Eventually, the weather gods will frown on us, warned G. And they’ve certainly visited us with driving freezing rain in the past, but this trip was a variation on 75 and big sun every day. Perfect weather for traipsing – or trudging – through the old city, up and down the Galata and along the Bosphorus, and even more perfect for the few hours we spent by the pool to unwind after long days of sightseeing in the hot sun.
Of course, it wasn’t without a glitch or two – what vacation is – but once we cracked the code, we were good. And for us, the code was this: Istanbul looked like a European city and acted like one, but it was also a very Asian city when it came to traffic, travel times and taxis. So plan accordingly and be ready to switch to outraged tourist, when you feel you’re being fleeced (hint: you are).
But with that lesson learned and applied, the city is lovely. Layers of history and culture, one on top of another – the church that became a mosque and then was restored as a museum, the final resting place of Ataturk in the final Ottoman palace, the fort built for the Conquest that today is a little visited park. Then there are the underground cisterns that look straight out of Phantom of the Opera … It’s all there to be uncovered.
As for food, my expectations were low; they were exceeded. We ate traditional dishes made from the sultan’s palace’s recipes and then sampled fresh fish from the nearby waters and feasted on mezze. We met America-educated sommeliers and cheeky New York style waiters. The best part of the food, though, was the view – and this is the one that greeted us our first night.
Our concierge clearly thought Zuma’s sushi and Japanese izakaya would be an unique introduction to the modern metropolis that is Istanbul. What really impressed us – the view and the dessert: