Olde City Tour – Istanbul

I’m convinced that that best way to see Istanbul is with a guide — unless one speaks Turkish. We hired a government approved tourist guide who gave us a seven hour tour around and through the old city section of Istanbul. His name was Cengiz (pronounced Ghengis — really). Cengiz was terrific. He spoke terrific English — he’d lived in the USA for several years prior to losing a business. Well-educated and secular in perspective his opinion was informative.

Our tour began with a visit to the Sultan Ahmed (Blue) Mosque built between 1609-1617. Only we Westerners call it Blue because of the blue tiles located throughout the structure. The prayer area is immense — the the main domed ceiling is 141 feet high with a circumference of 75 feet. Entirely carpeted it can hold 10,000 worshipers at a time. Its a beautiful building with 30 separate domes that flow from the top like a tumbling stream of water thus distributing the weight without a lot of columns — 26 is all that hold it up.

One Islamic ritual is washing one’s feet and hands before praying everyday outside the mosque:

Cengiz provided a religious history lesson while we gazed at the strucure. Briefly, Islam, Judaism and Christianity are all cut from the same cloth: all use the Old Testament, Torah and Koran as the source material for their beliefs. Abraham, Jesus and Mohammed are all important figures. Muslims are of two main sects — Shite and Sunni. In many ways their split mirrors that of Catholicism and Lutheranism. Historically, religion has been a major driver for war and destruction, for conquest,”redemption”,  for  obtaining wealth and power. And so it goes..

This board  shows the connection between the three major world religions:  starting with Adam and Eve the muslim story mirrors Judaism and Christian beliefs:  Upon leaving the Blue Mosque we entered the site of the hippodrome — if you’ve seen Ben Hur the movie you’ll recall the chariot race (think  Charlton Heston in 1959). Its been said that over 25,000 spectators could enjoy the races at any given time —  the oringinal site rivaled the Coliseum in Rome.  The  “citizens”of Rome  were able to attend horse and chariot races .This edifice built in 200 A.D. by the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus . Of course, sometimes more important uses came into play like the execution of 20,000+ individuals who supported the wrong regime nearly 1,600 years ago.

Yesterday’s  Hippodrome–see the oblesk in the drawing:

This is the Hippodrome today:

This obelisk still stands today– was referenced above:


From the Hippodrome Cengiz to the Hagia Sofia (translation — holy wisdom) Mosque — constructed  between 532 and 537. This structure was originally a church built by the Emperor Constantine. However, depending on “who was in charge” its been either a Church or a Mosque since then — now its a museum. Besides being beloved for its architecture in the past 100-years mosaics  have drawen interest.  These have been found during the many ongoing periods of restoration.  These 13th century examples are of Christ flanked Mary his mother and John the Baptist and Christ flanked by Mary and the Emperor Constantinople the first Roman emperor to support Christianity:

 Scaffolding was everywhere as the entire building is being restored. One standout feature is the worship box for the Ottoman Sultan. He used this to pray away from the masses — he was fearful of an assassination attempt  — typically a knife in the back.  This is filigreed marble: Mosiacs discovered in the Haiga Sofia  from its Christian orgins:
The Arabic that was written when the church became a mosque.

Picture of Mohamed the Prophet — founder of Islam—notice its words since all photos would be considered  idolatrous:

All women must be covered while in a mosque–scarves (robin’s egg blue) are provided–see ladies below:

Later we lunched at the Pudding Cafe for an authentic meal–lamb donar kabobs that were delicious: 

The final historic site we visited was a cistern. There are 500 cisterns scattered beneath Istanbul. Originally built to store the city’s water eventually it evolved into a tourist trap of sorts. Enterprising folks drained most of the water, re-built or replaced the columns that hold up the ceilings and “invited” tourists to visit. It looks spooky with the mood lighting bouncing off the remaining water (2 ft. deep) and the columns. Interestingly, carp can be seen swimming in the water — even a hand-full of goldfish.
See these “spooky” photos — the fish:       and especially the floating head:

and the ever spooky floating head (me):

One thing I really like about Turkey is its respect for its past–antiquities  are not bulldozed out of existence –rather  ruins are salvaged and re-used or left as is:

The day ended with a visit to a rug shop owned by a friend of the guide. At first the visit seemed innocous  until the hard sell started — then we ran for our lives– the salesman followed me out of the sop and onto the street.  Wow, just got out with my scalp intact –almost purchased a genuine handmade Turkish rug. Still the rug shop was educational I was introduced to the ancient art of rugmaking. Its the cost of the labor that drives the price.  The second major factor is the material used to construct the rug  — silk, wool or cotton.  It can take up to three years to make one rug.   The weaver typically works  3-4 hours a day. This is the process–see how a true craftwoman makes a  rug one inch at a time:

