Sunday, February 26, 2012

Indelible Izmir

A horse-drawn carriage along the Izmir boardwalk.
No matter how many trips you take in a lifetime, there are bound to be little things—memories—that really stick with you. At least, that’s always been the case for me. I wonder, have you felt the same way, too?

Long after I’d unpacked my bags from my visit to Izmir,Turkey, in May 2011, I’m still remembering so many of those little moments. At the time, I didn’t realize how much they’d linger with me—and how fond I’d be, so many months later.

Cesme could be a stand-in for the Caribbean, no?
Izmir is not as well known as Istanbul but, in my opinion it should be. This coastal city and province, which stretches along the Western coast of Turkey is warm and welcoming. There’s a genuine authenticity here that can be hard to find these days. What really fascinated me about Izmir was its ability to combine—ancient and modern; Greek and Turkish; beaches and cities—all into one another so seamlessly. In a single day, you could be walking through the ancient ruins of Ephesus and later lounging beachside at an ultra-modern resort. For me, however, what really sold me on Izmir was its people—their warmth and hospitality, and I think my photographs are proof positive of that.

So, here are just a few of my favorite memories of Izmir, Turkey.

That was one slimy octopus.
The overly excitable and joyful fishmonger at the wet market in Fo├ža: I’ve never encountered someone so happy to show off his latest catch—it included a pretty gnarly octopus—to a complete stranger.

I loved her smile--and her hair. 
The dogs: There were so many adorable dogs throughout Izmir that the dog lover inside me just couldn’t resist.

Hello, Kitty, in Alcati
The cats: Same goes for the cats. They were pretty cute—and they tended to travel in serious prides.

Turkish coffee with dessert in Alcati
Turkish Coffee & Tea: The tea is a bit on the sweet side for my tastes, but it’s so refreshing. The coffee has the consistency of mud, but I love it.

Raki: It isn’t for everyone but man, it certainly packs a punch.

Photo (c) Jordan Dukov (an incredibly talented photographer )
The elderly lady who sold me a handcrafted wreath of daisies: Beneath her sweet demeanor was the steely resolve of a serious saleswoman, but I was so happy with that purchase anyway.

Spirituality: During my visit, I went to a synagogue, a church and a mosque and each house of worship left an indelible impression on me.

At the synagogue in Izmir
The Wall of Prayers outside the House of the Virgin Mary
A Catholic church that was converted into a mosque in Cesme
The food: It’s delicious, from the freshest of fish to the gummiest of ice creams.

Fish, fresh from the boat
Turkish ice cream almost defies gravity.
Simit, a Turkish pretzel bread covered in sesame seeds
Breakfast is served
Remarkable Ruins: No matter how many times I’ve traversed the sites of ancient ruins, those feelings of awe never go away. That was especially true for me at Ephesus and the ancient ruins of Smyrna.

The agora of Smyrna
The sense of national pride: I saw so many beautifully draped and displayed Turkish flags during my visit—my guess is that it probably had something to do with Youth and Sports Day on May 19. Regardless, the flags were a beautiful sight to behold.

Along the boardwalk in Izmir
The friends I made along the way: One of the best byproducts of traveling, in my opinion. I hope you'll agree.

Bundled up during a chilly night of outdoor dining.
Now, it's your turn. Let me know what some of your favorite travel memories are...I’d love to hear them.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

One Year Later

One year to the day, I’m back again. After what seems like a very long, overdue absence, I’ve decided to revisit Passport Confessional because I’ve realized one thing: my hunger for travel isn’t over just yet.

Exactly one year ago, as I wrote my last post, “Canadian Roots,” I was sitting in a hotel room in Calgary, Alberta, waiting out the blast of a massive, icy snowstorm to pass through the night. Today, I’m at home, back here in L.A., looking out onto a street that, already, bears no signs of the much more miniscule Pacific rainstorm that passed through here just hours ago.

I miss New York sometimes.
So much has happened in this past year that I don’t even know where to begin. I suppose I’ll keep things short and to the point.

I moved to New York and started a new job. I loved it there, even though it could be tough (Six-floor walk-up? No sweat for me these days!), even though I really dreaded traveling on the subway in the deadening humidity of summer, and even though I pretty much lived paycheck to paycheck (Oh, the high cost of living in NYC).

I traveled to Izmir, Turkey

Please don't try this at home.
Then I traveled to Disneyland for an assignment

Then I moved back to LA. 

I learned how to shoot guns in Montana (an experience I’m not so sure I will want to repeat). 

I traveled to Vancouver, B.C., for the first time and discovered the joy of bacon ice cream sandwiches (no joke, the proof is on its way in a future post).

When I had to leave my job in New York and move back to L.A., I wasn’t sure I’d still be able to call myself a travel writer, even though I continue to freelance for the NYC publications I had to leave. I struggled to define what I was without those editorial titles or frequent press trip requests. But, over time, I’ve realized that, title or not, sharing the travel experiences that I’ve had—and the ones I’ve yet to encounter—is what really defines me as a writer, as a travel writer.

So, without any further delay, I’m back and I hope to be writing about some of those trips right here again very soon.