Thursday, December 31, 2015

A day with Turks

We flew from Boston to Istanbul last night, on Turkish Airways. It felt like we got an inexperienced crew on a poorly-prepared airplane, a far different experience from our first trips on Turkish Airways. Nevertheless, I slept pretty well and didn’t mind the long trip much.

Alla wanted to stay in a nice hotel this time and minimize her time on the streets because of recommendations by the Russian Government. A nice hotel sounded good to me too, and we agreed on the Hyatt Regency, which we were able to book at a deep discount on Expedia. The hotel got us in the end, though. And we don’t mind.

I read an article a couple of days ago by a hotel employee who explained who gets the best treatment and why. He stated clearly what I had understood to some extent by experience: If the hotel knows you’re a price-conscious shopper (you bought at a discount rate from a service) they don’t expect you to come back if you can’t find such a good deal next time. I tried anyway. Our Expedia deal didn’t include breakfast, but we had paid up for a view room so I tried to sweet-talk the clerk into giving us breakfast coupons. He wouldn’t give in, but assured us that we’d enjoy an excellent buffet for an additional 30 Euros apiece. He also offered an alternative, an upgrade to a “Regency Club” room at a discount rate not much more than the cost of those two breakfasts.

We took the upgrade and got moved up by eight stories, free supper (“snacks”), free breakfasts and a somewhat bigger room. Once we saw the snacks, we knew we’d done the right thing. It was a perfect light dinner for us on the first night of our big change in time zones, and we enjoyed the company of the hotel staff who attended to us, and great views in a beautiful place.

After eating, we went off to the pool and swam for a while, took a sauna, and came back to our delightful room. Alla brought with her a gift of two lemons, a gift from the tea lady in her side of the spa. When you add everything up, we still saved a considerable amount of money by flying Turkish Airways and staying here, and we’re having an excellent time.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Eve in Boston

This afternoon, Alla and I decided to go out for a walk to see some Christmas decorations around the city. We went down to the financial district after most businesses had already sent their employees home early for Christmas Eve. We didn’t know how many buildings we’d be able to get into, what with general security concerns and the fact that the businesses weren’t generally open. As it turns out, we got in almost everywhere we wanted to go.

I particularly enjoyed visiting an undisclosed location because we weren’t really supposed to take any pictures inside that building. I didn’t know that and I liked their big Christmas tree, so I took a picture through the window and took Alla around to the door by the guard desk to see if they’d let us in. The guards looked furtively around and motioned for us to wait quietly. I don’t know what we waited for, but ultimately he let us in. Another guard asked that we photograph only the tree and not anything that would make it easy to know the building's address.

A guy came running out of the lobby café and told us that he’s a professional photographer and he wanted to take some pictures for us. We posed for a bunch of photos with my phone.

We visited several more buildings, walked along the shore and otherwise enjoyed our city. When we got home, we enjoyed a delightful pot-luck dinner with our neighbors, who brought delicious food and warmed our hearts with their sincere friendship. Christmas is starting out very well.

For more pictures, look here.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Rainy day at the beach

Today we planned to take an excursion to Tulum, but the weather forecast this morning led us to change our plans. It started raining yesterday, and the rain can come down pretty hard here. Fortunately it's still reasonably warm out and it's not raining all the time. But anyway, we didn't want to spend an hour and a half to get to Tulum only to discover that we'd arrived at the time of a deluge. So we made other plans.

It was almost sunny first thing in the morning, so I decided to go for a walk while Alla went to yoga. I put on my "rashguard" shirt (intended to get wet) and my board shorts before setting out barefoot to walk down the shore to Blue Dolphin beach, where the locals hang out south of us. I had almost the entire beachfront to myself as I headed down, the humid wind pushing on my back. As I neared my goal, raindrops began pecking at me and I considered turning around. But why should I? The rain felt good.

By the time I did turn around, the rain fell heavily, blowing into my face. I wished I'd brought my dark glasses, not to protect me from the sun but from the heavy raindrops. I made a visor of my hand and started walking faster. To my right, I noticed that the waves now had texture. The water rippled in the wind, and many shapes and colors tumbled over the waves' basic geometry. "Ooh," I thought. "This is new, and I like it."

I got back to the hotel way too soon, so I continued about the same distance in the other direction, figuring I'd prefer to finish by walking downwind anyway.

As I returned, I passed four intrepid women doing yoga on the beach, and a fisherman trawling his baited hook over and over in the surf. He told me it's possible to catch big fish here, but he had nothing to show today. I came home wet, completely wet, head-to-toe wet as if I'd been swimming. It was great.

Later, we went to have lunch at Pescadillas el Galeón, a fish joint recommended by a local we met at another tiny lunch spot. This place is so basic, it has no electricity and no running water, though we didn't lack for water in general because rain washed down heavily on their thatched roof. I had come dressed for walking in the rain, so I had no camera with me. I felt sorry about my lack of camera when we got there, because the place is totally cute. Cooks worked over open fires while a worker kept the woodpile stocked and the waiter kept the tables. I wasn't terribly impressed by the food, but would love to show you a picture of the place. Here's somebody else's photo, courtesy of Trip Advisor.

We worried that today might be boring, but we're having an excellent last day.