Monday, November 19, 2012

22. Good Beer. Finally!

Turkey is not a beer culture. This is very sad news for Americans with a definite preference for good craft brews. The national brand, Efes, puts one in mind of Budweiser. And, adding insult to injury, their idea of dark is not dark at all. Sigh.

This is what dark should look like!
Instead, the famous local anis drink "Rakı" is widely consumed. The Rakı culture involves sitting for long hours at the dinner table, eating mezes, and chatting away the evening. While many people prefer Rakı, wine is also famous in Turkey. The local wine production in northwest and mid Anatolia is worth mentioning.

meze [ˈmɛzɛ]
(Cookery) a type of hors d'oeuvre eaten esp with an apéritif or other drink in Greece and the Near East
[from Turkish meze snack, appetizer]

These things do not help beer lovers! While we were told about a couple of other breweries in the city, they fell far short of the amazing local beers we had come to love in the greater D.C. area. Until now! This past week, The Bosphorous Brewing Co. became fully operational--boasting an opening with 400 people rotating in and out of the pub.

While we weren't there for the grand unveiling, we did tuck in both Friday and Saturday nights for taste testing (hubster) and a glass or eight of imperial stout (me). So delicious! Owned and operated by a proper Brit, his business partners, and family: The BBC is our new "local," and we couldn't be happier!

Stay tuned for more of our adventures in the neighborhood of Gayrettepe! xx

Sunday, November 11, 2012

21. Happy 237th Birthday, USMC!

New earrings bought in Malta,
a sparkly headband for the shorty-short 'do,
and Mike's new tie from M&S.
My first Marine Corps Ball : Istanbul, Turkey 2012.

On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Since that date, many thousands have borne the name Marine. In memory of them, it's fitting that the Marines commemorate the birthday of the corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

The Marine Corps has a long history of cooperation with the Dept. of State, going back to the early days of the United States. Marines have served many times on special missions as couriers, guards for embassies and legations, and to protect American citizens in unsettled areas.

The formal and permanent use of Marines as security guards began with the Foreign Service Act of 1946, which authorized the Secretary of the Navy to, upon request of the Secretary of State, assign Marines to serve as security guards under the supervision of the senior diplomatic officer at a diplomatic post. The Marine Security Guards (MSGs) number approximately 1,000 Marines at 51 posts (also known as "detachments"), organized into 9 regional MSG commands, and located in over 133 countries in 18 time zones--as well as its HQ at Marine Corps Base Quantico.
Guest of Honor: Consul General Scott Kilner
Guest Speaker: Major Tanya Murnock
Staff Sergeant: Adam Peerey
Fallen Soldier Table.
Remembering them honors their sacrifice
and that of their families—underscoring the importance
of the commitment to duty made by the living.
Each element on the table symbolizes something specific.
Formal ballroom decor. Pretty!
Our Marine Security Guard Detachment!
Bringing in the traditional cake.
Colors ceremony.
My friend Jelena sent a gnome with me on my travels.
Here he is with the evening's itinerary!
The first formal ball was celebrated in 1925, though no records exist that indicate the proceedings of that event. Birthday celebrations take varied forms and fall on different dates; most include dances, though some accounts from years past include mock battles, musical performances, pageants, and sporting events.

Our Ball was at Movenpark Hotel in the Levent area of Istanbul. It included speeches and video, dinner, dancing, drinking. It really was a good time, and a great chance for all the girls to get dressed up in their formal dresses, hair styles, makeup, etc.

Here we are!
Fabulous fabrics.
Stuart Weitzman sling-back heels. Wow!
Working up a sweat on the dance floor.
Our downstairs neighbors and consulate friends, Traci and Scott. 
Me and my girls: Katherine and Christy. xx

Friday, November 2, 2012

20. Malta, Part Deux

What to say about Malta? Well, it's very quiet there. Very. That meant forced R&R for me which is a good thing. For the hubster, it meant a little bit of boredom. Mr. Ants-in-his-pants definitely has trouble with couch potatoeing. (Yes, I made that up, but I'm sure it should be a phrase!) It's also peacefully quaint, slightly underdeveloped, and very yellow from the natural limestone quarried and used for all the buildings. It's a blend of shoreline, boating, beaches, agriculture, teeny tiny towns, and a lot of history.

Sailboats off Valletta.
Typical streetscape in Valletta.
Yep, this is what most of Malta looks like!
We loved the stone walls and garden gates.
There are several marinas around the island.
Steppes of farmland leading to the sea.

The lows: Never believe that 5-stars anywhere ever meets your American expectations. There may be situations where you are pleasantly surprised, but in my experience that is not the rule! The Phoenicia is definitely 1940s pretty with cheerful, good service but everything is just a bit tattered around the edges. And because it's old construction, there's little to buffer the city noise even in a sleepy, little country.

Oh, but we did have a beautiful view
from the back gardens of the hotel.
And a big, beautiful fountain out front in the roundabout.

Also, no one had told us that Valletta rolls up their sidewalks at 7 PM. Nor that this Roman Catholic country slows down to a crawl on Sundays. Luckily, we had already purchased our two half-day, open-air bus tours so we had sights to see outside the city!

I'm a sucker for a tour bus!
The highs: The Falconry Centre. We both love birds of prey. Especially the owls--but we really enjoy them all. Even the vultures have a certain charm. I held an owl, and Mike ran across the field with a fake rabbit to help teach a rehabilitating falcon how to hunt for himself in the wild. It was a happy highlight and a hands-on, sweet visit on our last afternoon in Malta.

Henry the barn owl. Light as a feather.
There were vultures, eagles, falcons ...
but owls are definitely our favorite!
Another high was the Lascaris War Rooms. We found it astounding that the refurbishing, running, and upkeep are all strictly dependent on public contributions and volunteers. It was a strange and eerie walk just trying to find this hidden space, but well worth the effort. And the hubster was in his WWII history-buff glory as we went room to room admiring the enormous maps and "futuristic" nature of the setup.

And we now know that the humble outside of St. John's Co-Cathedral hides a gorgeously appointed inside. We also learned that the "Co" in Co-Cathedral has to do with the Bishop having more than one chair in his diocese. Silly church rules or something like that!

All this gold makes me want to melt the church
for money to feed the poor!

The weather can't be beat. Even though it was at or near 80F most days, the Mediterranean breeze kept things cool during the daytime and wrap-worthy in the evening. This meant easy walking to various points of interest, picturesque bus tours, and lovely evenings spent on our balcony with a rotating and varied assortment of champagne, wine, beer, and cheese plates.

The children learn three languages in school: Maltese, English, and Italian. The people were warm and friendly. I wasn't sad at an overabundance of strays, instead I was happy to see just a random handful of marmalade kitties languishing in the sunshine. And the food was above average.

Our takeaway: we should stick with our usual big-city stays. We have never been a beach or resort kind of couple. We need pavement, lots of cafes and restaurant choices, museums, hustle and bustle, skyscrapers even! Having said that, we're delighted that we went. Not many have the geographic ease or WWII interest to be bothered with a little, far-off country like Malta. Now we can cross it off the bucket list! xx