[Kensblog] Getting there is half the fun

[Kensblog] Getting there is half the “fun.”

Greetings all! I’m happy to report that Roberta and I are now on the boat, in Gocek, Turkey. We’ve been spending the last couple of days shopping, and recovering from jet lag.

Tomorrow is a big day. Roberta and I will finally throw off the lines, and the season’s cruising will begin.

Getting here was a challenge.

Seattle -> Chicago -> Paris -> Istanbul -> Gocek
Our flight was complicated by traveling with the dogs. We needed to stop in Paris to obtain a Pet Passport for one of our dogs.It isn’t required for getting into Turkey, but re-entering the EU, at the end of our trip, will be much easier with the Pet Passport.

Seattle has direct flights to Paris. However, in checking with the airline, the particular aircraft on that route wouldn’t accept dogs in the cabin.This meant we had to fly to chicago, and board a different plane (Air France) to get to Paris. This wasn’t bad, in that it allowed us tostretch our legs, and the dogs to make a quick pitstop.

Waiting, between flights, with the puppies in their carriers

The Eiffel Tower, from our hotel room

Roberta has a severe Starbucks addiction. Amazingly, there were Starbucks everywhere in Paris. I remember when you couldn’t find a Starbucks in Paris, and thinking the French would never pay $5 bucks (4 euros) for a cup of coffee. I was wrong.
The flight to Paris was easy, and the dogs were great. The flight attendants wouldn’t let us take them out of their little carriers, but thedogs slept most the way, so it wasn’t a big deal.

In Paris, not much noteworthy happened, except…

Roberta and I decided to leave the dogs in the hotel room, and head out for a romantic dinner. We went to a romantic restaurant (called La Romantica).

A standard part of fancy french dinners is to bring you an “amuse bouche,” a snack, to give you a little taste of something while waitingon your real meal. It’s a chance for the chef to do something fun and interesting each night. I never like these, because you can’t pickwhat you order, and sometimes it is something I like, and sometimes it isn’t. For instance, at one restaurant in the south of france, the amuse bouchewas “terrine of lambs tongue” (tongue diced, and molded into jello). I hate to sound amateurish, but that’s not my favorite. On this occasion,the amuse bouche wasn’t too exotic, it was just an interesting preparation of diced raw tuna mixed with diced plums. Unfortunately, neither Roberta nor I eat raw seafood.Roberta was a better sport than me. She ate half of hers, whereas I left mine. At Roberta’s encouragement, I swished mine around, soit looked like I’d at least tried. I had to flag the waiter down to indicate that we were finished. He looked at our two plates, and immediatelytook them to the restaurant manager, who called out the chef. I tried to pretend I didn’t notice, while they had an unpleasant discussion. Finally,things calmed down, and our appetizer came. However, I noticed that the amuse bouche changed, for the entire restaurant, for the rest of the evening. Ouch!

The restaurant was actually quite good and, was as romantic as its name. The couples around us also seemed to enjoy the ambiance, includingone couple who was very amorous at the next table. Later in the evening, I was checking my email, between courses, as I’ve been known to do, whenRoberta asked me to “stop doing that.” I looked around and realized that someone was doing something on their cell phone at just about every table! At the amoroustable, both he and her were surfing the web. I felt vindicated, but Roberta made me stop anyway. (She does not think that it’s ‘polite’ to do this in a restaurant, especially when having dinner with someone else, namely…her!)

At the end of the meal, we needed a taxi back to our hotel. I was joking with Roberta and said I’d “call Uber.” In Seattle, Robertaand I live in a condo downtown. We travel much of the time, so a condo makes more sense than having a house. Because we are downtown, weenjoy the urban lifestyle, and walk most places. However, from time to time, we want a taxi. Being a computer geek, I can never do anythingthe ordinary way. Instead, I use an app on my iphone which shows all the Uber-Cars (usually black lincolns, dozens of which are running aroundSeattle at any given moment). In Seattle, the Uber app shows me the nearest cars, and how far away the nearest one is. Normally it sayssomething like, “The nearest car is 5 minutes away.” I click a button and the car arrives. Being silly, I decided to try my Uber app. I reallywanted to see it say, “The nearest car is 7,000 miles away, and will arrive in seven weeks.” Instead, it said a car would be there in minutes.I clicked the button, and an Uber BMW beat us to the curb. Very cool!

The next day, it was time for serious business, and off to the vet we went.

I speak “ok” French, but far from perfect, so Roberta and I were thrilled when the vet spoke good English. I had faxed her all of thedog’s paperwork in advance, and she already had the EU Pet Passport ready to go. While there, she recommended we put dog collars on the dogs, thatare chemically treated against Leishmaniasis (a tick-based dog disease.) She said we should be careful about ticks in both France, and Turkey.

Within hours of putting the collars on the dogs, both were ill. We starting googling the collars, and discovered that they could havehorrible side effects, even death, in some dogs. We immediately got rid of the collars and shampooed the dogs, especially around their necks where the collars had rested. It took them a couple of days to recover.They are tiny little things, and the chemicals were too strong.

Welcome to Istanbul

Despite weeks of effort into getting the dog papers “exactly right” and their passports, customs never gave us a glance in Paris or inTurkey; neither ever asked for any paperwork at all! We almost felt cheated, but we’re not complaining. Had we not had the paperwork, I’m sure there would have been a mess.

The Blue Mosque

A modern tram in an old city. The tram station had ads for “Guns and Roses”, and Madonna had infamously just been in town the night before

Dinner in Istanbul
Istanbul is over 500 miles north of Gocek, the small town where the boat is in southern Turkey. We arrived in Istanbul with no real idea how we weregoing to get from northern Turkey to southern Turkey – with all of our stuff and the two dogs. I tried a few times to book a flight, but couldn’t find anyone at a Turkishairline who could help me figure out the dog issues. A regular reader of my blog, who is Turkish, assured me that he makes the tripwith his dogs, and that I wouldn’t have a problem. We figured we’d try to figure it out when we got to Istanbul, and that in the worst case, itwouldn’t be that long a drive.

However, when we thought about going to the airport with all of our baggage (a lot!), we started thinking more seriously about driving.In addition to having enough bags for three months on the boat, we were carrying spare boat parts, a case of wine we purchased in Istanbul and enough dog food for three months.

Hopefully, I’m not stepping on any political correctness toes, by admitting this, but I was a little nervous about driving across Turkey.I was 99% certain that there would be no issues, but the other 1% concerned me.

Here’s why I say that. A few years back, Roberta and I visited Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. We were in Dubai before the financial collapse, and I’d compare it to Singapore or Hong Kong. It’s a very modern, very “happening” place. While there, it was very easy to forget where we were. The beach was loadedwith bikini-clad tourists, and we wore shorts/t-shirts everywhere.

One day, we decided to explore and drove about 100 miles out of Dubai to another town. In this town, we noticed that there were no women on the streets, only men. We also noticed that we were getting some ‘disapproving’ looks when we would stop at traffic lights. It was obvious that we were someplace we weren’t meant to be.As we made the decision to turn back, we saw an ice cream stand. We decided to stop and get something cool for the drive back. Roberta andher mom were in shorts and tank tops. We thought nothing of it, until we realized that we were causing a scandal when they exited the car.After a few dirty looks, it was obvious that they needed to get back in the car – now! — and that we needed to get moving. We should have beensmart enough to realize that Dubai is not representative of the rest of the Middle East.

Anyway, I was remembering that incident as I thought about the 13-hour drive from Istanbul to Gocek. However, we decided to rent a car and go for it!

It started with driving the car onto a ferry for a two-hour ride, from Istanbul to a town called Bandirma, across the Sea of Marmara. I’m accustomed to the Seattle ferries, which aren’t bad, but this ferry was really first class. It wasn’t large but had two good snack bars, a gift shop, comfortableseating, and made for a very nice ride. Unloading in Bandirma, we then headed south on good roads.

After a couple of hours of driving, Roberta decided to rival my Uber-stunt, and grabbed my cell phone to use Google Maps to hunt downthe nearest Starbucks – not really thinking that there would be any way out there in the Turkish hinterlands. To her shock, it showed FOUR Starbucks coming up at four gas stops! We were in the boondocks, so I knew that it couldn’t possibly be.

Am I seeing things? We had traveled a long ways, and were back in Seattle!
My cell phone had been correct. There really were four Starbucks within a few miles of my location. Roberta was very happy.

Our drive did take thirteen hours, and we were very tired of traveling. But, Turkey itself was a very pleasant surprise. Our knowledge ofTurkey is very limited, so I can’t say whether I’ve seen enough of the country to comment at this point, but overall, I’d say that I was very impressed. We drove for hours around Istanbul, then across 600 miles of Turkey, and I never saw oneindication of poverty. In fact, I saw plenty of signs of the opposite. In Istanbul, we went to one of the largest, and definitely thenicest shopping malls I’ve ever been to. We stopped several times to buy snacks and drinks, and I never felt anything except “welcomed.” My dominantnotion of the Turks is one of being impressed. I like their “work ethic.” The people I’ve encountered are well educated, polite, aggressive,and hard-working. There is the call to prayers (I think 5 times a day), but my perception is that most people on the street continue on about theirbusiness. Maybe I’ve just been in the right places, but so far, I’ve felt much safer walking at night here, than at home in downtown Seattle!

