Summary

I’ve been asked frequently what my favorite parts of the trip were and the kind of things I really enjoyed.  So I thought I’d share the answer to this to anyone who is still looking at this blog.

The thing I enjoyed the most applies to all locations and it was being able to go to another country where things are very different and experience the culture there and their lifestyle.  I found it really interesting visiting Greece and Turkey where many things are much more relaxed.  For example, hardly anyone wears seatbelts.  Only a small percentage of motorcyclists wear helmets.  Many kids are not strapped into a child seat but are walking about the car or even standing on the middle console in between the two front seats.  These were real eye opener type things, especially seeing a child standing up in between the two front seats.  That was just frightening at the thought of how he would have been a little projectile being sent through the windshield had they been in a collision.  But I guess nobody thinks of those things over there and it made me wonder if we have become too anal in our society.  We need helmets when skiing, snowboarding, biking, skating etc.  Nobody would argue the benefits in the event of an accident….but have we gone overboard?  I don’t know this answer….but it made me think…..

What did I dislike about the trip?  I really only disliked one thing.  The smoking.  I personally do not like cigarette smoke so the fact that just about everyone there smokes and that they smoke everywhere was really a disturbance.  For this, it’s nice to be back home.  

The following is a summary of my thoughts for each place we visited:

GREECE

Athens – was a typical city with lots of congestion.  But the surrounding mountains added an incredible view for the backdrop of the city.  The homes, being concrete and of different architecture was really nice to see.  The ruins where the Parthanon and Acropolis were, was incredible.  The subway system was easy to use.  

Santorini – was very different than I was expecting.  The tourist areas are nice but when you venture into the towns to see how the island ‘really’ is, it’s pretty run down.  It felt a lot like rural Mexico.  Lots of brown, dry land.  Low income living.  The view of the volcano and the sunsets were amazing.  Over-all though I was not overly impressed.

TURKEY

Istanbul – was a very congested city and the visit by a member of parliament made the congestion twice as worse than it should have been.   Unfortunately, the amount of time it took to get around made it difficult to see everything we had hoped to.  The old mosques and castle were really a sight to see.  I would like to return to see more of the vast history.  

Ayvalik – while our stay was short, I quickly obtained a real liking for this place.  I’m not a city person at all and this was like our cottage country.  Peaceful, by the sea and the old structures here were very interesting.

Izmir – really didn’t see this city except for the bus terminal.  Unfortunately, we don’t want to recount the “Tea Nazi” experience 🙂

Bodrum – was a VERY nice place that fits into what I really like.  Summer homes that serve as vacation spots that equates to our cottage country.  Peaceful, by the sea and very scenic.  The small towns were very interesting with their architecture and layouts.  The small town restaurant that Deniz and I enjoyed dinner at was amazing.  The peacefulness was really nice to experience in our schedule as the first part was quite hectic.  

Paris – turned out to be a little longer of a stay than originally planned but we spent most of that extra time at the airport.  So, we really still only had the one afternoon/evening of sight seeing.  The architecture of Paris was really amazing.  What was not so enjoyable was the people there.  Especially around the tourist areas and airport the people there were not only unfriendly….they were rude!  If you didn’t speak French, you didn’t receive good service or assistance.  Was really nice to see and visit but I have no desire to return.

London – was just a short overnight stay on our way back home.  Was really freaky to see the traffic travelling opposite to what we’re used to.  And it seemed the passenger was always driving!  But I found the people there to be exceptionally friendly and helpful.  I would really like to return here to properly visit the UK.  London was also very beautiful from the air.  It’s a very green city.  I also noticed that unlike most cities that are sectioned off in squares from above, London was very curvy.  The land from above was like looking at someones stamped concrete patio.  Curvy shapes.

What interests me most about a place are things that make the location unique and the history.  So, the ruins top my interest in Greece and Turkey.  What I don’t care for are the real ‘tourist’ areas since they are very common from place to place.  And you don’t really get to see what a particular place is REALLY like unless you venture out away from all the flash and jazz.  

Well…those are my thoughts for now….

Pics!

Here’s a link to my on-line picture gallery where I have posted a sampling of 174 pictures.  These pictures are from both Deniz and myself.  I took around 900 and Deniz around 650.  Far too many post all but this is a good sampling.  

http://gallery.mac.com/mcasao#100109

I can’t seem to get the above to be a link so look on the sidebar to the right and the same thing can be found there under ‘Links’.

Home at last!

We are finally back!  

We arrived at London Heathrow at 7am this morning for our 9am flight.  Fortunately, there were no line ups in London as there were in Paris so we went through fairly quickly.  The airport staff including Security were a lot more friendly and helpful.  The one thing different with this location was the separate shoe scan.  After going through the normal security gate, there was another where we all had to remove our shoes and place it on the belt for an x-ray scan.  After that it placed us right in the middle of all the shops for duty free shopping.  Very nice airport once inside.  We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then boarded for our 9am flight.

Our Air Canada flight arrived in at around 1:45pm this afternoon.  We were welcomed home by our usual happy-go-lucky, warm receiving customs officers <sarcasm>.   They sure like to make you feel like dirt for no reason.  They greet people like we’re all scum of the earth.  Five of them greeted us at the exit of the plane.  Then, we had to line up to greet the next happy bunch.  Anyhow, I didn’t have any issues going through.

