My weekend in Istanbul – Part 2

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The forbidden women’s section of Cagaloglu Hamami!

When we last left our heroines, they were stranded in Istanbul with no money and no way home.  They were falling on desperate times so had to start working in a Turkish brothel….

Just kidding.

AGMA always did have a flare for the dramatic!

Our first full day of touring Istanbul was wonderful!  We went to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.  We ate incredible sweet treats at the Hafiz Mustafe 1864 close to the Sultanahmet tram stop.  I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E.

Then we were off to Cagaloglu Hamami Turkish bath.  I was a bit nervous about talking my 3 friends into going with me….

While AGMA thinks a Turkish bath is probably the closest to heaven I will get on this earth, I understand that it’s not everybody’s cup o’ tea (the sauna, being pretty much all naked, the scrubbing with a kese mitt and the BUBBLES – oh Lord… THE BUBBLES!)

They adored it!  Whew.

All squeaky clean, back at our hotel, we discovered a letter has been slipped under our door.

???

I read it.  C read it.  I reread it. C reread it.

“Does this say what I think it says?”  I asked.

Yup!  It was a letter from the Gate1 tour director in Turkey telling us that we were going to be picked up at 6:30 AM the next morning to be taken to a different hotel in Istanbul so we could join up with the tour group that left on their tour of Turkey the day before ours was supposed to leave.  We could just pop in with them and spend the next 11 days touring Turkey instead of going home.

Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me…

C & I aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, but we had learned our lesson (the expensive way) about travel during a global pandemic.  We were going to get out butts home ASAP.

HOWEVER, K&D, our travel companions, thought staying was just a dandy idea.

WTF???

Our eyes rolled all the way around in their sockets!

So they were off the next day.  And we got regular texts throughout the day from them saying how wonderful their new tour friends were. And how nice the tour manager was and that they were soooooo glad they decided to stay.

More eye rolling.

But C & I did have a 2nd lovely day in Istanbul.  HOHO bus, the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Market, wandering the very crowded, not socially distant streets around the Bazaar and Market.  That evening we had an incredible dinner with a fabulous view of The Golden Horn sitting next to a table with two hot Frenchmen.

Did AGMA say that out loud?

But we were very happy to head Istanbul’s beautiful new airport the next day  (3/15) to make our way back home.

In the meantime, K kept posting pictures of their trip on Facebook – the massive hotel breakfast buffet, the Anzac cemetery at Gallipoli, the ancient city of Troy.

At this point, it was obvious that things were getting pretty serious at home, so worried looks replaced our eye rolling.  But they were adults right?  Maybe?

As we settled into our extra legroom exit row bulkhead seats on the plane (I rarely upgrade, but thought it might be a good idea), it was obvious that people were nervous.  I could see the masked guy sitting next to me sizing me up  as to whether I was “safe” or not.

I tried not to cough…

Then we got the “What a surprise.  NOT!” text from K&D.  They just found out their tour was suspended.  They were heading back to Istanbul.  To, once again, be stranded.

I didn’t, but AGMA sooooo wanted to say “We hate to tell you we told you so, but we told you so!”

They assured us that the tour company was going to make all of their arrangements to get back to the US even though they had booked their airfare (like we did) through an OTA and not the tour company.

Back to eye rolling.

The flight to Atlanta was uneventful.  We spent quite a bit of time reading the breaking news from the US as well as getting updates from K&D.  They and the rest of their tour group were very upset the tour was cancelled and BEGGED their Turkish guide to continue.

Again, WTF???

Turkish Airways served a nice dinner complete with a lovely French red wine from Bordeaux.  Seriously, it was the best wine I’ve ever had on an airplane.  I had several little bottles.

If ever there was a time to get lit, I was pretty sure this was it!

But, oddly, the dinner included a side of beans.

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Beans.

The flight was 12.5 hours.  There were about 450 people on board.  It could have gotten real ugly…

Note to self…send an email to Turkish Airways to suggest they may want to rethink that side dish.

When we got to Atlanta, we braced for being screened, scanned, probed, questioned, and possibly told we had to quarantine.

What happened was a joke.

We had to stay on the airplane while some masked Feds came on board and asked us to complete a form.  The form asked if we had been in China in the last 14 days; if we had been around anybody with the coronavirus; if we felt sick.

That was it.  At this time, Europe was being slammed by COVID – 19.  No questions about Italy.  Or France.  Or Spain.  Or the UK.

Then they gave us a paper with information about the coronavirus, and let us deplane.  We got our luggage, breezed through customs and were on the streets of Altanta in about 30 minutes.

That was it.  No thermal scans.  No infrared thermometers.  Of course, no tests.  And we weren’t told to quarantine.

AGMA still wonders how many people on that plane had the virus.

The next day, after a decent night’s sleep in my bed, we found out that K&D had been “deserted” by their tour guide and were told that they had to make their own arrangements to get back home.

Damn – I hate it when I’m right!

They ended up leaving Istanbul on March 17th (2 days after us) but, in total, their trip to get home, with 2 layovers was 26 hours.  So they actually got home on March 18th.

So the moral of this story, boys and girls, is NOT to travel when WHO declares a global pandemic.

And if you do, have enough sense to come home when the Universe tell you to.

