All posts in travel

  • color palettes: turkey

    This time last year, we were just getting back from a two week trip to Turkey. It was an overwhelming, exhausting, and unforgettable trip filled with some of the best food of my life. And cats. So many lovable street cats. Once every couple of months, I find myself going through the, oh I don’t know, 1,000 or so photos I took during our visit and thinking to myself “were we really there? Why haven’t I made kaymak yet? Did I really spend a morning lazing on a hammock watching hot air balloons, in a town surrounded by phallic-shaped rocks? How many stray cats did I pet? 100? 200?”

    I’ve been working on a number of creative projects lately and I keep finding myself drawn to the photos I took in Turkey for color inspiration. Inspired by sites like Design Seeds, I’ve made a few color palette boards to help get me going various projects:

    color palettesAios Konstantinos Eleni Church in Mustafapasa. It was an optional part of one of our tours and we had to pay a small fee to go inside. It was lovely, peaceful, and we had the place to ourselves.

    ephesusMorning in Ephesus. Ephesus was once home to 50,000 Romans. Now it’s home to about 50,000 cats.

    fdHierapolis. Not pictured: throngs of Russian tourists in speedos and bikinis at nearby Pamukkale.

    istanbul-02Cihangir Istanbul, a neighborhood full of artists and intellectuals. And steep hills.

    istiklalTaken on Istiklal street in Istanbul. Istiklal street is a very busy, very crowded pedestrian (uh, mostly) street. Probably my favorite photo from our entire trip.

    sirinceSirince, a small (formerly Greek) village just outside of Ephesus. The village is known for its various wines, so Cory and I picked up a couple bottles of fruit wines (strawberry and peach). We spent a couple hours walking around, but there wasn’t much for us to do there. Picturesque, but painfully touristy.

  • tour san francisco: walking tours

    During our last months in San Francisco, we made a point to do something new every weekend. We didn’t want to leave San Francisco telling each other, “I wish we would’ve done [x]…” We went whale watching, hiking in Land’s End, ate at various restaurants, visited museums, and went on a series of walking tours. I always assumed that walking tours were rather corny, but once I took one in my own neighborhood, I got hooked and signed up for three more.

    The prices listed below are the full charge prices, check Yelp, Groupon, and Groupon-esque clones for discounts. I didn’t pay full price for any of the tours.

    FYI: if you’ve never been on a walking tour before, most guides will accept tips at the end of the tour. Cory and I rarely carry cash and it took us a couple times to remember to have some extra money on hand.

    haunted haight

    Haunted Haight walking tour – $25 // official site // Yelp – As a kid, I surrounded myself with ghosts. Living in an old house, every unexplainable creak and crack were the spirits of the house’s former residents. I was an only and sometimes lonely child, and would weave together elaborate stories in my head about all the ghosts in the house… and scare myself with them. When I moved out of my parents’ house, the ghosts didn’t follow me and every rational part of me no longer believes in ghosts, an afterlife, or the paranormal. But I still love scary stories and have been known to waste entire evenings reading creepypasta.

    When I discovered that there was a haunted tour in my very own neighborhood, I jumped on it immediately. The tour guide is Tommy Netzband, the president of the San Francisco Ghost Society. He’s a charming and affable Chicago-native, who truly loves San Francisco and the Haight Ashbury neighborhood. The tour starts at 8 pm every Saturday, rain or shine. Regardless of what you heard Eric Burdon say in that one song, bring a thermos full of hot cocoa or tea. It’s going to be chilly. The tour lasts about 2 1/2 and really flies by.

    Touring my own neighborhood was such a treat. I never knew that I passed Jim Jones’ former residence on a weekly basis on my way to get groceries. Besides tales of the paranormal (which are always backed up by as much historical information as Tommy has been able to gather), the tour includes lots of information about the history of the Haight Ashbury neighborhood and architecture. Once the guide discovered we were locals, he was quick to divulge more secrets of our neighborhood’s past. I regret that we hadn’t taken the tour sooner, I would have loved to shared certain stories and landmarks with family members who had visited us over the years.

    I didn’t manage to take any decent photos during the tour, but Tommy did mention the two places pictured above — the Mission Dolores Church and Cemetery, the oldest building in San Francisco and the Columbarium, the largest repository of human ashes in the city. We ended up visiting both places a couple weeks later… on my birthday. It turns out I’m still a 15 year old goth at heart.

    victorian homewalk

    Victorian home walk tour – $20 // official site // Yelp – Do you know what a Queen Anne is? Or an Edwardian shoebox? I didn’t and it turns out I lived in an Edwardian shoebox. Our tour guide was Jay, a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan (the little town we currently call home!), who moved to San Francisco in the 70s. He purchased and restored a Victorian home of his own in the 80s and started the Victorian Home Walk tour in the 90s to share his love and knowledge of local architecture to others.

