Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

LIFE: Jason’s first ever race

Jason has to be the best husband ever (proud wife bragging rights). We for sure have our multiple disagreements about how to most everything – yep, we are complete opposites for the most part. BUT he is definitely the one who adapts and shifts his desires to suit us way more than I seem too.   Maybe because I like everything? 😉 jk.

Last fall Jason started running – for me. The last 4 years of our marriage, he has seriously and politely denied all my attempts to start running with me consistently. But he saw how happy it makes me to run with someone and decided that, with my other running buddy eventually moving away, he would fill the void.

Plus, running/exercising is good for him – the hard working, computer engineer that he is.

It was tough at first, but he pushed through. By December, he was able to do a 5k without stopping. Every other day we went out and did his exactly 5k route while listening to a podcast(mostly to distract him from the fact that he was actually running).

And Christmas 2017, he gifted me with a 10k race that we would run together in February 2018 Dubai Desert Road Run in the UAE! IT WAS THE BEST SURPRISE.

We started to train together and did a few longer runs to prepare for the 6.4 ish miles to come.

And in February, JASON RAN HIS FIRST RACE EVER.

Y’all, I was GIDDY with PRIDE! You see, I grew up running with my family. Heck in 2016, before we moved to Turkey, my family based our get-together around the Chicago Half-Marathon with my mom and sister. Jason by that point had learned how to find us multiple times on the route to take pictures of us and cheer us on, all happily from the sidelines.

But this time, we ran with me!

And the race was HOT and SWEATY and the course was NOT SO FUN. But we both finished it!

You can LISTEN to our experience via Episode047 of our podcast.

The following are pictures from a proud wife loving every minute of this first race with her hubby:

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

Catie FunkTravels Dubai UAE

So proud of you babe! (Jason, if he reads this! That would be creepy if I was talking to you the reader!)

Questions for you:

What is your favorite way to exercise?

Have you done something you didn’t like just because you knew it would bless you significant other?

IZMIR: 5 Day Trips from Izmir, Turkey

Note: This article was originally guest-posted for Yabangee.

Izmir offers plenty of local sites within the city of four million people, but it is also known for its access to easy day trips nearby. If you have time, plan a few excursions outside Izmir. A longer trip inland to Ankara, Cappadocia, or the Black Sea can be tempting but don’t miss the coastal towns along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts.

Here are some of the best day trips you can take from Izmir:

FunkTravels Eski Foca

Şirince
Little exceeds a well-prepared Turkish breakfast. Şirince, once a Greek village of a mere 600 inhabitants situated north of Ephesus, is famous for its mesmerizing white houses and red-orange clay rooftops. If you are not there in time for breakfast, visit shops known for local fruit wine. Entry is free and you are treated to many free glasses of wine.

Ephesus (a.k.a. Efes)
Ephesus boasts of its 3000-year-old Greek city ruins. Most famous is one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, the Temple of Artemis. The area seduces history lovers with its flavorful tales. Entry is 40 Lira (and an extra 15 lira for the newly excavated covered hillside homes) but if you are interested in history, Ephesus is a must see.  If you have time, trek out to the home of Mary, mother of Jesus, renown and highly visited by Catholic tourists.

FunkTravels Eski Foca

Go North to Eski Foça
Northwest of Izmir along the Aegean coastline, Eski Foça is named for the now endangered Mediterranean monk seals which also are the town’s mascot.  Several local companies offer boat tours that will take passengers closer to the island of the seals for approximately 50 TL which includes lunch. Otherwise, enjoy a meal by the seaside lined with renovated historical, yet charming, Ottoman-Greek houses. While all Turkish food is delicious, the meze, or appetizers, and fish are the best options to get in Foça.

Visit a Greek Island
Lesvos, Chios, and Samos, the closest Greek islands from Izmir, ascend from the sea disrupting the majestic view of Aegean Sea from Turkey. With the right visa, start early for a day trip (or stay overnight) by catching a bus to the ferry port and hopping over to the island of your choice. Chios is the most popular among travelers and is easy to access via a visit to Çeşme. Alongside its rich history, including adventures with Saracen pirates, and the Turks during the Greek Revolution, Chios also claims to be the birthplace of the poet Homer. Enjoy local wine, explore the ruined Byzantine village of Anavatos, and relax in the shade of a cafe or park. (Rhodes is a little out of the way, but well worth a visit!)

Cool off at the Beach!
While it’s not possible to swim in the bay in Izmir, beaches line the coast both north and south of the city center. Çeşme comes in an easy first with its pure white sand and crystal clear water, but it also draws a crowd to the much-enjoyed shopping district and nightlight. Take one of the many private buses from your neighborhood or a dolmuş to Çeşme center from the Izmir Otogar.

