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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Yassou from Greece!

July 1, 2011

I got in to Athens, Greece late last night to find that the riots that have been on the news are literally going on RIGHT outside our hotel. They've even torn up the marble steps of the hotel to throw at the riot police. The Hotel Grand Bretagne is beautiful and classic as a Greek statue. And finally beds that aren't rock hard!

My boyfriend's mom's room looks out over the square with a view of the Acropolis but because of the riots she had to sign a waiver for the staff to unlock the balcony doors. The Acropolis view is smaller than I'd anticipated (it's a little ways away) but is awesome nonetheless.

We dined at the hotel restaurant while we waited for my boyfriend's plane to get in. Our waitress' name was Katerina and she had a huge smile and lion eyes. The food was delicious! We had lamb, ravioli, and tuna tartar with Greek wine which was tasty.

After dinner we hung out in the lobby waiting for my BF and people-watched. We people-watched us four Vegas strippers who looked ready to hit to the pole, I mean town. Sadly, for the BF they walked out the front doors right before we walked in. With everyone finally at the hotel we headed to bed to start fresh in the morning.

July 2, 2011

Today we woke up around 10am to enjoy the amazing buffet breakfast spread on the top floor. They even offer free champagne (they must have known I was coming)! We then spent the next few hours wandering down Ermou Street in Plaka, the old district of Athens. There are tons of stores including a conveniently located H&M where I was able to buy myself some new clothes - FINALLY! We had lunch at an outdoor cafe on Adrianou Street that runs right along the metro. We sat down to a view of the Acropolis and the graffited railway. Lunch was simple but fresh.

Back at the hotel we took advantage of the rooftop pool for a few hours. A beer at this hotel is $12 which is ridiculous so we sniped some of the free champagne. A few hours later we showered and when back to Adrianou Street to have dinner at Kizuna. This restaurant has received Michelin awards for the past four years and they had these feta cheese dumplings with pomegranate sauce that were possibly the best appetizer I have ever had. Our main courses ranged from pork that had been roasting for 12 hours in lime and basil cream to goat cheese and pumpkin risotto.

We were absolutely stuffed and could barely make it home to sleep.

July 3, 2011

Today we were up bright and early for our half-day tour of Athens. Our driver's name was Thanos and he works for a company called Private Greece Tours. My boyfriend had found out about the company on TripAdvisor and had booked a half-day tour for 150 Euros for four people. Thanos arrived in a Mercedes... taxi... that had just enough seats. I would've preferred a little more room as I was the one sitting "bitch" but as soon as Thanos started talking I quickly forgot about the car. He's big, booming voice was filled with the rich history of the Grecian people and their landmarks. We spent the next few hours touring the temples of Acropolis, enjoying the view from the top of Lycabettus Hill, and wandering the ruins that surround the Temple of Hephaestes.

It was sad to see that only a little remains of the original architecture of the Acropolis. The Parthenon commands the center of the hill, but with the flagging strength of an old veteran whose middle has been bombed over the centuries. You can feel the history seeping into your leather sandaled feet as they walk across stones that have been worn through by the feet of Grecians, slaves, Ottomans, Romans and tourists.

The Propylaea marks one of the entrances to the Acropolis and has stayed in fairly good shape as has the Temple of Athena Nike to the right of the Propylaea. One of the coolest buildings was the Erechtheum which has been extremely well-preserved, especially it's columns shaped like Grecian maids. Their robes and curls stand tall to bear the weight of the building roof.

Our next stop was at the top of Lycabettus Hill which was rumored to be the home of wolves. All we saw on our visit was the 19th century Chapel of St. George. The view of Athens from this vantage is breathtaking and gigantic. You can see city in all 360 degrees as the urban sprawl extends to the mountains and the sea.

The last stop was to the grounds below the Acropolis that housed the ancient agora. The agora of ancient Greece was both a commerce center (the market) as well as a meeting place. Within the agora is the Temple of Hephaestus which is the temple that remains in the best shape of all the temples in Greece. It was really cool to see this temple that gives you a bit of an idea of what the Parthenon might have looked like in its original splendor. We also saw the Tower of the Winds, an octagonal building that at one time had a weathervane at the top. Each of the eight sides has a carving of a man, one of the winds. The North wind is depicted with heavy robes and a long beard while the South wind is a fair-haired young man with rosy cheeks and short hair.

