Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Let's Start from Now!

On Monday I swam 1200m made up of 1km without a break followed by a 200m cool down. This was followed by a long walk with Teddy.  Then Tuesday it was off to Tuesday group with Margaret at Black Mountain peninsula meeting up with old friends and new. Marg and I tried to stick to the flat when possible  and jogged 10km in total, my longest run since my illness. It was a very slow pace but I was happy to jog that distance. Of course I still had to walk my 5km with Teddy later in the day. This morning I went for a 5km run before spending my day being an Avon lady and of course Teddy didn't miss out! I ran just a little faster than I have been. Maybe one of these days I will be able to record my pace without shame! I can only get faster surely! It's been a cloudy windy day but the sun has been very warm in patches and the temperature reached 27deg which is very pleasant. This is a good time of year apart from the wind!          
Busselton triathlon Western Australia May 2012

Bike transition at Busselton

Run leg in Busselton tri

Mr B on bike leg at Busselton tri

Mr bringing bike into transition at Busselton triathlon

Mr B on cycle leg in Auckland triathlon

Mr B sporting his medal from the World Age Group Championships in Auckland October 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Slow Return to Fitness!

My specialist managed to organise an early appointment for me with another cardiologist. Thus I had my echogram (an ultrasound on the heart) last week and it appears to be all clear. The specialist will discuss the results at my next appointment later in the month but I am confident that all is well and I am consequently trying to run a little faster. 
At the moment I run 5 or 6km each day except Fridays when I just go to Body Balance at the gym. I try to swim once or twice a week and on Tuesdays I run at Tuesday group which starts at Black Mountain peninsula. That is usually a slow distance of about 8km.
Hopefully if I keep running regularly and stick to short distances my time will improve. Once I can run instead of jog at a reasonable pace I will return to the speedygeese training and increase my distance  but currently I'm just too embarrassingly slow to be able to take part. 
I have a lot of work to do as I have registered for the New York marathon in November next year. Earlier in the year I will be aiming to run several half marathons in Canberra. Fingers crossed my body will let me and my speed, strength and endurance will make an enormous improvement by the start of next year.
 Photos of school house and Doc Martin's house in Cornwall

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A few more trip memories

I had a follow up specialist appointment today and the news is not good. I have been advised not to do any exercise that causes breathlessness until I can see a cardiologist. There are some concerns about my heart beats. I will continue to jog (I can no longer call it running) for short distances on the flat as I have been told not to go up hills. I will also continue swimming and going to the gym for gentle exercise. I feel frustrated and disappointed as I have been longing to get back to training. However, there's not much I can do about it, just hope the specialist can bring my cardiologist appointment forward. It's currently not until the end of January next year - eeeek! I feel certain it will be ok but this waiting game is most annoying.
I will just bring our trip briefly up to date with a large chunk missing but the general gist is here.

20 July 2012
Now in the Dordogne region of France, just outside the town of Sarlat - an attractive place with a medieval town centre.  Though lots of tourists, in fact almost too many, the streets are full of Dutch and Belgian and non-local French number plates  ... Today we took a boat ride on the Dordogne river in a traditional style river boat, and visited the medieval bastide towns of Roque Gageac, where people once lived in caves in the cliffs, and Domme ... Lots of lovely old buildings and plenty of atmosphere. 

The plan tomorrow is to pop over to Souillac, 25k away, and watch the Tour de France wend its way past - its a flatish stage but does include a gentle hill at Souillac which might slow the riders a bit .... And Saturday the plan is to go to the weekly markets in Sarlat. 

Of course, being in France means pigging out on delicious French pastries, and lovely fresh strawberries which always taste better than those at home.  Supplemented by local specialities including foie gras and duck gizzards ....

Spent four days in San Sebastian in Spain, a seaside town with a big reputation that it pretty much lived up to - a harbour that was great for swimming, a 3k beach fronting the town with golden sand that is up to Australian standards (though packed with the Spanish on holiday on a sunny day) a promenade that was great for a run, and an old town full of bars and restaurants.  Pinxtos, the local version of tapas, is all the go at meal times, or any time really, washed down with sangria.  The locals make a lot of their Basque heritage, reminding visitors that they consider themselves not to be part of Spain.  Most signs are in the Basque language, full of t's and x's and pretty much unpronounceable. 

