Christmas in Italy

The view from Clare's apartment is stunning!

We had a wonderful Christmas in Italy with our daughter, Clare and family. It was such fun, although the time flew by so quickly that it seemed no time before we were back in Istanbul again!

We all wore Venetian masks while we opened our presents.
Clare and Jessica looked particularly fetching!

Reg kept us amused with his party popper...

...which Hugo found quite fascinating/

David wore his cashmere scarf (a present from Santa)...

...while Clare poured the champagne.

We had Christmas day lunch at Laguna Blu, our favourite restaurant,
where Santa was waiting to greet us.

As we entered the restaurant, we came across this Nativity Scene,
made entirely form pizza dough.

Our table was by the window...

,,,and this was the view outside. How wonderful was that?
It makes me smile just to see it again.

David and Jessica poured over the menu to see what delights we had in store.

The meal began with an aperitivo (non alcoholic for the young people)...

...and finished (after 5 more courses) with traditional pandoro and panettone with cream

There was definitely no room for supper that evening after such a gargantuan meal!

We have always enjoyed eating at Bistrot Laguna Blu, every time we visit Clare. Here is a video I made last summer, which shows the restaurant and its surroundings. Enjoy!

by Elizabeth Coughlan


Mary and Annette visit Istanbul

Mary and Annette next to the stunning view from the Topkapi Palace

It's very easy to show visitors a good time in Istanbul, as Mary and Annette discovered. Fortunately they were blessed with good weather, and were able to see the city at its best. Of course, we just had to do the tourist bit and see the major sights, like Topkapi, Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern and so on, but we managed to get in a fair bit of shopping too!

Scarves are a must-buy when you visit the Grand Bazaar. Mary and Annette also had a lesson
there in how to drape a scarf to the best effect

They took lots of photos of their trip. Here, Mary is photographing the Bosphorus
from the roof of the Buyuk Valide Han

Mary and Annette comparing photos as they ride in a ferry

We visited the Sali Pazar (Tuesday Bazaar), which is always a fun thing to do,
especially if you love shopping!

We just couldn't believe the size of these cabbages this man was selling!

One of our outings was to Buyukada (the Big Island). Annette loved these
typically Turkish covered benches in this cafe...

...and we thought Mary should have her picture taken here, too!

We took a drive in a carriage....

...and walked through the forest 

But Mary thought she needed an extra workout!

I had lots of fun showing Mary and Annette around Istanbul, and I am sure they had fun too! I do hope they get to visit again!

by Elizabeth Coughlan


The Museum of Innocence, Çukurcuma, Istanbul

Some of our group in the museum, listening intently to the narrative

The Museum of Innocence in the Çukurcuma district of Istanbul, is the result of an extraordinary concept by the writer Orhan Pamuk. The museum contains items from upper-class Istanbul life from the 1970s to the early 2000s, which Pamuk began collecting, before he wrote his novel, "The Museum of Innocence", around them.

The story is about Kemal Basmaci, and his 40-year obsession with his distant cousin, Fusun, beginning in 1975, even though he was already engaged to Sybel. The museum is fascinating, whether one has read the novel or not. Although, when visiting, it is wise to hire the audio, to give more meaning to the exhibits.

The numbers on the cases, indicate the chapter number in the book that mentions the objects inside.

This is a picture of the old Istanbul streets, that Kemal wandered, tormented by his love of Fusun. 
And the room key, and reception bell from the hotel he stayed in, when running away from Sybel. (Chapter 44)

Here is a tin spoon that Fusun had toyed with in her mouth... Fusun's half eaten cone, that Kemal pocketed when she dropped it on the ground... one of his dear departed father's shoes... a stuffed mussle, like the ones they ate together, next to some cinnamon that the chef told them was an essential ingredient... a salt shaker Fusun had picked up... and an invitation to a party
(Chapter 51)

Chapter 73, Fusun's Driving Licence
Here Kemal remembers teaching Fusun to drive, and everything about her from that time
 ...what she wore ...what she touched ...how she looked.

Kemal's bedroom, where he supposedly ended his days, narrating his story to Orhan Pamuk

Is this all pure fiction, or is there some semblance of truth? Who knows, except Pamuk himself? But there is one enigmatic notice on the bedroom wall.

Although you need to visit Istanbul to see the Museum of Innocence, you can, at least, read the story of this obsessive, compulsive relationship, as conceived by Orhan Pamuk.

by Elizabeth Coughlan


Tiger Fishing on the Zambezi, Zimbabwe

The brothers: from the left, Paddy David, Martin, Terry, and in front, Tim.

While I was visiting Jane and family in South Africa, David was fishing on the Zambezi with his brothers. This is an annual event, where they get together to enjoy each others' company in this unique environment; spending their days on the river, and their nights at the luxury Chikwenya Safari Lodge, on the edge of the World Heritage Mana Pools.

Each day, after an early 6am breakfast, they headed for the boat...

...and readied themselves for the day ahead

One day, Tim caught a huge tiger fish...

...but on another day, he wasn't so lucky

Here is one David caught

As their boat drifted on the current, they saw game, 
like this herd of elephant on the bank...

...and some fairly close, when they came to the river to drink...

...or even closer, when this hippo galloped by!

The long days often took their toll...

...but they arrived back, as the sun was setting...

...and enjoyed a hearty meal at the end of each happy day.

Images by David Coughlan

by Elizabeth Coughlan


Makaranga Botanical Gardens, Kloof, KZN, South Africa

Shannon and Jordan at the beginning of our walk.
Fortunately, it had stopped raining.

Strolling through the lush, green Makaranga Botanical Gardens, provides a wonderful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. It is hard to believe that this peaceful paradise in Kloof, KZN, can be found just a stone's throw from a major highway, near to the city of Durban.

The picturesque waterfall

The lily pond in the Japanese garden

We saw an impressive collection of both indigenous and exotic trees, as well as many species of Orchid, Camellia and Rhododendron. There are stretches of perfectly manicured lawns, 18 different ponds, a pretty waterfall that runs into a small stream, and magnificent Japanese gardens complete with bridges, lanterns, and walkways among the tall trees and exotic plants.

Hand-carved stone statues are scattered throughout the gardens, 
many of them by Zimbabwean artists. 
Not surprisingly, as Makaranga is the name of a tribe in Zimbabwe.

Shannon and Jordan had fun following the paths of the maze

Shannon by another lily pond. This one was full of Koi

Exotic foliage, reflected in a pond

Jane on a bridge in the Japanese garden

We rounded off our trip with a delicious lunch in the restaurant of the very popular Makaranga Garden Lodge. Despite the gloomy weather, we had a glorious day.

Elizabeth Coughlan

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