As you probably noticed, I mean, if you follow me on Snapchat or Instagram, you definitely noticed. I was traveling these last past weeks. I went to Benin, France & then Istanbul. I visited Istanbul with three other bloggers, so it was a blogger trip, we went there to discover the city & also for some business matter for me.
Anyway, I plan to travel more this year and with the opportunities I get from my blog, I really wanna share my experiences here, not only because traveling always make you learn but also because it may interest other people so let’s sum up my 4 days in Istanbul.
From all the cities of my list to visit, Istanbul wasn’t on the top but because of a professional project which involve some turkish materials, I needed to visit the city. Also, I’ve been following a blogger who lives in Istanbul and her dreamy pictures kinda make me wanna visit this city. Another reason, my parents went there a few time for work reasons & also one of my favorite (old) movie has been turned there, so yeah, I guess I had to visit Istanbul sometimes.
We, Caro, Charles & I arrived to Ataturk Airport, in Istanbul on a monday around 1PM. Before adding anything else, we took Turkish Airlines, it was the first time we took this company and I will totally recommend it. Why ? Because the plane is big, well equipped, there’s space for your legs. Because for a 3 hours flight, we had free food, which I really didn’t expected. Usually with other companies for non long flights, there’s no free food, but you can buy some expensive snacks if you want. Also, the selection of movies was everything, it wasn’t just 3 movies and most of them were new movies so we really had a great & surprisingly flight.
The Ataturk Airport is the main & biggest airport in Turkey and there’s a lot of security control, which at the moment I thought too much but truth is, it shouldn’t be a surprise when we know the history & all the tragedies that happen in the country and at the airport. It’s definitely not the safest city but with all of what is happening in the world, it’s not like we’re safe anywhere. Anyway, so we went through the security control and then we tried to take some cash from the machines but we couldn’t understand how to put the indications in english, it was in Turkish language so we couldn’t understand anything and there was no one to help. After 15 min trying to understand how it could work, we decided to let it go and instead to find the driver the Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel sent to pick up us.
DAY 1 – Monday
We stayed 4 days at the Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel, which best thing about is that it’s located in the heart of Istanbul and near the most famous mosques of the city. The hotel also have 3 restaurants which we tried of course ! About the hotel ? Sura hotels are some local 5 stars hotels.
It was not a regular car but a pretty beautiful & large van which took us to the hotel. The driver was super cool, he put some music and told us a little bit about the city’s history while we were passing in front of some monuments on our way to the hotel. I was so impatient to arrive at the hotel and curious to see how it was. I was also happy to be somewhere new, it always feel good to change my mind and discover new & different things. I think it took a little less than one hour to arrive, the roads are so small & most of them is one sens which is terrible when it’s during the busy hours (end of afternoon & night) but luckily, we didn’t experiment this on our first day.
The Sura Hagia Sofia Hotel is a luxury local hotel located in the Sultanahmet neighborhood. Caro & I stayed in a Standard Double Room. This type of room is modern and colorful. It has a big king size bed, a view which shows the Basilique Sainte-Sophie. The room is pretty confortable and has everything you need to spend a good time. There’s a phone to reach the reception of course, a tv, a closet, an air-conditionner, a mini-frige, a coffee machine and a carpet to pray. The bathroom is really beautiful, it has mirrors everywhere and is decorated with some red tiles. There’s of course bathroom goodies and a hair dryer. If you know me, you know I spent a lot of time there, while doing my make up or dancing in front of the mirror. There’s also a room service if you want to take your breakfast in bed.
After putting our stuffs in the room and explore it, we hang out in the hotel which has a beautiful entrance but also a garden where we got to hang out & drink turkish tea. I think i’ve never had so many tea than during this trip, the tea is a part of the turkish culture so we tried it almost everywhere and I like it very much. There’s also a souvenir shop and a jewelry shop in the hotel, a stand with informations about activities to do in the city and a spa.
In front of the Sura Hagia Sofia Hotel (which has the pool & the spa), there was a second location of the hotel located in front of the other, with restaurants and a rooftop that we went to see for the amazing views with the Blue & the Pink Mosquee. We got to try some turkish snacks which were delicious. Then, we went in the neighborhood to explore some stands of jewelry and turkish goodies. We were waiting for the fourth person of the group, Guillaume, he arrived by the end of the afternoon.
When he arrived and got a chance to see his room that he was sharing with Charles, we went to have diner at The Terrace rooftop which is a one of the hotel’s restaurants, located at less than 15 minutes of the hotel. First diner there and we were enchanted ! The food was delicious, we also tried a Sangria which we finished quickly. There was also some music and we definitely spent a first great night there. We went back to the hotel after that because we were feeling a little bit tired and wanted to be full ready for the next day to explore the city.
DAY 2 – Tuesday
We wanted to take the breakfast on the Hotel’s rooftop but unfortunately the weather was awful on the second day, it was way too cold to have the breakfast there and there was also some risks of rain so we took the breakfast inside. But, don’t worry, the third was the one, we managed to have the breakfast with the view we were dreaming about. Anyway, after the breakfast, we went back to our rooms and take time for some indoor pictures with Caro before changing our clothes and meet the boys in the lobby of the hotel. I was wearing this super cool jogging set that I found 2 days ago in Paris. I came from Nyc with not many clothes and I was looking for some pieces to wear during this trip. We visited the Pink Mosquee, hang out in a little street with colored houses. There’s a real contrast with architecture in Istanbul, there’s old constructions and new but most of them are not colored so we didn’t really expect the super colored walls.
