We left late on a Thursday evening and headed to the airport. My first international trip (sans Canada) since high school, I was super nervous I had forgotten something, or something was going to go terribly wrong when I got there. Luckily the bf is a much experienced traveler and I kind of banked on his experience and trusted we would get through any snags that occurred. We easily got to the airport and boarded the plane. We got a kick out of the fact that there was an in flight "chef" who wore one of those big goofy chef hats, and that the lights on the plane made it seem more like a nightclub than an aircraft. We both slept a decent amount on the flight over and the 10-12 odd some hours really didn't seem that bad.
We arrived in Istanbul and quickly went through the visa process to get into the country and then picked up our bags. First stop was an ATM to get our first round of Turkish Lira. We were quickly able to find a cab and provided the address of our hotel. The cab ride from the airport to the hotel was scenic as we drove along the Bosphorus and passed by remnants of a protective city wall. Once we got into the main part of Istanbul near our hotel the streets became really narrow and there were people everywhere. There was a lack of honking and the many noises that I feel like are constant in DC.
Our hotel was incredibly gracious in getting us checked in and settled into our room that was small but very nice! (Thank you bf!). We freshened up a bit and lounged around, however I was way too awake from the adrenalin to really take a nap. Our first experience of the call to prayer was what really made me realize that we had traveled around the world! Early evening came and we decided to set out and explore a little bit and find some food. With a little guidance from our tour books, a provided map and some good ole' common sense we decided to head over to the Istiklal Ave area. We figured out the tram system which was slightly complicated as we could not find the machines that gave the tokens to ride, but once we did it was smooth sailing. We took the tram as far as we could, got off and then took a vernacular that took us up a steep hill (it was underground) to one end of Istiklal Ave.. We started walking and there were just waves of people that never stopped!
The street never seemed to end. There were also side streets in every direction full of more restaurants, pubs and shopping.
We decided to walk the entire length of the avenue to see where we would end up while we browsed for food options. At the other end of this major street we found Taksim square which we had read was a more modern/newer part of Istanbul.
We started back in the direction we came, peeking down side streets to see what food options we had. We were overwhelmed by the activity and the options. The places to sit seemed endless! (As did the number of cats we saw)
We saw this beautiful fruit and produce stand and against the night lights the colors were so beautiful! The display was visually amazing.
We finally found a place that we randomly selected to eat at and we were quickly served bread and much needed water.
We started with a plate of calamari. We ate a lot of calamari on this trip, but we both agreed that this plate was the best we had the entire trip.
I ordered the “meats” with veggies that came in a scalding hot little metal dish. It could have been the travel finally catching up with us, but this mean was one that still sticks out in my head.
It was incredible to just sit and people watch. Large groups of people at 11pm at night gathering, sipping raki, passing plates back and forth, voices escalating as more people joined their groups and more raki was ordered.
Full and ready to head back to our hotel we wandered down some of the busier side streets that were packed with tiny tables and low stools full of people grabbing a late night drink.
The candy shops were abundant and there were mounds of Turkish delight calling my name.
On the way to the vernacular we got a tad bit lost which resulted us stumbling upon the Galata Tower that was striking at night.
We finally made it back to our hotel and were quick to crawl in bed and sleep blissfully for our first night in Turkey.