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From Tel Aviv to Istanbul

Saying our farewells this morning to Gabriella (our server during breakfast at SusEtz), and Rafael and Tali (wonderful staff at the Shenkin Hotel) - all ordinary Telavivians who contributed to making our Tel Aviv experience special - we loaded our luggage into an awaiting taxi van at the front of our hotel at 11:45. 

On our way to Ben Gurion Airport, we received awesome service and a thoroughly enjoyable and enthusiastic discussion about world politics with our cabbie, Ronit. Should you ever need a taxi to take you anywhere - whether it’s a pick up or drop off to and from airport, to and from Jerusalem, or anywhere in between - below are Ronit’s details. Not only will she be grateful for the business but she’ll make you feel welcome and entertain you with some great conversation to boot: Ronit.monit@gmail.com; Mobile phone: 052-888-9483.

While the 3 hours plus that we had allocated ourselves for our 3:45 pm Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul may have seemed like overkill, we were warned by the locals that Israeli airport security is far more stringent on the way out that on the way in. While the cautionary advice had put us on the alert, there was no need for us to worry. Apart from the standard questions being fired off in a rapid and efficient manner - “who packed your bags this morning; did anyone ask you to carry anything for them; where is your final destination; do you have anything sharp in your bags; are you carrying any firearms” - airport security was smooth and stress free. Having said that, we have no doubt that the Israeli system of electronic checks went far deeper. Our backgrounds would have been thoroughly checked even before we entered the country. 

Our arrival into Istanbul Ataturk Airport was punctual, although finding our tour representative proved a tad challenging. Looking for our names as we exited baggage claim into the general terminal, we were greeted by a mob of other tour representatives holding up placards with passengers’ names, none of them ours. While I stayed put with all our luggage by a column, Peter went in search of our representative, a second, third, and fourth time. With no rep in sight, Peter went in search of an ATM and a public pay phone, so that he could contact our tour operator in Istanbul. 

Sometimes, help comes your way when you need it the most, in the most bizarre of ways - while Peter was fumbling with the pay phone, he dropped the bunch of papers that I had given him with our tour operator’s logo and address on the front page. Meanwhile, a young Turkish man named Oscar (a tour guide himself who spoke perfect English) picked the papers up that Peter had dropped. Noticing the tour operator’s name, he told Peter that he knew them well. After Peter explained to Oscar that we couldn’t locate our tour rep, Oscar punched their number of our tour operator into his phone. He told them that Peter and I had been waiting at the airport for their representative and that we couldn’t locate him. The tour office must have contacted their rep at the airport because, in no time, I heard a young man frantically calling out “Victoria! Victoria!” as I was waiting by the column. And there he was, our True Blue Tour representative, frantically waving my name, written with a black marker on a white sheet of paper. He’d been attending to other arrivals just as we were stepping out ourselves. Helping us with our luggage, we hopped into a van for the transfer to our hotel. 

Home for the next 3 nights in Istanbul is the Levni Hotel, a boutique hotel with 75 rooms. Within walking distance to the train station, all of Istanbul’s iconic sites - the Sultan Ahmet area, Blue Mosque, Seaport, Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Place, Hagia Sophia - and scores of shops, restaurants and bars, we could not have been better located. With rooms a tasteful blend of Turkish luxe and Art Deco in a neutral palette with aubergine highlights, the beds were a dream to sleep on; settling in would hardly be a chore.

Dinner was at a cute Cafe-Restaurant called “Antiochland” in Sultanahmet. Enjoying a leisurely chat with owner Derya - who opens for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7 days a week - over a pair of ice cold Efes and a delicious meal, our Turkey adventure was looking very exciting indeed.

NB: Our Turkey tour was designed and coordinated together with 
Cameron Johnston, True Blue Tour Travel Agency.
Yerebatan Str. 35/A 34410 Sultanahmet
+ 90 212 528 7561 .office

Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 19th September, 2014 | Trackbacks
Categories: Turkey

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