Nice to be home now.  We’re exhausted and it’s back to the grind tomorrow morning for work after missing 2 days.  Despite the unfortunate events of coming home, it was an amazing trip!!

Coming home at last

Well….after another disappointing morning missing out on the Toronto flight and early afternoon flight we got lucky and found a connection flight through London.  We caught at 4pm flight to London, Heathrow and will fly via Air Canada to Toronto in the morning at 9am.  We are expected to arrive in Toronto at 1:20pm.

After arriving we researched and selected a place to stay for the night.  We just got back from enjoying a nice dinner at a local pub, “The Three Magpies”.  Of course we had to get fish and chips 🙂 ….and some beer to wash it all down to go with the atmosphere.  It was a good meal.

Everyone so far has been really friendly, which is more than what I can say for the treatment we got in Paris.  I think I’ve seen enough of Paris but would definitely like to return here to the UK at a future time for a proper vacation.  The area looked amazing from the air.  England has also helped bridge the gap towards home.  First, we are now hearing english spoken.  Secondly, all the “brown” folks make me feel like I was back home in Brampton 🙂 .  Seriously though….there is a real mixture of cultures here just like back home in Canada.

Anyhow, we’re both exhausted and my eyes can’t stay open much longer.  Nite nite and we’ll see you soon….cuz…WE’RE COMING HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Can’t go home just yet….

Hey Everyone,

No luck again today.  We spent the day at the check in counters for 3 flights and could not get on any of them.  The first one was early this morning and the second and third were for Montreal but could not get on that one either.  The aiport is crazy and all the flights are over-booked.  For the first Montreal flight there were about 25 of us stand by passengers.  For the second Montreal flight, there were about 22 of us.  One lady was pretty upset as this is the 5th day that she’s tried to leave here unsuccessfully.  It’s pretty bad.  They only considered the actual employees but companions like Deniz and I were turned down.  We spent from 7:30am to about 4pm lining up and then waiting by the desk….trying desperately to get on a flight.  What upsets us both is that yesterday they mentioned giving us jump seats and sent us to the gate.  It was there that they rejected the idea saying it was not allowed.  Today’s Toronto flight took 2 passengers via the jump seats.  They just assigned them at the check in counter.  So why was this not allowed for us yesterday??  We both feel that if the people working yesterday knew something we may have been home already instead of stuck here.   So, tomorrow is the same routine.  There is one flight to Toronto and two to Montreal.  We have already been told the picture does not look good as the Toronto flight has been overbooked by 21 seats and the 2 Montreal flights are much the same.  We were told though that Tuesday, everything drops off and is light.  So while we will try again for all 3 flights tomorrow, there’s a chance we may not get home until Tuesday.  It is incredible how booked up everything is.  We cannot even go to another country and then fly from there home.  Everything out of here is over-booked.  If the Toronto flight falls through again, then hopefully we can get on a Montreal flight.  Being in Montreal will present many more options to us than being here in Paris.  We can look at the train or bus too.

Well….we certainly had a couple of ill-timed events on this trip.  The other was the visit by a member of parliament to Istanbul while we were there that clogged up the roads.  Because of this persons visit it closed many roads and made every taxi ride a long and expensive one.  Now this.  But i’m still not going to let it ruin all the good stuff on this trip as i mentioned in my previous blog.

But boy….I WANNA GO HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  What i’d give to have a Tim’s coffee right now…..

I was supposed to return to work tomorrow….i guess I’ll have to write in now…..

Wish us luck tomorrow…..

Try again tomorrow….

Well…after a day of speaking to people, exploring options and taking a cat nap here and there we are lined up to try again tomorrow.  We are listed for tomorrow’s flight back departing Paris at 10:15am.  Fortunately, we are staying in the airport hotel so getting there in the morning will be easier.   The problem is, Paris is heading into holidays where parts of the city will rotate on being unavailable.   The students in Paris are also beginning a 14 day school break.  So that explains the mad rush out of Paris and why so many flights are booked right up.  There are some options but most of them involve price tags of around $7000 and cutting through the US.  So, we’ll chalk this up as another learning experience…..”check the local events calendar to find out what’s going on that could affect our plans”.  Flying stand-by/companion has certainly saved us a lot of expenses and we are both very appreciative of that.  But this is the price to be paid for saving on the other end.  It’s all still very worth it though.  It can certainly be frustrating and the multiple times we have to line up and then race through passport check and customs is not fun.

BUT….the situation made it possible to travel to so many places, even if we were just passing through to see a lot.  While tiring, this trip was educational, informational and very enjoyable.  For someone like me who has never left North America, this trip really opened my eyes to other cultures and places making this one heck of an experience.  The ruins in Athens and Turkey were really neat to see.  Experiencing traffic congestion in other countries makes me look at our own GTA congestion a little differently.  I find it very interesting how the ediquette and mannerisms on the roads in Greece, Turkey and Paris are.  So, while I am ready to come home, this challenge we find ourselves in today is worth the trouble.  I would not want to give back my experiences over the past couple of weeks for anything.  And I have Deniz and her parents to thank immensily for all of this – thank you!

I’ll try to update you all as soon as I can tomorrow on our success of catching a flight back.  If there’s an update, chances are the news isn’t good.  But if there isn’t one for a while then hopefully when an update appears it will say we’re home.