*sips Turkish tea*
What’s better than traveling someplace new? Traveling someplace new that you had no intention on ever traveling to. A place in which the history or culture you knew little to nothing about. To be quite frank, Turkey never appealed to me nor did it ever appear on my list of trips to take. Spontaneously ending up in Istanbul by way of Paris literally happen all in a days decision.
Walking through the Istanbul airport was every bit of eventful. While googling things to do prior to boarding my Turkish Airline flight I failed to realize that I would need a visa upon entry. Frantic I did more googling and was able to quickly purchase a E-Visa for twenty dollars on my phone. Managing to make it through Atatürk airport we eventually caught a cab and headed to our hotel.
The Hilton Bomonti by far was one of the grandest hotels I’ve stayed in. It seemed as if it were completely made of marble, every time I walked through the lobby I was in awe of its beauty. Although the hotel didn’t reflect any traditional Turkish style in its décor the rooms were very modern and chic which I loved. The service alone was super helpful and attentive. For a further description be sure to check out “TheLittleTruffle’s” review on Trip Advisor.
Our first night in Istanbul we dined at Park Fora, which happen to be the only restaurant in Istanbul that served fresh seafood. Park Fora was a great recommendation by the concierge and with no exaggeration I will say had the best seafood I’ve ever eaten. After hand picking the fish of my choice from the massive display of the day’s catch I chose the Sole. As an appetizer I went with the grilled octopus with a saffron sauce. In all honesty I could literally write an entire post on how good this meal was but I wouldn’t dare bore you!
Apparently Istanbul is the current “it” place to party, before heading out to dinner the doorman suggested we stop by a place called Frankie for a drink. Arriving to the Sofa Hotel we took the elevator to its top floor. The doors opened and the sound of a saxophone swept us off our feet. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for live music but Frankie was incredible. The ambiance, the decor, the people, the music and most certainly the amazing view. Frankie served the best view in all of Istanbul of the infamous Bosphorus Bridge that connects Asia and Europe. Literally one of the best supper clubs I’ve had the pleasure of attending. The service was impeccable with a substantial wine list. In celebration of our first visit to Turkey our server bought us several rounds of special shots made of maple syrup and vodka. Delicious! After our shots we kept the party going and ended the night or should I say morning a Lemoncello.
Heading out to explore the Grand Bazaar the next morning the doorman gave us yet another great tip. Unlike the night before this tip was more of a warning rather than a recommendation. He warned us that we would be overcharged by taxi drivers while leaving Grand Bazaar. He also warned us to not pay the drivers with large bills because they would trick us into thinking we paid them a smaller one. The assertive tone in which he presented this information to us stole my attention. The Grand Bazaar is an amazing market place filled with so many Turkish treats. Aimlessly exploring we ended up at a shop called Ramazan aka the spice and tea heaven. Filled with every spice you could think of I stocked up on saffron and herbs. The Turkish are known for coffee but in my opinion they should pay more attention to the tea. I spent hours in this shop trying and buying all the rose and apple tea I knew I could fit into my suitcase.
Leaving Grand Bazaar we headed to the Blue Mosque. All seemed well until we arrived to our destination and the driver asked for three times the fare rate. Immediately everything the doorman warned us about popped into my head. Arguing the price down to something more reasonable I handed the driver one hundred lira. Sure enough what seemed like magic I watch my hundred lira turn into twenty. I was in complete shock when the driver told me I gave him a smaller bill when in fact I knew I gave him a large one. Arguing with the man for two minutes he finally gave in and angrily passed me my correct change. Getting out of the cab I got a good laugh knowing I would’ve fallen for the scheme easily had the doorman never warned us.
All was forgotten once I laid eyes on the Blue Mosque. Everything about the structure was remarkable. Having been to a mosque many times before I covered my hair and removed my shoes upon entering. Aside from knowing what to do there was a big sign outside that assured all other visitors knew what to do as well. The giant ceilings were breath taking, I probably took over twenty photos of the exact same view. Saying a prayer I was beyond thankful for that moment and the experience of being in such a sacred place. Leaving I couldn’t help but admire the homeless dogs that surrounded the mosque. The way they peacefully slept in the courtyard convinced me that they to knew the importance of the mosque. Building up an appetite we indulged in true Turkish cuisine at Mikla. When overseas I’m always hesitant to eat meat but since most of the menu consisted of lamb I went against my better judgement. Which turned out to be extremely satisfying.
Before visiting Turkey the only thing I could tell you about the country was how much I enjoyed a Turkish Bath. In New York I frequent bathhouses that give off a Turkish feel but I was overly excited to finally be able to experience a real Turkish Bathhouse. Eforea Spa at Hilton Bomonti offered a Turkish Hammam service that put to shame any bathhouse that I previously attended. Enjoying every last scrub it was the perfect conclusion to my last night in Istanbul.
When it comes to choosing a destination for travel sometimes it’s good to go with the unfamiliar. Istanbul was a place that prior to visiting I couldn’t even pin point on a map. Transitioning from a country I knew nothing about into a place I now consider a favorite. The culture and history alone blew me away and changed my perspective on travel tremendously. Its safe to say I’ve been inspired!