The forbidden women’s section of Cagaloglu Hamami!
When we last left our heroines, they were stranded in Istanbul with no money and no way home. They were falling on desperate times so had to start working in a Turkish brothel….
AGMA always did have a flare for the dramatic!
Our first full day of touring Istanbul was wonderful! We went to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. We ate incredible sweet treats at the Hafiz Mustafe 1864 close to the Sultanahmet tram stop. I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E.
Then we were off to Cagaloglu Hamami Turkish bath. I was a bit nervous about talking my 3 friends into going with me….
While AGMA thinks a Turkish bath is probably the closest to heaven I will get on this earth, I understand that it’s not everybody’s cup o’ tea (the sauna, being pretty much all naked, the scrubbing with a kese mitt and the BUBBLES – oh Lord… THE BUBBLES!)
They adored it! Whew.
All squeaky clean, back at our hotel, we discovered a letter has been slipped under our door.
I read it. C read it. I reread it. C reread it.
“Does this say what I think it says?” I asked.
Yup! It was a letter from the Gate1 tour director in Turkey telling us that we were going to be picked up at 6:30 AM the next morning to be taken to a different hotel in Istanbul so we could join up with the tour group that left on their tour of Turkey the day before ours was supposed to leave. We could just pop in with them and spend the next 11 days touring Turkey instead of going home.
Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me…
C & I aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, but we had learned our lesson (the expensive way) about travel during a global pandemic. We were going to get out butts home ASAP.
HOWEVER, K&D, our travel companions, thought staying was just a dandy idea.
Our eyes rolled all the way around in their sockets!
So they were off the next day. And we got regular texts throughout the day from them saying how wonderful their new tour friends were. And how nice the tour manager was and that they were soooooo glad they decided to stay.
More eye rolling.
But C & I did have a 2nd lovely day in Istanbul. HOHO bus, the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Market, wandering the very crowded, not socially distant streets around the Bazaar and Market. That evening we had an incredible dinner with a fabulous view of The Golden Horn sitting next to a table with two hot Frenchmen.
Did AGMA say that out loud?
The Grand Bazaar that was not very crowded.
A shop in the Spice Market. Bought stuff at full price (didn’t even try to negotiate) because I knew they would be closed soon.
Bad picture of the hot French guys!
But we were very happy to head Istanbul’s beautiful new airport the next day (3/15) to make our way back home.
In the meantime, K kept posting pictures of their trip on Facebook – the massive hotel breakfast buffet, the Anzac cemetery at Gallipoli, the ancient city of Troy.
At this point, it was obvious that things were getting pretty serious at home, so worried looks replaced our eye rolling. But they were adults right? Maybe?
As we settled into our extra legroom exit row bulkhead seats on the plane (I rarely upgrade, but thought it might be a good idea), it was obvious that people were nervous. I could see the masked guy sitting next to me sizing me up as to whether I was “safe” or not.
I tried not to cough…
Then we got the “What a surprise. NOT!” text from K&D. They just found out their tour was suspended. They were heading back to Istanbul. To, once again, be stranded.
I didn’t, but AGMA sooooo wanted to say “We hate to tell you we told you so, but we told you so!”
They assured us that the tour company was going to make all of their arrangements to get back to the US even though they had booked their airfare (like we did) through an OTA and not the tour company.
Back to eye rolling.
The flight to Atlanta was uneventful. We spent quite a bit of time reading the breaking news from the US as well as getting updates from K&D. They and the rest of their tour group were very upset the tour was cancelled and BEGGED their Turkish guide to continue.
Turkish Airways served a nice dinner complete with a lovely French red wine from Bordeaux. Seriously, it was the best wine I’ve ever had on an airplane. I had several little bottles.
If ever there was a time to get lit, I was pretty sure this was it!
But, oddly, the dinner included a side of beans.
The flight was 12.5 hours. There were about 450 people on board. It could have gotten real ugly…
Note to self…send an email to Turkish Airways to suggest they may want to rethink that side dish.
When we got to Atlanta, we braced for being screened, scanned, probed, questioned, and possibly told we had to quarantine.
What happened was a joke.
We had to stay on the airplane while some masked Feds came on board and asked us to complete a form. The form asked if we had been in China in the last 14 days; if we had been around anybody with the coronavirus; if we felt sick.
That was it. At this time, Europe was being slammed by COVID – 19. No questions about Italy. Or France. Or Spain. Or the UK.
Then they gave us a paper with information about the coronavirus, and let us deplane. We got our luggage, breezed through customs and were on the streets of Altanta in about 30 minutes.
That was it. No thermal scans. No infrared thermometers. Of course, no tests. And we weren’t told to quarantine.
AGMA still wonders how many people on that plane had the virus.
The next day, after a decent night’s sleep in my bed, we found out that K&D had been “deserted” by their tour guide and were told that they had to make their own arrangements to get back home.
Damn – I hate it when I’m right!
They ended up leaving Istanbul on March 17th (2 days after us) but, in total, their trip to get home, with 2 layovers was 26 hours. So they actually got home on March 18th.
So the moral of this story, boys and girls, is NOT to travel when WHO declares a global pandemic.
And if you do, have enough sense to come home when the Universe tell you to.
My friends, stay home, stay safe and TRY to stay sane!