Monday, April 14, 2008

Wrapping up

Well, I guess this is the end of this blogging adventure...I'd like to start another one, but I am short on topics to discuss.

Anyway, thanks to everyone for reading my blog. Also another huge thanks to Adam for providing food, shelter and gifts while on the trip. And again deep thanks to Terri, Erika and mom for the monetary gifts. Thanks to Audra and Courtney for their advice.

Also, I just wanted to let you know that my two guidebooks were awesome. Rick Steve's was a great reference and guide. We would stand aside before entering a site and read about it and then continue; these are called walking tours. Or if we got confused we would refer to the guide to figure out where to go next. (Thank you, Rick, for listing WCs on your maps!)

The Time Out guide was also good and it was used as much, but for different purposes. This one was more pocket friendly and I was able to refer to it's maps quickly and effectively. It indexed all the streets, so they were easy to find. It also had better sections on shopping and restaurants. I know I was hesitant at first, but I am really glad I bought two guides! (Well, technically three, but Adam adopted it as his own...that one was OK by the way, as the best restaurant we went to the whole trip was listed in it.)

OK, any questions, feel free to ask me. Until next trip...

Friday, April 11, 2008

My five regrets

During the planning process of my trip, I enthusiastically picked a ton of stuff to do...of course, life happens and you can't do everything. Here is a list of things that I regret to have missed in Istanbul.

1. I missed the Bosphorous cruise...this was sadly due to bad weather and there wasn't much I could do about that. I mean we could've braved it and took a tour in the drizzle, but that is no fun.

2. I didn't get to see the Harem at Topkapı Palace...this was just annoying and poor Adam had to put up with my bad mood after the ordeal. Here's the thing, it's a total rip-off...you have to pay 10 TYL to get in to the palace and then buy an additional ticket for 10 TYL to get into the harem. When we got to the first ticket booth, we realized we only had enough cash to get into the palace and not to visit the palace. We asked the man at the ticket counter if we could use a credit card, he said yes, so we decided that we would give him cash and use the credit card at the Harem. Well, after looking around the grounds, we head over to the Harem just in time for the last tour. We try to pay with the credit card but the rude man tells us that the machine is already closed out...we don't have any lira and the sign clearly says lira only. A nice man standing behind us notices our problem and offers to do a quick exchange of dollars to lira for us. I refused because I didn't want to get ripped off again, although I am sure he was just being nice...then again, trusting the Turks was hard for me at this point. Anyway, what kind of place closes the credit card machines before it closes? That was the second time that happened to me in Turkey! Seriously, keep the credit card machines going until you've served your last customer!

3. I didn't go to the Asian side of Istanbul...Sadly, I can still only claim that I've only been to two continents. Had I been to Asian Istanbul, I could claim three. Perhaps if we would've done the cruise, I would've made it to the other shore. Or I could've taken one of my sightseeing days to go over there...but again, the weather was bad and there was so much to do on the European side. Adam made it to Asia because that is where his plane landed when he arrived. Lucky him...he's going to China in a month too, so he gets to really visit Asia. He wins. :(

4. I didn't try Turkish coffee...I don't really know how this feel off my radar because I am a huge coffee lover. It just seemed that at mealtime I just wanted water or a delicious coca-cola. I also had apple tea a few times. In the morning, I always drank the hotel coffee and when I thought to try Turkish coffee it was too late at night or I wasn't in the mood. The NC Turkish festival will be here next weekend and perhaps I'll go to it just to try some coffee.

5. I didn't buy enough stuff...OK, this seems ridiculous considering I spent about $700 in a week. I know, I know. But I am still thinking about things that I should've bought but didn't. I am so glad I bought that costume, because I would really regret it if I hadn't. I surprisingly don't regret not going to the costume-makers. Anyway, I am still thinking about the beads I should've bought, the silk that was only 10 TYL a meter (cheap!), the coins and appliques for making costumes, and more pashmina.

I also got really stressed out about buying gifts for everyone. I felt so much pressure and looking at my pile now, it seems too light. I should've bought more! Adam thought it was crazy that I was spending so much money on presents for others, but it is hard for him to understand that everyone in my family expects something and I have a huge family! Not to mention all of the friends that also expect gifts. He only has me and his two parents. I love shopping and buying things for myself and others, but with the pushy salespeople and prices, I just didn't go all out like I wanted to...oh well. It's just stuff.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Topkapı Palace overlook

A view of the Bosphorous from Mecidiye Pavilion. Notice the French tourists in the background, and of course, the bad weather.

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The Showman!

At the Galata Tower on April 6.

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Istiklal Cadessi

From my seat at the Barcelona Cafe on April 4.


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My five least favorite things about Istanbul

I made a top five best things, to stay on the positive side, but I just have to vent about my least favorite things too...

1. The tourist traps...everyone is trying to get you. They want your money, they want to rip you off. I can't stand being hounded by people at every turn. If a vendor is in his shop and he sees you start to walk by, he will rush out the door and start calling you in. I hate not being able to look at people, it feels rude, but you just have to there. If you looked at everyone who talked to you, you would never get out alive. These people are vultures and their behavior is despicable.

2. The smoke...you can smoke everywhere except inside mosques and museums...at the airport, in the bazaars, in restaurants, etc. It is awful. People are so rude about their cigarettes and cigars. I don't mind hookah smoke, but smoke in general is so nasty. Don't get me wrong, I respect people's rights to do what they wish to their bodies, but when I don't have a choice about what I breathe, then I get upset. It made me very grateful to live in the U.S. where the stuff is banned in most public places.

3. The cars/traffic...people drive like maniacs over there. Turkey has one of the highest rates of of vehicle accidents in the world. People don't wear seat belts and they routinely ignore pedestrians, speed limits and other vehicles. Most of the taxis and shuttles I was in were not properly equipped. I often felt like I was on a wild roller coaster ride. My favorite shuttle driver from Novotel did drive very well and I was grateful for the seat belt.

4. The pollution...this is always one of my least favorite things about major urban areas, and it also going hand in hand with numbers 2 and 3. Over the skyline there is this brownish smog. Gross. The smell of diesel fumes was also quite strong and it gave me a headache. Additionally, when all of the street markets would close the amount of trash and crap left lying on the ground was disgusting.

5. I'm finding it hard to come up with a fifth one, so I'll just leave it at four. I could say that the high prices were annoying, but that goes with number 1. I also don't like crowds. These are things that are true of any major tourist destination though. I guess I am just not an urban woman.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008