ISTANBUL, Turkey — Unfortunately, today we have to check out of this excellent hotel, the Grand Hyatt Istanbul, but fortunately we will be boarding our ship, the MV Aegean Odyssey, later this afternoon.
Luggage had to be out in the hall for pick up at 7. That gave us time for breakfast on the outdoor patio of the hotel restaurant — fresh fruit, an omelette, croissants and good coffee, along with a copy of the International Herald Tribune.At 8:45, we boarded a bus that took us down to the ferry docks where we got on a boat for our cruise down the Bosphorus. This was an excellent opportunity to see both sides of Istanbul, the Asian and European, and to witness the ‘Istanbul Commute’– thousands of people taking the ferries to work. Along both coasts are Yalis, ornate wooden houses often used as summer homes by the Ottomans. Today the elegant waterside homes here are some of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the world.
We stopped at Ortoguy, a small area with shops, galleries and cafes for a short visit and then boarded the bus again for the Grand Bazaar. Here we experienced one of the problems of modern day Istanbul, a city that is growing almost too quickly. The traffic was hopelessly snarled, and we crawled along, taking over an hour to cover a distance that should have taken 15 minutes.
But the Grand Bazaar was well worth it. This is a vast ancient warren of alleyways lined with stalls selling gold, jewelry, carpets, leather goods, ceramics and more. It seemed to go on forever. I came very close to buying a new leather bag, a gorgeous big bag made of glove soft woven leather, inside and out, in a mustard yellow colour, that the vendor claimed was a real Bottega Venetto. He asked $400, and came down to $250.
But I walked away from the deal.
I should have bought it. I keep thinking about it!
We arrived at our ship around four and found our stateroom easily. There was the obligatory lifeboat drill and an introductory talk about the ship and its protocol and then we sailed away from Istanbul and headed into the Sea of Marmara.
Photos by Barbara Ramsay Orr