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Thread: Istanbul Trip Report

  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Default Istanbul Trip Report

    Ok - here ya go! I didn't add the part while we were on the cruise, which was 11 days long and pretty much would have been a "book" - suffice, to say, I will be happy to answer any questions about that part of it :-)

    "Back from our trip and finally have a few moments to sit down and write up a trip report for everyone.

    The trip started off with an initial switch of plans to fly from JFK to IST, as the loads looked possible at that time. So from ATL we boarded a plane to JFK - only to turn back on the tarmac w/ a mechanical! That left us with not enough time for any other connecting flights to get us to JFK in time for the IST flight. So we, along with about 15-20 others who were going on to IST had to be rerouted. While Delta staff worked hard at getting all the other pax on the FRA flight, we quietly decided that MXP would be our best option, then Turkish Air to IST. Ended up getting biz class on that flight, but had to wait most of the day at the MXP airport for the Turkish Airline flt that pm. But we did get on.

    IST was wonderful. Loved our hotel - "Boutique Maywood Hotel" short walking distance from the Sirkeci tram stop. Can't say enough nice things about it. 63EU/night when paying cash. They provided free airport transfer for us as we were staying the required minimum nights (3). Their guy was right there waiting for us at the front of the airport - We had emailed them immediately once we realized our original pickup plans weren't going to be a player, and also emailed as soon as we knew we would be boarding our flight to IST. The room was small, but nicely appointed - with safe - and very quiet. Had a small bathtub for soaking our feet after hours of walking during the day! Only complaint was that the beds (we had requested twins) were a tad short. I'm 5' 6.5" and it was the perfect length for me - however, my 6'3" husband would have had his feet hanging off the edge!

    After enjoying the wonderful complimentary breakfast buffet the following morning at our hotel, my son & I set out to explore IST. First on the list was touring the Hagia Sofia Mosque. So, armed with our Rick Steves guide book, we hopped the tram and arrived there with no problem. (Note: make sure you have some Turkish Lira change for the tram!). Got there and it started to rain – thank GOD for our Eddie Bauer waterproof windbreakers! Got in a huge long line to wait our turn when local tour guides drumming up business began cruising the line looking for potential groups to take in. The entrance fee was 20TL, and he only wanted 60TL total for both of us to “cut the line” and go straight in with him. Cheapskate that I am, I managed to negotiate him down to 50TL for both of us... a bargain, considering that included the entrance fees and we wouldn't have to wait out in the rain any longer! We had a few others join our group, and off we went!

    After the Hagia Sofia, we decided to tour the Basilica Cisterns, as they were only a brief walk away. They ended up being a lot more interesting than either of us expected. Only negative was there was no restroom - and I had to go! We left to go check out the Blue Mosque next but were accosted by a "hey-Joe” trying to get us to see his carpet business. We were tired of walking at that point, it was still raining (and I still had to find a bathroom!) - so I politely informed him in advance that I did not want him to waste his time as I would NOT be buying any rugs at all – but if he STILL wanted us to see it knowing that, we would be happy to go – IF I could use his “facilities” while there! He happily agreed, so off we went. After using his western style bathroom (Thank You, God!) & receiving the requisite glass of complimentary “Apple Tea”, son and I perched ourselves on a stack of rugs to enjoy the informative spiel. Of course, the guy tried to give us a “deal” on a rug, but having lived in the middle east as a child, I knew those “deals” weren't really deals – so we declined politely, and off we went.

    We then headed over to see the Blue Mosque. Initially we went in the wrong entrance and ended up in some kind of indoor muslim patriarch cemetery, but we soon found the correct way. Encountered yet another of the numerous “hey-joes” hanging out there who wanted us to visit his shop, but after politely thanking him and informing him we just wouldn't have time as we first had to wait in a long line to get into the mosque, he told us he had a “friend” who worked there and would see if he could get us in the back entrance. A few moments later he returned and brought us there. Sure enough. after removing our shoes, we simply waltzed right in with hardly any line at all. Don't know if it was because of the “friend's” input or if anyone could just come in that way, but regardless, we weren't complaining! Finished up with that mosque, we walked briefly around the Hippodrome area and saw the column of Constantine etc.

