Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Leaving Kusadasi For Paris

As a person that has never had a 2:15 am wakeup call before, maybe I would get used to it, but on this morning, it is brutal. Paul and I crawl out of bed and hit the shower....separately, before heading downstairs to grab a cab. The beautiful young ladies at the front desk not only called us a cab, but packed us breakfast as well. I assume they only did this because they like us. The cab ride to the Izmir airport is about an hour, but apparently our cab driver has only budgeted about 40 minutes, because he is going about 95 miles an hour on mountain roads. Paul falls asleep in the back, but I have a problem sleeping since I feel like these might be my last moments on earth. My favorite move was when he passed a guy who was going about 50 over a huge hill with about 2 meters of sight distance. Luckily, we survive, and get to the airport about 3:45. I promptly buy a 9 lira water to calm down the feeling of dodging death. Paul promptly falls asleep at the terminal. We board, and I fall asleep almost immediately. However, the plane ride is simply not long enough to enjoy the nap. We navigate our way to the the terminal for our flight to Paris, and again, Paul falls asleep. Paul has now slept in 5 different places in the last 3 hours: our hotel room, the cab, terminal in Izmir, the plane, and the terminal in Istanbul. He will no doubt make it 6 on the plane to Paris.

We land in Paris and head for the Metro. Once we find the RER B, a train pulls up right in front of me.....the doors do not open. A french woman laughs and pushes the button that opens the door. Paris 1, Drew 0. We transfer at Notre Dame onto RER C. When the RER C pulls up, I promptly push the button to open the door and I think I hear somebody in the background say "wow, that French-Irish guy is sweet".....whatever, that is fine with me. We then hop out at the closest station to our hotel. Unfortunately, we don't know exactly where our hotel is. Luckily, we grab a cab driver who is so nice and drives up right up to Hotel Muguet. It is super nice, and the lady at the counter is very receptive to my attempt to speak french. After throwing our stuff in our room, we head out to paint the town.

Our first objective is to grab lunch. We walk into a cute little cafe that is close to our hotel and I start up my massive french skills. Our waiter doesn't speak any English, which is perfect for me to attempt to speak poor French. It is actually pretty fun, and the locals seem to appreciate the effort. Paul orders some pasta, and I order a caesar salad. Both are excellent, and both aren't cheap. 58 Euros later, we head out down the road. Paris is awesome, but kind of expensive.

We wander down the road and see 3 different soccer games going on as we walk towards the Seine. I start to take pictures of just about everything. Unfortunately, it is overcast and pretty chilly, but it is beautiful nonetheless. As we wander down the streets of Paris, we run into this huge structure with a ton of people around it. We decide to check it out. Next thing we know, we are on the lift to the top floor of what people call the Eiffel Tower. The view of the city from up here is simply amazing. After snapping a bunch of pictures, I head inside to read about the history of the lift. The physics behinds the different lifts they have used is really fascinating (clavin).

We then head towards the Arc de Triomphe. After admiring the Arc, we walk down the Champs-Elysees (I don't know how to make the accent mark letters). It is so cool to just stroll down the avenue. Paul exchanges dollars for euros as an exchange place along the avenue, and I can't believe how badly they take him. He turns $80 into 46 Euros, ouch. We decide to sit at a cafe and people watch. After about an hour of absolutely fascinating people watching, we head back to the hotel.

It is getting to dinner time, so we decide to try and find something that we can bring back to our hotel and sit in the amazing patio area they have. We walk down the street and the weather is getting to be pretty amazing. The sunset over the city is pretty amazing. A kabob place catches my eye, and we dip in for some dinner. I get a huge plate of meat kabob with chips (fries) on the side. The guys love my French to the point where they are laughing because they love it so much.....not because I kinda suck at it. We stop in a local grocer on the way back and grab a nice bottle of wine to share on the patio....it is a date.

We get back to the hotel, and I ask them if they have a corkscrew. Immediately, one is in hand. I then ask about wine glasses, three different kinds are offered. Hotel Muguet is on top of their game. Paul and I sit on the patio and debrief about our day and the whole trip in general. It is nice to have a relaxing evening to take everything in. Full and exhausted, we head to bed. I stare out the window for about 20 minutes taking everything in for one last time before I retire to get ready for what will be a super long travel day tomorrow. Wow, what an amazing close to an amazing trip.

Still to come - Pics of Paris and then - Long travel day followed by closing thoughts

Drew In Paris

More Pics Kusadizzle Style

I know I posted the flying squirrel again, but I didn't want anybody to miss it. Also, the duct tape picture might seem kinda weird, but my simple mind kinda thought it was hilarious to have duct tape in one of the oldest cities in the Ottoman Empire. It is clearly holding the whole building together....

