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Entries about coffee

Day thirty-five - Istanbul

Monday 30 September 2019

sunny 29 °C

Vibrant Istanbul

I planned to visit my friend Yusuf at his ceramics shop in the Sultanahmet area on Küçük AyaSofya Caddesi no 37. Rather than jumping on the tramway, I walked across the city, firstly down the narrow streets near the Galata tower to the Galata bridge.

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There are a lot of fish restaurants on the lower level of the bridge, and above, it's lined with fishermen. The river itself is incredibly busy with ferries, small boats and tourist boat trips. Istanbul is a real city of movement.

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Once across the bridge, I found myself near the spice market so wandered through, the sight and smells are very enticing, but I wasn’t here to buy. From here I was in the Grand Bazaar, much busier than when I was last here in 2016 after there had been several bombings in the city. Definitely more tourists around, and like Armenia, large groups, mainly Chinese. You still need to go through security when entering the bazaars and other key places and there is a huge police presence around the city - it feels as if they are on constant high alert.

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Bustling Bazaars

I stopped for a coffee at the Grand Bazaar. It’s a great place to people watch. It’s interesting to see young women walking arm in arm, one in very western tight fitting clothes and the other wearing a traditional headscarf. It’s a real mix of East meets west. Getting out of the bazaar is a challenge as it’s huge. Once I managed to get out I headed past the Blue Mosque towards the area of my friend’s shop.

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Chewing the fat - Istanbul style

Yusuf and I sat outside in the shade, drinking coffee and catching up. It made me feel like a local. Apparently, friends are always passing by for a catch up. Yusuf has adopted a cat that loves to sleep at the front of the shop. If Yusuf charged everyone for very photo they've taken of the cat, he would be a millionaire. We arranged to meet later at Hamid restaurant near the Galata Bridge. Yusuf closes his shop late so we arranged to meet at 10.30pm - my default bedtime since travelling on my own! I had to keep awake somehow.

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Cat City

I found somewhere for lunch and probably made a bad choice - going into the Capadocia restaurant. They have pushy people outside encouraging patrons into the restaurant, but once inside the service is quite lacklustre. The food is okay but nothing to write home about.

There are lots of cats in Istanbul. There is even a film called Kedi [2016] - the City seen through the eyes of its resident cats. I haven’t seen it but would like to try and get hold of a copy when I back to the UK. People leave food and water out for them and they can often be seen in shop doorways guarding the goods. Little huts are also provided for them. There is a definite affection for cats, just like there is in Cyprus and Armenia.

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After walking over the Galata Bridge, I thought I’d try out the funicular. Not that I can’t walk up the hill, but I love going on the different modes of transport in the city. The top station is very close to my hotel. I sat out on the terrace reading and relaxing until the sun started to set. The view across the river was beautiful. Soon it was time to get ready and cross the river again to get to meet Yusuf.

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Hamid's

Hamid restaurant is a bit of an institution, and is one that features on a lot of the highly recommended lists. However, it’s quite meat orientated so I chose food off the starter list - stuffed peppers, pickles, shepherd's salad and Muhammara - more than enough for me. Yusuf hardly seems to eat anything at all. Apparently, once he’s full, he stops eating. Now I know where I’ve been going wrong all of these years. Anyway, I hate wasting food so I ate all of mine! It was very delicious.

I was happy to walk back to the hotel but Yusuf didn’t feel it was safe, so we got a taxi which dropped me off close to the hotel. The Beyoğlu area is busy so probably be safe to walk around there but I wondered if the Galata Bridge was maybe not so safe. Certainly, I was grateful for Yusuf's concern. It was way after midnight when I got back so I was glad to crawl into bed for a good night’s sleep.

Posted by Cath_Greig 07:22 Archived in Turkey Tagged bridges river istanbul bazaar coffee cafe Comments (0)

Day thirty-four - the only flight on my journey home

Sunday 29 September 2019

Taxi problems

After a rude awakening, I quickly got ready as the taxi was due at 3am. At about 3.10am it still hadn’t arrived. I discovered that the hotel hadn’t actually ordered it for me. One was sorted through Yandex ( a type of Uber) and to my relief it turned up 5 minutes later. However, once installed in the cab, it wouldn’t start. By this time I could feel the anxiety levels rising. My fears weren’t allayed when the driver proceeded to open the bonnet and started to bang away at something under the hood. With anxiety levels rising, the engine suddenly sprung into life and we were off. Now we just needed to make it to the airport. Although only 15-20 minutes away from the centre, anything could happen!

