Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Photo Essay: Trekkıng through Turkey

In a small town Terry and I fınd the fırst ınternet"hotspot" after a week of walkıng. Our feet are sore but what we have seen and the people we have met have left us speechless. More storıes than I have tıme to type but I wıll leave you wıth a few photos. Tomorrow Terry heads back to Parıs as I push further ınto the uber wıld.
Terry takes a float/bath down the rıver.

Campıng along the rıver. 

A welcomed meal from a wonderful lady along the traıl.

Terry defends camp from the goats. 

Chaı tea. Every meal ıncludes an endless flow of smıles and chaı tea. 

Makıng our way "ınto the über wıld..."

Harvestıng wheat the old school way... under a blazıng sun

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Turkey has landed

A vıew of the harbor from Old Cıty ın Antalya. 

Six years ago İ bought a guıde book that covered a 300 mıle trek startıng near Antalya, Turkey. After a long waıt İ am fınally realızıng that goal. Tomorrow I head for the mountaıns, for the unknown, long days spent campıng and hıkıng through the hılls, valleys, and mountaıns of southcentral Turkey.

Kate Clow, author of my guıde book, takes tıme of her day to update my GPS wıth the most recent set of waypoınts. She has spent the better part of a decade settıng up long dıstance treks through Turkey.
Thıs ıs the fırst of what ı expect to be very few blog posts. For the next three/four weeks I wıll be travelıng along ancıent roman roads, dırt paths, passıng through vıllages wıth populatıons that could fıt ın a suburban, drawıng water from wells that been hydratıng shepherds for centurıes. In thıs modern age Im goıng old school.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Give us your full 90 and then get pizza

In Italy the streets fall silent whenever the national football team plays. It seems every time I come to this country there is an important tournament taking place. This time it is the EURO CUP - a European tournament which is played every two years.

My friend Stella’s level of devotion for the national team, though not uncommon by Italian standards, is borderline scary. He starts getting nervous a few hours before the match. Like superman changing back to Clark Kent, Stella switches from lawyer to football fan (t-shirt, shorts, flipflops) in less than a minute and we immediately head for Fabio’s apartment, 1.5 blocks away. A brisk pace is set. I drop back, unable to maintain Stella’s speed.

Few words are exchanged as we enter the apartment heading directly for the sofa to watch the game. The next 90 minutes are a mix of Stella and his friends expressing anger, joy and disbelief at the game. There is also a wide array of hand gestures and facial expressions which I found somewhat comical to capture on camera.

“So what are we going to do for dinner?” I ask from the sideline.
“Buddy, you can’t ask me that right now.” Stella’s eyes stay locked on the screen. I feel almost shooed away as one does to a small child. I politely wait out the game. It ended in a 1-1 tie against Croatia.

Afterwards we went for pizza. It was delicious.

Turning on the charm in Turin

As someone who is not tall, nor wealthy, nor overtly charming I often wonder what life would feel like with these traits.

And so it was, as I walked the open air market around the corner from my friend’s apartment in Torino that I began to notice something wonderfully odd. 

I looked around and discovered that I towered over women. I noticed that whatever I wanted I bought. I told merchants to “keep the change”. I smiled at complete strangers with reckless abandon. I strolled from vendor to vendor, spouting bits of banter that captivated small crowds.

Had I slipped into some alternate reality where one’s “best self” resided in a parallel universe?

I was beside myself as I returned to the apartment, laid out the spread on the kitchen counter and waited for my friend to return home for lunch. I spent the few short moments before he would arrive lying down on the sofa reflecting on what had created this marketplace Übermensch in me.

1) The feeling of being "tall" - It is true. I was considerably taller than those in the market, especially compared to the average female height. But upon reflection I will admit most of the Italian women visiting the market were over the age of 75, many of whom were rapidly approaching the adorable dwarf like phase of their wonderfully long, joyous lives.

