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.
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.
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…)
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.
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.
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.
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…