After three full-house performances at the TIM Show Center in Istanbul, we had a few days to relax before flying home for the holidays. Our time in Turkey has been a memorable experience. I feel as though we have made so many new friends. Working the Olcay, Fatih, Burcu, and the entire team at the Show Center was a great pleasure. Yesterday, I received an email from Olcay letting me know that the cases had been picked up by the truck and were on their way to customs. And Mary Ellen emailed from Los Angeles to let me know that they made it on the plane and are on schedule for delivery to our warehouse on Friday. Perfect!
Monday was mostly a day to relax. Cindy has still be fighting a bad cold and she needed this time to take care of herself, get some rest, and feel better. Turns out rest is really what she needed (and some Vicks vapor rub, tylenol, and meds for a stuffy nose). As is my habit, I went down to breakfast early at the hotel to read and relax. When the restaurant had cleared and I was drinking my last cup of coffee, the waiters and staff came to my table with a birthday surprise – and, wow, was I surprised! They even sang “Happy Birthday” to me!
On Tuesday, we managed to squeeze in several things in a few hours. We made a visit to the “Sunken Palace” to see the Basilica Cisterns. They are believed to be built around 530 AD but weren’t discovered until 1530. There is a famous scene in the James Bond movie, TO RUSSIA WITH LOVE, that was filmed in the cisterns. There are two giant medusa heads that are believed to have come from ancient Roman ruins. It was definitely worth the visit and Cindy’s favorite site of our time in Istanbul.
After the Basilica Cisterns, we decided to take another adventure into the giant Grand Bazaar. There is so much to see in this place with over 4,000 vendors. We found that there are many more places outside the covered bazaar – and they bargain much better than the ones inside. Cindy really knows how to barter with these guys and we walked away with some really good deals. Now we just need to figure out how to get them home!
As we walked around the area, we found a great “alley of art” – graffiti art, modern art, etc. The entire alley was filled with fun little boutiques, cafes, and (of course) mural art on the walls. Cindy wanted to take a few of pictures and I managed to get into a couple of them.
And then there were the more casual moments when I didn’t even know she was taking a picture! I was looking over one of the walls by the Palace just wondering what could possibly be on the other side…and I could I explore it!
Our final day in Istanbul was fairly relaxing. I took my morning walk around the neighborhood and then back to the hotel for breakfast and coffee…and to say good-bye to the morning staff. They have gone above-and-beyond to make us feel welcome. We are now Facebook friends so I hope we can stay in contact between now and the time we return.
After breakfast, Cindy and I walked down to the Metro to catch the train to Taksim and connect on to Kabatas and then to the Grand Bazaar (yup, one more trip to the market). As we walked down the street toward the Metro, we passed a delivery truck dropping off flour to the bakeries in the area. I have never seen this much flour so I had to snap a quick picture!
We spent the day walking around the Bazaar area – mostly eating our way around the area. There are a couple of McDonald’s here but I wanted to try something different….so Cindy and I had the McTurko – delicious!
We walked around the Bazaar for a couple of hours and then decided to walk toward the sea (it was either the Black Sea or the Aegean Sea) and explore those areas. We picked up a few gifts for people, talked with some of the locals, and had a great time. Several times over the past couple of days, people who watched me on the Saba Tumer show or were at one of the performances at TIM Show Center recognized me – either on the Metro, in the market, or simply walking down the street. Many times, there were huge groups of people who simply wanted to take a photo or say hello. It was a very humbling experience…and just a little overwhelming at times.
Later in the day, we had some of the more traditional Turkish foods – meats, vegetables, and sweets. However, on the way back to the hotel late in the day, we just had to stop at a very unique place to check out the menu!
We made it back to the hotel by 5pm. We are calling it an early night tonight. We leave the hotel at 4am for the airport so that means getting up at 3am – that’s going to come very fast!
A final note: Spain was the perfect place to start this tour. It’s hard to believe it was almost a month ago that we landed in Bilbao. If you’ve read my blogs from Spain, you know that we made many new friends there. Istanbul is, perhaps, one of the friendliest cities in which we’ve ever visited. The people are warm, gracious, and helpful. When you consider it has more than 17 million residents, that says a lot. I look forward to the time when we return. It was the perfect city in which to finish our tour. Tomorrow, we fly back to the USA – there’s no place like home.