Goodbye Dikes, Hello Minarets

Well – we made it to Istanbul!!

We rose early in Amsterdam (a good thing), made ourselves breakfast in the cosy B&B and did the “reverse travel” thing (bus & train) back to Schipol Airport.  Having done it once it was relatively easy to repeat.

We arrived at the airport a good two hours before the flight and settled into a Starbucks (the only place in AMS with a Starbucks) before proceeding to check-in.  It turned out that we needed the extra time we had allowed.

On arriving at the check-in the polite girl sent us to the Turkish Airlines ticketing desk because our staff travel tickets indicated that we were to fly with KLM.  The staff travel department put one airline code on the ticket and this one happened to be for KLM.  Our ticket is open but the Turkish Airlines girls were a bit puzzled.  They asked us to go to KLM (in another terminal) ticketing desk and get our tickets endorsed for the flight with Turkish.  The KLM girls were wonderful but they could not endorse our tickets so we went back to Cathay Pacific’s desk and had them do it (the service there was perfect).

So, with the tickets endorsed we headed back to the Turkish desk then check-in and got our tickets – confirmed to Istanbul!!

The flight to Istanbul was only 3 hours.  It was very pleasant albeit that the in-flight service and aircraft (A320) decor left a little to be desired.  No complaints when travelling staff travel.

We had not booked our hotel in Istanbul (normal ops for us because we don’t know if we will get on a flight) so when we arrived at the airport we found a hotel/travel agent and took his advice on the appropriate location for the first three days (the conference days).  The price was a bit “steep” and the hotel was not anything to write home about however, it was in the right location – good advice from Sonder (the guy at the airport).

The “deal” included transport to and from the hotel (which would have been expensive in its own right) and it was available for us when we were ready.  We weren’t ready because we needed our afternoon Starbucks fix and, as it turned out, the nearest one was about 10 steps away. Ah……..

After a half hour we went back to the agent and met up with some other travellers.  Where were they from?  Calgary!!  How bizarre.  They were lovely people in Istanbul for business.  They offered any assistance we needed (they had been to Istanbul many times) and we exchanged business cards.

The trip into the hotel was rather interesting – via the “tourist route”.  We eventually arrived at the hotel and started the process of waiting.  As it turned out we arrived at the same time as a bus load of Israeli Agel conference attendees.  Watching the process of Israeli trying to talk to Turkish in English was very interesting.  The girl behind the desk was incredible and she carried out her duties perfectly.

After what seemed like an hour (I think it actually was – shouldn’t have spent the time at Starbucks!!) we were checked in to our room and started the settling in process.

We “hit the streets” in search of something to eat and eventually settled for a restaurant close to the hotel.  This was our first experience with Turkish food and we were not disappointed.

The food is exceptional and we look forward to trying a lot more of it in the coming days.

Having started the day early (around 6.00am) we got into bed around 11.00pm – ready for 3 days of conference!!

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