We took a day off from these delights for a bit of culture by visiting the Guggenheim Art Gallery in Bilbao.  A massive modern structure that makes our National Art Gallery seem quite unimaginative by comparison.  Main features were an exhibition of very colourful David Hockney paintings, and an enormous steel installation full of swirls and dark passages.
Sat, 28 Jul 2012
After our time in Turkey, 5000km of driving which also included the Roman ruins at Ephesus and Hieropolis, and the travertine terraces and hot pools at Pamukkale plus a day to tour the Gallipoli battlefields, we spent a week in the UK, mainly touring around the south-west - Cornwall and Devon.  We set up base in a Bed and Breakfast in Torquay, mainly known as the location for Fawlty Towers.  But our digs were nothing like that, all very well presented with large cooked breakfasts and obliging hosts.  Not much to recommend in Torquay itself, but it was a good central location for a driving holiday.

Had hired a new Alfa Giulietta diesel, which turned out to be a real pleasure to drive - plenty of grunt, direct steering, and used only 6l/100k according to the trip computer.  Very impressed ...

We ventured into deepest Cornwall, to the village of Port Isaac, the location for Doc Martin.  Very quaint, with steep streets and suitably ancient cottages and pubs.  Could wander past the good doctor's house but not venture inside.  Clotted cream was a major feature of our diet over these few days, with scones, strawberries, apple pie, fudge etc!  Found a lovely old steam train for a smokey rattly ride - at one terminus was the town of Dartmouth, home of a naval college and a proper French patissier - I really liked the town, not entirely sure why....

Other attractive places in the region were Lyme Regis (for those who remember the scene in the French Lieutenant's Woman where Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons stood on the rain swept groin), and Weymouth, location of the Olympic sailing.  And the village of Beer, a lovely seaside hamlet with a stoney beach in a smugglers cove, fishing boats bobbing in the bay and well preserved Georgian buildings.

Took a day trip down to Brighton, travelling the country lanes as one does.  A cool day with typical weather, alternating rain and weak sunshine.  And came upon the village of Hartsfield, a very English village and once the home of AA Milne, the author of Winnie the Pooh stories.  And there in the WtP shop was a CD version of the stories about the Bear of Little Brain read by Bernard Cribbens, an English comedian who puts distinct voices to each of the characters.  Just like the cassette version we bought in 1973 and played on our travels for years afterwards ...

Enough of English weather, time to head off to warmer climes in France and Spain.  But not much warmer as it turned out.  Two days in Bordeaux, a much upgraded city with recently cleaned cream stone buildings and an attractive central pedestrian area.  Travelled by train to Biarritz, an upmarket French resort town with a great beach, impressive markets and a casual atmosphere.  There was a round of the Women's World Surf competition on while we were there, but they had to keep cancelling the heats as the waves were so flaccid. 

And so, on the Euskatren, little more than a glorified tram, we headed to San Sebastian...

Just to pick up from the last email, we watched Le Tour on the gentle slope out of Souillac - lots of waiting punctuated by the publicity caravan going by but not so many goodies came our way as they were late and in a hurry.  Then you hear the helicopters filming the race whirring overhead, the lead group (tete de la course) swishes past at a vigorous clip notwithstanding the slope.  And a minute or so later they are followed by the peleton, including the yellow jersey and we could pick out Cadel amongst the 140 or so competitors.  And that was it - no stragglers on this flat route.  Everyone packed up and headed back into town in the hope of seeing the final part of the day's stage on the TV.  Another sprint finish won by Mark Cavendish, and if you want to see thighs like treetrunks, he's your man ...
A visit to the Saturday markets in Sarlat, and then back to Bordeaux to commence the long trip home.  Quick stops in Bergerac (where as it happened they were holding a triathlon, with the swim in the Dordogne river, which looked no more appealing than our lake) and St Emilion, a well-preserved village with strong wine growing connections - ok, every second shop sold the local red wine, but we resisted the temptation.

time ....

