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Istanbul, Bodrum, Gulet or Bust: A "Hip" Account

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Jul 22nd, 2012, 10:50 AM
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Istanbul, Bodrum, Gulet or Bust: A "Hip" Account

I planned a trip to Turkey for my husband and me around a group cycling trip.

Originally, it was to be two days Athens, two days Ephesus, a day in Bodrum, then a cycling trip that explored Bodrum, then moved to the Datca peninsula for two days, then moved onto a Turkish gulet along the Turquoise coast for three nights. Post cycling, we planned to return to Istanbul for four days, then fly out of Athens.

A few months from the trip date, I suffered a hip injury that would involve weeks and weeks of PT and two different types of cortisone shots. I started changing plans to make sure I could be well enough for the cycling portion , which I somehow convinced myself that I would be able to do. Hey, delusions always help.

Soon the two days of seeing the sights in Athens had to become two days on flat ground in Istanbul. And right before I left, when the injury became even worse, I knew I could not go to Ephesus, either.

Somehow, it worked. While walking was problematic, I COULD cycle after my stalwart cycling guides (bless them) showed me how to pull a bike up to me from flat on the ground (the bike, not me). I want to thank poster Otherchelebi, among other posters here, for helping me out time and time again.

-Order of Trip Report on Next Post-
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 10:52 AM
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ORDER OF REPORT TOPICS:

Istanbul Hotel First Two Nights: Karakoy Rooms
Istanbul Dinner: Karakoy Lokatansi
What We Did in Istanbul for 1.5 Days
Dolmabahçe Palace
Transport from Izmir to Bodrum
Our Bodrum Peninsula/Yalikavak hotel: The Sandima 37 Hotel
Bodrum Hotel: The Bodrum Mamara
Dinner in Bodrum: Kocadon
Datca Peninsula Hotel: Mehmet Ali Knonagi Mansion Hotel
Dinner on Datca: Attila's
Sightseeing: Knidos
Carpets!: Turgutkoy Carpet Weaving Cooperative
A Turkish Gulet
Dalyan
Second Istanbul Stay: Sirkeci Konak
Topkapi
Topkapi Harem Exhibit
Hagia Sofia.
Blue Mosque
Basilica Cistern
Chora Museum
Süleymaniye Mosque
Istanbul Eats: The Culinary Secrets of the Old Town"
Cellphones

--Report Content Begins on Next Post--
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 11:03 AM
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AlessandroZoe, I wish you had given dates and hotel info. We know a truely excellent PT in istanbul who has treated the whole family a number of times and we also could have kept you entertained.

But i am glad you salvaged some things out of your trip and am looking forward to your report.

And thanks for the honourable mention. Hope you're all better now.
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 11:11 AM
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Istanbul Hotel First Two Nights: Karakoy Rooms--StudioRoom http://karakoyrooms.com/

This small hotel was a great place to get over jet lag, and manager Aylin is on top of her game. Situated a block from the Karakoy Pier in Istanbul, and two blocks or so from the Galanta Bridge, it was a great way to soak up Istanbul's vibe without any effort. Our studio was spacious and super clean. Bathroom was small, but closet and storage room was to die for. Not cheap, but still wonderful.

Negative: We had a taxi driver from the airport who just could not get it through his head how to get to the hotel. Finding it can be a problem for any taxi driver--it is not clearly marked with signage. Even so, this guy couldn't get close to it even with the help of the clearly printed map and address we handed him. We've reflected on this, and it's possible he just could not read.

No matter what, he had anger management problems (not at us, thank goodness), and so when traffic was inevitably backed up to get across the Galanta Bridge, he stubbornly turned around and backtracked to go up into Old Town and go across the next bridge. In trying to tack down to the Karakoy Pier area, all the small streets were naturally backed up with trucks loading and unloading.

At this point, we thought he was going to have a heart attack, and I'm not exaggerating when I say he nearly killed three pedestrians with the car--and we were really worried that he was doing it on purpose. Note: We do not plan to cycle in Istanbul anytime soon.

My advice? If trying to catch a cab from the airport, just tell the driver "Karakoy Pier" and once there, have him follow the map (www.karakoyrooms.com/contact.html) that manager Aylin sends you from that point. And when returning to the airport, it is so simple to nab a cab from the pier area--there are tons of taxis that just wait there. I'm happy to report that our return driver was calm, cool and efficient.

Since the Galanta tram stop is so close, it's also very possible if you travel light just to do the Metro/tram from the airport to the Galanta stop and walk over to the hotel, too.

For our first night, we just stopped and ate nibbles (plus gallons of Efes because it was so hot) at various places in the neighborhood. We ate a lovely breakfast by pre-reservation, although it is not included in room price, downstairs at the Karakoy Lokatansi, which brings me to dinner at the same place our second night, reserved by Aylin at...

Istanbul Dinner: Karakoy Lokatansi http://karakoylokantasi.com/
This restaurant associated with the hotel is primarily for locals during lunch and dinner hours, although some diners were coming off cruise ships, and the restaurant people sort of tucked them into the second story via a spiral staircase. Really excellent food. Be sure to check out the mezzes case downstairs before your start ordering. The standout for me in the hot appetizers was the fried lamb's liver; my husband was into the fish entree both time we ate.

--Next: Slow-Mo Touring of Istanbul--
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 11:19 AM
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That is so sweet, otherchelebi. We actually ended up having a great time. I'm not doing really well right now, but did do really well on the trip, and the whole thing is a true reminder to travel as much as you can and be as active as you can while you have good health. My husband and I and our kids have put a lot of hiking, biking and museum miles behind us, and I'm grateful that we took the opportunity to do so.

Of course, today is my "glass half full day." Tomorrow, I might be like our first taxi driver.
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 11:24 AM
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--Next: Slow-Mo Touring of Istanbul--

What We Did in Istanbul for 1.5 Days
Since we were so close to the Galanta Bridge and the Galanta stop, we took advantage of it just to soak in Istanbul vibe.

We walked the Galanta Bridge constantly day and night--there was always some action going on somewhere.

We hopped the tram up to Dolmabahçe Palace http://tinyurl.com/256bym at opening, which was good because temps were over 100 degrees by noon that day, and the palace is not air conditioned. As it was, moving with all the sweaty bodies on the tour became harder and harder.

We took the funicular up to Taksim Square and walked our way down to our hotel near the Karakoy Pier, stopping for frequent Efes.

In short, we did little and we felt as though we saw everything. We knew we were coming back within a week, and I knew my husband had fallen in love with the city.

--Next: Moving on to the Bodrum Peninsula--
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 11:29 AM
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--Next: Moving on to the Bodrum Peninsula--

My original plans were to fly to Izmir, get the train to Selcuk, tour Ephesus, head down to the Bodrum Peninsula ASAP, and then spend one day with my Turkish aunt and American uncle before we started on the cycling portion.

The new bad: We did not get to see Ephesus.
The new good: The travel adjustments ended up working perfectly. I had no clue as to how big the Bodrum Peninsula was, and this made our family reunion time work perfectly.

Had I known that I was just going to go from Istanbul from Bodrum, I would have flown there. My last minute accommodation to injury meant that I still had to fly to Izmir and now somehow get to Bodrum. I was going to rely on the Karakoy Rooms’ Aylin to help me schedule a bus, but then I thought, "Why not see if I could get a driver?".

I did an Internet search and made an inquiry; I also contacted my next hotel near Bodrum. Pricing was the same, but my husband suggested that we choose the one the hotel suggested because if we had a problem, the hotel would have a problem.

Here are the two quotes for the almost 4-hour ride for two persons:

VIPExpress Izmir Airport Transfer Service [email protected] Contact name: Barbaros Purten
- 270 TL ( Turkish Lira ) by standard sedan car ( i.e. Fiat Linea )
- 500 TL ( Turkish Lira ) by Luxury Dodge Journey VIP Car

Timbaki Travek (owner: Mr. Cevher mobile phone number is 00 90 533 212 98 66)
- 270 TL ( Turkish Lira ) small car
- 450 TL (Turkish Lira ) Volkswagen Caravelle or Transport Minibus
- 500 TL (Turkish Lira ) Mercedes Vito

Mr. Cevher, who speaks excellent English, was there right outside the airport door at Izmir, and we were at our next hotel, the Sandima 37 in Yalikavak, within 3.5 hours. I would recommend.

--Next: Our sojourn in Yalikavak--
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 11:34 AM
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--Next: Our sojourn in Yalikavak--

Our Bodrum Peninsula/Yalikavak hotel: The Sandima 37 Hotel—Executive Suite http://tinyurl.com/bohh9mt
I am going to state the negative first because I don't want to be accused of leading anyone astray. This hotel is NOT on the Yalikavak beach--it's 10 to 15 minutes walking down the hill--and some of the rooms can experience traffic noise from the main road.

That's it. There are no other negatives. None. It's a small place run by a dynamo of a manager, Kenan Hatipoglu.

If hotels in the south of Turkey for the rest of our trip had some problems, this one just had NONE. We were totally cossetted by Kenan and his right-hand guy, Murat. Kenan gave us a tour, and we decided to upgrade on the spot to an Executive Suite, which had this great living room, a kitchenette, an extensive terrace, and a bedroom with both jacuzzi tub and shower (downside was road noise in the living area, but our night’s sleep was perfect and even though I’m a sound phobic, I’d book the room again).

Everything was super clean.

One could have lovely breakfast (included) on our private terrace or along the pool in a delightful setting.

Want to go down to the beach? Kenan drives you. Want to go out to eat? Kenan makes your reservations and drives you. Need taxi arrangements to your next port of call? Kenan finds the best rate.

We're going back as long as Kenan and Murat do not leave.

I have no restaurant reviews for this area because my Turkish aunt and American uncle took over at this point. We ate at some place they liked along the Yalikavak pier (great sunset!) the first night and the second night we ate at their lovely beach home in Gundogan.

All in all, I am so happy I was injured--I got to spend more time with two people who were a precious part of my childhood. And I am happy to say that the warm-hearted Turkish woman I knew as a kid was rather representative of the kindness and generosity we experienced everywhere in Turkey.

--Next: Moving on to Bodrum--
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 11:52 AM
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--Next: Moving on to Bodrum--

Bodrum Hotel: The Bodrum Mamara http://tinyurl.com/cxoxn5y
This place was a hoot. So we've experienced the Karakoy Rooms, the Karakoy Lokatansi, the Sandima 37, our driver from Izmir, my relatives. Everything was charming, warm, and worked.

This supposed 5* hotel just doesn't work.

Positives: The view from pool and restaurant is STUNNING. The breakfast buffet is STUNNING. The lunch and dinner menu are limited but the food is very, very good. Service personnel are all smiles.

But nothing makes sense. Service (18%) may be all smiles, but nothing gets done. The whole place is a paradox. Our room was a sea view room. It actually would have had a fantastic sea view if ONLY they had cut two big bushes down on our terrace. Why would hotel management purposely block the view of a prime room to anger the customer who has just plucked down big bucks for it?

The room itself was large. The design, though, made 0 sense. Closet space was more than adequate, except that only one person could access a side at a time by rolling this middle-of-the-track mirror to open folding doors on either side. One had to close the folding doors to get out of the room, which meant one had to line up the closet mirror perfectly.

The room wasn't the sparkling clean of the Karakoy Rooms or the Sandima either. Lots of small maintenance issues, too.

There was a step-down to the living area that employed a wooden step which perpetually slid across the tiled floor (must have no litigation issues in Turkey).

The outside terrace was nice--one COULD see the sea from there. Unfortunately, there was no outside handle on the sliding door, and it was a trial trying to figure out how to get back in. We laughed so hard.

What we didn't laugh at was the fact that the air conditioning would never stop pouring out cold air. The thermostat made no difference, even though maintenance tried to convince us that setting it at 30C meant it was 30C.

It became less funny for me because my hip and my stomach really flared up on me and I was bedbound (the bush-blocked view stopped being funny fast, too) while my husband got to tour the castle and then got to do the first day of cycling. We asked for blankets three times since we figured the AC would never start working right (depending on the time of day and the wind, mosquitoes would come in in droves, so opening the door wasn't a solution), and we were told sweetly, "right away", and no blankets came. Finally my husband, hardly a high maintenance guy, went to the front desk and said, "I'm not leaving this desk without blankets."

By the second day, our cycling group had convened at the hotel. We ate dinner out that night (see below), and started laughing at all the miscues with the hotel. Everyone had a story. The next day, everyone had billing problems at checkout.

Summary: I'm sure this hotel has the best view of all of Bodrum. To be sure, the beds and pillows are comfy and the breakfast is lovely.

There's got to be a place in Bodrum that operates with the service level of the Sandima 37 somewhere. It's just not the Mamara Bodrum.

--A Bodrum restaurant--
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 11:53 AM
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Dinner in Bodrum: Kocadon http://kocadon.com/view_ing.htm
Fabulous meal. Lovely courtyard setting. Mezzes were buffet style (brilliant). Entrees were just perfect. Owner's wife Francesca is from Holland and is a perfect hostess.

--Next: Datca Peninsula--
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 12:02 PM
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--Datca Peninsula--

The next day we left by bicycle for the ferry for the Datca peninsula. There we cycled various places with lunch by the sea until we got to the Mehmet Ali Konagi Mansion Hotel,

Datca Peninsula Hotel: Mehmet Ali Knonagi Mansion Hotel (latest website isn’t operating—might want to see Trip Advisor ( http://tinyurl.com/d54mc9w )

Ok, so I have this hip injury, and the hotel assigned me the smallest upstairs room, up two flights of stairs in one of the more inaccessible parts of the grounds. To get anywhere, I had to negotiate the stairs and then up and down rocky paths with steps. The pool is up a ladder (!). My hip felt as those spikes are going into it.

The AC in the room was not that operable, the bathroom faucet handles kept breaking off spokes, and our bed's two lonely pillows were like pancakes. The one blanket did not cover the bed let alone two people. And the hotel misplaced a piece of our very clearly labeled luggage.

I should have hated this place.

No.

We really liked this place. The grounds are beautiful, and one feels sort of lulled into lower gear. Heck, I'd go back!

For the second night, we just asked for two more pillows and an extra blanket, and we got them! The breakfast may not have rivaled the Mamara Bodrum, but the warmth of service was great. We had dinner there one night, too, and it was great. The owner is magnetic in personality.

The grounds are SO relaxing and beautiful. We hated to leave.

Dinner on Datca: Attila's
I can't find a listing for this restaurant online. I don't even know in what town we ate! But it was great. We ate shoreline and had a great view of the full moon. Our group was totally rowdy, drinking way too much raki (I stuck with Efes), and the fish and mezzes were superb.

Sightseeing: Knidos http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knidos
It was so interesting to see how cities can thrive and then die. Where I'm from, two of the outlying towns were much bigger in history than the nearby town that became the huge city.

For Knidos, this scenic area died probably died because water simply dried up.

Maybe Las Vegas will go away.
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 12:07 PM
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--Carpets and Gulets--

Carpets!: Turgutkoy Carpet Weaving Cooperative http://tiny.cc/neyuhw
I do not shop. My husband and I may have married simply because we always agreed that things do not equal experiences. As I have maintained on my entries on this website for eons, my couch was bought in 1940. My mother-in-law recovered it twice. I recovered it twice. That's it. Replacing it is airfare. End of story.

However, if I ever wanted to furnish a house and had money, I'd get my butt to Turgutkoy.

The manager of this cooperative speaks excellent English (he's been to 48 of the 50 states), and he wastes not a single word in explanation of anything.

We saw everything from the silk worm cocoons to training weavers to rug type comparisons.

Others in the group wanted to buy, and each were taken into one of the zillion rooms in the complex.

I had so much fun watching the bargaining. Winner: A good ol NYC gal with a terrific game face.

The Gulet: Where good things go wrong http://www.flamatours.com/
We were having an excellent trip experience with a simply superb group of people. Cycling was excellent--tough cycling but with views and endless opportunities to take a dip in the ocean to cool off. What’s not to like?

Our cycling company has been in business for eons because they just know how to deliver a reliable product over the years. Their hallmark? Excellent guides. And those guides delivered on this trip. As to accommodations, their hotels have always been similar in quality to the one-up competitor, who does not have a cycling trip in this market. I'm sure the reason for that absence, though, is that Turkish gulets are not "standardized".

Our group dynamic was totally ruined when we were divided into two gulets, one of which was rather nice (9 guests) and one of which was below standard and very cramped (11 guests). It's too bad that a) it was at the end of the trip and b) this part was for three nights.

One night would not have been bad because there was a full moon and sleeping on deck was neat; three nights soured the trip for those on the teeny-tiny boat.

It was a shame. The company has made it right, though, and I’m sure they will find a way to make sure future guests have a wonderful experience.

--Next: Dalyman--
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 12:15 PM
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--Dalyman, a hike out of Cleopatra's Bay, and back to IST--

Dalyan http://tiny.cc/2gyuhw
We had a tough cycle from our boat mooring to Dalyan.

Temperatures were 100F again, and our uphill route was exhausting. A lot of the people who had done longer cycle options were sort of swaying in the heat. I took advantage of a roadside oasis, got myself water and a few pretzels, pulled out my Kindle, and chilled until the world stopped spinning.

And then I trekked upward--not always on bike.

Still, views were rewarding, and one of the best views was a downhill past the hillside Lycian tombs ( http://tiny.cc/rn3uhw ). Awesome. I loved touristy Dalyan, and I adored our boat shuttle through the bullrushes back to our boat. So, so, so touristy and yet so unique. What fun!


We took a hike the next day out of Cleopatra's Bay to a mountain family’s house, drank sage tea with them, bought some tiny wooden spoons from then as souvenirs, and it was wonderful. Hard hike down for me, but still it was worth it.

--Back to Istanbul--
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 12:27 PM
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--Back to Istanbul: Our Stay at the Sirkeci Konak--

The next day, we flew out of Dalaman Airport back to Istanbul.

I knew I had wanted to stay in Old Town because I had a concise sightseeing "hit list" that was best accessed by staying there in the area. Even so, my hip injury made me refine my hotel reservations in the area even further. Most of the good rooms were already gone, but Sirkeci Konak, right on the Gulhane tram stop, found us a space for four days.

Second Istanbul Stay: Sirkeci Konak http://www.sirkecikonak.com/
Popular with the Trip Advisor clan, the Sirkeci Konak does have some things going for it: great tram location, lots of fun free programs, an free hamman, a terrace restaurant.

There’s an 11% discount if you can pay in cash in TL, USD or Euros.

I can't say that it lived up to the total touchy-feely vibe reported by its fans, although the concierge has a wicked sense of humor that I enjoyed, but it ended up being a wise choice for me and my hip.

We ended up with two rooms types because I was so late getting reservations:
--Deluxe Room with Terrace for two nights
--Standard Double for two nights

Wow, was this a tale of two rooms. The Deluxe Room was awesome. Really large, closet space to die for, terrace, bathroom with separate shower and tub. We figured the room paid for itself first night because we did all of our stinky biking clothing washing in the tub and then strung up our stretchy clothes lines and blow-up hangers on the terrace quite creatively.

My husband then walked across the street to a little mini store to get some Efes, and we watched the stream of visitors to Gulhane Park across the street and the tourists and locals going up and down the street below while our laundry dried in the heat and breeze.

Awesome.

Two nights later, I’m sorry to say, we had to downgrade to the Standard Double. It was a closet of a room, and the twin beds were sort of lumpy. Sniff, sniff. But we were fine. I'm very appreciative that the hotel did its best to find us space.

Part of the Sirkeci deal was a free welcome dinner, and we used it for the fish restaurant on the ground floor our first night.

Our meal was so-so, but our waiter was wonderful. We loved the people watching. There was this character who set up a fortune-telling stand across the street with one rooster and two rabbits. One was to choose one of them to draw a fortune.

It was amazing who he drew in as customers. Women in total burkas, Americans, even two whores (strange to see on that street, by the way). We were fascinated.

A feral black cat tableside, an Istanbul constant, had skipped the "poor me, feed me" routine and had learned to go straight for "feed me or you die". At our first dinner, he actually leapt on my chair with bared claws and threatening teeth.

My husband, whose has learned over time just to let me fend for myself, was even moved to put down his wine and say, "Gee, I guess I'm going to have to do something."

He did the napkin snapping routine for a bit. But the cat lurked, watching me.

I kept pointing to my husband a threat, but the cat did not take the hint.

Anyway, a family with a woman in burka holding the hands of two kids and a husband pushing a stroller came up the street soon afterward. The man went ballistic on this cat. Didn't kill it, but made sure it understood that the area around me was verboten. I exclaimed, "My hero." The woman said, "I saw it attack you as we passed down the street, and I asked my husband to solve the problem."

This family can stay at my home ANY TIME.

--Next: Old Town Hit List--
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 12:36 PM
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--Old Town Hit List--

General Istanbul Sights We Saw for Return Trip
Ok, I had been to Istanbul before, but husband had not. I had a hit list of sights that would interest him, and I had a travel plan based on "how do we beat the cruise ship?" crowd.

My first priority? Topkapi, of course. http://tiny.cc/pm4uhw

I had taken my husband to Dolmabahçe first because given Istanbul’s weather and culture at the time it was built, I knew he would see that the Dolmabahçe has to be the stupidest move ever by a sultan (the big "D" doesn’t even take advantage of its water view!).

My "beat the crowd" game plan: I bought museum cards at our hotel desk. We were on the grounds at 8:30. We had a coffee. We were in line at 8:40 a.m. As we passed through the turnstiles at 9:00 on the nose, the man smiled and said, "You are number 1".

Note: I come from a family of obsessive-compulsives, and so I imagined my father in heaven saying, "You be my girl."

I got audio tours ASAP. We headed straight for the jewels (saw them without having to elbow a zillion people), zigged and zagged, had coffee and some fruit on the terrace restaurant, and then worked out way back through the Harem.

Most of the Harem was closed for an upcoming restoration. I was disappointed. We then tried to find the exit (the cruise ship people had managed at that point to fill the entire entry square space), so we accidentally headed downward to the...

Topkapi Harem Exhibit http://tiny.cc/gqyuhw
OMG. This was AMAZING. I had just finished the Jason Goodwin Inspector Yashim series (http://tiny.cc/6qyuhw ) so I was so up on Topkapi harem life. The exibit was so brilliant that it was a highlight of our trip.

Hagia Sofia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagia_Sophia
The museum card was essential here. We bypassed a huge line and only had two persons ahead of us for the audio tour stuff. Once inside, the cruise ship crowd of zillions doesn't make a dent, so do feel free to get here almost any time of day if you have the card.

Blue Mosque http://tiny.cc/8ryuhw
The essential here is having appropriate dress at the ready. Actually, I'm disgusted by how many people didn't wear appropriate dress even they were handed coverings. I had a long-sleeve cycling top, a head scarf, capris, and socks ready to go; husband wore long pants and a sleeved top and had socks.

Here’s where I get whiney: We managed to be quiet; why can't anyone else? I guess the obsessive-compulsive bit is talking. Sorry.

Basilica Cistern http://tiny.cc/psyuhw
Skipped the audiotour here. It's the atmosphere that speaks. Still amazing second time around.

--Next: the Chora Museum--
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 12:43 PM
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The next day, we did the Chora Museum and the Süleymaniye Mosque

Chora Museum http://tiny.cc/psyuhw
Why did we go? It was on the museum card. I had been to the other two museums on the museum card, and I didn't think my husband would be that interested. Plus, it would be an adventure just to find the darn place.

We had no clue how to get there.

After the fact, I was told that you may be able to get a taxi from the Sultanahmet area for around $10 (around 15 Turkish Liras).

Of course, that's if you can find a driver without anger management issues.

Or, we were told, you could take a bus (31E, 37E, 38E or 36KE) from Eminonu and get off the bus at Edirnekapi stop. The Chora museum is supposedly a 5-minute walk from the bus stop.

We have no idea if that is true. As it was, we hiked hill and dale to get there.

Actually, the hike was worth it. Bodily injury, no matter how bad the neighborhood, is not an Istanbul problem. We got to see life in the back areas, and I'm happy we did. We always had people going out of their way to help, and again, we learned to love Turkey on its own, not through "tourist eyes".

The Chora Church ( Kariye Müzes) was amazing. The frescos are pre-Renaissance. Imagine if this church had been set in Florence--it would have rocked their world.

Süleymaniye Mosque http://tiny.cc/bvyuhw
I didn't get to see this the first time I came to Turkey.

My husband and I took the tram up to the Grand Bazaar area and walked down the hill to get there before sunset. This is a bare-bones designed mosque, but somehow it was more appealing to me than the Blue Mosque. Hard to explain.

Again, I became very upset about people who showed no respect. I'm not Moslem, I'm not Catholic, I'm not Jewish, but I just don't think it's that hard to show respect for another culture.

We walked down to Galanta from the Suleyman Mosque, walked across the bridge, and returned without reservations to our favorite place, the Karakoy Lokatansi, for our last night.

--Next: Turkish Air and Cell Phones--
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 12:48 PM
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No, you did not need us to entertain you. You did very well, and I can tell you are enjoying it again while writing about it.

by the way that black cat is rather unique. Most are rather friendly. Maybe you stared at him too hard (that is a challenge)

unless you or others of your group have some other web site where you write your cycling experiences, this would be a good place to give some more information to future cyclists, especially for any who may wish to build up their own small group rather than take an organized tour.
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 12:52 PM
  #18
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Correction: I'm going to discuss our food tour instead of Turkish Air and Cell Phones.

Istanbul Eats: The Culinary Secrets of the Old Town http://tiny.cc/t44uhw

Preamble: My sister and I do not tour well together. I love museums and could care less about shopping and markets; she hates museums and lives to shop.

However, we do agree on views and eats (we are both obsessive Calvin Trillin fans).

She told me we HAD to do this tour. I agree: you HAVE to do this tour.

There will be and are imitators. There will be no other guide like our guide Angelis.

A skinny Greek expat, Angelis is absolutely beloved by every Turkish vendor along our route. Why not? You want to take him home with you. He loves food, these streets, this Istanbul.

This is an expensive tour. It ended up being around $125 per person (I think). I don't care. Neither did my husband. The tour meant eating from 9:30 a.m. to around 3:30 pm. We became adopted into Istanbul because Angelis has become adopted. And we are planning on taking him home.

Hmm, I'm bringing a lot of people home with me.

There are lots of reviews of this tour on Trip Advisor http://tiny.cc/axyuhw .

Standouts for us were the NON Simit bread at the first vendor, the rose petal Turkish Delight, the Donar (this was the best ever), the Boza drink, the chicken breast pudding, and believe it or not, the particular sparkling water Angelis ordered.

We'd do this specific tour again if we returned. If not, we're doing the two others offered by Istanbul Eats (usually NOT led by Angelis, unfortunately).

--Finally, Turkish Air and cell phones--
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 12:56 PM
  #19
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Turkish Airlines Overview
This was my second time to fly this airline.

Their flight attendants are wonderful. Their food is wonderful. Their reservations system is still a little iffy, and their call center always has an echo. Getting an answer on the phone is akin to water torture.

However in the air, whether or not it's Economy or up, it's a pleasant experience.

I used Star Alliance Miles to get Turkish Airlines Business Class (my two kids live in very distant parts of the country for us, so I have a lot of opportunity to earn a zillion miles, plus my husband flies for business at least once a week).

Let me tell you, their Business Class/First Class lounges are to die for. The one at Istanbul Attaturk has to be the most stunning facility I have ever been in.

Even if you are in Economy, though, if the plane is in the air for one-half hour, these people will find a way to feed you. AND THE FOOD IS GOOD!

Cellphones
We gave up. I had done a lot of research, and I still was getting different opinions.

The line at the airport kiosks were so long when we arrived that I waited until we were at our first hotel and then went shopping.

Three stores told us the same story: Turkey wants people to go directly to the tax office to register a foreign phone and then bring the certificate to the store to get the SIM. They said it just doesn’t always work. They said just a) buy a SIM and just expect it will go off after two or three weeks or b) just buy a cheap Turkish cell with Sim and minutes.

We decided to do neither.

In other words: I still don’t know what’s going on here. Do not rely on me for advice on this subject.

Again, I thank everyone who helped us along the way. I don't think this trip report will be that useful, but I hope even one little part can help you explore a wonderful country and sense the warmth and kindness we experienced.
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 02:57 PM
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I don't know why you'd say that this wasn't useful, AZ, I thought it was great. Entertaining as well as informative! We're traveling in October, and look forward to doing some of the same things you did. Especially enjoyed your comments about cell phones (I have not been able to figure that out either), the Istanbul Eats tour and the cruise ship hints. Same things that I've been thinking about.

Well done!
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