The Jungle Princess joins the Adventure

The first time I met Abby was in Las Vegas about four years ago. She was an editor and I was a publicist, so we had a few lunches and swam in some of the same circles of the Las Vegas social scene.

I never imagined the next time I would see her would be in Istanbul.

But, it was.

She and I had stayed in close contact the past year … sharing our thoughts about travel, our mutual support of the travel blogging world, and had talked about possibly doing a meet-up somewhere in my adventures.

When she found out her time living in Costa Rica was coming to a close, she messaged me asking where I was.

And, then everything came together.

Three weeks later, she was jetting from her pueblo to the bustling city of Istanbul.

The night Abby arrived in Istanbul also happened to be Chris’ last night of his travels.

“We’ve got to celebrate your last night,” I announced to Chris.

So, Claire, Chris and I headed to Sultanahmed to find a shisha bar and get some drinks. Our first stop was The Sultan Hostel, where Claire was staying, for some large Effes, and then on to Top Deck to enjoy some shisha.

I didn’t think we would be out late.

But, we were.

As we sipped on way too sugar-y alcoholic concoctions, the three of us laughed the night away.

“I think Abby’s hotel is nearby …” I said, and then asked Sasha, the owner of the bar, where her hotel was.

“It’s right there,” he said, pointing around the corner. He grabbed me and guided me to the hotel, where I quickly penned a note to Abby, telling her to drop her bags and come and meet me … even if it meant she had to jump from three flights to a cab to a hotel at 1 a.m.

We sat on the outdoor cushions for another hour, each time a cab pulled up I would crane my neck to see if it was Abby arriving.

Then, a white van pulled up on the street and a girl with long, wavy light hair got out, I immediately knew.

Abby!

I jumped the rail and bounded to her.

“Hi!!” I squealed, grabbing her, so happy to see a familiar face and to have a friend from home in Turkey.

We ran to her room, dropped her bags, and then went back to Top Deck for a few more cocktails, closing the place down early in the morning.

For the next few days, Abby and I would grab our laptops, do some writing and then tour the city, hitting the Grand Bazaar and wandering, eating and drinking wine.

I had been in Istanbul nearly two weeks total by the time we headed to Bulgaria … I was ready to go and be somewhere new and to create new (and happy) memories.

We teetered on where we would go after Istanbul, deciding on Sunny Beach, which was rated as one of Bulgaria’s top beach destinations.

At 7 a.m. on a Friday morning, after two days of wandering Istanbul together, we met in the rug shop below Harmony, loaded our belongings into a cab and headed to the bus station (a massive cluster unlike anything I had ever seen before), and boarded a bus to Sunny Beach, Bulgaria.

Blog Bulgaria Travel Turkey

Downpours

Chris had it all planned out.

We would take the ferry to a little town, then a bus to another little town and then – BAM! – Black Sea.

I hadn’t been to the Black Sea yet and was excited to check it off of my list of “Seas I Have Swam In.”

Claire met Claire and I at Harmony in the morning and we headed down to the Bosphours to catch the ferry.

“Oooh, there’s Asia, there’s Europe,” I said as we straddled the middle in the water. “This is so neat!”

The three of us stood outside on the boat’s deck for the entire boat trip, snapping photos from time to time and enjoying the breeze on our faces.

Once we got off the boat, we stopped in the town for lunch. A mouthwatering sampling of fresh-caught fish washed down with ice cold Effes.

Then, we caught the bus to the beach.

It was packed, so Chris and I sat on the stairs in the back of the bus, holding on for dear life as it sped through the windy roads.

Death by bus. Not nearly as glamorous as death by paragliding.

Once a seat opened up, I abandoned the step for a safer resting place.

When we finally made it to the beach town, I was ready to close my eyes and enjoy the sun.

But first, I had to get in the water.

Like the Mediterranean, it was too warm to be refreshing.

And it was dirty.

Trash lined the beach, bottles floated in the water. It wasn’t a peaceful and serene place to unwind, but it was a beach so it suited my needs of sun and water.