At this point we were exhausted and starving so Thanos suggested the best place in Plaka for gyros. Gyros are not served like they are at home wrapped in pita and they are not traditionally made with lamb. Thanos suggested we get them with pork. He was right - they were one of the best three meals I've had on this Europe trip so far. I washed the pork, tzatziki, onion, tomato and pita down with some delicious Greek lemonade. It was extremely refreshing and gave me just enough strength to find a cute pair of Grecian sandals. It was a bit of a bummer that all the regular shops were closed (it's Sunday) since I was planning on spending the second half of the day shopping! Lame. Apparently the main shops close around 3pm on Saturdays and don't reopen until Monday. I guess I'm getting up early before our flight to the islands tomorrow!

We sat around the hotel for a bit before starting our stroll to Gazi, the more "up and coming" area of Athens out past Plaka. You take Ermou street until it ends past decrepit buildings covered in graffiti with sewage leaking into the street. I know it sounds awful. But at the end of Ermou you cross the street and suddenly you enter this hidden area of boutique restaurants and hip nightclubs. It reminded me a lot of Buenos Aires and Abott Kinney. Along the way we saw a little lab who had trained itself to cross the street on the light. The first time the dog crosses on "green" we thought it was a fluke but we stood there and watched him cross another street in the same way. Incredible!

It was a little ironic that we ended up at the Butcher Shop for dinner since my BF's little sister is a vegetarian, but they had plenty of options for her. We ordered flank steak, chicken shish and hamburger. My flank steak was perfectly seared and very tasty. The hamburger was a little overcooked and the tzatziki sauce as a little thick. The outdoor ambiance of the restaurant was magical with lines of little potted trees hung with streams of lights.

After dinner we taxied back. Getting out of the taxi an acrid smell seared the inside of my nose and my eyes felt like they were bleeding. My asthma was rocketing to the surface. I looked up to see a bunch of rioters staring back at me their mouths and noses covered by large, military gas masks. What the fuck?! The swarms of rioters gathered around us buoying us to the steps of our hotel. Moments ago we were discussing going out in Gazi but from the looks of the situation around us there was no way I was leaving the hotel.

Up on the sixth floor we looked out over the massive, angry sea of people crowding around the Parliament. Green lasers searched the walls of the hotels occasionally blinding us. My BF was especially bummed about not going on since our online research had told us that the Athens club scene is legendary. We decided instead to head up to the hotel bar, have a glass of wine, and watch the scene below.

Around the time that we had finished our glass of wine, I had a sudden surge of energy. Riding the wave, we ran downstairs to change and then headed to Gazi before the adrenaline rush died. Stepping outside of the hotel things looked a little calmer which was encouraging. We joined waves of young people dressed in cut-offs and sneakers wielding beer cans as we walked to Gazi. We spent the next few hours drinking and dancing. For a Sunday night it was pretty crowded but no one was dancing which was a little disappointing. Our favorite bars were Secret, Soho and Why Sleep? We grabbed a gyro from a stand on the street and headed back around 2am to ensure we'd be alive to make it to Santorini tomorrow. I was really glad we'd rallied so that we could get a taste of Athens at night.

Overall, I'm very impressed with Athens. Everyone told me it was an awful place that you had to suffer through in order to get to the islands so maybe I just had low expectations going in. Instead I found a lively city filled with friendly people and an amazing array of extremely comfortable sandals (I highly recommend buying sandals from the Athens Flea Market before going to the islands). I would definitely come back here. And with that I leave you looking forward to my posts about Santorini tomorrow.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy July! Time for a Recap!

I was bored because I have hours before my flight to Greece and the Courtyard Istanbul International Airport hotel (yeah it's a mouthfull) has free internet in the lobby so I decided to get on and write.

First of all my mom left to make her plane home in the middle of the night and I woke up feeling like a scared -year-old in a giant bed, in a giant room, all alone. What a loser! I'm really sad she left; we had a great time albeit with some travel ups and downs. To commemorate our experience I thought I'd write a blog that sums up my travels so far.

First of all, boy did mOcean luck out! You may or may not have noticed that I've being posting pictures in my mOcean T-shirt on their Facebook page For those of you who don't know I worked there before leaving on my Europe trip and I really really miss everyone. So I just wanted to give a shoutout to all the mOceanites!

Next I think I will go ahead and write some more hate-blog about Alitalia and the Milan Linate airport. Yes, I am TWO WEEKS into my trip and do those idiots have any idea where my bag is? NO! I'm pretty much over it although I'm going have some trouble when I come home in two months to a completely empty underwear drawer. Sigh. I strongly recommend two things from this experience: 1) No matter how long you are traveling for just pack a carry-on. No you do not need that third dress - TRUST ME. You will like it a lot less when you have NOTHING. 2) Avoid Milan airport and Alitalia within an inch of your life. The Milan airport lost and found literally doesn't have a phone number so you can't reach them no matter how much you wheel and deal with other departments. You literally have to show up at the Milan airport in order to speak to one of them. As for Alitalia? They are REALLY good at sending meaningless telelexs to the lost baggage department that are completely ignored. Do they step up more than that? No, because once you've booked your ticket they don't give a shit about you.

Ahh I feel better. Now to rip apart my hotels. The Hotel La Colonnina was amazing. Our room, our beds, our shower, our terrace, all amazing. Selene (sorry if I'm spelling that wrong) is hands down the best hotel staffer that I have ever meet in my 26 years of traveling to over 16 different countries. If you are looking for someone to run your company fly to Monterosso and pick her up regardless of the price tag. She will make you rich. She is pleasant, smart, and will do EVERYTHING in her power to help you - including offering up her own mother to stop at the courier service to look for our bags.

Next, the Esans Hotel had the second most amazing hotel staff and I include all of them in this but especially Engin who tireless helped us in our bag search, made sure we were always stuffed with Turkish tea, and that our stay in Istanbul was full of adventure. I highly recommend this hotel although their beds could be softer and their blinds thicker.

As for the Local Cave House hotel, they are luckily it is made from stone or some angry guest is going to burn it down. The owner (Harun I think?) was terrible and his sidekick was scary (for those of you who have been reading along, yes, I refer to Creepy Guy). It was one of the worst run hotels I've ever seen since the disaster hotel in Thailand. They forgot us at the airport (you HAVE to have an airport pickup from Kayseri or you are spending the night there), they forgot our 4am wakeup call for our hot air balloon ride (I still sympathize for the people riding next to me in the balloon who had to smell my morning breath), and later I found out they'd charged us TWICE was everyone else paid for the same balloon. NEVER STAY THERE.

Since Harun's hotel was so awful (I should call it the Horror Hotel instead) we booked everything else in Cappadocia through Rose Tours. You have to haggle with them to get the best price but they are a very reliable tour company with great guides. A small shoutout to Mehmet here - give him a raise and a day off, he rocks!

Moving on to Pamukkale, we have the Melrose House Hotel, which was by far the prettiest, most relaxing hotel so far. I arrived in tears thanks to the angry airport man and my knight in shining armour, Selami, came to my rescue. He was a great host and the hotel was fabulous. One small note here is that they only clean the room every other day unless you specifically ask so keep that in mind. Otherwise, the rooms were very high quality for the price, the location was a little far but walkable to the sites, and we even got a bonus terrace! I would definitely stay here again.

And finally we have the Courtyard Marriot which had by far the softest bed in Turkey (finally!) and free internet although I miss my free breakfast. It was also the most expensive but eh that was expected. Mom is a sneaker and stole the Marriot points but she did have to be at the airport at 3am so I forgave her.

To wrap up, I'll leave you with my overall travel thoughts. I've been traveling Europe for two weeks now and I am hardly satiated even after all the trials I've been put through. Traveling really is in my blood. As Steinbeck would say, "Once a bum always a bum." How true that is. I've been excited by how close my mom and I got on this stint of my trip. I've also found that human beings really can get through anything if you have the right attitude. True losing your bag isn't even in the ballpark of losing a pet, a house or a parent, but losing your bag does strip you of any comfort. You don't realize how much of a comfort your bag is (filled with the clothes, products and memories you know) until it's lost to you. But I've found that living off the land ("hording hotel bathroom products") can be exciting! And you feel like a true travel with only a backpack on your back. If ever you want to truly test yourself I dare you to travel with three outfits and only what the hotel provides in the way of toiletries. It's a whole new way to travel.

