Saturday, May 30, 2015

Walking Lisbon

My main focus here in Lisbon is to get out of here without breaking my neck. Lisbon is the city of stairs, stairs and more stairs. Our apartment is four narrow, slippery flights up and the bedroom is yet another. Lisbon is a lovely town and, don't get me wrong, I enjoy exploring the medieval streets but good god. Okay. That's it for now. We're going to go out again and wander around. I'm going to wear my new orange sandals. Wish me luck.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Street music from Istanbul

I love these guys. Everybody did. Great fun. We came upon them in Katakoy which is across the Bosphorus Strait on the Asian side of Istanbul. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian Lisboa.JPG
Culbenkian and friend
Yesterday I got schooled at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, all in a very friendly manner of course. I said "good afternoon" in Spanish (buenas tardes) instead of Portuguese (boa tarde) and was reminded that "in Portugal we speak Portuguese". The fellow had a sense of humor about it all so I thanked him sincerely in French. We then went on to discuss the correct pronunciation of "thank you" in Portuguese, (obrigado if you're male, obrigada if you're female). As this language site points out, in Portugal pronunciation is everything.

"Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him." – Judges 12:6

Delightful elephant
Calouste Gulbenkian was
, during his life, one of the world's wealthiest men. He was also an art lover who created, what is considered, one of the greatest private collections. We were both blown away by the number of unique, lovely pieces in his trove. According to his will, upon his death, this museum was created. Generally, photos I take in art museums are lackluster. I leave that to other people. However, I think this charming elephant, done on a huge, gorgeous Chinese porcelain plate, bridges the gap. I suspect this artist had never seen an elephant.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Conversation with myselves

Selfie in Istanbul

I just can't keep up with myself, especially when we're traveling. For instance, after two weeks in Istanbul, I have thus far only managed to post something about Flat Thea. 

Three women under an umbrella

Much as I treasure Flat Thea, this doesn't even begin to touch on the experiences we had there and impressions I came away with. My Istanbul album at flickr has several more photos and many more to come. They do represent, at least, some visual record.

Shop outside the Grand Bazaar

They may be as far as I get but they are important to me as, if nothing else, this blog is a conversation between my past and future selves.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Lisbon, first day

Our apartment in the Alfama district
We arrived yesterday and got a cab from the airport to the Alfama district. We'll be staying here for the next two weeks. Our very friendly airbnb host greeted us at the door. The apartment is lovely and airy with a view of the Tejo river, a welcome site as our place in Istanbul looked out on a wall several stories high. It did become the scene of a gripping small world drama but more about that later.

Cat on the ledge
a view of the Alfama from our apartment
The Alfama district is the oldest district in Lisbon and a labyrinth of narrow, winding stone streets. During Moorish rule it was home to fishermen and the poor. The Alfama was also the only part of the city to survive the earthquake and tsunami of 1775 which almost completely destroyed the rest of Lisbon. I can't imagine how horrifying it must have been watching the tsunami pull the water back revealing, according to records from the time, "a sea floor littered with lost cargo and shipwrecks".

Ok. Gotta go. It's time for a customary first day in a new country, make-do, shitty sandwich then a walk. If you want to read more about Lisbon, I recommend reading the Never Ending Voyage. They do a fine post on Lisbon. Though I travel a lo t these days, this isn't really a travel blog. And there's always my go-to site, Wikipedia, if you want to read more about Lisbon. Cheers.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Flat Thea, maps and computer glitches

Flat Thea and kitteh

This is where the post about Flat Thea was supposed to be. But no. By whatever twist of fate, whatever ill wind, bad karma, goddamn computer glitch, blogger fuck up, some Sultan's cranky ghost or, nearly impossible to consider, but perhaps because of something I did, I don't know, but when I was nearly done I undid something, a totally ordinary action, and the post vanished. After that, try though I did, there was no way to retrieve it. Gone.

Flat Thea at the Topkapi Palace
Thea, our six-year old granddaughter, made Flat Thea in kindergarten as part of a geography project and we got to participate. Photograph Flat Thea wherever we go and send Thea the photos. Then she takes them to school and adds them to a map along with all the other kid's photos of their Flat "whoevers" wherever they've been over the past few weeks. This post started as a few outtakes but, as is often the case with me, it got complicated.

