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Turkey – Istanbul

June 18th to 20th

We flew out of Kilimanjaro airport at 2AM! for Istanbul.  We took the Metro and a trolley to the Sultan Ahmet historical area to our little hotel.

After checking in, we went for a walk with the priority of finding some Turkish ice cream and then went to see the Basilica Cistern, tried a Nutella Simit (like a skinny bagel), and took a two hour Bosphorus Boat Tour which included the Golden Horn area, followed the European coastline, crossed the channel and then followed the Asian coastline.  We saw many mosques, mansions, fortresses and towers.  The weather was sunny and very warm and the breezes on the water were very welcome.

Everywhere you see people and shops selling rugs, spinning tops, Turkish hats, ice cream, water, Simit, roasted chestnuts, boat tours, whirling dervish tours and lots of buses doing city tours.  There were many tourists here, much more than we had experienced since Boracay in our second week.

We enjoyed dinner at the 360° Panorama Restaurant with views of the Sultan Ahmet area, mosques and the Sea of Marmara and as a bonus, there was a big screen TV six stories below us with world cup soccer showing.

On Thursday, we visited many historical sites including The Blue Mosque (opulent and beautiful), Hagia Sophia and the accompanying tombs (was under some renovations, built in sixth century with byzantine mosaics, chandelier and spectacular different coloured marble), and The Topkapi Palace (visited the Treasury, the Harem and more – there was much opulence in the possessions but not in the construction; lots of different Ottoman tile work and wonderful water views).  The highlight of the Treasury is an 86 carat diamond.  We spent an enjoyable afternoon wandering the Grand Bazaar and shops outside of it.

After a late lunch we went for a Turkish bath at Cagalogu, established in 1741 which is the oldest operating Turkish bath in Istanbul.  Very different experience than any massage we’d ever had, and boy, do you feel scrubbed clean after that!  The men and women go in different sections.  You are given a small room to undress and you come out in a cotton towel.  Your masseuse takes you to the sauna and bath area where you sauna and wash yourself at an old fashioned sink area, then the masseuse takes you to the marble slab in the middle of the room and performs the services you requested.  We got both a dry and oil scrub and man do they scrub.  Afterwards they wash your hair. Rinsing consists of bowls of water being poured over you repeatedly, and with no warning!

It had rained when we were inside but had stopped long enough for us to head to the hotel for a bit.  Heavy thunder storms delayed us from going out, but we snuck out during a lull and went for dessert and to watch some soccer.

The next morning was our final day – we had a flight to LA direct from Istanbul at noon.  We took the airport shuttle and began the journey back to Vancouver.  That flight was just over THIRTEEN hours – longest one we’d taken on this adventure.  We had a layover in LA and then we fly to Vancouver where we landed just before midnight.  We crashed at an airport hotel and our friend, Gaye, (thank you Gaye!) picked us up Saturday morning to drive us to meet Fran’s sister, Sandra, in North Van to pick up Tigger.  She had done some work for us on it and it looked great (thanks sis!).

Thanks for following us and we hope you enjoyed the photos. Fran will try and finish uploading the remainder as soon as she can.

We will be beginning our next adventure at the end of June which is driving across Canada, catching up with old friends, and family members, as well as visiting national parks enroute.  We hope to be in Newfoundland by September and then Nova Scotia in October to visit Doug’s father in Dartmouth before heading south to beat the snow!