kshandra: jointed teddy bear, standing upright, wearing a faux-leather flying helmet and jacket, goggles, and "silk" scarf (Aviator)
A friend of mine is putting together a fundraiser for his daughter's health expenses, and I pulled up our link in the process of giving him some pointers.

Over eight months after the trip - a year after winding up our efforts - we are still the 11th most-funded campaign in the Celebrations category.

We will be talking about this trip for the rest of our lives...and we have all of you to thank for it.
kshandra: jointed teddy bear, standing upright, wearing a faux-leather flying helmet and jacket, goggles, and "silk" scarf (Aviator)
Yes, I'm copping out on serious content again today, but [personal profile] gridlore and I FINALLY sat down today to work on getting the rest of our photos from Istanbul labeled properly. (We also did some fairly major [for us, anyway] cleaning in the living room, which has me disinterested in doing much of anything else tonight.) We made it through almost all of Page 1 of the album, stopping with the last of the Miniaturk photos because the words were all starting to swim in front of him.

Looking through the photos gave us the opportunity to enthuse once more over just how much fun the park was. "It was like we spent an entire year in the country," Doug said at one point.

God, I wanna go back.
kshandra: jointed teddy bear, standing upright, wearing a faux-leather flying helmet and jacket, goggles, and "silk" scarf (Aviator)
Today's post comes courtesy of [personal profile] lilalanor: "Maybe your favourite photos you took in Turkey and why? (I am always here for people explaining beloved travel photos I don't know)"

I am hoping to actually get my act together enough to post more reflections on the trip as a whole this month, using the postcards we sent home as a rough outline, but I'll start with this.

Our first full day in Istanbul, we took the Big Bus Golden Horn route. One of the stops listed on the route was a place called Miniaturk. We weren't entirely sure what the appeal of a scale-model version of Istanbul was supposed to be when we had the opportunity to see the real thing, but we figured it'd be a good place to get off the bus for a while.

This place was incredible. Each of the models has a barcode reader on a stand next to it; you are handed a card coded for your preferred language along with your ticket, and the reader spits out a prerecorded history of the landmark in question. The model of Ataturk Olympic Stadium had buttons you could push to play the fight songs for the Big Three (none of whom call the stadium home, but that's beside the point). The airport model has an Airbus 321 that taxis around the tarmac. The park doesn't limit itself to Istanbul, either, with models of famous landmarks throughout the region. (In this video of the Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia, you can hear the recordings I was talking about.)

We were easily there for three hours, and would have stayed longer if we'd been able to figure out the cafeteria, but we were still getting the hang of the local currency. We kept saying to each other "Okay, we'll look at this one last thing and then head for the bus stop," then turning the corner and shouting "OMG look what's over there!"

We were helpers!

And then there were the kids...

We were approached by two different groups of 10-11 year olds, the girls in this photo and a group of boys. They were working on an assignment for their English class and had to ask tourists about their stay in the country. They were absolutely charming, and their collective grasp of the language was almost embarrassing to me. I sure as hell wasn't fluent in a language that had almost no commonalities with my native tongue at that age!

[personal profile] gridlore and I have been fantasizing about going back to Istanbul almost since we got off the plane at SFO; we had just gotten really good at the city when it was time to come home. And we've been escaping into that fantasy more and more as we get closer to Election Day, pricing out airfare and hotels (we've found an adorable boutique hotel for half of what we paid for the big-name chain we stayed at in April). Short of a lottery win, it ain't gonna happen, but if it does, we are devoting a full day to Miniaturk.
kshandra: Close-up of a single lit candle against a black background (Candle)
I still owe people a proper write-up of our trip. This is not that post.

[personal profile] gridlore and I had a delightful experience with a Taksi driver on our last day in Istanbul. We got in his cab at the Military Museum on the "new city" side of the Galata Bridge, hoping to be taken to the Mosaic Museum in the old city. He had almost no English and did not recognize the location we were asking for. We stumbled through a few options before finally settling on Ayasofya (which was within walking distance).

Our driver was about as unfamiliar with the Old City as some of my former SuperShuttle co-workers were with the SF Peninsula, and took us on a hysterical tour of smaller and smaller streets winding our way up from the coastline, with him occasionally stopping to stick his head out the window and ask for directions from passersby. We wound up down a short hill from the Imperial Gate to Topkapi Palace, located on the back side of Ayasofya. He actually took less than the fare posted on the meter (I think because he didn't want to fuss with making change), we thanked him, and we made our way up the hill.

