Istanbul peekchurs!

View of the Blue Mosque from our hotel!


Ayasofya

Basilica Cistern


Ayasofya interior

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Istanbul

¡Hello again, friends! 

We’re having a great time on our trip and can hardly ever find time to make blog posts! Ha! 

We left Paris on May 22 and took a direct flight to Istanbul. Our hotel organized a pickup from the airport and by early afternoon we were in Sultanahmet, next door to the Four Seasons Istanbul, with a view of both the Ayasofya and the Blue Mosque. After a little rest, we walked around the area and had a late-ish dinner at a restaurant near a small bazaar. 

We let ourselves sleep in the next day and had these tasty sesame bagel treats for breakfast. We visited the Basilica Cistern, which was straight out of an adventure novel. A slippery flight of stairs takes you down below the city as the temperature drops significantly enough for coffee to sound pleasant but not enough for a change of clothes. The cool, musty air clings to you as you walk on platforms above the water and between the impressive marble columns (of all three types).  Our audio guide was nice but somewhat unnecessary. After we walked around and decided it was pretty much the greatest, we had some fresh squeezed juice at a tiny cafe near the exit, and further marveled at the structure before ascending to the sunlit world. (Alicia throwing down some beautiful writing here damn. Love ur sis xox.) 

We visited the Grand Bazaar in the afternoon. Since it was a Friday which is the Islamic day of assembly, sort of like Sunday mass for Catholics, the area was extra busy and all the mosques were literally overflowing with tens (likely hundreds; erring on the side of caution here) of rows of men. Aisles in the bazaar were blocked, and we have just our memories because we consider it disrespectful to take pictures of people in prayer. 

The Grand Bazaar was something else. Sloping paths through domed high ceiling halls lead the happy shopper to antique shops, coffee shops, jewelers, outfitters, knock-off bag sellers, lantern vendors, and spice stands, to name a few. Entranced by the variety and history of it all, we did a little bargaining for some silver evil eye bracelets. Alicia notes that she’s gotten rusty since Thailand, but was still happy to get any discount. 

After some tradition Turkish cuisine for dinner and nice conversation with the owner of the restaurant, we went back to our lovely room and went to bed. We slept through our alarms the following morning, but made it to the Ayasofya before it was officially the afternoon. The Ayasofya was impressive, as expected, and we used our recently purchased Museum Passes for admittance. Huge, unrelenting tour groups with loudly clicking long-lens Nikons and Canons took away something of the sanctity of the ancient church/mosque, but hardly anything is holy anymore, and we had a good experience despite this. The early, early morning would have been worth it though. I overpaid for some lukewarm drip coffee and we left before the early afternoon call to prayer. (An aside–the call to prayer was one of the more unique things about being in Istanbul. As students we were all taught that Muslims are called to pray five times a day. The call is magnified with speakers attached to the minarets and will go from just a few minutes to nearly fifteen (as we recall). The times change with the day and each time has its own name and purpose. It was really quite beautiful.)

Next we walked over to Topkapi Palace. We walked around the palace grounds and were particularly impressed by the condition of the beautiful tiles and calligraphy throughout it. The layout was open and inviting and while we’ve seen a few royal residences this one was probably our favorite. We stopped for lunch at the palace’s restaurant which overlooks the Bosphorus. We took our time to explore the spacious palace grounds afterwards and by the early evening we were ready to get some more food. 

On Sunday we slept in, dressed somewhat nicely, and headed across the street to the Four Seasons for brunch (thx mom love u). Alicia’s favorite part was “the honeycomb, the coffee, oh and the juice and desserts”. Andrea loved the lamb and prosciutto. After gorging for two hours, we walked to the Archeology Museum and a lot of it was under construction, but we enjoyed the mosaic exhibit. That night we had a nice dinner at a restaurant that had bean bags for seats and we chatted with fellow Americans who were also heading to Greece next. 

We spent most of Monday on a boat that travelled along the Bosphorus and we visited the Spice Bazaar after our trip. 

On our last day in Istanbul we visited the Blue Mosque. It was really beautiful and more impressive than the Ayasofya and probably most buildings we’ve ever seen. 

We didn’t want to leave, but we had to. We woke up early and made our way to the airport to fly to Athens! 

 

Paris!

Hi friends! We’ve been having a great time on our trip so far. We had some technical difficulties and are sorry it has taken so long to update, but here we are now! 

Paris was a nice way to ease into our experience abroad. Our apartment was next to the Musée d’Archéologie Nationale and from our window we could see through the museum and into the Jardin des Plantes. 

Situated close to Notre Dame, we spent many happy hours walking along the Seine and admiring its beauty. (Especially the smells! just kidding everywhere smells like pee.)  

We went to the Musée d’Orsay and Musée d l’Orangerie. We did not have the time to go to the Louvre, but we walked around it and got some yummy gelato in the nearby park. 

The Opera was also on our must see list. We had the opportunity to buy tickets for its opera-ballet performance of Orpheus and Eurydice we were super excited. We ate on the Champs Élysées for lunch before the show and visited the Arc de Triomphe, and felt quite grown up. The highlight of the performance that night was the architecture of the building. Ha. 

We are so happy that we visited Versailles! We arrived in the morning and only had to wait about forty-five minutes (when reviews told us to expect up to four hours) in the security line. We were armed with a ham and butter baguette so it was okay. The main building was great and ornate, but by the time we had finished the designated, claustrophobic walk through, it had begun to pour. We braved the elements, and walked through the gardens to Marie Antoinette’s estate. While we did enjoy looking at the castle, her estate was what we loved the most. It was super pretty and way less crowded and even in the rain it was enjoyable. 

On our last day in Paris, we saw Sacré-Cœur and, despite the rain, it was truly beautiful. We think Notre Dame has it beat, but it was still lovely inside and out. Finally, we saw the Eiffel Tower and bought some sugar cookies and lemon drops from a cute bakery (thanks for the tip Nina!). 

Our hearts were won, and we had little desire to leave Austerlitz and brave a new land. We thought no city could beat Paris, but luckily for us Istanbul was up to the challenge. 

Until next time–which we promise will be sooner!

First Travel Day!

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Today marks our first of many travel days! We are currently at home and sweating thanks to this strange and deathly weather. We leave for the airport in two hours and our flight to Paris will be departing at 3:50 pm! I’m hot/ stressed/ tired, but I am also completely excited for our travels.

Alicia is panic-drinking some gross coconut water and Jack and Indy are asleep at our feet. 

HI Alicia here. Andi says this ‘sucks–‘ and that I should do it and sound like her.  Sooooo. I have sweaty.

We’re new at this so expect brilliance and when we fall short, be surprised.  Thanks to everyone who told us to ‘not get Taken’ and we hope you enjoy following us along as we shamble across Europe.

Burn this letter.