And with that I'm off to enjoy the luxurious pool provided by this establishment to see if there is any skin left to burn. See you in Greece!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The White Wall at the end of Turkey

June 29, 2011

What are the odds that I am reading the first Game of Thrones book and today I encounter the White Wall? Not nearly as big as in the book and also not made of ice but it looked similar.

This morning we woke up and headed to the Pamukkale travertines which officially are my favorite thing from my trip to Turkey. The name Pamukkale means "cotton castle" in Turkish, which is a perfect name considering this valley of white stretches across and up to tower over the town. The travertines are thus named because of the calcium carbonate rock sediment from which they are created. When you walk in the pools it feels like slimey chalk while on the harder ridges it feels like soft stone. By the time you reach the top of the travertine staircase your feet are super soft from the mineral water (you are forbidden to wear shoes in an effort to keep them white). It really does look as though the end of the world exists on the other side.

Instead the top or "other side" of the travertines to covered by the ruins of the Greco-Roman city, Hierapolis. Hierapolis means "holy city" and was erected in the 2nd century as a place for Roman to visit to to heal their ailments in the mineral springs. The ruins contain two well preserved outer walls, a latrine, an agora, a cathedral, and the Martyrion of St. Philippe one of the twelve apostles. The Martyrion, the agora and the latrine were by far the coolest sites. The farthest reaches of the area are taken up by a massive necropolis of ruined tombs, some of which still bare the names of those who were buried inside.

As a side note it costs 20 lira per person to walk the travertines and visit Heirapolis. In addition you can pay to visit the museum at the top (pretty much worthless) and pay to swim in the mineral springs (25 lira per person). Since you can eat, wander, and suntan in the mineral spring area we didn't bother paying to swim. It was SO hot swimming in hot water didn't sound that appealing anyway. The doner sandwich I ordered on the other hand was extremely appealing. The best part about lunch was watching this monitor that showcased tourists who had paid to star in a DVD of them dancing on a flying carpet that flies over all the sites. After filming you can obviously pay to take this DVD with you. My mom was all about it but I refused to be ridiculed in front of the entire swimming area.

We had arrived at the base of the travertines at 9am and it was now 4pm and we were burned to a crisp so we headed back to the hotel. My mom went up for a nap while I attempted to cool my sunburn in the freezing pool water. As I sat there treading water the cousin of the hotel owner came by and mirthlessly started flirting with me. He more or less asked if my mom "would let" go out tonight. Luckily my mom walked up right after he popped the question I was able to redirect the conversation. Phew!

A bottle of wine and some Turkish dancing later my mom and I headed up to shower. I should take this time to tell you a little more about our hotel, The Melrose House. It is AMAZING. The room is large with a terrace and the downstairs pool/restaurant area is so homey. This is an inside joke because my mom was reading the hotel brochure in the lobby and it said "we welcome you to our homely hotel." She pointed out to the staff that this was not what they meant to say. It was pretty funny. I wish that we were staying here longer just so I could hang out at this hotel.

For dinner my mom and I walked into town mostly because we were bored. Once you've seen the travertines and Heirapolis there isn't too much more to look at. Maybe I'm glad we are only here one full day afterall. We dined at Kayas which feels more like a Jamaican bar then a Turkish restaurant. We had spaghetti and salad which were fine but not great. Mostly we just watch Akilli TV, a Turkish show of hilarious, dangerous and ridiculous YouTube-like videos. Mostly it was llamas eating hair, semi trucks crashing and bikers doing stunts. There was even a photo of a girl on the beach smiling in the foreground as a shark is leaping out of the water in the background about to swallow a man on the beach.

We headed back to the hotel around 11pm. It was kind of scary since every car slowed to stare at us filled with men and every bar we passed we could feel heavy, drunk eyes staring. But we made it back safely and locked the doors before passing out.