More Kusadishishian Pics

Last Day of Trip

We wake up on what will be the last day of the group trip, and all I can think about is parasailing. Joe, Jim, Brian, and myself hop on the fun water events boat and head out. Brian is gonna scuba dive which sounds amazing. He gets to swim through underwater caves and see all kinds of sweet animals; I am really wishing I was scuba certified. The tour guide speaks very broken English and doesn’t know how to say the word “seal” so he just puts his arms by his sides and makes the seal noise….it got the boat a good laugh.

I am first up on the parasailing, and I must say, the setup here is much better than my previous parasailing experiences. Growing up, my aunt and uncle had a parasail that we would use with their boat in Tennessee. Let’s just say that Carnes, TN is about 55-75 years behind most of the rest of the country. To use this parasail, you had to stand on shore about 60 yards from the water and when the driver gunned it, you had to run the 60 yards and then leap off the shore in hopes that the chute was full and you would lift off. Two main things can go wrong here leading to a couple uncomfortable scenarios. One, you can leap from the shore and the chute doesn’t have enough air leaving you to be dragging along the water for a couple seconds. Or two, the worse one by far, is that you trip before you get to the shoreline and you are dragged along the hard, rocky ground. Either way, pain ensues. This boat has the full setup where you just get slowly raised from the back of the boat. I must say, much less anxiety involved, but also much less adrenaline. Anyways, I contemplate taking my camera up with me since I theoretically won’t be getting wet, but I have gotten quite close to it over the past two weeks, so I decide against it. Once up there, it is just an amazing experience. You are high enough up to see miles and miles of the Aegean as well as all of the different small, old school communities that have been in Kusadasi for centuries. It is just amazing. All three of us comedown very satisfied with our 70 lira purchase. We then go to pick up Brian from his scuba caving experience. We are a little surprised by the lackadaisical attitude towards the scuba diving. There was no buoy put down to mark their entrance, and there was no set time we were coming to get them as it depended on our parasailing. However, we are able to find them pretty easily. Brian, who has been diving about 30 times, claims it was the second scariest dive he has ever had. The scariest being off the Reef in Australia after being separated from the group (umm….this kid wouldn’t have survived that). Apparently, it is pretty easy to get disoriented when you are not only underwater but inside underwater caves. Especially when your guide speaks absolutely no English. However, he said he got to see the seal, a giant eel, some lobsters, and a bunch of other marine life. It sounds amazing.

We head back to the hotel to meet up with the rest of the group. They are all lounging on the shoreline. I decide to take a quick break, and ask the waiter for a bira bira. My break end shortly thereafter when Voeltz and I are challenged to doubles ping pong. I figure, what the heck, I will play a couple games considering that the table is still on the coastline with a great view……14 games later, we have not lost, and we decide to retire on top. The 2nd to last game included a comeback from 20-13 down, so we are feeling pretty good about ourselves. I believe I have earned myself another bira bira. A group then heads off to rock jump again, but I decide to lay along the shore instead. My feet are still quite banged up from yesterdays rock jumping, and I am pretty sure I cannot get a better picture than the one I got of Voeltz’s flying squirrel. (entry #1 into photo contest). Although it will be hard to beat Phil’s picture of himself in his graduation gown (the 2nd years graduated while on the trip) on the back of a camel with the great pyramids in the background. The rock-jumping group gets back, and it sounds like I missed quite an adventure, darnit. Oh well, live and learn. We all take one last swim in the Aegean before heading up to get ready for dinner. Not sure if I mentioned this, but the Aegean is the saltiest water I have ever been in by a long shot. You stay afloat with little to no effort. On the downside, if you take some down the esophagus, it tastes about like a hearty helping of Peace’s cooking (old school LCA reference). So you have to be pretty careful not to swallow any. The plus side to that is the face people make when they do accidentally take some in.

We head up for dinner, and everybody showers and gets ready. Somewhere in there, I realize I am not in the least bit hungry, so I decide to stay back and pack up for Paul and my 3am departure. It turns out to be a good move as I am able to pack, make some phone calls, and get to bed by about 9pm. That allows me a whopping 5 hours of sleep before our wakeup call. I call down for the wakeup, and tell the front desk 2:10 please. She laughs pretty hard at this request. I think she is under the impression that I am getting woken up at that point to head out to the bars since they are open til 6. Not so, we have to get up to take an hour cab ride for 50 lira, then wiggle through airport security, and then onto a plane where we will be able to rest just long enough to be teased as the flight is about 55 minutes in the air. Oh well, I am sure I will be running on Parisian adrenaline by then. One last day of fun combined with a TON of traveling, and I will be back in the States!

Drew In Kusadasi

More Pics of Day 1 Kusadasi