We’ve wanted to travel to Istanbul for a number of years, but it was always second to Beirut, Zouheir’s home town, and we hadn’t managed to get there either, mainly due to security issues that would arise every time we got serious about booking travel.
Earlier this year, we traveled through Istanbul on our way home from Malé and decided to get serious about spending some time in Turkey. So we booked our flights to Istanbul and told Zouheir’s siblings that we were planning to be there and would love to see anyone who wanted to join us. Our boys were unable to join us on this trip due to academic responsibilities.
Zouheir’s younger brother, Jacques, who lives in Brest, France, and some of his family decided to join us for the week. His sister Marie-Louise and her family (who live in Lyon) were spending time in Lebanon this summer and joined us for a few days, as did Zouheir’s cousin Pierre who lives in Beirut, but who I knew from his days in Montreal.
We travelled on Air Transat which is unusual for us. Normally, we fly Air Canada because Zouheir has frequent flyer status which provides for excellent amenities, but the difference in ticket price was too great to justify. We opted to pay $200 (total) to upgrade ourselves to Air Transat’s Options Plus program which helped us get through check-ins quickly, book seats in advance, and get some on-board amenities. They were direct flights, stopping in Montreal each way, and the long leg averaged 8 hours flying time.
We booked a three-bedroom apartment in the Şişli area that was satisfactory but not without it’s problems, including lack of basic supplies (bath mats, coffee maker) and terrible wifi. On the plus side, it allowed us to walk to the metro, shops, restaurants, and cafés, and so was very convenient.
Our flight there was uneventful, and we had pre-arranged transportation to the apartment from the airport. This was an unknown (at the time) godsend as it turned out that the taxi drivers that we encountered had great difficulty finding our apartment, and most other places that are at all off the beaten path. Coupled with language issues and what appeared to be a stubborn streak in these men, our experience with Istanbul taxis was uniformly negative. (Even when presented with a GPS map on a cellphone, they preferred to stop the taxi, get out, talk to another driver, and continue on, circling helplessly around.)
Turkish word-of-the-day: taksi = (you guessed it) taxi
Our flight home was delayed by six hours because of this happening on the incoming flight. (For the first time in my life, I stretched out over three seats at a relatively empty gate waiting area and napped.) We arrived at 1:30 am yesterday morning, and Alex picked us up at Pearson. We got into the express lanes on the 401, not knowing that there was road work going on and we weren’t able to get off the highway until Leslie, a long, slow 45 minutes later. It was just us and a lot of tractor trailers. It felt like we’d been travelling for days by the time we hit our beds.
Istanbul was a fantastic experience, and I’ve got lots of posts and pictures to come. It’s truly a timeless city, from the Roman aqueducts and cisterns, through Byzantine mosaics and palaces, to a thoroughly modern transit system and textile industry. European and Asian. Religious and secular.
I’ll leave you with a couple of shots of a lunch we had on the rooftop of the Cozy Pub, overlooking the Bosphorus and the Blue Mosque.
- Man arrested in Montreal after making threats aboard Istanbul-bound flight (theglobeandmail.com)
- Terrorism hoax charges laid against 25-year-old Air Transat passenger (cbc.ca)
- Istanbul – Offers Everything that a Holidayer’s Heart Desires (flightshotels.wordpress.com)