Tag Archive: family



Foça in August

Since our son gets a two week semester break at the end of January/beginning of February, we decided to rent a car and go explore the Aegean coast of Turkey.  I know, it’s not really the right time of the year to go to the seaside!  However, we wanted to scout out places for this summer.  We live in Antalya, which is brutally hot and humid during the summer, so we are looking for a place to spend our summers.  We had heard that the Aegean side of Turkey is hot, but not humid.


Foça in February

We visited Selçuk, Şirince, and Çeşme, but Eski Foça (Old Foça) won our hearts. Don’t confuse Eski Foça with Yeni Foça (New Foça), which is only 800 years old!


Selcuk: it best known for its ancient fortress and for being a base from which to see Ephesus.


Şirince, a charming Ottoman town which is famous for its wines and olive oil.


Çeşme is a popular vacation spot in summer.

When we came here to Foça in February, even with the cold, crisp air we fell under the spell of its charm.


Scroll down to find a photo of this same area in the summer.

We discovered that Eski Foça is a laid back Aegean seaside town with a great vibe.  There are no 5 star resorts, no buildings more than about three stories, and no pulsating night life, other than a few seaside bars with music. Just what the doctor ordered!


Phocaea (Foça’s ancient name) was known for its mariners, who founded colonies in Spain, Italy, and France while exploring countries around the Mediterranean and the Aegean. I was surprised to learn that Marseille was founded by the Greeks from ancient Phocaea!


There’s a picturesque harbor with a mix of colorful fishing boats; the occasional stork swimming by, dogs and cats enjoying the mild sunshine along with the humans.



Eski Foça is about an hour’s drive from Izmir, so the town fills up with people coming for the day, especially on the weekends. On mild winter weekdays, the evenings are quiet and tranquil. There’s a medium sized sandy beach nearby, with little cafes to get a bite to eat.


There are two bays; the bigger bay is home to many modern sailing yachts whereas the small bay is home to many quaint fishing boats.  In the summer there are many tourist boats that are ready to take you out on day trips as well as evening cruises.


We returned to Foça a week ago, and we are really enjoying the summer vibe!  The weather is absolutely PERFECT: sunny, warm, with a gentle breeze. We haven’t needed to use air conditioning; just a fan is sufficient.  Best of all, we can be out during the middle of the day without melting!  Knowing what our friends in Antalya are suffering with the humidity,  we especially appreciate these exquisite summer temperatures.


There are many seaside restaurants and cafes to choose from for the hungry humans. Don’t be surprised if the cats sit by your table and look at you pleadingly as you eat some fresh seafood!


You found the summer photo, congratulations! Notice the vines growing above.

Flowers and trees are booming, adding to the charm of this fun seaside town!


So, what’s the best way to get to Eski Foça? You can fly from Istanbul or anywhere in Turkey to Izmir.  Rent a car and you will be here in less than an hour.

Here are some websites with information about how to get to Eski Foça by public transportation:

Getting to Foça from the otogar (main bus station in Izmir)

Check below for information about taking the metro from the airport to Hatundere, which takes you most of the way to Eski Foça. We were told that you can take a dolmuş (minibus) from Hatundere to Eski Foça, or you can take a taxi.

Izmir Airport/metro info


However you get here, just GET HERE!  It’s a great getaway, and would be a terrific way to end a busy sightseeing trip of Turkey’s many amazing places. You can people watch from one of the many seaside cafes while savoring some delicious seafood and local cuisine.  You can go on a boat trip to enjoy the beautiful coastline and  swim in the sparkling coves with crystal clear water. Go for a walk in the evening, admiring the yachts while feeling the warm, gentle breeze. End your vacation rested and ready to return home! We will definitely be back next year.







Can you believe this was taken on November 1st??!!

Can you believe this was taken on November 1st??!!

