Back from Italy, Germany and Istanbul!

Jan 16th, 2004, 07:19 AM
  #1  
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Back from Italy, Germany and Istanbul!

After 8 months of planning, we finally took an 18 day trip to Europe. We arrived in Paris for one night, and stayed at the hotel Acacias. Great location, 2 blocks away from the Hotel de Ville, but otherwise nothing special... we paid 90 Euro for a small-ish room. We didn't do much that day, except stroll around the city a bit. We had dinner at Chez Leon, on Champs Elysee (love their mussles). Next day, we went for a while to Galleries Lafayette. Stunning Christmas decoration!

Then we went to Rome, where we stayed at the annex to Monte del Gallo. While it was not bad, it was not good, either. Too far away from everything. We were in Rome for 4 days. We had been in Rome before (several times, Fontana de Trevi works!), but we were taking my in-laws, so we did most of the major sights again. Nothing that hasn't been talked about here. Three things worth mentioning:

- Someone should start a campaign to get Michelangelo's Moses out of that church (San Pietro in Vincoli). It is one of the world's greatest works of art and it is treated like a mop in a dingy closet. The quality of the lighting (and the setting for that matter) is simply appaling.

- We did the Scavi tour for the first time. It was EXTREMELY interesting. If you have a chance, try to do it. You need to reserve by email at least 3-4 months in advance ([email protected]) Highly recommended.

- We discovered a little restaurant, just off Piazza Navona (on the side of the toy store) called Jazz Cafe. Excellent food, nice setting and reasonable prices.

After Rome, we went to Florence just for a day, where we were very dissapointed to see the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio covered in scaffolding... But the dark chocolate and orange gelato at Vivoli was as good as ever.

Then we went to Fischen, a little town in the German alps to meet some friends. In terms of sightseeing, the most interesting thing (besides the scenery, of course) is Oberstdorf. Postcard town. Very nice.
Jean_Valjean is offline  
Jan 16th, 2004, 07:27 AM
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I wasn't sure if my message was going to be cut off...

Well, after having a wonderful time in Fischen we drove to Stuttgart to take our plane to Istanbul. We flew Germanwings. Nothing remarkable about it except the dirt-cheap price and ok service. The only problem was that the flight was scheduled to arrive at 2:20 am, but it was one hour late, so we arrived in Istanbul at 3:20 in the morning...

After immigration (slow) and customs (honor system), we had a driver waiting for us there. He charged us 70 million to take us from Sabiha Airport to the Four Seasons.

Now, I travel a lot for business reasons, and I'd like to think that I have stayed at pretty good hotels. Nothing had prepared me for the level of service at the Four Seasons Istanbul. It was simply amazing. Everything happened perfectly.

Istanbul is truly a magical city. The people were incredibly nice, the shopping is wonderful (specially at the Grand Bazaar, aggressive salespeople or not), the sights are unbelievable and prices are extremely reasonable.

After a short culture shock (hearing the Muezzin calling at prayer time the first time was one of the most moving experiences of my life, in a "Toto, something tells me that we're not in Kansas anymore" sort of way) we discovered that Istanbul is a very welcoming city. Much more so than places like Paris (which I find beautiful but aggressive) or even Rome (it is tiring to be so aware of your surroundings all the time). Heck, New York is a lot more stressing than Istanbul. We fell in love with the place!
Jean_Valjean is offline  
Jan 16th, 2004, 07:29 AM
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Oh, and I forgot to mention that we became fanatics of Turkish cuisine... everything was good, everything was fresh, delicious and cheap.
Jean_Valjean is offline  
Jan 16th, 2004, 07:38 AM
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J_VJ,

Yes, expressing fees in turkish lire is very impressive, imagine 70.000.000 TL for a cab drive!!! but how much is the TL now to the Euro or the $?
baldrick is offline  
Jan 16th, 2004, 07:54 AM
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Jean_Valjean -
I was in Istanbul Oct 2003 with friends of mine who stayed at the Four Seasons also - they were blown away by the level of service. And I agree - Turkish cuisine and produce is fresh and delicious - simple, very good quality - the lamb was so moist and flavorful. Looking forward to going back to Turkey this summer.
marktynernyc is offline  
Jan 16th, 2004, 08:06 AM
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Yeah, it took a while to get used to the numbers... For the first time I had to carry a little table with me with different amounts and their equivalents...

When we were there, it was 1.3 million lira to the USD, and 1.7 million to the Euro
Jean_Valjean is offline  
Jan 19th, 2004, 06:17 PM
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Hi

Double-clicked on your name after some of your Monterrey replies to see what other travel ideas you had and found this trip report! Sounds like you had an amazing trip on the other side of the world from my vacation...

Feliz Ano! DAN
Daniel_Williams is online now  
Jan 19th, 2004, 06:47 PM
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Hi Jean, Thanks for the trip report! I have seen the Scavi tour in Rome mentioned frequently, but can you give me more details on cost, length and highlights? Thanks!
Tweeter is offline  
Jan 19th, 2004, 08:56 PM
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Hi Jean

How much did you pay for the Four Seasons? In Sydney it is one of the most expensive hotels. Did Germanwings fly you direct from Stuttgart? How much for the ticket? Much appreciate your info.
Lyndie is offline  
Jan 20th, 2004, 07:47 AM
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Tweeter,

The Scavi tour lasted around 90 minutes. First, it is really cool to walk past the Swiss guards and seeing 10 people behind you trying to do the same thing

After you go in, you are taken to a tiny little museum, where they have a couple of mock ups and they explain what you'll see. This is important because after you go in it is hard to understand the layout of the buildings.

The first impression after going in was of complete surprise. Buildings, streets, tombs... some of the walls were 20 feet high, 1st century mosaics in pristine condition (there were some walls with 1st century grafitti!), and the tomb of Saint Peter. Very impressive indeed. The cost of the tour was 9 Euro per person.

Lyndie,

The Four Seasons was 260US, including tax. I thought that it was incredible value for money. Excellent location for sightseeing, and the hotel is a sight in itself.

Germanwings flies direct to Istanbul from Stuttgart and Cologne. With them we flew Stuttgart-Istanbul-Cologne-Rome. For two tickets we paid $200. We could have paid a bit less, because every 2-3 weeks they have this "crazy night" thing, where you can find tickets from 19 Euro (one way). Subscribe to their newsletter if you want to know when they have these "crazy nights".

If you're planning on taking Germanwings to Istanbul, you need to be aware of a couple of things:

1. They fly to Sabiha Gokcen airport, one hour away from Sultanhamet. The main airport (Attaturk) is 10 minutes from Sultanhamet.

2. Their schedules are pretty bad...they arrive in Istanbul around 3am, and leave Istanbul at 4am... Arriving was ok, leaving at that hour was really bad.
Jean_Valjean is offline  
Jan 20th, 2004, 07:52 AM
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This is a test... for some reason my post didn't appear...mhmmm
Jean_Valjean is offline  

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