A Surprisingly Pleasant End to an Unsurprisingly Good Year

14 01 2013

The good year we expected. It was just your bog standard year, you know the type: loads of parties with friends, family gatherings, quitting of jobs and cycling 5000 kms to Asia. You know nothing special, no point saying anymore about that really.

New Year, although we were not expecting to have a bad time it turned out to be really rather special. We were due to celebrate it separately. (Can you see where this is going yet?) Rose had booked cheap flights back to the UK for Christmas and New Year to be with her family, particularly her beautifully pregnant younger sister. Whilst Jim was remaining at the coalface- those puncture repair kits won’t pay for themselves you know. I (Jim) arranged to go to Istanbul for 2 nights with my Mum and her Terry to visit sister Rhi (formerly of the Rosy and Jim TDW Cult) in her new Galata pad.

So whilst Rose was living it up in the good old North of England with our two best friends, Real Ale and Cheddar cheese, Jim was on a culinary tour of Istanbul with an Istanbulite (Rhi) and the author of A Rough Guide to Istanbul (Terry).

We started the day with a swish coffee in Cafe Konak, check this for a view (and no that isn’t Robert Redford- she gets that a lot)!Moved onto Tantuni for brunch. Tantuni is spicy beef fried and served in a durum wrap. Before moving on to baklava,  ice cream and tea in the afternoon.  We then watched the excellent Life of Pi in 3D which was fantastic. Then whilst the oldies went for a lie down, me and my sis went for a few swift beers at a English microbrewery that she knows of.

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Feeling somewhat appropriately merry we made our way back across Istanbul managing to avoid the customary groping in Taksim square towards the meyhane, Gurme Boncuk, to meet the wise ones for our New Years Eve dinner.

After several bevvies and a one hour dash via 2 tubes our bladders were somewhat at capacity, so we dashed into the restaurant eager to find the toilets. As a result the scene that greeted us almost resulted in a very embarrassing accident.

Joining the oldies at the table was Rosy Pose and Little Jas, one of my all time  top 11 friends.  My slightly drunk and high on anti bladder release adrenalin brain was saying, “I know these faces but they don’t belong in this restaurant, who ordered them?”

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After avoiding the afore-mentioned embarrassment I regained my composure and set about getting to the bottom of the mystery. I think I’ll let Rose take over from here….

I had just spent a lovely week back home, visiting the family, holding the babies: my niece Melissa, nephew Lewis and friends new addition Freya. I ate lots of lovely food, met up with almost all my friends and even had a turn at karaoke at the family christmas party! After a training visit to York to see Jemma Buxton was my next stop and the lead up to the most expensive night of our lives.

First I had a lovely tapas dinner with Izy and got to play kitchens with Lewis and generally love his new words and cuddles. I met Jas in the pub and we were catching up and chatting about new year and our respective plans. I said I was going to Ben and Cats in Manchester then get the plane to Antalya on New Years Day. Jas didn’t have much plannedl, just maybe go to someones house. I told him where Jimi was and their plans and then suddenly we shared a look across the table at exactly the same time, we both knew what the other was thinking…”what if we went to Istanbul to surprise Jimi?” The seed was planted!

8:37pm 30th December 2012.

Jas got to work on his super duper phone and looked up flights for the very next morning. As the evening wore on and I had a few more glasses of wine the idea seemed flawless and of course it was the only way we wanted to spend our New Year. Jason was driving so he cant even blame the alcohol for the rash decisions we made. We then got a call from Jonathan (Jimis dad) asking us to go to his for wine and cheese and a catch up. Off we went with the help of a few bottles of wine from Co-op and indulged in a midnight feast of cheese, scones, crackers, red wine. The idea was firmly planted by this point and with Jonathan saying, “Don’t be ridiculous, Istanbul in the morning! Ha that will never happen,” we were spurred on.

So at 3am Jas and I parted with Jas saying, “I’ll call you at 7am, look at flights and make a decision then.” “Ok Jason, of course you will.”

7:03 am 31st December 2012

After 3 hours of drunken sleep…..Brrrriiiiing brriiiing brriiiiing! “WOW Jason you meant it then?” “I’ll be there in 30 minutes was the reply.”

8:07am 31st December 2012

Jason and Rose in a Nissan Micra driving to London Stansted, ticketless, hoping we could buy a plane  ticket from the airport and be in Istanbul in time for the new year celebrations and at the restaurant at 8pm to meet everyone…easy!

First problem of the day, Jason had no passport so we had to go via Doveridge (Staffordshire) to collect his passport a change of clothes and then off to London to catch the 14:10 flight to Istanbul we saw advertised. That means we have 3 hours to get to the airport,hoping there is no traffic, park, buy a plane ticket and get to the check in before it closes…easy!

