Istanbul to Reno – Home Again

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Friday was a very long day. We flew from Istanbul to San Francisco. As we were leaving our hotel I took a picture of the cat who has obviously adopted the hotel. It was outside the door whenever we came in or went out.

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We spent Friday night in Walnut Creek at the Bruce's. Our granddaughter is much more confident on her feet then she was two months ago. She seemed happy to see us.

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This morning we drove home to Reno. It rained almost all the way. It is very good to be home. The whole two months were an absolutely wonderful trip. We are already talking about where to go next and what we will do next time we go to Spain!

Thanks everybody for following along with us through this blog. I loved seeing your comments and likes. It made me feel connected to all of you and made the trip more enjoyable.



Our last day – Istanbul day 3

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Tomorrow we fly from Istanbul back to San Francisco so today was the last day of our trip.

This morning we took the bus to Taksim square and wandered around a bit then had a coffee. The square is where demonstrations happen when there is unrest here. Today it was quiet and wet.




Then we visited the Basilica Cistern. It is a massive cistern built by the Byzantines in 532. There are 336 columns many of which are recycled from ancient temples. The whole massive structure is under the square by the Blue Mosque. It was just opened for public viewing in 1987.


It was raining most of the day but it stopped in mid afternoon and we were able to take a nice walk in the gardens around the Topkapi Palace – Gülhane Park.




For dinner we went to a restaurant called Matbah that serves dishes with historic roots. The dishes are called Ottoman Palace Cuisine.





Istanbul Day 2

Happy Birthday Duke!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Duke and I did the Golden Horn loop on the hop on hop off bus this morning. Afterwards we had lunch in a little shop in the bazaar.

They rolled out the pita and filled it with meat filling before cooking it in the pizza oven behind Dike.

Then we went shopping in the Spice Bazaar

and in the Grand Bazaar.
Duke is a fantastic negotiator. I think we got some good deals.



Monday, March 1, 2016

We had a very busy day today, our first day in Istanbul. We Saw a lot and had fun. First we visited the Blue Mosque.


Then the Hagia Sophia. It was originally a Byzantine church consecrated in 537. It was converted to a mosque in 1453 and then made a museum in 1935.

There are some stunning mosaics that were covered up when the couch was made a mosque. They have been uncovered again now.


After leaving the Hagia Sophia we stopped for some Turkish coffee and baklava.

Next we bought tickets for the hop on hop off bus tour of Istanbul. We rode the bus over to the Dolmabahçe Palace. It is right on the Bosphorus and was the palace of the sultans from 1856 and 1924 when the Turkish Republic was created. After that Atatürk used the palace sometimes. It is where he died.


They didn’t allow us to take pictures inside but the palace had all the original opulant furnishings. The painted ceilings, chandeliers and crystal balusters on one of the staircase were especially stunning.


First we toured the part of the palace used for official purposes and then the family parts of the palace, the harem. In the harem each wife had a seaparate 4 story apartment off the central common rooms.



This is Duke’s First trip to Turkey. I was here with my family in 1966 (I think that’s the year) when I was 14 years old. I remember how impressed I was with the beauty of Istanbul. On that 1964 trip we took a boat tour on the Bosphorus. Back then there were no bridges from European Istanbul to Asian Istanbul. Now there are two. Our bus tour took us across one of those bridges. It was rush hour so finishing the bus tour loop took a long time. We got to see a lot of the city. Istanbul still impresses me with its beautiful setting and buildings.

When we finished the bus tour we had a wonderful dinner sitting outside watching the people on the street. We even had a nice conversation with the French guy at the table next to us.
This is the mixed grill.

And this is desert, figs, oranges, apricots, walnuts and raisins. And of course Turkish coffee.




La Granja, Spain to Istanbul, Turkey

Monday, February 29, 2016


It didn’t snow overnight and since Duke had already dug out the car we were able to leave La Granja relatively easily.


There was a bit of traffic but we got to the airport in Madrid with time to spare. The flight to Istanbul was full and there was a delay for fog. I worried a little when our cab driver had to call someone on his cell phone to ask directions to the hotel. But all in all it turned out to be an easy travel day.


I love the Turkish custom of welcoming you with Turkish delight. The first thing they offer you on Turkish Airlines is Turkish delight. As soon as we arrived at the hotel they offered us Turkish delight. And there was also some waiting for us in our room.



La Granja

Sunday, February 28, 2016

We woke up this morning to about a foot of new snow. We had planned to drive and visit several sites in this area since we are staying in La Granja two nights. But we are pretty much snowed in.


