Istanbul, Turkey

October 16-21, 2018

Kidney Stone Watch: 
A little nervous about leaving to go to another country not knowing what’s going on inside me. I vow that as soon as I get back I’ll get checked at a hospital in Switzerland. During this time away the pain and discomfort comes and goes and starts to become a little more regular. It starts to feel like I have to go to the bathroom more frequently. It’s super annoying and really fatiguing.

Before we even left for Turkey, we were faced with the possibility that I might not be able to go to Turkey because we didn’t realize that I needed to have an extended permit from Switzerland before I could return back from Turkey. If I didn’t get the permit before we left, then it was possible that I wouldn’t be allowed to go back into Switzerland even though my Swiss passport carrying family could.

This caused some sleepless nights for Luc as he was a bit stressed about the timing (we’d also been through the exact same issue last time we came back from Egypt and the guy at immigration almost didn’t let me back into the country). We came up with a back-up plan that he would go and visit his friends there and I would travel around Switzerland with Violette for a week.

None of that happened because the permit showed up while we were at Europapark. Turns out we didn’t even need to do all that worrying because when I went through immigration on the way back, the woman didn’t ask for it at all.

We started our journey on Turkish Airlines. One of the best airlines I’ve been on. I would say, think about how good planes used to be 20 years ago and Turkish Airlines is that. Great meal, screen with new movies, blankets, head phones, a toy for the kids. Great customer experience.

We arrived at the old airport and the airport was so smooth on our arrival. Our luggage came as soon as we get to the conveyor belt. #perfection.

The first thing I notice is Istanbul is massive. The city sprawls and sprawls. There’s signs everywhere. Shops, houses, hotels, apartments for as far as the eye can see.

We arrived at our hotel which looked online a lot better than what we actually are greeted with. I’m not disappointed, I’m just a little surprised at how the photos can look so much better. The breakfast is out of this world (we sample it in two days). It really has everything you could want. EVERYTHING.

We take a walk to the beach which is just around the corner but it’s cold. Like 12 degrees cold. Now I’m a bit disappointed. When I was on the camino, Luc was trying to organize this trip… I was tired of visiting big towns and really just wanted to be near the ocean and near some peace and quiet. Luc on the other hand wanted to visit a big city! So we compromised and got a hotel by the beach so we could venture into Istanbul. I would say that he won out as we couldn’t really spend any time at the beach as it was too cold.

The next morning, we met up with Can (pronounced John) and Christina his Canadian wife. When Can was in Canada studying, he met Luc and Christina. They have two girls who speak Turkish and English and are about the same age as Vivi. So Vivi became instant friends with them. So nice for her as she had spent the last 3 months without any English speaking friends. I didn’t realize it but this family would be our tour guide for the entire time we were in Turkey! So incredible that they showed us all around and gave us really a locals tour. We are so incredibly grateful for the time we got to spend with them and the time that they spent with us.

They picked us up from our hotel and took us to a typical Turkish breakfast. This breakfast consisted of everything you can imagine: cheese, French fries, meat, tea, fruit, veggies, pickles, olives, bread, croissants, sauces… we ate and ate. This is where I tried my first Turkish coffee – STRONG!

We went with them to a market by their house and Luc bought a belt that was way too small and paid full price (ask Luc about this story).

We then headed to Can’s restaurant. This place is AMAZING! He has a full restaurant and also 20+ little wooden yurts that people can go BBQ their meat. There is also a fireplace that you can enjoy. No where to sleep unfortunately LOL! Since Can owns the restaurant the food was plentiful and sooo good. We ate like kings until we couldn’t eat anymore. It was so delicious.

The next day was a day for exploring Istanbul. We drove there and the traffic was INSANE. Took us about 1 hour to drive 30km. 10 lanes of traffic but in actual fact only lines for 6 lanes. People were on their phone while driving and people were weaving in and out of traffic. For some reason I just can’t come to terms with how other people in other countries drive. Not sure I ever will.

We visited the Blue Mosque that was under construction and the under ground city. It’s not really a city but a water reservoir with many many pillars. We also walked to the Grand Bazar which really is GRAND. HUUUUUGE. Luc and Can got matching knockoff Jack Wolfskin jackets (#bromance?). We also had a really great lunch with a flaming pot!

We spent about 2.5 hours to get home as traffic was really bad.

The next morning, Can took us to have a typical Turkish pasta/dumpling dish called Manti out in the hills of Istanbul. These tiny little dumplings are boiled and then a cream sauce is poured on top. Absolutely delicious.