I was flying to Istanbul because there is no border access to Turkey from Armenia, only this one flight. To take the train through Turkey, I would have had to go back to Tbilisi and then travel from there, something I couldn't face doing.

Always allow two hours

One I arrived at Zvartnot Airport departures I breathed a sigh of relief. Check-in took two minutes but then I saw the queue at the departure gate. One person was checking passengers just to let them through the door to passport control. It wasn’t until a second person came along that the queue really started to move. Once through, my heart sank at the queue which snaked round for what seemed like miles. I had been advised by both the airline and hotel that arriving one hour before departure was enough. This advice went contrary to my better judgement as I am paranoid about missing departures. To anyone flying from Zvartnots, I would definitely allow two hours minimum to get through. What with the taxi farrago, There was now only 30 minutes before boarding. It took 25 minutes to get through - luckily security was swift. No time for sitting around - the plane was boarding as I got through into the departure lounge.

Arriving in Istanbul

The flight itself was uneventful, arriving at 6.50 local time at the new airport. There was -1 hour difference in Istanbul. Transportation to the city is good - best to take the Havaist buses - the IST-19 goes to Taksim Square. There is no metro or tramway yet. I had a lot of time to kill before check in so wandered about stopping for coffee intermittently at places with WiFi. Being a Sunday, there were a lot of people having breakfast - there is a really buzzy cafe culture here. On İstiklal Caddesi - one of the main shopping areas in this part of the city - I stopped for a late buffet breakfast. All you can eat plus copious amounts of Turkish tea which is served as soon as you finish a glass.

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Arriving at the hotel a bit early, I managed to check in with an upgrade - a room looking out over the water. The Taksim Terrace Hotel is in a side street fairly near the main drag. It is well placed close to Sishane metro, the Tunel funicular and Galata tower. Like the buildings around it, there is a narrow frontage that’s five floors high and, as it’s name suggests, a terrace. The room was quite small but had a great view. It was a relief to get rid of my bag, shower and go for a wander.

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Train tickets and Museums

Walking down through the steep and narrow streets to the waterfront I walked along the river by the fish restaurants and fish market that are close to Galata Bridge. I planned to go and sort out my ticket to Sofia first and then visit the Museum of Innocence in the Beyoğlu area of the city. Museums are closed on Mondays so best to do it today. Using my Istanbualkart travel card, I took the tramway to the station. It’s within walking distance but I love riding the tramway!

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There is a special booking office for international tickets at Sirkesi station and it was easy to purchase. I went for a double compartment on the sleeper. You pay for a ticket and pay an additional amount for a bed. The overnight train actually leaves from Halkali station 25k from the Centre and is reached via the Marmaray line that links Asian and European Istanbul. I spotted left luggage lockers near the ticket office and also found the lift access to the Marmaray line just around the corner from the station. All important knowledge when you have a large, heavy bag in tow.

I then took the tramway to Tophane as it’s the nearest stop to the Museum of Innocence in the Beyoğlu area. The museum is a beautiful collection of artefacts relating to the book by Orhan Pamuk. Although I read it a few years ago, the story came back to me as I viewed the installations. There were lots of young women there, clutching their own copies. I would definitely recommend a visit - even if you haven’t read the book - it’s an intricate art gallery of objects.

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An Early night

The breakfast must have filled me up as I only started feeling hungry late in the afternoon. As I wandered around the area I found a cafe near to the Galata tower. There is absolutely no problem finding vegetarian options in Istanbul. By now the lack of sleep started to hit me so I headed back to the hotel to have a really early night and catch up on much needed sleep.

Posted by Cath_Greig 06:15 Archived in Turkey Tagged museum istanbul railway coffee tramway Comments (0)

Day twenty-five - last day in Yerevan before tour

Friday 20 September 2019

sunny 30 °C

The start of a new day

I’ve developed a pattern to my days - get up, take medication, shower, hot water with lemon followed by Armenian coffee. After a lot of faffing around, I finally leave the apartment at about 10.30am.