9:32am 30th December 2012

The sat Nav said 2 hours 45 minutes that means we would be there at 12:15 if all went right, and there was no traffic. We arrived at London Stansted at 12:06, parked the car, the shuttle bus took us to the terminal and we were inside the airport by 12:15. “TICKET OFFICE CLOSED: read the sign in front of us… problem number 2.

We went to the Atlas Jet desk and politely inquired if we could buy a ticket for the Istanbul plane leaving in 2 hours. ” The ticket sales man is not here so I cant sell you a ticket sorry.” Problem number 3.

Just by chance the computers and internet were right next to us so we got onto them straight away and found the website to book the flights. (it was a minor problem that the flights had gone up by about £50) We added all the details into the system with our hearts racing as check in would be closing very soon. After a minor issue of credit running out on the pre-pay machine Jas finally put in his details and his flight was confirmed, he was going to Istanbul…or so we thought!

I added the details and was using Jason’s credit card to pay for the flight, “SORRY WE DO NOT ACCEPT THIRD PARTY PAYMENTS ON THIS SITE” read the notification in bold red letters on the screen. Problem number 4. That was it, Jas was going to Istanbul – on his own. I hastily made a call to my mum, ” Mum could you put £100 in my bank straight away I’m in London airport and want to fly to Istanbul in less than an hour and check in closes in 20 minutes. “Of course love Ill do it right away!” (Mum your a life saver)

Brilliant I thought, Ill just book the flight with my card and we can be on our way. I added the details only to be told the flight was no longer for sale as the airline had withdrawn them. Of course, its 10 minutes until check in closes, no one would be so stupid as to think they could book a ticket 30 minutes before the plane leaves. (Oh yes there are) Problem number 5.

I called the ticket sales number and they said sorry there are no tickets for this flight, they are no longer for sale. So I sulkily went with Jas to check in and say my goodbyes wondering how I would get from Stansted to London then Manchester in time for my flight on 1st back to Antalya. The train to Manchester was £100 and I started to feel a little silly.

Problem number…I cant remember! The man at the desk said, “there is no confirmation of this flight so you are not booked on it. I have called the sales UK Manager and there are no details for you sorry.” “Surely there must be something you can do?” He spoke to the manager and he said Jason could buy a new ticket from him and get on the flight….hold on if Jas can buy a flight surely I can do the same I politely asked to speak to the manager. “If Jason gets to buy a ticket, please can I also have a ticket?” “Sure give me your details and ill get you both on the flight right away!” Were we hearing right?

1:45 pm 31st December 2012

Jason gave his card details and to our delight two boarding cards were printed and handed to us with the words, “dont worry you have to go through security and go on the shuttle across the airport to the plane but it will wait for you no problem!”

Me and Jason were giddy that after all the problems and near misses we were finally going (to even our own disbelief) to Istanbul right now. In the hurry Jason left his phone at the security and the assistant said don’t worry ill go and get it for you, the plane will wait. You would think we were some kind of VIPs and the airport was on hold for us. This was all too good to be true.

14:15 31st December 2012

Alas no phone arrived so we boarded the plane which had in fact waited for us. Jason cancelled his phone literally just as we  left the runway, saying I have to go I’m on a plane.

We were brought Efes and a tasty meal as we soared over the Alps to a beautiful sunset and great view of the snow capped mountains. We couldn’t really believe we were actually on the plane after all that had happened, 4 hours sleep and a hell of a lot of adrenalin and hare racing going on all day. I may add that Atlas Jet are a fabulous airline, free luggage, loads of leg room, tasty food and drinks and very friendly and helpful staff.

As we landed at Istanbul airport, I asked a girl if by any chance she was going to Taksim Square and if she wanted to share a taxi, sure she did, she was surprising her friend there as well. (She had of course had hers booked for months).

So we arrived at the restaurant and was quite funny trying to explain to the manager that it was a surprise and not to tell them we are here. Finally he said, “oh Supris” which is very similar in Turkish. We sat down, had a well earned beer and waited with baited (although boozy) breath. In the midst of all the excitement at the airport and thinking it would never happen, I had text Lem to say I couldn’t come and that Jas would be coming alone, I had forgotten to text to say I would now be there, so even she was surprised when she climbed the restaurant stairs to see me and Jas sitting there.

So as Jimi pointed out earlier, he was desperate for the toilet and did in fact nearly wee himself at the sight of us two sitting there when he thought he would be greeted by just the oldies!

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The night was better than we could have hoped for and the flow of food, wine, Efes and Raki added to the enjoyment of the evening. We even did some Turkish dancing at midnight and shortly after Tez fell asleep at the table, we went onto a club (something we would never normally do) and had a jolly good time! The trip was well worth the butterflies, the anxiety and the money we spent. To top it off, Jas overslept and nearly missed his plane home. But as we now know you CAN check in late and board at the last minute, I guess some airline staff are kinder than others.