We had a lot of fun walking around town with everyone else enjoying the snow. We had coffee and explored a bit of the famous palace gardens. We saw people on snowshoes, cross country skis and sleds. We overheard one person say that it has been four years since they have had snow like this.





After a couple of hours out exploring we went back to the hotel and had hot chocolate and cookies. We spent the afternoon reading and napping.


We also spent some time digging out our car. We didn’t have a shovel but we improvised and Duke was able to move the car a bit so that we should be able to get out in the morning unless we get more snow.


We are supposed to turn our car in at the Madrid airport tomorrow and catch a 12:15 plane to Istanbul. Although we are only 81 km from Madrid there is a mountain range between us and Madrid. The motorway goes through a tunnel through the mountain so that is good. Right now it is 45 in Madrid and 34 here! Hopefully we will make it to Madrid and catch our plane.


Saturday, February 27, 2016

All through the night last night we could hear the wind howling outside our window and see snow falling. This morning we woke up to a winter wonderland. The guy at the gas station told us that snow is unusual for them. Some years they don’t get any.

We got up bundled up and walked down to the main square by the cathedral so we could take some pictures and get some coffee

Then we packed up and headed out. Our first problem was that as we headed down the hill from the hotel the truck in the picture below appeared. He was stuck in the road. And it was too slippery for us to back up. We waited about twenty minutes for him to dig out before we could leave town.

Then we headed out on our planned route. The visibility kept getting worse and worse and after about an hour of very slow going there started to be snow drifts across the road. We decided it was too dangerous to continue so we turned around and went back to Sigüenza to try another route. This route going south to Madrid was fine except that the direct route to La Granja had chain requirements so we did another alternative route and eventually got to our Parador in La Granja.

After checking in and having a glass of wine we headed out to explore a bit and stretch our legs after sitting in the car all day. Neither of us had ever had roasted chestnuts so Duke bought some. They were wonderful. The bag they were served in had a separate compartment for the shells.


La Granja was chosen by the king of Spain in the 1700s to create a Spanish version of Versailles. The palace and the grounds are beautiful, especially in the snow!


We had dinner in our Parador.

Santa Domingo de la Calzada to Sigüenza

Friday, February 26, 2016

Today we headed south on a cold blustery day. We stopped at the archaeological site of Numancia an Iron Age hill town where the local Celtiberians held out against an enormous Roman siege in 133 BC. The locals eventually committed suicide and burned the town rather than submit to the Romans. Although the town is famous in Roman literature its location was only rediscovered in the 1800s.

Tonight we are staying in a castle Parador in the town of Sigüenza. The main course at dinner was roasted kid; – very juicy and tender.



Olite to Santa Domingo de la Calzada

Thursday, February 26, 2016

Many of our Parador and other hotel packages have included breakfast. The breakfast buffets have been wonderful – eggs, meat, cheese, bread, fruit, coffee, juices. But when breakfast is not included in our package the price for the breakfast buffet is usually about €12 each. So we usually find coffee outside the hotel.


This morning we found a wonderful pastelería. The owner explained what was in the local favorites. The filling in Duke’s pastry is called angel hair. Apparently the filling is made from some kind of melon or squash. We didn’t quite catch the word. It was all really good.


We also bought four of the little bow tie thingies to snack on later


This is a picture of our Parador in Olite. Our room is the window on the right behind the tree.


In Olite we picked up a map of the state of Navarra. It showed all the wineries, Roman ruins, churches and castles. I don’t know why I’m so fascinated by Roman ruins but since we had a relatively short distance to drive today we decided to take the back roads and find the Roman ruins that were kind of on our route.

The first one near the village of Falces was the Villa de San Esteban.

The second one was quite a bit farther off the main road and judging by the building must have been something special but unfortunately it was closed.

The nice thing about following small country roads is that you get to appreciate some beautiful countryside.
Tonight we are in the town of Santa Domingo de la Calzada on the Camino de Santiago. The Parador we are staying in was, for a long time, before it was made into a Parador, a pilgrims’ hospital.
We had another great dinner in the Parador dining room.


Hondarribia to Olite

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

This morning we drove into France and went inland a bit so we could explore some of the Pyrenees.

We finally found some sheep that met all our photogenic criteria and were in a place where we could safely park. The first one only looks like a two headed sheep it is actually two sheep!


When we got to the top of the mountain pass we headed up a side road to the lookout but we were finally stopped by snow.

Tonight we are staying in a castle Parador in Olite, Navarra. We had the set three course dinner in the Parador dining room. This is one of the first course choices. Fried eggs, bread crumbs and sausage.

One of our main course choices was salmon.

And one of our desert course choices was pear in wine sauce.