    For me, the highlights of the tour included a walk through of the Queen Anne Hotel, located in Lower Pacific Heights. The hotel is a former finishing school, and is of course said to be haunted. I was considering staying there for our wedding night, but ended up choosing another boutique hotel, so I was really glad to have seen it in person. Other highlights were information and remaining relics of the 1939 San Francisco World’s Fair. Oh, and at the end of the tour you get a couple fridge magnets. Hell yes they’re on my fridge!

    Before the tour began, a man dressed in strange period clothing approached our tour guide and chatted with him a bit. I assumed he was just some colorful eccentric, but he was actually the tour guide of the Emperor Norton Fantastic Time Machine, a walking tour we took a couple weeks later. Oops. I’m glad he approached Jay, otherwise I might not have heard of the Emperor Norton tour.

    emperor norton walking tour

    Emperor Norton’s Fantastic Time Machine – $20 // official site // Yelp – If you live in San Francisco or you’re at all familiar with San Francisco history, then you most likely know who Emperor Norton is, the failed businessman turned beloved eccentric. The tour is led by the Emperor himself and highlights various landmarks (the birthplace of the city, the former red light district, the Barbary Coast, remaining remnants of the great fire/earthquake of 1906, etc) and notorious figures from San Francisco history, including Lotta Crabtree and the gift she left to her beloved city, Lola Montez and her erotic Spider Dance, and of course lots of information about the Emperor himself.

    The tour spans a lot of walking ground – Union Square, Financial District, SoMa, North Beach, and Chinatown. My favorite part of the tour was the excursion into the Palace Hotel, which I had walked by hundreds of times on my way to and from work. It’s such an unassuming place on the outside, and from the looks of it you wouldn’t have ever guessed that it had a bit of a macabre past and an absolutely beautiful tea room (pictured above). I was so taken with the tea room, I ended up having afternoon tea there a few weeks later with some friends. Not sure if I’ll ever pay $50 for tea and scones again, but having an old money San Francisco experience was a lot of fun.

    The weekend we went on our tour was a very memorable one for our guide, it was his last week at his day job and he was taking on his walking tours full time. Emperor Norton mentioned he had another tour in the works, set in Alamo Square. If you’re not really familiar with that area, that’s where the “Full House” houses are located. I do hope we’re able to take that tour someday and I certainly hope part of it includes a tour of the Chateau Tivoli, the bed and breakfast where Cory and I spent our wedding night. We stayed in the Luisa Tetrazzini suite, named after the opera singer who would frequent the hotel and was mentioned frequently during the tour.

    haunted chinatown

    Haunted Chinatown tour – $48 // official site // Yelp – Chinatown is not my favorite neighborhood. Besides going there for the occasional cheap eats during lunch hours, Chinatown was always low on my list of destinations – it’s crowded, full of kitschy shops that sell the same things, and catching a crowded a bus home is an ordeal in itself. I always wanted to like Chinatown more than I actually did and the walking tour helped give me a new appreciation for the neighborhood. The tour starts at the Four Seas restaurant. Sadly, I’ve forgotten our tour guide’s name but the tour was very personal for her, relaying several stories from her family’s past.

    Some of the highlights and information in this tour had already been included in the Emperor Norton tour and more time was spent talking about Hollywood films than I thought necessary. It was still a really entertaining tour, though. Not only did it cover local paranormal legends, but history about the 1906 earthquake, history of Chinese immigration, information about underground tunnels, and feng shui.

  • 1956 Hawaa’ al-Jadeeda magazine

    On one of my many excursions to Khan al-Khalili in Cairo, I came across a small little antique shop. It was late at night and the owner was itching to close shop – I’m sure I could’ve spent all night there, but I didn’t stay very long. The shop was full of old records, family photos, postcards, books, and magazines. The one thing I procured there that night was a women’s magazine from 1956, Hawaa’ al-Jadeeda (New Eve). What I wouldn’t give to go back and spend hours in that dusty old shop…

    I don’t have a scanner, so photos of photos will have to suffice for now:

  • turning 27: gluttonous birthday escapades

    My 27th birthday was last week, and for me that was an excuse to embark on a week of gluttonous escapades. A couple days before my actual birthday, Cory was going to surprise me with something. Unfortunately, I guessed what it was pretty quickly once he gave me a hint:

    “Look deep into your heart and you’ll know the answer.”

    “You’re gonna buy me a CINNAMON BUN!”

    It was an easy guess. When we were shopping for groceries, I was gazing longingly at the cinnamon buns next to the checkout. Once we arrived home, Cory was yelping it up and wouldn’t tell me what he was looking at. Turns out, he was indeed on a quest for the finest cinnamon bun in San Francisco.

