Archive | January, 2015

From Cali to Turkey

3 Jan

Prior to arriving in Izmir I was a bit flustered to say the least. I was coming off a friends three day wedding extravaganza, a trip to Ontario California (also for work), two nights on a plane and two hours spent in my apartment re-packing, showering and picking up my passport. #consultinglife at its best. For the first time I flew Turkish Air which I was skeptical about at first, but it’s an amazing airline. While I didn’t fully appreciate being given fresh fruit juices instead of the usual champagne on delta, (a girls gotta get some sleep yo!) it was tastefully refreshing, and the man in the chef’s uniform that made it for me was adorable. Note to self: buy boyfriend chefs uniform. Now since our flight left JFK and hour late, we were roughly an hour late to Istanbul, which meant sprinting through the airport to our connection. This completely derailed our plans of actually showering and changing in the famed Turkish lounge in the international terminal. Bummer. Instead we ran to the domestic terminal and still missed the connection, but no worries the guy told us, “I put you on next flight in one hour,” ok well don’t we need a new boarding pass then? “No” . Yea ok guy, like I’m going to believe that when you walk away I will automatically have my same seat on the next flight an hour from now. I don’t think so. After changing and taking a face wipe to my body and pretending to be fit for work, we got in line to board the next flight, where sure enough, we had to wait because we needed a new boarding pass. Shocker. Once we arrived we were greeted by our coworker who was kind enough to pick us up from the airport and bring us to the client site.
Somehow we stumbled through the day and checked into the Renaissance Izmir, which is only about a year old and gorgeous! I would stay there again in a heartbeat. The breakfast was lavish and the hostess greeted us by name. The room was huge with an illy instant espresso maker, and the location was close to the harbor, the bazaar, (Kizlaragasi Han) and our firms office. The first day we decided to explore the city. We started by walking toward the bizarre and ended up instead by the clock tower. We continued to wander while also looking for a cafe when we happened upon people selling mini doughnuts under a tent on the street. We went over and got some but couldn’t figure out who to pay and there was no price posted and no one else seemed to be paying so we started backing away slowly and then walked away. Yay free doughnuts, I love this country already! Around the corner we found a nice cafe and went in for Turkish coffee and some “real food”, which ended up being a waffle covered in fruit and chocolate.
Our next stop was Konak pier which was designed by none other than Gustav Eiffel and was the former customs house. (Yes that Eiffel) Now, of course, it’s been completely redesigned with shops and restaurants. On the recommendation of a NY times travel article we went to the 100% Rest Cafe for some wine and mezze, (appetizers), and then bought olive oil at Taris Zeytin, one of Turkey’s oldest producers. We made a second attempt at finding the bazaar and went on a search for postcards and other souvenirs. While we were looking at magnets, a man, who we thought owned the store, asked us if we were looking for leather. We politely declined, said we were looking for postcards, and asked the price of the magnets. He turned to the real store owner and negotiated a good price for us, and said he had postcards. Thinking that he was going to lead us to his stall, we followed, and he led us to a leather store. Son of a…sure enough there was a rack of postcards! The owner of the store invited us to sit and offered us a drink. This is a sign of hospitality and as the guests it is rude to refuse, so we sat down and had tea. My coworker proceeded to suck down the whole cup, but I was a little wary of these shop owners. I was thinking, “Are they going to drug us and force us to buy leather?” “Would they kidnap us for ransom?” And now my 6′ 3″ coworker / bodyguard will be down for the count! I can’t carry him! Anyway, turns out one of the owners has a house in Patterson, NJ and ships rugs and leather to sell in the US. Go figure! I had mentioned to my coworker that I wanted to buy a rug while we were in Turkey. Of course, just then he had to then mention to our “would be captors” that I wanted a rug…great…just great. They led us out the back of the store… Mmm a little sketchy… And out around the bazaar, up to a second floor rug store which had thousands of rugs. It was game time now. What size did I want? colors? Design? Wool on wool or silk on wool? budget? After a bit of deliberation I chose a wool on wool design (cheaper than silk), I would carry it on instead of shipping, and I negotiated him down $500 from his asking price (thank you Asian markets and taxis). We drank more tea, and went straight back to the hotel for a beer and to book our trip to Ephes (or Ephasus to us Anglophiles) for the next day. Our adventure to dinner was even more sketchy as my coworker led me back to the bazaar, now closed, to find a restaurant on trip advisor, also now closed. (Sidenote: we would later go here for lunch during republic day and it was worth the wait.) For plan B we headed to the touristy but delightful waterfront to a restaurant our Turkish coworker had recommended. We had fish, mezze, and the local Raki, which is a local Turkish liquor similar to ouzo and sambuca. It’s prepared by adding water and sometimes ice. We somehow closed the restaurant down by 11pm on a Saturday and headed back to get a good nights sleep for Ephes.