Flat Thea at Hagia Sophia
(Eye-ya Sophia)
First I included a description of Topkapi Palace, then the briefest mention of the city, cities, that have flourished on the banks of the Bosphorus for the last two thousand years. No surprise given that the Bosphorus Strait is a very important waterway connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranian and North Atlantic as well as being part of the boundary between Europe and Asia. Once I did that, of course, I had to include some mention of the Sultans, harems, eunuchs and how young princes were strangled with a silken cord to reduce challenges to the crown prince yet avoid the spilling of royal blood. And just as I was done, and adding the photos, poof! A flick and everything vanished and I could not get it back. Now you will have to imagine all that for yourself, or read Wikipedia like I did. I have no heart to go on.

Flat Thea in Istanbul
Since arriving nine days ago, we have visited all but one of the "must see" sites and otherwise wandered around Istanbul straining to catch glimpses of ancient Byzantium, great lost Constantinople and Istanbul of today. Today we will take a ferry up the Bosphorus strait to the Yoros Castle from which we will be able to at least get a glimpse of something that has fascinated me since childhood, the Black Sea. And today, Swami, Minerva and Flat Thea will join us. They all want to see for themselves if the Black Sea is really black. I've told them all it's not but they refuse to believe me.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Istanbul with yellow Swami and company

photo by asha
Swami, on the road again

It's great traveling with yellow Swami again. We've been in Istanbul for three days now. It's an amazing place but it's too late to go into it tonight, especially as the next few days we're aiming for an early start. Just wanted to check in. That is all.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Oh my god! It's Bad Mother's Day again!

 Crap. Yesterday was Mother's Day. That means today is Bad Mother's Day again! Our day, ladies. So I forgot for a few years. Ok! OKKKK! Five. Come on. Five little years and you're all weepy? Geeze! Whatdoyawantfromme? Flowers? Not gonna happen. When did any of you ever send me flowers? That's right. NEVER. Fergetaboutit. Get yer own.

On the other hand, if you are the child of a bad mother and yet, in spite of that, are still such a generous and thoughtful person that even now you want to send your bad mother a gift, I am here to help. Here a few sure fire gift suggestions for you:

1) Buy something on sale at the dollar store or thrift shop. It will make yer mama proud seein how frugal you are. After all, it was she who taught you that a penny saved (by not spending it on you) was a penny earned (that she could spend on herself).

2) Can't take her out to dinner on The Big Day? Send her a box of instant mac n cheese. She'll be feasting in a matter of minutes. Plus you'll get credit for being thrifty. (see #1)

3) Send her a bouquet of dandelions. She never seemed to notice when you picked them for her when you were a kid. They're so beautiful and will go nicely with dinner. (see #2) And if you don't send her the mac n cheese (see #2 again), she can eat them.

Nothing says it better than dandelions

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

LA, the beginning

While, officially, we "launched" a couple of weeks ago, LA really marks the beginning of the trip. Oregon is family. The airbnb place we're renting belongs to a woman in the movie business .... set design etc.. The decor here is a cross between 1930's thrift store chic and its dumpster out back. M. Lee, who is more kindly disposed to the display, describes it a prop warehouse. I'm sure he's right. Why else stuff some twenty dilapidated plaid suitcases of various bright colors under the bed? And the rooms are stuffed with everything from ancient phones, croquet sets, movie posters, animal skins, dishes, neon hotel signs, typewriters, cameras, antiquish bathroom scales, tennis racquets, spent bullets, rusty old coffee cans and lanterns to a wall of framed paint-by-numbers landscapes. In a word, crammed. Drives me not so quietly crazy which drives him crazy.

Our first day here, right off the plane, we took his mom to her favorite thrift store, a chain called Council Thrift. She found a white jacket she really liked and put it on to get M.'s opinion before buying it then went off to the cashier, still wearing it, and purchased her own coat, still in hand, for the grand price of five bucks. Later, realizing what she'd done, she was mortified. Luckily, she's a good sport because we're getting a lot of mileage out of it.

Off to Disney Land
And tomorrow we "do lunch" with Thea Bella, her gorgeous, green-haired, 15 year-old sister, mom and dad. They are, at this moment, en-route to Disney Land. Lucky for us, our paths just happen to cross because the next day we leave for Istanbul.