In typical Seattle fashion we were greeted with temperatures in the low 50's, drizzle and very gray skies. But I won't complain; looking out the windows of my home affords me all the lush greenery I can desire and clean air for my lungs.
Some footnotes Aleco and I came up with for our trip:
- Best Hospitality Award goes to the folks at the Al Cazar hotel. Despite the very poor accomodations and rough neighborhood, this Palestinian family went above and beyond to make us feel like family. Homemade noodle soups, fresh cut fruit each afternoon upon our return from sightseeing, endless cups of mint tea ,spontaneous home cooked dinner just for us and wonderful frank conversations about life as a Palestinian Arab in Jerusalem. Isn't it predictable though? Those with the least give the most...
- Best Inspiring View from a Bedroom Window - a tie. Casa della Querce in Tuscany and Hotel Reginella in Positano. Beautiful, cinematic and mesmerizing.
- Most Sobering View from a Bedroom Window - Seven Arches on the Mount of Olives. From there, you can see the sweeping view of Jerusalem: the valley of Jehosaphat, the Jewish graves facing the valley in expectation of the Messiah's arrival, the walled Old City with the Golden gate sealed in one faith's attempt to prevent another's redemption.
- Worst Drivers - Istanbul. Hands down.
- Fastest Drivers - Italy.
- Best Cheap Eats - Turkey. No matter where we went, we had fantastic meals and for little money.
- Most Expensive Cities - tie. Venice and Positano.
- Worst Service - Rome. One particular trattoria who's owner refused to return our change because she had forgotten to charge another couple (people we didn't know) for their salads. Uh, ok. We'll take care of the Aussie's salads...
- Biggest disappointment - Kusadasi, Turkey. Yes, a seaside town but jammed packed with cruise tourists during the day and partying teens at night. Not our cup of tea.
- Worst moment not blogged about - while in Israel I had bronchitis. Whoo hoo! But not letting it slow me down, I dragged myself to see the sights. Almost passed out in the Armenian sector of the Old City in Jerusalem. Drama in the Holy Land.
- Biggest disappointment #2 - Vatican museums, especially the Sistine Chapel. Yes, 10,000 people visit the place each day. Do they all have to cram into the one space at the same time? Got so bad, paramedics were called in to help a woman who passed out with an irregular heartbeat. Thanks, padre.
- Cheesiest Fun - last dinner in Positano at our favorite place, Mediteraneo. A friend of the owner played old Neapolitan songs on the guitar, had us all singing along and even complied for our request of Paolo Conti's Chip Chip song!
- Most humiliating moment - getting balled out by the old Muslim man at the Blue Mosque.
- Most spiritual moment - tie. 1. Church of the Holy Sepulchre. 2. The Blue Mosque. 3. The Wailing Wall
- Biggest Surprise - Turkey in general. Awesome country, wonderful people, completely underappreciated and underestimated.
- Funniest Moment - ugh! So many! Aleco driving on pedestrian roads in Rome "Scusi, scusi!" And me trying to ascertain if a pastry in Istanbul had meat, not knowing the language and acting like a cow "moo, moo". The response was the baker's uncontrollable laughter.
- Coincidences? I think not! Brad and Angelina with us in Venice. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet following us in Positano.
I'm sure we'll think of loads more in the days and months to come. But for now, this is where I'll leave it at.
A friend wrote and asked, "and what's next, Eliana?" Well, my better half will now undoubtedly spend hours upon hours after work sorting and editing the bazillion pictures and video that he took. I go back to work (for 2 weeks) at MIPC and in the meantime finish up my remianing certification requirements so as to find an ordained called position. Yes, prayers would be most welcome. :-)
Thanks for reading the blog. Better still, let's talk soon.