June 29, 2011

Today is essentially my last day in Turkey as we head back to Istanbul and then I head on to Greece while my mom flies home to the States. I spent most of the afternoon sunbathing and reading Book Two of Game of Thrones while the backs of my legs cooled from the massive sunburn I'd gotten yesterday. The one place I didn't put sunscreen!!! Odds this is my last post before Greece as we are leaving on a night flight to Istanbul tonight and then leave early for Greece tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

From East to West

June 26, 2011

This morning we were woken up at 4:45am to the sound of someone banging on the door yelling "Balloon! Balloon!" In a daze we realized that the hotel never had someone come to wake us up like we'd asked and this was the driver yelling that he was going to leave without us. We brushed our teeth and threw on the closest clothes and ran down to the van. We apologized to all the other people waiting. Another strike against this hotel.

The balloon company was called Atmosfer Balloons and the van took us to their main headquarters where we had about five minutes to gulp down some hot tea and cookies. Not their fault; we were just late getting there. We ended up in Cemal's group (pronounced like "Jamal") who was an animated young Turkish man with an endless supply of jokes. He told us he was really excited because we were the first group to go ballooning with him. We also had a lively group of passengers including two female teachers and a group of six college-age Columbians.

The balloon ascent was graceful and soft and so was the landscape as the rising sun poured into the basin of the town. Gerome was just waking up. All around us were other balloons drifting up into the air like Christmas ornaments, their different logos and colors crowding the sky. Below us stretched miles and miles of rugged desert broken by giant dusty karsts of earth. These karsts have holes and homes carved into them where the indigenous people, Romans and Ottomans lived until about 1950 when the government made them into "museums." The area was formed 60 million years ago when the three major volcanoes in the area erupted at the same time. Then over time water, wind and other elements smoothed the earth. We toured around for an hour and then landed for a celebration of cherry champagne and chocolate pound cake. Both were delicious. Then Cemal handed out diplomas for surviving the flight, but he wouldn't hand them to the girls without a kiss on the cheek. What a flirt!

We were dropped back at the hotel and decide to traipse into town to find out the best way to see the other things in the city. We ended up at Rose Tours which looked legitmate and in walks the six Columbians! There were three girls and three guys and two sets were coupled up. They were really nice. We decided to go on the Green Tour which takes you to the underground city, the Ilhara Valley for a hike, the Selime Monastery and the valley of the pigeons for 70 Lira per person.

Our guide for the trip was Mehmet, a young Turkish man who was a little quiet at first but he warmed up as we went along. It was a good thing we did a tour because each of the locations are 30-60 minutes apart. The first stop was Derinkuyu Yeralti Sehri which is the biggest of the underground cities. It has seven real floors, the eighth being mostly just a hole as if they had meant to keep expanding. The city extends for 85 meters and is about 40 meters deep at its lowest floor. Three thousand people lived in these cities any time invaders entered the area. They would then live in the city until the threat subsided. You can see large boulders under the ground that they would use to seal off different levels in case invaders located the city. It got pretty claustrophic as we went farther down because the staircases become so extremely narrow that you have to wait at one end to get back out until people are done filing into your area. It was too much for one of the men in our tour who panicked and had to be taken back up top. Overall very cool.

The next stop on the trip was the Ilhara Valley where we hiked three kilometers through lush forest along a river. The sides of the gorge stretched up around us on either side holding us in. It was like a mini Grand Canyon.

At the start of the hike was a 4th century church that had been cut into the rock with reliefs painted on the walls and ceilings. Mehmet explained that they were mistakenly called "frescoes" when really they are "sekko." The difference is that with frescoes the paint is mixed with plaster. Sekko utilizes the whites of pigeon eggs as the "plaster" on which the paint is applied. And it has lasted for centuries. Definitely gives you a new perspective on why egging cars is such a bad idea. That shit lasts forever!

On the hike I spent a lot of time talking to Juan, one of the Columbians, who was going to med school. It's so funny to see that people from a completely different continent still watch the same television. He was partial to House over Grey's Anatomy in terms of medical realism. I also got to know Diana, who gave me some great advice on bargaining. At the end of the hike we stopped for lunch at a restaurant in the gorge for chicken shish and meat pot. I think it tasted extra good because of the hiking.