    Getting hungry by that time, we decided to try one of Rick Steve's guidebook recommendations for a meal. Ended up at the nearby “Pudding Shop” and enjoyed delectable kebaps, rice, salad & drink for a reasonable price. Then we headed back to the hotel, as it was starting to get dark. When I got there I decided to ask the concierge about any Hamams (Turkish Baths) in the area that I might try. Son agreed to stay at the hotel while I went and enjoyed that experience at the “Gedikpasa Hamam” - oldest one in Istanbul. They sent over a complimentary driver to pick me up and then I chose to have the basic package (35TL) + warm oil treatment (15TL). Found it to be perfectly fine for the price and quite enjoyed the relaxing experience – especially after having been on my feet all day long!

    Day 2 we awoke and once again enjoyed breakfast before heading out to tour the Topkapi Palace. Encountered a minor fiasco first at the YapCredit ATM around the corner, though, which decided to “eat” my atm card and not give me any money back! Had to call & have it canceled, per instructions via a phone number posted at the location. Couldn't speak to anyone at the actual bank location there as it was Sunday morning and everything was closed. Thankfully I had the foresight to have brought a separate ATM card along on the trip from a different bank - or else things wouldn't have been fun. Did end up getting the ATM card back the next day from the bank, but couldn't use it any longer as it had already been canceled. Word for the wise – bring 2 ATM cards, just in case! Anyway, at the palace we decided to purchase the extra Harem tour w/ audio guide. Interesting, but if I had to do it again I would spring for a real guide as the audio one didn't match up with the designated numbers very well, so was confusing. Toured the Treasure room then on to the Relic room, which I found most interesting of all. They have what they claim is the sword of David, the staff of Moses, the turban of Joseph, the arm & a piece of the skull of John (disciple or the Baptist – we didn't know!) along with some whiskers from Mohammed's beard and a cast of his “footprints”. Not sure how they authenticated their info., but still found it quite interesting! Following the palace, we were hungry, so went to the Meatball place (Kofti?) right next to the Pudding Shop. Not what I expected, but good “meatballs” nonetheless. After eating we returned to the hotel where we quickly changed and then made a short walk over to the HadjiPadji (sp?) where our concierge had made reservations for us to see the world-famous “Whirling Dervish” show. Thought it was interesting, but wouldn't need to see it again.

    Day 3 was only going to be a half day in IST as we were to board the ship that afternoon. So we decided to head over to the Grand Bazaar to check it out. Once again, armed with the trusty Rick Steves guide book, we exited the tram and the entrance was right there. I decided I wanted to buy an authentic “peshtemal” like the one I had worn at the Hamam, & Rick's book recommended a shop for that, so after a few twists & turns, we eventually found ourselves there and I made my purchase. We spent the rest of the afternoon there checking out the rest of the bazaar and finally ended up at Osman's Rug shop – another Rick Steves recommendation – for good reason, I might add. Sisko, one of the owners, was unbelievably nice and friendly and went WAY above and beyond, even showing us his special private collection of extremely rare rugs, etc. He offered me an incredible deal on a gorgeous antique Kilim, but it still just wasn't in my budget, so regretfully I opted to leave sans rug... however, I highly recommend him to anyone thinking of getting a rug there in Turkey – you WON'T be cheated and you can't go wrong with his knowledge & expertise!

    We finally headed back to the hotel, which had kindly allowed us to keep our bags there after having checked out that morning. We said fond goodbyes to the staff and hopped once again on the tram with our bags (being nonrevs we each only had 2 carry-ons each!). Got off at the wrong tram stop for the port and ended up walking a mile or so until we finally ended up at the right spot. We checked in, got to our room and had dinner before beginning the real reason for our trip – an 11 cruise to Ephesus, Rhodes, Athens, & Israel. Won't go into all of that now – but suffice it to say it was all wonderful!

