If the love of your life invites you to join him for holiday in Istanbul there’s really only one answer… I’ll be waiting in Istanbul. My boyfriend had a recent amazing triumph and part of our celebration included an extended weekend in Istanbul, Turkey.
I have never considered myself a world traveler although in my heart I’ve always longed to be. I took my first plane trip ever to London when I was in college. Yes, my first flight was literally jumping over the sea. Perhaps that is one reason why the lyrics from the Avett Brothers song, Slight Figure of Speech means so much to me “a jet plane and a big idea, I jump over the sea”. After London I visited Senegal, West Africa and have also been to the Bahamas and late last year was able to visit Oxford, Belgium and north France. Yes, I know many will read that list and think I have traveled many places, but I find I have an insatiable hunger to explore. I especially love exposing myself to others’ cultures, mindsets and perspectives in the cities where I am traveling. I love engrossing myself in the amazing buildings and art, the warm people and the culinary fares wherever I am. Istanbul did NOT disappoint.
Istanbul is quite possibly the most amazing city I’ve ever visited. It had everything you might want in a city – amazing architecture, engaging history, simply lovely people and a dessert menu focused on an abundant amount of sweet, flaky pastry with nuts, not to mention a way of life where tea time and coffee time are a social art form. This last part bodes very well for me as I love nothing more than sitting with a hot drink in my hand in conversation with the one I love.
Even though I consider myself an amateur travel researcher because I love nothing more than spending months and months learning about a place before I arrive, I didn’t spend as much time researching Istanbul. I was fortunate enough to have a friend loan me the Lonely Planet’s travel book for Istanbul which I would HIGHLY recommend for anyone ready to travel to this enchanting city. I spent the last couple of days leading up to our flight devouring the book and getting that much more excited about our upcoming trip. We rarely left our hotel without it!
We were fortunate to find a great deal at the Turvan Hotel which turned out to be just perfect. It had an amazing breakfast buffet included in the price and was within walking distance of everywhere we wanted to go. It also had a Turkish bath and massage in the hotel which we weren’t able to fit into our schedule, but looked like it was worth making the reservation the next time around. The breakfasts had traditional Turkish options including fresh veggies, roasted eggs and veggies, hard-boiled eggs, bread and an assortment of homemade jams and even a homemade sweetened hazelnut spread which I spread on my bread every morning with relish.
Our first full day in Istanbul we were able to see some many wonderful things. We started with a walk in the Topkapi Gardens were I saw the most beautiful tulips and flowers. According to one of the locals Holland actually got their tulips from Turkey, my disclaimer is I haven’t verified this, but after seeing the flowers, it is hard to doubt it.
We spent the remainder of the day in the midst of some of the most inspiring buildings I’ve ever been in.
The Hagia Sophia & the Blue Mosque .
Both buildings were full of amazing art and tile work. I feel as if these pictures can’t do them justice so I suggest everyone buy a plane ticket and see them in person.
We really loved the Byzantine artwork on the walls in Hagia Sophia and the tile art in the Blue Mosque was breathtaking. Fun fact about Hagia Sophia: Sophia is the phonetic spelling in Latin of the Greek word for “wisdom” the full name being the “Shrine of the Holy Wisdom of God” – thanks Wikipedia!
We had lunch at a restaurant near the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque which were built within a stone’s throw of one another. They didn’t have seating available in the main area of the restaurant and so we were lucky enough to get a seat on the balcony which was just big enough for one table and our two chairs. I took this shot of Patrick with the Blue Mosque in the background.
We dined on doner kebap and Turkish tea called cay – pronounced like chai, which we had at every meal, it’s a Turkish thing.
I haven’t had lamb since I was in junior high and hadn’t had meat for a few years (unless you count my annual partaking of turkey on Thanksgiving, this girl loves food customs despite her healthy eating habits). The kebap was delicious on the warm pita bread. It was a perfect lunch with the perfect setting.
Another can’t miss place to visit in Istanbul is the Basilica Cistern. Originally the cistern was a courtyard facing the Hagia Sophia and there at one time were several hundred cisterns in Istanbul. This was where we had our pictures taken as sultan and hmmm, me? We never actually were told what I was… a sultan princess maybe. Sure, I’ll call myself a princess, I felt like one. We walked around the cistern and were able to locate the peacock column which has the hole which supposedly gives you good luck and health if you stick your finger in it. The other column of interest in the cisterns are the heads of Medusa which are easy to find as you just need to follow the crowds. If you look closely you can see the snakes as her hair carved into the stone. I really loved these pieces.
Our dinner was served with a view, a view of Asia to be precise. We ate on the rooftop with a view of north Istanbul and Istanbul the Asian side. It was exciting to see and I loved the ambiance. We enjoyed the local Istanbul beer, Efes and had some delicious broccoli pizza, the crust was especially delicious.
We ended the evening with same amazing pecan baklava, cay and water pipe at a favorite café near our hotel. It became a favorite after we spent several hours sitting at the café the evening before, and were given some delicious homemade baklava. It is hard to believe this entire post covered only one day of our adventures in Istanbul, especially considering what a relax pace we took. It was a productive day and left the rest of the trip for even more time for talking, reading, and drinking cay. I’ll post part two of our Istanbul adventure soon!