The day before we travel is always stressful. I had a boss that used to say “Work wouldn’t get done if it weren’t for vacation”, referring to the massive push to clean up the task list and prepare the house and job for the innattention they are about to recieve.
People always ask “Are you excited?” and my response is usually, “I will get excited when they close the cabin doors.” Until then, I’m a stressball.
It doesn’t help that our first two uber cars refused to take us to Dulles. Little known fact: Uber doesn’t let you give negative feedback to a driver that cancels the trip! Also, if the driver refuses, wait for them to cancel it themselves. If you cancel it, you’ll get a $5 charge. Emma and Lily wait outisde under the full moon.
We booked Turkey months ago, and thought we got a great rate on Turkish Air, so wepaid cash: about $800 RT from Dulles. It turns out that’s the normal price. Turkish Air is the world’s fifth largest carrier by number of destinations and has accomplished a huge turnaround from it’s days of airline accidents and government ownership to the present where it’s considered a top airline. (The government still owns 49%).
And it doesn’t disappoint. Although the check-in procedure is reminiscent of a budget airline, the service on board is probably the best we’ve experienced in coach. The food is good, there is power at the seat, and they have little amenities. It’s not going to change the way you think about 10 hour flights in coach, but would I book them again? Definitely.
Sleep never comes easily on a red-eye, but we get enough to feel human. Ataturk airport has that European feel – exposed structure, glass and narrow walkways. It also features non-functioning electronic visa kiosks with which Amanda fights for 20 minutes to pay for a $20 visa. However, once we do that, we cruise through passport, customs, baggage, ATM and taxi to our AirBnB.
This trip is, for me especially, a treat because I did absolutely no planning except to pick the dates around spring break. Amanda did all the research, booked the tickets, found the lodging, scheduled the transport and drafted daily itineraries. IT IS SO FUCKING GREAT TO NOT DO THAT FOR ONCE. I obviously love travel planning, but it’s fantastic to just be on the tour. Thank you Amanda.
Our Airbnb is on a tiny street in the Beyoglu district on the European side of Istanbul near The Galleta Tower. We trapse out in the drizzle up cobblestone streets and instantly get that feeling of history. It’s all new, plastic and machine manufactured metal, but it’s all old stone and earth that has supported a metropolis since before Alexander the Great.
Last spring, Emma and Lily and I fuitily pounded the sidewalk of Tokyo on our first night, looking for food. As a mostly vegetarian family, Tokyo was harsh. Jetlag and hunger and exhaustion made us pretty frustrated. (Lily, of course eats meat although she does wistfully sigh when eating bacon. “Piggies are so cute NOM NOM NOM”)
Not so in Istanbul. We quickly found a dozen places serving all sorts of amazing food, Lentil soup, Pide with cheese, fresh salads and truly exceptional fresh juices. Emma’s green apple juice we all agreed was the best thing we had ever tasted (better than the fresh pomegranite and pink graperuit we also got.)
Afterward we wandered up the hill a bit and found a cute shoe store called Dogo, a Turkish store of painted shoes. The designs are clever, sometimes snarky and often beautiful. The UFO and Circus pumps are hilarious.
It was fun being the dad watching the girls and Amanda pick out shoes. They tried at least 3-4 before each settling on one. Not surprisingly, all had sci-fi themes. Emma got white Doc Martin style boots with a robot, Lily the same except comic book styling about Zombies, and Amanda ended up with the sneaker version of the UFO pumps pictured above.
Amanda has trouble sleeping with the jetlag, but I think the rest of us konked out pretty quickly. Showers and flat bed feel like 5-star luxury. Outside we can hear seagulls and pigeons cooing, and the occasional honk of a barge on the Bosphorus. A week in Turkey awaits!