One great thing about traveling in Turkey, as opposed to a country like Greece, is that you can somewhat decypher the street signs. I also find it amusing that the taxis all say “Taksi”

Welcome to Gocek!!!!!!!

Our first view of Sans Souci, after a VERY long trip
Gocek had its own way of welcoming us to town. On our first evening we decided that it was time for another romantic dinner. This timeat the fancy restaurant in the marina.

Believe it or not, this is only about an hour before the “you know what” hit the fan
As Roberta and I were having dinner, I noticed lightning a few miles away. I was just mentioning to Roberta that I hoped the dogswouldn’t be frightened by the lightning (we had left them on the boat), when things started turning gloomy, and the wind started rising. Within 15 minutes the wind had gonefrom zero to so strong that glasses were being swept off tables.

We, like all the other diners in the restaurant, immediately abandoned dinner to return to our boats. As we walked we saw signs of damage.a large tent, at the entrance to the marina was in shreds. Aboard Sans Souci, I could see the wind was bouncing between 35 and 40 knots,which is particularly amazing, in that we are in the best protected part of the marina. It had to be well over 50 knots of wind out on the water!On Sans Souci, all was fine. I checked, and double-checked, the lines, but we were fine. Roberta and I watched TV and went to sleep, very happywe hadn’t been sitting at anchor.

The Gocek boat show had been scheduled to go for a couple more days, but the booths were destroyed
The next morning, I realized that the wind had been a bigger deal than we first thought.When we awoke, we discovered that our own bimini top had torn apartand was flopping down in one corner.

There had been a boat show along the waterfront in Gocek.All of the booths were destroyed, and the show was shut down. The local company that watches over our boat in Gocek mentioned that another client of theirshad their boat blown from the marina, and the boat had to be found at sea, and towed back by the coast guard. The wind suprised the locals, andwas not common for this area.

The strangest thing of all, was that the wind, which lasted about two hours, was HOT. I’d guess the temperature when we started dinner at 85.When the wind started, the temperature rose a good to to 10 degrees. We did get a brief blast of rain, some some lightning, but it was mostly justextremely hot air.

Hopefully, whatever it was, it was a one-off event!

Tomorrow starts our first day of cruising on the boat. I’ll send another blog entry in a few days.

That’s it for now. As always, the blog wouldn’t be what it is without you. If you have questions, email them to me at: ken@kensblog.com.Unless you ask me not to, I’ll respond to them as part of my next blog entry.

Thank you!

5 Responses

  1. Wow! Didn’t know you were the creator of Half-Life. Hella game. Worked for awhile but Steam somehow killed it for everyone after a while. Guess after you sold the rights. Never was able to install it again on another machine I built for gaming. At any rate, I enjoy the blog, pictures and any other cruising info you choose to share with us. Have a GREAT!! Cruising season this year.

  2. Leave it up to most vets to unleash any kind of chemical known to man on dogs. The best natural defense that I’ve come across is Wondercide.com (http://Wondercide.com) which offers an array of pet-friendly natural pest products using cedar oil. I use “Evolv” which I spray on my dog, Milo, and it kills the fleas in five seconds. Fleas, ticks, mites, etc.

    Glad to hear your dogs (and yourselves!) are safe and having fun!

    ——————Response by Ken June 20 2012


    Thanks for the tips. I’ve forwarded these to Roberta.

    -Ken W

  3. Ken: great to read your blog and to see your photos. I hope that you both have a fabulous cruising season. Turkey has a good reputation for this. When (if) you get to the South of France, would like to meet you. Looking forward to your next blog. Regards, Paul Nelson, St Jean-Cap Ferrat, France

    ————–Response from Ken – June 20 2012 —–


    We consider Cap Ferrat our second home! We normally rent a month a year at Cap Ferrat, Eze Sur Mer or Cap D’Ail. A wonderful location. My guess is that we’ll have the boat there within a couple years. We had a boat slip for three years at the Beaulieu marina.

    Thank you!
    -Ken W

  4. Great to read that you are back on your boat. I was a little bit scared that you don’t get there after looking at the sketch showing the stops on your flight to Europe. Paris is not on the Iberian Peninsula but more NE in the middle of France. 😉

    Have a good time in the Med.

    ———-Response by Ken — June 20 2012 ————–


    Oops! I’m not great with Photoshop, and was being lazy. I also blew it with respect to where chicago is.. (everyone knows us American’s don’t know our geography!)

    -Ken W

  5. Greetings from Monterey!

    Thanks for the update! I am happy that you arrived safely. I have been anticipating out continuing cyber-travels together.
    Best Wishes, Farley Shane

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