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Summing up the remainder of our trip as I very slowly return to fitness!

Update One
While in Turkey I contracted a nasty virus which has laid me off training for several months. I am slowly on the road to recovery but by no means fully fit yet in any way. I am running very slowly and hopefully will become faster with time. Because there was such a sudden stop to my blog I have decided to copy and paste some emails which Mr B wrote while we were overseas. This way there is a record of our journeys and I will return to training blogs as soon as possible.

So here we go back to 15 June 2012 - Cappadocia Turkey
Well, I guess you get what you you pay for ....

Our hotel in Kappadokya (Turkish spelling) does have some good points - it does have a bed and a bathroom, and most things work, and there are some nice traditional furnishings on the wall. And the people running the place seem to be lovely

But on the other hand ...
- the Muscara Cave Hotel in Goreme turns out to be the Anitta Hotel in Cavusin - no cave, and up a very narrow alleyway so impossible to find without guidance
- no air conditioning, with the days in the high 30s - and no fans either ...
- bed is hard and the pillows lumpy
- door handle is falling off, though at least it locks from the inside
- no room servicing, so no sheets or towels changed
- no shower screen or curtain so the bathroom is flooded each time you use the shower - mind you not much hot water either so showers are quick
- the taps are the wrong way around - red for cold, blue for lukewarm - and the bathroom fittings all seem to have lean on them ...
- a 10 minute gurgle each time you flush the toilet as the cistern refills
- only one channel on the TV, great if you want to watch the soccer, in fact I can hear the excitable Turkish commentator through the wall now ....
- mustn't complain too much about the Internet connection, as it now actually works ....
We were the only guests on the night we arrived, so were given the "best" room, so hate to imagine what the others are like .... But the the people running the hotel are very friendly and obliging, and I'm not sure I have the heart to tell them.  They did come out at midnight on our arrival night to help us find our way.

But putting all that aside, Kapadokya is the most amazing place - it well and truly lives up to everything you might have seen or heard.  The scenery is a veritable moonscape, with the plunging canyons and valleys, sparse vegetation and the vertical rock outcrops known as "fairy chimneys", or sometimes as " rude boys" due to their shape ....  The rock faces, and even some of the chimneys, have been excavated to provide living accommodation, something that goes back to hundreds of years BC - mostly abandoned these days, but occasionally they have been rebuilt into hotels or restaurants.

The ultimate manifestation of this living in the ground is the underground cities - apparently over 30 of them have been discovered, though only a handful are open to the public.  We visited Derrinkuyu, which goes 8 stores into the ground and accommodated up to 10,000 people - not a place for the claustrophobic, or the unfit given the many stairs, and easy to get lost in the maze of tunnels and chambers.  They were built to provide respite from the heat of summer and cold of winter, and as protection from invaders - you can still see the massive round stone doors that were rolled across the entrance tunnels.

It was a long trip from Istanbul to here - 12 hours, due to a two hour traffic jam on the Istanbul ring road, and an hour stop at factory outlets.  The freeway was pretty easy once outside of Istanbul, and even the country roads were often dual carriage and not much traffic.  There does seem to be a lot of road construction going on and road surfaces are sometimes a bit rough but driving here seems pretty straightforward .... so far!

25 June 2012
Well, I may have been a little premature about the the Anitta Hotel (that's to say I may have been, as it were, wrong ... ) - seems they did have proper cave rooms, nice and cool on hot days and with proper modern bathrooms.  They were located in the basement and someone didn't think to ask ... We discovered this on our day of departure when complaining to new Brisbane friends about how hot our room was, and they couldn't understand what we were on about.

But I stand by my comments on the door handle, it still fell off in your hand....

On to Kalkan, a holiday town on the Mediterranean coast.  An overnight stop in Konya on the way, an unremarkable city in middle Turkey, then over the mountains and down to the coast.  Much of it on good driving roads, a chance for a bit of "proper" driving ... Some of the roads are three lane, and, nominally, the upwards direction would have priority use of the middle lane.  In practice, however, it paid to watch carefully and be prepared to squeeze over if need be ..... According to the car temp gauge it reached 47 degrees, and it certainly felt like a furnace when you stepped outside of the air conditioning.