We then drove out to the Black Sea. It was a really windy day and the waves were immense. It was stunning and beautiful to see the power of the sea. It was also our first time seeing so much garbage on the beach in real life. We looked through the plastic to see what we could find. Small pieces of everything from all sorts of different places. So sad to see so much plastic. To be honest, this also was our first experience with so much garbage everywhere all over Turkey. I think I’m becoming a little desensitized to all the garbage as we’ve been travelling.

A few other things I noticed at this point in my trip is there are soooo many dogs and cats everywhere in Turkey. What Can told us is that they are all stray but that the municipality feeds them and looks after them. This is how they look after their animals rather than putting them in places like the SPCA. It’s an interesting way to look after the animals. I remember when we were in Cuba, the strays there were in really bad shape. So skinny and sick and no one looked after them. I think Turkey’s way of dealing with it is better than Cuba’s but I’m still surprised by it because there are just so many.

Another thing: this is the place where men come to get hair implants and women come to get nose jobs. I was again surprised when I saw the first man with tiny red dots on the back of his head and the front of his head and a big white headband around his head. Then I started to notice these guys everywhere. Then the women who’s noses were wrapped in bandages. We wondered when we saw a man with the distinctive headband and a woman with the bandages walking arm in arm if they got a 2 for 1 deal.

That night Luc went to the barber shop! He got a much needed haircut, his eyebrows threaded, a straight razor shave and the hair inside his ears burnt off! We each got a massage which was really enjoyable. We compared afterwards and our masseuses each got on top of us to work our backs. That was new for both of us. After that I took the girls to the pool and we played around only getting in trouble once.

The next day Can picked us up and took us to one of the most famous streets for shopping. We just window shopped mostly.

Following that we drove along the coast. I didn’t know this but Istanbul has a river that runs through it and on one side is Europe and the other side is Asia. I don’t think there’s anywhere else that is split between two continents. As we drove along the coast, we saw many Embassies and expensive houses. It reminded me of Cannes, France. While we were driving we saw a car get rear-ended BADLY. The car was turning left into a gas station, and a car came up behind her and he probably was texting because he didn’t step on the brake at all. I would say he hit her from behind going at least 60km/hour. She had her indicator on which is a small miracle because no one uses their indicator there. (This was at the same time as Kashoggi being murdered in the Saudi Embassy so this was really big news in Istanbul.)

Then back to his restaurant for the afternoon and dinner again. Stuffed again.

Then I had the pleasure and honor of being able to celebrate a birthday for Can’s aunt. All the women gathered around and ate 3 cakes and danced a Turkish dance. All the men went to the river to drink and smoke.

After that, Vivi got to have a sleepover at the girls house. It was such a nice way to end their time together. After 4 days together they had become really great friends and just loved to play and hang out together.

The next morning we met up with the girls at the beach and rented a bike that takes 4 people to ride along the sea. We ate some baked goods and said out goodbyes. Can then took us to the airport.

Next time I do want to check out other parts of Turkey where it’s a bit warmer and less noise. I heard that Turkey has some very different parts to it that are really culturally different.

I’d like to thank Can and Christina once again for being amazing hosts and making our visit to Istanbul and the area so full of fun and culture. It’s wonderful to have to local people show you around and take you to so many awesome places. Thanks you so much and make sure you let us know when you’re coming to Canada so we can show you around and we can hang out!!

Please follow and like us:

Road Trip: Switzerland, Germany, France, Austria

October 9-15, 2018

Kidney Stone Watch: 
What I know now is that the kidney stone has not left the building as much as we had thought in Spain. The night before this epic journey, the discomfort comes back and I wonder if we should actually be leaving or if I should be visiting a hospital in Switzerland. The turn around time from finishing the Camino to leaving is exactly one week so there is little time to work it out. While we’re on this trip, the pain and discomfort come and go. It’s not agonizing but it’s enough to wonder what the heck is going on.

Gruyere, Switzerland

We started off our 14 day road trip at the car rental place in Lausanne. The fellow there was in a very good mood and was very happy to meet us. I began the conversation like I begin most conversations “Do you speak English?” He answered back “Do you speak French?”. Here’s the thing: in certain situations, I really enjoy speaking French because I can speak French. In other situations where things become a little more complication in the dialogue (think hospitals, car rental, places that require more specific words) I break down and can’t understand and spend the next 20+ minutes asking Luc “what did he say?” so what I’ve found works well is knowing what situation we will be entering BEFORE I get to it so we can start off with English expectations.

I said “yes I do but if you speak English I would perfer to talk in this language.” he said “But you must practice your French”. I said “not today”. At least I think that’s how it went. Luc thinks he liked my English accent and just wanted to hear more of it.

