Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Welcome Back and Our Trip to the Middle East

For those of you who haven't heard... We're headed back to Thailand! The MacLeod Thaimes is back in business!

At the beginning of June Greg accepted a position with his company to rejoin the HTO staff for 2 years as a Technical Development Specialist. The decision was not an easy one to make... we now have a house, cars, new friends, closer to family and live in a city we love. However, we also remember how much we loved living in Asia... easy travel to amazing places, great food at a great price, and living in a large city. In the end, we picked Asia. We leave July 25th. 

I'll update you guys more about our plans to move in later posts... To get the ball rolling again on sharing our latest adventures, last Friday we returned to Eau Claire after spending a fortnight (ok just 13 days, but almost) touring Istanbul, Turkey and areas of Lebanon.

Our trip was filled with incredible sightseeing through many historical places. You name the ancient empire- they have once ruled the area now called Istanbul. Grand churches turned mosques, like Hagia Sophia, and once forgotten cisterns, Underground Cistern, were some of the sites that had us in awe. The city has been on the news recently for protests, but luckily for us they were broken up just before we arrived. Even luckier for us, the protests made many tourists cancel trips. Not so lucky for the restaurant owners who explained to us that their tables were usually filled in June.

Hagia Sophia, so large that the Nortre Dame Cathedral could fit inside

Blue Mosque, simply beautiful inside and outside. We ate a dinner of doner and apple tea  on the benches out front while watching the sunset (and all the people!) one evening.

Views from our day cruise up the Bosphorus Straight to the Black Sea. 
Underground Cistern, Greg said author Dan Brown described them perfectly in his new book, Inferno. Greg read the entire book on our trip. 
Our second hotel was only a 10 minute walk from the Galata Tower, which offered panoramic views of the city. 

Exploring on our last full day. Grand Market, Spice Market, Mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent, and Istiklal Street
Our last evening on the roof terrace at our hotel with the Bosphorus in the distance. Isn't that one of the cutest little mosques you have ever seen?

Istanbul book-ended our trip, with time in the middle spent visiting longtime friends The Goodrich family. I met Andrea in the dorms at University of Iowa my sophomore year and we've been friends ever since. Andrea and Paul, along with their adorable daughter Lenora, have been living in Lebanon for just over a year. They work in Sidon, Lebanon along with their team of about 10 or so. A usual day for them consists of activities such as Arabic study, building relationships with neighbors and others they have met, and of course general day to day errands. I was with Andrea on a visit with a neighbor when she was asked (she explained this to me later in English) why they were in Lebanon. She explains that they are there to study Arabic and study the Bible in the land that prophets once lived. Many of the people that they have been able to share with are Syrian refuges. With only a few friends and most without jobs, they welcome the opportunity to talk in the afternoon, which makes it no problem at all to drop by unannounced. 

Andrea and Paul put their normal schedule aside during our visit to be amazing hosts. Highlights for us included exploring an old sea castle, ancient ruins with Biblical ties, and the old market area in their city. On a day trip through the mountains we took in sweeping views of the countryside as well as a stop to hike through the cedars of Lebanon that are also mentioned in the Bible. Our last days included seeing a bit of Beirut as well as one of the coolest natural creations we've ever seen, Jeita Grotto. Unfortunately  we were not allowed to take pictures there... so you'll have to go see them for yourself someday or at least click on the link to see Google images!  

Sea Castle in Sidon, Lebanon
Temple of Jezebel Ruins; Lenora found her own throne, but in the center of the upper right hand picture is the real ancient throne

The back streets of the old market (still very much alive and vibrant) a perfect spot to enjoy a falafel and Arabic coffee

The Cedars
Happy Birthday Greg!

Pigeon Rock Beirut, Lebanon

Our trip is one that we'll never forget! I'll work on posting more photos on a link soon! Thanks for reading again and have a Happy 4th of July!

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations, Greg and Mary! How exciting :) I'm happy to see your blog back...Ryan and I will most definitely follow you on your journeys back in Thailand. Best wishes and many prayers!