I would love to hear from you! Comment below or on the video answering one of the following questions:

  1. Have you visited Izmir?
  2. Did you take any day trip? If so, where did you go?

Like this post! Save it for later!

IZMIR: 5 Things to do in Izmir, Turkey

Note: This article was originally guest-posted for Yabangee.

Having lived in Izmir for over a year, I can say that I truly love the expat life here. Many people ask what the city is like and if it is worth visiting. And my answer? YES!

Istanbul or Cappadocia fare better in terms of tourism, but Izmir has things to do that are true to Turkish culture without having to fight the crowds. Also, the people of this lovely city are known for their friendliness and open-mindedness towards foreigners. If visitors are looking for the culture and experience of meeting with locals to truly understand what makes Turkey so wonderful, Izmir is your go-to location.

Here are just a few of the things you can do in Izmir.

Izmir Chronicles: Izmir is Worth Visiting (Part I)

Visit Izmir Clock Tower
Konak is home to one of the most distinctive landmarks in the city, the Clock Tower. Built in 1901, the white marble tower and North African style patterns on the columns marks the 25th year of Ottoman sultan Abdulhamid II’s reign. Additionally, Konak’s established touristic center of Izmir offers historical mosques and many small streets with cafes, restaurants, and bars.

Shop ’til You Drop at Kemeraltı Market
Kemeraltı is the little ‘Grand’ Bazaar of Izmir. Anyone who has been to the noisy, maze of stalls in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul will prefer this one after a quiet, calm visit! Still a massive maze of stalls, find traditional Turkish gifts and more for a cost much less than Istanbul. Kemeraltı is also full of great, inexpensive restaurants. On a hot day, enjoy a fresh squeezed juice for around $1 in the nearby juice stalls.

Ride the Asansör
Asansör, which literally means elevator, was the first elevator built in 1907 to help people travel between the top of the cliff to the seaside. Just a 20 minutes stroll from Konak square, reserve a table for a sunset dinner at the top of the Asansör. The delightfully classy Italian cafe not only provides one of the best views in Izmir, but the prices are very reasonable as well.

Stroll the streets of Kadifekale
Kadifekale, or Velvet Castle, built by Alexander the Great into the Izmir hillside provides panoramic views across the city both towards the seaside and the land. Travel by taxi up the monstrous hill to the historic site to have more energy to explore the old walks and towers. Requiring less of the imagination than the ruins of Smyrna, visitors can see the layout of the castle while enjoying a bit of shopping in the shade of the tall trees. Walk back down the long hill or take a taxi again if you prefer.

Photo by Catie Funk

Be a Local and Drink a Beer by the Shore
Whether you are in Alsancak or Karşıyaka, this is Izmir! Gençler, or young people, can be found sitting along the seaside enjoying the breeze at the end of a hard work day. Friends and families picnic or drink a beer while others enjoy a walk or bike ride. Free concerts provide entertainment throughout the year.

Izmir’s gems are easily overlooked. However, once visitors engage in the history of this coastal city, visitors discover places and activities not offered anywhere else in Turkey. Its secrets lie with the locals and give visitors the best experience of Izmir. While exploring the areas of Izmir, don’t forget a mid-morning snack on a gevrek or two, a traditionally brewed coffee in a small cafe, and a peaceful stroll along the Kordon.

I would love to hear from you! Comment below or on the video answering one of the following questions:

1. Have you been to Izmir?
2. What sites did you see?
3. What did you find interesting?

Like this post! Save it for later!

CatieFunkTravels Lesvos Greece Greek Island

TRAVEL: 2 Day Itinerary for Lesvos, Greece

For a less touristy feel, Lesvos, or Mytilini, is your best choice to experience real Greece. This lush, green island has been virtually unaffected by the mass tourism. For the do-it-all traveler who likes to stay busy, Lesvos is the perfect destination with fantastic food, beautiful beaches, pine and hardwood forests, and rivers and over a million olive trees. 

(Don’t forget to check out our 8 Tips for Traveling to Greek Islands from Turkey!)

From Ayvalik, take the 1 hour and 15-minute ferry ride to the port city of Mytilini. Similarly to Chios, visitors can find enough to do in Mytilini by touring the massive castle and several museums, breaking for lunch, coffee, and ice cream. 

However, our road-trip took us in one large loop Northwest across the island over (VERY FULL) two days with a rental car. Here is your 2 Day Itinerary for Lesvos, Greece:

The incredible Chios Mastic Museum pressed us to see other PIOP museums such as the Olive Oil Museum on Lesvos. After renting your car near the harbor, an hour drive west from the port city of Mytilini will take you to the Olive Oil Museum situated in the middle of the island. While it does explain olive oil production, this museum is more about the exemplary restored communal olive press of Aghia Paraskevi, which you can see in action daily at noon except on Tuesdays. The exhibits share the history of the community property and the effect it had on the region’s social fabric and economic structures.


