My weekend in Istanbul – Part 1

Yes…AGMA is alive and kicking!

Well, maybe just alive, but these days that’s pretty much a win.

Given the state of the world, and the fact that my muse of a coffee shop is closed, I just haven’t been in mood to write.

Lord knows time isn’t an issue.  Anymore.

Nor will it be an issue in the foreseeable future…

The world has changed drastically in the 3 weeks since AGMA wrote my last post.  Changed more that I think any of us could have imagined.  In our wildest dreams.

Or nightmares.

When the coronavirus was first reported on in China, Hubs said, “This is going to be like one of those monkey movies.”  Pish posh – I thought he was being an alarmist.

Silly girl.

We are currently living in one of those contagion monkey movies.

I think I want my money back.

So AGMA made, in hindsight of course, the not so wise decision to go forward with a tour of Turkey with friends in the midst of a global pandemic that was moving across the globe like wildfire.

Boy, was I stupid.

“Let’s go to Turkey!” I said.  “Let’s fly in a day early to get our bearings!” I said. “It will be an adventure!” I said

I hate it when I’m right.

AGMA started feeling uncomfortable about going the week before we were supposed to leave.  Cases of COVID-19 were multiplying fast around the world.  But the US didn’t have very many cases and Turkey had zero.  And my friends were all still really gung ho about going.

Since AGMA was the one who talked them all into booking this trip, I put my discomfort aside and told myself, “This is going to be fun and it’s all going to turn out great!”

Humans have a great capacity of self-deception.

The day we left, March 11, coronavirus was declared a global pandemic by WHO. (And no – I’m not going to break out into a Abbot and Costello routine…)

Gulp.

My good friend and travel companion, C, and I met up with D & K in Amsterdam who flew in from Detroit.  While waiting for our flight to Istanbul, the news came across that the Orange Madman had decided to suspend flights coming into the US from 26 European countries.

Ah oh…our return flight home on March 24th was going to connect through Paris.

Double gulp.

We all kind of looked at each other and said, “We’ll sort it out when the time comes,” and boarded our flight to Istanbul.

Looking back, it was sorta cute in a naive kinda way that we thought we’d actually be in Turkey until March 24th.

After a loooonnnnggg travel day, we finally got to our hotel in Istanbul around 7 PM on March 12th.

But there is no rest for a wicked AGMA.  I had a dinner date with a woman Hubs and I met through EatWith when we were in Istanbul in November 2018.

C and I sort of wiped ourselves down, brushed our teeth and changed our clothes, and hurried off through the darken streets of Istanbul toward the Hamdi Restaurant.

And it was on those back streets that we got the news…

(Please recall that I said to my friends, “Let’s fly in a day early to get our bearings!”)

An urgent text from our tour company said, “Your trip is suspended.  Do not board flight.  Travel restrictions related to COVID-19.  Check email for further updates.”

There we were, 6000 miles away from home and no tour to join.

AGMA started to laugh.

I mean, you either laugh or cry right?

We ended up have a fantastic dinner with my Turkish friend.  The food was delicious (nothing like having a native ordering for you!), the setting was magnificent (3rd floor view over the Golden Horn on one side and the Süleymaniye Mosque on the other), and the company was delightful.  It was almost enough to make us forget we were “stuck” in Istanbul.

Almost.

D & K were able to talk to the our tour company while C and I were at dinner.  They were hoping that the tour company could recommend a private guide so that we could do an abbreviated tour of Turkey.  After all, that was a heck of a long way to come to turn around and go home….  The tour company said, “Nah baby nah, ya’ll better hurry on home now.”

Before tuning in for the night, we all agreed to work on Plan B at breakfast

The breakfast buffet at the Yasmak Sultan Hotel was wonderful!  Even with only a few hours sleep, a good breakfast and some strong coffee perked all of us up.  We all decided that we needed to get out of Dodge by the most direct route possible as soon as possible.

And as luck would have it, Turkish Airlines flies a direct route from Istanbul to Atlanta.  Well now, that seemed like a no brainer…

Since we were in a bit of a bother to get home, we all paid for our return flights on the 15th out of pocket.  We figured we’d take up the matter of the flights we had booked home on the 3/24 with our OTA when we got home.

We checked out of the Yasmak Sultan and into the Legacy Ottoman Hotel for our final 2 nights in Istanbul.  The tour company had prepaid for the rooms at the Legacy for 2 nights as part of our tour and the hotel said we were welcomed to use them.

Sweet!

At this point, on March 13th, Turkey had just reported it’s first case of COVID-19, so we felt pretty comfortable staying there for 2 more days.

We played tourists on the 13th and had a great day!  The weather was incredible and we enjoyed the warm hospitality of the Turkish people.

And I got to go to a Turkish Bath again.  Heaven on earth!

