In my last post, I told you about our amazing experiences in Cappadocia. Now I’m happy to share the great video montage that Abe made of our time in Turkey, including a fun and hookah-filled week in Istanbul (or see the high res here):
Dear friends, my dream of flying away in my own house, attached to thousands of colorful balloons, almost came true. (Thank you, Pixar, for giving me completely unrealistic dreams). I only had one balloon (but it was huge – size does matter), it wasn’t my house, and I didn’t land in Venezuela, but what matters is that I flew. And the place I landed in was breathtakingly beautiful.
Before I get to that though, let me give you some background about where it all went
We went to Cappadocia a week ago, and it’s an otherworldly place. There are tall cone-shaped rock formations everywhere, romantically called fairy chimneys (such a perfect name). The most impressive part is that people carved homes and churches into these rocks over 1000 years ago, so the fairy chimneys have windows and doors and some even have frescos painted inside.
Now, back to my ‘UP’ experience: We started our visit in Cappadocia with an incredible hot air balloon ride at sunrise.
The funny thing is, the people who managed our hot air balloon company weren’t brilliant businessmen. After realizing that we could book their services through our hotel for cheaper than their listed rate, Abe negotiated an even lower rate with the company (what a boss. I love him.) When we showed up, they asked us “what are you paying today?” which was a weird (and dumb) question to begin with. And then I saw, directly in front of me, a list of all the different rates that every passenger was paying that day. The rates ranged from 90€ p/p (us) to 160€ p/p (some really ripped-off people). Those were some pretty inflated hot air balloon prices (hehe) considering that everyone was in the same room, receiving the same service at the same time, and that the price list was RIGHT THERE for anyone to see. People started asking each other about pricing (luckily, before the 160€ losers arrived), but we kept our traps shut to avoid mutiny before takeoff. I’d rather cause chaos once I’ve received my service.
The flight itself was incredible. We took off just around sunrise and delved into the beautiful valleys and canyons to see the fairy chimneys from up close. Abe overcame his hilarious manly and perfectly normal fear of heights and actually enjoyed this whole new world (cue Aladdin song). We were lucky to have made it back down alive though. Let me tell you why.
A moronic couple on our flight did nothing but take selfies and ask others to take their picture the entire time, from pre-takeoff to post-landing (I’ll henceforth refer to them as ‘the idiots’). This in itself was annoying but forgivable as it was admittedly a picturesque and once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. But then, as we were preparing to land and 2 men reached to bring our hot air balloon safely to the ground, the idiots repeatedly thrust their phone into the men’s faces (who, have I mentioned, were holding the ropes to our safety) and asked them to take their picture INSTEAD OF LANDING US. The guys stared at the idiots incredulously, and somehow managed to politely tell them that another colleague would take their stupid picture later. What kind of morons do this? #areyouforreal?
Beyond flying in hot air balloons, we hiked in the Love Valley. This sounds really romantic, but the truth is that the valley is named for its penis-shaped phallic rock formations (let’s be mature about this). So of course we had to take photos.
We also hiked in the Pigeon and Rose Valleys. If I might offer my marketing services to Cappadocia, I would rename Pigeon Valley something like ‘the Hummingbird Valley’ instead. Who cares if people don’t actually see hummingbirds (because there are none… but just tell the tourists they were unlucky that day)? At least people will want to go. Pigeons suck. But, despite the valley’s terrible name and the fact that we got lost and had to be rescued by a local, the valley was beautiful and fun to explore, and was surprisingly not covered in pigeon shit.
Overall, we loved our time in Cappadocia. Even without a thousand tiny balloons, we were transported to a magical and truly unforgettable place.
We spent 2 weeks in Israel with my parents recently and had the most wonderful and relaxing time (check out Abe’s latest video montage at the end of the post for proof!). We felt so content: we were pampered like crazy by my parents, drank lots of limoncello in the hot tub on our terrace, ate hummus daily, and spent hours wandering happily around Tel Aviv. It was like a vacation within our vacation. And, on top of all that, there’s just something about that city that makes me feel at home.
It might be because strangers tend to treat you like you’re family, even if you’ve only just met them. Like when we drove from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and back with my parents and a hired driver. You could swear that my dad and the driver knew each other since childhood – complaining about their wives, laughing out loud about the torture of marriage, patting each other on the back… the driver literally gave my dad his card and told him to call him if he wanted to get some lunch. Not a cab ride, mind you, just a completely hetero besties lunch date.
And then the driver proceeded to thrust his friendly life advice my way: I should have babies NOW and move to Israel with my husband. That way my parents could take care of my kids. What am I waiting for, he asked? It’s what’s best for me. If the taxi driver says so it must be true, right?
Anyways, as I was saying, we had an incredible time in Tel Aviv. I’ll change the tone a bit though, and tell you about the more emotional moments for me. We were lucky to spend Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), Yom Hazikaron (Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) in Tel Aviv. On the 2 first days, a siren is sounded throughout the country to remind people of the fallen – and it’s really beautiful and touching. The country comes to a halt, in part because every family unfortunately knows someone who has been hurt or killed. Everyone stops what they are doing: cars pull over on the highway, people get off their bikes, and friends stop mid-conversation and stand in silence. It’s really powerful, and I think I’ll never forget how it felt to stand on our balcony, overlooking a suddenly still city with that mournful siren ringing loudly in my ears.
Thankfully, on Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence day, in case you’ve already forgotten), the city’s mood changes from somber to ecstatic. It’s the happiest day I’ve seen in the country, filled with parties, concerts, music and dancing. My awesome cousin Eric and his girlfriend were in the city and had tickets to an open bar party on their hotel rooftop. Free drinks, great views, music, good company… did I mention it was an open bar? We were IN. We spent the night celebrating, watching a group of gay men come in and out of a bathroom wiping white powder from their noses (powdered sugar?), chatting and laughing until the wee hours (ish, we left at 3AM, but that’s not bad by married people standards).
What else can I tell you? We visited some of Abe’s family in Haifa, and checked out the beautiful Bahá’í gardens while we were there. We visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and thanks to a wonderful Israeli friend we received a VIP tour of the Jerusalem tunnels. It was a perfect 2 weeks, and the ideal way to unwind before heading to a much less comfortable hostel in the heart of Istanbul.
To get a feel for our Israeli adventures, check out Abe’s spectacular montage below (or see the high res version here). As a bonus, you’ll also get to see us sweating our way up the very steep Salève mountain near Geneva. Hope you enjoy!