Tag Archives: journey

The journey to Istanbul and our First Night

I hadn’t even thought about the train journey. But it was just my luck that there were gale-force winds. When I got to the station many trains were cancelled or delayed.

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There were crowds of people staring at the boards in desperation, or anxiously chatting into their mobile phones. I assumed the worst, but scanning down I saw my train was at least running and only delayed by five minutes. I had set off at a perfectly respectable hour, 2pm. I even had time for a haircut and colour and had made the split decision to go brunette. I wasn’t sure of it, but the styling was good. By the time I got to London my train had been delayed by half an hour and my boyfriend had already had dinner.

When we got to the airport hotel I was suitably impressed; it was the sort that had Kettle Chips in the vending machine.

The next morning we were up at 7am which was easy enough. From there we drove to the cheap car park my boyfriend had booked online and then took a transfer bus the short distance to the airport. I hadn’t been to Gatwick before and was pleased with the variety of shops on offer. It wasn’t hard to choose where to have breakfast – Jamie Oliver had a restaurant there, which was a pleasant surprise. I expected only low-calorie options after his drive for healthy meals and so was astounded that a “full English” was on the menu. 019

After that I felt as heavy as my cabin bag, which luckily made it on to the plane with 0.2kg to spare for souvenirs on the way back.

We flew by Turkish Airlines and they were excellent, with complimentary Turkish Delight of course. I read my pocket guide book and phrase book and attempted to test my boyfriend, but he had no interest in it and said they’d speak English anyway. He was probably right but I wanted to make an effort. I then leafed through the book that had almost taken me over the 8kg limit: “Strolling Through Istanbul”, a fascinating guide book of the history and attractions of Istanbul. Unfortunately sometimes there was so much detail that I found myself reading the same paragraph multiple times. It all blurred into one literally as I found myself getting tired. 023 As we arrived four hours later, we flew low across the entire city. On emerging from the clouds we first passed long lines of hills illuminated purple in the sunset. Then as we got closer I caught glimpses of domes and minarets, even getting a picture of the Haggia Sophia (pronounced “Aya Sofya” in Turkish) and the suspension bridges criss-crossing the Bosphorous. It was magical.

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View of Haggia Sophia from the plane. Originally a church and built around 500AD, it rises majestically into the air. From the ground its minarets appear to touch the clouds.

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The Bosphorous

However we were brought sharply down to earth (and not just on the runway) when we tried to get out of the airport. It took us a while to find  the subway as there were not many signs until you had actually reached it. Then we assumed they would have ticket offices. No, there were only machines, and they didn’t take anything less than 10 Lira. This was a bit of a problem, we only had 100 Lira notes.

I sleepily suggested going back into the airport and buying something, at which my boyfriend pointed to the queue of disgruntled travellers waiting to get their bags through security. Oh of course. Well why didn’t we see if there were any shops in this large hall area then. We couldn’t see any nearby but I thought surely there would be some further along. Exasperated, we followed the sign for “buses”. This led to a car park with a couple of minivans parked up and guys sitting around smoking (almost everyone smokes in Istanbul).

So we headed back inside, with my boyfriend now thoroughly agitated and fed up. By this time we’d probably spent half an hour finding the place and wondering what to do, so my boyfriend finally decided to give my idea a chance and we went off in search of a shop. Sure enough, we found a “market shop” further down. We breathed a sigh of relief and bought refreshments. I got some sickly sweet cherry juice (I found most of their drinks are either too sweet or too bitter) and some watermelon chewing gum, what a novelty. We then spent some time trying to distinguish our route from the blurred map available and worked out that we’d need to buy a 3 Lira token for any number of stops in one direction. What a bargain compared to the tube in London!

My first impressions of Istanbul (formerly termed “Constantinople”) were that there were lots of mosques… 042

and stray cats… 039 It was heartbreaking seeing the poor mangy fluffy things scavenging in bins, some of them mere kittens. My boyfriend loved watching though them as he has a pet cat.

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I was expecting a standard modern posh hotel. However when we got there it was more vintage posh, or at least had been once. There were signs that the place was a shadow of its former self and the decor was quite overpowering. Everything was gold or crimson, even the walls. My favourite part of it was the winding staircase all the way up, which made me feel like a princess. The roof terrace was also fantastic, offering views across the city. We just walked up there and it was deserted.

Our bed was a modest double but all in gold velvet, with “Palace” written slightly off to one side in the middle. When we went into the bathroom there was a hanging basket overflowing with freebies, from dental kits to fluorescent blue shampoos.

There was a spa in the basement and I proposed we relax from our airport ordeal with a massage. We went down to the reception, which consisted of a small bar. When we turned around there was a small swimming pool and some rooms behind it, presumably the steam room and sauna.

After five minutes or so a young blonde and a Chinese girl turned up and booked us in. I went for a Swedish and my boyfriend went for a “Medical” as he had a sore back. We were sent to two rooms with glass doors. Thankfully part of them were opaque. There we were covered with so much oil that after having every limb attended to we slid off the table and into our clothes a little too easily.

I discovered that the girl I thought was Chinese was actually from Uzbekistan and had emigrated to Turkey for a better life. She had come from a large family and had considered going to university in Uzbekistan but it had been too expensive, so she was now excitedly saving for hairdresser college. She said she preferred Turkey as it was cheaper and there was more to do. None of her family had joined her and had no plans to, and I thought she was rather brave, being just 21 years old.

Following that my boyfriend and I could hardly keep our eyes open and we stumbled upstairs in a happy sleepy daze.

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December 15, 2013 · 10:03 pm

Overheard on the Bus

It’s going to take a few days for me to charge my holiday camera and write about my incredible Istanbul adventure. I aim to do it for Sunday but I’m making no promises.

One of my favourite blogs “Stuff Heard On The Bus” frequently documents the random conversations you catch bits of during the daily commute. It’s always entertaining and off the wall so I thought I’d give it a go with the odd chat I overheard today…

There is a larger lady in front wearing a turquoise fleece. Thin glasses frame small eyes almost in the middle of her face. Her hair is glistening with a layer of sebum, it hasn’t seen shampoo or even dry shampoo for quite some time. Next to her sits a slim, slight young man with dark features, hollowed cheeks, a short beard and an impish grin. He’s wearing a sleeveless puffer jacket with a hoodie underneath.

He sings: “Ringing da bell, ringiiiing da beeeelll”

“Shussshhhhhh” she says, looking round at me. I look away.

“Look, aa can’t ‘elp it, you know what a’m like, a don’t av an off-switch. Anywe, a thought a was funny!” he sounds hurt.

She smiles and leans towards him, pinching his cheek: “You wahhhr” she says softly.[Yorkshire language. Translation =were, should be “was” but the grammar is incorrect]

We’re at a busy stop and students are piling onto the bus.

“ON CUM DE ANIMALS TWO BA TWO!!”

The passengers stare.

“Sssssssshhhhhhhhhhhh”

“Ssh yourself, ya can be really annoying you”

“Ye but no one wants to hear ya do they”

“How do YOU know?”

Silence.

She leans towards him again and says in a conspiratorial tone: “Soon we’ll be peelin. You’re peelin tonaht'”

[What were they peeling? vegetables? were they cooking dinner together? How romantic.]

“Peeling it, a peelin it” he sings triumphantly, moving a pack of multicoloured lighters into another bag and sticking a rolled up cigarette into his mouth.

“You’re not allowed to smoke it ya know”

“A know, I just like ta chew it, a like de taste”

Peelin it, a peelin it!”

His eyes widen and he bounces on the seat “Soon we’ll be peelin da foil off tha drugs!”

“SSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH don’t say thaaat” she looks round yet again.

They get off at the council flats and as they do I’m hit by a strong smell. I don’t know what it is but I don’t want to think about it as I put my head down into my scarf.

*                                      *                                     *

They were clearly so wrapped up in addiction they weren’t concerned with personal hygeine. It was sad and I felt sorry for them. Thank goodness I have never been caught up in a cycle of drug-taking, debt and despair. I can’t think of anything worse. For example, I’ve heard of heroin addicts who give up their own children to the drug and seen how painful that is.

It’s crazy how intensely these peoples’ lives revolve around their next fix. Drugs become their only subject of conversation, when they are going to take it, who will have it first and then who had the most, who used it all up, when and how they are going to get some more. Once they’ve tried a bit it becomes just a bit more and it’s a slippery slope.

Don’t bother with drugs folks, nothing beats a natural high (e.g endorphins, love) and being addicted to it won’t kill you.

Love

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A night in Essex

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Surprises always carry some element of risk. So when I headed off down to Essex I just had to cross my fingers and hope for the best. But that made it exciting.

It required careful planning and some subtle questions. I booked time off work and the ticket. Then I asked where to send a birthday card, and whether it would be ok if it arrived a day early. I was arriving then as I had plans on the Friday – my friend had booked time off work to visit me and as she lived in London had kindly agreed to make it a road trip. I knew which station was closest as I had visited my boyfriend before. Then I had to find out what sort of birthday cake he wanted. So I said I was going to buy him a cake slice after work, what sort did he want. He was home the weekend before, back from working down in Essex. We had a rather heated discussion with him saying he didn’t want me to buy anything and with me still trying to find out what he wanted. I probed further at Birmingham, when as chance would have it we walked past a Patisserie Valerie counter in the Bullring shopping mall. I had already decided this was the most suitable option. I had previously spotted the cafe whilst trying to locate Boots in both stations to get an urgent product for a friend. Instead of having a cake going off on the train journey down I could buy it fresh there. Perfect! I love Patisserie Valerie. It’s so pretty and tasty and the cakes are unlike anything else I have seen.

