A Travellerspoint blog

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York

rain
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Friday August 26.

Raining.

Susan's day for full English breakfast at the Premier Inn. Love the Premier Inn.

All went out this morning without raincoats, presumably from some sense of misplaced optimism. Went to Jorvik, an archaeological recreation of the Viking settlement at York circa 800. A good set of displays and period workers, one of whom offered to sacrifice Alison to the gods to end the rain. Also a spectacular "ride" through a recreation of the town, based on the results of exploration in York. It's like a slow underground gondola, that takes you past different scenes, all carefully and artfully recreated. It's refreshingly devoid of any high tech wizardry. Well worth the 20 quid (kids free with the coupon Susan printed off the York website).

Still raining, only harder. Retreat to hotel with Tesco sandwiches.

Still raining.

Fish and chips for dinner at the Fryaway down Blossom street. We eventually choose 2 large haddock and chips. 11 quid. Including curry gravy. Good and filling. Our traditional English dinner quotient has now been fulfilled. Check.

Kas.

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Posted by teamkarim 03:26 Archived in England Comments (1)

I Heart Chester:

Frome one olde worlde towne to anothere

rain
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Saturday morning. My turn (Kas speaking here) for the Premier Inn all you can devour full English breakfast: 2 poached eggs, 3 veggie sausages, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, crumpet, coffee, orange juice, and organic yogurt. Kids eat free, which for our two comprises a total volume of my breakfast. Kids just don't understand the value of a free meal. For Susan, I purloin a croissant, organic yogurt, package of bran flakes and milk, and a coffee, exactly the same as my breakfast yesterday.

Raining.

We march into town in search of the shoes Sunny is anxious to weigh herself down with for the next 3 months, at a market right next to the Shambles. Sunny gets them for 13 pounds, a reduction of 2 quid because the nice Englishman is pleased that the girls are so well behaved. Finally, all that good parenting is paying off!

Back to the hotel, get our packs, off to the train station (4 minutes walk), and wait for the train which leaves 10 minutes late. Arrive at Manchester Piccadilly Station 30 minutes late. We have missed our connection to Chester, so we catch a Virgin train (of Richard Branson fame, good luck with the new house) to Crewe. At Crewe, they try to jam 100 passengers into two cars designed for maybe fifty people. We are standing cheek to jowl when they decide to hook up two other cars. We get on the last car and share it with three other people. The signs on the train are bilingual, English and Welsh. At Chester, as instructed by the hotel website, we turn right and walk five minutes.

Lloyd's of Chester (no relation). Susan's spidey sense is a-tingling when the proprietor tells us we only made a 20 pound deposit and still owe 60, and we didn't order breakfast, but quickly changes his mind on both counts when we reach for the printed confirmation from hostelworld. It turns out that Saleh Yusef is a friendly, helpful fellow. He tells us which is his favourite Indian take away (Chester Tandoori, a bit too fancy and a pound per dish too much for our liking), lets us use his phone to call Alison in Golborne, and micromanages his staff to provide a splendid English breakfast (included).

Anyway, Chester is really really lovely, in a fairytale-y Tudor-y way. The city centre is structured around a cross shape (as laid out by the Romans) with lovely cobbled streets lined with Tudor buildings. The main street, called The Rows, is unique in having an arcade of second story balconies on each building. The streets were packed with pedestrians. We found the city walls and walked about halfway around them, past the river and the site of the Roman quay before the river silted up, after which it was used as agricultural land in the medieval era and is now the site of the Chester Racecourse. Right in the race grounds there are the remains of the Roman harbour wall, which the sign noted was one of the most significant examples of Roman Engineering still extant in Britain. I was suitably impressed but Kas said it just looked like an old pile of stones (such a Philistine...).

Alison had to pee desperately by this point (lots of Vimto on the train) so we power-walked back to the hotel. Despite Saleh's recommendation, we chose another Indian restaurant from the many along our street (seriously, there were about 10 in 3 blocks) for our dinner. Awesome and hilarious waiter who finally got tired of us laughing at him and sent his brother out to bring our dinner.

