Last year the Pazzo spent a week in Italy.  Trieste to be exact.  He went to bring Nonna home.  She had spent a couple of months in her home town with her sisters, but she needed someone to help her negotiate the long haul flight home.  I mean, it is a 24 hour flight, with a connection. It’s a long way!  Anyway, he bought back presents for the kids, but he bought nothing for me.  He had seen a cook book he thought I might like, but told me he didn’t get the time to go back to the shop to get it.  It was a tough week, drinking and eating with his cousins.  It must have been hard work!  So, we made a deal.  I could get the book, if I liked it, when we got to Trieste.  

When I saw it, on our all too long ago holiday, I loved it, but decided to buy it when we got home, just so we didn’t have to carry it with us.  This book has a couple of recipes that are very similar to some of the things Nonna makes.  Nonna’s cooking comes from Parma.  She learnt from her mother-in-law.  It is written by three sisters who grew up in Wales but spent their holidays with family in Italy, just a bit north of Parma.  

One of the recipes is very similar to Capiletti.  Capiletti is not only the Pazzo’s favourite, it is also the traditional pasta dish served during Christmas celebrations in Parma.  It is definitely a winter dish.  Little disc shaped pasta parcels, filled with a meat filling served in a broth.  I decided I needed to give it a go. I’ve tried to get the recipe from Nonna, but she won’t write it down, I mean how can she when she goes by feel and instinct!

We are in the middle of a cold snap.  The wind has been blowing straight off Antartica.  It rained all day.  The boys had their usual game of Australian rules football on Sunday morning leaving us with time in the afternoon.  Yanni’s under 12s game was freezing.  I was doing first aid and my main job was to try to keep the kids warm, yet we had tears from a few kids, just from the cold.  Mind you I found out later that the under 16s games were cancelled due to the weather.  I know it’s not really cold compared to some climates, but for us it’s colder than we’re used to.

The upshot was once we had thawed out Yanni and Jamie, we weren’t leaving the house again.  It was the perfect afternoon for staying indoors and making a batch of pasta together.  

Everyone helped, some more than others.  Ivy really enjoyed it.  She was there from start to finish.  I must say the Pazzo and I make quite a team on the pasta machine!  The result was very, very similar to Nonna’s version.  Our filling was just a bit dry, but the overall taste was really very close to Nonna’s.  It was a great effort and we enjoyed a delicious meal.

xxx Merri


A Picture is Worth a 1000 Words

I was at the gym today.  On the treadmill, running.  Looking out the window, at the view.  Before our trip, I thought it was a nice view.  Just nice.  Today I thought it was a flat view, just a view of suburbia, nothing really interesting, nothing distinguishing, to look at.  There were no mosques with beautiful slender minarets and cascading domes, no towers, no green fields or seascapes.  

I’ve been spoilt.  The Pazzo’s brother knew where the best views were in Istanbul.  He made sure we saw them all and even made sure we had the best seats to enjoy the view.  We even found another couple of views with him along the way.

The day that we went to the Cistern and Hagia Sophia without Yanni and the Pazzo, we were looking for somewhere for lunch.  The locals were looking for mouths to feed, calling to passers by, selling their establishments.  One of the maitre d’s just happening to say rooftop bar, and we were sold.  The 5 of us squashed into a 2 person lift and up we went.  The view was spectacular, in every direction.  It had it all, beautiful architecture, historical landmarks, and a glittering sea in the background! 


Don’t you think so?  It is very pretty.  We saw so many pretty places along the way.  Have a look at these photos. 

grotto gigante – Trieste


chateau versailles – Paris


charles bridge – Prague


brighton beach – UK


skyline from the london eye


stonehenge – UK


gallipoli peninsula coastline, complete with bunker for the turkish troups – Turkey


gallipoli peninsula – Turkey


tulips forming a turkish carpet pattern – Turkey


the candlelit casilica cistern – Turkey



the black sea – Turkey


the bosphorus – Turkey

I think we saw some beautiful places.  It really was well worth the trip.

xxx Merri 

Gallipoli, A Post Script


the monument dedicated to Mustafa Kemel Ataturk’s speech

I grew up knowing that my great grandfather (Grandpa, as my mum called him) fought in World War 1, and my grandfather (Pa) fought in Borneo in World War 2.  We always knew where Pa fought, but where Grandpa fought was never really mentioned.  It was assumed I guess.  Europe obviously, but there always seemed to be a bit of mystery around it.  I always believed that he stowed away to go to war.  


a reconstruction of trench warfare

 Turns out what I thought was close but not quite right.  My Uncle has put together a bit of a history of both, Pa and Grandpa’s, military service.  You know, the official army records, letters to and from home, that sort of stuff.  I haven’t really had a chance to read it, but my Uncle told me some interesting things he’d found out.  