I find myself wishing we'd taken his picture. I'm hoping it wasn't Erol, or Mustafa.

http://bianet.org/english/people/176372-stories-of-those-who-lost-their-lives-in-ataturk-airport-attack
kshandra: Animated: Film-style countdown clock, indicating "Next Mood Swing in 3...2...1..." (Mood Swing)
Talk of mental health and eating habits behind the cut )
I still owe folks an actual post about the trip; our postcards have finally started arriving (postmarked 2 May - our own fault for asking the front desk to send them rather than finding the post office, which was apparently right by the Ayasofya), and once I've got them all back and in order, I'll be able to order my thoughts a little better.
kshandra: (Wedding)
It's going to be at least another week or so before Doug gets them all rotated and annotated properly, but the raw collection is here. Enjoy!
kshandra: Cartoon: Garfield face-down in his cat bed, a single Z in a word balloon over his head (Z)
[personal profile] gridlore and I are home again, after an amazing week in an amazing city. There will be stories and photos to follow, but at the moment I have been awake for 24 hours, and need to stuff food in my mouth before I crash and burn.

Thank you all, again, for making this dream come true.
kshandra: (Wedding)
"There comes a point past panic," a friend of a friend once said, "where all you can do is turn the ignition." They were talking about BurningMan prep, but it seems equally apropos here.

Our bags are packed, inventoried, and ready to be locked down for transit. Tomorrow's outfits are picked out and ready to go. We're both freshly shorn; I even had time to get my nails done.

The author's hand, holding a passport, modeling a fresh set of Jamberry nail wraps
Jamberry nail wraps in Boysenberry and Passport[retired].

We are less than 24 hours from our scheduled departure time.

Let's do this.
kshandra: Sinfest character Slick sits at his laptop, poking the keyboard; the words "refresh refresh refresh" hover over his head (5-Minute-Refresh)


An excellent overview with minimal voiceover (not least because half the video was shot on the sly). His comments about the lack of adjustments on the seat are things I've heard before; he's got nothing nice to say about the food, but this is still better than anything I've ever had set in front of me at 30,000ft. (And hallelujah, he showed us the lavatory. That was one of my biggest concerns, no pun intended.)

I'm still trying to decide whether or not the forward/down camera on the video display is helping with the panic dreams I've started to have. I'd really like my pre-9/11 love of flying back now, kthxbai.
kshandra: jointed teddy bear, standing upright, wearing a faux-leather flying helmet and jacket, goggles, and "silk" scarf (Aviator)
I took Friday off from work so [personal profile] gridlore and I could run some travel-related errands during business hours. Our first stop was the travel desk of our local AAA office, where we were able to book a 7-day tourist pass that covers a good 2/3 of the things we wanted to do, including the Big Bus Tour, a hammam visit (Galatasaray, rather than Hurrem Sultan, but that's a minor quibble), a Bosphorus dinner cruise, and admission to both the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace. We also booked our transportation from the airport to our hotel and a day trip to the Princes' Islands. Anything else we want to do on the trip we can probably leave in the hands of the hotel concierge at this point.

From there, it was up to SFO; I'd found an ad on FB that was offering a "summer pass" for Clear, and we needed to go do our biometric scanning to complete the registration process. It took a while to figure out where we actually needed to be - the Info Desk was less than helpful, and we initially wound up at the TSA Pre-Check office, not realizing (as is apparently true for most folks) that they are separate programs - but once we were there, the process was simple, and the staffer we worked with was great. (As an added bonus, Clear also operates at AT&T Park, and our passes will cover the one Giants game we're going to make it to this year.)

Once we were done with that, we headed over to the ticketing counter for Turkish Airlines; the one thing I hadn't been able to do online was book our seat assignments, and since we were in the building anyway, I figured doing it f2f wasn't going to hurt matters any. We have the same seats for both flights: 7A-B, which don't get great reviews on SeatGuru, but even a bad seat in Business Class will be better than anything in Economy. (And as Doug noted on FB, we live next to a railroad track, so it can't be any worse than that.)

Five weeks. Now is a perfectly good time to panic. ;-)
kshandra: Animated text: Closing paragraph from the 01/08/11 Special Comment - icon made with http://wigflip.com/minifesto (Default)
There were many reasons [personal profile] gridlore and I budgeted for business class seats when we set up this campaign. While others were more important, this was definitely on the list.

https://medium.com/@thefatshadow/what-it-s-like-to-be-that-fat-person-sitting-next-to-you-on-the-plane-85006e263778#.3v7yh1uw2
kshandra: Rich Uncle Pennybags, pockets turned out and palms upturned, over a background of Monopoly money (Broke)
I placed an order with our bank for a supply of Turkish Lira - we'll be charging most of our purchases to the debit card, but having cash on hand for tipping housekeeping at the hotel, etc. is always a good thing. They called this afternoon, and I'll be able to pick it up tomorrow.

EDIT: I found out from the bank when I went to pick up the money that there's a 3.8% surcharge on foreign-currency debit transactions, vs. a $5 flat fee for using a foreign-currency ATM. Looks like I'll be getting to know where the nearest bancomat is.

Stock photo of Turkish Lira, showing a fan of bills in 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 denominations, plus coins in .05, .10, .25, .50, and 1 denominations.

"We need to visit more places with pretty money," says [personal profile] gridlore.
kshandra: (Wedding)
Istanbul at sunset, as seen from the water, with Galata Tower in the distance

A generous benefactor has made up the last not-quite-$300 to get us to our $12,500 goal (the $8,500 you see on the site, plus the $4,000 contribution from my employer).

Our flight leaves in 81 days.

This is really happening, and I will NEVER have the words to thank you all.
kshandra: (Wedding)
Folks, this is it. The last time we're going to bug you about our trip to Istanbul. We've decided to make December 31st the day we stop pimping the trip, and start focusing on going.

Thanks to your amazing generosity, and with the boost from EarthBaby, we've raised a stunning $11,640. We're just $860 from reaching a goal that frankly scared the hell out of us when we started this thing. Because of you, we have already purchased:



In the coming weeks, we'll be booking tours and dinner cruise reservations, getting our visas, and doing the eight million last-second things that this trip requires. [personal profile] gridlore is actually upset that 2016 is a leap year, because it means waiting one more day.

But we want to end this year's fundraising with a bang. If everyone reading this gives just a little - ten bucks, five, even a dollar - we can meet the goal and be secure in the knowledge that we are paid for.

So ring that bell a few more times before we ring in the new year.

Thanks again to all of you for making this happen. Doug is getting to see a place he's dreamed of since childhood, we're both getting an amazing 25th anniversary trip, and you will get a ton of photos.
kshandra: jointed teddy bear, standing upright, wearing a faux-leather flying helmet and jacket, goggles, and "silk" scarf (Aviator)
The Süleymaniye Mosque (as featured in our cover photo) has been near the top of our to-see list for as long as we've been planning this trip. But while this may have been the final resting place of Suleiman the Magnificent, it was not his only resting place. Though his body was returned to Constantinople, historians believe that his heart and other internal organs were buried at the site of the battle where he was killed, in a tomb erected on the site where his tent had stood.

And now, there is evidence that the lost tomb of Suleiman has been found. (No, we will not be planning a second trip to Hungary, much to [personal profile] gridlore's disappointment.)

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/dec/09/suleiman-the-magnificent-tomb-hungary
kshandra: Rich Uncle Pennybags, pockets turned out and palms upturned, over a background of Monopoly money (Broke)
back-dated, as I apparently failed to crosspost this originally

So Douglas and I spent our Giving Tuesday giving several hundred dollars to AAA, paying for our travel insurance. (That rush of air you feel is my mother-in-law heaving a sigh of relief.) Our three biggest expenses are now paid in full...with five months left to go before our trip. There aren't words to express what a relief that is.

We would love to be able to close out 2015 knowing that we have reached our goal. If 35 people give just $25 each between now and the end of the year, we can do that.

https://www.generosity.com/celebration-fundraising/douglas-kirsten-in-istanbul-the-queen-of-cities/x/1033705
kshandra: jointed teddy bear, standing upright, wearing a faux-leather flying helmet and jacket, goggles, and "silk" scarf (Aviator)
Things have been a little quiet on the fundraiser front lately, due to the accident and associated hassles getting in the way of making regular updates. But while we may have the two biggest hurdles cleared, we still haven't quite reached our goal. It's absolutely within our reach, though. [personal profile] gridlore just did the math, and if we can clear just $70 a week in donations between now and the end of March, we're there. And our average contribution has actually gone up since the last time I checked - from $93 to $98.

So let's talk a little about what the rest of that money covers. Those of you who follow Doug on Facebook may have seen his post about The Big Bus, a hop-on, hop-off double decker tour bus operating two different routes in Istanbul. The Red Route crosses the Bosphorus Bridge connecting Europe and Asia (did you know that Istanbul spans two continents?) and takes us past such sites as Galata Tower, Dolmabahçe Palace, Taksim Square and Beylerbeyi Palace; the Blue Route takes us around the top of the Golden Horn, passing Miniatürk, the Dolphinarium, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the cast-iron Church of St Stephen of the Bulgars. Both routes begin and end in Sultanahmet, just a quick tram ride away from our hotel. And a 48-hour pass, allowing us to do the Red Route one day and the Blue Route on the next, is €40 per person - less if we book them online.

All aboard!

banner from the Big Bus Tours Istanbul site, featuring several of the landmarks seen from the tour

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kshandra: Animated text: Closing paragraph from the 01/08/11 Special Comment - icon made with http://wigflip.com/minifesto (Default)
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