Friday, August 29, 2008

Sunrise, sunset…
I’ve been trying to capture sunrises/sets here but our schedule hasn’t made it easy. The weather here is interesting: clouds form in the morning and evening that make the sunrise/set appear well above the actual horizon. The view from the hotel restaurant’s terrace is most impressive. Here are a few of my favorites. In some of the sunset shots (yet to come), you’ll see black specs that are actually folks parasailing. The view from up there at this time of day must be awe inspiring. I love the sunlight reflecting on a spot on the horizon above. I know I've got better ones "in the can". I'll post them in the next week or so.
The grow-cery store…

One of the things I find remarkable about places like Brazil and at least this part of Turkey is the abundance of trees and other plants bearing fruit. As we’ve walked around the resort grounds, we’ve seen olive trees, banana plants (they’re not really trees), lime trees etc. B and I had never seen olives “at home”.
The other morning, B saw someone who works at the resort harvesting bananas (for the breakfast buffet I would imagine). One thing I haven’t found much outside of Brazil: people drinking coconut water. While an acquired taste for most, to my mind there’s nothing better on an outrageously hot day than sipping freezing cold coconut water from a freshly cut coconut.
Speaking of heat, this place is a sauna (boiler?). To my memory, it’s noticeably worse than New Orleans, Rio and the (previous) king of all oppressively muggy places, Houston.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Master of Disaster Volume 2

She’s done it again: Another country, another emergency room. Emily slipped in the bathroom near the pool (her story) and split her chin wide open. Given the stern warnings we gave her about taking care of herself on this trip, my guess is she was up to no good when the accident took place and the slippery floor is her cover story. If you’re a regular reader of this blog and considering calling the authorities, I can’t say I blame you. I’m getting suspicious my own self (as we say in Oklahoma) of Emily’s inclination to require medical attention. This time it was about a 2 hour ordeal from beginning to end (including the trip to the hospital) – not bad by Emily standards. The doctor gave her several stitches and she’s almost good as new. She’ll have to stay out of the water for most of the rest of our trip though.

By the way, I’m sure most people do this anyway, but travel health insurance is a bargain when you’ve got a spitfire on your hands like Miss Emily. When she broke her arm in France, our German plan covered much of the tab with the travel insurance picking up the remainder. The final cost to us was just a slightly shorter life expectancy (stress kills!).
Love'n Turkey...

All is still going well in Side, Turkey. We’re dividing our days between the pool and beach and enjoying the shows at night. I’ve never been particularly fond of cruise ship-grade entertainment, but given that the performers are also part of the “animation” team (both child and adult), it could be much worse. I suffered through an aging entertainer doing a Satchmo immitation (with a strong Turkish accent) at the “Gala” dinner on Saturday; I’m still a wreck.

On Sunday night, a clown performed for the kids in the amphitheater. I never thought I’d write these words, but the clown show was pretty good. The highlight was a balancing act he did on metal planks and cylinders. He had a couple of dads come up from the audience to give it a shot. Definitely a recipe for disaster and one of these poor “volunteers” almost did a face dive into the stage. Gotta love a clown with a dark sense of humor.
On Monday, Robert and I went parasailing. I’d done this before in Cancun. Amazingly, Robert showed absolutely no fear. That kid is not easy to figure out.
I was again amazed at what a mellow experience it is. I might do it again with Emily later in the week.
Ever testing my wife’s patience, I’ve taken a few pictures here and there. Enjoy. Finally, I happened upon an extremely rare (almost mythical) Siamese banana (conjoined banana for the politically correct) at lunch on Monday. I shutter to think of the ominous events its finding portends. Some cursory research on the internet revealed that Cortez used such a banana to trick the Incas into showing him the source of the Nile (source: I will endeavor to use its awesome power wisely.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Greetings from Turkey...

It wasn't easy, but we got here. Never has one of our vacations started with so much drama. We got off to a late start, arriving at the Frankfurt airport at 16:30 on Friday, a little more than an hour before our flight. As it was an international flight, I prefer a little more buffer. We had reserved a spot at a parking garage but elected to park at the airport to avoid missing our flight. Little did we know we had already missed it by almost 12 hours!Our tickets showed our flight left at 5:40. B, who can't imagine anything would actually be scheduled at that hour, interpreted it a 5:40 PM. The fact that Germans typically use the 24 hour time format should have helped. It didn't.