Next morning (Sunday), after a good sleep and a good breakfast, we went to the Roman Experience. We had been really impressed with the Viking Experience in York and thought we might be disappointed, but it was a great museum as well. It was situated over an archeological site where they had exposed the four main layers of historical stuff under Chester - Roman, Saxon, Medieval, and post-medieval. They have quite a few good bits in their museum, tho the best stuff has been sent to the British Museum. I would highly recommend it, especially for families as it had a good hands-on area where one can try on Roman armour (it's unbelievably heavy), make mosaics, fire a little catapult at pictures of savages, smell the smells of Roman latrines and the foot-stink of the legionaires, test your knowledge of Roman numerals, etc.

After the museum, we had another look around the town, bought some goodies at the Pound Bakery, which is like a dollar store for baked goods, and then collected our bags from Saleh and caught the bus to Newton-Le-Willows. It should have been a train, but they are doing work on the line in these parts so they put buses on instead. Those of us in the group with weak stomachs felt quite ill after the trip.

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Alison met us at the train station and took us to Auntie Barbara and Uncle Peter's. It was so nice for the girls to see where they live. All the cousins and their kids (that's about 12 cousins plus our family) and AB and UP gathered for dinner at Alison's. It was tons of fun and the girls love hanging out with their cousins. Sunny has a twin-like thing going with Joe, who was born the same day as she was, and Alison is really enjoying big Alison's boys, who are just younger and older than she is.

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Alison and I slept on an air bed that slowly deflated overnight, creating a big dent where I was and which Alison kept rolling into - I kept having to push her uphill back to her side of the bed all night. It seemed funnier in the light of day than it did at 3 in the morning... Today (Monday) is a bank holiday in England and big Alison said it's traditional to either do DIY or to go rambling on bank holidays. Naturally, we were more interested in rambling than in working on Alison's house, so we went for a soggy walk along the Liverpool/Leeds canal and to The Flash, a pond where there are lots of birds in sanctuary. We were on the lookout for rats but didn't see any.

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Kas/Susan.

Posted by teamkarim 01:41 Archived in England Comments (3)

Liverpool to Kos

sunny 26 °C
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Wednesday, August 31st

Liverpool

Did a little reconnaissance last night after dinner. We had used the last of our British pounds in the Premier Inn restaurant (honestly, there was nothing else around): delicious seafood pie for Kas, delicious salmon nicoise for Susan, and (free) kid portion Fish n chips for ... the kids. Oh yeah, a couple of pints of beer, seeing as we saved all that money on the kids meals (22 quid). Then, off to John Lennon Liverpool Airport, according to all the Premier Inn Trip Advisor reviews, a short 10 minutes down the road. Trip length as advertised.

Woke up at 4 A.M. Had two alarms set, the ipod touch and a regular battery operated. Woke up every 30 minutes between 10:30 and 4, anyways. 10 minute walk to the airport, 10 minutes to check in with Ryanair, 15 minutes to go through SECURITY (Kas and Susan both earn the “patdown”), and by about 5:15 we are waiting for our 7 A.M. flight. Flight leaves at 7:30 and somehow still arrives (2 minutes) early at 1:03, Greece time (2 hour time difference, only 11 in jolly old England).

Kos. Greece. Hot.

It claims to be 26 Celsius. I am dubious, or at least, unprepared.

We exit the airport, spot an orange city bus, ask the nice Greek man “Kos Town?” “Yes, this is the bus. Have a seat.” We pay 12 Euros and depart the airport, leaving most of our fellow air travellers waiting for the appropriate tour bus of the twenty or so in the parking lot to pick them up. They are all going to fabulous oceanfront resorts with deep pools and white jacketed waiters to cater to their every vacation whim. We are going to Kos Town.

Kas.

Thursday, September 1

In Kos.

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Posted by teamkarim 12:20 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

We like Bodrum

sunny 31 °C
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Friday, September 2

We catch a Greek ferry from Kos to Bodrum, 15 Euro per person. But wait, we also pay a Port Tax of 4 Euro per person. The boat fits a couple of hundred people, perhaps a little smaller than a Gulf Islands ferry but, since it’s not designed for cars, a completely different shape. The bathrooms confuse Alison. Why is the water in the toilets running constantly, when the sign above the sink says “Please conserve water.”? The Greeks, as I recall, were the first masters of irony. We leave 15 minutes late.

