Turkish Delight (That’s Me)

I think I’m flying over Bulgaria. All I can say is that the paddocks are quite square and the towns are quite small, but then I suppose everything looks quite small from up here.  

 Having never been to this side of Europe (aside from a drunken haze of a week on Prague), I’m pretty excited to explore the bounties of Istanbul, haggle awkwardly for a pair of homeless person pants in the markets, drink some raki, and dress modestly yet eccentrically because nobody knows me there. 

 It was a minor moment of stress when my travel companion Asti and I arrived at the airport and made our way swiftly to the North Terminal, as advised on our booking details, only to find there was no such flight to Istanbul at 12.35 on this fine Tuesday. We exchanged dark and foreboding glances and fumbled with our documents, looking up and down and up and down at the departures board, before concluding that we had been jipped ( a word?) by a third party booking service, and we were almost certainly hitchhiking to Istanbul with very large backpacks and one very crippled ankle (see previous tale of stupidity). 

But it’s okay. You can breath a sigh of relief in knowing that we actually were just in the wrong terminal, and we merrily rode the interterminal shuttle back to the South terminal with beads of perspiration and relief on our foreheads. Amateurs. 

 Now I sit, having enjoyed an uninspiring yet somehow delicious ‘Gluten Intolerant Meal’ and a very strong gin and tonic. In most cases, the best thing about having a special meal is that you receive it before every one else, and then can smile a superior smile and relax with the knowledge that you’re pretty much business class. The food itself is generally rank, as if it had been smushed into meat grinder and heated three times before it reaches your mouth. But in this occasion, Turkish airlines has done very well indeed. My opinion is perhaps influenced by the very strong gin and tonic, and the tiny pretty paper cup of pistachio Turkish delight we received at take off. 

 Airplanes are just quite gross when you think about it – sitting in very close quarters to strangers who are breathing in the air that you recently expelled, the old dry skin dilemma, humans with smelly feet, fat people who take up not only 100% of their own bum space but also 45% of yours, being trapped in the middle seat with a full bladder and a sudden urge to sneeze… It combine all the discomforts of life into a compact package. Yet I do enjoy air travel, in all its grossness,  because it’s a little bit magic and everything comes in neat little packaging and you have endless hours to gaze out the window and imagine tiny people down below. I’m easily pleased. 

 Coming soon – pictures of myself dressed eccentrically, doing a headstand in front of the Blue Mosque, Turkish delight smeared around my gleeful face, surrounded by hairy Turks who wish to marry me.  

 
Soon we land! Excuse me, I must go and request many tiny bottles of liquor to line my pockets!

   

Christmas Holidays, New Zealand Style

Its all been a bit quiet here for a while… Yours truly has been busy flying home from Europe, catching up with friends, and adjusting back into having a normal job in peaceful, sunny Nelson.

Having been away for 18 months, coming back to Nelson was a bit of a shock to the system initially – everything seemed to be in high definition, without the grey skies and smog of a lot of European cities. Even when the sun shines in Ireland, it never seems to be quite as bright as here. I spent my first couple of weeks soaking up the long daylight hours, doing quite a lot of sleeping and working most days to boost the ol’ bank account. My mum, my brother and I also did a hike in the Nelson Lakes which was a nice wee family bonding time.

Christmas was at home in Nelson, where we all wore matching elephant pants and santa hats (christmas present from my brother, recently returned from work in South-East Asia), and I was lucky enough to receive a camera from him aswell, obviously to document the spectacle. We ate outside in the sun and went for a swim in the river to work off the excess consumption.

There’s been a healthy dose of holiday time over Christmas and New Years, which we spent in Wanaka at a lovely bach, with adventure on our door step. (I did quite a lot of time lolling about in the pool, trying to SUP on a boogie board and playing amateur water volleyball with the others.. there were a few bikini malfunctions).

On the drive down we stopped overnight at Birdsong Backpackers in Hokitika, on the wild West Coast. I can definitely recommend it if you’re passing through, and its quite different to some of the hostels I stayed at in Europe – probably because it’s family run and a bit more personal. We had a little unit to ourselves with a kitchen, bathroom and outdoor area, and upstairs in the communal area there is another big kitchen and dining room, overlooking the sea. Jeananne and I felt we should maintain some attempt at health and wellbeing on our holiday, so we went for an evening jog into the town and down to the beach, with a detour to the Glow Worm Dell (sadly it was too light to see any wormies).

