We’ve arrived in Turkey!
Well, suddenly we were in Istanbul: two fairly naive, not-at-all-yet-well-travelled youngsters. We were certainly throwing ourselves into the unknown. When reading my journal, I nearly ferschluked the water I was sipping. I wrote, “One of the airport staff , seemingly hired specifically to help tourists, directed us to a hotel shuttle. We had a fun ride to our hotel, and saw the Sea of Marmara.” Oh lord help us all. I can’t even believe I was that naive. But there it is, in my journal! Ahhhhhh! COME ON ERIN — THERE WAS NO “AIRPORT STAFF HIRED TO HELP TOURISTS”! Ahhhhhhh!
Sea of Marmara: that’s what I’m talking about!
You know, it was our first trip, and I wasn’t totally jaded just yet. And look where it got me! We had a lovely, honest ride to our hotel! Turns out, it was completely scam-free. We also paid those people cash in advance to pick us up from our hotel and bring us back to the airport a week later. When we told the proprietors at our hotel about this, they looked shocked — the told us we probably shouldn’t have done that. But you know… it all worked out pretty well — they followed through and did not scam us at all.
It’s interesting — I’ve changed. There’s no way I’d agree to just any “help” when I arrive in any country anymore. I will fight off help quite violently, in fact, if it comes to that. (But Andrew usually does a good job of protecting people from my indignant wrath.)
We stayed in the Sultanahmet district, which is really THE district to stay in, as a tourist. There’s really a lot all there within walking distance — Hagia Sophia, The Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace… LOTS.
But before I get into all that, I need to tell you about our hotel! I haven’t written too much about our other past accommodation, and few have made as great an impression on me as the Poem Hotel. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures from our time there, since I guess we didn’t put any on Facebook, and our hard drive crash of 2009 deleted everything. So I’ll just have to use my words: “The Poem Hotel is lovely! They put us in a suite that has a terrace overlooking the sea, where the Bospherous begins, looking across to Asia. Just gorgeous!”
The only pic we have from Poem Hotel… but I think it captures our experience beautifully.
Every morning the breakfast was divine. We’d eat out on the terrace (there are terraces everywhere at Poem Hotel) and feel quite ready for our day of exploration. The staff was friendly and informative, kind and honest. I feel like everything was built of marble there, it felt like we were staying in a palace, and yet it was owned and ran by a local family (unlike the Holiday Inn we always passed, just down the street). I’d be very happy to stay there again if and when we return!
Oh hi! We’re just hanging out on a rooftop, eating fantastic food and gazing out upon the Blue Mosque. NBD.
For our first meal in Istanbul, we went to the Blue House Terrace Restaurant. This is before we researched our dining options. You know how we choose this place? We were wandering down the street holding hands and feeling hungry for supper. Hungry tourists. Prime candidates to be yelled at and aggressively solicited to dine at every restaurant we passed. The first such encounter freaked us out and we escaped the aggressive restaurant solicitor. Once we’d gotten away from him, we discussed amongst ourselves: yes we were hungry, no we weren’t in any mood to be too picky. Having decided that, we said “yes” to the next restaurant solicitor and were immediately whisked to the rooftop terrace of the Blue House, where we found ourselves gazing upon the Blue Mosque! It felt surreal. I don’t remember the food at all. I’m sure I very much enjoyed it… but evidently the location out-shone the food. I did record in my journal that the food there was “amazing”… so I’m sure it was the truth. I had no reason to lie in my journal. I just don’t remember it! Ha.
Afterward, we wandered about. Saw Hagia Sophia from the outside:
And we saw the Blue Mosque:
And then it got dark:
I do not know what mosque this is.
It was at this point that we returned to our room at Hotel Poem, and sipped bottled water on our terrace as we watched the lights of the ships heading to and from the Bospherous, on the Marmara Sea. It felt perfect.
(I’m realizing that I really, REALLY want to return…!)