We have a good view of Bodrum’s castle coming into the harbour. It is very old, built by the Knights of something or other, as a companion to the castle in Kos, to control the passage between the mainland and Kos. The castle is supposed to be excellent, with the Museum of Underwater Archaeology the best of its type. But, before we can enter Turkey, the rotund little man, with quite possibly the world’s most embarrassing comb over, behind the passport sign tells us we need to pay 40 Euro each for our Turkish Visas. EU citizens pay nothing. We are being gouged because, as we know, the Canadian government does not necessarily play nice with Turkish citizens intending to visit Canada. Luckily, we brought a gigantic wad of US$ to cover the cost. At least, it seemed gigantic, and I am almost happy to be rid of it. He needs a little convincing to accept dollars, all things American having recently lost their lustre. $60 each.

We have some difficulties finding a good pension at a reasonable price. “Sevin”, which the Lonely Planet claims is basic in nature but good value, actually looks quite super. He initially asks for 175 Turkish Lira (about $100), including breakfast, but reluctantly comes down to 160 TL. We were under the impression that Turkey was cheap. Since we’ll need to remortgage the house if we pay that price even in the potentially cheap countries, we go back into the street and start looking for “pansyon” signs. Our next stop is not nearly as nice, but doesn’t want to go below 140 TL. On the street, resting, looking for another option in the LP that we can call, a nice couple stops to ask us if we need help. They suggest our first stop, Sevin, as a good option, then commiserate with us over the high prices. Apparently there is some kind of festival going on, that has likely temporarily raised the prices, and prices should be back to normal in a few days, once we have gone. They are from Bodrum, live just down this street, are very kind, and offer us fresh and dried figs.

We find the “Sedan” Pension about five minutes up the street. When we hesitate at 100 TL a night, he brings it down to 80 TL, less than $50. This is better. They spend an hour getting a room ready for us, what appears to be the basement of their house. It is acceptable. Sunny likes that it is a bit dilapidated. The courtyard, as the guidebook mentions, is ramshackle and quaint. The proprietors seem to be a very pleasant family.
We ask about supermarkets and are directed where to go. Five minutes down the road, we find a huge collection of mostly fruit and vegetable stalls in a covered market, right next to a very contemporary AIR CONDITIONED market. Think “Market on Yates” but with fewer Yuppie overtones. Did I mention it has been stinking hot since 9 AM? We are all jonesing for hydration of any kind. We buy a small tub of “ayran” (a Turkish salty yogurt drink that Susan liked when she was in Istanbul, like the Indian “lassi”), a 1L bottle of orange pop, and 1.5L of cold Turkish bottled water. They have a 2.5Kg tub of plain yogurt for 6TL, say $3.5. Two point five Kilos! It is huge. We don’t buy it. It is too big. We have some Turkish coffee in a little stall in the veggie market. When paying, we seem to get the short end of the ensuing discussion between employees, but the coffee was good.
We hit the town, wandering back to the more touristy areas. The waterfront seems to be more attractively developed than Kos Town. The buildings look nicer and the whole area generally seems cleaner and tidier. The Kos waterfront was essentially a road with a solid layer of restaurants and cafes behind. It was pleasant to look at, but once we wandered off the waterfront the town itself wasn’t particularly pleasant. In total, with a mix of rundown buildings, empty lots, dirty sidewalks, and not very attractive buildings, it wasn’t an especially nice experience walking around Kos Town. We are all agreed that we definitely prefer the appearance and atmosphere of Bodrum to Kos. The buildings are more attractive, it has a cleaner appearance (although I’m not sure it actually IS cleaner), and it generally just seems to be more nicely developed. Still, the entire waterfront area is just a tourist area.