Our hotel in Kalkan was a cut above, with a pool and bar and decent restaurant.  All of the other guests were middle aged English couples, out to work on their early summer tans - their days seemed to be big brekkie, laze by the pool, big lunch, laze by the pool, a G&T at the bar, then the big effort of the day would be a gentle stroll into town for a big dinner at one of the harbour view restaurants before catching a taxi back, and a nightcap at the bar.  Borek, the hotel owner must have made a fortune from the meals and drinks ... And they didn't seem to understand why they generally took on the proportions of beached whales ....

Then one day, in blew Brookie, a stunning 24 year old from Melbourne in advertising, traveling around Europe by herself .... She had all the men eating out of hand, her typical approach was to chat up some young English speaking local who would offer to show her around, after which she would take him out to dinner.  Seemed to work a treat, there must have been broken hearts all over Spain and Italy, and now Turkey.  She had tried water skiing, jet skiing and paragliding off a cliff, and spent thousands on clothes, shoes and handbags, she was someone who wasn't going to die wondering....

We did spend one day at the local beach, a stony affair with lovely cool water great for swimming.  We hired a wicker umbrella and beach loungers, on the theory that the umbrella would protect us from the sun.  It did not, and as a consequence we both ended up with a severe case of sunburn.  Not sure if it was the sun or something eaten, but that night witnessed a major chunder on my part ....

One day in Kalkan we went sailing in a gulet, a traditional wooden Turkish yacht (not that they used the sails or even had any ..)  Most of the gulets had names with a nautical connection such as Bermuda, or Albatross, or Baba Dogan, but ours for some unfathomable reason was called Dennis.  So we went sailing in Dennis across the blue blue sea, stopping here and there to jump off for a swim, viewing the ruins of the sunken city at Kekova and eating a big lunch.  Most of the other passengers were Turkish and there was no English commentary, but a lovely day none the less.

My big treat in Kalkan was a Turkish shave and haircut, and massage and general groom, at a kuafor (or barber) called, as it happened, Sweeney Todd .... So there was some trepidation, but all went well.  Until he lit a taper and abruptly stuck it in my ear, that being the method for dealing with the unseemly presence of ear hair .... felt very relaxed and smooth afterwards,

Then we stayed in Marmaris for a couple of days, a holiday town with all the class of the tacky end of the Gold Coast, full of package tourists, many from Russia and its former satellites these days.  Its interest for us was as a base for a day trip to the Greek islands, more particularly the island of Rhodes.  Over on the high speed catamaran, a bus tour around some of the main sights ... "on the left the high court, on the right the city hall, on the left ... on the right ... " almost as bad as watching the tennis.  And a stroll through the old town. Made a welcome change from things Turkish, though not as picturesque as some of the other Greek islands.  Also a reminder that things are a bit more expensive in the euro zone than in Turkey.  The Costa Fortunesca, a sister ship to the one that sank off the Italian coast a few months ago was in port, and we could see that the crew was assiduously practicing their lifeboat drill, just in case ...

Now we are in Kusadasi, another seaside resort favoured by the big cruise ships.  We are staying in a restored caravansarei, built in the 1500s to provide protection and shelter for traders on the old Silk Road from Asia.  A massive square stone structure built around a central open courtyard with the rooms opening off the upper colonnaded terrace and carpet shops and eating facilities down stairs.  Something like it must have been in its heyday, but without the smell and with all mod cons .... 