My friends, stay home, stay safe and TRY to stay sane!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every day’s a school day

LessonsLearned

Random AGMA lesson’s learned in 2+ years of blogging in no particular order:

  1. Don’t blog while drunk. I won’t tell you which ones…
  2. The word spam is as popular as penis (tallywhacker) and vagina (she-she) when it come to searches. Almost. An AGMA post with spam in the title got like 200 views in one day.
  3. Almost nobody out there cares that I like to watch Men’s Elite Professional Cycling. I totally don’t get that.
  4. No matter how hard AGMA tries to answer the questions that are part of those blogging awards, it never works out. But THANK YOU for nominating me!! I meant it when I said it was a huge honor!
  5. Writing is way more fun when you don’t have somebody grading your work.  Way. More. Fun.
  6. AGMA followers aren’t quite as anal about how I write as my high school English teachers.
  7. Blogging friends are sorely missed when they stop blogging. So don’t stop!
  8. WordPress Blogging 101 is a lot of work.  Someday I’ll finish it.  Yeah, right…
  9. I will never make it beyond WordPress Blogging 101.
  10. When you get Freshly Pressed and are on the WordPress Recommended Blogs List, you get lots and lots and lots of followers. THANK YOU WordPress!!!
  11. Most Freshly Pressed and Recommended Blogs List followers never actually read your blog.
  12. When you get removed from the WordPress Recommended Blog List, the follows slow down to a trickle. But those folks actually read your blog.
  13. Sometimes it’s best not to overthink starting a blog. Just pick a cool name, sit down and start writing.
  14. AGMA can be funny, but not nearly as funny as some of you out there. Please keep me laughing!
  15. There is never enough time to read the blogs I love. I hate that…
  16. Bloggers (at least the one’s who follow AGMA) are some of the nicest, most caring people in the world. Crikey, it’s getting deep in here.
  17. When you only post once a week, it keeps ‘em wanting more. Right?  Hello? (crickets)
  18. When your friends and family don’t know you author a blog, the possibilities are endless. Take from that what you will…
  19. Never, ever say, “Blogging seems so stupid. I mean, who cares?” Gulp.
  20. Blogging just might connect you with some part of yourself you’d lost touch with or didn’t even know existed.

And finally…

21. Blogging really is cheaper than therapy.  Or a good adjunct.

 

Oh, I Think I’ve Learned That Lesson…

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Sitting in my favorite coffee shop on Tuesday “crafting” my last blog post, I watched as beautiful white snowflakes started lightly falling.  Delightful!  They started to come down harder.  Living the southern part of the US, I thought I’d better get my fanny pack home before the crazy drivers hit the road.  After all, there was a winter storm warning posted.  Really there was.  So I went home.  And then all hell broke lose.

Yes – you guessed it – I live in the Atlanta area.

I grew up in western Pennsylvania.  We either walked to school or rode on a school bus that was more like a tank than a bus.  School cancellations were rare even though we got something like 200 feet of snow a year.   Okay – I may have made that number up.  But we did get a lot of snow.  And there were a lot of hills.  I still remember my father putting chains on our car and that distinct sound when they hit the road in their rhythmic metallic monotony.   Post-tire chain banning legislation, studded tires became all the rage.  You knew winter was coming when it was time to put on the “snow” tires.

Most of my adult life, I was a Buckeye.  Ohio, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Schmidt’s cream puffs and Cincinnati-style chili.  Winters are not quite as bad as in Pennsylvania, but we still had plenty of snow, sleet, freezing rain and ice.  Sometimes all at once!

I was an odd ball.  I enjoyed when my kids school would get cancelled.  It meant that we could all play in the snow!   We did “snow things” – created snow angels, went sledding/saucering, built snow forts/igloos and snowmen, had snowball fights.  And at the end of the day – a huge pile of soaking wet snowsuits, jackets, gloves, hats, scarves, socks and boots by the garage door, cocoa by the fireplace, and a sound, deep sleep that night.  Fun times!

What happened in the Atlanta area this week wasn’t fun.

You all heard about it on the news so I won’t go over it again.  Depressing really.  Infuriating actually.  The news coverage was surreal.   Hopelessly clogged roadways, sheets of ice that were once interstates littered with jack knifed tractor trailers, people in leather shoes and jackets abandoning their cars in 15 degree weather after driving 3 miles in 8 hours.  The cars – out of gas, dead batteries, wrecked.  The people – hungry, thirsty, needing medications or a bathroom, sleep deprived, at their wits end…  Some walked 6 miles to get home or to shelter.

The worst of it was the children.  Hundreds stuck in unheated school busses, some in ditches.  The kids marooned at school were lucky.  They had heat and food and water and toilets and familiar adults around.  Some children made it home – eventually.  They got rides from people they knew.  They got rides from strangers.  Think about that one…  And when many got home – hungry, thirsty, exhausted and frightened – the house was empty.  Their panicked parents were out looking for them, stuck either in the unrelenting gridlock or on the many hills that were impossible to climb.

Our children.

I try not to get too political.  I hate what politics has become.  But I think the Atlanta metro area needs to suck it up, put their big boy pants on and pull them up.   We need to figure out what to do so that we never, ever allow our children to be put a risk like this again.  That might mean that each little city-state fiefdom down here might have to give up some of their autonomy.  That might mean some higher taxes for strategic transportation improvements.  That might mean hiring people who actually have experience in developing and implementing emergency/disaster strategies rather than relying on the “good old boy” network to fill critical public safety positions with political cronies.  “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job…”

Our elected officials say they will apply the “lessons learned” from this week’s debacle as if they were talking about the implementation of a new IT payroll system didn’t go as planned.

Really??

I hope the people of Georgia will apply their own “lessons learned” come election day.

For our children.