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4 Wheels and a Wedding

29 05 2012

Finally a full shake down of the gear. And what a weekend to choose, absolutely typical English May weather- honest.

We both went to our respective work places on our fully loaded Sherpas. Both bikes were laid to rest in the safety of our respective offices for the day too, No risks being taken here!

The rendezvous was Knutsford train station at 4pm, both parties were punctual and the journey began. South Westernly towards our campsite in Wrenbury, it was a lovely evening and the route took us down country lanes and river towpaths. The only moment of confusion was when we lost the route 75 signs, then out of the blue came Rich; a local rider from the Weaver Club. He was on his 4th day of 120 miles plus, truly putting our humble evening ride into perspective. Rich chivalrously cycled us the final 6 miles to our campsite and waved us on our way. Lovely chap.

We had barely put up our tent by the time we’d greedily devoured our Kronenburgs and bacon fries- there’s nothing like a beer after a ride. After some great tucker cooked on our donated MSR XGK stove (Thanks Jem- lovely chap- good luck on your US ride) and one more beer, we slept like very tired logs for 8 hours.

The following morning we set off on the anticipated 2 and a half hour ride to Shrewsbury and the wedding of our good friends Dave and Rhi. Again a very picturesque ride in the English Sun down the Mercian Way (Route 45). Rosy was looking rosy until we passed a sign saying Shrewsbury 26 miles with about an hour to go before we had to be there. After a slight panic, we set off with renewed vigour and jaffa cakes making it by the skin of our teeth. After a quick shower and erection of the tent we arrived at the wedding a good 2 minutes before the Bride.


The wedding was absolutely fantastic. I only hope the happy couple had as much fun as we did.

Raise your glasses to Rhi and Dave. x





It’s starting to feel a little more real!

29 04 2012

So we are going on a bike ride and up until now we have had no bikes!

After many hours of Jimi searching far and wide for the perfect machine, he found me a ‘Ferrari’ as he called it! (Well it was black and red)

Only a small problem, it was in London and we are in Manchester. Thanks to a helpful auntie, problem solved, we borrowed a car and drove to get it. I was assured by Jimi it would be worth the early start, long drive, expensive petrol and heavy traffic jams along the way!

So we set off and hoped it would fit me and feel right to ride. (I secretly think Jimi was hoping it wouldn’t fit me so he could have it.)

After the Sat Nav nearly taking us the wrong way up one way streets, down industrial estates and crazy drivers beeping for nothing, we reached our destination.

Duuuuum duuuum duuuuuuuuuuuum… it was perfect! We were greeted by a friendly face, freshly brewed coffee and a nearly brand new Thorn Sherpa bike, perfect size, mint condition, and dare I say it, beautiful (Yes Jimi I think its beautiful, and not just a bike with two wheels.)

So I have my bike now and it feels as though everything is coming together for our trip, only a few more things to get and we can be on our way.

Jimi had a few days of intense jealousy and looking longingly at my bike until he found a bike which he will go and pick up tommorow… from Edinburgh.

From opposite ends of the country but he has the same bike as me, only a black one (and not as good.)

So now I have THE bike, I need to get practicing on it now and await the big day to arrive. (86 days to go, not that I’m counting!)





Cycling and Kebabs!

18 04 2012

So my holiday in Turkey taught me a lot about cycling and actually living in Turkey as a cyclist. (Me and Jimi will live in Turkey for 6 months from November.)

The first thing I noticed about cycling through the city of Antalya, when your cycling along the road is that people in cars don’t go slower, they don’t wait patiently for you to pass; they beep long and loud until I eventually had to pull in on the pavement and wait for them to pass!!

There are no cycle lanes and as a cyclist you have to decide wether to cycle on the pavement and avoid pedestrians, or dodge through beeping traffic.

So with Jimi still not able to ride a bike due to a silly car door; I decided to do a little bit of riding in Turkey. (Not the two day mountain ride we had planned.)
I thought I’d cycle to the beach, have a swim and then cycle home. So in between dodging the tram, ignoring the angry beeping car drivers and on occasion dodging pedestrian walking in the middle of the road I made it to the beach.

Another difference of Turkey which I cannot decide is a good thing or not; kebabs are eaten any time of day, not just at 11pm after frequenting the bar!

So after a ride to beach, sweating in the heat, hungrily I tucked into a Turkish kebab at 1pm in the afternoon! This can never be a normal food of choice for my lunch but in Turkey this is standard.

I am looking forward to my Turksih experience, not necessarily the beeping swerving cars but definately the kebabs at midday and the amazing scenery that Turkey has to offer.





