Is this the best panoramic view and Star Wars movie place? You be the judge.

On a leisurely drive through the Ilhara Valley in Turkey’s Cappadocia region, just past the village of Selime we happened upon this sign.

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Intrigued, we wandered over to the nearby rock perch and were greeted to this sight.

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It is truly a gorgeous panoramic view, but a later google search concluded that, despite rumours to the contrary, none of the Star Wars movies was filmed in Cappadocia…although if you let your imagination wander, you could easily imagine a young Luke Skywalker emerging from the Tatooine-esque landscape.

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Sky Luxe Hotel, Astana

We were in Astana for a full week for a conference/vacation. We knew nothing about the city and chose Sky Luxe based on its location.

The hotel is a bit pricey but it is on par with others in the city at the same level of service. And we were so well taken care of by Diana and the rest of the staff, that it was well-worth the cost.

We arrived in Astana at 3am and were picked up by a taxi arranged by the hotel. We were exhausted and ready for bed, but agreed to a cup of tea when it was offered. In addition to the tea, Diana brought us a full spread of pancakes, jam and other treats. After a long trip it was very welcome.

The next morning, we slept through breakfast but they kept it for us until we woke at noon. Breakfast was an enormous spread of Kazakh and western foods (including caviar if that is your taste!)

We found the staff at the hotel to be excellent. They arranged taxis, confirmed rates, made a number of calls and made sightseeing suggestions. They were also wonderful with our 7 year old.

The room was plenty roomy and all amenities were good.

The hotel is supposed to charge per piece for laundry, but they agreed to do several loads for us at a greatly reduced rate.

The location of the hotel is in the new part of the city, very walkable to all sights and activities. There are a number of restaurants nearby as well.

All in all, Sky Luxe is a great option if you find yourself in Astana. You can get a good price through Booking.com

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Photo of the Day: Montreal, Québec

Ready to watch some world-class tennis!

Ready to watch some world-class tennis!

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Top Ten: Astana’s Awesome Architecture

All municipalities have some sort of urban planning in place, but many cities reveal a hodgepodge of the old and new, remnants of earlier days mixed with deliberate planned contemporary structures. Rarely do you see a city that is as meticulously planned as Astana, Kazakhstan.

Formerly a small, industrial town in central Kazakhstan, Astana was named the country’s capital city in 1997 (moved from Almaty, the former capital). At that point, Kazakhstan’s President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, contracted architects across the globe to design the futuristic structures rise on the left bank out of the steppe grasslands that mark the Kazakh countryside.

The city’s infrastructure fits with the goal of a population of one million inhabitants by the year 2030 – currently there are ~800,000 people – the result being that the city core feels vast, spacious, almost empty…waiting to be filled.

We took some snaps of our Top Ten structures you can find in Astana.

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A Tale of Two Cities

Sometimes a trip practically plans itself.

We are very fresh from a trip to both Kazakhstan and Turkey; the former because of a conference in Astana, and the latter because our flights routed through Istanbul so we figured we’d stop over and vacation there.

Two more different cities you could not find. The circumstance of visiting both back to back presented a marked study in contrasts: approaches to heritage, tourism, culture, infrastructure and development.

In the coming weeks we’ll be sharing some of the fun, interesting and challenging things we experienced in Astana and Istanbul. Hope you’ll come along for the ride.

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Sometimes the theme song for a trip presents itself

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Brush with the Bruins

Combining our love for travel and our son’s love for the Bruins saw us heading to Boston a few weeks ago to visit family and hang out in the city.

For sure one of the highlights was the Bruins vs Leafs hockey game, where Declan was chosen (at random) to wait outside the home team’s dressing room and high-five the players as they went out onto the ice.

We thought we’d put together a little video (our first time experimenting with iMovie – yes, we are late adopters to techie stuff) to remember that fun evening. Enjoy!

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