As the dialogue went on (in English) up came the question of who will be driving. “Me” I said emphatically. Luc looked at me with rather disdain and said “but you don’t know how to drive here.” Last I checked the steering wheel was on the left side, and we drove on the right side of the road so I’m pretty sure I do.

You see, Luc drove the WHOLE time (3 weeks in France). And France is a scary fucking place to drive so it was fine. But this time, it was my turn. I guess he had a look of terror on his face so the guy said “I’ll let you, sir, drive too, for free.” Cha-ching, just saved ourselves $100.

It was the cutest little black Mini Cooper I’ve ever driven. Super vippy and tiny. Luc drove his parents car back to his house and me the sports car.

We hopped on the freeway and drove to Gruyere! Land of cheese! We walked through a small tour of how Gruyere cheese is made (second time for me/first time for Vivi) and then we sat down to eat a delicious lunch. I had a Rosti Pizza. Essentially the base is potato and then there are tomato sauce, mushrooms and gruyere cheese. It was heaven.

A short drive away is the Cailler headquarters in Broc Fribourg. Here we did a chocolate tour (second time for me/first time for Vivi) and at the end of the tour you can sample all the chocolate you want. Devine.

After that we continued on to Thun to visit some friends. Thun is small but not small enough to have the same address twice so of course we had to visit the wrong address first (clear across town) before we got to them.

It was a wonderful reunion. It had been 8 years since we saw them and we hadn’t met their youngest son yet. Their daughter was about the same age as Vivi. Only problem was that she didn’t speak English and Vivi didn’t speak Swiss-German. They still managed to get along well playing which was very cute. Who needs a common language except play! (Side note: these two are now pen pals!)

We consumed some lovely gin that Luc had bought in Spain and we had the most delicious raclette. YUM! Hans was the best man at our wedding so he plays a pretty special place in our hearts. I was a bit disappointed he wasn’t still sporting the same mohawk as on our wedding day but I absolutely love his humour. His wife is a fan of red and white polka dots and I had forgotten this little tid bit but it was so fun to be back in her home.

We stayed one night and then next day frolicked by the crystal blue lake and took a mini train! We said out goodbyes and headed off to Zurich!

Europapark, Germany

Here we were meeting with Luc’s sister, Elise and Moreno, her boyfriend.

The next day we drove to Europapark (after getting in the biggest traffic jam) in Germany!

Europapark was pretty cool. A lot like Disneyland with roller coasters, places to eat, different exhibits for the younger ones, and colours everywhere! It’s split into countries so you visit countries that have different themes.

Something that I found out rather quickly is that Moreno and I love rollercoasters, the brother and sister were a little less emphatic. They still went but I feel like it took them a bit longer to recover after.

All day long Luc had wanted to go on a wet roller coaster but I had read that it was better to go there at the end of the day so if you get wet, you can go back to your hotel and get dry. So all day long (it was hot) he was asking, and all day long I was saying “let’s wait till the end”. So we waited and it was cold. Moreno and Elise went in the front and they got absolutely soaked (mostly Moreno). I was like “ok let’s go back to the airbnb and get changed” but it was agreed upon that we would eat first. Sorry Moreno.

I was so proud of Vivi and how well she did on the roller coasters. It wasn’t until the wooden one that she got really scared and cried. I hope I haven’t scared her for life now.

We had a delicious meal and retired to the airbnb for card games.

Colmar, France and Stuttgart, Germany

The next morning we headed to Colmar. A small town on the border of France and Germany with the quaintest buildings and flowers everywhere. We drank Guwertraminer wine and ate something delicious. We wandered around town and then said our temporary goodbyes.

We drove back to Stuttgart, Germany on the Autobahn (slow down people! Speed kills!) to visit Luc’s god mother and her husband for two nights.

We spent the time there visiting the city of Stuttgart and the Mercedes museum which I was surprisingly impressed with. I loved looking at the first cars ever made and the history of the automobile throughout the ages. It’s truly incredible how quickly the automobile has advanced in such a short period of time.

Two vivid (colourful) memories I have:

  1. Running in the morning with Luc through the beautiful fall colours in the forest.
  2. Talking and connecting to my friend Sheila back home, watching the most incredible sunset.

Austria

On our way to Austria we stopped in at the famous (and bizzare) castle, Neuschwanstein (pictured above). A picturesqe castle built suprisingly recently (1886) but fashioned in Castle-esque period design.

It’s pretty incredible how your mood can impact your memories. I remember that Luc and I were having an epic fight and so all of my memories have been dampened by these feelings. I wish I could go back into history and change this and only remember the good moments but it was epic.