The next day we continued on to Wanaka to our delightful house in town, with a pool, spa, big front lawn and spacious living area. I slept on the floor in a swag, (we ended up having more people than beds), which I was a bit apprehensive about but actually I think it was the best deal. I could sleep with the door open on hot nights, and I basically had a double bed to sprawl about in. I just feel sorry for the early risers in the house who had to wake me from my slumber.

We went cycling, walking, hiking, swimming, yoga-ing, drinking, eating, luging (on our day trip to Wanaka and Arrowtown) and wine and cheese tasting, so I feel it was a healthy balance of indulgence and exertion. Very different from the holidays in the UK, where the weather is usually too cold and miserable to leave the house for very long.

On the way home we stopped in Kumara, a tiny gold mining town, and spent the night at The Theatre Royal Hotel which was furnished with antiques (and very comfy beds). We had a delightful meal of locally sourced goods and consumed several beverages, before retiring to our grand rooms, just like the good old days…

On our last day we stopped in Punakaiki to check out the pancake rocks and the blowholes (teehee).

It’s nice to be a tourist in my own country – I’m sure a lot of tourists have seen more of New Zealand than I have!

Happy New Year! I hope your 2015 is filled with adventure.

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Little Girl, Big City (and some dog poop)

I’ve always thought that housesitting sounded kind of luxurious..especially when you’ve been on the road for a while and the idea of having a whole house to yourself is very appealing. But a word to the wise… Dog sitting is different.

You picture yourself snuggled up on the couch with a fluffy, cuddly, endearingly named pooch, drinking cups of tea and stroking it’s tum tum. At least, my friend Sally and I pictured this when we decided to housesit for a Belfast man and look after his three doggies.

Enter Snowy, Coco and Zoe, three of the most appalling dogs you will ever encounter.

Snowy looks to be the nicest, cuddliest one of the bunch, until you are awoken at 6am by a rhythmic barking. You venture downstairs to find a seeping puddle on the floor and Snowy barking at the wall. There’s not a lot you can do, so you go back to bed and hope it’s all gone when you get up again. Take Snowy for a walk and he will trot along, urine dribbling the entire time, and then he will find a piece of stranger dog poop and put it in his mouth, then promptly walk into a fence.

Coco, the youngest, a wee terrier, seems to be quite eager and energetic but generally a nice dog, until you take her out walking and she lunges at strangers, teeth bared, head spinning around 360 degrees… Other dogs cower behind their owners, fearful of crossing Coco’s path. As soon as you leave the house she sprints down the road, with remarkable pulling power for such a small animal. You just have to run, there is no other option.

And Zoe…. Zoe is a very special dog. Profoundly hideous and magnificiently obese, Zoe snores like a truck driver, so loudly that I had to apply earplugs even when sleeping on a different floor of the house to her. Take her for a walk and she will not go very far at all, and then she will sit down and refuse to move any more. She is too large to pick up, so all you can really do is wait for her to catch her breath.

Ahhh, sweet doggies. I feel fond towards them now that they are no longer my responsibility, but I will not miss the thick coating of dog hair on every surface, and the occasional stinker in the corner.

Other than disturbing pets, Belfast was a wonderful week of initiation back into civilisation, with good coffee, cinemas, Christmas markets, ethnic foods and cocktails. It reminded me how easy it is to spend your money in a big city, and it made me miss the country a bit, but there are things you can’t get on the Wild West coast of Ireland that just really enhance your life. Like a good burrito, you know? I think Sally and I took three epic trips to Boojum (burrito bar) in our one week in Belfast, and we justified it by making it our only meal of the day, so really we were SAVING money. You can talk yourself into anything.

Before Belfast I spent a week back on a Achill, after finishing my job in Killary. So many goodbyes, but I like to think I’m getting better at them. Especially because I know I will be back next year… Our last night on Achill was of epic proportions, and naturally ended with Sally, Pat and I on the floor of the Valley House Bar, punching and kicking each other endearingly. Who knows.

Today I fly back to England then home to NZ very soon for a decent summer… Fingers crossed.

Looking forward to seeing my doggy, who isn’t rabid and doesn’t bark at inappropriate hours, and (hopefully) doesn’t leave little stinky presents lying in wait for me.
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