chirte (1 1/2 hrs). I had a chat with a DVD salesman who had lived in States for 20 years working as a messenger and now works only from 3-7pm and makes $30 which is enough for him and his family of four. I then took the bus to Las Plas where i changed to bus for Pedasi. In Pedasi I checked in at Hotel Recidential and then went for a tour of the city. It was a neat city with colorful homes but a bit fake and touristy and it was not as cool as Santa Fe. I had a lousy lasagna and went for an early sleep. 02/06 Mon. I woke up early and after breakfast packed and waited at the bus stop in front the hotel but the 1st bus passed by as it was full. i walked to the first stop of the buses and after the driver toured and filled every empty of space of the bus, he headed for San Blas. We then changed for Chirte bus and subsequent change for Santiago. Again i was told the buses may be running. A cab driver told me he would give me a ride for the price of the $15 fare of the express bus.. I agreed, and after getting some lunch, with 3 adults and two kids in the back seat we headed for David. The road was a mess and all the shoulders we burned and many spots were still smoldering. There were many army and police trucks on the road and at one spot the Indian threw rocks at the car from a hill but we made it out safe and after a bit over two hours made it to David. The cab driver said he had worked for 12years on Long Island as a Mc Donald’s manager but now works 7 days a week from 4.30 to 8pm and collects 25% of the income of the about $60 a day. Most of his income is derived from driving the foreigners and he makes about $500 a month. At David i took the yellow school bus for the one hour ride to Boquete and checked in the decent hostel Bieber ($15 day), wend for a walk and a take-out dinner at El Sabrosan. The weather was very pleasant, as expected. 02/07 Tues. After a breakfast the Central park headed for El Salto Road, where i had seen my favorite lot the previous trip. The road was still lovely and charming, with tall cedars on both sides and coffee farms behind them. The lot I had seen before still had a sale sign in front of it but the other two sold lots were already built. Just past them and after Casa Vaticano i saw a man who was watching the the laborers picking onions from the lost that he was renting. The lot of 3H had a for sale sigh and he said the owner was asking $80/m2. As we were talking, a neighbor showed up and asked for a back of onions and the farmer said that would be a gift, and the man said a $10 he was offering would be a present also. The man introduced himself as Bob Hansel (6252 2162, Pam¨6252 211) and invited me to his house for a drink. I met his wife, Pam, and their three dogs and two cats. The home was a lovely space with a huge LR, two large BR, two large storage rooms and two large size baths, with huge floor to ceiling windows overlooking the amazing view of the mountains. Pam said should could se a few rainbows daily. Bob showed me his download application and his iTunes TV which was a very nice set up. Then he gave me a ride back home at about 2pm. after lunch i headed in the direction of cafe Ruiz for a lovely walk on the way back saw a few rainbows. One in town, purchased some fruits, went to hotel for a rest and then headed back to plaza to see the Indians protest - where there was no presence of the police. When i was going back to my room, the German couple, Drik & Gudrun Thiessen (email@example.com www.thiessenonline.de) (@ == alt + 6 + 4) from Hamburg invited me to a cup of drink. Drik had worked in Saudi Arabia in 1970´s for ten years. They were on the way to Costa Rica and Mexico by bus. 02/08 Wednesday. After breakfast at Gran central, i took the road by the bridge near plaza and turned left for a hike to Cafe princesca Janaka that Drik had told me about. I saw the sign for Mirador showing 1 172 km away, but i could never find it. everyone asked, gave told me keep going or they had never heard of it, exactly as it happened to another visitor whose blog i had read earlier. Finally i took a detour and took the road the road that brought me back to town passing be Cafe Ruiz. I stopped at Casa Solutions and talked to AC about my needs for a new home to rent. He said they had only 18 homes for rent in the market. I took it easy in the afternoon, as it was raining most of the day. 02/09 Thursday. When I was leaving my room, met Drik and wife and decided to meet for dinner at 19:00. After breakfast at Grand Central headed for El Salto, and after passing Bob´s house came across a lot with a sale sign, and when I inquired from the next door neighbors, Steve, of California, and Veronica, Steve said that the lot did not have a title. Steve was renting a 2-BR for $450 a month. He recommended me to contact his agent, Beverly at 6931 3219. He also said that he had moved from San Jose the previous year after living there for two years, managing a large finca. he said prices there were three times panama and the crime was higher there. he also had once been broken into so had had got two dogs. He does carpentry for fun and usually hangs out with natives rather that with gringos. I continued walking along the lovely El Salto to Volcancito, and after 3 1/2 hours of an exhilarating walk hitchhiked and was dropped off at the tourist office where I took a cab to town and lunched at El Sabrosan. I had a good coffee at Totowa Coffee shop and had a chat with a Taiwanese who has bought a villa in Valle Escondido (400k). He complained about his lawyer´s lack of punctuality and said I should never pay Panamanian in full before services rendered. I met Drik & Gudrun for diner and had a decent meal of Greek salad and fish at Baru, at the plaza. They planned to leave at 5:00am for Costa Rica and continuing to Mexico. 