After meandering around the castle and grounds we headed back into the car and into Austria.

I remember two things about Austria:

  1. The hotel we stay at was sooooooo cool. (My Tyrol)
  2. Swarovski Kristallwelten Museum

The hotel was a beautiful hotel deep in a valley with gorgeous views all around. The hotel was the most modern hotel I’ve been to with a beautiful naked sauna area, pool, theatre, kids/games area, and climbing wall. It awakened your senses.

I persuaded Luc to stay two nights as we really needed a place of our own. to call home, for a couple of days.

While we were there we did a small walk in the forest and ventured to the Swarovski Museum.

This museum is more like an amazing work of art and beauty. Crystals everywhere, beautiful colours and sounds. It was easy to spend over 3 hours there and feel like you wanted to just chill the rest of the day. There’s a crazy amazing kids area there (think Kids Zone of McDonalds but 4 floors and so intense that a parent has to join you.)

There was also a labyrinth that you could get lost in. We enjoyed running around there and hiding on each other.

We returned home, had one more amazing night in our hotel and the saunas and headed back to Zurich to return the car and visit with Luc’s sister before departing for Turkey!

Zurich, Switzerland

We spent the day cruising around Zurich and checking out the lakeside and parks with Elise. It was a fun day exploring and enjoying!

Off to Istanbul, Turkey!

Please follow and like us:

Update: Real Time

So I’m sitting alone in a hotel room in Vang Vieng, Laos. I’ve got my first case of the runs since we left Switzerland 1 month, 3 weeks and 6 days ago. I’m considering myself fairly lucky since I’m the last of the family members to get it and usually I succumb within days of getting to a different country.

I have just updated my resource page. This page has app that I use regularly, items that we brought that I can’t live without and an updated map that you can see where we’ve been. I will be creating links to all of these items in the future but thought I’d just get this down first to get the ball rolling and get the site updated.

I will be posting blogs now about what followed the Camino in larger chunks of info and more about what I was and am feeling. I’m looking forward to be all caught up in real time so I can post in the moment what I’m feeling.

One thing I will say is that travelling is one of the hardest things I’ve done. It’s amazing, beautiful, stunning and such a growth experience. And with that comes hard times, having different expectations than your spouse, little alone time, and it’s just not as easy as you would think. Yesterday saw us in the very back of a mini van, driving way too fast along roads that were switchbacks, passing huge vehicles around corners, Violette throwing up from car sickness, me sick with worry and anxiety if we’re going to make it to our next destination and being absolutely powerless to do anything about it. Today I am missing Vang Vieng and surrounding area because I need to be near a toilet.

I will also say that while this is such an incredible opportunity, I miss Canada, my friends and my family so much. We are committed to being away until the middle of July but the thought has crossed my mind to head home early because the draw back home is so strong. I know things will be the same when I get back there but it doesn’t make me want to be back home any less.

Please follow and like us:

Day 42: Finisterre and reflection

Technically I completed my camino. But what I really wanted to do was end at the “end of the world” where the pilgrims used to come and burn their belongings. No, I didn’t want to burn my belongings (as it’s not allowed anymore) but I wanted to see where the pilgrims used to think it was the edge of the world.

Some people continue to walk out to this destination (another 3 days I believe) but since Luc and I only had 1 day, we took a tour bus out the coast.

I was covered in bed bug bites (100+) so it was a fairly uncomfortable day but the sites were incredible. It was so soul refreshing to see the ocean again and feel the breeze on my skin. It was cool in the morning but warm by the afternoon. I would highly recommend taking a day to do a tour out to Finisterre and surrounding area. We had a delicious seafood feast accompanied by some yummy beer. I had some antihistamine to stop the itch but it hadn’t really kicked in yet so it was a fairly challenging day as everywhere on my body was itchy.

It really was the perfect way to end this monstrously transformational journey. I know that I’m still processing everything that happened while I was on the way. Being in this place, really had my heart sing while the waves crashed. I took many reflective contemplative deep breaths. I remember telling myself “I did it.” “I’m so proud of you.” “This is now a part of who you are and who you are going to be.”

If you are at all thinking about doing the camino, the camino is for absolutely every single person on this planet. This walk is a walk that will connect you to you. Do it alone. Or do it with someone and meet up at the end of the day. This place is a place of growing, healing, transforming, uplifting, soul filling, breathing, walking, hiking, joy, laughter, music, transcendence, love, and acceptance.

You will have challenging times. That’s for certain. But in those difficult moments, you will learn everything you need to learn. You may ask “why must this happen to me? What is there to learn in this moment?” And the answer might only come later.

