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Finally Cooling off in Istanbul



It’s been about 3 weeks since we were there, but I just got around to writing about it: Ascona. What a magical place! We had three days off after the training in Zurich and before heading out to Oslo, so we decided to explore Ticino, the only Italian canton of Switzerland. Chris wasn’t that excited about traveling since he was pretty tired from the week (that’s what happens when you travel so much for work-when you have time off, you just want to stay put), but we didn’t want to just stay in Zurich and kill time either. After asking around a little bit, we settled on Ascona.

We took a three our train ride to Locarno, then took a bus to Ascona. I’m not even going to tell you how amazing the train ride itself was; you can see for yourself below; I’m posting some of the photos. I always think about doing all this work or reading on the train, but I end up just staring out the window and not really getting anything done.

Ascona is located on the side of Lago Maggiore, which is partly in Italy and partly in Switzerland. When you look from the piazza into the lake, you feel like the beautiful green mountains around the lake are spilling into the water. Take a look at this:

We spent a couple of days just walking around, practicing yoga, running and eating lots of great food. On Wednesday we went on a hike through Monte Verita to Ranco, and especially the first half of the hike was one of the nicest hikes I’ve been to. Beautiful trees, stillness, clean air, the lake view, a cafe along the way where you can have some prosecco to cool off before embarking on the rest of your journey…

Overall, the food was great, our hotel had an uninterrupted lake view from our balcony, the market on Tuesday was very charming, and despite the long travel day it was a restful trip. We left on Thursday and headed out to Oslo to do some weekend workshops.


Post-Holiday Recovery

Wow, it was an amazing week! So much to write about. However…
Lost luggage again! Well, delayed really. We just got them (3.5 days after checking them in at the airport in Palma de Mallorca!), so we’re trying to catch up on emails and such. I’ll write more about it later.

As far as yoga spots go…


Great yoga spot or the greatest yoga spot?

What did we learn today?


We learned to be open minded.
We learned to not reduce expectations too soon.
We learned that they speak Croatian in Montenegro.
We also learned that anything Italian looks good on Chris.

We are in Ascona; just got in, loving it already.




Star Alliance Vortex

It’s one of those Kafka-esque situations we are in right now. I’ve spending a couple of hours a day on trying to buy this one ticket (yes, it has 6 destinations in it), and haven’t been able to succeed yet. Like other airline groups, Star Alliance has a few “passes” that you can buy if you are traveling to multiple destinations on one trip. We have bought Europe Air Passes a couple of times and it’s been great. Way cheaper than buying all the tickets one at a time. I mean waaaaay cheaper.

So I attempted to do it again, but it’s been nothing but a nightmare. This particular airpass has a few rules, three of which are:

– You need to be a North America Resident. check

– You need to have a return ticket from North America to Europe with a Star Alliance member airline. check

– You need to have at least three legs in Europe. check

In the past I just went to, created the itinerary and selected Lufthansa on the last page to ticket it. They sent me the price, I sent them our passport info and once it was approved I called them and purchased it over the phone. No problems. We were even given the flexibility to make a couple of changes without being charged extra, we got all the miles necessary, and it was a great savings.

This time, not so easy. First I sent the itinerary to Swiss to get ticketed. They got back to me with the price, but I didn’t get the chance to call them back during the time they were holding it for me (2 days). By the time I called back, it was gone.

And thus begins the Kafka style loop:

I re-created and sent it to Lufthansa this time. They got back to me right away saying since my transatlantic is with Air Canada, I would have to buy this from AC as well. However, when you are on the Star Alliance website creating your itinerary, AC doesn’t come up as an option, I have to pick Lufthansa, Swiss or Turkish Airlines (who apparently doesn’t do this online).

I called Air Canada, the rep says she doesn’t know how she can sell us a ticket that doesn’t even include a single AC flight.

I tried Swiss again online, no word for 2 weeks.

We were in Zurich, so I walked into a Swiss office, she didn’t know what I was talking about.

I call AC again, she created the itinerary and said they would get back to me, no word for a week.

Now I’m getting nervous since the dates are getting close and we still don’t have tickets.

I email Star Alliance directly, no answer.