02/10 Friday. I took the Jarramillo loop for a three hour hike. The traffic was surprisingly low, about 6 cars per hour passing by. 02/11 Saturday. I took the Bajo Mono(Los Quetzales) for a four hour hike. Walked to the waterfall that my hostel co-guest, Michael Kelly of Michigan, had walked in his previous trip here. In the afternoon, I met Beverly, the real estate agent. 02/14 Sun. to Los Quetzales trail 9-6 with Michael.. The taxi driver dropped us at the bus stop, rather than at the Rangers’ station, therefore we had to hike the additional 2km distance. The trail was very scenic and easy to walk on, since it was dry. The couple of tour companies had told us that the trail was closed due to landslides. We checked in at Gualadupe hotel where we had a very good meal of At night, my stomach problem showed up 02/15 Mon. I went to the supermarket and the owner, a Chinese woman, gave me a few Lomitils that never worked. 02/16 Thurs. I met Miguel of C.R. and his wife Kelly of US who had moved to Guadalupe. Miguel had grown hemp in Himalaya for 10 years before finally running away from the Indian police. He loved the living experience in India. I tried to take a rest on the grounds, but it was too noisy so i walked for a good distance where there would be no sound of the agricultural machinery. Even after climbing a hill and sitting down, all kinds of noise could be a heard from a nearby house. 02/17 Fri. Mike went for a hike. Peter, our German roommate gave me some Zoluna 19, a herbal extract gown in Italy, but it did not do much. I laid down on the pleasant grounds of the hotel. Caterina from Beiro had called the hotel to ask them to find out about our plans. Mike went to reception and told her that we will be returning the following day. An hour later, when I went back to the restaurant to use the internet, Mike, the receptionist came to tell me that Caterina had given our rooms away, adding that our dorm room at his hotel was also fully reserved for the folloiwng night. I asked Julio, the web page designer of the hotel from Austin to call her on Skype, to no avail. And then Julio added the Indian manifestation had started again and the Transamerica Hwy was closed again. It seems everything just fell in place. 02/18 Sat. I went to the Restaurant to tell Mike that I will be going to Boquete to see a doctor rather than waiting for him to return from his hike. I met an American woman who was talking to Mike and when she found out of my stomach upset, offered me her only Imodium which acted like water of fire. I met Julio who told me that the Indians had postponed their manifestation till Feb. 27, so that the people could enjoy the fiesta. The minibus trip to David took about 2 hours, passing through Cerra Punto and flat town of Vulcan. At Express bus window, I was told told I could not purchase an advanced ticket. Once in Boquete, I stopped by one half dozen hotels, but they were all full until I found Blue Hotel with one empty room which I took ($25 for two). Hugo, the Colombian who was renting the hotel, asked me to have two keys made for the front door. I then emailed Mike and let him know of our hotel and picked up my luggage from Beiro. Once in Bed, Hugo did not stop talking for a long time. 02/19 Sun. I woke up at 4:00AM with the voice of Hugo, the owner at Blue hotel with another person. When I went out to ask him to keep it quiet, he invited me to a beer. I went back to the bed, but he still continued talking. Mike went to pickup his luggage from Beiro. I went for breakfast at Rueben and went back to Blue Hotel. Mike came back and said he had found a new room. We said good-bye to Hugo and went to the new hostel, La Primervera, where the owner, Nevis, happened to have been married to a Persian guy. As our room was still occupied, I left my luggage there, went to the plaza where Hugo had said they would be serving ribs on the occasion of the fiesta, but nothing was happening there, so we went to a so so Mexican. We then walked to Rueben so that Mike pick up the luggage he had left there. Of course Ruben started his bragging for some time before he let us go. We finally checked in our very nice room, went to the plaza for tea, and back to our room, 02/20 Mon. Mike went for laundry and breakfast at Reuben which I skipped. We then met and headed to the bus stop for a visit to Calder's hot springs that Hugo of Blue Hotel had recommended. I asked twice from the bus driver (10:45AM bus - 25 min interval departures) and the young conductor if their bus would go to Hot springs and they confirmed. They went all the way to David, and made a small protest about whether that was correct direction for Caldera. At David, the young conductor took us to the location of caldera bus. We then purchased our tickets for the next midnight express bus to panama City ($15 ea) and waited for about 45 minutes for the Caldera bus. The minibus drove about 40 minutes back on the direction of Boquete when he made a right at Chreequicito intersection and drove another 20 minutes to the end of stop where we took a truck for the 3.5km ride to the vicinity of the hot springs and after a 15 minute walk we finally arrived there and enjoyed the very hot hot spring. we then headed back to Boquete on the back of a truck that picked us up at the hot springs. We had a decent though meager BBQ at Baru - without the aprepa pan that was included on the menu - and headed back to our lodge. Nevis, our friendly host told us that there were direct buses to the hot springs. 