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A Long, Wonderful Day in Istanbul

October 17, 2012

Note to self:  If you’re starting a travel blog, don’t plan to do so while on a cruise ship.  After a week of trying to post via spotty satellite Internet at sea I gave up and figured I’d post once I got home.  So the upside to being back to reality is that I’m also back to wifi.  Sorry for being a delinquent blogger – it’s time for a recap!

Our last full day in Istanbul seems like ages ago but was a truly terrific day.  With only a few days to pack in the top sights, we planned a long day of highlights.

The Topkapi Palace was our first stop of the day.  It is a sprawling palace with fabulous grounds stretching over a corner of the Old Town overlooking the sea.  Back in the day (that’s an official historical term), the Sultans and their harems lived in this palace.  And based on what we saw they lived extremely well.

After wandering the grounds, I stopped at a street vendor to try a glass of fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice that we’d seen vendors selling all over the city.  It looked super refreshing but was the most tart thing I’d ever tasted.  Fail.

Then we headed toward the Spice Market.  We’d heard this was a must-see shopping stop in Istanbul for the sights, smells and of course the spices.  It felt like a long walk there in the heat through a smellier part of town, but was worth it in my opinion.  My dad considered it a version of hell, so I guess it’s all personal preference.

Much like the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Market was an enclosed area with dozens of small shops, only almost all of these were selling spices and teas.  I accidentally bought about $40 worth of tea, including a big bag of the apple tea I love so much.

After lunch and a siesta (we were still recovering from the 9-hour time difference, plus naps on vacation just rock), we headed out for a boat ride through the Bosphorous Strait.  We booked a private cruise with Zoe Yacht for the six of us and sailed off just before sunset.

The captain and bartender/guide didn’t tell us much about what we were looking at, but it was a beautiful cruise and a refreshingly new view of the city. We cruised through the newer parts of this ginormous city and got to see areas that we wouldn’t have otherwise experienced.  Also, the city itself is so crowded with its 20 million residents plus thousands of tourists that it felt amazing to sightsee in such a calm atmosphere.

Perhaps the coolest part about this particular cruise was that on one side of the water was the European part of Istanbul, while Asia was on the other side of us.  We passed beneath expansive suspension bridges linking the two continents, and that blew my mind just a little bit.

Following the boat ride, we headed back to the Old Town where we had dinner at the Four Seasons, which was easily one of the highlights of our time in Istanbul.  We sat in the courtyard of this beautiful hotel, continuing to spend our evening away from the hustle and bustle of the streets.

It was the perfect weather, perfect music, and the food… Oh the food.  They started us off with some of the fluffiest, most delicious bread I’ve had in my life, and things just kept getting better from there.  Course after course of delicious food followed, accompanied by a bottle of Turkish cabernet that was one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted.  (I don’t remember the wine at the moment but I’ll find out if anyone wants to know!)

Dessert to die for… some sort of molten chocolate something and a traditional Turkish cake.

Our waiter, Rustem, made the night as well.  He was Turkish and spoke excellent English, and he taught us more about modern Turkey in the space of that dinner than anything we’d learned so far on the trip.  We left dinner full, educated and entertained.

From the boat ride through dinner, it was one of those perfect evenings that don’t come along every day.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jamie permalink
    October 18, 2012 1:17 pm

    “This is going to be a realllly long day.” 🙂

    • October 19, 2012 9:45 am

      I figured the family would be the only ones to get that reference but I couldn’t resist 🙂

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