    Returning back to IST from the cruise, we began our attempt to nonrev back to the states. We knew we weren't going to get on the Delta IST-JFK flight as it was full – and load optimized. So our plan was to take Turkish Air to AMS. That ended up not being a great option as both an Air France and Quantas strike had backlogged many of the European flights. Spent the entire day trying to ZED out on Turkish Air to Dusseldorf and other spots but not getting on any of them. Finally – after exhausting several options, at 7pm that night we finally decided to spring for full fare tickets on Air Emerites to Dubai and then take Delta from there back to ATL the next day. Boarded a new 777 with incredible service and arrived at DXB at 1am, exhausted and ready for bed. Managed to snag a hotel room at the lovely airport Millenium Hotel, allowing an early check-in at 3am and out the following day at 2pm – so basically a day and a half – for the fair price of $171 total. Think the guy who booked this for us messed up on the rate but regardless, they agreed to honor that price. After collapsing, we slept most of the day, then headed out to see the town. Fascinating place – very clean and well-kept – with amazing architecture. Toured the “tallest building in the world” - Burj Khalif – and did a city tour the next morning. Glad we “unintentionally" ended up visiting there! Thankfully, the Delta flight that evening had available biz class seats - but we opted to use our S2s just to be sure we snagged those comfy 777 seats! 15.5 hours later we were back in ATL @ 6am then grabbed the flight back to home at 8:30am.

    ATL is where we encountered the only disappointing part of being treated disparately by Delta personnel the entire trip, unfortunately. The flight was an MD80 and was only 1/3 full that morning. There was TONS of overhead and storage space available on that plane. (And having worked those planes in the past as a former TWA f/a, I would know!). However, the gate agent for some reason, decided we couldn't bring our rollaboard bags on because they didn't “fit” in the little measuring device by the boarding door. Actually, my bag was purchased from the DAL crew store, and is the exact same bag most crew use, so I knew for a fact it would fit – (it had on the flight up to ATL, in fact) but because it didn't slide perfectly into that very small “measuring” device, she was adamant. Couldn't understand her attitude as she had let EVERY other passenger with the exact same rollaboard on the plane without having to measure it and making no comment at all – but it wasn't worth arguing about. I guess she figured that because we were nonrevs we didn't deserve to be able to bring our bags on (?) Regardless, we did as instructed and ended up having to to pick up our bags at baggage claim in PNS. Thankfully that was our final destination!

    Overall, however, the trip was a huge success. We are so glad we opted to be flexible and brave the “Nonrev Gods”. It definitely made for quite an interesting and fun experience!"
    Last edited by Geronomom; 14-Nov-2011 at 06:37 PM.

  • #2
    Winner! mrs767er's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    WOW!! chockful o' stuff! and info!
    Sounds like you had a fab time and details are really appreciated. There are some cranky folks in ATL. Of course, everyone is entitled to a bad day now and then, that was inexcusably witchy. (sounds like powerr tripper to me!)

    Good move to do the Dubai thing. We did same with zed on Emirates from JNB. (our worst flt EVER) but the DXB/ATL trip 7 w/beds is a treat. If you need to do that again, I have a good hotel recommendation right next to the gold and spice souks in the old part of city, near the canal.

    Thanks for the report! Welcome home.
    mrs767er - NonRev Correspondent - Specialty Travel

    Wherever you go, there you are

  • #3
    Administrator Migflanker's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2002
    LA, the city of angels & freeways
    Excellent trip report Geronomom and one worthy of its own thread and flashy marquee.
    BTW, I’ve taken care of all transfer fees. *wink*
    Keep'em Flying

    Migflanker - Senior NonRev Correspondent - Los Angeles

  • #4
    NonRev Correspondent
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Thanks for sharing, I'm sure those tickets from IST-DXB were not cheap on EK. IST sound slike a great place to visit to bad you got stuck in btw that AF fiasco thatmust have ruined your plans. Again thanks for sharing, hope you are not too jetlagged.



  • #5
    Full Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Nice report. Sorry you had a few DL folks who weren't very nice. Did you get the name?

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