Crossroads Tour: Making Plans – The Director’s Cut

My original travel journals were split across August Phoenix Hats and a few other websites. February 2021 marks the 12th anniversary of the beginning of my travels. To celebrate, I’m reissuing my journals as Director’s Cuts, with the complete text as well as larger and additional photos.  My Crossroads Tour series details my travels to Florence and Istanbul in May 2011.

This story starts today, December 20, 2010, the day of the Solar Eclipse Solstice. The double celestial occurrence portends a most fortuitous day. I receive a gift – an opportunity to take an extended trip abroad, to any country I choose…

I’ve only been off continent once before. I had promised myself that if another opportunity ever arose, I would begin in Florence, where my last trip had ended. I’ve been given a gift of three “most expenses paid’ weeks – the longest I’ve ever been away from home. I want to see as much as I can in the time I’ve been given, so I buy a map that afternoon, and spend the evening letting my fingers walk across the European landscape.

I could go west to France, or to Spain. Or north into Scandinavia. Or perhaps south to the Mediterranean. Suddenly, for no explicable reason, my index finger takes on a mind of its own as though it’s controlling an Ouija board, and traces a route east, and stop…

… on Istanbul…

Istanbul was considered the center of the European universe during the Roman and medieval periods, and the crossroads for trade from East to West for several centuries. So, Italy and Istanbul it is… my Crossroads Tour.

I buy guidebooks for both Florence and Istanbul, and spend the next several days locating hotels matching my criteria for historic buildings located in historical districts. In Florence it’s the San Frediano Mansion, housed in a 15th century palazzo near the Boboli Gardens and the Medici Palace, with frescoed ceilings and WIFI. In Genoa, a rustic room in the Ducale Genova, a 14th century tower that once housed a convent. In Istanbul, a small boutique hotel with red rooms furnished with a riot of color that I equate with Turkish culture, again with private baths and WIFI, and maybe a restaurant. The Hotel Han is a converted Ottoman home located in the historic Sultanahmet District, within walking distance of most of the things I want to see there.  

I add additional cities to my tour of Italy. In contrast, Istanbul remains the singular destination in Turkey. I register with the State Department to allay fears from friends who are sure I’m at risk of being kidnapped there. I use the trip as an excuse to finish some stalled projects, most notably my estate plan. ‘In case I decide to not return,” I jokingly say to my family and friends as they receive instructions for dealing with every facet of my life, should they need to. “Which we won’t need to do,” is the unison response. I devote the weekend to OdinCat and BusterBird, my furry and feathered companions.

I fill the next set of days trying to learn basic phrases from language guides, and Googling transportation schedules. I’m amused with my horoscope on April 3 – “a day for making plans and symbolic beginnings, and which favors trips and long journeys…” A netbook arrives from one of my brothers, and gifts of money from the rest of my family, enough to put towards the purchase of a Turkish carpet. I shop for shoes, and a watch, and power adapters, and a myriad of other little things. I file my income taxes against an audio background of news regarding the plans for a Royal Wedding. I have gallery orders and commissions to finish. My gardens will become either very lush in my absence, or a Great Big Mess, depending on which perspective I choose.

And then, this remarkable journey begins…

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