You will meet people who will change you and your outlook on life. People who will make an incredible difference to you by caring for you even though you don’t know them. Those people will remind you of your humanity and love.

You will see incredible vistas that connect you to the earth.

What you want to create, will be there for you to create. If you want to live outside your comfort zone, this will be it. If you want to heal, this will help in the healing process. If you want to learn more about yourself, all there is to do is learn about who you are. If you want to be closer to god or spirit, the way will provide this to you. If you’re looking for love, love is all around. If you desire deep connection, friendship and partnership is there for you.

Whenever I hear that someone is going to go on their first camino, I get a little teary eyed just thinking about what an incredible opportunity awaits them for whatever it is that they are going for.

Please reach out to me if you want to discuss more. I love to talk about my experience.

Please follow and like us:

Day 41: O Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela

20km LAST DAY. As a lot of you probably saw from the Facebook live video, We made it to Santiago!!!! I’m overjoyed that this part of the journey is complete. Although I read something yesterday that said “this is not the end, only the beginning”. I get shivers and a little emotional when I think about that. I’m going to blast us back to 6:30am when I woke up. It was a rough sleep: felt sick, room was hot and I had to pee 14 times (ok not that many). Then I got up and with my head lamp I noticed the tell tale sign of bed bugs… small brown spots on the sheets. Not sure if it’s their poop or my blood. Then I looked a bit more and there was a bug on my bed. “Fuck” I said out loud and told Luc to get out of bed cuz there was bed bugs. The woman beside heard me and she got up too. Up and out of the albergue. Well we said we wanted one more authentic pilgrim experience. We got it. No bites started to present on me until we got to the hotel that night and now it’s become the biggest smorgasbord I’ve had the whole Camino (we think over 100 bites). My whole right side is ravaged and some of them have even turned into blisters. Never had that. I’ve been using tea tree oil which really helps and I have some antihistamine pills left over. But it’s not enough. Luc, of course, is unscathed. Probably because they were like “hey there’s this sweet red head down here no need to go up top”. I’m surprised too since I slept so poorly, how and when did they attack? Anyway, one last gift from the Camino. I walked with my backpack again starting in the dark. Night hiking is really kinda different. It takes on a different kind of appeal being close to the stars and the moon. There were a lot of people today. I might have made some dominating hand gestures to a woman who looked like she was going to try to get in front of me for the bathroom. I spent a lot of time looking inward, I had a lot of pain in my feet today. Searching for how I was feeling knowing that I was literally moving closer and closer to the finale. There was peace. Later on in the night Luc asked me some questions like “who was I the most grateful for?” And “what was the most memorable experience?”

And every time I had this feeling of contentment and joy wash over me when I think back to all the amazing experiences I’ve had. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Although I remember back when I was sitting in my hospital room all alone wondering “will I make it to Santiago? Or will I go back to Switzerland or even Canada?” And so the tears washed over me when I finally got infront of the magnificent cathedral that I made it. I did it. I fucking did it. So while it is about the journey, the destination is also important to me especially since I really had no idea if I was going to make it. We stood in line to get our official document for about 45mins. Then headed back to the cathedral. And then over to our hotel room. Showered and headed off to wash and dry our stuff in a laundromat while we drank beer (see photo). Returned to the room and then headed out to check out the shops. I wanted to see the inside of the cathedral so at 10 past 8pm we walked inside and mass was on and what I thought I had missed, came true. They swing the botafugio And not 5 mins after being in the crowded cathedral did they swing it. I can hardly believe my luck. The universe provided exactly what I needed. How special a moment to see this. I’ll provide the video separately. We had a wonderful dinner with a beautiful bottle of red Rioja wine special for completing our Camino. I’ve been thinking about all of you as well who have been following and supporting and cheering me on. I’m so grateful to have so many people in my life who have been there for me along the way. Even if you have been reading but not commenting I can feel your energy and that has helped to move me through this epic journey. When you have the love and support of your friends and family, you really can do anything. So I thank you ?. It almost doesn’t seem enough to say thank you. My mom and aunty for doing this 3 times, being my inspirations and for guiding me in all the different directions. It meant so much to have you both close by every single day.

And I want to say a very special thank you to my husband and best friend. He made it possible for me to go on this journey by helping violette get adjusted to school, Switzerland, new friends, everything. And when I needed him and was crying and moaning from the pain, he listened on the phone and loved and cared for me when I felt so alone. I love you to the moon and back my love. Thank you for coming and being a part of my Camino. ♥️♥️

Please follow and like us: