I SPY: Turkey

Oct 1, 2018

TURKEY: June 2018

Take advantage of a layover?  Oh YES.  We came.  We conquered.  Left in a flash.  Not the way I would recommend traveling through Turkey!  But heck if you've only got four days, you make the most of it.  Turkey is just too magical to skip.



En-route to Moscow this past summer 2018, to watch the World Cup, we had to stop over in Istanbul.  Never been to Turkey before, so it was an opportunity for us to get out and explore a few days.  At first it was just going to be Istanbul.  Then after researching the country I realized there was so much more beyond Istanbul.  The grand plan turned into a whirlwind trip of planes, no trains, but automobiles.  

This is how we accomplished it…

DAY 1 - Istanbul

Our flight from NYC arrived in Istanbul at 4pm.  Immigration was super duper slow that day.  Maybe because it was their Election Day?  Whatever the reason, it took us two hours to get through immigration.  Not cool!  So our day was shot.  We were exhausted by the time we exited the airport and decided to just eat dinner at our hotel and call it a night.

EAT:
Cecconi's - An Italian restaurant set in a beautiful courtyard with outdoor and indoor dining.  As night falls, the twinkle lights sparkle, as you casually sip wine, and stuff your face with yummy pizza and pasta.  THE ambience!!



SLEEP:
Soho House Istanbul - If you are a lover of interior then you will dig any Soho House in the world.  I haven't seen one I have not gone gaga over.  From the crown moulding, to the floors, to the tile in the bathroom, they have not skipped any corner on details.  This particular one is built in the old US Embassy.  Love at first sight!  Bonus - you don't need to be a member to stay or visit this location.





DAY 2 - Cappadocia

Caught a 6:30am flight and arrived in Nevsehir airport/ Cappadocia at 7:50am.  It was a little over half hour drive to get to our hotel.

SEE:

Nazar Trees - In Pigeon Valley, you will find trees filled with the blue evil eyes 'Nazars', believed to ward off the bad luck.  I'm inspired for my next Christmas tree!




Goreme National Park - What are those holes?  Monastery's and churches carved into sand stone.  Some imagination is required to see how they were once used as living spaces.  But those frescoes decorating the walls dating back to 10th century were amazing!  I was really surprised by how well in tact some of them were.





SLEEP:  

Sultan Cave Suites - Experience sleeping in a cave.  Basic rooms.  Helpful staff.  But there are more luxe cave hotels in the vicinity, with pools, which I wish we had stayed at.




DAY 3 - Cappadocia + Izmir

We flew out of Nevsehir airport/ Cappadocia to Izmir on a 7pm flight, which gave us good use of another day in Cappadocia to explore.  Arrived late in Izmir for bed time!  

SEE:

Hot Air Balloons -  Rise and shine at 5am to catch the hot air balloons from Sultan Cave Suites rooftop.    Cappadocia is famous for this.  Either your flying in a balloon, or your watching the sky fill up with colorful balloons.  We chose to be spectators since we have experienced a hot air balloon ride in Morocco before.  However, I thought we were having breakfast watching the balloons rise.  Or thats what Instagram had made it look like.  But I was disappointed to find out the Sultan Caves Suites only does a fake set up that everybody takes photos with.  Real breakfast isn't served till 8am.  The look on my face when I discovered this!  UGH.





Kaymakli Underground City - An underground city where people once lived dug 60 meters deep.  It was impressive!  The kids had fun getting lost inside.  





SLEEP:
Double Tree Hilton Hotel, Izmir - We stayed at an airport hotel.  It didn't even look like one!  It felt luxe.  With five star service, having warm cookies delivered to our room for the kids.  Such a nice unexpected gesture.  Also the rooms were spacious, modern decor, marble bathrooms, with the best breakfast buffet and omelette station.



DAY 4 - Ephesus + Pamukkale 

Started our day at 9am with bags in tow.  Drove 1 hour to Ephesus, had lunch in Selcuk, drove another 3 hours to Pamukkale, and spent the night in a hotel an hour away from Denizil.

SEE:

Ephesus - You will feel like your in Greece!  It was an ancient Greek city built in 10th century BC.  The roman ruins left of the library and theatre will have you in awe.





Pamukkale - White out conditions!  Another heavenly experience, that proves mother nature is amazing!  These thermal water travertine terraces are filled with calcium deposit, hence the color. But beware in summer the water is very low, and some pools were dried up.  So we didn't get the full effect. But still happy we saw it.





SLEEP:

Anemon Hotel - Just a basic conference hotel less then an hour away from Pamukkale, and a hour from Denizil airport.  But they had a pool! Did we have a chance to use it?  No!!

DAY 5 - Istanbul

Left again at the crack of dawn to catch our early flight from Denizil back to Istanbul to connect to our flight to Moscow.  However on the way back from Moscow to NYC we stayed overnight in Istanbul again.  Which gave us a few hours to explore again.  But we were hungry and exhausted, so this is where our priorties lay!

EAT:

Four Seasons Hotel - It is located right on the Bosphorus.  Five minute walk from where we stayed.  Their outdoor restaurant serves amazing food, drinks, hookah, a magical sunset and great people watching.  Very chilled evening we had sitting by the water, watching the boats go by.



Midyeci Ahmet - Known as the 'Lord of Mussels'.  We passed this street side stall walking back to our hotel from the Four Seasons.  It was packed, there was a line, and obviously it got me curious.  So we had to order a bucket to try!  It was so worth it.  Stuffed mussels that you could eat buckets full of.




SLEEP:

Shangri-La Hotel - Boutique hotel, that lives up to the standards of the Shangri-la group reputation.  Gracious service, newly renovated rooms with a touch of Asian influence.  The only downside was that it's advertised to be on the Bosphorus.  Well technically it is.  But they do not have any restaurant or lounge on the Bosphorus…which is how we ended up at the Four Seasons Hotel!  But they did serve Chinese dim sum for breakfast which my kids were thrilled about!!  HA.






TIPS

Without the help of our wonderful guide Umran, the last two legs of our trip to Ephesus and Pamukkale wouldn't of been possible, had she not planned it to a T.  She also arranged our accommodations and transportation.  A lovely lady, fun, modern, knowledgable, and speaks great English.  She is based in Istanbul.  Email her: umranaslan@hotmail.com



- In Cappadocia we had arranged a private guide through a tour company recommended by Sultan Cave Suites.  

Turkish Heritage Travel
Email: info@goreme.com

- Check if you need a visa to visit Turkey.  We did.  It's simple, and you can apply for an e-visa online.  If you forget to get one before arrival there is a counter near immigration to purchase your visa.  But, why wait in another line?

- Uber is cheaper then taxi's in Istanbul.

- Turkish Airlines flew us international and domestic.  No hiccups.  I am amazed that they never lost our bags with some very tight connections.  Hats off to them, because in the USA, our bags would've surely got left behind!

- Try the local delicacies such as the Kebabs, Turkish Delights, Apple tea, and Turkish coffee.  The 'real' coffee that will have you growing chest hair!  HA.



The only down side of our itinerary was we were so rushed we didn't get to see Istanbul.  Even though we slept there two nights!  Hopes were in transit through Istanbul we had that extra energy to get off the plane, drop our bags at hotel and run out to see a mosque before closing.  But food was more important!  Bummer we missed the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.  But I figure we can always do Istanbul solo or in transit to another destination in the near future.  We will be back.  For sure!  Beautiful country. Friendly people.  Delicious food.  Plenty of shopping…and man you can really get the bang for your buck with the current USD exchange rate!
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