Lycian Way- ‘Like’

14 04 2012

We have been in Turkey for a week, so here’s a little story about what we got up to.

We come here a lot to visit my (Jim) Mum, she’s lived here with Terry in Antalya for 7 years. Mum writes a column in a English language national newspaper and is a Primary school teacher too. Terry is a travel writer and Archaeological Tour Guide.

A few years ago Terry was part of a team that way marked and wrote a book about the Lycian way, a 509 km way-marked footpath around the coast of Lycia in southern Turkey, from Fethiye to Antalya. We have been meaning to walk a stretch ever since and as I still can’t cycle since I killed a car door with my chest we couldn’t complete the cycle tour in Turkey we had planned.

So we took a bus from Antalya and after a couple of changes were in Olympos, an ancient city that once housed Romans, pirates and Greeks. There are also some rather more recent dwellings, treehouses, which are home to a new generation of travellers- the backpackers! It is now a well established destination on the ‘packers circuit of Turkey. We chose to stay at Bayrams on my sisters recommendation and guess what? She was right as usual, a lovely little place that had a fire in the evening that everyone gathered round and enjoyed dinner and cold beers together, it’s 35tl each including breakfast and dinner!

But back to the Lycian Way, we did the leg that starts in the Ruins of Olympos and heads west up a steep valley. It is clearly marked with red and white stripes. We hiked for a couple of hours until we reached some more ruins where we sat and downed our water. We were drenched in sweat, I can see why they don’t recommend you do it in summer, a cloudy spring morning is hot enough. The four bottles of Efes the night before had not helped our hydration levels.

We ‘liked’ the Lycian Way and if you like walking you will too. Especially if you, like us, enjoy hiking away from the crowds of the Alps and such places. We didn’t see anyone all day but we’re sure we heard something big in the woods. Although we had just watched the Liam Neeson film about wolves 2 nights before.

Oh I almost forgot, there is a beach to read (sleep) on and a sea to swim in!





The bike is dead, long live the bike…

12 03 2012

… but on the plus side I’m still here!

Sad news on the bike front though. Potentially “the bike” was fatally wounded in a collision with a car door last week. You will be pleased to know that the car door did not make it either, the Horizon gave as good as she got.

I was on the way home from work last Friday in the bike lane when with no time to react the passenger door was swung into my chest. Now although this still sounds bad when I write it a week later I must point out that I was very lucky. If the impact of the corner of the door was any higher then it would have been throat, teeth, eyes and it would have been much more serious. Also there was a conveniently placed wall that I landed on, as opposed to the floor which likely would have meant wrists or collarbones. As it happened I escaped with a dent in my chest, whiplash and the usual cuts and bruises.

I was well pleased with the emergency services response. Within 10 minutes there was 3 paramedics (2 vehicles), a passing doctor, 3 fireman and later in A&E another doctor and a policeman; all of whom were very good with me. To be fair to the people in the car responsible they seemed really nice and were of course incredibly apologetic. They also made sure I got their details, something I was incapable of thinking about and then they reported it to the police too.

All this has of course given me the excuse to take up one of my favorite hobbies legitimately- surfing the net for “bike porn” as Rose calls it. I’m thinking (dreaming) of a Surly Long Haul Trucker.





A (little) bit more training

29 01 2012

With just 6 months until we embark on this sometimes daunting but mostly double mega exciting bike ride we have begun to train a little bit more each week. I’m playing sports at work (I teach Sport in a college) with colleagues and students and in my spare time with friends, I’m also throwing in some core strengthening sessions too. Rose is doing circuit training regularly and begins her hula hoop sessions again next week, and of course we are both cycling to and from work every day. At the weekends we like to try and get out of the city to do some longer rides or walks together.

Being our nearest hills, the Peak District is our favourite weekend getaway, whether by bike, train or our friend Pete’s borrowed Minibus. So with Pete playing the crucial roles of driver, personal trainer and story teller we struck out for a few hours in the snow. Our only aim was to have a nice Sunday out and it developed into a fartlek training session, a continuous fast walk with distances of jogging and sprints up the hills. Pete seemed to find great amusement it watching us slip and slide around the dales whilst becoming increasingly more like a hyper excited Chris Akubusi.

With a light glazing of snow, Goyt Valley could have easily graced any post card today. Apart from the red faced walleys running around in their new Oxfam T-shirts, it was a picture of serenity. I confidently recommend this part of the world to those who haven’t yet been.

Speaking of the world, we have been thinking of our summer amble though Europe towards Turkey. Has anybody out there done any cycling in Eastern Europe or rode the Eurovelo 11, what is it like? Or have you got somewhere in particular you could recommend we visit, we would really appreciate any advice.