We do discover a small piece of authentic Turkey, which was an uncomfortable yet worthwhile experience. While walking parallel to the waterfront, we spot a “.75 Cay” sign inside a building. Cay (pronounced: chai) is Turkish black tea, served in miniature tulip cups with two cubes of sugar. We enter the courtyard and see two tables of Turkish men, playing cards and some weird dominolike game. We sit. We are clearly out of place. We wait in uncomfortable silence. Some of us contemplate getting up and looking foolish in front of complete strangers. Finally, one of the men gets up, pops into a little doorway, and gestures towards us for someone we can’t see. Soon after, a man comes and takes our order. He seems welcoming. We drink our cay, feel better, and leave satisfied with our mini piece of Turkish culture. Total: 3TL.

We find a Lonely Planet recommended restaurant on the way back to our pension and eat dinner out. Two plates of okra, rice, spinach, and beans, with two cans of pop. 24TL, or $15. Then, back to our pension to get some towels and rest our aching hot feet.

Kas.

Posted by teamkarim 12:26 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Doin' tourist stuff in Bodrum, Turkey

sunny 35 °C
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Saturday September 3rd
We are still staying in our basement/dungeon at the pansiyon sedan. Mum’s pillow feels like it is one big rock, and mine seems as if it’s stuffed with walnuts. Woke up to a very sore ear. We decide to do something more touristy than usual for Team Karim: go on a boat tour. We had seen them from the ferry to Turkey, blasting Turkish pop music, zooming through the waves, and abso-fruitly covered in tourists frying themselves to bits in the hot sun on the top of the boat. Still, the parental units had seen a good price yesterday and think it would be fun. I was sceptical to say the least. But expect nothing and you will be pleasantly surprised.

After we had taken our shoes off (...so as not to damage the floor...) and the boat was JUST leaving the harbour, we saw the “fig people”, as I now like to call them, waving their arms madly to try to signal for the boat to come back. What luck it was that our boat driver (driver? pilot? steering guy?) decided to return for them and the ONLY people we knew in Bodrum ended up sharing a boat with us for the next eight hours! On the boat it was very windy, and we sat in the shade so we ended up not only having a tour, but beating the heat for a day! Our boat made five stops and at each one of them there was an opportunity to swim in the turquoise Aegean Sea. THE WATER WAS SO NICE! I just realized that Team Karim does like naming people as we called the steward on our boat “Mr. versatility”. He did pretty much everything on the trip (lower the anchor, tie up the boat onto some rocks, serve çay, serve lunch... etc) hence the name. We all enjoyed ourselves relaxing in the warm water and talking with our new friends “the fig people”. Alison even had a little Turkish girl of around five years old come up to her and want to be her friend. A bit of a language barrier, but with some helpful translations it all worked out and soon they were drawing quite happily together. Ah, it was lovely to pop in the water, have a swim, pop back out, shower off, then sit down at your table in the shade again and drink cay. Mmmmmm, it was an amazing day (or, if you want to be technical about it, eight hours).

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Once we had gotten off the boat, our friends kindly offered to have us at their house for some cay. We eagerly accepted the opportunity to go inside and experience a real Turkish home. It was not only us however; they also invited the relatives of theirs that had been on the boat trip with them! All in all, there were around fourteen people all in their tiny living room, drinking çay, eating grapes, and speaking a mixture of Turkish and English. It was great fun. They had a lovely little house with decorations all around, and their garden was very cute and well maintained. Our host is a sculptor, so his home is full of very detailed wooden carvings. Turkish people seem to like kids very much because they had all caressed Alison’s hair and made a big show of her. She seemed a little uncomfortable about it all, but it’s all part of the experience! To cap off a wonderful day on the water with friends, upon arriving at our pansiyon we had an unexpected surprise... A cockroach-like-bug was crawling around ON MY BED!!! Ahhhhhh! Us girls screamed, ran outside, and left dad (mr.MAN) to take care of it. Ew. It was very hard for all of us to get to sleep (maybe we were all full of caffeine from the çay, or maybe every sound just sounded like a creepy crawly bug in our room/dungeon).

Next day, Sunday September 4th
We went to Bodrum castle in the morning. It is an old brown castle turned underwater archaeology museum. Very hot. Alison and I could not wait to get out. We all moved very slowly, because of the heat, from one shady spot to the next. Did I mention that it was very hot? I think I may have... Bought popsicles for one lira each. After consuming those, we packed up our bags and took the bus to Selçuk.

- Sunny :)

Posted by teamkarim 08:22 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

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