Our trip to Istanbul, Turkey was amazing. The city is beautiful and is the only one in the world that lies on two different continents, Europe and Asia. The people were so nice and helpful to Brea and me. The way of life is very different however from the Western world. Even though Turkey is a Muslim country it is considered "soft", which means it is not as strict as most other countries. Women have the choice to wear their scarves and veils, but you still see many more men than women working in the shops and on the city streets. We stayed in the Artemis Hotel in Sultanmet, the old part of the city where all the main sights are. We visited the Blue Mosque, the Haggia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar and the Topkapi Palace, all which are highly recommended places to visit in Istanbul. Brea bought a scarf to wear into the mosques...they also make you take your shoes off as a sign of respect. The buildings in Istanbul are all painted in beautiful pastel colors and prayers, which sound like musical chants, echo throughout the city daily on loud intercoms from the mosques
. We found out that cats are everywhere and they especially start to come out right before sunset in search for food and leftovers. it rained a couple of days after we arrived so we went to a hamam called Bano Turco, which was a Turkish bath, and spent about 45 mins in a sauna-like room on a huge hot stone before getting a 20 min massage and scrub down. Then they dry you off and take you to a room to relax and drink hot apple tea or Turkish coffee, both are incredible. I spent a lot of time strolling the streets and taking photos. They are such hard workers...everyone's trying to make a dollar by shining shoes, selling candy and single cigarettes on the streets. The first thing people ask you is where are you from? They ask you this so they can make you feel comfortable by speaking in your language and then they sell you their rugs, food or other goods. We learned quickly that they are able speak any language French, Spanish, Italian, English, German, even Chinese! It's necessary for them to do this to sell their goods to the tourists from all over the world. We stuck to saying we were from Paris and pretending we were French. It's not the best time to say you are American in a Muslim country, but they seemed to be nice to everyone regardless. We also took a ferry ride for .50 cents to Asia, which took about 30 mins and it was a cheap and beautiful way to view Istanbul. We found a great place called Marsama cafe where we had cinnamon and apple tea and smoked strawberry flavored aromatic or tobacco, from a Turkish water pipe or "hookah"
. Oh, the food is amazing. Our first nice meal was at Rami, an authentic Turkish restaurant next to the Blue Mosque. Very hearty and flavorful kebabs, sauces and breads. We had a connecting flight to Zurich, Switzerland on our way back to Paris. Well, our flight was cancelled because of the strikes in Paris. Parisians loved to demand their rights and are notorious for their protests and strikes. So we ended up staying in the airport all night and slept on cushioned benches from 9pm-12noon the next day before our flight at 1pm.
The day we got back to Paris my friend Jaime, who lives in Madrid, and his friend Chelsea from Texas came to stay with us for 4 days. We showed them the sights and had a great time. One night we went out for dinner and drinks in Montmarte and when we returned we realized we didn't have our keys. We were locked out and it was 12 midnight so there were no locksmiths to call. Our landlord was nowhere to be found, later we found out she was on vacation, so we went to look for a hostel or hotel for the night. We stumbled upon Hotel Selma in our neighborhood and told them our story. We ended up hanging out with the people who run the hotel, two girls and a guy until 5am and by that time we had become friends so they offered us a small room for the night for free! We were so lucky. The locks here are impossible to open and the next day it took the locksmith over an hour to get our old school door open
. We have had visitors at least once a month since we've been here which keeps it fun and interesting. Brea's mom is coming for two weeks this Saturday. We will be going to south France, Lourdes in the Pyrannies. Last week we met some friends of friends from Austin, Texas who were backpacking through Europe. We hung out for two days with Jolynn and Shannon. They met a photographer from LA on assignment in Paris. I met them and helped assist him on the fashion shoot. It was a great experience and really cool seeing a professional on real location shoot. I also had an assignment to shoot US tourists in Europe for Eyepress, the photo agency I am working for, so I shot some photos of our friends who came to Paris.
My photography show at the Politburo was a big success. There was a great turn out and people really liked my new work...It was nice to have so many friends come together and be so supportive. I began hanging the photos at 6pm and didn't finish until right before 8pm, which was when the show started. I ended up getting free drinks and staying until 1:30am. My show will be up for the rest of the month, which will give people who didn't make it to the opening a chance to see my work. Our Easter Sunday was quite funny. We woke up for church at 9:30am to make it to the 11am service. We arrived at 11:10am, just a little late...so we thought. Little did we know the time in France changed and sprung forward one hour
. So it was actually 12:10 noon. We thought church went by pretty fast because all we did was communion, sang two songs a prayer and were dismissed. We missed the sermon completely, but at least made it to church! After we went to Thanksgiving, an American Cajun/Creole restaurant, and I had blueberry pancakes and bacon and Brea had honey ham, sweet potatoes and greens. We had pecan pie and bread pudding for dessert. It was a nice slice of an American Easter Sunday brunch. My school is finished in two months and we will be in Paris until the first of July before making the next leap to NYC. I hope all is well and wish you a Happy Easter.