At this point we were starting to get tired, but my exhaustion disappeared when we arrived at Selime Monastery. Built way up into the side of a massive hill, Selime never ends. We only saw one small part. At one point I looked up to see Diana and the other Columbians waving from way up the mountain. I had no idea how they got there but I was super jealous. Mehmet on the other hand was growing frustrated with our unruly group because we were always late back to the bus. Realistically they are lucky no one got hurt because there were definitely parts of this "tourist attraction" that were extremely unsafe. Regardless, the monastery definitely entered the top three for places I've seen so far on the trip along with the Topkapi Harem and the Dolmabache Ceremonial Hall. If only they had a toilet as I had to hold it all the way to the next gas station we could find.

The remainder of the tour was to Pigeon Valley and a demonstration of Onyx, because hey what's a tour without a stop at a local place to buy things? The only point of interest was learning that the pigeons were used to carry messages and their droppings were used to fertilize the area. Below is a picture of Uchisar Castle in the distance. We returned to the hotel exhausted.

After a nap, we headed out to dinner and ended up at Kale Terrasse. I was feeling awful thanks to my allergies (I'd spent all day blowing my poor red nose) so we sat inside. I had chicken shish again which was delicious (I love the seasoning they put on it) and my mom got meat and vegetables that came on a steaming plate with a fire underneath similar to fajitas. The waiter was super sweet and gave us a bunch of wine recommendations. He said we should visit Uchisar to try some Kochbag wines. So far Turasan has been the tastiest brand and Okuzgozu is the best grape.

Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped at the Internet cafe to attempt to get more information about our bags. While there the Columbians appeared again! Diana invited me to come out for a beer with them. We told Diana and Juan about Creepy Guy on our walk to the hotel and how I had to lock her in our room so that he couldn't get her. Then literally as Juan, Diana and I are about to walk down the stairs to exit the hotel I see Creepy Guy run to the door of our hotel! Juan offered to go see what the deal was but instead we just watched to see what he would do. Turns out it wasn't that exciting - he just asked if she'd gotten our alarm clock I'd asked for. What's shady is that he clearly waited until the three of us were almost out of sight to inquire after the clock. This time we really did leave because he saw us watching and on our way out ran into Creepy Girl from their hotel! Apparently she is some weirdo that works at their hotel and here she is climbing the stairs to my hotel?! Maybe the two of them will have creepy babies.

We then wandered down to meet the rest of the Columbians at an outdoor bar where we sat around drinking Efes talking about the next places in Europe they were headed, Game of Thrones which is their new favorite television show, and how many celebrities I ran into while living in L.A. I also finally learned all their names. Juan and Diana were the two single people and Sylvia and Martin and Valerie and Mateo were the two couples. Sylvia was pretty sleepy so she and Martin left while the rest of us wandered over to Fat Boys for some shisha. The owner explained to me that he named the place, Fat Boys, because his last name, Shishman, means Fat in Turkish. He also gave us some "raki" which is the national drink of Turkey. Once you add the water, it looks like milk but tastes licorice. This is because they use anise to make it. It tasted awful but I braved a couple swallows before returning to my beer.

Hanging out having shisha, we were having tons of fun when a strange young Turkish man walks up and asks to join us. Well "asks" probably isn't the word; he sort of sat down without waiting for an answer. Diana whispered that it was too bad I didn't speak Spanish. The guy had the look of a drug addict and words spilled out of his mouth as if he hadn't spoken to anyone in days. We all only half listened while giving each other looks. At one point he seemed to get the picture and abruptly left only to come back 20 minutes later to resume his blabbing. Either way the shisha was delicious (strawberry mint) and I enjoyed the majority of the company! Before I left to head back to my hotel Diana gave me her email. Hopefully someday I will make it to Columbia to pay her a visit!

June 27, 2011

Finally my first day to sleep in! Unfortunately, my plans to hang out by the pool and tan were abandoned when I opened the window to low-hanging clouds and a frigid breeze. My mom and I spent most of the days puttering around town.

We returned to Cafeturca because I'd been thinking about their samosas since we'd tried them on our first day in Cappadocia. The owner remembered us, gave us a 10% discount, and a small gift. It was really sweet of him. The waiter was adorable, always checking on us to make sure we had bread and blankets. He even brought napkins and spoons to cover the top of the wine glasses to keep out the bugs. Too bad the service at our hotel isn't this good!

