Belize + DC + Turkey

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Leaving Belize and checking in on Washington, DC for a few days before finally arriving in Turkey for a [very] extended layover.


 

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After saying goodbye to Big Red, Hillside and PG, we caught a ride with Hillside’s new Rehab Director, John, for our final trip north to Belize City, stopping at a few familiar places along the way, including King’s (gas) in Dump/ Big Falls, Art Box in Belmopan and El Chiclero in Burrell Boom.

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One more time up the Hummingbird. After relating numerous horrifying tales of driving this stretch of Belizean highway to John, we ended up getting a fully patched road (hardly any pot holes!) and bright sunny day and no tanker trucks. This was John’s vehicle’s maiden voyage under his command and it made it all the way to Goldson airport outside of Belize City with flying colors.

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One last ice coffee at Art Box and a gorgeous sunset. As mentioned previously, we met up with incoming Hillside volunteers James and Sarah until we were kicked out at closing time. We made it to Burrell Boom just in time to get bombarded one last time by flood flies, and made it to Black Orchid restaurant just in time.

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The next morning, we grabbed Johnny (aka Journey) Cakes at our favorite little place in Burrell Boom, which we affectionately call “Neck & Back” because of the sign in the front and because the place doesn’t really seem to have a name. A resident also introduced us to powder buns, which are sweet and pretty good.

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We’ll be back, Neck & Back!

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After an exhausting last few weeks transitioning out of our Belize life, we somehow found ourselves staring out a window at our American Airlines flight back to the U.S. We had arrived early to see John off (he was also flying back to the States to fetch his family and bring them back to Belize), so we had some time to kill before our flight, which we spent up on the “Waving Deck,” an open air deck where you can watch Tropic Air flights constantly coming and going (with the occasional Maya Island Air flight thrown in for good measure). If you’re really lucky (like we were today!) you get to see one of them new-fangled jet airliners take off as well! We saw John’s Delta flight off before hopping on to our own two hours later. As you might expect, Belize’s only international airport is fairly modest…but it adds to that good ol’ Belize charm.

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Taking a trip down memory lane on a clear day at 30,000 feet: Above, Laguna Bacalar and, below, Playa del Carmen — two Mexican destinations we visited during our Yucatan road trip with Lori’s parents in February.

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And, we’re back in DC! Flying right over the Washington monument!

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It seems our pilot got a little carried away with the monument tour…Ok, these photos were actually taken from the top of the Washington Monument (although our plane got surprisingly close to the Lincoln Memorial on landing…I love flying in to DC on a clear night with a left-side window seat on a southern approach. Always get the left seat. Always.

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But back to the Monument. It was my first time to the top, even though I’ve been in and out of DC for the past 20 years, having lived here four separate times. It always seemed to be closed, and this last time was due to the 2011 earthquake. But it’s open now and a lot of fun (though not so fun to think that nothing is holding the thing together, just blocks sitting on blocks…)

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We spent around five days in DC, meeting up with most of our dear friends in the area. We had drinks and meals we could only dream of in Belize and had a blast catching up with everyone. Plus, we got some of the best weather we’ve experienced in over a year — high 70s, low 80s and dry! We were prepared for typical humid August in DC, but the weather was absolutely perfect.

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But it wasn’t all fun and games (well, still mostly fun) as we had a number of last minute items to check off the list, such as a few jabs to get us updated in the vaccine area (it’s been ten years for me since I started Peace Corps, so I had a few to update), stocking up on some essentials and getting our Mozambique visas (above)! Mozambique decided this last spring to no longer allow issuance of visas on arrival, so we stopped by the friendly neighborhood Mozambican embassy, left our passports with a total stranger and returned a few days later for our bright new sticker. I’ve now applied for visas to Uganda, China, India and Mozambique in DC and I’d have to say that it’s quite a bit easier to get’er done in our nation’s capital than most places overseas. A lot less headache and under-the-table money at least…

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Our flight for Istanbul departed shortly before midnight, so we found ourselves with a lovely afternoon together to stroll about and visit Lauriol Plaza in Adams Morgan (one of our favorite DC restaurants serving tasty comida Mexicana). Around 9pm, we arrived one more time at Union Station to take the Red line to the new Silver line, then the new Silver Washington Flyer out to Dulles for a not-too-long (~9 hour), nonstop flight to Turkey!

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It was a great flight, mostly because we managed to do something we rarely do on flights, get about six hours of sleep! We didn’t even have time to watch a movie. This was our first time flying Turkish Airlines and all in all we were very pleased with the experience. I’m generally a Boeing guy, but do love the 2-5-2 seating of the Airbus A330 wide body planes when you’re traveling as a couple. If one of us needs to use the loo in the middle of the night, we just have to worry about harassing each other (which we’re used to).

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Arrival at Istanbul Atakurk International Airport! After circling the Marmara Sea for what seemed like an eternity, we finally landed, amongst easily the most Turkish Airlines airplanes either of us have ever seen. The weather looked absolutely perfect and Turkey looked beautiful from the air. We hadn’t even landed and we were already plotting ways to stay longer. In fact, after clearing customs, we went straight to the Turkish Airlines customer service desk to see about changing the ticket dates. Back in April when we were buying the tickets, Istanbul was originally supposed to be a five hour layover, but we decided to extend that to two days as it didn’t cost any extra and Turkey had been on our short list for some time. Now we were asking a Turkish Airlines rep to make that five days instead. We’ll see how long that lasts…

We took the Metro and Tram into the Sultanahmet area of Old Istanbul, where we were greeted by a gorgeous Wednesday evening, walking along the Hippodrome with views of the Blue Mosque and cobblestone beneath our feet on our way to our guesthouse. It was around 8pm and families were out enjoying the evenings with their young children. It seemed to be a very local scene for the moment, nary a tourist in sight! It couldn’t have been more perfect.

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We checked into our guesthouse and meandered around until finding this outdoor Turkish bistro with a view of the Blue Mosque. I had a few reservations having my first Efes beer in full view of one of Istanbul’s holiest Muslim sites, but locals around me were enjoying the same beverage without seeming too bothered, so we ordered up two and some our first lamb kebabs in Istanbul. A perfect end to a perfect start!

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Farewell, Punta Gorda
Istanbul: Cradle of Civilizations
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