 To be continued::

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Learning the Turkish ways

Our four days here is fast drawing to a close just as we are beginning to learn the local ways. We have even learnt how to say "no thank you" in Turkish ('Hayir tesekur e derim' or in English pronunciation 'Higher Tea-Sugar-a-dream') which has become a necessary evil as we are constantly being approached with "excuse me, can I just show you....?" or "yes please" or "you are American, English, Australian?" etc which is the precursor to showing you a  Turkish carpet, leather goods, pashmina, perfume or luring you into a restaurant in the hope that you will spend a few Turkish Lira!
We have learnt that 'calls to prayer' seem to take place about six times a day starting at 5.15am and finishing about 10.40pm. The chant (or call to prayer which is electronically recorded these days to save all that walking to the top of a minaret) lasts about 5 minutes and gives people about 15mins warning so they can make it to the mosque on time. We have seen lots of men running to the nearest mosque to pray but no women. Although the call is loud it doesn't seem to wake us in the mornings.
We have also noticed lots of cats everywhere, even a few tiny kittens, and they are usually very skinny and seem to live on the streets sometimes scrawling at each other for their own territory. Dogs are thin too but they do seem to belong to people.
Saturday 9 June
On Saturday we queued up for the Blue Mosque so called because of the blue and white tiles which cover the interior walls. It is one of the world's most famous religious buildings and was built in 1609-16. Istanbul has several huge mosques but this is definitely the most picturesque.
Blue Mosque
Our next visit was to the Galata Tower which dates back to the 6th century. It is 60m high and is topped by a conical tower. We caught a lift for about 45 floors and then had to walk up a very very narrow winding staircase to the top for a breathtaking view over the city from the narrow balcony around the top.
Views from the Galata Tower

We next took a ride on the funicular (tram) to the end of the line at Taksim Square. We stopped here for a while to walk down the hill past the main shopping street which is quite modern and to the Basilica Underground Cistern, a most unusual tourist attraction and totally worth a visit. Again it required negotiating lots of narrow steps (the Turks love their winding staircases) but it was quite an amazing structure. It was built in 532 to meet the growing demands of the palace. The cistern's roof is held up by 336 columns each over 8m high. In one corner there are two heads of Medusa, one on its side and one upside down thought to mark a shrine to the water nymphs!
Medusa's head!
By now we were tired and hungry so we opted for an early dinner of meatballs in a little restaurant near the Galata Tower.
Sunday was another full-on day and we started it with a run, yes, we truly finally ran in Istanbul. It was a little daunting appearing in public in a singlet and running shorts. Mr B did offer me a t-shirt to cover up but it was stinking hot and I just concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other and tried not to make eye contact with any of the male species.I did feel a bit self-conscious running through the streets where Turkish men sit outside their shops and you can feel their eyes probing as you run past. However, once we had reached the waterside I felt a little better although one fisherman just about brought his line right out of the water as he swung round to stare. There were a few runners down there but only one girl and she had leggings covering her knees although she was wearing a singlet top. It is a different world here. We arrived back at the hotel totally dripping and managed a few more stares when we entered the lobby!
Total distance: 8km
After a refreshing shower and breakfast we headed for Haghia Sophia (or Ayasofya in Turkish) which means "church of total wisdom". It is more than 1400 years old. It was built as a Christian Church but in the 15th century it was converted into a mosque. It was truly magnificent and the mosaics were gorgeous. It took us nearly 3 hours to walk through every room and gallery.
Part of Interior of Haghia Sophia

Intricate ceramic tile work

One of the magnificent ceilings

Haghia Sophia
We were already footsore and weary but there were more sights to see so after a short rest eating a banana and drinking water, we walked around the corner to the Topkapi Palace.
This was truly amazing. We paid extra to visit the harem with all its interesting boudoirs and history. In the main palace there was a circumcision room, fabulous emeralds and gold including a 65carat diamond (so huge) and some  artefacts attributed to the prophet Mohammed which created a huge pushy queue of head covered locals who were desperate to see the many studded swords and stones.
We enjoyed walking through the beautiful gardens here too and by the time we had covered the majority of the palace and its grounds another 3 hours had slipped by and our poor feet were burning!
This time we enjoyed dinner in our local area served by a disgruntled spruker who had hoped to entice us to have a much larger meal than we had! Goodness, we didn't even have a glass of wine as we were just ready to head home for some sleep!
Monday - our last full day in Istanbul
Today we decided to cruise the Bosphorus, a very different and far more relaxing way to see the sights. It was quite surreal to cross under the bridge which separates Europe from Asia. Apparently a marathon takes place here - the Eurasian Marathon - which has taken place since the bridge was built in 1973. The Bosphorus is the channel flowing between Europe and Asia. It is really, really blue and the many mosques, castles and palaces on the hillsides made for a very scenic tour. After a couple of hours we arrived at Anadolou Kavadgi where we had a three hour break before returning on the other side of the Bosphorus. 
Views on th Bosphorus

