All my Yelp reviews from Asheville, NC

Collected reviews from several visits to Asheville over the last few years. About half are from the last week. Favorite places in bold.

Downtown

Wicked Weed Brewery
Wasabi Sushi
Ten Thousand Villages (shop)
Mela Indian Restaurant
Izzy’s Coffee
Moog Music
Mellow Mushroom
World Coffee Cafe
Early Girl Eatery
Loretta’s Cafe
Dobra Tea
Tupelo Honey Cafe
Mayfel’s
Malaprop Bookstore and Cafe
Salsa’s
Mast General Store
The Gourmet Chip Company
Mobilia Contemporary Furniture
Chai Pani (Indian)
Street Fair (shop)
Barley’s Taproom and Pizzaria

Elsewhere in Asheville (mostly North of town)

Luellla’s BBQ
Atlanta Bread Company
Asheville Brewing Company
Avenue M
Two Guys Hoagies
Zen Sushi
Edison (at the Grove Park Inn)
White Duck Taco Shop

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Ready to head home

Our last morning in Istanbul. Just made my morning coffee in the Aeropress and I’m just trying to wake up. I function on adrenaline when I am traveling because I love it so much but then when the trip is over I’m pretty much dead.

Rachel is sleeping… I have to pack. We have some additional weight going home because of the amazing nuts and dried fruit we bought here. Most shops can vacuum pack items so you can take them back into the US.

Then we go down to breakfast. A hotel breakfast buffet is a lovely way to start the day, especially when it’s included with your room so you don’t have to think about the cost. We need to go out to pick up some Turkish Delight to bring home (I would pack a suitcase full of it if I could) and then we are being picked up to head to the airport. I arranged transfers via Efendi travel, recommended by TurkeyTravelPlanner.com. Private van transfers are about $30 each way, vs $25 for a cramped taxi. The hotel concierge wanted $110 for a transfer and said $30 was impossible. Never trust a concierge’s recommendation.

Best iPhone apps for travel to Istanbul

Just spent a week in Istanbul. Here are the apps I used most:

Google Maps. Much better than Apple outside the US.

Istanbul Eats. Amazing selection of small, local restaurants and food carts. Highly recommended. They also do great food tours.

WN Turkish. Basic phrases, with pronunciation.

Google Translate.

Yelp

TripAdvisor (better coverage than Yelp here)

Random thoughts on Istanbul (and some tips for visitors)

After a week in Istanbul, here are some random notes I have accumulated, along with some tips for anyone who might visit in the future.

 

Look for the white beans in a red sauce. If you see it, order it with rice. It’s amazing. Many restaurants have it. Erzincanli Ali Baba next to the Suleyman Mosque is supposed to be the best. Really fantastic – don’t miss it.

There’s a nice cafe / Nargile bar at the end of the Hippodrome (go to the last obelisk and bear left down the hill). Great spot to chill for a little while. Backgammon, hookahs, food, desserts, etc. Another large Nargile cafe (no food) is located on the tram line near the Grand Bazaar.

There are cats everywhere. No one seems to mind.

Turks (especially men?) drink a lot of tea. Whenever there’s a break for anything, there seems to be a young man bringing tea on a small hanging tray. Tea is almost always served in glasses, not in paper or plastic cups, even if it means a taxi driver has to leave his glass on the curb for the tea server to come back later to pick up.

Most tourists learn from their guidebook that shoes should be removed before entering the mosque, but it took me a while (and a couple angry stares from locals) to learn the details. As you enter, there is an area for removing your shoes – but it’s only a large area to accomodate tourists. The right way to do it is to take off your shoes just before you step onto the carpeted area. Your last step on the marble (or cement) should be with shoes, and your next step onto the carpet should be with socks or bare feet. Likewise on exiting – Turkish Muslims will walk to the edge of the carpet, drop their shoes onto the marble, and step into them. Walking on the marble in socks means your socks are no longer clean. Even when trying to do this correctly we got stares and comments from locals.

I found the Turkish language difficult because it is not Latin based – so words sound nothing at all like English. I tried to learn one word per day… please, thank you and check please. If I knew someone planning to go to Istanbul, I would suggest that they learn 4 or 5 basic words like this in advance.

