Monday, 16 September 2013


I've managed to get not-a-lot-done this afternoon because I was glued to the tele watching the World Triathlon Championships from Hyde Park with Alistair Brownlee battling through the pain of a wobbly ankle and then the sprint finish between Jonny Brownlee and Javier-Gomez-with-the-nice-arms. It was totally terrific entertainment- what  jaw dropping fitness from all the competitors. Superb stuff!

And what is so fantastic is that Nic the Pixen was part of it all.

She had qualified for the World Aquathlon Age Group Championships (a tri-without-the-bike) a few months ago and so would also be swimming in the Serpentine and running in Hyde Park on the Wednesday.

Her TEAM GB trisuit arrived in the post.


I collected various Union Jack items to whack, wave or wear...

then drove to Coventry to pick up LiddyMoo...

and we caught the train to London. (First-Class-without-the-free-tea)

Because we were serious supporters and wanted the best view, and with the added responsibility of being chief photographers as well, we needed to suss out the spectator areas so we had a little walk through Hyde Park the night before and saw the new swimmer sculpture.

But such was our excitement - we got locked OUT of Hyde Park and faced a long walk all the way round to get back to our hotel.... it meant we had a lovely view of The Albert Hall...

...but we ended up hailing a cab ("hailing a cab!") (getting a taxi) back so Nic didn't completely wreck her calf walking miles in her flipflops.

The day of the race was here!!! Breakfast was hooty, the sky was cloudy and the Serpentine was grey but Nic and Michal were READY! 

The Team GB tent had all GB competitors' names on a wall.

Nic's was right in the middle.

Just there.

17 degrees doesn't sound very warm to me but I wasn't swimming in it.

Michal's wave was first.

And they were off!
(Look how big the red swimmer sculpture is!)

Nic's wave followed... look closely, she is waving ..

Fabulous swim! She was 9th out of the water (ish)
and her super-duper dazzling trainers were waiting....

After a quick transition..

... the 5km run.

As she whizzed past the stands her form from school went wild with their banner and balloons!

We, too, went wild with the bashers and the vocal chords. 

SHE DID IT!!!! 14th IN THE WORLD and 6th Brit home.

She even let me wear her medal!

LiddyMoo and Benno were excellent supporters.

It totally meant the world to Nic that they both made the effort to go and watch her.

She was so happy.

And we were so proud.

Saturday, 14 September 2013


Sailing into Istanbul




But more of Hagia Sophia later because we were actually on our way to 

...a royal residence but was  also a setting for state occasions and entertainment. This magnificent place  was once home to 4,000 people- a bit like a college campus with cooks and eating halls and a bakery etc! 

This is the Council Hall where the Sultan would listen in to the meetings from his window

(Actually  no one could see if the Sultan was there or not)
(but would always assume he WAS listening in)

Sultan's window

Sultan's window

Amy was our guide for the day.

Sultan's throne. Throne. Throne. It looks more like a four poster double bed!

Looking across the Bosphorus  to the Asian side of Turkey.

The Treasury in TOPKAPI PALACE holds a massive diamond as big as a fist.

The tulip is THE flower of Istanbul and these are the tulip gardens...

even though there were roses in it when we visited!

Sultan liked to chill up here on his balcony at the top of the Palace -  an area now used a lot during Ramadan -it is  perfect for barbeques and picnics when the sun goes down.

View from the balcony.

Baghdad Pavilion in Topkapi Palace.

The tulip design is everywhere, a red tulip = power and love,

red and blue tulip = royal family, very special.

This door outside The Circumcision Room  has a male and female tulip to signify love and the strength of the family

We had had a good walk around the TOPKAPI PALACE in the hot August sun and a lady in our group was ready for a sit down. Well  I wasn't going to turn down a "Tea in a glass"  and this looked a nice place (it was the Sultan's wife's private spa)

so we ordered the nearest thing to a PG TIP as we could..

"Tea in a glass"

and it was delish.

Courtyard of Blue Mosque

Mosque etiquette for women...COVER HEAD, SHOULDERS and LEGS, SHOES OFF

Inside the mosque were spectacular domes in such lovely colours

The carpet is marked out with deep red lines to give everyone enough room to pray, space to kneel and rock forehead to the ground.


and back outside

It was now time to visit

once a church, then a mosque and now a museum.

Ben Affleck, directing his film ARGO, wanted softer coloured lights so he changed all the harsh white light bulbs to softer yellow light bulbs. They were still yellow when we visited.

Again the domes were spectacular.

Work on the building has included painstakingly taking the plaster off the mosaic tiles. This rather grumpy face of an angel has been revealed recently.

After 160 years of darkness it is no wonder he looks grumpy. 

We were all mosqued out. It was time to go shopping!

Oh my word - amazing Turkish delight

and oh my ABSOLUTE word,

magnificent figs and dates stuffed with walnuts!!!

(Can you believe we actually bought some colourful dried fruit)

The alley in the Grand Bazaar that was used in the James Bond film Skyfall.

I still don't know why I didn't buy this

 Chariot racing used to take place here right next to Blue Mosque

During the Crusades,  Italians stripped the bronze off this first column, melted it down and used it to decorate the friezes of St Mark's Cathedral in Venice. They don't tell you that when you visit St Mark's Square do they.... 

It was a fabulous day and our last night on Riviera so after dinner we went up on deck for a cuppa and watched the Bosphorus Bridge changing colours all through the evening. Lovely.

This is where we went - 1697 nm - 

but we weren't quite finished yet. We had another day in Istanbul!!!!


Breakfast on the ship before leaving for our hotel. 

Istanbul taxi to the hotel - oh my absolute goodness - close your eyes!!

It was a very plush, swanky hotel...

but we had more exploring to do. Walking down to the Bosphorus River we saw

Besiktas F.C. were having a new football stand built.

Our plan was...

"Let's nip to Asia for half an hour" !!!

so we worked out how to get a ferry token from the ferry token machine and off we sailed.

Across the river to the Asian side of Turkey.How exciting!

ASIA!!!! We went to Asia for half an hour!

and then we sailed back to Europe.

The Bosphorus Bridge

An hour of culture followed.

Then we walked up to Taksim Square. I have never seen  sooooooooooooo many people.

This precious green area is endangered. The only piece of green land amongst the 87 shopping malls of Istanbul and their government want to build on it!!!! OUTRAGE! 

If ever they build over it I have a record of it.

I wanted to do a handstand on it.