Fellow Travellers

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Istanbul May 14 2010

What better place to have a birthday than Istanbul! Don’t you dare begin guessing while reading this how old I am – that would be rude! :)   Leslie and Kathy decided to do a Bosporus cruise with an early departure while Cliff and I decided on a visit to the Topkapi Palace. The palace was home to the Ottoman sultans for many centuries and is full of the treasures from the Empire. The palace is composed of many buildings in a compound rather than one large mansion. The buildings have different purposes from living, armour storage to the reception of dignitaries.

The living quarters for the Sultan is the Haram which was a surprise to me. Haram means “forbidden” in Arabic; in Turkish it refers to the private residence of the head of the house hold , his wives, odalisques (concubines) and children. The Sultan would generally have more than one wife and keep a number (maybe hundreds) of concubines. A concubine could rise up in status to favourite or even wife if she produced an heir, particularly a male, of the Sultan.

Istanbul May 13 2010

Istanbul is a dramatic city where history is found and made on every street corner. The Turks are wonderful people and go above and beyond to welcome you to their country. The central tourist area, Sultanahmet, is easy to cover on foot making it possible to see many of the major attractions in a couple of days. We had a general idea of the major sites and set out the morning of day one from our hotel to see The Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya. We seemed to have an early start on the tourists as there were few line ups which suits me fine “thankyouverymuch”!

The Blue Mosque, which began construction in 1609, is still in use today as a place of worship therefore, as a woman, one must cover up to be allowed to visit. There are scarves and sarongs at the entrance for those who are dressed “inappropriately”, that being us, we three girls covered up. We slipped off our shoes and padded onto the very soft carpet to view the inside of the mosque. The ceiling has been recently restored and is glorious. Predominantly blue, but also gold and yellow, iznik tile mosaics adorn the ceiling giving the building its auspicious name.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Priorat – Cataluña Spain March 31 to April 2 2010

This is a long overdue post but in all good conscience I must share our tour of Priorat with you before I move on to our more recent journeys.  Forgive me?

I had spent a great deal of time trying to find information on the internet regarding the wine region of Priorat.  I suspect the trouble lay in the fact that I don’t speak Cataluñ or Spanish which made it was tough sleuthing.  This wine region south of Barcelona sits in the shadow of the well known region of Pendes where the majority of Spain’s Cava sparkling wine is produced.  The region was brought back to life in the 1980’s by five young Spaniards who believed the terrior could produce wines to rival the great Rioja and Ribera del Duero reds.