02/21 Tue. Today was the height of the festival and all stores, including the internet shop were closed. Mike and I headed for Il Pianista trail to see if we could find the pocket knife he had lost. He thought that he had dropped the knife the last time when he was trying to cross a stream that resulted in his fall. We could not find the knife. While hiking, we met Jeffery Madison (JCmadison786@yahoo.com) , from Maine. He camps in Maine during warmer months and travels during colder months. He is a vegan and a enthusiastic Sufi who does not have a cell phone and has not paid taxes in the past thirty years. He had a map from a local and still we could not find the trail and ended up at a finca that I had ended up the previous try. We headed back and finally found the correct trail. After walking for a while, as it was getting late for our checkout, we said goodbye to Jeffery and headed back to our lodge and picked up our luggage, and said goodbye to Nevis. Mike went to Rueben for lunch, and I went to Topaz hostel to leave my luggage there and then purchased some tomatoes and peppers to have with my soup of yucca. Later in the day I met Mike and, while we were sitting at the plaza, Jeffery showed up. He told us he had enjoyed his hike. While we were talking, he saw Feliciano Gonzalez (6624 9940, 6800 8527) , the native guide and coffee farmer, and jack of all trades, appeared. He talked about the old Boquete and was concerned about the speculation of the foreigners in the Real Estate markets and its impacts on the affordability of the land for the locals. Jeffery had his bread and honey for dinner, therefore Mike and I went to Romero to buy the same. After I picked up the bread and was looking for something to place it in, a woman in the line pointed to some paper towel roll, and when I turned around, I saw it was Itza. I said hello and kissed her but she could not remember me. We had our dinner at the plaza. The last bus for David was leaving at 7:00pm but since neither Mike or I wished to wait in David for our midnight departure to Panama City, we sat around the plaza until 10:00pm and then took a taxi ($24) to David and after a short wait our bus departed. I could sleep most of the way. We arrived at 5:40AM. I waited until Mike was able to board his bus to Yaviza, Darien. I then tried to board the bus to the airport but since I needed a bus card, I went back to the building, searched and found the stand for cards, where I purchased a card for $4 ($2 for the card itself and $2 for the fair). I boarded the next bus at 06:30AM and arrived at the airport at 07:15, but since the stop that we came to was a bit far from the building of the airport and no one with luggage got off I assumed the driver will make additional stops, but he ended up turning around and getting away from the airport. Soon, after passing some crappy neighborhoods, we arrived at the last stop and after some wait, the driver started and dropped me off at the airport, where I took the short walk to the building, checked in and waited for my 10:05am flight. Before boarding, my name was announced on the public announcement system and went I went to the check-in desk I found out two more people, a guy and a gal, and I were summoned for a full search. The search was more a formality. We had a timely departure, and landed at Newark at 16:00 where I took the air train to the trains, bought a combo ticket to Dover for $21, took the train to Secaucus Junction, where I changed to the Summit train, but got off at Newark Broad street where I could take an express train to Dover and then took a taxi to home. I was home at 19:00. 6957 9758 Yael: Spanish Lady from Texas met at Romero supermarket 12/09/01 Turkey, Portugal, Spain Istanbul, Fethiye, Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra, Obidos, Evora, Faro, Tavira, Seville,Dusseldorf 09/16 IST-MUN 16:15 18:05 H1773 + MUN-LIS 19:35 21:45 H1792 10/04 LIS-FKF 07:15 11:20 H1173 $1473 Dusseldorf (DUS) to Lisbon (LIS) 09/14/12 01:15 pm - 3:10 pmTAP Portugal 541 Lisbon (LIS) to Dusseldorf (DUS) 10/03/12 11:35 am - 3:30 pmTAP Portugal 544 $481 FKF-NWR 13:20 15:15 H402 605+250 = 855 YOGWSB https://api.login.yahoo.com/login/history?.ts=1&.scrumb=4tizewTbJVU Sat, 9/01: I called the cab company for a ride to Newark airport; the Hispanic driver went to #7 and was waiting there for some time. By the time I called the cab Co. and the driver showed up and drove me to the train station, I was late by one minute and missed the train. I had to cab to the airport, where we had a one hour delay. I ended up waiting for about three hours. Sun, 9/02: Our connecting flight in Munich had a delay, first because the owner of some luggage had not boarded the plane and therefore they had to unload the luggage, and then they noticed that they did not have enough fuel and therefore they had to refuel. I arrived in Istanbul at 16:00, went to Berk Guesthouse street where I checked in at Neyla (30E http://www.naylapalacehotel.com/ ) and had a chat with Ghadir who had lived in NC, the owner. I made sure of the availability of a room at Terrace (E85) which Yesim had reserved for us. I dined at an Aquaduct street across from Sark, and called Hediyeh from an Internet cafe. Mon, 9/03: Feri's bus arrived at Aksaray at 02:00. We took a Taxi to Terrace (85E, http://www.terracehotelistanbul.com/ owner: Dogon) where the girls stayed and Feri and I went to Neyla where I took a larger room for two of us (35E). We lunched at Sark. Tues, 9/04: We walked to Karakoy (the train gar) and took a Ferry to the Asian Section. We visited the charming non-touristy bazaar and lunched at the corner seafood restaurant where we met two elderly gentlemen. The older one recited a poem in my ears when he was leaving. We met them again at a coffee shop where I asked him to write down the poem for me, as his tone was indeed gracious while reciting it. Wed, 9/05: We lunch at Haji Abdullah in Taksim where the owner of Terrace had recommended. It was an old establishment, with new decoration and good food. Thurs, 9/06: After getting direction to Nata Tachin, we took the dolmash to that shopping area but the girls could not find anything - after that we had a nice coffee and sweets at Starbucks. I then withdrew 600tl at ING ATM all in 100 denominations and the bank could change only a 100 tl note for me despite my protests. We then taxied to Sark Sofrasi (by the aqueduct wall or Su) for a pleasant lunch, after which we bought some fruits and the girls went back to Berk and Feri and I tried to get a ticket to Marmaris for our Datcha destination, but could not make up our minds about the time. We walked between Aksaray and Sultan Ahmet a few times and by the time we decided to get our tickets at Sultan Ahmet, the agency was closed. We then bought a bottle of Yeni Raki and a cake for Tahimeh's birthday and went to the Hotel where we had a very nice celebration arranged by Yesim and attended by two other guests, Minako San and Rene of France. Fri, 9/07: We checked out of the hotel at 11:00AM. the girls stayed back at the hotel and Feri & I went to buy our trip ticket. We changed our destination from Datcha to Oludeniz as the prices that I checked on the web for rooms in Datcha were all above 400tl per room. We went to a Metro agent in Sultan Ahmet and bought our 8:00pm tickets (75tl ea), then walked to Aksaray where Fri OK’ed his return tickets to Iran for the following Friday. We picked up the girls and lunched at the nearby Municipal restaurant, where we enjoyed the nice view of the coast. We then headed back to Berk and picked up our light luggage, waited for the girls to have their sweets at Tahmineh's favorites pastry shop and then took the Tram and metro to Oto gar just in time for the departure. We drove within the city traffic for about 1 1/2hrs. After midnight and at the second stop to pick up a the last three passengers I left for the bathroom and outside the bus noticed that Feri was following me. We walked the long distance to the W.C., and after leaving the bathroom I waited for Feri for a couple of minutes before heading back to the location where the bus had parked but could find see the bus - I could not imagine that the bus may have left us so I checked a few spots around to make sure that I had not made a mistake. At this time Feri showed up and I told him that the bus was gone, but by the time we went back to the bus spot we saw the bus there. The bus had left the station and Hediyeh had screamed that we were left behind and the bus had returned. My mistake was that I assumed that the bus would wait for 10 minutes as the previous station and did not notify the driver that I was leaving for the bathroom, assuming that Feri would stay back. I had a good sleep for the remainder of the trip. Sat, 9/08: We arrived in Fethiye at 9:00AM, purchased return ticket to Istanbul for 09/13 (80tl pp), and at 09:45 took a dolmach (5tl pp) from in front of the Carrfour and arrived in Oludeniz in 20 minutes, where we checked in at Aygul (45tl pp including breakfast and dinner). where we met Aysun (Ausun Kaya – aysnKaya@gmail.com) - the owner's daughter - at the reception and Chehad, the owner, greeted us. After 10:30 breakfast we had a rest, walked to the town center and got wet in the rain and came back to a huge delicious buffet dinner at 20:00. Sun, 9/09: After breakfast we sat by the pool, had some beer and a small lunch of burgers, after which the girls went for a rest at 17:00. Feri & I went to the beach where Feri had a quick swim and we came back to a nice dinner at Aygul. We called Ebi and he told me of his postponement of vacation by one week - thereby messing up our Portugal bike trip schedule. Mon, 09/10: In the afternoon I had a chat with Feri; Tahmineh went for her final stage of the registration. We all walked to the beach on the side road to the beach and on the way back schemed with Tahmineh to walk fast so the Feri would have to walk with Hediyeh in the back, as all other tricks, including the girls holding hand with Feri and Hedi's knee problem had failed. After meal I tried to look into alternatives. Lisbon detour from Dusseldorf would have cost an additional $605 plus $250 penalty by LH. Wed, 09/12: In the morning I called LH to change my flight with a detour to Lisbon. The Skype lined dropped a few times after they put me on extended holds. At night after dinner I had a better luck, but found out it would cost me an additional $1300 for a detour to Lisbon or an additional $1400 to go from Dusseldorf to NY on 09/14. So I tried and succeeded to book a flight on Expedia to Lisbon for about $480. This took me about three hours, until 03:00am. Thurs, 09/13: I woke up about 09:00 and joined the party for breakfast. We then checked out of Aygul at 13:00, took a dulmash to Fethiye. We had lunch at Pasha Kebob, left out bags there and walked around and headed for the Oto gar for our 21:00 departure to Istanbul. I was asleep most of the way. We arrived in Istanbul about 10:30, had a breakfast at Yusef Pasha district. Feri went to get his bus tickets for the following day and we then checked in Berk. Feri and I left the girls so that they could take a rest and went for a walk in the back alleys of the city. I met the party at 1800, went for a coffee at Kybleh and then took a cab to Kumkapi for dinner. After returning I said goodbye and Feri walked me to the Aya Sophia to get a cab. I killed an hour there before taking a taxi to the airport. Friday 09/14: Right after midnight I hailed a cab (40TL) to the airport and waited until 04:10 departure time. After a change in Berlin we landed in Dusseldorf about 0800. I obtained my boarding pass from a LH desk for my 13:45 departure to Lisbon. There were no ATM machines inside the terminal and to obtain cash I needed to exit through the security desk, so I ended up having a few biscuits that I had saved. I looked out of place at the airport in my shorts and t-shirts while everyone else was wearing a jacket and scarf. Upon boarding