2) The feeling of being "wealthy" - Wealth is a rather subjective term, but applied in this scenario I did in fact feel extremely wealthy, as I knew the relative price of prosciutto crudo (dry-cured ham) in the States was much higher than the highest price in the market. I paid 4 euros for what would have cost 20 bucks in America, and the quality wouldn't have even been close. Furthermore, prices in general were shocking - 50cents for bread, 1 euro 30 for fruit. With only 50 euros I felt I was rolling deep.

3) The feeling of being "overtly charming" - for me, to be charming is to interact with ease in the most foreign of environments. With that as my definition I realized anyone in the market within earshot could tell "I wasn't from around these parts." Which worked in my favor as I could sense the level of captivation skyrocketed with both the merchant and the nonnas, or Italian grandmothers, as soon as I opened my month. With a simple "Sono Canadese" followed by a big smile at both the vendor and the surrounding strangers I felt supremely charming.

Was this single experience in the market an accurate representation of me being tall, wealthy and charming. You can make your own call. But getting those tiny old ladies to smile was like shooting fish in a barrel. That's enough proof for me.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Without gelato life would be a mistake

I nudge Friedrich Nietzsche with my elbow, taking care not to drop my cone. "Without gelato life would be a mistake!" I say laughing. A spin on his famous quote without music life would be a mistake.

He turns to me and replies in a thick German accent "Don't joke. You are not so funny." I look down and away, suppressing the urge to laugh again, this time at how his giant mustache has gelato stuck to it.

We leave Fiorio (a historic cafe dating back to 1780, where Nietzsche was known to frequent, often indulging in their famous gelato) for a stroll along Via Po under Torino's unique arcades (beautiful covered sidewalks that Mark Twain would later rave about) as the cobblestone streets are drenched with a sudden spring downpour.
Since arriving in Torino I've neglected all 'intellectual' attractions. Opting instead for long days touring the city by bike, searching for the best gelato. Of course the closest one can describe this treat to the western world would be to call it "ice cream". While that serves as a loose description, my taste buds can always tell whenever we're in Italy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Merci to Grazie in 5 hours

With the handoff of a tiny espresso inside a cafe called Teapot my voice spills out most of "Merci" before auto-correcting with a rather muffled version of "Grazie". I shake it off -you're not in France anymore- get your "thank you"s sorted.

Yesterday afternoon and 80€ later I found myself in a window seat getting shot out of a Paris station on a high speed TGV train bound for Torino. A five hour journey blew past a few mountain towns that brought back some fond memories of riding past those same villages on my old bike a few years earlier.

Popping out of the station in Torino I was greeted with a giant hug by my best friend Nicola Stella. Him and I have shared massive laughs for the last nine years. Having worked together at an international sports camp for children in Switzerland for several summers (and a few winters) our friendship grew out of all the crazy amounts of fun we had during those years.

I have always found him living with a few of his friends in some dusty, cramped apartment. But times have changed as I toured his beautiful new apartment on the top floor of a building dating back to 1861. Yes. 1861. Stripped down to the baseboards his fiancée, an extremely talented architect, designed the entire space.
Stella, with the glasses, Cristina and Guido
Dinner was classic Italian: Nothing fancy but absolutely amazing. Stella and Cristina's friend Guido joined us for dinner. Guido, a good friend of Cri's and Stella's is also a friend of mine.  Having infiltrated much of Stella's network of friends many years ago, I find myself with more friends in Italy than anywhere else in the world.

And then lunch this afternoon. Darting back on his bike from the court house (Stella's a lawyer) I joined him at the kitchen counter for some salad and a few slices of salami. There is something so beautifully simple with how Italians often return home to eat lunch. Making and sharing a meal among friends.
Lunch is full of laughs and lots of catching up when our conversation takes a comical turn on rather serious subject. I ask if the cheese we are eating is Parmesan. Which then sparks Stella to tell me him and Cri have ordered a big piece of Parmesan cheese to "help out" those who were victims of the recent earthquake near Bologna. "You what?" I said perplexed. "We bought a big piece of Parmesan because that's the region where this type of cheese is from and the buildings and farms who produce the cheese have been so badly damaged that it was advertised as a way to help raise money and not let the cheese go to waste." I laughed, then he laughed. Only in Italy would buying insufficiently aged Parmesan be considered a humanitarian act.

