My latest visit to Turkey involved stops in Istanbul, Bursa, Ankara and finally in Adana.
The first activity was visiting family in the leafy suburbs of the Asian side of Istanbul. It is such a pleasant area, with parks full of flowering trees and shrubs, and hydrangeas in bloom spilling out over their garden walls into the streets. As always, the cats of Istanbul are peeping out from the bushes, hoping for treats.
A few days later I took the Sea-bus across the Sea of Marmara to the outskirts of Bursa. Even though it was mid May, the peaks of Uludag, the Turkish Mount Olympus were still covered in snow.
In the foothills, the vast olive groves were a delight. The olive trees were a mass of frothy green tops on gnarled trunks, with drifts of red poppies stretching out under them. The region is famous for its delicious olives, called Gemlik olives from the name of the nearby town.
The next stop was Ankara for lots of warm hospitality and the pleasure of joining in a wedding celebration. The family breakfast was a remarkable feast each morning and a time to exchange anecdotes, jokes and news as we helped ourselves from the heaped dishes of fruit, olives, cheeses, conserves and pastries.
All too soon it was time to move on again, this time to Adana, where the weather at last relented and the sun made an appearance. Again I received a heart warming welcome from dear friends and family.
So far my travels had been by boat, car and train, but one afternoon in Adana a very special carpet made an appearance. It was made by the great-grandmother of our hostess. She had woven a Turkish samovar as part of the design. The colours were absolutely fresh and vibrant and when it was spread on the floor,it did seem we could have flown off on it. However, nobody dared to put a foot on such a precious heirloom.
I spent a pleasant afternoon talking to the Turkish-American Ladies English Reading Group in Adana. The members had read my story, Scandalous Lady, and invited me to explain why I chose to set the tale in Constantinople in the year 1811.
We had an interesting discussion on what fires a writer's imagination and how a story develops from things seen, from memories and how the plot can change due to the characters taking over the story. And, as always when a group of ladies gets together in a Turkish home, the event ends with a splendid feast. The kind hospitality of everyone on this occasion made it truly an afternoon to remember with pleasure.