Fifteen minutes from the Olive Oil Museum, the bay city of Skala Kallonis won’t make it on anyone’s tourist list, but stopping here is our favorite memory. Sitting at the shaded beachfront restaurant of Dionysos Fish and Meat Restaurant, we took our time eating our weight in Greek salad, fried cheese balls, and grilled meat plate, while our friend’s kid played in the sand and water.


The next stops on our journey took us to 2 seaside towns on the north side of the island, Petra and Molyvos (also: Mithymna).

Petra’s cliff-top church can be seen from miles away. Stop here for ice cream and stretch your legs from the 35-minute drive with the 114 stairs climb to look at the Orthodox church and panoramic view of the red, clay top roofs lining the north shore.


Molyvos Castle sits on the top of a weaving hillside town and claims first place for city’s attractions. For families, this venture requires steep uphill walks that are not kid stroller friendly.  Although it was built by the Byzantines, apparently there are stones here from a previous castle during the Trojan War. From the Venetians to the Catalans, to the Genovese and the Ottoman Turks, this castle has seen it all.


A close second is the winding, narrow walking streets of the town. Springtime means all the hundred-year-old vines draping over the passageways were blooming fragrant, purple wisteria, providing shade for the owners and visitors.

From our morning tour Molyvos, we started our 1.5-hour drive back to Mytilini. Sundays on the Greek islands usually mean many shops and businesses close, but near the still active Moni Agios Taxiarchis Monastery, a small separate cafe sets outs around 100 tables and chairs under the shade of trees. You must order their specialty of fried doughnut-like sweets, called lukumas, dipped in a simple syrup, similar to the lokma you can find on the streets of Izmir. For a little extra flavor, ask for a drizzle of white or plain chocolate with nuts sprinkles.


On days other than Sunday, the port of Mytilini is a thriving city to visit. The castle of Mytilene, one of the biggest in the Mediterranean is located on the top of a hill in the northern part of the town. Visitors can walk around the castle and visit, the cistern, the Ottoman baths, the Crypts and the Queen’s Tower among others. The view of Mytilini town from the castle is magnificent.


From the castle, head towards the main shopping street, Ermou. Start from the Yeni Tzami, a 19th-century Turkish Mosque and walk down Ermou towards the Agios Therapon Church. Take your time window shopping along Ermou street lined with lovely buildings, shops selling souvenirs and traditional products of the island.  If time, take some time to learn about the island’s history at the Archeological Museum.


Sundays put a general damper on most of the city for tourists. Outside of the seaside cafes and restaurants, most shops close. However, we made the most of our day by walking and enjoying sweets from multiple little pastry shops we found along the way.

Where to stay:

Our group of six (four adults and two kids) opted for an apartment style rental in Mylos via booking.com. Apartment style rentals are prevalent in this area for more extended vacation stays by the beach.

What to buy:

Near the Moni Agios Taxiarchis Monastery is a small handicrafts town, Mantamados is known for its pottery. Even though its popularity, the handmade ceramics workshop, Stelios Stamatis, remains a small shop packed from floor to ceiling with pottery. Bright flower designs or olive branches adorn all types of dishes to plant holders. All reasonable prices, you need to bring cash as credit cards are not accepted. While photos are allowed of the shop, ask before taking pictures of the ceramic painters.

Olive oil products. The island not only offers olive oil, but also olive oil products such as natural soaps, lotions, bowls and other items made from olive oil wood, and souvenirs with hand-painted olive branches.

I hope you found my 2 Day Itinerary for Lesvos, Greece helpful! We will definitely return for another weekend and explore other parts of the islands! There is so much more to see!

We want to hear from you!

Did you enjoy this 2 Day Itinerary for Lesvos, Greece? 

Have you been to Lesvos, Greece?

What did you love when you traveled to Lesvos?

Like it? Share it or pin it for later!

Read more information about other islands we have visited:

8 Tips for Traveling to the Greek Islands from Turkey

Chios

Rhodos

Catie FunkTravels Chios Greece Greek Island

TRAVEL: 3 Day Itinerary for Chios, Greece – Sakız Adası

Chios is the first choice for both expats and Turks in the Izmir area when considering which Greek island to visit first. A quick 20-minute catamaran ferry ride in the morning and returning in the evening makes Chios the most popular choice from the beach town of Çeşme.

Located in the Aegean Sea, the island went through many names such as Pitioussa for its pines, Makris for its long shape, Aethalea for its volcano and Ofioussa for the many snakes. However, the name of Chios comes from the daughter of Inopion, Chiona rooted from the word hioni meaning too much snow fell on the island.

Chios’s Turkish name, Sakiz or Mastic, hails from the local island tree that produces a sappy, natural gum. Mastic is the leading local product. Gums, liqueurs, varieties of sweets, natural soaps and candles are just a few mastic products solely on the island.