  The hard sell and the willingness to barter nearly ensnared me — common sense prevailed. See the flying carpet below–he should be selling pizza:

 The tour ended in the Instanbul grand Bazaar. This gigantic market is one of he largest in the world.  One can purchase a variety of household goods, tools, touristy stuff, clothing, food — spices, teas, etc.   The hard sell immediately begins when one approaches any type  of shop.  Turkish culure requires one to barter which for some can be half the fun:


Finally the sun began to set and this eye opening day was drawing to close. We  were all exhausted and ready to head to our next destination. We said our goodbyes and wished Cengis well — he was returning to America in January — he and his wife had recently obtained  US Green Cards . This time he would have a green card and a job in a rug store in Sherman Oaks, CA. He was looking forward to leaving Turkey–and sanguine at the same time.

Soon we hailed a cab and headed to our next destination.

Whew, I’m tired!

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Bits ‘n Pieces…

Spending two plus weeks searching for Route 66 artifacts is generally fun. Fun, that is, if both hunters are in the search together.

Well, as the end of the journey got closer I could see that I was into it but, my companion was ready to say “enough”.

Lesson #1 is get complete buy-in! Lesson #2 is you’ll never get complete buy-in! Ok, so what does one do? This is a touchy. It calls for cajoling and sincere promised that the last day is indeed the last day–I’m sure you all know the drill — right?

Now, I’d like to share a variety of photos because I find them interesting and entertaining (please forgive any redundancy with past blogs):

Saw this car in Springfield, MO — loved Ghostbusters:

Seen in an antique store in Joplin, MO — reminded me of my childhood — my paternal grandma always had 7up on hand in the small bottles — really fit my hand:

Reminiscent of family road trips from my youth — anyone ever go to the”Dells”?:

Isn’t this the truth about life in general?:

Being silly isn’t a bad thing — yeha:

Look pretty normal — right?:

Eating a wonderfully greasy, incredibly sweet piece of a gooey Winchel’s apple fritter is one of life’s great joys; and one we can only enjoy in LA! — yummy!! — thank god!:

Love this “forever” photo — and driving across the USA:

Talk about diversity — where else but in California can one see a street sign in English and Chinese for a Latino hero:

These grapes were right off the truck:

Halloween and “Day of the Dead are closing in on Christmas in popularity:

This was in the movie 500 Days of Summer:

Love the idea of large food halls:

Really loved eating at this place in the food hall:

Great Chicken!

Sorry, couldn’t help myself — this made me laugh:

Gotta love Toy Story — saw this in traffic in LA — funny:

Best donuts ever — in Portland, OR and now at Universal City:

City Walk at Universal Studios is craaaazy!:

Spent a day at the USC science museum–in the spider house — the spider is almost three inches in length — it’s fed worms daily and is blind — so we were told:

Loved seeing these skeletons too!:

And these as well — an amazing collection:

Nothing could top the day, except smelling roses — if you are like me you mourn the scent less flowers we buy in most flower shops. There was a garden adjacent the museum with hundred of fragrant roses — for a little while I was in heaven:

Saw a TV shoot with ” Ice Cube” for NCIS LA in downtown LA — bang, bang:

That’s it for now!

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The End (sniff) of this Journey

You know how you look back and wonder if you would reach a particular goal? You know how you look back and realize that goal has been achieved? We had simultaneous feelings.

We made it to — sunny California.

Before entering Needles, CA we took a detour south Lake Havasu to see the repurposed “London Bridge”:

It actually rained in the desert–Hurricane Rosa effect centered in Mexico.

The bridge was brought over in 1968 by Robert McCulloch, Sr.:

He purchased it after reading that London was planning to tear it down to build a new bridge.

I’ll admit it does look strange (even though does look at home there) to see the bridge in the middle of desert in Arizona somehow it works:

We then got back on this long ribbon of highway and drove through the San Gabriel Mountains toward Pasadena:

We entered Needles, CA later in the day.

Needles has approximately 5,000 inhabitants including many Native Americans. We found the city museum located across from the refurbished El Garces hotel:

No longer a hotel — it’s empty and owned by the railroad. Originally it was operated for the railroad by Fred Harvey:

These are Harvey Girls (they were called this):

These are old photos taken nearly 90-years ago:

I met a man in the town museum who’s mother worked as a Harvey girl. He said she’d loved it.