A tip for Turkish pronunciation – when you see a C or an S with an accent below the letter that looks like a small squiggly, it makes the sound a CH or SH. So ҫay (tea) is pronounced chai.

I discovered that if you go anywhere at all off the beaten tourist track, few people will speak English. Google translate or a Turkish-English dictionary is critical. If I was coming back here, I would make myself a cheat sheet on an index card with words I would need over and over again: beef, lamb, vegetarian, chicken, water, salt, sugar, sweet, salty, where is, please, thank you, excuse me, bathroom, etc.

As this is a Muslim country, no one serves pork, and most restaurants do not serve alcohol.

The touristy, pretty restaurants down by the Sultanhamet tram stop are way overpriced and the food is just OK, but they’re still pleasant. The menus are in English, they serve alcohol and the waiters are helpful. It’s a good option for a first night in Istanbul. We tried three and Bodrum was by far the best.

If I were coming back, I would look for a hotel near the Eminonu tram stop. It’s centrally located for access to the Old City, New City, Asia, Bospherous Cruise, and a ton of restaurants and street food options. If I wanted to choose a location purely based on atmosphere, I would pick Kadikoy on the Asian side, especially in the Moda neighborhood.

I have heard more easy listening 80’s music in the last week than I’ve heard in the prior decade. Lionel Ritchie, True Colors, all the hits. For some reason Turks seem to think this is the perfect mood music for touristy areas.

Even in the touristy parts of town, the city does not seem as touristy as Rome, Amsterdam or Paris. I see at least 50% locals on the tram, in the Sultanhamet area and even at some restaurants. Of the tourists, only a small percentage of them are Americans – many are Turks from elsewhere in the country, and many are Europeans. There seem to be a ton of Germans here, and I’ve encountered some locals who speak German as their second language.

In any busy city block, there is typically an open doorway somewhere that leads to a tiny area for tea in an alley or hallway. Tea is usually only 1 TL (about $0.50) and this is where tea for all the local shops comes from. It’s a lovely experience to find these little spots and sit for a few minutes to peoplewatch, and the locals there seem pleasantly suprised and amused that a tourist has found it. This is one of the most local and authentic experiences I have had here.

The tram takes either tokens or a tram card. Tokens are 3TL and can be purchased at a token machine at any tram stop. Cards can be purchased for a few TL at any newspaper kiosk (ask your hotel for the nearest) and recharged at a different, larger machine next to the token machine. If you use the card, rides are only 2TL each.

Photos from today in Istanbul (Fuji x100s photos)

Istanbul food tour - best moustache ever

Suleymani Mosque - Istanbul-4

Suleymani Mosque

Suleymani Mosque - Istanbul-5

Suleymani Mosque

Suleymani Mosque - Istanbul

Suleymani Mosque – Ceiling

Suleymani Mosque - Istanbul-6

Suleymani Mosque. Rachel in orange on left.

Kevin with Beans and Rice

Kevin with Beans and Rice

Dried Fruit in Istanbul

Dried Fruit in Istanbul

Dried Fruit in Istanbul-2

Dried Fruit in Istanbul

Istanbul's New Mosque

Istanbul’s New Mosque

Crowd in Istanbul underground walkway

Crowd in Istanbul underground walkway

Fishing on Istanbul's Galata Bridge

Fishing on Istanbul’s Galata Bridge

Istanbul - Suleyman Mosque and Fish Boats

Suleyman Mosque and Fish Boats

Update from Istanbul Day 6

Today was our 6th full day in Istanbul and I haven’t had a chance to write since day 2. We’ve been seeing and doing so much during the day, and so tired at night – there’s not a lot of down time. I know some people go to a city like this for just 2-3 days, but I really enjoy being here longer. It gives me a chance to get to know the city better and see different parts of town – not just the touristy areas. Still, I want to make use of every minute here, exploring until I’m exhausted, then back out after a rest.