While most people make Chios a day trip, a 3-day getaway was the perfect amount of time to explore most of the island while having time to relax. In the morning and evening, we enjoyed the beach near our apartment rental. During the day, we travel via rental car to see other parts of the island.

Enjoy our 3 Day Itinerary for Chios, Greece:

Day 1:

Arriving by the AM ferry, the 10-minute walk from the ferry to the car rental is easy and quick. Our pre-made reservation at Hatzelenis Tours (ran by our Airbnb owner’s son) ensured us easy and seamless pick-up and we were on our way! 

By making one big loop by car, you can see most of what South Chios has to offer.

From the Chios city center, head west to the 11th century Nea Moni Monastery and explore the renovated church and the now overgrown former quarter of monks. The 1881 earthquake had devastating effects on Chios, and almost every village has some remnants.  The monastery closes at 1 PM for the day, so make sure to visit it first.

From the Monastery, head another 20 minutes west to explore the deserted hilltop of Avantas. There is not much there besides a couple of cafes, an art studio and lots of old homes. After working up an appetite from exploring, we enjoyed a late lunch, ordering the traditional Mosak, at the restaurant and guesthouse which boast panoramic views of the opposite side of the island.

Because Chios’s Turkish name, Sakiz (Mastic), you cannot go to Chios without making it to the Mastic Museum, a 30-minute drive south of the Nea Moni Monastery located in Mastichochoria region (literally meaning mastic villages).

The Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation (PIOP) created the Mastic Museum as part of 9 cultural heritage museums throughout Greece, affordable to all for only 3 euros a person. The museum is an architectural beauty with its tall glass walls mixed with natural wood and concrete features. The story of traditional mastic cultivations and the economic value throughout history is creatively explained through multimedia applications, excellent video documentaries, models, and original machinery in functioning order.

Day 2:

Spend a day at the beach. Our favorite beach was the Volcanic Rock Beach, Emporio. The secluded little cove is famous for its black round lava stones and is perfect for enjoying the water and sun without the hassle of sand. Pack a lunch or enjoy lunch at Porto Emporios in the little town nearby. 

Day 3:

If time, the medieval sister cities of Mesta, Olympi, and Pyrgi all have their claim to fame. Go inside Mesta’s castle walls to the center to explore the small streets. The main square has cafes, coffee or ice cream. Olympi has nothing too spectacular except in season (April 1 to October 1) when the caves tours provide an escape from the summer heat. Prygri’s homes are all engraved with the black and white motifs. The cities of Mesta and Olympi have a 1-hour long, well-marked walking trail, 1 of 8 on the island.

OR

Spend this day in Chios town before departing back to Ceşme, Turkey. Our return was on Sunday AND Greek Independence day and quite a few places were closed (Check out our 8 Tips for Traveling to Greek Islands from Turkey for this information). However, you can always walk through the unimpressive Chios Castle and all the museums: the Chios Archeological Museum, Maritime Museum, and Byzantine Museum.

If you are like us, we prefer to eat our way through a city. Below I referenced some places we enjoyed eating at in Chios City!

How to get there:

Check out our 8 Tips for Traveling to Greek Islands from Turkey where I explain more about the ferry system from Turkey to the Greek Islands.

Where to eat:

For pork lovers, the 3 Little Pigs in Chios city makes your favorite Turkish ‘et döner’ but replaced with pork meat. At 2 Euros a sandwich, the price is just as favorable. For an afternoon coffee or cocktail, you must check out No. 44 where a crowd enjoys iced coffees. Make sure to ask for the complimentary chocolate covered donut that comes with your drink order. For ice-cream lovers, Kronos is sure to please with it’s white, diner-like appeal and creamy, gelato flavors.

Where to stay:

Kafas is a smaller beach town that is just a 15-minute drive south of Chios city center. Our Airbnb rental was right on the beach (sign up via our referral code for $20 credit!). If we wanted, we could have skipped the rental car and stayed in this self-sufficient little town which is complete with a market and a few restaurants and cafes.

What to buy:

Mastic products! Whatever you desire, you can most likely find a product made with mastic. The natural, mastic gum is a tourist favorite choice. The natural gum has an irregular shape because it is unprocessed! Lotions, soaps, food flavorings, and even liquors are all available as well. The Mastihashop is a favorite shop to purchase quality mastic items.

I hope you found my 3 Day Itinerary for Chios, Greece helpful! We will definitely return for another weekend! There is so much more to see!

We want to hear from you!

Did you enjoy this 3 Day Itinerary for Chios, Greece?

Have you been to Chios, Greece?

What did you love when you traveled to Chios?

Pin it for later or share it via Pinterest with a friend!

Listen to our 3 day Chios getaway via our podcast!

Episode 50: When you move on to new things

Read more information about other islands we have visited: