I am long overdue for an update, I know.
I will spare you the boring details and get straight to the good stuff.
After nearly four years of living in Turkey, I FINALLY made it to the capital city of Ankara. A good friend of mine invited me to spend the weekend with her there (it’s her hometown) and show me around. I didn’t have too many expectations, but what I found was a charming city with an abundance of good restaurants (I’m looking at you, Quick China!), cafes, shops, and TREES!
I started off my trip by stuffing my face with the best Asian cuisine I have ever managed to find in Turkey and tucking in for some much-needed sleep. I am still dreaming about the körili ramen.
We started off the morning by heading to Atakule, which is a mall/giant tower from which you can get a pretty nice view of the city. The orange and yellow leaves were a welcome sight. We don’t get to see many green spaces in Istanbul, so we often feel homesick for that fall aesthetic.
We stopped for a quick coffee picnic on a hill overlooking Seğmenler Park, which was gorgeous and peaceful and reminded me of my college days (picnics = cheap food and entertainment).
My favorite part of the trip was wandering through the alleys in Ulus. The traditional Anatolian architecture blended with cool vintage vibes and we happily spent a few hours strolling through artisan shops and taking frequent coffee breaks.
On Sunday, before catching our train back to Istanbul, we stopped for a long, leisurely breakfast where I had a delicious cinnamon roll with cream cheese icing (again – not common in Turkey, which made it extra special).
Ankara, you were a delight.
You can never go wrong with narrow streets, quaint houses, cafes, and great pubs. Castle Combe – a veritable Shire – did not disappoint.
Logistically, it is not the easiest place to get to, but we managed. If I were to visit again, I would probably rent a car. Still, there are bus connections most days of the week – you just really have to watch out for the times because they are infrequent.
If you are looking for excitement, you won’t find it here – but that’s okay. It is enough just to be, to wander the cobbled side roads and wooded paths, enjoy the mossy green surroundings, and perhaps stop for a great pub meal or two and a cream tea.
Of all the places we visited on our trip to England, I think Bath was my favorite. The stunning architecture and scenery took my breath away from the moment we stepped off the train.
We started off with a lovely afternoon tea at the Jane Austen House. I felt like a fanciful Mrs. Darcy as I not-so-elegantly stuffed scones with clotted cream into my face (yum!)
After our spot of tea, my sister and I went to the Thermae Bath Spa to soak in the thermal waters that initially drew the Romans into the area when the city was founded. Talk about a perfect day!
We watched the sun fade along the water, walked by the abbey, and did a little souvenir shopping before catching the train back to our place in Bristol.
After exploring London for a few days, my husband, sister, and I decided to base ourselves out of Bristol so that we could explore more of the English countryside. While it’s a great base to see places such as Bath or Stonehenge, Bristol in and of itself is a very cool city worth a visit.
I am a huge fan of street art and Bristol has it in spades. Home to the famous street artist and political activist, Banksy, the street art scene there has exploded in recent years.
In addition to a cool street art scene, there is a big demand in Bristol for people to shop local; as such, there is no shortage of unique shops and restaurants to discover.
Words to live by!
As a self-proclaimed Potterhead, London has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. How it took me this long to get there, I have no idea, but I was lucky enough to finally make it happen and even luckier to have my sister along for the ride.
We stayed in the adorable neighborhood of Hackney – highly recommend!
This was her first big international trip and I was so excited to share the experience. We hit the ground running after she landed with all of the main tourist sites and started the next day with a very cool (and very nerdy) Harry Potter walking tour, where we got to see various film locations and the parts of London that inspired some of the magical locations as well (shout out to the real-life Diagon Alley!).
The street that inspired Diagon Alley!
…and Knockturn Alley!
I had really hoped to catch a show while in London, but alas – the two shows I wanted to see most were sold out. I still grabbed photos of the venues, if somewhat bitterly.
We met up with a good friend and former colleague for some drinks at a super cool roof top bar, indulged in Cornish pasties, wandered through as many neighborhoods and parks as we could manage, and shopped until we dropped (I don’t think I will ever see a bookstore that tops Foyles! They really had everything!)
It was a really great start to an awesome adventure.
Greetings from the U.S. of A. This is my third summer back in the motherland, and for once, I was able to celebrate the 4th of July in all of its smoky, sparkling, fiery glory. The first leg of our whirlwind journey took place at my grandma’s house in the country, complete with family, sweltering heat, a DIY frisbee golf course, and way too much food.
My husband and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary in the nearby town of Yoder, a tiny but thriving Amish community. My dad and stepmom surprised us by renting out a chicken-coop-turned-Airbnb for the night and I think it might be the cutest place we’ve ever stayed.
I visited my sister in Kansas City, where I tried some amazing coffee shops, hung out at a great arcade bar, read books by the pool, and watched some old childhood favorites on Netflix.
I discovered a board game cafe in Wichita, tried my hand at some marketing for my mom’s boutique in Manhattan, relaxed at my grandpa’s lake house, and circled back to the beginning to pack it all up and say goodbye.
It was all really great, but something hit me this summer: I feel more like an outsider in my own culture than I ever have. Perhaps it’s just the stress of the last year or a symptom of the ever-rising political tension. As great as it is to be home with friends and family, I’m realizing more and more each year that it feels less like home. I guess reverse culture shock rears its head at every expat now and again.
Until next time, America!
Hello, world. It’s been a while.
I guess I decided not to write this summer. It wasn’t so much a conscious decision as it was the fact that I was too busy living in the moment and didn’t feel the itch until just now.
Summer is coming to a close. I’ve got a lot to say, but for now, I’ll just say that I’m back.