Istanbul Street_

Since Tuesday, when we did our food tour and visited the Grand Bazaar, we’ve been all over Istanbul:

Hagia Sophia (pronounced Aya Sophia) – first a church, then a mosque, now a museum. Reminded me of the great churches of Italy. Tons of tourists.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

Galata Bridge – hundreds of fishermen on the top level, dozens of restaurants on the lower level. The bridge connects the Old and New cities. Need to go back to try the fresh caught fish from the boats at the Old City side.

Galata Bridge

Rachel and Kevin - New Mosque in Istanbul

Istiklal Street in the New City – big major shopping street. Reminded me of the main shopping streets in Budapest and Amsterdam – very wide street, wide sidewalks, big commercial stores. Except that there are very few major brands here – I think we saw Gap, Nike, and a couple others. Most of the styles here seem to be stuck around 1990. Lots of acid washed jeans. We had lunch at a local lunch spot where workers go. Thanks to Google Translate we were able to figure out what to order. Everything was so so good.

Local Lunch

Istanbul Street Art

Not much street art in Istanbul.

Kadikoy – Suburb on Asian side of Istanbul. I loved Kadikoy – there’s a neighborhood called Moda that felt like it could have been in NY. Boutiques, coffeeshops, skateboarders, hipsters with mustaches, etc. No one hocking me to buy perfume, jackets, jeans, etc.

Lottery Ticket Salesman in Kadikoy, Istanbul

Lottery Ticket Salesman in Kadikoy, Istanbul

Nargile Pipes for Sale in Istanbul

Nargile Pipes for Sale in Istanbul

We had lunch at Ciya (pronounced Chia) which is a famous restaurant with three locations on the same street. The food was amazing, especially the mezes (starters). There’s a little meze buffet, all vegetarian, with about 20 items to choose from. You pay by weight (they give you a ticket that is added to your check). Main courses are ordered at the table from the menu. The starters were olive salad, dolmas, eggplant in tomato sauce, stuffed eggplant, stuffed red peppers, some green cooked salads (kale? spinach?), some kind of grain like couscous, and more. So good.

Ciya vegetarian starters buffet

Ciya vegetarian lunch - starters

Turkish Bath – we visited the Cemberlitas Hammam, just a few minutes from our hotel. For about $30 you get time to relax in the sauna (laying on hot marble), a scrub from a hammam (mine was strong and slow, Rachel’s was quick and hurried), and a rinse. It was a very interesting experience. I’m lucky the guy didn’t break my back when he was stretching me out.

Uskudar – a suburb on the Asian part of the city. Uskudar is rarely visited by tourists, and I really enjoyed walking around with almost no other tourists in sight. This also meant that all the shops and restaurants were geared towards locals, so there were no Turkish Delight shops, gift shops, etc.

School in Uskudar, Istanbul

We visited a mosque during the largest weekly prayer time (Friday afternoon) and then returned later to go inside.

Friday prayer at mosque in Uskudar, Istanbul

Dome of Mosque in Uskudar, Istanbul

Decorative metalwork at mosque in Uskudar, Istanbul

We had lunch at a pide place (like Turkish pizza) where no one spoke more than 2 words of English and google translate was failing us for some reason. Still had a great lunch though. Made some small talk with a few old guys sitting outside one of the smaller local mosques, thanks to Google Translate. One was shocked when I walked a few steps away from the mosque on the sidewalk in my socks – I had taken my shoes off to try to go inside the mosque (it was locked) and then there was no place to put them back on – so I was carrying them and walking over to the bench where Rachel was sitting. He motioned to me as if to say “what the hell!?”. I realized that since one wears socks inside the mosque, it is unclean or disrespectful to walk around outside the mosque in only socks. I said thank you and put them back on.

Bospherous – we did not do a cruise but have taken the ferry twice across the Bospherous – once to each of the Asian parts of the city. The views were fantastic and the ferry only costs about $1 per person each way.

Indian – tonight we had Indian food for dinner in Sultanhamet. It was an overpriced, touristy, mediocre restaurant but it was nice to have something different for dinner other than doner sandwiches, rice and meat. The best part was watching the staff from the different restaurants try to talk to each tourist as they walk up the street, trying to get them to eat at their restaurant. This happens all over the touristy areas of the city, as well as in the spice market and grand bazaar. I find them really amusing – Rachel gets annoyed and angry. I think she’s going to beat one of them up before we leave here.