the sphinx, a reminder for the troops of time spent in Egypt

 It turns out that Grandpa was on a Navy ship when the ANZACs landed on the Gallipoli peninsula.  We are not sure whether he actually set foot on land or not (probably not) but his boat sailed back to Egypt on the evening of the landing.  This is where the stow away story comes in.  Apparently, he stowed away on the next boat back to Gallipoli and went ashore to join in the action.  He had seen what happened to his fellow countrymen and wanted to help them.   


the trenches, 100 years on

 After learning the actual facts of Grandpa’s service, the Pazzo and I had a discussion.  It was a discussion about a dream.  A discussion about travel, about a holiday, a big one.  I mentioned the 100 year anniversary of the ANZACs landing in Gallipoli.  I mentioned that it would be good to see the place, given that one of my family members defended our country.  It was part of my family fighting for the privileges we, as a country now enjoy, our way of life.  It was one of my family members defining the tenacious and loyal qualities we, as Australians and Kiwi’s, are now renowned for.  


the gentleman’s war, a Turkish soldier helping a wounded ANZAC soldier

To my surprise the Pazzo agreed.  We made a plan.  We got lucky.  The Pazzo got some extra work.  We worked hard.  It all fell into place.  It was like it was meant to be.  100 years minus a couple of days I saw the place where the ANZAC spirit was born.  

ANZAC cove

 It’s taken a while to digest it, to come to terms with it, to work out what it all really means.  I’ve had some time now and armed with the knowledge of the strategies, of both sides, the mistakes made by both sides, the number of lives lost, the number of injured.  


an allied forces cemetry

 The only conclusion I can draw from the experience is that it is such a shame that such a tragic event happened in such a beautiful place.  On the other hand, thank goodness it happened where it did because the Turkish people are a very generous people and have shown their generosity, not only to us as we travelled in their country, but also to the memories of all soldiers who fell on their soil.  


Lone Pine cemetry

 We really enjoyed our time on the Gallipoli peninsula.  The people really went out of their way to help us.  The scenery is beautiful.  The tour interesting and informative.  The history tragic and tortured.  It was a great experience, a highlight.  We enjoyed.  We learnt an extraordinary amount and, importantly, ate some great food.

xxx Merri

Home Delivery Turkish Style

 We spent the day wandering really, almost trying to kill time.  Tomorrow is our last day, we fly home the following day.  Back to reality.  Back to work.  Back to school.  Back to after school activities.

Today though, we lapped up our second last day of an all too long holiday.  We set off late morning (we took the long route) to the Pazzo’s brother’s place.  To say goodbye.  They left Istanbul this afternoon, for a village on the beach near Bodrum.  They will spend the next month in the sun and return home in early June – just in time for winter.

On the way back to our hotel we stopped for a quick kebab.  We haven’t eaten enough of them yet.  We’ve been here for more than 2 weeks and we still want to eat donër kebabs, lunch and/or dinner, chicken or beef, we’re not fussy.  Mind you I think a śiś kebab is an even better choice!  We dropped off our stuff in our apartment and eventually headed out to finish our souvenir and gift shopping.  

We walked down Ishiklal street again, our third trip down this street.  We needed more souvenirs (we really don’t, I’m not sure how we’re going to get them all home in one piece).  However, snow globes needed to be bought.  Turkish delight needed to be purchased.  Another pair of jeans was required.  Ice cream needed to be eaten.  Finally we headed for home, everyone tired and ready for a rest.

No-one felt like going out for dinner, so we got home delivery.  Well the truth is the Pazzo took the manager of our apartment to a little takeaway shop next door (it was his recommendation).  The manager ordered for us.  We paid.  The Pazzo went to the supermarket for drinks and yoghurt for breakfast.  Just after he got back, dinner was delivered.  I have to say it was really nice too.  Home delivery – Turkish style!

xxx Merri

The Black Sea

The Pazzo’s brother once told us that one of his dreams was to go through the 3 channels of the world, the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal and the Bosphous.  He said he has been lucky, he has completed this particular dream.  My dream is to see the nearly land locked seas, the Black Sea and the Dead Sea.  Don’t ask why, it’s something to do with a history teacher back in the early days of high school.  Learning about the ancient Egyptians and the Roman Empire.  Tonight, I can say, I’m half way there!

Today we did a boat cruise to the Black Sea.  We got on the boat, sailed along the Bosphorus to the place where the Bosphorus meets the Black Sea.  The boat pulled into a small village and we got off.  It was more like a hike, but we walked up a hill (there were plenty of stairs involved) for half an hour or so to a castle where we had a great view of the sea.  It was a bit hazy, but in the distance you could just make out Russia.  Well, it was probably more likely to be Ukraine, could have been Romania, but it was land, and it wasn’t part of Turkey!  It was a great trip with stunning scenery all the way there and back.  Here are some photos.


