Saturday 13 August 2011

Someone else's nicer doorstep?

"That sea is not blue. It is not clear. It is a little green maybe." Mehmet shakes his head. He is the owner of the hotel we are staying in; an amiable, chilled out guy, who loves the quiet life in the country and talking to people who come from all over the world to visit his beautiful spot on the Black Sea.

To us, it is a stunning blue and when we dive into it and still see our feet and the sandy bottom, it is heavenly clear. It's also warmer than Mehmet's swimming pool.

Some days previously, we had been sitting out on the street on a balmy Istanbul night, talking with Sebastian, the owner of the small restaurant, where mezze kept arriving along with the wine.

"It's wonderful, a beautiful city," we answered when he asked what we thought of his home town.

"Really? You like?"

Why are we always surprised to find that visitors take to that which we know so well with more love, wonder and enthusiasm? While Mehmet was comparing the sea on his doorstep to the even hotter climes in southern Turkey, we had come to it from the often brown and muddy Norfolk Wash, where you would  be pushed to see your hand held just under the surface. To us it was paradise.

Sebastian, who every night stands on the street drinking vodka and trying to get punters to pull up a chair and eat his kebabs probably thinks that with our fine dining in London, why would we be happy with a couple of slices of aubergine?

I remember when SeƱor George, my father-in-law first went into my bedroom at my parents' house, where he would be staying a couple of days during their visit this March.

"Why would you want to leave here to go to Buenos Aires?" he exclaimed.

We laughed it off, but throughout the next two days showing them slices of north-west Norfolk, I tried to see it all through their eyes: the shining yellow fields, the green mermaid's beds, the great Sunny Hunny sunset, my mum's garden and cooking, the dark wooden inside of our local pub with views across the dunes.

They were right, my in laws: my childhood doorstep is stunning.

Back in Turkey, we marvelled at it all: the calling to mosque five times a day, the fresh fish, the colourful markets and curious streets full of bizarre shops, the dolphins, the strong tea and soup for breakfast.

Because that's what you do on someone else's doorstep - you take back the wonders which you know are the reasons they live there.

Even if they don't know it.

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