Claire, Chris and I hung out in the Black Sea for a little and then I retreated back to our towels to take a nap.

I laid there, closed my eyes and breathed in.

The Black Sea.

That’s three seas in three weeks.

Not bad, D.

I woke up to dark skies. A serious storm was brewing.

Time to go.

We got back on the bus and headed to town.

“Here, this is the last stop,” we were informed by another passenger. So, we exited the bus.

As soon as we did, the sky opened on us. A downpour topped off with claps of thunder and flashes of lightening.

“Wait,” I said, spinning around. “This isn’t where we got on.”

And, it wasn’t.

Thanks, ill-informed bus person.

The shops, the streets, none of it looked familiar as I squinted at the scenery before us.

“Where are we?”

The three of us stood in the rain, clothes sticking to us, trying to figure out where we were and how to get back to the stop we knew so we could take another bus back to Istanbul.

“Let’s go this way,” Chris instructed, so we waded through puddles and began walking.

I couldn’t help but laugh. I had wanted a good thunderstorm. And, I had gotten one. It was just poor timing.

After about 10 minutes of rain soaking our bodies and wandering towards what we hoped was a bus stop, a bus passed us and stopped, letting us hop on as we rode 30 seconds to the bus stop we needed to get to.

“We were going the right way,” Chris said, smiling.

I looked at our group. Soaked to the bone.

We dried off a little bit on the hour ride back to Istanbul. But, as soon as we got off the bus in Taksim, there was another storm and once again, we were soaked.

It wasn’t until after dinner (Pizza Hut awesomeness), did the rain finally stop and we finally dried off.

We got back to our hostel tan and dry. And, after all, isn’t that what I wanted?

Blog Travel Turkey

A love affair with Air-Con

I lived in the desert for four summers. The sweltering hot, Las Vegas desert.

When people would tell me it was worse on the East Coast, that at least it was not humid, I would always retort: “You may not think it is bad, but try blowing a hair dryer on your face non-stop for a summer. Then, tell me the desert heat is bareable.”

The only way I survived those brutal summers in Las Vegas was with my trusty, beloved air-con. I stayed inside until the sun crept low into the sky (and even then, outside was hothothot). If I had to go outside, it would only be to get me from Point A to Point B. Both of which blasted me with a cool shot of artificially cool air the moment I stepped inside.

Sweet, cool air.

After returning from the cooler Goreme in the Cappidocia region of Turkey, I was blasted with heat. The uncomfortable kind where sweat pours out of the body and pools.

I arrived back to Harmony Hostel (Canan, the girl who runs the hostel had e-mailed me earlier in the week telling me Harmony was my “second home, please come back,” so I did).

Chris, one of favorite Aussies and Romanian travel buddy, greeted me upstairs as soon as I arrived back following a 10 hour bus ride from Cappidocia to Istanbul.

It was so good to see him. A familiar face from the start of my travels.

“Hi,” he said, going to hug me.

I stepped back a bit.

“Chris, I am disgusting,” I said, covered in sweat.

He hugged me anyway.

We caught up that night, over a beer and some lentil soup (why I had hot soup is beyond me), then I retreated to my bed.

Holy shit. There was absolutely no air.

I laid down.

Stifling heat. Dripping sweat. I can’t sleep like this.

The last time I stayed at Harmony, I had a fan blowing in my face, making the summer heat bearable. But this time, no fan. No breeze. Just stale, hostel air creeping into every pore of my body, boiling water within me and oozing it out.

I tossed. I turned. I used the top sheet to wipe off the wet. I woke up at 7 a.m. when the sun came up and the heat, once again, blistered into the room.

I climbed up to the rooftop terrace, hoping to catch a break.

Instead, I was greeted with a big, blue backpack and three messages from Scotty on my Facebook.

Essentially, he was leaving Turkey and heading for greener pastures. He left his pack at my hostel and asked me to keep an eye on it, saying he would be by soon to come and hang out with me.

An hour later, I was greeted to his smiling face and big, blue eyes.

