After a great first day in Istanbul we wanted to get a sense for the size of the city and hit some of the spots that aren’t within walking distance of our hotel.
With Ella on the team it’s not as easy to move around and we’re limited to a shorter day. With that in mind we decided to use a mode of transportation that we seem to have developed a taste for, hop-on hop-off buses. We first tried them in Chicago and Boston where they were a part of some packages. We also used them to get around Malta. So, when we saw them waiting across from Hagia Sophia, we figured we would give it a shot here in Istanbul.
4 months old, 3 continents down
There a two companies here in Istanbul, Worldwide City Sightseeing and… the other one. The name of which I’ve already forgotten. We chose “the other one” because they offered a route that would let us cross over to Asia. Actually they offer two routes, so we decided to go for the bulk purchase and buy both and do one each over the next two days.
First up was the route that would take us to Asia. We were lucky enough to get some seats at the back of the bus, on the top, so we could get some fresh air and still stay out of the sun. As was the plan, Ella fell asleep on the walk over to the bus so we started the trip with her still in the carrier. (If you look closely you can see a little foot.)
I know, I know, we’re bad parents for taking her on the bus like that. Well, they didn’t have car seats. As we often have to do travelling, we took a calculated risk and hoped for the best, albeit with a little more hesitation where Ella is involved.
Fortunately all went well and now, at 4 months, Ella has already been to 3 continents! Wait, you might be thinking, what about the rule where you have to eat there for it to count? Well, we gave Ella a bit of flexibility on that. She did eat on the bus and while the actual eating took place in Europe she had her food with her (Katy) while in Asia. Besides, she’ll hit Asia when we get to Cappadocia.
Truth be told, neither of the bus rides could be described as spectacular. The mosques are by far the most interesting architectural element of the city, followed by the range of building types. It really emphasizes the cosmopolitan nature of the city that you can feel like you’re in Cairo one moment and then walking past a building from Austria the next.
Oh, and it’s pretty exciting that you can get a good rate on all your magic lamp needs.
One thing we did differently with regard to the hop-on hop-off buses is that we didn’t so much hop on and off. While there were a few stops that would have been interesting, it was just easier to go for the whole ride and then do something back in Sultanamhet, the old town, where were staying. The odd part is that we weren’t alone in that. Very few people actually did much hopping.
The wonder of a bench
Visiting two continents is the kind of thing that works up an appetite. Deciding not to mess with a good thing, we found a restaurant around the corner from the one we enjoyed the day before. Again, the staff were great about Ella. Our waiter had a young kid of his own and his wife was from New York so his English was great. Given that my Turkish is limited to a poorly pronounced Teşekkür ederiz (thank you) this makes for better conversation.
More importantly we discovered the wonder that is bench seating. The beauty of the bench being that Ella will (sometimes) lie contentedly on the bench so Katy and I can both sort of eat together. Needless to say, it’s since become a major factor in choosing a restaurant.
Overprotective germaphobe? This might not be the place for you
The next day our bus tour was only an hour long which left us a little more time afterward. We did something crazy, we actually hopped off the bus before completing the circuit. No, it wasn’t to visit Miniaturk a small (hee hee) amusement park with 1:25 scale models of many of Turkey’s major sites. As exciting as that looked, we got off one stop before the end to visit the Egyptian and Spice Bazaars.
Not far away we had lunch at one of the restaurants under the Galata Köprüsü bridge, one of the many bridges in Istanbul.
I’ve mentioned before that Turkey is a great place to travel with an infant, but there is an exception to that statement. If you don’t like strangers touching your baby, this isn’t the place for you. People have literally lined up to touch Ella’s feet or give her a kiss on the cheek. Sometimes the best way to curry favour with the staff at a restaurant is to just hand over your baby. Really, I don’t think we take enough advantage of this and could probably be getting free baby sitting for a lot of our meals.
A whole world outside the carrier
After getting Ella back, it was time to go see the interior of Hagia Sophia. A church, turned Mosque, turned museum, Hagia Sophia (pronounced Aya Sofia) is certainly worth a visit. It’s not much to look at from the outside, at least compared to the Blue Mosque across the park, but the inside is definitely impressive. Similar to some of the churches in Spain, I find it interesting to see how a building like this is repurposed as new conquerors arrived.
Hagia Sofia was also Ella’s first real tourist activity as she came out of the carrier to have a look around.
Of course all this site seeing is hungry work, so Ella decided she couldn’t wait and wanted to be fed immediately.
You win some, you lose some
Dinners these two nights were a tale of two Ella’s. The first night we ate at Seatanbul Restaurant. The quality of the food really depended on what you ordered. Katy thought hers was good but mine, well lets just say I wouldn’t recommend the crispy chicken. I actually think they got some cheap frozen breaded chicken nuggets and served them in a fancy sauce. Not so crispy, and though the sauce wasn’t bad, it wasn’t the class of food I was hoping for.
Our real trouble was when Ella decided to lose her mind. It’s amazing how quickly she turns. I understand in a sense. I mean I would be pretty upset if I suddenly pooed in public and was expected to just sit at the table like nothing happened while others ate. We tried a messy emergency restaurant change, but she wouldn’t calm down. Eventually the waiter gave the not-so-subtle hint of shutting the door to the balcony we were on and we decided it was time to hit the road. Katy left with a screaming, squirming mess in her hands while I paid the bill and followed. Fortunately we hadn’t strayed too far from the hotel.
The next night was totally different. Again we didn’t go far but we found a Kurdish restaurant called the Stone House Restaurant and Cafe around the corner from our hotel. This time Ella was a star (they had benches!) and there was no mixed review of the food. It was great. I don’t know if there are Kurdish restaurants in Toronto, but I’ll be looking. The people at the restaurant were also incredibly nice. We had a little table at the back of the restaurant with lots of room for Ella and they made it a lot like eating at a friends house rather than a restaurant. Of course usually our friends eat with us, but then they don’t typically have several other tables to attend to.
So, that’s the update from here. We’re pretty happy with Ella’s progress so far. Planes, buses, cars, 3 continents all by 4 months. What’s next? Why, a boat of course!