After lazing around and checking our email we headed out for dinner. The internet guy suggested Bidek down the street. At first we were going to bail because he probably recommended it because a family member owned it but I said we should at least check out the menu. It was by far the cutest restaurant we've eaten at the entire trip. It was a 475 year old cave house that clearly still houses the family on the upper floors. The bottom floor was converted into a restaurant where you eat sitting on cushions on the floor. You also have to remove your shoes before eating at the table.

The atmosphere made us adventurous so we both ordered local dishes. My mom ordered a white bean soup and I ordered Manti which is a ravioli dish with yogurt and tomato sauce. The raviolis looked more like gnocchi and neither dish was as warm as we would've liked but we both cleaned our plates. They also had three local desserts to choose from although I couldn't make a decision. The waiter came to my aid and made me a little tasting plate of all three! One was warmed baklava that tasted like honey and flaky crust, one was roasted apricots dipped in grape molasses and the last was a local Gerome dessert that had the consistency of a paste and tasted like flour mixed with grape molasses. We washed it down with a bottle of wine which made us sleepy so we headed back to the hotel, packed and passed out.

June 28, 2011

Today we slept in again and then finished packing our bags. We spent an hour out by the pool since the weather was nice and we had some time before we had to check out. The total for three nights was 150 Euro which meant I owed 75 Euro. I only have 70 which the guy accepted. He then proceeded to ask me to pay for the shuttle from the airport to the hotel. I kindly pointed out that that shuttle didn't make it to us because he'd forgotten us. That shut him up. I also kindly pointed out that we had already booked a shuttle to the airport seeing as how we wanted to make sure we made it. He was totally cowed which made me like him even less. It's a shame because the hotel itself is great quality for the price and had our room been a little bigger I would totally stay here again. Unfortunately, the staff ensured that I will never give this place my recommendation. Stay somewhere else should you visit Gerome.

The car picked us up on time and we made it from Kayseri to Istanbul to Denizli without mishap. Luckily for us there was a shuttle taking people from the airport to downtown Denizli for 11 Lira per person. It's nice to have things work out for once!

Unfortunately, I spoke too soon. Just as we pulled over to change to the van that takes you the rest of the way to Pamukkale, the airplane water I'd taken with me crunched in the seat soaking my entire bag! I had taken everything out of the bag just as we are being yelled at to get out. We got out of the bus and were met by an old man with a van. I confirmed that the 11 Lira we had already paid would take us to Pamukkale and he vehemently said, "No 11 Lira for the bus; 11 Lira for my van!" I kindly responded saying that wasn't what we had been told. He then narrowed his eyes, pointed a finger in my face and said, "YOU ARE A LIAR!" Uh, that caught me a little off guard. It also turned my mother into an angry lioness. She glared up at the man standing her full 5 foot 3 inches and said, "Don't you call my daughter a liar!" Yeah it wasn't going anywhere good. He then retorted saying we could get a taxi because he wasn't driving lying Americans anywhere. Too bad I'd already climbed into his van and told him the only place I was getting out was at my hotel. Yelling at the top of his lungs he drove us like a crazy person to our hotel roaring about how obnoxious English-speaking people were. What a psycho!

He drove like a crazy person, screeching to a halt in front of our hotel. I slammed the money we "owed" him into his hand and started to stalk away when he pulled a 180 and apologized for yelling. I think he has been cheated in the past and it somehow came out on me. Regardless I was definitely holding back a flood of tears mostly because I was totally in shock. The people at the hotel were so sweet. The guy at the front desk clearly felt awful for me and rushed to get me some water. From what I could tell the hotel was adorable as were the staff I'd met so far. He took us to our room and gently asked if there was anything else he could do. We thanked him and said we'd be down for dinner shortly.

We ate a small dinner at the hotel restaurant which is outside and looks over the bright blue pool. I really like this place; it's too bad we are only here for one full day...We had meatballs for dinner and chatted with the guy whose name is Selami. He teaches 9-10 year olds and was super nice. Mom also got suckered by another meowing kitty who played her for two of our meatballs. What a softie! We headed to bed so that we could take full advantage of our day in Pamukkale tomorrow.