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Coffee and cafe toilets

My goal for the day, apart from packing, was to buy some handmade soap, body lotion and if time, explore Kond a bit more. Started with a walk down Amiryan Street as I hadn’t been down there since I’d arrived 6 days ago. Stopped at Tap Station for coffee, it’s a cafe attached to the Republican Hotel. There seemed to be a helluva lot of noise - a woman shouting like a fish wife and children’s voices. I then realised the cafe was next door to a school and the waiter’s station looked straight into one of the classrooms. The kids seemed to be very boisterous - the waiter shook his head resignedly when I asked him about it. Anyway, I had to use the hotel toilets - they were very plush. In fact the hotel itself looks really nice. Talking of toilets, I’ve found, like Cyprus, the upmarket cafes have really classy toilets. Santafe cafe from yesterday and Amar from the day before also had very clean and toilets with stylish decor. On the other end of the scale are the squatter toilets found at roadside cafes. Functional but definitely not aesthetically pleasing.

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Shopping spree

From there I walked to Republic Square and then Abovyan Street for a spending spree. Began by buying things that weren’t on the list: a scarf for wearing when I go to religious sites - will be particularly good when I go to Istanbul and a bag, On Abovyan Street before reaching the circular park found Adele’s where I bought some bars of handmade soap.

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Jengylov Hats

It was now lunchtime and realised I was near the cafe that sold Jengylov hats - a flat bread stuffed with herbs and greens. The sign for the place is in Armenian but I recognised it from when I went with Hasmik 9 years ago. It’s very popular and does a brisk business. There is no menu as that’s all they sell. I ordered two, one to eat and one to take away. They are pretty filling. I’ll definitely buy one from the market in Stepanakert when I’m there. Apparently that’s their regional dish.

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A walk in the park

Walked through Poplavok Park which is part of the circular park that stretches from the cascades in the north of the city to st Gregory the Illuminator in the south. There is a small man made lake with pedalos and amusement park. Schools finish around 1pm so there were already families taking advantage of the amenities.

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It was Independence Day the next day and flags were appearing everywhere around the town.

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Body lotion purchase fail

Walked back along Mashtots in a fruitless search for body lotion. All the labels are in Armenian or Russian and not all shop assistants can speak English. Thought I’d look up the Armenian words for body lotion and try again over the next few days. Too tired to traipse around Kond, I settled in for the night, particularly as I had to pack. Being in an apartment has meant that my belongings are all over the place so I needed to take time to make sure that nothing is missed.

Posted by Cath_Greig 20:58 Archived in Armenia Tagged parks shopping coffee yerevan Comments (0)

Day twenty-four - visiting friends

Thursday 20 September 2019

sunny 30 °C

Planning my route

I’d been invited to lunch by a friend who lives north of Yerevan’s Victory Park. I was going to get a taxi but looking at the map, her apartment looked as if it was within walking distance if taken in stages. It was going to be another hot day so thought I’d take my time. First stop was the Santafe cafe near the Cascade Complex for a coffee and violet lemonade. Although I always carry water it‘s good to keep the fluids up.

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The price of coffee

On the subject of coffee - I have found the prices range widely from 350 to 1,200 drams. The cheapest so far has been at Marilda’s, a locals cafe, with the Marriott being the most expensive. The cafes near the tourist attractions are generally around 800-900 dram.

The Cascades Monument

I chickened out of walking up the Cascades and took the escalators so that I only had to walk a short distance to the top. It was already 26C and I still had quite a lot of walking to do. There is a walkway at the top of the completed cascades that leads to the Charles Aznavour museum,. And from there, you can walk up the road to another viewing platform and monument. Between the Cascades and this viewpoint, unfinished building works can be seen which, I assume, have halted due to lack of funds.

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There is a much better view of the city from the platform - I’m not sure why I’ve never been up to it before. Next to the monument there’s a building which has no signage but Armenian writing on it. Apparently it’s a memorial to those who died during the Stalin years. Close by was a group of strange statues/artwork - not sure how to describe them. They look as if they might be scenes from children’s stories but they are quite random and verging on the bizarre.

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Victory Park

I’d been worried about crossing the road to get to Victory Park but there was an underground pedestrian way right by the gates. Last time I came here was 9 years ago when we went on the Ferris Wheel and rowed round the lake. It’s a sizeable amusement park - lots of children’s rides - too numerous to mention. There are also a lot of minion themed attractions like the bouncy castle and inflatable slides so they must be big here, too.

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Close by the Ferris wheel is the Mother Armenia monument. It’s a pretty impressive statue with a military museum at the bottom and tanks and other military stuff outside - none of which has any interest for me. There are also great views over the city from this vantage point but it was far too hazy to see Ararat.