the old TAP plane the stewardess notified me that there was no meal service on the plane. After 1 ½ hrs delay we took off and arrived in Lisbon in about 2 ½ hrs. I took the metro and made it to the hotel Brazil-Africa (30E). I then headed for a walk and ate a sandwich of suckling pig at a joint near Restaudores. Sat, 09/15: After a decent breakfast served by friendly Maria, I headed for Alfama and visited a few churches and the charming hilly streets and building. I then took tram 28 to Estrella and visited the area. I had a decent lunch a local bar and headed for Belem. After a decent walk ended up in Estrella where I took the Moniz tram and ended up in Rossio. I then took a short walk to Parque de Comercio, rested for a while, watched a concert and went back to the hotel for a rest. Sun 09/16 After an early breakfast and consulting LP guide, I walked to Placio da Comercio where I took Tram 15 to Belem. I took a walk in the park, watched a few sailboats training to turn, then watched a police march followed by a sweets and coffee stop at Belem Patesseria, a 200 year old institution. I then visited the elaborate cathedral and the following museums: The Couches Museum The Pottery-Roman digs The Gold museums The Marines museum The Modern Arts I then took the train back to City center, had an Indians’ potent drink, looked for a LP restaurant but it was shut down. The second one was closed, but was lucky with the 3rd one, O Fumeria (22E) where I had a decent fish stew. I then headed for the hotel area to visit museum Teatro do Roman but it had just closed. I then walked in Alfama, dropped my camera which caused its loss of focus. I went back to hotel, Skyped Hediyeh, made a room reservation for my last night in Portugal, and then walked some more. Mon, 09/17 I missed the alarm and woke up at 07:50, met a Dutch couple with a child at breakfast table, left my bike rack bag at the hotel and took the metro to Jardim Zologico for either train or bus to Port. I had missed the 09:40 train and the next train was 11:40. I took the 10:30-14:30 Rede Express bus (19E). In Porto, Astoria, the top LP guesthouse, was full and I checked in at Santo Andre (35E). I presented my driver’s license and since my birth date was in MDY order, the receptionist could figure out that that was my birth date and kept pointing to his stomach to communicate that she needed my date of birth date. I then went for lunch but the place I had in mind was closed due to re-pavement of the road and tiling just the front of the restaurant. I walked into another restaurant, and was directed to the rock basement, where I chated with the waiter who spoke six languages. He told me of the story of his friend who was taken by the taxi driver to the Police because he had taken pictures from a site was supposedly had something to do with nuclear energy, arrested, and his luggage stolen by the cab driver – that should be the new way of hospitality and welcoming arms. After lunch I strolled around, entered a very charming library where I had a coffee, went for sweets but the first place was outdoors and noisy due to road construction. In the next place, when I sat down, the guy at the next door table smelled pungent and went I went upstairs, again there was the noise of construction from the next door. I bought a map of the city but soon lost it. Tue, 09/18 I walked to the Mercado, and after breakfast met the Dutch couple. I then did the LP suggested walking tour, and took the long walk to Largo Lampa to eat at Casa Parasao 2. On the way back met a Japanese girl whom I had met at the street concert in Lisbon. Then walked to train station where I waited for 30 minutes to buy train ticket to Coimbra (13E). I called Feri from an Internet café, had dinner at Istanbul Kebob where the waitress was a German fed up with climate back home. I then strolled some more. Wed, 09/19: I woke up at 07:00 and made it to the train station for 08:52 train to Comibra. An attendant told me to walk to the front of the platform and take the train there and change at the next stop. When I arrived at Porto Companha, I found out the 08:52 train had left from there. When I went to the ticket office the clerk was going to charge me at additional 7E for a replacement ticket for the 09:47 train. When I protested, she checked with her manager, attached a note to my ticket and stamped it to take the next train free of charge. I arrived at Coimbra B station at 10:47 where I had to wait for the 11:35 connecting train to Station A, therefore I decided to walk the couple of kilometers and checked in at Domus (35>32E). I walked to the main thoroughfare, near the Almedina arch, to find the place filled with tourists. I went for a long lunch of Durado fish at Odega (14E), after which went I went for a walk I felt some stomach discomfort. I went to the bus terminal and bought a ticket to Cada de Rainha, where I could change for a local bus to Obidus. I then walked to the old town through the Almedina Arch to the beautiful old town mancy centuries old. The walk was most pleasing, specially with few tourists around. I decided to stay an extra day there but with the headache of change of ticket, I decided against it and planned for an enjoyable night with a chance for a possible return. The highlight of the buildings was the main campus, a huge courtyard with many beautiful buildings around, and a clock tower. I later saw a very old picture of the same courtyard in a photo shop with trees planted which caused the views to be hidden so the tile and sand ground was a more dramatic sense of surroundings. The campus structure was from 15C, after the original 12C university was relocated from Lisbon. I later had a delicious grilled sea bass at Jardin Mangia where I tried to keep the bill with the 11E that I was carrying with me. Thurs., 09:20 I went