Michelle’s Istanbul’s Recap – February 2016
I recently had the honor of a special invitation to experience Istanbul with hosts, Turkish Air, Shangri-La hotels and Travel Refinery with just eight other agents.
Istanbul is alive and remains as vibrant as ever! My three-day whirlwind tour has once again proven what a diverse and wonderful destination this mecca is for any traveler.
My journey began with nonstop service from Miami to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines in a very comfortable business class, complete with lie-down full beds, a flying chef and wide selection of first run movies, television shows and music which helped pass the time during the transatlantic flight. I highly recommend the VIP Meet and Greet service upon arrival. With this special service, you’ll be met on the jetway, your bags will be taken immediately and whisked through customs to your awaiting vehicle for private transfer to your hotel. My home away from home was the luxurious Shangri-La Istanbul where I enjoyed a deluxe accommodation with full views of the Bosporus.
Exploring the city for two days with a knowledgeable guide is certainly the best way to maximize your time – as I did! We visited all of the “must see” important historical sites including the Roman Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, Haghia Sophia, the Underground Cisterns and, of course, the Topaki Palace with its amazing crown jewels. Allow time for the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and the oldest covered bazaars in the world with more than 4,000 small shops featuring Turkish handicrafts, handmade oriental carpets, jewelry, many souvenirs and the must-experience Spice Bazaar. This is the BEST market to purchase Turkish delight, exotic spices, herbs, Turkish coffee and teas. (I should know as I shopped for it all!)
Personally, I recommend a private motor yacht on the Bosporus for a few hours to enjoy an entirely different view of this magical city. I was happy to have the chance to visit Nisantasi – a miniature Rodeo Drive with all the very best stores, but in contrast loved the Pera Walk (Istiklal Street) which hosts a multitude of cafes, restaurants, shops, bookstores, old churches and consulates of many countries.
One of the true highlights of Istanbul would have to be the cuisine – Turkish food is a wonderful mixture of culinary traditions of Central Asia with a heavy Mediterranean influence and a hint of the Ottoman Empire tossed in for good measure. Lamb is on all menus usually as shish kebab or doner kebab (pieces of lamb packed tightly around a revolving spit), Dolma (stuffed grapeleaves), aubergine, (eggplant), and by all means, save room for the sweets. Turkish delight is a must, made from honey, roses, mint, pistachio and coconut. It’s worth every calorie!
The perfect ending was the Hamman treatment at the Shangri-La at Chi Spa. A 45-minute treatment of sheer delight rejuvenated my weary soul preparing me for my return to the US. It was certainly a relaxing grand finale to our remarkable three-day trip covering all of Istanbul’s key cultural gems; however, it’s always difficult to leave a thriving city with so much more to explore! With so much more to experience, from the ancient historic boroughs to modern highlights in the Golden Horn, I know Istanbul will be waiting for me – and you! – with open arms.