Seafood lunch
It wasn't a big port and was absolutely full of seafood restaurants and of course the locals rely on these cruise boats to boost their economy. It didn't take long before we were seated at a seafood restaurant overlooking the water and being served quite delicious fish (served whole), calamari, mussels, fresh sardines and salad and a glass of wine to wash it down. 
Mr B enjoying lunch

We wandered round the seaport after lunch buying the prereqisite fridge magnet, then headed back to the boat for our return trip. The round trip took six hours including the three hour break but it was a great way to spend another hot day.
Once back on shore we walked back to the Grand Bazaar to buy some more Turkish Delight then we risked buying some kebabs at a roadside cafe and headed back to our hotel. 
In the morning we need to repack our bags before catching a shuttle to the airport and collecting our hire car before facing the extremely daunting idea of driving through the Turkish traffic as we head for Cappodocia. 
Turkish drivers are crazy, spending a lot of time honking their horns and ignoring pedestrians. The footpaths here are very narrow and half covered with shop wares which requires lots of walking on the roads and crossing the roads is taking your life in your hands every time you step off the curb.Being a driver here will be an experience indeed!

Cats just seem to wander the streets and not belong to anyone

Monday, June 11, 2012

From Singapore to London and on to Istanbul! Hot to cold and back to the heat!

This has been quite a week. We did have our run in Singapore and in fact managed an 8km course round the streets and past the Children's Olympic Park. It was hot and we were very glad to finish! One thing we noticed in Singapore was the incredible amount of roadworks absolutely everywhere somewhat spoiling the landscape. I did forget to mention that when on our bus tour we saw the Raffles City Tower which is 73 floors high and this is the venue for an annual marathon where competitors run all the way to the top. Hmmm, that doesn't sound like much fun!
On Saturday 2 June we visted the Jurong Bird Park which was really pleasant and totally amazing - loved the owls.

After a full day there we took a bus to the Night Safari which operates next to the Singapore Zoo but only opens at night. Inside we had an open train ride all round the complex to give us a close look at the lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, zebras, wolves, rhinos etc and later we walked round to have another look from a different angle. We even managed to watch a hungry tiger at feeding time with only a thin sheet of glass between us.
On our last day we visited a Mosque where a very enthusiastic guide was determined to convert us although he really was interesting to talk to. He explained that he only had one wife although it was quite acceptable for Muslims to have up to three wives providing they were all treated exactly the same way and loved equally. He also explained that the reason the men have separate areas to the women for prayer is so that the men are not distracted from their prayers by the sight of the women bowed in prayer - all very fascinating stuff:)
Mosques have no seats as muslims all kneel on the ground to pray. They are called to prayer several times a day and must leave what they are doing to go to the Mosque to pray.
Of course a visit to Singapore would not be complete without a visit to the famous Raffles Hotel where we ordered a very expensive but very refreshing Singapore Sling!

Singapore Sling at Raffles
We had an upgrade to Premium Economy on the Singapore to London leg and really loved the extra leg room and wider seats.  We felt far less tired upon arrival.  We stayed at Mr B's cousin's house in Epsom; they have a spare bedroom in the attic on the second floor which tests out the legs! The weather in London was pretty miserable after the heat of Singapore - only managed to reach 13 and it was wet and windy. We could almost have been at home on a Canberra late autumn day!
We hired a new Fiat Cinquecento, just to see what it was like - we used to have one 40 odd years ago - seemed very small but in fact it's quite roomy inside for two plus luggage, and quite a smooth grown up car to drive. It had 'stop start' which turns off the engine whenever you are at traffic lights - a handy feature once you get used to the idea but a bit embarrassing when you stall at the lights!
In our few days in London we went up to town one day to revisit a few old haunts, such as Oxford Street, Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Notting Hill where we worked in the 70's. This has changed somewhat and we couldn't find the wine bar which we used to frequent. The Windsor Castle Pub however is still going strong and is as quaint as ever. We also picked up some cheap seats for the theatre and we chose to see Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street.  The plot was threadbare but the singing was great and there was much slitting of throats with very realistic blood spurts (at least they looked good from the Gods)! We haven't been tempted to eat meat pies since and it's a good thing Mr B no longer requires the services of a barber!
We caught up with a few friends in London, which was loads of fun, including meeting up with a friend from the days we worked in London in the early 70s - 38 years since we last met up, and it was lovely to engage in a bit of 'do you remember ....?'  .

