After touching down a bit late from our inbound flight from Charlotte, we scurried from Terminal H to L by taking a short train. We were assigned gate L13 and, fortunately, the Lufthansa Lounge was directly across the hall. This allowed us about 45 mins to get showers and freshen up for the next 7-8 hour flight.BOOKING
We booked this flight using United MileagePlus Miles. We spent a total of 90,000 miles each for the Business Class award, including:Lufthansa Business Class Charlotte-CLT to Munich-MUC Lufthansa Business Class Munich-MUC to Delhi-DEL Air India Business Class Delhi-DEL to Colombo-CMB United Economy Class Charleston-CHS to Newark-EWR
Our first night in Göreme was quite different than our time in Istanbul. We try our best to visit more than one city in a country because only then can you truly grasp any sense of the people, their culture, and their history. While Istanbul is a bustling, international city, the town of Göreme is much slower paced and its history is practically oozing out of each rock and cave.
I knew I wanted to go hot air ballooning in Cappadocia the minute we booked our flights to Istanbul, so our sole purpose of going to Göreme was for this activity. We did some research before leaving on [...]
After leaving Istanbul, we headed to Göreme, in the Cappadocia region of central Turkey. The Cappadocia area is known for its unique geography and rich history. Our main reason for visiting the area was to see the famous caves and “fairy chimneys” and take a world-famous hot air balloon ride.
Trying to cram a lot into a small amount of time, our first 24 hours in Göreme involved lots of activities with little sleep: we got to the hotel (which was partly built into the volcanic rock) around 8pm, dropped our stuff, and headed to dinner at this cool restaurant we found within walking distance, Topdeck Cave Restaurant.
While we were in Istanbul, we were bound and determined to get the full experience of visiting an authentic Turkish bath. We began researching the different options after we’d arrived in Istanbul and quickly found out that the true Turkish baths have separate male and female sections (that makes sense… not trying to be ogled by strange men). But, after scouting out TripAdvisor and a few other websites, we gathered that many of the “true” Turkish bath visits involve excessively awkward experiences, compliments of lots of old-person nudity.
Throw in a language barrier, and we (hesitantly) opted for the more conservative route with a much more touristy [...]
We walked across the Golden Horn Bridge one morning after trying to take the tram to the “newer” area of Istanbul, along the European side of the Bosphorus River. No one knew why the tram never arrived, but, later that day, we found out that someone had suicide-bombed a police station, so they had closed all the tram lines as a pre-caution. Yikes.
After walking around the newer area, we headed to Dolmabahçe Palace, Turkey’s largest palace, which is located right on the Bosphorus River and was used as the center of the Ottoman Empire between 1856 – 1922.
It was ordered to be built by the sultan, Abdulmecid I, as his current residence, the [...]
We headed to the Blue Mosque first thing one morning to try to avoid the crowds as much as possible. Luckily for us non-morning people, the famous mosque was only a few blocks from where we were staying.
The Blue Mosque (also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque) was built between 1609 and 1616, and made bigger and higher than its across-the-street neighbor, Hagia Sophia (then a church, currently a mosque), in an effort to show Islam’s dominance over Christianity. The [...]
Jet lag on our trip to Turkey was no joke, so we ended up getting later starts to the days than planned. When we finally set out for the day, we headed for the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Spice Market– one of our favorite adventures in Istanbul. Although they are very different than what I’d imagine they were like in years past (lots of tourists these days!), it’s fun to feel like you’re going back in time to visiting the bazaar for your weekly (or daily?) grocery trip.
‘Mısır Çarşısı’ — the Egyptian Spice [...]
After a wonderful few very sunny and warm days in Bordeaux (more on the Bordeaux trip here: Walking Tour of Bordeaux, France), we headed north to the region of Pays de la Loire to visit my sister, Leslie.
We purchased our tickets at the Bordeaux train station, aka Gare de Bordeaux-Saint-Jean, about an hour before departure. We made sure to skip booking way in advance using a USA-specific site such as Rail Europe (read more about the best way to book a French train ticket in advance here: How-to: Booking French Trains (RailEurope vs SNCF)).
We were able to book our tickets for 37.30 euros each (~$46.43 USD); in contrast, the RailEurope version of the [...]
Here’s a pretty cool travel “trick”: Turkish Airlines will either put you up in a hotel for the night or give you a free tour of the city if you have a long enough layover in Istanbul-IST. We covered the details on the free hotel room here (Secret Travel Trick: Free Hotel Layover in Istanbul with Turkish Airlines), now for the free city tour:
You can participate in Turkish Airlines’ “TourIstanbul” for free by meeting the following requirements (can be a paid or award ticket):You’re flying Turkish Airlines into and out of Istanbul You’re just passing through Turkey, your origin and destination is [...]
While most of the touristy parts of Istanbul are on the European side, no trip to the ancient bi-continental city would be complete without popping over to Asia. Part of our journey was curiosity, part was for a “been there, done that” sense of accomplishment but, mostly, we went to sample a restaurant that we heard great things about, Çiya Sofrası.
Trying to figure out how to get there, we had a few options: either a standard passenger ferry or a tourist boat. We didn’t necessarily have to take the full-on tourist-only tour of the Bosphorus and, after a bit of research, figured that our best bet was just to take the ferry that the locals take across the [...]