for stroll through Almedina Arch and revisited the Cathedral Se, went back to the hotel for breakfast being served by Manuel, the friedly and sexy attendant. I then picked up by luggage and walked to the bus terminal for my 09:30-11:55 bus to Cada de Rainha where I took the local bus to Obidos, got off at the second stop in Obidos town and asked a diner in a restaurant for directions to hotel Obidosol. He told me the place was closed and recommended another hotel, Casa de Relogio. I headed for the old town, but decided to return and have lunch in the restaurant. I sat at a table next to the Jose, the man who had given me direction and order some calamari for lunch. We then talked about the bad economy of the country and religion. He said his brother was a priest in Lisbon but he thought of religious people as donkeys with blinders who cannot see much. I walked to charming Casa de Relogio and got a cute room for 40E. I then entered the old town within the walls, climbed the steps and had a wonderful walk around the walls, with very old houses within and beautiful fields outside. There were very few tourists at this time which made the walk more pleasant. I then walked back by the Aqueducts to Christia, the place I had lunch for a meal of beef sandwich. I then strolled around the town for a few more hours, enjoying the peace, the antiquity, and the green and flowers all around. Fri, 9/21 In the morning I went for a walk around the walls of the town. The air, the breeze, and the smells were enchanting, despite some construction noise in the distance. I then walked back to the room, where the friendly maid served a good breakfast in the charming dining room. I then packed and left for the bus stop but took the wrong gate and ended up on a different road from the one I had arrived in the city. After some walk, I saw a car that was leaving a house. I stopped the drive and asked him for the location of the bus stop of Cada de Rainha. He said he could give me a ride to the city. We talked about economy. At the bus stop I bought the 09:30-13:30 bus ticket to Evora, with a stop at Lisbon. In Evora, I walked to the main plaza, found hotel Diana a bit too central, the next motel was full but the receptionist recommended Solar Monfalim (50>40E). It was a decent place with a large room and a beautiful terrace. I went out for lunch but my couple of choices were already closed at 3:00pm, so I ended up having a not too great chicken at a local joint. I then strolled around the town. I bought some olives, cheese, bread, prosciuttos and a bottle of port for dinner which I had on the terrace of the hotel. Sat, 9/22 After taking a short stroll I had a big breakfast at the hotel. I then went to the Municipal Mercado, where I bought some figs, tomatoes, grapes, a tiny melon, bread and some lamb cheeses for dinner and brought back to my room. I then went to Turismo office to get a map for the walking tour of the Aqueduct and headed for it. After walking about 2km, came to a pasture with the mesmerizing ring of the bells of the grazing cows. I sat there for about an hour - absorbing the sound, the breeze and the peacefulness of the place. I dreamed of my own farm with a few goats and the sound of their bells. I noticed the biggest cow in the herd who had learned to lift the barbed wire with his horns and take his head out to graze from the untouched feed. After some time there was a commotion and they all headed for the drinking pool where they took turns to go to the small container of water to drink. The licking of a mother cow of her calf was touching. When another calf approached, she was chased away. I continued on the path, opened one of the aqueduct banks and saw the running water. After some more walk stumbled onto yet another church complex followed by a couple of properties with gates. I then turned around and headed back to the town and walked to Avis Port and went south to Mouria (the Moors quarter after they were defeated) and found Snack-bar Botequim Da Mouraria restaurant open. There were three other customers occupying 3 out of the 8 counter seats. I ordered some roasted mushrooms and cod fish. Domingos, the owner served them as if performing a ritual, with grace and mastery. The food was good. The butter and some good olive oil brought the food to live. An herb seed and more olive oil and thin slices of onion on tomatoes made a perfect salad. The other seats were soon filled and a few parties gave up after some waiting. The red wine was delicious and so was the postre de la casa, poached quince and some kind of cheese cake. The owner found the time to take pictures from each party. I asked the lady next to me to take a picture from him and I. When I was leaving I asked him if he was moving to a larger place. He knew I was referring to the comment in LP guide and he said a big place was no good - i could not agree more. He said he was from Portugal and asked me where I was from. When I said I was from Iran he pointed to a painted flag of Iran, next to a few more countries’ planted on a basket on a counter. At the end he treated me to a very strong liquor. After lunch all I could do was walk back to the hotel, sit on the terrace and plan the next stops. Sun, 09/23 When I woke up it was raining. After breakfast the rain stopped, I packed and headed for the bus terminal for my 09:00-12:15 bus to Faro (17E) but the rain started again and I had to run. Adelia hostal was full but they had a house nearby where they gave me a room. I walked to the old town, and ate at Odega Nova (15E), near the train station. I had a chat with a friendly Finish guy who was travelling alone, a couple from Chicago on honeymoon and another couple from NC. Mon, 09/24 I went to the bus station for 09:00 bus to Estoi but the clerk told me that that hour is only for Fridays and that