As we left Needles we saw this mural:

We re-entered I-40 and drove westward.

In Victorville we found the Summit Inn sign — an inn and diner once frequently patronized by Elvis Presley. The structure is gone due to the freeway. This is all that’s left:

Our next stop at a rest area had this warning — won’t see this in the Midwest:

Never did spy any snakes.

Then it was on to Newberry Springs, CA. There we searched for the Bagdad Cafe:

It was in rough shape.

Driving to Pasadena we saw several “dust devils” — a small “twister” of sorts made from wind and sand:

We arrived in Arcadia , CA found lodging and began our final searches– Pasadena was in our sights:

In Pasadena we went the Colorado Blvd “suicide” bridge near the Rose Bowl:

Local officials have put fences on either side of the bridge to prevent suicides — most use to be linked to patients at an adjacent sanitarium– now a hotel.

Next we found the Rose Bowl which has been used primarily for the Olympics and football:

There was information on Jackie Robinson during on his college years:

One final find in Pasadena was this pharmacy and soda fountain — didn’t eat because weren’t hungry:

Nearby was the Marston’s Diner;

Before leaving the town we saw:

City-hall — a beautiful building:

With an inner courtyard that had this fountain:

The men above helped plan civic area of Pasadena.

We hopped onto Highway 134 to make our final run to Santa Monica.

We drove through Los Angeles along the last stretch of Route 66.

In downtown LA We saw Cliftons on Broadway – under renovation;

We continued to drive to the final destination — Santa Monica (Pier):

Only in LA:

This was the last point on our journey west:

We made it!

Rarely does something look so good.

Glad we did it and glad it’s done!

What a trip! Soon we’ll be heading home–wow!

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Lighting the Tunnel

Closing in on the home stretch of this “epic” journey along Route 66. They tell me that Arizona has the longest continual stretch of existing “66” highway. After today I believe ’em!

We left Flagstaff heading west to Williams, AZ:

A rather small and funky community, Williams is a curios collection of shops, museums, motels, diners and curiosities:

Diners like “Cruisers”:

Motels like the “Star and the Turquoise Tepee”:

Can’t forget this notable hotel called the “Canto” — one has to love the sign:

I hope no one leaves their dentures behind in a glass cup!

Museums like “Pete’s Gas Station”:

And curiosities like these seen in a gift shop:

The Grand Canyon railroad departs from here daily for a two-hour ride to the canyon. Maybe someday?

For now it’s on to Ash Fork — a small burg started as a US Army post that became a railroad town. In the mid-20th Century the rails moved and throughout town died:

We continued on to Seligman where we again found some curious places — shops, motels, museums and diners:

Shops like this general store:

And museums like the “Copper Cart”:

Motels like the Supai:

And lastly diners like “Snow Cap”:

And the very popular “Roadkill Cafe”:

Naturally we chose this place for lunch. We split a Barbecue Doe Sandwich with fries:

Playing with this game (anyone remember it?) kept us busy ’til the food came:

After lunch is headed down Route 66 until we got to Oatman. Getting here forced a choice. Either go into the mountains for a circuitous drive on a number of switchbacks or take a detour to Lake Havasu to see the old London Bridge.

No surprise we chose Lake Havasu.

More on this, as well as, the last leg of our Route 66 journey! We enter Needles, CA and then on to Santa Monica.

Bye for now!

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Once More at the Canyon

Took a brief detour today off Route 66. It’s been two years since I’d walked into the Grand Canyon — it’s even more beautiful than I recall:

What a gorgeous day — sunny with large clouds floating over the canyon:

We walked nearly five miles along the south rim. These photos speak for themselves:

Later we stopped at Angel Lodge for lunch. The salmon wrap and roast beef sandwich hit the spot.

Afterward, we took a bus to our car and then drove to Flagstaff.

Since it was late in the day wildlife began to appear in the Kaibab Forest as we left the park. We saw a number of mule deer and elk — including this cow and two calves:

This was the perfect end to a perfect day!

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Nature’s Way

The wonders of Arizona is where we’ve spent the past couple of days.

The Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert comprise one of my favorite national parks.

Filled with so much beauty:

The weather was perfect — cool and dry. And for the first time I saw petroglyphs — each one is a story untold — only surmised. The best authorities on such matters can only guess. And so shall all of us — are they part of a language or simply art forms — what do you think?

Of course, we came to this park because of Route 66 and we weren’t disappointed — the highway moves through the park. This old Studebaker marks the spot:

The museums within the park feature restored space that had originally been constructed for pleasure not education.