And the food.  The yummy for the tummy food.  The “OMG, this is amazing” food.

Did I mention how much I like the food is in Istanbul?

Part 2 coming as soon as AGMA loosens my belt…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

25 thoughts on “My weekend in Istanbul – Part 1

  1. Well in retrospect it was poor timing, but the important thing is you got home okay. I’ve seen some reports from Peru of people having real issues getting home, military police in the streets keeping people from moving about, few flights and scads of people wanting out, and generally a lot of really stressful circumstances for folks. Glad you made it by the seat of your pants AGMA. Stay healthy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much! So nearly 5 weeks later, I am still getting updates from the US Consulate in Ankara. There are still a few flights that people can take out but they are few and far between. And they are up to like 80,000 cases in Turkey. Yikes! And back at you Ilona about the staying healthy!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We got cut short in Cyprus, also deciding to opt for the long planned and much needed holidays there. Much shorter travel though, flying out on March 11th and back home to Berlin a few days later…. Am glad you made it home safe.

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      • Cyprus was great, folks there are very nice. Too bad, we actually got to see very little, due to the shut down. The coast itself is stunning. As for here, back home: I believe, we avoided the worst. Altgough there were roughly 4.000 dead, for a nation of 80 million, this is almost neglectable. a few years ago, a regular flue caused 25.000 victims. So, in a way, we are lucky. Plus, Germany really saved up loads of money over the last years and is now prepared to spend it on their citizens. So the economical harm will hopefully also be quite small. Actually, I will be back to work on Monday, with outdoor sports, that can be done alone or in pairs opening again this week. Same goes for shops smaller than 800 sqm, zoos and other stuff. Bigger shops, restaurants, bars, theaters, movies and the like remain clused till start of May. School starts with bigger kids who are up for exams, smaller kids and kindergartens remain closed still. Guess, they want to find out, how this partial reopening will affect the infection rate.

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  3. This is a dream vacation that could have been. I’m so glad to hear you’re safe now. It’s just a mess out there isn’t it. Everywhere…

    Incidentally we sequestered ourself at home since March 13, on my son’s 15th birthday…it has been ok but ugh…

    One thing that will keep me reading is food anecdotes. So keep ’em coming. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I wondered if you had gone on your tour, half-cocked as only AGMA can do (and I mean that in a good way). Now I know. Glad to hear you got to experience a bit of Turkey. Hope you are now safely back home and are still well.

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  5. I was wondering where in the world you were.
    I had friends traveling in Egypt and New Zealand. Their return home was equally adventurous, and for the New Zealand travelers, the flight home was rather expensive.

    I’m anxiously awaiting the second installment. Don’t keep us hanging!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just got the 2nd installment done. So sorry for waiting for so long! Not sure where the days go but they seem to fly by… And I bet the flight back from NZ was pretty $$! It seemed for a while that the airlines were really gouging people trying to get home. 😦 Our flight was not too bad considering we booked it 2 days in advance. It was $707, but considering it was direct, we were all in! The tour company said they could book us back (connecting through Paris) for $1200. We politely declined! Glad to be back but antsy to go again. It could be a while I think…. But I’m grateful to have a safe place to stay, enough food, and somebody to isolate with!

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      • We are SO on the same wavelength.
        Congrats on scoring a reasonably priced flight back. My friends paid $1500 a seat, had 4 flights over 31 hours, so you did indeed do well.
        I’ll be checking for your post.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I had seen most of where we went on my first visit to Istanbul, but it was my friend’s first visit. Actually, me having been there was a huge plus because we really didn’t waste anytime – I knew what we should see and where we were going. Oh yes…that food… I am close to having all the ingredients to make this delicious walnut tomato pepper dip we had the 1st night there – waiting on the last thing to come from Amazon!

      Liked by 1 person

    • You know Joyful…sometimes I think I want a quieter life, but then I go, “Nah!!” Ha ha ha!! Since everything turned out okay for us on the trip back, it will be a good story to tell over the years! Hope you’re staying healthy!

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      • Yes, I am. My back has been doing better but then my knee flared up, but is doing better after PT. I am actually enjoying being at home. I do miss hugs, grandsons, loving sons and sweet wives, and eating at a table with friends. My best friend and I park our cars side by side and eat and talk almost as well as eating at table together. There is usually a way to work things out. Take care of yourself and hubby. Hugs! Oh, I do give an affectionate elbow bump pretty well. LOL

        Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe the slogan for my travel agency?? Not sure folks would want their trips to be this memorable! Ha! This was my 2nd trip to Istanbul and I really think I could go back several more times! It is rather a magical city! Just posted part 2 today with some pictures.

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  6. Pingback: My weekend in Istanbul – Part 1 — Aging Gracefully My Ass – Truth Troubles

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