One of many things I have come to appreciate is how traveling provides time/space to recognize the natural flow of life with increased clarity. Almost like a magical cadence, life is ever so briefly exposed not as a complete masterpiece but rather single short brush strokes, a massive series of unique moments created in partnership by the individual and the world that surrounds them. Moments when life feels like one's existence is moving in harmony with this infinitely complex world.

But that might just be the espresso talking.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Photo Essay: The past few days in paris

A 40 minute train ride south of Paris takes you to Fontainebleau; a massive forest with some of the world's best bouldering. Best explored on a (rented) Mountain Bike.

Taking a moment to imagine one of the three Musketeers storming across the bridge to find the other two laughing and drinking at a corner bar down the street from Notre Dame.

Just the usual scene outside the world's greatest bookshop.

Crossing the Seine at sunset

Longboarding in front of the Louvre

Friday, June 8, 2012

Trekking with Terry through Turkey will be a treat

Terry hard at work at the Shakespeare&Co bookshop
Seated on a couch in an apartment in the 10th arrondissement in Paris I'm surrounded by stacks of books, a few Virginia Woolf first editions on the shelf to my left and a first edition of "Hells Angels" by HST in the drawer next to my backpack. 

Just then I hear Terry shout "Oh my god Cara, there's a coriander seed starting to grow in this pot!". This, mind you, is the same philosophizing marital arts master who damn near dropped a drunkard into the Seine the night prior for grabbing at his beard. 

Terry, originally from England, is a right good laugh with a monster appetite for "air fighting", reading, writing, chess and capoeira. I'm very much looking forward to having him spin his unique web of wisdom and humor for the two weeks he is joining me along a 300 mile trek through Turkey.
Tucked deep inside the city of Paris is a secret "St Paul Trail" training camp.
The other day Terry arrived back at the apartment with what can best be described as a Lawrence of Arabia headdress. This single act of purchasing such an impractical item for our trek is the most symbolic representation as to why I was more than happy to have him join me on this journey into the unknown.

I'm forever thankful for the friends I made while staying at Shakespeare and Co when I came to Paris over a year and a half ago. During that time Terry and I became quick friends, which is why, for the last few days since I arrived in Paris, I haven't stopped laughing with Terry and his girlfriend Cara who have so graciously provided a place for me to crash.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Looking to get lost

Often times the guide on my two week mountaineering course would serve up the same sentence whenever questioned about our whereabouts. Before finding our location on the map he would turn to us and say in his deep drill sergeant tone "You're not lost if you don't care where you are!"

I now find that whimsical logic better applied to spring time on the streets of Paris than finding our way back to basecamp in the middle of the wild. In all my travels I'm rarely so excited to start my day with a long string of left and right turns and not really care where I end up by the day's end. And that's exactly how I spent my first day among these storybook streets.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Photo essay: Philadelphia & New York City

Stepping outside my sister's apartment in Philly always has me thinking I'm going to bump into Ben Franklin or Betsy Ross (who's home is preserved just down the street).
Watching the storm roll in from the roof top.
Kids making the best of a hot day in Philly.
Capturing the quintessential "Rocky" pose next to the "Rocky" statue which is next to the "Rocky" Steps

In a quaint Brooklyn apartment I shared a wonderful meal with some old friends.
Walking The High Line in Manhattan. An elevated public park built on a historic freight rail line.
Knocking back a few "lights" and "darks" at McSorleys. With the tag line"We were here before you were born" McSorley's is known as the oldest bar in NYC.
One of several "only in NYC" moments. Why do I get the feeling this guy is getting a discount on his tattoo.

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