“Hi honey!” We both cooed. Granted, we had just seen each other last night, but we were so groggy, so tired, so achy from the bus ride … it seemed like light years since the evening before.

We sat online for an hour, trying to figure out when he would leave Istanbul and where he would go in the meantime.

“I just want a shower and cool,” I informed him.

“Come with me!” He said, eyes sparkling. “I’m getting a hotel room with air-con and a shower!!”

Sold.

We went and talked to Chris, who was taking it easy that day, and I was lured quickly to his hotel, a tram ride and a walk away.

During that 10 minute walk, carrying his day pack, I broke out once again in dripping sweat.

Gross.

We finally arrived to his room and the first thing we did was turn on the air-con.

“You shower, I am going to sort out my plane ticket out of here,” he instructed.

He didn’t have to tell me twice.

I got in the shower and just let the cold water rush over me, cooling me back to a normal temperature.

Then, Claire met me in the room and we both basked in the cool breeze the air-con was emitting, eventually both passing out for a catnap.

The next night in the hostel wasn’t so bad. I had an entire day to cool down. And then, the following night, Canan informed me I was sleeping in her room — with air-con. And, to make things even better, the next three nights, I was moved to a different room, where I took control of the AC remote and slept cool … sometimes too cool … but blissfully happy in my non-sweaty state.

Blog Turkey

Istanbul (not Constantinople)

“Ooooh … Istanbul … so lush,” Gemma had exclaimed before I departed from Spain to Turkey.

In my mind, there was something so exotic about Turkey, some mystical, magical place where Europe hit Asia with thunder.

Arriving into Istanbul, I was far from disappointed.

When I boarded the Havas bus at the airport (I flew into Sabiha Gocken, the Istanbul airport on the Asian side of the country), I met Joe, a guy from Barcelona visiting the country for the first time.

As if I wasn’t excited enough, he fueled it even more, exclaiming as we drove by the colored homes, over the large bridges, “I can’t believe we are in Istanbul!”

He and I separated ways in Taksim after exchanging numbers, and I headed down to Guilhane to Harmony Hostel.

Of course, even with detailed directions, I got lost.

“Where are you going lady?” “Can I help you?” “Do you need a room?” “Where are you from?” Men called to me from their shops and restaurants. At first, I ignored them, thinking back to Morocco, and then I just let it all in.

They gave me directions, offered to carry my bags, kissed my hands, asked me to come back later and talk to them … ahh, those Turkish men.

I arrived to Harmony Hostel after a few minutes talking to one particular carpet shop owner who proudly displayed a feature a magazine did on him before I was able to scoot away.

I was baffled.

A rug shop. No hostel.

I looked up at the red and white sign displaying the name.

Yup. Harmony Hostel.

I looked to the doors. Rug shop. Tattoo/body piercing shop. Next building.

“You need a hostel?” A tall, young man with a silly grin on his face, called to me, popping his head out of the rug shop.

“Yup,” I said, gesturing to the backpack on my back, the messenger bag swung around my neck. “Where is Harmony?”

“In here, my friend! In here,” he said, directing me into the rug shop.

Well, this is new.

We walked through the rug shop, over the fake wood floors and up two flights of cement stairs. Then, we crammed into a little elevator, and went up four more flights, then got out, and walked up another two flights of stairs.

D, a backpack and a million stairs to climb does not equal happy.

I greeted the girl at reception, a petite brunette who told me my room was back down nearly half of those stairs. As I was checking in, a familiar face caught my eye.

“Hey there,” I said, turning to the pale, blue-eyed guy sitting on one of the cushions. “Brasov … Kismet Dao … do you remember me?”

He blinked a few times and then smiled.

“Yes! I do! How are you?”

Craig and I went through a quick catch-up. We had met in Brasov and hung out one night together. It was nice to see another familiar face, even if he was heading out to Bulgaria in two hours.

We chatted until he left, and then, hot and tired, I went down to my room where I quickly passed out.

I awoke the next day ready to see Istanbul.

Blog Travel Turkey