So once at St Pancras I walked over to Kings Cross as the cafe is larger there. I picked up the fruits of the forest tart which I had discovered was the ideal birthday dessert. I was a bit worried it would get squashed on the connecting tube journey but luckily it was fine and in good packaging. Five hours later I was at a station in the middle of nowhere. I tried to call my boyfriend and it went to voicemail. I paniced a little. Plan B had not been settled upon, as I knew where my boyfriend was staying and what time he finished work. So I text him and then read a book about walking through Istanbul. It recommended the Galeta Bridge for a view of the ancient buildings. I decided Plan B was waiting until 9pm when he would have finished work at the latest and then getting a £25 taxi. This would cost as much as the cheap advance fare down covering two trains and the tube, for what was a 40 minute bus journey.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw my boyfriend calling. He didn’t sound as delighted as I had hoped, but that was due to a 6am-6pm day. He assured me in the car that he was delighted and seemed surprised by the Patisserie Valerie bag. He said he had no idea what it was. He’d obviously forgotten our discussions on two occasions on the subject with the amount of 12 hour days he had worked.

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We checked in to his lovely four star hotel and had a family room with two double beds. I looked forward to a good night’s sleep without the covers being pulled off me or being rolled into or trying to fit around a sleeping starfish. Like the Marriott the bathroom was all marble, with gold taps. They could have been cleaned a little better but after 027reading a microbiologist’s recommendations on hotels I knew that didn’t really matter, walking round in my flip flops. I was annoyed I’d forgotten antibacterial wipes which the article had said should be used for wiping down door handles and remotes. I’d checked it when I last stayed at the hotel when wondering whether to use the bath, and in the absence of a “chlorine bleach wipe” decided not to.

We went out to a Chinese restaurant, as the hotel’s restaurant menu is a bit limited. It looked like a former pub and had the words “Chinese, Thai and English cuisine” plastered on the front. The decor was lovely, all red Chinese lanterns. I chose the Thai menu and had a lovely creamy coconut and green curry soup with prawns and some rather 042interesting meat that tasted a little too slimy to be chicken. It was delicious though. Then I ordered pork sweet and sour. I imagined thin beef sirloin strips but instead I got fatty deep fried pork. I struggled through it as I didn’t want to cause a scene for my boyfriend’s birthday meal. An hour or two later I felt quite queasy- as I have IBS my digestion doesn’t cope well with fatty food. I made myself try a bit of the birthday tart – I wanted to see whether it was value for money. However it was just a biscuit base, some cream and some fruit. I was a bit disappointed but it looked great and my boyfriend enjoyed it. He saved some for work in his hotel fridge.

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When I settled down onto the bed once again I was disappointed that it was a firm mattress. This meant I couldn’t sleep. My boyfriend can sleep whenever he wants to, as long as he’s not too hot or cold. But I woke up every hour or so and in the morning awoke after a fitful sleep with a sore back. A double-blind study has confirmed this link. Jonny rushed off in the dead of night taking the tart for his colleagues to enjoy.

I now had the mission of getting to Edgware station. I had to take a bus in the middle of nowhere. Google said it was opposite the hotel but after walking around for some time I couldn’t see a stop. So I waited on the grass verge with cars whizzing past, one honking its horn at me. I started to feel a bit silly and wished I could hitch a lift. But miraculously the bus appeared from nowhere. The first one had not been until 9am, so I had told my friend the earliest I could arrive was midday. This meant we had more motorway traffic. I was the only person on the bus and told the driver to tell me when we got to the destination. I got off on a narrow country lane and walked round the corner to the next stop. Thankfully this time there was a bus shelter. No information though and I was unsure if I was on the right side of the road to do the next leg of the journey.

Then some old ladies turned up, all made up with bouffant dyed hair, talking about how they were going on holiday and how one of them had been exploring the local area with her free bus pass. It was a small village and they clearly knew everyone. I relaxed a bit when I heard one of them say that she was going to the station I was going to.

After winding round country lanes I queasily arrived at the station and felt proud of myself for getting there and saving £23.50 in the process. I did miss a train due to a typically slow bus but luckily the next train was delayed by a minute, arriving just a couple of minutes after my scheduled one. Then I took two tubes to complete the three hour journey. It was wonderful to make it to Edgware solely on public transport and to be able to plan with accuracy using transportdirect –  I had reliable times, maps and plenty of details.

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My friend then drove us with her friend for five hours up to London. It was a Friday and traffic meant a stop-start 071ride. I ate chocolates as I watched the entertaining sight of a bus going backwards – it looked like it was being driven instead of towed. I also enjoyed a hot spiced apple drink with cinammon and star anise in Costa Coffee, my favourite drink.

I had a lovely time in Essex although next time I think I’ll order something different at the Chinese, or perhaps try pub food.

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Attachment

This morning I did an analytic meditation on attachment. Our fancy phone, our partner, our lifestyle and many other objects, people and ideas can be sources.

I’ve often had disappointment in love and today I realised why. Previously I have projected desired good qualities onto a boyfriend and then expected him to behave in a way that I would. Just because I am chatty and physically affectionate I sometimes expect a partner to be as well. We often expect a boyfriend, girlfriend, fiance, husband to be like us. For example we might plan a big surprise party when they prefer the company of a few good friends. We need to appreciate differences in personality of those we are close to. It’s also important to recognise the difference between love and attachment, because often they feel like the same thing.

Attachment makes us behave in a way which often runs contrary to who we really are and destroys our peace of mind. We might be clingy or bombard someone with texts, thinking that the more we contact them, the more likely they are to answer. Of course the opposite is true. We develop unrealistic expectations of those we love, expecting them  to always be there and make us happy. Our mood can go up and down depending on what’s happening in our relationships. We might feel hurt by a partner’s behaviour when in fact we just need to understand. It always helps to try and see things from their perspective.

Perhaps we get into dysfunctional relationships because we don’t want to be alone, because we’re in love with the idea of love or because we try to fool ourselves that we are compatible when we are not.

We may plan our days around our partners. But really we should get on with our own lives, our own independent journey. If they want to join us then that’s great but if they don’t, don’t lose sight of who you are and what you want to achieve. Only you can shape your future.

YouCanDoIt

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The Chaos that is Public Transport

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Recently we’ve read a lot about late trains in the news, but what about late buses? Surveys should be done on how often they are delayed. As a regular passenger I think I shall do my own.

At a time when Stagecoach recently reported an 8% rise in profits to £2.8 billion, how much of this is being filtered back to customers? Fares have been slowly rising for some time and travel times are worse than ever. I can’t believe my taxes line the pockets of the managers and yet nothing changes for us, the customers.

Today my bus didn’t arrive, resulting in what would have been a 25 minute wait. I had to take a taxi to get to the hospital in time. There was no complaints line given at the bus stop, I suppose because they would get so many. I had to spend 10 minutes in a telephone queue (which I am paying for, thank you Stagecoach) to see when the damn thing would actually arrive. I had to pay an extra £7 in cab fare due to the bus I was expecting not turning up at all.

Yesterday I ran for a tram and even though I got to it and pressed the door button, it just drove off. I was then charged a ridiculous fare on the next one for what was a 10 minute journey. Because it was now late, there were drunkards wandering around town, leading me to get harassed waiting for my connecting bus. A tall, lanky individual swaggered up to me with a beer can in hand and aggressively shouted at me for not talking to him, and then for walking away. Where was the next bus stop? At the other end of town. By the time I got there I only just made the bus. As soon as working hours pass in my city, buses descend into chaos, with one coming every half an hour for a busy route. Sometimes people are queuing across town.

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It is claimed a bus driver actually said this on a forum!

When I got the bus the day before that it took 40 minutes for a 20 minute journey because the bus driver, although 15 minutes late, took the usual two rest breaks. These stops are especially infuriating when you need to get work or just want to get home at the end of a long day. The driver turns off the engine and reads the paper or goes out for a smoke as time ticks by. I am not against drivers having a break, but twice in half an hour on a busy route is ridiculous. I have not had any trouble with female drivers however. They have been punctual and don’t seem to require rest breaks.

Stagecoach adverts on the back of the bus make me laugh: “Craig is looking at the car drivers and thinking how stressed they all look”. More like “Lydia is looking at the car drivers and seeing how relaxed they all look. Lydia is still on the bus getting late for work. Where are you?”

In comparison, First bus drivers don’t take any breaks at all in their schedule, yet still manage to turn up on time. Unfortunately you pay higher fares for this privilege and they come less often.

I am so fed up with having to take these excuses for public transport that I cannot wait to drive. I enjoy cycling because then I have control over journey time instead of helplessly being delayed while a driver chats into his mobile.

Customers must be wondering when profits are going to make a difference to their journey time or whether transport is just another black hole for them to pour their ridiculously high taxes into. I get taxed so much when I do extra work that there is no financial benefit, and then at the end of it I have to sit on a snail form of transport with a driver that stops for a break so often that it sometimes takes double the time necessary to get home. I’ve done the Euro Millions in a desperate attempt to win and free myself from this daily misery.

fingers-crossed

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