We have been to Olympos twice, and it’s one of our favorite getaway places! Our first trip to Olympos was last fall. We discovered that we had a very long weekend, thanks to the national holiday, Republic Day (October 29),which marks the creation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. Friday and Monday were declared school holidays due to the elections on November 1st.  So, we headed for the otogar (bus station) and got into a dolmuş (public transport mini bus) and headed for Olympos. The dolmuşes leave from the far end of the bus station about every 10 minutes, so it is easy to get there via public transport.

An hour and a half later, we were dropped at this cafe, where we had some tea while waiting for another dolmuş to take us down the canyon to Olympos. Not a bad place to wait, eh?

Tea and snacks available while you wait. Lots of vans pull up to drop passengers heading to Olympos.

Tea and snacks available while you wait. Lots of vans pull up to drop passengers heading to Olympos.

Olympos is well known for its rustic charm, with dozens of tree house and cabin pensions. We stayed in Saban’s, recommended by a friend. We loved it!  Half-board was included, and the food was delicious. We had a little one room cabin, surrounded by fruit and pine trees, nestled by the hills. We left our gear and headed out to explore the ruins that everyone comes here to see.

The sound of silence was fabulous to this city-dweller's ears:).

The sound of silence was fabulous to this city-dweller’s ears:).


Saban’s has fruit trees all around; these are pomegranate trees.


This was breakfast! Dinner was a buffet meal of delicious home-cooked Turkish food, including mezes and salad.

Andy first visited Olympos with a friend.  Here’s the tree house he stayed in!

Turkmen's Tree Houses

Turkmen’s Tree Houses


Be sure to try some fresh-squeezed juice!




Kadir’s Tree Houses is said to be the original tree house/bungalow pension.  It has a very artistic, hippie-like feel to their cabins, and it’s still very popular with the younger, backpacking crowd.

From Saban’s it is a ten minute walk to the entry of the ruins.  If you live in Turkey, be sure to get an annual museum pass; you won’t have to pay the 20 TL fee, which also allows you access to the beach. Those  of you don’t live in Turkey can get a pass for 10 entries for 7.5 TL. You need to pass through the ruins to get to the beach.


The ruins to the right of the creek bed are “untamed” but are worth the hike. It’s the “Indiana Jones hike”.

Olympos  was founded during the Hellenistic Period, and became a prominent city of the Lycian League by the second century BC.


The city was built inside the river valley, behind the mountains, to conceal its wealth from pirates.


However, this strategy didn’t work: Olympos was later used as a base by  a powerful group of pirates. There was an infamous pirate called Zeniketos who operated from Olympos.


After the ruins you arrive at the sea!

A Roman commander of Julius Ceasar conquered the city in the first century BC to neutralize the threat from the pirates.


People continued to live in Olympos until its decline in the 1400’s.


This was a lovely October day. Notice my twin on the right.

We returned for a quick weekend trip in May. This time we stayed at Olympos Orange Bungalows, which also was a good place to stay: nice food, clean rooms, and a lovely garden area.


Orange Bungalows garden area

One of the “must-do” things to do near Olympos is something we haven’t done yet: visit the eternal fires of Chimera which are natural gas-fueled flames that are never extinguished. It’s a popular place to hike up to at sunset or after dark.  North American visitors are known to bring marshmallows and other ingredients to make smores:)  We are told it’s easier to get there if you have your own transport, but you still have about a 3 kilometer hike up (then back down) the mountainside (in the dark), so be sure to wear good hiking shoes and bring a flashlight.  So we are told!  Nate has been three times; twice while camping with his class, and once while he was at summer camp.


Instead, we roasted marshmallows by the fire at Orange Bungalows; we substituted graham crackers with tea biscuits (cookies) and it was GOOD!!

Since most of the pensions in Olympos provide half-board (breakfast and dinner) in their rate, it’s fun to try the little restaurants for lunch.  Here’s one of our favorites, not far from the entrance to the ruins:


You said you wanted a close up on our plates? Ok!

So, what are you waiting for? Come and see for yourself why Olympos is a great getaway place!