This was once a restaurant and inn:

Besides the restored space there are some wonderful exhibits that explain stories of old:

Or that gesture distinctive parts of the park:

I’m still amazed by the petrification of wood:

There are also ruins to be seen — people’s long ago had built structures using petrified wood and/or stone:

There are even some tongue-in-cheek stories shared in the park, for example how horses supplanted camels:

Leaving the park we headed toward Flagstaff. On the way we found a curio shop that doesn’t deserve to bf included in the trip — but here it was in the middle of nowhere — it’s main claim to shame is the saddled jackrabbit:


The next stop did top the rabbit.

We stood on the corner in Winslow, AZ ( from “Take It Easy” by the rock band The Eagles). That right we joined at least 50 other tourists to see where this song came from. Can this venture get any hokier?

Sure it can! The next place on our list was the Wigwam Motel. Or more accurately the remains of this once thriving business.

The land had numerous old vehicles on-site — many with rust, flat tires and worn out interiors — certainly the hot sun wreaks havoc on all these vehicles:

These are photos that show the inside of these structures:

Not much was left of this business.

From here we continued westward toward our final Route 66 destination of the day — Meteor Crater!

It had been 20-years since I’d been there. It had really improved as an educational site. The place almost feels like a science station. During the training for moon landings NASA used Meteor Crater and its surroundings. Also scientists have explored the crater to learn more about meteors — notice it’s a natural landmark not a National landmark:

Doesn’t it look lunar in appearance. Just think a really big meteor wiped out most life on earth — so much for dinosaurs.

A hokie film only showed a brief history about the crater. It was rather hokie at times, whereas the exhibits and the crater were presented in aa an educational option.

Scientists now know that “nickel-iron” meteor typically get obliterated upon impact.

The crater is so big it could easily accommodate 2 million spectators watching 12 football field. It’s so deep the Washington Monument would fit into the crater with room to spare.

So we finished half of the place we’d sought to see.

Tomorrow we are in Flagstaff our base for visiting the Grand Canyon.

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Just Movin’ Along

In Amarillo we paid a visit to another restaurant. This time it was called the “Big Texan”:

And home of the 72 oz steak with one caveat– it must be eaten in an hour or less to be free:

This place is a true menagerie — seeing was believing:

After leaving Amarillo we stopped in Vega to see a restored 1920’s gas station called the Magnolia:

By this point we got hungry so we decided to eat at the “Midpoint Cafe” located in Adrian so called because it’s just what it says it is:

It’s certainly looked like an old diner:

The restaurant is known for BLT sandwiches and it’s pie — guess what we had:

That’s right — the BLT was delicious and the Chocolate Chip Pecan Whiskey pie with Vanilla ice cream was rich and delightful.

After lunch we crossed into New Mexico and spent the afternoon driving to and through Santa Fe.

Having just seen Santa Fe a couple of years ago we spent little time there. Instead we chose to drive on to Albuquerque.

The next day we wandered through Old Town — originally built in the 1770’s by the Spanish. Entering this area we first passed a statue of the founder of Albuquerque — Francisco Cuervo Y Valdes in front of a fountain:

Today it’s a popular tourist destination because it’s filled with shops, galleries, restaurants:

And an old church – the San Felipe Fe Neri Catholic Church originally managed any Jesuits, but not controlled by the diocese:

We shopped and wandered through the galleries and shops all morning.

Eventually it was time to move on so we left for Tucumcari. This very small town welcomes visitors with this sign:

Tucumcari is noted for having a number of old motels with fun names and signage:

We stumbled on this bonus site located on the main drag:

Then we moved on to the Tepee — which was down the street — yes, another curio shop:


Driving out of town we saw one last Route 66 artifact — a bridge over Rio Puerco:

It’s a very narrow one car only bridge.

From here we finished the day in Gallup, NM. staying at the El Rancho Hotel — often occupied by movie stars of from the 1930’s through the 1950’s. Once Ronald Reagan stayed here — we got a tour of the presidential suite — wow — jets in the tub:

Prior to going up to our room — the Robert Taylor room — each is named after a movie star — we ate lunch — the menu names items by movie stars:

I had the Jack Benny — a 1/4 burger while my companion had chicken enchiladas:

This was our one and only stay at an old fashioned Route 66 hotel and it was old, small and uncomfortable — but I loved it anyway:

Memories — that’s what this trip is all about.

And then it was over and we headed to Arizona for more Route 66 adventure.

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It all starts with a cluck….


Today we began the long journey from Chicago to Santa Monica, CA.  The first of many stops today at Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket and Cocktail Lounge.  It was definitely a blast to the past:


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