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To get my bearings, I walked down to the lake as I hoped there would be an exit onto Azatutyan street as I needed to walk up there to meet my friend Hasmik. It was time to rehydrate so stopped at the Venice cafe near the lake to rest in the shade and enjoyed a refreshing mint and thyme tea. I gave myself 20 minutes to walk up the hill. By this time it was over 30C so quite a slog. I’d under-estimated the time needed to get to the meeting place. it was hot and the road on a slight incline. I had to quicken the pace but as I neared our meeting point, I felt a tap on my shoulder a& there was Hasmik.

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Time with friends

I spent a fun afternoon with Hasmik’s family. Her sister, who had organised our last two visits for us, was there with her three children - all of whom are under four. They are quite a handful, bursting with energy. Hasmik had made some great food. She is experimenting with different dishes and her sweet/sour plums with cheese were delicious. Boiled eggs stuffed with walnuts, eggplant salad as well as red pepper and parsley salad together with bread. Needless to say, there was also cake - Armenians like desserts. Fruit, too. We also had a couple of glasses of Armenian muscat wine which made me sleepy as I don’t normally drink in the day.

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The entrance to the apartment is quite shabby, like most Armenian blocks. However, inside it was very spacious and light. Hasmik herself had redesigned the layout and decor. She’s done a good job.

Wending my way back home

As evening came Hasmik had to go to work so she gave me a lift to the top of the Cascades. I don’t know how anyone can drive in the city - it’s like a race track with a dog eat dog mentality. Driving around cities like London feels like a walk in the park in comparison. It was nice strolling back as the air cooled. Although it was a silhouette, Ararat looked particularly close in the fading light. I walked back via Moskovyan then cut down Aram Street, through the park. Lots of families out and about, watching the water fountains and enjoying the cooler air.

Although I wasn’t particularly hungry, I ate a few leftovers, had a beer and carried on reading my historical novel, by C J Samson. I can’t help thinking that UK remainers could take a leaf out of the Kett uprising in Norwich and organise something similar. I’m trying not to get too depressed about what is happening in the UK at the moment, otherwise I just won’t be able to sleep.

Posted by Cath_Greig 07:52 Archived in Armenia Tagged food friends coffee cascades yerevan Comments (0)

Day twenty - heading for the Cascades

Sunday 15 September 2019

26 °C

The Cascade Complex

I started by exploring close to the apartment. It’s within a complex of houses bordered by Mashtots, Zakyan, Khorenatsi and Grigor Lusavorich Streets. It isn’t in the heart of the tourist area so feels more local. Everything I need is within the vicinity including an excellent fruit shop two minutes away. Although I got up a bit later than planned, my first tourist destination was the Cascades, probably my favourite part of the city. On the way I found a group of statues commemorating four Armenian actors who starred in a popular comedy “The Men”. There are lots of statues in Yerevan.

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Lots of public art

I’m not sure how many steps there are in the Cascades but it’s a long way to the top with minimal shade. The views of the city, and if you are lucky, Mount Ararat, are well worth the clamber up. Within the Cascades is the Cafesjian Centre for the Arts that houses art works from a variety of artists, mainly international. For those that can’t make it up the exterior steps to the top, there is an escalator inside that takes you most of the way up. A treasure trove of Contemporary art can be seen as you travel up the escalator and can also been seen in the gardens at the bottom. All of this is completely free but the shop and internal galleries are only open Friday to Sunday.

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Healthy Lunch

Although I’d made myself a coffee in the morning at the apartment, I needed to have another and found the Kaziriok cafe serving good coffee in the cutest cups. Next stop was lunch - I had a list of ‘go to’ places recommended by my niece Elly but today I wanted to try the Eat, Fit cafe on Aram Street. It was so on trend, it even listed the amount of calories on the menu. I had buckwheat noodles with avocado which was totally delicious, together with a cooling mint lemonade.

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Running out of steam

I intended to try and get to the Children’s Railway via the underground tunnel at the end of Aram Street. The whole area looked pretty abandoned and one tunnel was blocked off. I decided to find out a bit more about it first before venturing any further. The nearby park had some public art - objects and statues covered in what looked like AstroTurf.

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As I was still recovering from the train journey and the heat, I went for a siesta and then ventured out later to get some salads from the deli at the SAS supermarket for my evening meal. I realised that it was my third day of no alcohol so promised myself that I would get some beer or have a glass of wine at the local wine bar. But not today - a catch up on my book and more sleep were top of my to do list. As I settled down a storm that had been brewing all day, erupted with rain, thunder and lightening. Didn’t disturb me when I went to bed though.

Posted by Cath_Greig 09:44 Archived in Armenia Tagged food statues coffee cascades yerevan cafesjian Comments (0)

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