Feb 19-20, 2011: Istanbul
Things got off a little slower than expected; I guess that’s to be expected.Because Ilan (a guy I’ve conversed with over asmallworld) texts me and warns me about Istanbul taffiic, we decide to take the Metro into town. It’s convenient, and gauging by the map, we need to get off somewhere by the end of the T1 line to get to the W Hotel.
I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the booth is only in Turkish, but we fondle around a minute with the machine to figure out how to buy three tokens at 1.75 lira per token, as the Turkey Travel Planner suggests.
The light rail gets busy then empties—a woman actually tells us we need to get off at Kabasi because it’s the end of the line. We pass the Hagia Sofia and landmarks in the old town, as well as so many kebab places lining the streets that my mouth waters. I cannot wait to come back to Istanbul and stay in the Old Town. Street food has my name on it.
When we get off, we quickly flag down a cab who wastes no time ripping us off. We pay 50 lira to go essentially to go a distance that should have been five blocks. I kick myself for not being more diligent. I’m sure in an effort to swindle us again, the driver leaves us his phone number. The hotel advises us to call him and bring him back and they’ll deal with it when he actually arrives. An-an tries, but we ultimately give up. Unworthy effort.
An-an’s Starwood points get us upgraded at the W, into a 2-bed suite that we never actually sleep in. The room is trendy, with a small outdor courtyard and rosy lighting. I warn her that this is much, much nicer than anywhere else we’ll stay during the trip.
Can you rough it, I ask. I’m actually concerned.
Yea, she says. I’m laid back and down. I’ve just never done it before.
Idris, an asw contact advises us to go to Bebek Balikcisi for dinner instead of Poseiden, and since Gohkan (another asw contact) had advised Poseiden would likely cost us 100 euros a person, we decide Bebek Balikcisi is the good call.
I am slightly disappointed by the emptiness when we walk in but quickly realize that most of the patrons are sitting in the back at the tables along the Bosphorus, shielded by glass. We are ecstatic when they show us a table right alongiside the river. It’s so beautiful and mesmerizing, I can’t help but to smile. I even forget that the taxi only cost us 17 lira—and we were in the taxi for much longer going to Bebek than it should have taken. For what it’s worth, at least we’re comfortable with the metro now.
The guys at the table next to us are smoking sweet smelling cigars, and not missing a beat, An-an asks what they are puffing on. They don’t hesitate to offer us two of our own, saistsfying my urge to smoke.
A bottle of wine for 75 lira, an order of sea bass and grilled calamari with butter sauce leaves us happily satiated. Efem meets us at the restaurant—albeit briefly—and we head to Lucca, where an older dude based in D.C. buys us drinks.
Itching to club, we take a cab to Reina—much more our scene. We hang out with a group of guys wh turn out to be 20, At least they’re to hang out with for a drink, and we’re invited to hang out at the owner’s table for another.
Around 2:30, we feel like it’s time to head back to the W. The scene is dying, but someone gets us another round. Or maybe I’m already too drunk…
Although a group invites us to go to another diner, we decide to stay put, hanging ut with a guy who is also staying at the W. We order breakfast: a burger, pizza and salad, and watch Sex in the City 2 on-demand: a perfect end to the night.