Tuesday, September 21, 2010

First Stop: Istanbul

Senor Ping and I began the first leg of our amazing vacation early Monday morning. It was still raining and gloomy when we boarding the flight from Calgary airport bound for Toronto. We had a bit of walk from our arrival gate to our next departure gate but it was good to stretch our legs before boarding the flight to Dusseldorf. We marveled at how smoothly everything was going, we had no delays, flights were on time and we weren’t even tired (yet!!) When we arrived in Dusseldorf (at 6:05 AM local time) we walked to a different terminal, got our boarding passes and found the gate with about 15 minutes to spare. On to destination #1.

Our flight arrived in Istanbul on time and we quickly found the visa office and paid $60 US dollars each to visit this amazing city. We arrived at the exit and waited a few minutes for the shuttle to arrive from the Ilkay Hotel where we will be staying for the next six days. F&C told us that the ride to the hotel would be a ride to remember, how right they were!!!!

The Ataturk airport is about 15 km from our hotel. Our driver negotiated the busy roadways with ease, talking on his cell phone as he drove. We could see the oil tankers in the harbor and he slowed down as we went past a fish market. There were old and new apartment buildings, some looking very luxurious and others looked as though they were abandoned, but then we saw today’s laundry was hanging on the balconies. As we neared the hotel he turned off the main road and began winding his way up and down narrow streets past restaurants, Turkish baths, grocery stores, carpet shops and trinket shops selling everything imaginable.

Check in at the hotel was quick and efficient. Our room overlooks the street that the trolley runs down. We asked for a room closer to the pub with hopes that we can get WIFI in our room. They will move us tomorrow. The weather is perfect, 21C with a slight breeze. Much better than the cold and rain we left at home.

We stopped at our room for a few minutes to relax and study the maps. After grabbing the compass (a must in this city) we headed out for a walk. The streets are bustling, cars and trolleys and people everywhere. We finally decided it would be best if we followed the street that the trolley runs on, for sure we won’t get lost. We admired the items in the shop windows, until we discovered that the least little bit of “showing interest” led to a 15 minute stop while the street “hustlers” tried to convince us to check out the carpets in their stores. We drooled over the baklava and checked out the menus at a few of the restaurants and cafes. We eventually found ourselves across the street from the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. Today was not a visit the “must sees” of Istanbul, our intention was to have a look around, find out where the main sites are and come back another day. We listened to the “call for prayer” and it hit home that after months of planning we have arrived in Istanbul!!!!

We stopped for a beverage on our way back to the hotel and are going to have an early night tonight. Dinner will be at the Red River Pub in our hotel. Efes beer and a kebab to top off our first day!! Tomorrow we will tie on our walking shoes, grab the camera and maps (and compass) and start to explore the city.


Laurel said...

Sounds like a great start to a wonderful journey. Enjoy!

Raymondo said...

In honour of your arrival in Turkey, we'll have kabobs for supper too! Cheers!

Meg said...

Glad to hear you made it! We're having TURKEY Tacos tonight to celebrate.

Well, actually, they are chicken tacos, but close enough!

Pat said...

You guys are quite the world travelers this past summer! You'll have to tell us all about your trips when we get together in AZ.

colleen said...

I remember the feeling! Enjoy your time in a great city.