A Visit to Istanbul and Ephesus

My first trip to Turkey took place in the nineties. We stayed at the Hilton on the Bosphorus, also known as the Strait of Istanbul. This narrow, natural waterway located in northwestern Turkey forms a continental boundary between Europe and Asia.

Breakfast and lunch in Istanbul consisted of baklava, kadaifi, loukoumi, and other delicious sweet pastry, accompanied by a bitter Turkish coffee.

This first picture shows a panoramic view of Istanbul with the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia– a Byzantine Basilica that was transformed into a mosque.

We spent three days discovering the huge city on our own and took two guided tours to visit the palaces. Our first guide welcomed us on the modern tourist bus and casually asked if our room had a balcony. When I said, “Yes,” he replied, “Have you heard strange noises coming from the Strait at night? They are the late concubines’ sighs and moans.”

As we looked at him, confused, he explained that the Ottoman Empire was ruled by a Sultan. The Sultan’s mother, the Vadim Sultana was the most powerful woman in the empire and the only one not wearing a veil. She was in charge of his harem. The Sultan’s first wife was the kadin and her first son the heir to the throne. Having accomplished his royal duty, the Sultan indulged in as many concubines as he wanted — often more than a hundred. Most were foreign beauties captured as slaves. When a Sultan died, the new ruler made space for his own harem by getting rid of the former group of concubines. The women were shoved into sacks weighed down with heavy stones and tied with ropes, and then thrown into the Bosphorus, screaming and crying. I couldn’t sleep well that night.

Here are pictures from the Topkapi Palace.

The Topkapi Walls

One of my favorite memories of Istanbul was my two-day visit to the Grand Bazar where I bought several souvenirs: a hand-made bedside rug with the tree of life, a copper pitcher, and small Turkish coffee pot called kanaka, and others…

I never went back to Istanbul, although we booked a cruise in 2016 that included this unique city, the ship canceled the stop because of unrest at the time. Instead we docked in Kusadasi that we have already visited.

The highlight of Kusadasi included a guided tour to the historical city of Ephesus where we saw the ruins of the Library of Celsus, the temples of Domitian and Hadrian, the Great Theater, and the temple of Artemis, the multi-breasted goddess of fertility. St. Paul preached against her shrine, and wrote his Letters to the Ephesians there.

St. John the Evangelist wrote his Gospel in Ephesus. Tradition says that the Virgin Mary and John lived in Ephesus during their final years.

The day in Kusadasi ended with shopping and a break at a café for coffee and pastries.

I didn’t write any book set in Turkey yet. Maybe some day… But I would like to offer you two romance novels I particularly love:

LOVE in the ER In the past, her work in the ER brought her pain and frustration. Can it bring her love and a needed closure now?
LOVE on the SLOPES: Gabriella hides her pain and limp. Dr. Nathan saves her from a ski accident and dates her. Can he win her love and rebuild her knee?
IRRESISTIBLE – SPRING INTO LOVE
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08SWFH93Y
International: https://books2read.com/IrresistibleSpring
Love at First Sight… Your eyes meet, and just like that, you know that you might have met THE ONE.
SPRING INTO LOVE with STEAMY STORIES From New York Times & USA Today Bestselling, Award-Winning Authors.
UNFORGETTABLE LOVERS
Nine incredible tales – from Sweet to Spicy – for your pleasure. Read about the UNFORGETTABLE LOVERS you want & need in your own life. http://mybook.to/unforgettableloverz

A Romantic Cruise: The Greek Islands

Welcome aboard. Today we are sailing to Corfou, next we will stop in Santorini, and then continue to Rhodes, an island close to Turkey, before turning north to Mykonos and Delos. Have a drink at the bar, relax in a lounge chair, listen to the music, and enjoy our cruise to the Greek Islands.

Corfou: A relaxing island

Corfu is one of the most beautiful and romantic islands of the Ionian island group. From lush green hills to noble mansions and from idyllic Corfu beaches, to interesting museums, this island has everything it takes to please any type of traveler.

Strongly influenced by the Venetians, the French and the English, Corfu Town is a brilliant base for exploration. The top places to visit in Corfu are Achillion Palace, the former retreat of princess Sissi of Austria, Mon Repos palace, where Prince Phillip, the late husband of Queen Elizabeth II, was born.

Don’t forget to stop by a Fish Spa as I did. Hundreds of well trained small fish will nibble on your feet. At first it hurts, then it tickles, and then you really relax and enjoy the exceptional massage.

