In Turkey, the ritual of tea colors everyday life in ways not seen in many cultures. Sit down in a carpet shop with little likelihood of buying anything and tea will be served as long as you remain. Make a modest purchase in a shop—as I did in Bodrum when I bought three skirts for my wife and two daughters—and the owner will send out for tea, apple or black, your choice.
But I’d never seen or tasted “yellow tea,” served to us in a café seldom visited by tourists in the village of Bozalan. The men of the town had congregated there, as they no doubt do every day, and welcomed us to their fraternity. Continue reading »
An experience that’s hard to avoid in Turkey is a visit to a carpet shop. In heavily touristed areas the hustlers descend upon foreigners and seldom let go until the tourists are rounded up and brought to the shop. On our gulet cruise we were invited into a home, not by a hustler but by our ship’s captain, to see how carpets are woven and to get a glimpse into the lives of the people who produce them.
Carpet merchants from the cities know that the women of Bozalan make some of Turkey’s finest carpets, and they come regularly to buy finished carpets or place orders. The labor and skill involved in weaving these carpets staggers the imagination. Continue reading »
We were waiting on the dock at Oren for our dinghy to fetch us back to the Kaptan Sevket when Nicola asked Captain Mustafa about the sculpture of a dolphin with a child on its back high atop a pole there. Evidently there is a legend here, similar to the Greek Arion the Dolphin boy, that many years ago during a shipwreck dolphins appeared and rescued the children. The sculpture is there to remind the villagers of the kinship they have with dolphins.
It was a charming story and I thought little more of it until about an hour later when we were cruising toward our next anchorage. Suddenly Jennifer shrieked “Dolphin!” and Captain Mustafa dashed to starboard and up to the bow howling with joy. He grabbed a steel rod and began banging it against the anchor pulley and calling to them. One after the other they leapt out of the sea alongside us, a dozen or more sleek gray creatures arcing above the surface like dancers. We leaned over the rail, too awed to do more than shriek and wail. Continue reading »
The Aegean seaside town of Oren is not the sort of village that would register on the must-see lists of many travelers, but when our gulet dropped anchor there and we set out to explore we found a slice of Turkey as old as its traditions - with a modern overlay, of course, of cell phones and calculators and vehicles to transport goods. We arrived on a Wednesday, market day, when merchants from miles around roll in to sell their wares. And they sell just about everything: seasonal produce of all sorts, housewares, handcrafts, saddles for donkeys and cloths for the table, essential oils, farm goods, clothing. Continue reading »
When we dropped anchor in the harbor at Sedir Adasi, commonly known as Cleopatra’s Island, I expected to poke around the ruins of the Hellenic city, sink my toes in the famous sand found only here and in Egypt (from ground-up seashell, and according to local legend a place where Cleopatra and Anthony bathed on their honeymoon), and contemplate the Aegean Sea from an ancient stone wall before returning to the boat to swim. I did all of those things, but I was wholly unprepared for the sight that greeted me when I topped the rise of land protecting the modest dock, boardwalk and ticket shack where all visitors pay 10 Turkish lire (about $8) to set foot on the island. Continue reading »
I first heard about sailing along Turkey’s Turquoise Coast a few years ago when I read a story by San Francisco Chronicle Executive Travel Editor John Flinn, a story that was reprinted in Travelers’ Tales Turkey. From that moment on I wanted to do what he had done, and I had the opportunity in 2006. Setting sail in Gocek we meandered to Bodrum, stopping at the ancient city of Knidos and many other sites along the way. But once was not enough, so I returned in September, this time to explore Gorkova Bay in a loop out of Bodrum. Continue reading »
The 118 islands and atolls of French Polynesia are sprinkled across an expanse of South Pacific Ocean half the size of the United States. Most visitors use Air Tahiti to get around the territory’s five archipelagoes but it’s also possible to travel by boat. The wharves of Motu Uta in the capital city Papeete bustle with supply ships loading for Bora Bora, Rangiroa, Tubuai, and a host of other outer islands. Deck space is available on most vessels and fares are low thanks to French government subsidies. Service from Tahiti to the Leeward Islands of Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, and Bora Bora is three times a week on several different ships. I usually fly to Bora Bora the same day I arrive in French Polynesia and island hop my way back to Papeete by cargo boat.
Of course, there are also frequent tourist cruises from Tahiti to Bora Bora on luxury vessels such as the Paul Gauguin. In my opinion however, the most unforgettable cruise of them all is the 14-day voyage from Tahiti to the six inhabited islands of the Marquesas Islands aboard the passenger-carrying freighter Aranui. Continue reading »
Almost 30 years after my one and only Carnival Cruise I still have a twinge of guilt over the tip I left my waiter at the end of my week. I didn’t know at the time that waiters relied exclusively, or almost exclusively, on tips from their guests for their livelihoods. My guy was too overbearing for me, and when I gave him an envelope containing maybe half of what he expected he just about chased me off the ship. When I learned why he was so distraught it was too late to do anything about it. Now a new book, Cruise Confidential, brings it all back to me in living color (and then some). USA TODAY travel editor Chris Gray takes a look at it on The Cruise Log blog.