There are only 2 bridges over the Bosphorus


Istanbul, where Europe meets Asia


The view from the castle of the Black Sea


This is where the Bosphorus ends and the Black Sea starts


The view of the Bosphorus from where we had lunch


The village where we got off the boat


The bridge on the way back


The skyline of downtown Istanbul


A Day in Istanbul

We have been in Istanbul for 6, or so, nights all up now.  It’s time to do some of the touristy stuff.  It’s time to look the part.  Backpack on, camera strung around my neck, off we go.  It’s Ivy, Jamie, the Pazzo’s brother, his brother-in-law and me.  Yanni’s is not well, given that The Pazzo has seen these places before, he volunteered to stay.  

First we stopped at Starbucks, you know for a caffeine/sugar fix, depending on age of course!  We took a taxi to the old town and the queuing begins.  The Cistern is our first proper destination.  It is a Roman water storage chamber, built in 532AD.  Considering its age, it’s an amazing structure and is still in excellent condition.  It even has legendary Medusa heads carved into the base of a couple of the pillars.  They are upside down and sides ways, so that she can’t look at anyone and turn them to stone.  The whole place has a beautiful candle lit atmosphere. 

the Cistern, with its candle lit atmosphere



Medusa, upside down

 Our next destination was Hagia Sophia, a Greek Orthodox Church, built in 537AD.  Later it was converted into a Mosque, and finally in the 1930s it became a museum.  It is beautiful.  It shows its history with some beautiful Christian mosaics, which have been recently uncovered, as well as stone carvings where the Christian crosses have been “scrubbed” off, but all the while it looks very much like a Mosque.  It’s a very intriguing place. 

Inside Hagia Sophia

It has a stunning view of the area too!

The view of the Blue Mosque from Hagia Sophia

After lunch (at a “pub” with a roof top restaurant and an amazing view), we set off for the very much anticipated Grand Bizzare.  This has been on my to do list, more specifically, buying a Turkish carpet at the Grand Bizzare, has been on my to do list for a long time now.  Today, however, there would be no carpet purchase.  I did get a bit of a lesson in carpet purchasing though and got to see how absolutely beautiful they can be.  

Today I settled for silk scarves (I know, it is plural, I had to buy two, for a better price, of course)!  This is an incredible place.  I could have wandered through its “streets” all day.  It was a surprisingly relaxed place.  We, then, wandered slowly through the spice market, and under a bridge, full of seafood restaurants, to catch the taxi back to our apartment.  When we got back we found Yanni, finally feeling better.  Good news.

xxx Merri

Limra Resort


Six months ago, when this trip was “in planning”, the Pazzo and I had worked out how many nights we were going to be able to spend in each place. We knew we would be in Turkey for just over 2 weeks.  We knew we would spend the majority of this time in Istanbul.  We knew we would need 2 nights in Eceabat, so we could see the Gallipoli Peninsula.  We figured a day trip was going to be too much with three kids.  We wanted to go somewhere else as well, you know see more of the country.  For a while we were torn about where to go, what to see.  The Pazzo wanted to go to Bodrum, to a resort.  I wanted to see Cappadocia, a town built into the rock face of the area.  It came down to: a holiday within a holiday or more history and culture.

We consulted my sister-in-law, who is actually Turkish.  Our very own expert.  She thought Cappadocia would be a great cultural experience, but understood the Pazzo’s argument of having a break from our holiday.  She suggested Antalya and even gave us information about a couple a couple of resorts there.  She thought the weather stood a better chance of being good as it was further south.  Bodrum might still be a bit cool. 

We compromised – Antalya.  The Pazzo thought this was a winner.  He even guaranteed weather with temperatures above 22C (yes, he’s a brave man).  So I agreed to compromise.  He said that next time, when we are travelling alone again, we would see Cappadocia, so Antalya it was! 

Our main hub of the resort

Was it a good choice?  It’s a resort with water slides, more swimming pools than you could count, all meals and drinks included, kid’s club, activities for adults, beach on one side, mountains with snow on the other side and plenty of sun.  Everyone is having a great time.  The Pazzo is in heaven, beer and food on tap.  The kids have water slides.  Who needs kid’s club when there’s water slides.   I have a sunlounge in the sun, with warmth.   It was a great choice.  See?

Mountains with snow


Beach view

Our room, complete with beach towel art!

Three days of pampering and waterslides.  We’ve been here for 2 nights.  Tomorrow it’s off to Istanbul for a week and then home! 
xxx Merri