    So we went to Jane on Fillmore. We walked the nearly two miles there, partly because San Francisco public transit sucks and partly because it made me feel better about eating a cinnamon bun larger than my face. There were only three cinnamon buns left when we arrived and I ordered two (one to go). The guy behind the counter gave me an “are you sure?” look when I ordered two. Hell yeah, I was sure! I figured if I’m going to eat one of the best cinnamon buns SF has to offer, I may as well OD on one.

    See this photo? Those are the cinnamon buns in the back, blanketed with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting. Heaven. Cinnamon buns aren’t a part of my weekly or monthly diet, so of course it was the best cinnamon bun I’ve ever had.

    For some strange reason, I also ordered a bowl of their homemade granola with yogurt and fruit. I’m sure it was delicious. By the time it made it to our table, I was already in a cinnamon bun heaven and ready to unbutton my pants. I managed to soldier on and finish much of the fruit bowl out of guilt, but my taste buds were numb after the cinnamon bun sugar explosion.

    On the actual day of my birthday, we went to Brenda’s French Soul Food for breakfast (beignets! chicory coffee! watermelon tea!) and Farmerbrown for dinner (fried chicken! mac ‘n cheese! kale! mint julep!). Between meals, we boarded a cable car on Van Ness and California to Nob Hill.

    It was my first time on a cable car – and yes, I’ve lived here for over three years now!

    We spent much of the afternoon scoping out Nob Hill, a neighborhood where the rich elite built their mansions in the 19th century. It’s still pretty ritzy, and it’s the neighborhood Cory and I want to move to this fall. I very much fancy the idea of living in “old San Francisco”, walking to work, being close to Chinatown (cheap produce), and being within short walking distance to the Tenderloin (a neighborhood with a bad reputation, but home to my favorite restaurants).

    I’ve been monitoring apartment listings like a hawk, and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to find a quaint little place (we don’t need more than 500 sq feet) within our budget that allows dogs. Our future dog is going to have a blast sniffing and pooping in Huntington Park. Next step? Telling our current landlord we plan on leaving, and making the move a reality…

  • recipe: ta’meyya (egyptian falafels)

    You’re probably with falafels made from chickpeas, but Egyptian falafels are made from fava beans. Fava beans are a staple of the Egyptian diet. So much so the Egyptian word for falafel, ta’meyya derives from the word “food”. I love the bitter and nutty taste of fava beans and prefer them over the more well known chickpea based falafel. Then again, I’m biased since I love all things Egyptian.

    Although a straight forward process, falafel making is a time consuming task. The only special equipment you need is a food processor or blender, to blend the beans into a paste. There’s no need to use a deep fryer to fry the falafels, a large pot and frying oil will do the trick just as well. My frying oil of choice is peanut oil, but in Egypt sunflower oil or vegetable oil are more commonly used in cooking. As for baking falafels, you can’t see me right now, but I’m frowning. Some of the best things in life are fried, you know.

    Just a heads up to anyone out there who is like me, the kind of person who doesn’t read recipes until I’m just about to start cooking – this recipe requires the beans to soak for 24-48 hours and there are a lot of time consuming steps involved. They’re definitely worth the effort, if you’re looking for a taste of Egypt… in fried form.

    Ta’meyya
    (adapted from Claudia Roden’s New Book of Middle Eastern Food)

    1 pound dried and skinless fava beans (broad beans), soaked for 24-48 hours
    2 teaspoons cumin
    1 teaspoon ground coriander
    cayenne pepper or chili pepper (optional, to taste)
    salt & pepper
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 cup parsley
    1 cup cilantro
    2 leeks, white and green parts
    6 scallions, finely chopped
    6 garlic cloves, minced
    3/4 cup sesame seeds (optional)
    frying oil (I used peanut oil)

    In a large pot, soak the beans in a generous amount of water for 24-48 hours. Change the water a couple times a day. After the beans have finished soaking, pour out the water into the sink and spread out the beans on a large towel on a hard surface. Let the beans dry for about an hour.

    After the beans have had time to dry a bit, put them in a food processor and pulse until the beans form a paste. You may have to do this in batches, depending on the size of your food processor. Add the spices and baking soda and pulse a few more times until the spices have mixed through, or until the paste is smooth. Let the mixture rest for a half hour.

    Meanwhile, wash and chop the parsley, cilantro, leeks, scallions, and mince the garlic. Add them all to a very large mixing bowl, along with the bean paste and knead with your hands until mixed through. Take small clumps of the mixture and patties that are 2 inches in diameter roughly 1/4 inch thick or into balls the size of golf balls. Optionally, dip the falafels into a bowl full of sesame seeds just before frying.

    Heat a large stock pot with at least 2 inches of frying oil. Working in batches, fry the falafels in batches until brown, turning over once. Transfer the falafels to a plate lined with paper towels. Serve hot.

    Serving variations:

    – With hummus or tahini
    – With pickled vegetables
    – In a wrap or pita bread with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and tahini sauce or hummus
    – In a salad

    Serves 6

    Originally posted in February 2011