It’s really difficult to convey all that I’ve seen and learned about the culture here – I would have to stay up all night writing. My photos are really a much more complete way to share what I’ve experienced and learned here. I’ve only uploaded a few of the 1500 photos I’ve taken in the last week.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Istanbul. We plan to visit the Suleymani mosque, north of our hotel, and then work our way back to the Spice Market, visiting some shopping areas along the way. There’s a rice pilaf cart somewhere I may want to find. And then there are the boats at the Galata Bridge where they sell grilled fish sandwiches – the fish fresh caught in the Bospherous. Oh – and the lamb doner place we visited on the food tour that I wanted to go back to. And the bean carts near Suleymani – beans cooked in a tomato sauce over rice. I want to hit those up too. How many meals are left?

I really enjoyed hearing the call to prayer from two mosques in Sultanhamet – they took turns with their chanting and it went back and forth for about 10 minutes. The mosque close by is the one next to the Sultanhamet tram stop (a small one). The one in the distance is the Blue Mosque, with an amazing singer. The video was taken from the tram station.

A few more random photos:

Rachel at Dinner

Olives for sale in Istanbul

Blue Mosque interior courtyard - Istanbul

Blue Mosque interior courtyard – Istanbul

Washing feet at Istanbul's New Mosque

Washing feet at Istanbul’s New Mosque

Bread salesman on the streets of Istanbul

Bread salesman on the streets of Istanbul

How to transport a TV in Istanbul

How to transport a TV in Istanbul

Spices for sale in Istanbul

Spices for sale in Istanbul

Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Istanbul Market Food

Istanbul Market Food-2

Istanbul Grand Bazaar and Nargile Bar (Fuji x100s photos)

After our food tour of Istanbul, we were both pretty tired and came back to the hotel to rest for a while. Rachel eventually took a nap and I went out and walked the 2-3 blocks to the Grand Bazaar to explore for an hour. It seems like most of the shops are gift shops for tourists, but I only wandered around for a little while and saw small sections. It’s like a maze of streets inside, and I think there are sections that are for certain types of shops. What I found most interesting was how the vendors all try to get tourists to come over to their stall (hello, jeans, good price – where you from?) and the tiny tea shops and mini restaurants hidden here and there for the workers. I definitely want to have lunch at one of those places before we leave.

Istanbul Grand Bazaar

Istanbul Grand Bazaar-4

Istanbul Grand Bazaar-5

Istanbul Grand Bazaar-6

I came back and picked up Rachel to go out to a nargile (hookah) bar. I’ve never done hookahs before, but it seems to be a big thing here so I figured I’d try it. We learned about a place nearby, just a few blocks away, and headed out. A shopkeeper told us to go to the end of the alley, turn right at the bathrooms, and make another right. We expected to find a tiny place with a few tables… but we turn the corner and walk into an enormous den of smoke. It was a huge indoor/outdoor space filled with sofas, tables, smoke and probably 200 people, all smoking hookas and drinking tea. We were both pretty shocked. We got a spot on a center sofa, right in front of a giant fish tank, next to a guy that seemed pretty zoned out. Or stoned.

Nargile Bar-8

I ordered us a couple teas and Rachel ordered an apple nargile. This place is something else – they have servers who all wear these matching jackets and each have different jobs. A couple bring around the pipes. A couple others come around with a hot pot of coals to refill water pipes. Another couple clear the tables. Another one sells bottles of water. Then there’s a random guy in an apron who will take your shoes and shine them for you.

I expected that the place would be full of old men playing backgammon – but instead it was mostly young people, all types. Tourists, locals, girls with their heads covered, older guys, groups of friends, etc. I would say it was about 80% Turkish and 75% men. There was no food, alcohol or pot – just beverages and the nargilas.

Now this only is my first time, but I have to admit I just didn’t get it. I didn’t taste much, it doesn’t get you high, and I just don’t see the point. My theory is that it’s just an excuse to hang out with friends and have something to do. I’d rather have eat or drink! I did enjoy the atmosphere though – I just wish they had whiskey.