I re-email Lufthansa practically begging them to sell the ticket. They get back to me right away saying they really cannot. I’m extra frustrated that the only organization that is very responsive is the one that is denying me the ticket.

I stop by the Swiss ticket office at the Zurich airport, he tells me I would have to call Swiss in North America. He can sell me a North America Airpass though, and North Americans can sell me a Europe Airpass.

I call Swiss when we get to Vancouver, she has no idea what I’m talking about. We re-create the itinerary on the phone, and as she is taking our billing address she is asking me to spell everything. I mean EVERYTHING; Santa. Monica. Boulevard. Suite. Beverly. Then I snap and just ask her to quote the ticket, then call me back.

Just a side note, I am getting frustrating just writing about this right now.

Anyway, Chris is starting to feel sorry for me right now and he calls Swiss back and re-explains everything to the rep. The rep says he is at the same office as the one I just talked to and they are working on it and that they are going to call us back later that day. It’s been three days, no call.

Now we’re 9 days away from our flight, so I do two things. I go to a travel agent (yes, they still exist apparently) and ask for a quote. She needs a day to figure out, OK.

I also re-call Air Canada just in case and voila! No ticket yet but she knows what I’m talking about, the kind of ticket we need and she takes all the info, gives me a locator code and asks me to call back tomorrow (today) for the price.

I call back this morning and I am missing one of the digits on the locator code!!!! She is able to find it anyway, and she actually finds the first one that I asked from them also (apparently one of the flights on that one is still confirmed). She apologizes and asks me to call back after 4 pm.

As I’m writing this guess what happens? Chris called them and WE HAVE THE TICKETS!!!!!!!

We are on the 29th floor and it’s pouring outside and there was a ladybug in the house this morning. I knew it was a good omen!

Here is what the trip looks like: Vancouver>London>Aix-en-Provence>Istanbul>Zurich>Oslo>Palma de Mallorca>London>Vancouver! All in 9 weeks!


London is definitely one of my favorite cities. I remember the first time I went there to visit Chris, I was amazed by the colorfulness of it; the parks, flowers, rows and rows of houses with different color doors, musicals. It was love at first sight really, despite the cold and rain in the middle of July. After we moved to the US, we still kept going to London on our way to/from Istanbul to visit my family. We recently realized we hadn’t been back for a few years so finally when we had a week off, we decided to spend it in London.


We had an amazing time. Chris taught a few classes while we were there; one for teachers, and two public workshops. They all went great and we met some wonderful people. We also hung out with friends and generally just enjoyed the city. We even took a cooking class at Recipease (Jamie Oliver’s cooking school)!

After a week in London, we went to Zurich for Immersion III, and headed back to London for one more night on the way to Vancouver. For that night, I had bought tickets to see Billy Elliot. When we were going through passport control at Heathrow, the officer asked us how long we’re staying and we told him just one night due to our flight schedule and that we thought we would see the musical while we’re there. He said his wife got the DVD for the movie and he could only stand 3.5 minutes of it and that he hated it! He said “if it doesn’t have guts or blood, it’s not for me!” =) Well, I guess there is something for everyone… We had really enjoyed the movie and we absolutely loved the musical!

We are now in Vancouver and we are about to start a palate test. We each bought some secret ingredients today and we’ll taste and try to figure out what they are. Blindfolded of course. We’ll keep you posted on the results.

A new way to fly high!

If you have traveled at all in the past few years and have been frustrated by the long lines at check-in and the overly secure security or have been given the bottom of the barrel when it comes to seat selection, or have arrived at check-in only to be told that you are 2 ounces over your weight limit…. then, you are going to be pissed to learn that there is a whole other way to travel – it’s called Elite Status baby!!!!

Those of you that already fly first class or are Elite members… you should have said something!!

Let’s start from the beginning.

It began a few of weeks ago… we were flying from Toronto to Vancouver and just before check-in I received an email notifying me that I had just achieved “Elite” status with Air Canada. I had no idea then, that that email would change me forever!

As I walked up to the check-in desk… I notified the person at the counter that I had received an “elite” notification… he was in the process of printing my boarding card…. he checked the system and sure enough, confirmed my elite-ness… he took my existing boarding card and tore it to pieces and then he proceeded to print out a NEW boarding card with the elite title on it….he then gave me passes to the “lounge” and explained a few of the elite benefits that I would be able to take advantage of immediately.

