Stephanie March's Istanbul Diary
Stephanie March spent a birthday week in and around Istanbul, Ephesus, and Cappadoccia. Of course it was an incredible time.
ISTANBUL – Greetings from the Bosphorus. It has been a lovely first day marked by a long flight (two hours waiting on the tarmac plus ten flying), a good seat mate from Turkey with lots of good tips, a few minor passenger/flight attendant altercations, and the added bonus of flying with Alan Alda, which I think reflected well on all of us somehow.
Istanbul is huge (16 million huge) and a pleasing pastiche of Ottoman, ugly '60s, and interesting modern architecture nestled up and down the Bosphorus. It is a cosmopolitan city of cocktails, ruins, and museums, and I am, this very minute, watching the aquatic super highway of boat traffic up and down the strait from my moonlit balcony at the Four Seasons Istanbul. In short, the hotel kicks ass.
I'm traveling with Chris and Kevin, two of my dearest friends and excellent travelers. Every year we attack a new country together and it's sublime. After a poolside repast and refreshing dip in the pool, I retired to my room for a nap. Three hours later, we met in the lobby and make our way to 360, the rooftop bar close to the old town center for drinks. It was an extremely arduous evening of shuttling back and forth between both Four Seasons hotels for meze and rum-based beverages. Turkey is not really a wine place, so we have to make do with Cheesecake Factory-type bar menus at the local hot spots. Pink Tears, a vodka, pomegranate, and lemon concoction, was a favorite.
The fellas are fantastic travel companions, the type of people who will steal an extra hour to hit the Modern Art Museum and an extra half hour on top of that for a drink at the museum cafe. I have been turning on the roaming on my iPhone to research such things as the five tenants of Islam (worthy), which movies Jean Reno has been in (worthy, but not practical), and Delta's in-flight entertainment for the return trip (stupid). We have a big day of palaces, mosques, and markets tomorrow with our guide, Bulent, and I am so excited.
The Four Seasons in the old town center where we had drinks is smack — and I mean SMACK — dab in the middle of Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque. We dined through two calls to prayer and a gorgeous sunset. It was like time travel. But in case you think this place is too conservative, I am also watching a booze cruise sail past the hotel jamming J-Lo on the sound system with a coordinating light show on the dance floor. I can actually hear the clapping from my balcony.
This is not the Middle East, it's not Europe, it's not new York or the Greek islands, or Alexander the Great. It's all of them at the same time. The weather is hot but not oppressive, and the first Bosphorus Bridge (which I can see from my room) is lit up like Christmas. I like it a lot. I am swaddled in first-class travel which, frankly, makes a huge difference in a big city.
More tomorrow after I have done at least one thing of real cultural value. And had some raki.