Nargile Bar-9

Nargile Bar

Nargile Bar-7

Nargile Bar-10

Tending the coals at the Nargile Bar:

Nargile Bar-12

Afterwards we stopped at a casual cafe outside the Grand Bazaar. I ordered a cheese pide (Turkish pizza) and a beef doner sandwich on lavash (like pita). The meat was dry and stringy, and only when they brought the check did I realize they charged $9 for it. So overpriced – it should have been about $2. The pizza was ok. This was like Turkish fast food and not very good, but it was fun to sit outside and people watch.

Cheese Pide (Turkish Pizza)

Young boy collecting items to recycle

Back at the hotel room I finished up the Turkish Delight (gotta get more tomorrow!). The plan for tomorrow is the Hagia Sophia (former mosque, now a museum) and then a walk across the Galata Bridge. Then we’ll spend most of the day exploring the New City – we’ve only been in the Old City so far. If we have time and energy we may go for a Turkish Bath tomorrow, but I have a feeling we may just need to rest.

By the way – did I mention the stray cats everywhere?

Nargile Bar Cat

Man hanging with cats

Istanbul Food Tour (Fuji x100s photos)

Today was quite a day, so this will be a long blog post…

It’s now 6 PM and we are still recovering from a 6 hour food tour in the Old City. The tour took us to places in the city we never would have found on our own and introduced us to a ton of interesting food as well.

We booked a tour thought Istanbul Eats, and our guide was Connie, a German journalist who has lived in Istanbul for 9 years. She writes for the Guardian and is a tour guide on the side. The tour was only 6 people, which is their maximum. The size is perfect, as it allows her to have a table set up for us wherever we go, and also lets us visit small shops that a larger tour could never go to.

I don’t think I’ve ever taken a tour like this before – I’ve always avoided them, thinking tours are for tourists and I wanted a more authentic experience. This was great – she led us down tiny alleys, into tiny shops, to small food carts, and more. There were 4 others on our tour – two older couples from Australia. This was also their first visit to Istanbul so we were all beginners.

I am sure I won’t be able to remember every place we visited, but I have photos of most of them and will try!

We met outside the Spice Market and walked up a flight of stairs to the only kosher restaurant left in Istanbul. Our guide didn’t know that all 6 of her guests on this tour were Jewish! We didn’t go in for some reason – there was a guy sitting outside eating a turkey sandwich, kind of yelling at the guide. For some reason they said he or some other guy has to be there at all times – maybe they’re rabbis or something? Regardless, we didn’t even go in – I think she just wanted to show it to us.

Istanbul Food Tour - last kosher restaurant in Istanbul

Istanbul food tour - last kosher restaurant

From there we walked along some of the food stalls outside the Spice Market. The shops inside the market are pretty touristy – they all sell Turkish Delight, nuts, teas, etc – but outside there are the food stalls that the locals shop at. Cheese, fish, spices, nuts, fruit, vegetables, meat, olives, etc. As we stopped at each place, we were given samples and were able to ask the shopkeeper questions. One of the stops was a butcher where they were selling hooves and other body parts in a case. We were invited inside the shop to see more and I’m glad I didn’t go in. Rachel came out and told me how I missed seeing a head with eyeballs still in it and some kind of brains. I’m feeling ill just thinking about it.

Istanbul food tour - tasting olives near the spice market

Connie bought a little of this and a little of that, and eventually she led us down a hallway in an old run down building, where they laid out some newspapers on a table and set a table for our breakfast, which consisted of bread (kind of like bagels), clotted cream with honey, assorted cheeses, olives and either tea or turkish coffee. There we sat and talked about food and tasted everything. None of us realized how much more food was to come.

Istanbul food tour - our breakfast

Istanbul Food Tour - Coffee at Breakfast

So what was this table, we asked… and who was the man who was helping to set it up for us? It seems that tea (called chai here) is such a integral part of the culture here, that there are tiny tea shops throughout the city, especially in the market areas. They carry trays of hot tea to the vendors all day long, and people can walk up to the little shop (basically a cabinet under a flight of stairs) and buy tea right there. There are a couple stools, boxes, a table and some chairs in the hallway where people can sit, and it’s OK to bring your own food. The man who helped to set up our table and brought us our tea was a “tea master”, having done this for many years.