Security… those of us that travel a lot have at one time or another been standing at the back of one of these long lines staring impatiently at the guy holding up the line that had no idea that the 2 pounds of loss change in one pocket, a cell phone in another, and belt buckle the size of a serving platter would set off the metal detector!! I kid you not!!!!

Well, no more… we were guided to a separate security section, which i had NEVER even noticed… it’s written in code… I would share it here, but then you would all be in line with me and I would, well… be back to square one!

Once through security, which was brief and yes, pleasant…. in fact, the only thing lacking was Champagne… we entered a special set of doors where the Champagne dilemma was remedied. Waiting for your flight in the lounge translates into the equivalent of walking into your own fully stoked cafe lounge bar, complete with plush comfortable chairs, CLEAN bathrooms, and in London – SHOWERS!!!

Heading to the gate to catch the flight… which is timed perfectly to minimize the discomfort of standing… we quickly bypass the long lines of passengers waiting to board rows 35-60 and hand our boarding cards over to the gate agent dedicated to serving “our kind”. There’s nobody between us and the agent…. however, once on the ramp… we are quickly reminded how annoying it can be to wait!

At baggage claim… our bags our first out of the shoot… why? Because they are tagged PRIORITY – nice:))

I knew this would have a profound effect on my perception of my own “eliteness”, I just didn’t know that it would happen after just two flights!

After landing in London… rested from a comfortable flight (which was possible only because at check-in the agent was unwilling to seat us alongside the toilets and quickly moved us forward to the front of the plane, just behind business class) we headed out to catch a taxi…. after spotting the taxi stand, still in Elite mode, I walked right to the front… oblivious to the other 50-75 people standing line and proceeded to get in the first taxi that pulled up… shockingly, not one person said a single word! It was not until I was JUST about to get in, that Ozlem and I both realized…. OH! That’s a line!!! Don’t worry.. we gracefully walked to the back of the line:)))

Just this past weekend… at an airport that didn’t recognize Eliteness…. it was daunting to spot the long security line from the check-in counter…. we were quick to ask if there was a way around it!!!! Yes, it happens that quick! You can imagine that the agent looked at us with a blank stare… like… “what do you mean, a faster way?” It was funny, because his response was appropriate and simple…. “go and eat something and when you come back, there will hopefully be less people…” How’s that for an ELITE answer?!

I am learning to take this Elite thing in small doses… kind of like my coffee addiction….. I am making sure that I mix my first class upgrades with the occasional flight in coach (domestic only… nothing more than 2 hours – no need to be extreme about it!).

Update: this post was written before the new TSA rules were put in place. We do have a lot to say about that, but that’s a different post.

Montreal by Palate

As it says in the title of this entry, our experience of Montreal has mainly been focused around eating!

Before coming to Montreal, our good friend and chef, Francois, gave a us a list of “must eats” and our entire time here has reloved around our looking for and walking to one great eatery after another….. and tonight was the BEST!

We waited for three days to eat at Restaurant au Pied de Cochon… it started the day of our arrival:

Day 1: We called for a table only to find that it was the one day of the week that they were closed…

Day 2: We walk all day with 536 ave Duluth as our final destination only to find that it is fully booked, next opening… tomorrow night at 7:30 pm… and only at the bar

Day 3: We arrive with high expectations but still hoping for a table instead of two seats at the bar…. as it turns out, the bar faces right onto the open kitchen – an absolutely AMAZING experience for anyone who appreciates watching skilled professional chefs moving at a high rate of speed for hours – unreal!

We sat looking at the menu for awhile…even with an English menu, I had no idea what my options were…. after asking for suggestions… I still had no idea what he said! In the end, I went with the second thing…..that’s always a safe choice, especially when the waiter nods in total agreement with your well informed decision!

When my food arrived… as you can probably guess… I  had no idea what it was in front of me… and my first bite… absolutely AMAZING! It had all my favorite tastes!!!! What was in it – I have no idea!!! Would I have it again? ABSOLUTELY!!!

Ozlem finally had poutine from the homeland…. it was FANTASTIC!

It’s been a great few days… tomorrow… Toronto!