When we arrived inside the terminal we couldn't find our flight listed anywhere. It took B only a few minutes to realize she had made a big mistake. Luckily, we found an alternate flight that left less than an hour and a half after the original. We missed a day at the beach but also missed getting up at 2:30 (AM for Americans readers {and for B!}) to catch our flight. In the end, we even managed to get a tour shuttle from the airport to our resort. All in all, it worked out amazingly well.

Anyway, we're here and having a great time. We're not blown away by the "apartment" at the resort, but it will do. Everything else at the resort is really beautiful (see for yourself below) and the beach is really nice. Since we have free (and slow!) wireless in the lobby (this place really is all inclusive), I'll try to update you on our trip here from time to time until we leave on Friday.The kids are having a blast. They've never been to an all inclusive anything so are amazed that we don't have to pay for all the stuff they're eating and drinking (the ice cream tab alone would break the bank at a "regular" hotel).

This morning, we had breakfast on the "lanai". Nice way to start the day (I must say).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Good omen?

We've gotten about 99% of our stuff moved into the new house in Walldorf. More info and pictures later. We were a bit disappointed that the forecast called for rain both days of the move, but the light rain ended up not having much impact.

However, yesterday evening we were treated to one of the biggest, brightest rainbows I've ever seen. If you look closely at the pictures (that I haven't edited except to stitch/crop), you'll see a faint "parallel" rainbow. Nice touch on move-in day.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Barça Day 2...

On day 2 we decided to take the Bus Turístic, buses that take 3 different circuits around the city, letting you get on and off as often as you like. We had taken the bus when we visited Barcelona before and have taken a similar one in Paris. If you don't know a city, it's worth taking at least half a day on these buses to get the lay of the land, returning to the spots you think are most interesting.
The bus stop for this bus was about a 2 minute walk from our hotel. One of my only complaints about the trip was the unbelievable heat most days. Combined with 80% (or higher) humidity, it was truly miserable at times.
We first got off at La Sagrada Família, hands down my favorite building (inanimate object really) on the planet. To get there, we had to change from the green route to the blue and then the red. A word of warning: the transfer points can be crowded with long lines. We avoided this for the most part by asking the personnel on the bus which points were fastest.
What at can I say about this incredible work of art that pictures can't say much more eloquently?
The kids were only moderately impressed, but I assume that will change with age. It kept their attention for a few minutes, which isn't that bad all things considered. To them, the Disney Castle is about as good as it gets architecturally speaking. We then went to Parc Güell, which they enjoyed a bit more. I love this place too. Unfortunately, taking pictures of them most of the time is like trying to herd junebugs on speed, so the perfect picture I had imagined of them near the famous lizard/dragon wasn't meant to be.

The brutal sun and the relentless heat didn't help much with the pictures (in terms of optics and my limited patience), but I still recorded some decent shots.
Barça Day 1...

We got to Barcelona on a Tuesday evening. We checked into our hotel, the
Barceló Atenea Mar, then walked around on the beach and headed to a nearby mall. We absolutely loved this hotel! Despite the misleading pictures on their site, it's about a 5 minute walk from the beach (including crossing a highway overpass!). The Mar Diagonal Mall, a modern mall 10 minutes from the hotel by foot, made our lives a lot easier.
The map below, stolen from Google Maps, shows a red dot where our hotel was. The green dot shows
La Sagrada Famíla and the blue the Barri Gòtic. We were a bit out of the central tourist zone, but this proved to be a good thing.
Since we have small kids and are beach bums, it made more sense for us to stay near the beach an wonder out into the city as needed. Luckily, the hotel is less than a block away from a city bus stop (as well as the tourist bus stop).

We spent the first full day at the beach. I can't say enough about Mar Bella beach. It's clean, safe, and convenient. The beaches we saw in Barcelona (there are 5 of them I think) have little beach bars that serve beer, simple eats (I think) and play electronica all day for the hip crowd. The only things we saw that may not sit well with some folks were a lot of topless women and a few younger folks discreetly getting in touch with their inner
Rastafarian. Neither of these are a big deal with us. The panorama below shows both the Mar Bella and Mar Bella Nova beaches. As (almost) always, a few shots of the little ones...