Istanbul food tour - tea booth

After breakfast we continued walking through the shopping streets in the area. First they were all kitchen and restaurant supplies, eventually hardware supplies. There were no tourists at all here.

We stopped at the shop where roasted coffee was first packaged and sold. Supposedly roasted coffee was invented in Istanbul. We stopped at a doner stand (the rotating spit) where a man makes what is supposedly the best chicken doner, marinating each piece of chicken with spices and roasting it to perfection.

Istanbul food tour - chicken doner

We stopped at a baklava shop where they have been making baklava for generations and they are so skilled there are 85 layers of phyllo in some of their baklavas. We had tea again there also.

Istanbul food tour - tasting baklava

Istanbul food tour - rolled pistachio baklavah

From there we continued walking and stopped in a small restaurant for workers, where old fashioned traditional, Turkish comfort food is made every day for lunch. We tasted only a lentil soup there and moved on.

Our next stop was a pide shop owned by a man who has been making pide for 30 years. Pide is like a Turkish pizza, cooked in a woodburning oven. We watched him make a couple pides for us which only needed to bake for a few minutes, and then we sat outside to sample them. These all had meat in them, which I wasn’t crazy about, but the bread and cheese was delicious.

Istanbul food tour - pide (Turkish pizza)

Istanbul food tour - pide (Turkish pizza)-2

Istanbul food tour - table outside

From there we eventually moved on to a candy store where they have been making Turkish Delight for 4 generations. We had samples there – this candy was much softer than others I have tried here, and half the price.

Istanbul food tour - tasting rose flavored Turkish delight

At one point we asked about the small green fruits that people sell from carts, so Connie bought a bag – they were tiny sour plums. One bite was enough for me. I should note here how well money was handled on the tour – Connie just bought and paid for food throughout the day. At no point did she ever discuss what was or was not included, and if someone asked about something, she bought a bit of it. Some foods she bought without mentioning to us and brought them out next time we stopped for tea.

Istanbul food tour - green plum cart

Our next stop for tea was an interesting one – it was a big open courtyard where a couple small groups of men were sitting and talking over their tea. It seems to be a ritual of life here, at least for working men. We set up a table and had tea and halva while we learned about the courtyard. It was very old, hundreds of years old, and it is being converted into an open air theater. Tomorrow night is their first performance.

Istanbul food tour - stop for tea

Istanbul food tour - stop for tea-2

Here’s someone drinking tea on a random street, nowhere near a tea shop.

Istanbul food tour - vendor drinking tea

From there we stopped in a tiny pudding shop where Connie went in to buy a chicken pudding for us to try later. Yes – chicken pudding. Sweet. Delicious. You’d never know there was chicken in it – I asked why they put chicken in and Connie said it was for the texture.

Then we stopped at an amazing doner restaurant – we stood outside and had fresh cut doner (lamb meat) on a lavash pita with some vegetables inside. This was perhaps the best thing I’ve eaten in Turkey – the meat was so tender and flavorful. Others in the restaurant were eating a white bean soup that looked good, and the doner meat over rice. I made a note to go back for dinner before we leave here. Everything looked soooo good.

Istanbul food tour - the best lamb doner in Istanbul

After that we walked more – it felt like 10 miles – and ended up at a boze shop. Boze is like a pudding made from a grain called millet. It’s another of these shops that has been around for generations – over 100 years. Neither Rachel or I were crazy about it.

Istanbul food tour - boze master

A cute cat I saw on the walk to the boze shop. There are stray cats everywhere in Istanbul and no one seems to mind them.

Cat on windowsill

Our next stop was a stand where they used to serve raw meatballs. Raw meat is not allowed to be served here now, so now he makes a vegetarian version that looks and tasted like raw meat. You eat it wrapped up in lettuce. I don’t think I was the only one who pretended to like it.

Istanbul food tour - fake raw meatball

Our final stop was a restaurant that Connie said was more Armenian than Turkish. We sat outside and had a dish that was rice, shredded chicken, dried currants and almonds baked in a dough outer casing (delicious).

