When you travel you have secret pleasures. Come on, admit it. Mine is really embarrassing. It is something that will get me excommunicated from the 1% of the South Bay cycling community that hasn’t already done so, and will fan the flames of bitterness and disgust among those who have already written me off.
Nonetheless, I admit it, freely: I love instant coffee.
There, I said it. And I’ll say it again, only this time in caps: I LOVE INSTANT COFFEE.
Mind you, not all the time and not at home, but in my hotel room, well, I could live the rest of my life without ever again having something with an overtone of berries or a mild scent of oak, and could live happily ever after with the bold flavor of chemicals and the aftertaste of diesel exhaust.
Yah, I love me some instant coffee.
Which is great because the hotel stocks me up with four, yes, four little sleeves a day. You’d think that’s enough but it isn’t, so I cheat. What I do is I go out and buy a whole jar of instant coffee and then I get a bottle of fresh milk and stick it in the mini-bar fridge. “Why do you do that?” you’re wondering.
Silly, so I can stash the little hotel sleeves in my backpack and take them home with me. “But I thought you didn’t like instant at home?” you say.
I don’t, but I take them because, hoarding.
Anyway, today started with a roar, like this:
I’m not sure you’d call midnight “today,” but it was for me. I’ve been unable to get on local time in Izmir. I crater about four every day, sleep til midnight, then get up and start working. But today was brutal because I slept through dinner, which meant that except for breakfast and a cup of coffee at noon, I’d not eaten.
This meant great hunger, which increased exponentially until the hotel buffet opened at 6:30 AM, pointy-sharp. I know because I was standing in front wrapped in my blanket and slippers. I was hongry.
This proved well, because the buffet was ready for me. Course 1 was a feast of granola with yogurt and dried cranberries and pomegranate seeds by the shovel-load.
Course 2 was a three-egg omelette, taters, sauteed mushrooms and veggies, bread with butter, sausage, strong coffee, and Turkish tomato paste which is frankly so good I could use it for after-shave.
Course 3 was olives, a magical salad with vinegary-veggies, pickled bell pepper, bread, mozarella, feta, walnuts, olives, bread, butter, cucumber, tomato, and very strong tea. Each one of these plates, by the way, is bigger around than a truck tire.
Course 4 was another trip down the olive lane, with more bread and butter, crackers, dried oranges, dried somethings, raisins, four kinds of cheese, and more tea.
Course 5 was kind of weak, not because I was full, but because I was a bit self-conscious, so I kept it to a mini-chocolate croissant, a chocolate muffin, and more strong coffee. This was a mistake I’ll remedy tomorrow; those mini-croissants are incredible. I should have eaten five or nine.
Course 6 was me staggering back to the hotel room and working for a couple of hours as the mighty engine of digestion did its work. Then I decided to take a break and walk off some of those calories. I got lost and then found, ending up at the old Agora which was founded by Alexander the Great and then rebuilt by Marcus Aurelius after a devastating earthquake in 178.
The place was deserted and it cost $1.80 to enter, which I could afford because I’d been hoarding all those coffee sleeves. There were plenty of stray dogs and I got to pet one of them for a long time before proceeding. The Agora was the city center; the ruins are breathtaking.
After my tour, I left the dogs and wandered up the long hill, then traversed down through a rotted out neighborhood back to the Izmir clock tower, and then to the bazaar. A man hollered at me. “Young man!” he said.
I looked around but didn’t see one.
“You want some coffee or tea?”
That sounded like a good idea, as I’d been out walking for two hours. “Yes, please.”
“Turkish or Nescafe?”
“That is good answer!” he smiled, seating me and walking away.
Back came the Turkish coffee, and I am here to tell you that if you think you are a badass coffee drinker because you have quadruple espressos and such nonsense, come show me your chops with a tiny cup of Turkish coffee. It is like drinking raw coffee-flavored gasoline. You know why it comes in tiny cups? Because if you had more than one every 24 hours your heart and intstines would seize. It is so bitter that you can feel the enamel on your teeth melt with each sip, and it has so much caffeine that you go from drowsy to wanting to conquer Asia with a stick in about four seconds.
I headed back to the hotel and went to bed, because it was close enough to my bedtime, that is, noon.
Okay, back to work.
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