Julian Alps, October 2012

Julian Alps, October 2012

We went to Slovenia for our midterm break last October. Many outside of Europe may ask, “where is Slovenia?!”  Slovenia is the northern part of what used to be Yugoslavia. We did five day trips from the capital city, Ljubljana, and on this particular day we drove through the Julian Alps.   It was stunning!  You can see more photos more  here:


I have been blessed to call this spectacular city my "home" since July 2011!

I have been blessed to call this spectacular city my “home” since July 2011!

I still have to pinch myself to believe that I live in Prague!  Can you see St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague Castle in the top right of the photograph?  I see that out of our bedroom windows every day, from the other direction! Ordinary errands, like going to the dentist yesterday, are surreal.  I picked Nate up from school, took a bus to the metro, went by metro to Staromestka in the Old Town, then hopped a tram which took us along the Vltava River with stunning views of the castle as we passed by Charles Bridge. We got off at our stop along the river, and walked five minutes to the dentist’s office, past a beautiful 400+ year old church in a neighborhood with incredible architecture. It was an evening appointment, so after the check up we took a tram home through the city as all the lights were coming on. Prague is truly lovely…you really must put it on your bucket list!

Istanbul, Turkey: February 2013

Istanbul, Turkey: February 2013

We went to an outdoor cafe on the Bosphorus to drink Turkish tea with our dear friends Feza and Kazim.  You can see the bridge which connects Asia and Europe. This was the stunning sunset we saw!

Lying 60km to the south of Lake Geneva, ANNECY is one of the most beautiful and popular resort towns of the French Alps. The delights of the town nowadays lie not just in its historical monuments, like the imposing Chateâu on the hill or the fort of the Palais d'Île closer to the lake, but also in the stunning scenery which can be admired from various points around the town. Surrounded by spectacular mountains and located on the banks of a sparkling turquoise lake, Annecy is about as close to a fairy-tale city as it is possible to get except in a children's story.


Annecy  is one of the most beautiful historic and popular resort towns of the French Alps.  The scenery around Annecy is  stunning!  It is surrounded by spectacular mountains, located on the banks of a sparkling turquoise lake.  We spent a lovely day here in July 2013.

, is the highest mountain in the Alps and the European Union.[1] It rises 4,810 m

Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Alps. It rises 4,810 m (15,781 feet)!

This was our view on a spectacular sunny day in the French Alps in the company of wonderful new friends!

Juliet's Balcony.

Juliet’s Balcony.

Verona’s “claim to fame” for attracting tourists is being the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Now that I’ve experienced Verona for myself, I find it tragic that most tourists “do” Verona in a few hours, rushing in to take photos at Juliet’s balcony and then moving on to the next city!!  Verona really surprised me with how incredibly beautiful the city is, and how much there is to see and do here.  Before I tell you more, here are our own tacky tourist photos of Juliet’s House.

Check out this stern warning!!

Check out this stern warning!!

Look at the background behind us. What is it?

Look at the background behind us. What is it?

Although the house is  a major destination for tourists, it actually has no connection with Shakespeare’s characters….who were fictional and therefore never existed:)

Love messages, written on top of chewing gum shaped into hearts...yeesh!

Love messages, written on top of chewing gum shaped into hearts…yeesh!

The house itself is old, but the balcony was added in 1936.  The house was named Casa Guilietta (Juliet’s House) to attract tourists.

Couples add these locks as a symbol of their undying love...

Couples add these locks as a symbol of their undying love…

The balcony overlooks a small courtyard with a statue of Juliet. There is a huge amount of “love graffiti”. Visitors leave notes, as well as write their initials and those of their loved one in chewing gum… which they stick on the walls of the courtyard…risking a year’s imprisonment or a hefty 1039 Euro fine!

More love graffiti...

More love graffiti…

We asked our host if it was worth it to see the inside of Juliet’s House, and he told us that most people in Verona are annoyed by the “hype” of Juliet, the congestion of tourists near the “shrine”, and the fact that until recently, an employee was paid to answer love letters to Juliet from lovesick people from around the world. So we took his advice, and didn’t go inside.

Here's what our son thinks of all the lovey dovey stuff!!

Here’s what our son thinks of all the lovey dovey stuff!!

Apparently, if you pay the 6 Euro entry fee you will see a small collection of Renaissance frescos, and the bed from Zeffirelli’s 1968 movie, but not much more. We spent the money on gelato ice cream instead…a much better choice in Nate’s book!!

This was so interesting Nate gave them a coin!

This was so interesting Nate gave them a coin!

Ok, now we’re done with the annoying typical tourist stuff.  Come see the real Verona with us!

Look for the close up in the next photo.

Pizza del Erbe. Look for the close up in the next photo.

Verona was once one of the most powerful cities during the Roman Empire. The historic center is amazingly well preserved, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Beautiful balcony

Beautiful balcony!

Just another amazing statue!

This is the Lion of St. Mark, symbol of Venice.

Fun souvenirs!

Fun souvenirs!


This lead to another lovely square.

Verona was the home of Dante Alighieri, writer of the Divine Comedy. You can read more about Dante’s tumultuous life here:


That's Dante!

That’s Dante!


Verona was also the setting for two more of Shakespeare’s works: The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Taming the Shrew.

I wanted to sit here!

Nice place for a meal!

The scenic mausoleum of Arche Scaligere houses outdoor tombs of the Scaligeri lords who ruled Verona for hundreds of years.

Arch of Scaglieri

Arch of Scaglieri


The architecture is stunning!

So, for those of you following along with us, this was Day Six of our European road trip.  I hope you enjoyed learning about Verona.  Coming soon will be posts about seeing an opera in Verona’s Arena, built in the 1st Century BC, as well as our trip to Venice.

The Austrian Alps!

The Austrian Alps!

We have often found that the best and most memorable part of a holiday isn’t the places you see, but the people you meet. On Wednesday morning we packed up and said our good-byes to our Airbnb hosts.  It was our first time to use Airbnb, and we had a wonderful experience.  Out of respect for our hosts’ privacy I won’t post photos or use their  names.  However, I want to describe our experience with them, because staying in their home made our time in Bavaria exceptional!

When we arrived Monday evening after getting lost on the Romantic Road, they greeted us like friends.  They have a lovely home in a quiet, picturesque Bavarian village.  We had our own private bedroom and bathroom. Every morning our host provided us with a breakfast feast that would rival anything you’d find in a four star hotel! Our hosts are an expat family living in Bavaria.  They have three boys around Nate’s age.  When we arrived home after our day trip to the Neuschwanstein Castle, Nate ran off with the boys to play in the backyard…on the trampoline and in the woods surrounding the house. We had a great time getting to know this wonderful family, and greatly appreciate their fantastic hospitality!

We left late on Wednesday morning for our next destination….Verona, Italy! We passed through the stunning Austrian Alps.

We stopped here to snap a few quick photos.  Notice the camping photos at the

We stopped here to snap a few quick photos. Notice the camping photos at the bottom of the sign.

I want to camp here!

I want to camp here!

I call dibs on these chairs!

I call dibs on these chairs!

Not a bad way to get a little exercise before returning to the chairs.

Not a bad way to get a little exercise before returning to the chairs.

See what you would miss if you just speed by in your car?

See what you would miss if you just speed by in your car?

You could stop here for a bite to eat...but we didn't.

You could stop here for a bite to eat…but we didn’t.

Photos couldn't capture the beauty of the Alps!

Photos couldn’t capture the beauty of the Alps!

We drove past Innsbruck, Austria into the Piccole Dolomites…the mountain range located between the provinces of Trentino, Verona and Vicenza, in Northern Italy.  They were beautiful; different from the Austrian Alps because there were many terraced vineyards. We didn’t stop for photos as we were ready to get to Verona.

So, now I’m writing from the roof top terrace of our flat on the outskirts of Verona, complete with a view of the river.  Life is good!

Hi, I’m Nate.  This is the end of my second year of living in Prague.  It’s been another very fun year of adventures!

In September I celebrated my birthday with my friends from school.

Cake, friends, presents...what can be better?

Cake, friends, presents…what can be better?

In October we went for a week to Slovenia.  That’s part of the old Yugoslavia. It’s next to Austria, Hungary, Croatia, and Italy.

This is the view from the castle on the cliffs above Lake Bled.

This is the view from the castle on the cliffs above Lake Bled.

See the little island near the end of the lake with the church spire?


Dad rowed us to the island.

We rang the church bell!

We rang the church bell!

Another day Dad drove us through the Julian Alps.

Look at THAT!  Pretty cool place for a picnic!

Look at THAT! Pretty cool place for a picnic!

We climbed around a five hundred year old castle built into a cliff. Read about the robber baron who got shot by a cannonball while sitting on the toilet:



Doesn’t it look like a place from Lord of the Rings?

In December we celebrated Christmas TWICE!! Once in California and once in Milwaukee!

At my Auntie Robin's house on Christmas morning!

At my Auntie Robin’s house on a sunny California Christmas morning!

In Milwaukee I got to see my sister, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. I got to meet my new twin cousins!

I got to hang out with my big sister, Sam.

I got to hang out with my big sister, Sam.

In February we visited our Turkish friends.  We had a blast!  We ate tons of great home cooked food. We went to a cafe on the Bosphorus.


See the cat behind us?

We went on a cruise on the Bosphorus with friends from Prague.  It was a VERY rainy day!

Hanging out with the Myers.

Later that day we tried dessert with chicken in it!!

The red one is the Turkish flag.

The red one is the Turkish flag.

After Istanbul we went to visit our other Turkish friends in Ankara.  It was so fun!

Istanbul is amazing!

Istanbul is cool!

In April we went to Seville, Spain for our Easter Break.  Our friend Ana Maria and her family showed us the Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions.

Mom says this tradition is hundreds of years old!

Mom says this tradition is hundreds of years old!

You can read about our adventures in Seville here:


This is the procession in front of the float,

This is the procession in front of the float.

Next, we went to Granada at the end of March into the first week of April.

The Alhambra!

The Alhambra!

Mom and Dad slept late every day.  They let me watch lots of Spanish cartoons on TV. I love Cosmic Cat! You can see more photos of Granada here:


It was fun exploring the Alhambra, but we got drenched at the end!

It was fun exploring the Alhambra, but we got drenched at the end!

One day we went for a day trip to Cordoba to see the Mezquita.

It was a mosque built in the 900's.

It is a mosque built in the 900’s on the ruins of a Visigothic church from the 600’s.

See, it looks like a mosque, right?

See, it looks like a mosque, right?

But there's a big cathedral that pops out of the middle of the mosque!

But there’s a big cathedral that pops out of the middle of the mosque!

The cathedral was built in the 1200’s after the Spanish kicked out the Moors.

You can read about more Spain adventures here:


In May we went to Herrnhut, Germany for a weekend retreat with our friends from church.

The view from the prayer tower.

The view from the prayer tower.

Just being silly!

Just being silly!

June was a CRAZY month! Prague got flooded and my school was shut down.  I went to school in a hotel for a week! Then we had visitors from India.  Next, Sydney and her family come to stay with us and we took them to the Summer Fayre.  It was a blast!

i got launched in the air!

I got launched in the air!

Walking home with Sydney after Summer Fayre.

Walking home with Sydney after Summer Fayre.

Sydney and her family are traveling around the world for two years!  You can read about their adventures here:


It’s been a really fun school year.  I’m excited for summer vacation.  On Monday we leave on a road trip to Germany, Italy and France. Then we’ll come home for five days, and after that we’ll go to Israel.  It’s going to be fun!