After a successful European journey in 2003, my dear friend, Katie, & I decided to embark on another Mediterranean adventure. After much research, we chose a trip that took us to places we missed the first time around & brought us back to places that made lasting impressions before. This is our story....
April 18-19, 2006 (travel days):
Katie's husband, Bob, drove us to FLL to catch our Delta flights to Istanbul, Turkey. We flew Song to JFK; & then transferred to a regular Delta flight from there non-stop to Istanbul. Our travel day was fairly uneventful. Although it took nearly 1½ hrs. to check in for our flight. We grabbed a sandwich; & ate it on the plane. We refortified ourselves w/ Starbucks @ JFK. There wasn't much sleeping on the 10 hr. plane ride to IST. There were 2 ladies close by that jabbered loudly all night. Could even hear them through my earplugs! It was quite cloudy when we arrived; but the temps were quite comfortable.
The Hotel Nena sent a car for us. During the ride in we were treated to the sight of millions of tulips, hyacinths & pansies along the roadways planted for a special tulip festival. Hotel Nena (located in the "old town" area known as Sultanahmet) is a true gem w/ just 29 rooms, a quaint reception area, small bar, an enclosed courtyard dining area & a rooftop indoor/outdoor restaurant. The hotel mgr. & staff are extremely courteous & accommodating. They are going out of their way to make things easier for us. Our room wasn't ready yet (noon); but they let us use a smaller room to clean up or rest. Our intention was to hit the streets. But Katie laid down; & that was "all she wrote". So, I did the same. After an hr. the call to prayer coming through the open window woke me up momentarily (but not for long).
ust after 2 pm our deluxe twin room w/ a good sized patio overlooking the Blue Mosque was ready. We couldn't be happier w/ this room. The sun was finally coming out; & it was warm & breezy. We decided to walk to the Grand Bazaar. It's truly a cultural shock having men everywhere walking up to your face saying "hey lady", begging you to visit their shops.
Being tired & not in the market for anything, I wasn't really into this excursion. So, I had to be firm & slightly rude to get away from them. We probably saw less than 1/10th of the Bazaar; one could spend days in there. On our way back we were snapping photos of women wearing chadors w/ only their eyes peeking out, graveyards w/ beautiful monuments & fascinating architecture.
Two Muslim ladies stopped Katie on the street to chat (I'm not really sure why). But in their broken English, they talked for several mins. They ended up giving Katie a string of prayer beads just for being nice to them. We had 6pm dinner reservations at the hotel (a free dinner was part of our booking pkg). They had asked up when we checked in whether we would prefer chicken, beef or fish (we chose fish). Since they weren't busy, they served us (all by ourselves) up in the rooftop restaurant. From there you have a beautiful view of the Blue Mosque & The Bosphorus Sea beyond.
The feast started w/ a huge salad of shredded carrots, lettuce, red cabbage & cucumber in a vinegar dressing. A delicious bowl of lentil soup & a large plate of appetizers followed. We had no idea what we were eating!
The fish was supposed to be sea bass; but Katie thinks it might have been a snapper of some sort. It was whole; & the Maitre 'd made quite a production of taking off the head & removing the bones. A gorgeous fruit plate ended the meal. We were both about ready to drop. So showers done; & we're bedding down on our luscious sheets embroidered w/ huge white tulips at 9 pm. The last sound we heard was the last "call to prayer" of the day. Exotic dreams?