Then - 1974 - that's Mr B with the long black hair and me with the short reddish hair in the denim! Jean in the bottom photo with Mr B. We went on a trip to France one weekend as you do!

Now - 38 years later! Strewth and Jean

Jean, Mr B, Strewth
We also managed a couple of runs while in the UK, both of them about 7.5km. We found a couple of lovely routes, one was decidedly undulating heading to Epsom Downs and round the race course and golf course. Parts of the run was on a lovely trail overhung by trees and everywhere was ever so green. On our second run we were caught in light showers and our shoes were decidedly muddy from the sloshiness underfoot but it was so good to run.

We are now in Istanbul. The temperature is several degrees warmer than London and we are finding it a busy, exciting and fascinating city. Our arrival didn't get off to a good start as we were charged $60 each for a visa at the airport which seems particularly aimed at Australians as it is only $20 for other countries and indeed NZ passport holders don't require a visa at all. If only our previous passports hadn't been stolen last year! When we queried the cost we were told "We don't like Australians" which went down like a lead balloon when a tad tired and just off a four hour flight at midnight. However, since then the locals have been mainly helpful and pleasant.

We are staying in the Sultan Hotel here, the same name as our hotel in Singapore but no connection, just coincidence. It is only six months old but it is a very small room, in fact the entire hotel only consists of ten rooms, all of which are up steep windy stairs. It was a bit daunting hauling the suitcases up these stairs but fortunately the poor young man at reception had waited up for us and lugged my bag up for me. It was after 1.30am before we arrived at the hotel as the cab driver managed to become lost, there being several hotels by the name of Sultan!

Friday was our first full day here and after the hotel breakfast, which gives choices of bread, cheese slices, various types of cold meat, apricot nectar, perculated coffee or tea, some sort of sugary cereal which we avoid, nuts, hard boiled eggs and yoghurt, we explored the area starting with the Grand Bazaar. Here a very friendly local insisted on taking us to his "shop" of rugs to meet his family and discuss all things Australian. We were introduced to his brother who made me sit down to try Turkish tea and then his daughter was brought in to meet us and we were shown various photos of family members taken with well known celebrities. Of course he has a shop in Sydney too. We did manage to escape eventually but Mr B admonished me for being too friendly and in danger of being sucked in!! They did however supply us with a map of the bazaar which proved to be quite helpful and we will endeavour to return to the bazaar before we leave.

Next stop was the Spice Market, another large bustling marketplace living up to its name of lots of spices and nuts. We bought a mixture of fresh Turkish Delight and some plump dried apricots to keep us going! It was a very hot sticky day but we did a big explore stopping for our first Turkish lunch at a roadside bar. We checked out the mosques, shops, local cobbled streets and interesting little alleyways and sussed out everything we want to see in the next few days here. In the evening we ate kebabs at a restaurant seated next to Aussies from Newcastle who were just leaving but filled us in on a few more things to add to our list of things to do. On our other side we met Pakistanis who had been living in Texas since 1982. There are a large number of tourists here. In fact it is a hive of activity and very busy and alive from late morning to late evening. We noticed that the evenings cool down after the sun goes down which is decidedly pleasant after the stickiness of the day.

This man heaving a trolley of goods up the hill is a typical sight

Street seller selling bagels

Exploring the streets - woman in full burka

Local streets
 To be continued on next blog entry!