 

Santorini: Island of Love


Today Santorini is a rock shaped like a fishhook, a cone formed by a volcano that erupted before 1600 BC. The current name of the island comes from its patroness, Saint Irene of Thessalonika, who died in 304. The Venetians called her, Sant’Irini and the name stuck. Sant-irini became Santorini.
The highest point of the island is marked by the monastery of the Prophet Elijah. On the eastern shore of the island there are beaches of black sand from previous volcanic activity.
In addition to a temple dedicated to Apollo, there is a shrine cut out of rocks to honor the Egyptian gods Isis, Serapis and Anubis, a reminder of the Egyptian presence during the Ptolemaic period.
The present capital of Santorini is the town of Thera built on top of the cliff. Excavations began in 1967 and scientists wondered if Thera was not part of the lost continent of Atlantis described in Greek literature. Views from this picturesque town are especially beautiful.


You can reach the top of the island riding on a donkey, or by cables. We used the cable. Since I am terrified of height I held my husband’s hand and closed my eyes, then opened one eye when he insisted the view was terrific and I was missing half of my life by not looking.
Once up on the cliff top, I agreed it was worth the scare. Look at the gorgeous pictures and be the judge. Santorini is an ideal place for honeymooners. I used my time walking and admiring the view, and shopping for souvenirs.

 

Our next stop was in RHODES: a strong island


According to Homer, the first colonists were Greek. They founded the city of Rhodes at the northern tip of the island and built a powerful citadel to protect it.
In its day of greatest power, Rhodes became famous for its impressive sculptures, like the huge bronze Colossus which stood at the entrance of the harbor. Created to honor, the sun god Helios, it was at least 110 feet high and considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Unfortunately, the Colossus only stood for 56 years before an earthquake toppled it in 224B.C. but the enormous fragments remained half-submerged for another nine centuries. A scrap dealer carried the pieces away on 900 camels.

The most glorious episode in Rhodes history began in 1309 when the Knights of St. John took control after being expelled from the Holy Land following the Crusades. They built St. John’s Chapel and St. Mary’s Church.

You can see here a picture of one of the tunnels that allowed the Knights to secretly escape. They settled in Rhodes and increased the fortifications. The ramparts are impressive, several feet high. A moat circled and protected the city when the drawbridge was raised. After Constantinople was captured by the Turks, repeated sieges of Rhodes by the Turks weakened the city. At the end only 180 Knights remained to defend Rhodes. They were expelled to Malta and Rhodes became Turkish property. The Italian navy seized Rhodes in 1912 and it was turned over to Greece in 1948.

The famous movie of Guns of Navarone was filmed in Rhodes.


Mykonos: a cosmopolitan island

Our next stop was in Mykonos, probably the most cosmopolitan of the Aegean Islands. I visited four times in the last twenty years, the first time when my children were teenagers.

We fell in love with the picturesque island and returned the year after. The streets are a maze of narrow, winding alleyways – many only two or four feet wide, overhung with dazzling pink and purple blossoms.

All the houses, shops, churches, restaurants and windmills are immaculately whitewashed, with door frames and window shutters highlighted with splashes of sky blue and jade green.

On every second doorstep sits a cat, gazing down serenely at passers-by.

From HER GREEK TYCOON, here is a description of Mykonos as the heroine Ashley sees it from Stefano’s yacht: “See, we are passing Chora, the capital of Mykonos.”

Mountainous landscape and long sandy beaches faded away. Square whitewashed houses with flat roofs, flowered balconies, blue doors and window shutters lined the cluttered narrow paved streets of the picturesque villages. Beautiful churches, chapels and windmills lent a magical atmosphere to the quaint town.  

“Now, keep your hands on the helm and steer to the left.”

The Athena glided through the water and gained speed. Stefano opened the side windshield and let the breeze invade the pilot station. “What’s your pleasure?”
With a toss of her head, Ashley flung her hair back and took a deep breath. “Can we stay close enough to the shore to discover the beaches?”

“Absolutely. This little cruise is all yours.”

Exhilaration filled her heart. She steered a superb ship and the captain was determined to please her. “Thank you, Stefano. I really appreciate you taking the time to show me your beautiful island.”

“We’re passing Korfos. Keep straight. The main island is looping into a cape. Now you can see Agios Ioannis—St. Jeanne Beach there. It’s small but picturesque.” He handed her a pair of binoculars and she scanned the beach.

Blood rushed to her cheeks at the sight of the topless bathers lying on towels or relaxing on lounge chairs. A couple hours ago, she’d been soaking up the sun on a similar chair—in a similar pose. 

Lowering the binoculars, she glanced at him. His face expressionless, he stared at the horizon and hadn’t noticed her embarrassment. “We are crossing a strait between Mykonos and the ancient island of Delos. I’ll handle the helm while you enjoy the view. The rocky islet offers an impressive exhibit of columns, temple remains, and statues of lions.” Ashley shifted to the other side of the pilot station and adjusted the binoculars to her eyes while Stefano took back the control of his boat.

“Delos is the birthplace of Apollo. His mother, the nymph Leto, was seduced by the god of gods, Zeus,” Stefano explained while Ashley admired the sculptural ruins of sanctuaries. “When his wife, the goddess Hera, learned of his treachery she banished the pregnant young nymph from earth.”

“What happened to Leto?” she asked, genuinely interested in the sad love story. Had all the Greek maids been destined to suffer because of love? She had Greek blood in her veins and wanted to hear of a happy ending.

“Poseidon, Zeus’s brother, rescued the nymph and had her deliver her baby on the island of Delos which wasn’t considered as part of the earth.” Stefano told her more about the history of Delos, a necropolis with too many burials for her taste.

HER GREEK TYCOON:
A sexy and humorous Romeo and Juliette Greek style, set in Mykonos Island.

If you like to travel and love to read, come and enjoy my international romances. I will take you around the world through stories that simmer with emotion and sizzle with heat. Meet the spirited heroines and the alpha heroes who share irresistible chemistry.

 

 

 

A Cross-Atlantic Cruise

Two weeks ago we heard on TV that the Iceland volcanoes erupted for the first time in 6,000 years. I saw these volcanoes in 2013, during a Cross-Atlantic Cruise!

I live in Florida and have always been fascinated by the ocean. My bucket list included a Cross-Atlantic Cruise —Yes, crossing the Atlantic and other oceans, the way buccaneers  and pirates had braved the high winds and raging waves. Think of Christopher Columbus on his way to India, crossing the Atlantic and ending up on the Caribbean’s shores.

We started our Cross-Atlantic Cruise from Southampton, England and ended in New York. From Southampton, we sailed north to Bergen, in Norway, a thriving North Sea Port where we visited King Haakon’s Hall and the Old Bergen Museum, an open-air museum featuring a collection of 18th and 19th-century houses.

Next our ship headed to Iceland, Land of Fire and Ice. We docked in a modern, spotlessly clean small city, Akureryl. The weather was warm for early September and flowers bloomed everywhere. One-third of the world’s volcanoes are in Iceland. Bubbling geothermal springs and richly colored mineral deposits reminded us that the center of the earth was closer than we would think. Some of the craters we saw were not true volcanoes but rocky basins formed when the hot lava bubbled onto water logged ground. We spent hours admiring the Godafoss or Falls of the Gods.

We continued to the West Fjords, nature splendor. We saw glaciers and springs, and winding arms of the sea, and reach Isafjordur –don’t ask me to pronounce it– where volcanic soil is fertile and productive.

Reykjavik  is the capital of Iceland, a gorgeous city, and a unique place where you find ice fields, boiling thermal unit, geyser, waterfall.

People swim in the Blue Lagoon pool all year round.

The Icelanders use their geothermal energy to heat swimming pools and generate electricity. Geothermal water is used to heat around 90% of Iceland’s homes, and keeps pavements and car parks snow-free in the winter. Hot water from the springs is cooled and pumped from boreholes that vary between 200 and 2,000m straight into the taps of nearby homes, negating the need for hot water heating.

On our last day in Reykjavik we visited a real Viking boat.

Leaving Iceland where the weather was far from icy, we sailed to Greenland through the Arctic Ocean and crossed the Arctic Circle. We met with freezing weather and real glaciers floating in the water. In winter, you can’t navigate through this area. Greenland is part of the North Pole inhabited by Eskimos. The people were friendly and hospitable, laughing with us and entertaining us with songs as if they were trying to make amends for the glaciers with their own warmth. For transportation, they use sleds in winter, and kayaks in summer.

At the end of a two-week cruise, the captain gave us a special certificate and the Statue of Liberty welcomed us in New York. Although the Cross-Atlantic was very different from my expectations, we had a wonderful time and discovered uncharted territories.

A BODYGUARD FOR THE PRINCESS

A princess incognito at Harvard. A roommate killed in a residence of 18 students.

Can Chloe trust her neighbors? Some of them are not who they claim to be. But they all have one thing in common. They’re terrified of being the next victim and strive to discover the killer while going around their daily business—attending classes, lunching together and dating, and even lying to or cooperating with the detective in charge of the case. Danger looms in every corner. Fear sizzles in the building.

Who is the murderer? Who will be the next victim?

Travel to Seychelles

When people ask me about the most interesting thing I have ever done in my life, I can’t help smiling as I answer without hesitation, “Traveling.”  I visited over hundred countries on vacation or business trips. 

One of my most memorable trips was to the Seychelles in the nineties, after my husband and colleagues sold the first Boeing 767 with GE engines to the Republic of Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, off East Africa, where natives speak English, French and Creole. The spouses were invited to accompany and cheer the hardworking and successful delegation on the delivery trip, or virgin trip as the officials called it.

On the tarmac of the Boeing airport in Seattle before boarding.

The night before the actual delivery trip we arrived in Seattle, home of the Boeing Co., for a reception and the next day we headed to the Boeing hangar where we boarded the brand new airplane. After a takeoff closely monitored by the engineers, the plane flew directly to a freezing airport somewhere in Newfoundland to refuel, then crossed over the Atlantic Ocean, transited in Paris for two hours, and continued to Kenya where it had to drop boxes of medication as part of an international aid program. The Kenyan minister of tourism received us with drinks and snacks and then led us to a tower for a panoramic view of the area surrounding the airport. He kindly invited us to come back for a safari–still on my bucket list.

Map and general view of the Seychelles.

The plane landed in the largest island of Mahé, home of the capital Victoria, to the sound of music. Young girls welcomed us with flower leis. The president himself shook hands with each one of us, and toasted the arriving guests with glasses of palm wine Kalou and coconut water. 

L- Arrival at the airport. R- In downtown Victoria. In January, it’s summer in the Seychelles.

We spent our first afternoon in Mahé, and couldn’t wait to run to the Beau Vallon beach and experience the white sand and turquoise water of the Indian Ocean. The evening gathered our delegation for a dinner of local fish and seafood cooked with rice in a Creole style and the delicious octopus and palm salad. Let’s not forget the mouth-watering exotic fruits that appeared at breakfast, lunch and dinner: mango, papaya, passion fruit, guava and a few I didn’t recognize.

The next day the Minister of Tourism invited us on a submarine tour to admire the underwater life, flora, corals and colorful fish; later we swam and snorkeled in the area.

On day two, we flew to the island of Pralin in a twelve-seat plane. In Pralin we visited the rain forest called Vallée de Mai, home to famous—or infamous—Coco de Mer, a huge coconut, for the female fruit, and an… hum… extra long penis for the male fruit. Seriously, you have to see it to believe it. These fruits grow on the tallest trees in the world. We had a fantastic day, but we were eaten alive by hundreds of mosquitoes guarding the rainforest. Back in the hotel, we spent the evening rubbing our legs and arms with a soothing cream made with the oil of Coco de Mer.

In the left top picture we are standing in the Valée de Mai, home of the Coco de Mer. On the right is a picture of the male nut.

On day three, we used the same small plane to go to La Digue island. It landed on a gorgeous white-sand desert beach with black granite rock shining in the sun—in my humble opinion, it is the most beautiful beach in the world. In La Digue, we also visited a park housing giant turtles. On the way back we had a bad surprise. Our small plane sank into the sand. We had to go down and push to get it out!

Over the years, I accompanied my husband to the Seychelles three times and enjoyed the islands tremendously: the beaches, the activities, the food. A perfect place for a honeymoon.

I wrote about the Coco de Mer in my book, THE GODS OF DARK LOVE, a sensual romance based on the legend of the gods, Isis and Osiris, in the Egyptian mythology. On Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076K8442S/

Chapter 15 is set in the Vallée de Mai, home of the Coco de Mer.

“This forest is Gehanna created by a devil,” Shafika grumbled. “It has the most indecent fruits I have ever seen. I want to go away from here.”

“Stop it,” Isis ordered. “It’s the wrong time and place to whine.”

The girl pouted. “But my lady, look at those fruits. They must have been created by—”

“We have already seen so many of them at sea. Stop acting like a child.”

“But my lady, I am not talking about the Sea-Cocos.” She pointed to the top of a tree. “Look at these donkeys’ things.”

Exasperated, Isis exhaled and raised her gaze to where the girl pointed. Her breath clogged her throat. “Oh, oh. Osiris, look.” She caught his arm and shook it.

Osiris stared at the long fruits, shaped like a phallus as long as his arm, as long as a donkey’s penis. He swallowed hard and counted a dozen such cones on that tree.