We also get to hang out in some Bazaar which are local markets with everything, going to clothes, home furniture and food. We visited the Grand Bazaar & the Bazaar Egyptien. We spent a lot of time there to see the stands, talk with local people and take pictures. And I fell in love with the lights, it’s so typical in Istanbul and I love the cozy & oriental-ish vibes created with these in the stores. After that, we stopped at Cafe Han, a cool coffee to have some drink and especially to use their wifi so we could share the latest with our friends and our communities on the social networks, with you, guys. Then, we went back at the hotel and we got well welcome by some turkish tea.
For diner, we went to the restaurant outside of the hotel, the Sura Kebab restaurant and I’ve tried the Efe beer and I definitely recommend, I’ve never had it before !
DAY 3 – Wednesday
Yaw ! We finally got our breakfast on the rooftop with the view and the pretty mosquees. The weather wasn’t great but it was definitely better than the previous day. We first tried to visit the Blue Mosquee which was close at the time we went there so we hang out in the city and second yaw because we found a cute carpet shop ! We were looking for one which has cool design & colors but also a cool decoration & vibe for the pictures #bloggerbelike. I actually bought one carpet which is actually in my room in Nyc and also some pillow blankets that I can’t wait to add to my bed stuff. We spent at least 1 hour in the shop because the owner was nice and let us take the pictures we want and also guys, always try to negotiate prices because when you’re not from the city that you visit, people know and notice. They then try to tell you a higher price, a “tourist” price.
After that, the others went to visit other monuments (The Bosphore, the Topkapi, the Galata Tour…) while I went to a place to find some turkish materials. If you follow me since a long time, you know, how bad I am with orientation. My friends were so afraid to let me walk alone in the city, first because let’s just say it, it’s me. And second, I wasn’t from there, people could try to steal me or I could get loose or anything. But I’ve reassured them even if deep down I know that I would be a struggle, like everything in my life. And I wanted to act like “a grow woman” omg so I went alone. Of course, I spend more time by taking the wrong streets but I must tell you that people weren’t good with indications there and the fact that a few ones speak english there doesn’t help. Anyway, so I didn’t even really found what I was looking because it’s so hard to communicate with local people. Hotels have to have people who speak english but locals don’t have to learn. So, after maybe 2 hours alone & lost, I found my way back to the hotel, it wasn’t easy but I’m so proud I made it because we didn’t have any service or internet outside so I couldn’t have manage to reach the guys if something had happen.
Oh, we went for diner to the Zeferan Restaurant which is the restaurant of the Ajwa hotel, a luxuous 5 star hotel which is the reason I’m definitely coming back to Istanbul. You know, if you follow me on the social networks while I was visiting. The Zeferan Restaurant looks cozy, chic & retro, I loved the lights at, but also the view from this place. It was interesting because it wasn’t really turkish food but Azerbaijani food which was actually mixed with some turkish flavors. I don’t remember of all I’ve eaten but it was really delicious, I couldn’t survive to the desert, we’ve tried so many exquisite food. I totally recommend if you visit Istanbul & I also recommend the hotel which seems to be a dreamy place.
DAY 4 – Thursday & Last Day
It was our last day and we were supposed to leave the airport around 5pm so we wake up pretty early so we could have try to hang out and see what we hadn’t see yet but definitely want to see. First, we had a cooking lesson with the Deraliye Restaurant. It was super fun and we ate so well, I definitely love the turkish food because it’s flavorous and the bread is everything.
We went back to the Blue Mosquee which was open this time, and funny thing, to visit this one, women couldn’t enter with their hair showing, they had to hide that with a scarf or headscarf. Of course, to visit religious places, you need to dress sup well and not show your body but I didn’t thought about that a seen were entering without hiding anything; But in Turkey, the women doesn’t have the place of a modern women from France for example and it’s the same in arabs countries. But when you visit a place, you have to respect their rules and their religion so it was natural to do that so we could visit the Mosquee and respect the tradition. A thing I noticed and didn’t like is that inside, yes, I do understand that men have a different area, and women too, to pray. But the women’s place was really more small and also hidden. There’s definitely a big difference between being a turkish (religious) woman and being a turkish (religious) man. After that, we went to some “tourist” shops to buy some goodies. We also had some tea at a lovely place. Then, we went back to the hotel and started to get ready to live; But, unfortunately, there was a mistake with the hotel according to the hour our driver had to take us to the airport. Also, the flight of Guillaume was a little bit earlier so we really thought we were going to miss our flights. The driver wasn’t still coming and we had to leave because in the afternoon, the trafic was very slow and we got to experience it when finally the hotel got us a local taxi to go back to the airport. Leaving Istanbul was then stressful, we were all 4 in the small taxi cab and Caro even had to put her troller on her in the car because there wasn’t enough spaces for all our luggage in the trunk of the car.. But the whole trip has been pretty great so I guess there’s always something to happen to spice a trip.
Places to visit to Istanbul
1- Bazaars : Grand Baazar & Bazaar Egyptian
2 – Basilique Sainte-Sophie (Pink Mosquée)
3- Blue Mosquée
5- Palais Topkapi
6- Tour Galata
7- Hammams & Spa Turks
Restaurants & Coffee Spots
1- The Terrace
2- Deraliye Restaurant
3- Sura Kebab
4- Zeferan Restaurant
5- Cafe Han
6- Cafe Society
Istanbul is a very traditional city which has a lot to offer when it comes to the culture : the history, the “rites”, the food. Most people don’t talk to tourists except when they try to sell something. Most women have a scarf on them and men don’t really look at women, I remember when I was hanging out alone and was asking for my way, some men didn’t even bother to answer me, which was pretty rude.
What I liked
- The tea
- The carpets & lights shops
- The food
- The architecture
What I didn’t like
- People who try to force you to buy things (I’m used to that though as I come from a small african country)
- Many men there have no consideration for women
- Most people don’t speak english so me going for my business and with no knowledge in the local language was very annoying