the next bus was at 10:15. I walked to the Turismo and the clerk told me that on Mondays Milreu Ruins are closed. I went to the Train station and took the train for Tavira. The scenery was mostly salt pits with some occasional citrus groves and vineyards. In the middle of the trip, a guy sat down at the seats with table across from me and started picking his nose with a passion and discharging the contents on the table. After a while he left and the next guys who took his seat spread his tobacco on the table and started rolling his cigarettes. I was so distracted that I misses my stop and the train started to head back to Faro. I got off at the first stop, the town of Luz. A young woman came to me and said I could take the bus back to Tavira. She walked me to the bus stop. In small town of Tavira I walked away from Republica praca, the tourist center, and had a lunch of spaghetti and meatballs at a place with had a long takeout line throughout the hour that I sat there having my lunch. I then walked back to the center and toured the area, the castle, the Roman Ponte, and a few other old monuments. I stopped at a couple of Real Estate agencies and then took a walk along the river and passed a few salt pits. I took the train back to Faro and went to sea food restaurant Chefe Branco where I had a great fresh cod grilled fish. Tue, 09/25 I stayed in bed for some time and missed the 07:25 bus to Estoi. I heft room to buy some water. There was a mild drizzle. I had coffee and cake at the plaza by the motel and walked to bus stop and took the 10:15 bus to Estoi. It was a pleasant tiny town and on some spots very quiet with no car traffic or the sound of the cars. After some strolling visited the Milreu ruins. The fragments of the Roman complex were mostly destroyed but there was a short wall of tiles with very intact images of fish and dolphins. I then walked for some time on a dirt road, returned and walked on the main road to Faro but the traffic was too loud to be able to walk the 10km walk, so went back to Estoi where entered a restaurant filled with the smell of garlic. The chef was making spaghetti with beef. When I asked for one the young guy at the counter said that was the last piece of beef and said I could have pork. When he saw my lack on interest, he said I could have the beef. The chef was making the dish for their own lunch. I had my lunch and then relaxed and did not take the 14:35 bus back. I watched the green scenery and the action of a table where a few guys we playing dice. After some time the guy with the dice got up and left and then a new team of seven people was formed who started playing tiles, while a few spectators were watching the game. The biggest guy in the group kept ordering small bottles of beer. I took the next bus back to Faro. While I was walking to the library to use the internet I saw a big march of young people covered in egg shells and having beer. When I asked a couple what was the march for, the guy said it was an annual march of the freshmen. I remembered reading something similar that was going on for centuries as Cambria. Wed, 09/26 I took the 08:20-13:00 bus (18E) to Seville. It was drizzling. I checked in at Romeo Pension (23E), near the bus station and strolled around the lively beautiful city. I had an early dinner. Thurs, 09/27: It rained most of the day. I went to the library and spent most of the afternoon there. I could not login to my yahoo account and could not remember my security question. Fri, 09/28: I went to the train station to inquire about the trains to Lisbon. They had only one overnight train via Madrid (60E). I took the walking path suggested in the Tourist office map, which took me thorough most of the older parts of the city. By the walls, I heard an unusual sound coming from the trees and when I watched more closely I saw a few green parrots on them. Sat, 09/29: I repeated the walking tour that I had taken the previous day but left my camera back at the room. In a church I saw a nun at a church who was selling convent bread and flirting with a customer. Another woman went to the holy water stand and filled out one half dozen small bottles with a plastic container. At one point I entered a quiet street behind a church and heard someone playing piano. I stopped and listened for some time. The tune was most welcoming as I had been unable to charge my MP with few of the adaptors that I had. The mood on the streets was festive and lively. The bars were crowded with locals and people dressed for wedding, with woman in trendy gowns and feathered hats. Sun, 09/30: I took the Eurolines bus 15:00-21:30 (-1) to Lisbon (37E). Midway I noticed in the mirror the eyes of the driver were not moving. As I was watching, a German guy sitting behind me noticed and asked whether the driver was sleeping. I had to ask a young Portuguese woman sitting across from me and spoke good English to tell the driver that he should take a rest if needed. He said he was fine. In Lisbon, I did not get off at the first stop, Sete Rios (Jardim Zoologico) which was closer to my hotel and went to the last stop, Oriente gar, which was halfway to the airport. Mon, 10/01: I took the tour of the Nucleo Arquelogico. I was the first person arriving and the next group were a few French. The guide said she could only conduct the tour in English. therefore gave a short history to the group, saw them off, and then gave me a private tour. The site consisted of a few homes from 5C B.C, a bath and a series of the small pools from the 2-3C AD used for making fish sauce. From the number of jars found in the area, they could estimate that there was a weekly production of a few thousand jars, some for export around the Roman Empire. The site was covered in the 1755 earthquake that flattened most of the city and discovered in 1991 while digging for the foundation of a bank. Vira, the friendly guide, was an archeologist who had worked in Morocco and Egypt for six years. In the afternoon I took a long walk to the National Library which gave me a chance to see the non-touristy part of the town. I then walked to the Aqueduct and continued to a Serafina, a hilly neighborhood from where I took a bus back to Pimbal plaza, on on the way to Rossio, sat down for a drink on the multiline boulevard. I then walked around a few more hours, took my last pictures of the charming city, sat at a couple of churches to relax. Tue, 10/02: After breakfast in the company of three Viking-looking Finish guys I walked to Rossio Metro station and was told to take the metro to Sete Rios (Jardim Zoologico) and change there for the Sintra train. When I went to the ticket office there, the clerk said I had to take a train to another station and change there. I finally made it to Sintra, along with a large number of other tourists – even though this was not a weekend day. I strolled on the pleasant road to town center and since it was rather crowded, took a quiet road and walked until I arrived at Almaa Hostel, on Trinidade Coelho, with the most beautiful grounds, with many walking paths, pen of hens, ducks, and goats and hanging grapevines. When I inquired from the receptionist, she said the grounds have not changed since 12C. They had 10 room and only one was occupied. She claimed this was because the location is on a dead-end road and not on Google maps, though I could find it on Google maps later on. She could give me a DB room for charge me 45E (for 11/2 persons). Her two lager rooms, with 5 bed each, had large windows. I had a big buffet lunch of mostly a tasty and salty Calamari stew and then visited Palacio de Sintra, which was less crowded by this time. The most interesting room for me was the kitchen. I then took the pleasant walk to the Moorish castle above the hills with a great view of the coast and surroundings, went back to Almaa and walked in the garden some more. As I was leaving, Pavlov the large black hostel's dog left the grounds with me and lead me for some time. On a couple of occasion when I stopped to check my camera he came back and made a sound as to alert me to continue my walk. At the end of the road we turned around and walked back to Hostal where I left him. I was glad to have made it to the town. Even though there were many tourists in the earlier part of the day, it was a very nice town to walk around and enjoy the lush green vegetation and scenic town. John Depp happens to have a house these. I then headed back to the train station just in time to take the direct train to Rossio. I found out that in the morning, mistakenly, I had gone to Rossio metro station rather than the nearby Rossio train station. Wed, 10/03: I had breakfast in the company of a young Israeli couple and ended up talking politics and movies as the guy was a physics/movies major. I then packed and said good-bye to the kind and friendly Maria, the Hostal attendant and took the metro to the airport. At the airport they saw my fruit knife on the scanners and I had to empty my whole bag searching for it. While doing it, the guard said my toothpaste tube was too big and it could be used as a knife so I had to discard it also. I then took my Dusseldorf flight 11:30-03:30 (+1) which was on time. At destination, I took bus 760 - after some wait since the town was on weekend schedule due to the anniversary of the Berlin Wall. I had asked for the directions to the hotel from a security guy who knew the hotel, but the bus driver did not know even the street where the hotel was located. When we arrived at the hotel neighborhood I could see the street name and then the hotel where I got off the bus. After checking in at Air-Hotel Wartburg (52E), I put a couple layers of my biking shirts, as those were the only clean ones I had left, and went for a walk, but the area was very quiet due to the holiday. It was initially damp and later on a drizzle started. I had a delicious chicken rotisserie at the grill restaurant next to the hotel, sitting outdoors and enjoying my meal and the damp air while thinking of a trip to Eastern Turkey, after having read Steve Reeds book, Europe from the back door, at the hostal in Lisbon, and the description he had made of the area and also remembering the novel, Snow. I planned to get up early the next morning to go and visit the old town. Thursday, 10/04: In the morning it was raining. I had breakfast at a neighborhood bake shop, and too the bus to the airport for my Flight to Newark. At the airport, the man at the scanners did not like an unidentified object in my bag, therefore I had to empty my bag again and finally found out that it was a metal part of my bike air pump. Thankfully they did ask to leave it behind. We had a good, though long flight back home. In Newark, I had to take the rail to train station, Take the Summit train to Secaucus, and change there for Newark Broad Street and then change for Dover train. I should have taken a taxi. Notes: Cornelia: German teacher met at Berk 06221 616272 Marzgasse 6-8, Heidleberg (in the Cenro) Dogan of Terrace hotel in Istanbul: Gümüşhane, in Black Sea – Karaca (cave); Eastern Black Sea - Rize, for its tea; try Kome, a type of pastry; Kadikoy-Giya restaurant; Amasya-Turkish walnut; Restaurant Sultan Shazahde Sufrasi, for its well lamb kebob West Black Sea – Saffron Bolu, Jolly Tour, ETS Med: Datca, Eski Datca (I: also check out DeDe Pansiyon as seen on youtube) Yesim’s recommendation: Town of Antakya, in Eastern Turkey; Nimrud-Yaldaya (on border), Titus Oludeniz: Greek town of Kalikoy LH magazine : Lisbon: See Restelo district Cape verde; Maldives, on Indian Ocean; Mauritius; Pantelleria Island) in Italy, near Tunisia (by physicist Joao Magueijo)