Istanbul food tour - rice and chicken dish

Istanbul food tour - lunch spot

We also had bread, lamb ribs (eh) and a couple small salads. For dessert they brought out something that looked like a flat baklava (but wasn’t) and the chicken pudding.

I’m sure I left out a stop or two, but that’ll give you the idea. We were tired and full by the end of it and caught a taxi back to the hotel to rest. Overall it was a fascinating tour – not just for the food but also to go through some streets and parts of town we never would have discovered on our own.

Istanbul food tour - visiting a shop

While Rachel slept a little, I went out to the Grand Bazaar to explore a little bit. It’s fascinating – over 4000 stalls. I could spend a full day exploring it, especially trying all the little tea shops, tiny restaurants with 1 or 2 tables hidden in hallways for the workers, etc. We are going to go back soon together and I will write more.

Istanbul day 2 – with photos (Fuji x100s photos)

It’s 4 PM in Istanbul and we’ve had a full day already. After breakfast in the hotel we took the tram to the heart of the Old City to see some of the big sights. I typically like to get the big famous things out of the way early so the rest of the trip feels more relaxed and there’s less pressure to see or do certain things.

We visited the Blue Mosque, the Underground Cistern, and Topkapi Palace. The first two were really stunning… Topkapi Palace was expensive, underwhelming, and practically a zoo full of groups and tourists. We couldn’t wait to get out of there. Reminded me of Chichen Itza and the Palace of Versailles, just less interesting.

We walked towards the Spice Market with the intention of going to the Galata Bridge for fresh caught fish sandwiches, but we were too tired and happened upon a couple streets of nice, small restaurants. We picked one based on a thumbs up from an Australian couple and ordered bread (super super thin pita), cucumber/tomato salad and the “mixed grill”, which was a good introduction to Turkish meats for Rachel and I. It included meatballs, chunks of lamb and chicken kabobs, rice, and thin sliced meat (lamb or beef?) from the doner (rotating spit). There was also more bread and a big scoop of thick plain yogurt. Everything was amazing… I liked the chunks of lamb best. Rachel said the rice was the best she’d ever had.

We walked through the spice market, full of amazing displays of spices, nuts, teas, dried flowers and Turkish Delight. Rachel had to restrain me from purchasing snacks from every booth. I almost got chased out of the market when I asked a vendor for a very small amount of glazed nuts – like 25 nuts – and when he tried to charge me 10 turkish lira (about $5) I said no thank you and left. He said “Are you kidding me? You must leave the market now. I am telling you!”. I watched behind my back for a few minutes thinking I might be chased by a hoard of Turkish Delight salesmen, but all was fine.

I visited one more mosque nearby (The New Mosque) before we jumped back on the tram to come back to the room to rest.

Note: I am totally hooked on Turkish Delight. I want to bring back a suitcase full of it!
Here are a few photos of our day from the 350+ I took today. (Still learning how to use my new Fuji x100s – underexposed most of my shots today and had to brighten them in Lightroom.)

Turkish Delight

Turkish Delight

Turkish Delight-2

Halva

Blue Mosque at Night

Blue Mosque at Night

Turkish Beer

Turkish Beer

Blue Mosque - Istanbul

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque - Istanbul-4

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque - Istanbul-5

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque - Istanbul-6

Blue Mosque

Hagia Sophia_

View of Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia_-2

Hagia Sophia

Tile Magnets

Tile Magnets

Rachel

Rachel

Cay (Turkish tea)

Cay (Turkish tea)

Istanbul Spice Market

Istanbul Spice Market

Istanbul Spice Market - dried fruits

Istanbul Spice Market – dried fruits

Istanbul Spice Market - dried flowers

Istanbul Spice Market – dried flowers

Istanbul Spice Market Stall

Istanbul Spice Market Stall

Mosque near Spice Market

Mosque near Spice Market

Mosque near Spice Market-3

Mosque near Spice Market – ceiling

Mosque near Spice Market-4

Mosque near Spice Market

Square outside Spice Market

Square outside Spice Market