The destination, the when(s), and the reason(s)
My knack for taking one trip idea and expanding its scope is not a recent event. That’s how I ended last year exploring a country I may have never visited otherwise: Moldova. It pre-dates my travel blogging days by a bit. As I joined a group of friends last-minute on a trip to Egypt (literally, like two weeks before the trip), I wondered what else could I do as I had plenty of vacation time at work. I contacted a former co-worker who had moved back to his hometown of Istanbul and asked him if I could visit and he said yes, of course. I got a free ticket to/from Istanbul with Delta and then bought a separate ticket between Istanbul and Cairo so I had to fly through Istanbul to head to Egypt first and then I would come back and stop in Istanbul from where I would fly through Paris again (as the boarding pass above shows). This was in 1998, eons ago, it feels.
Air France offered great service as usual in those days for many airlines. I flew business class since I had plenty o’ miles and it was going to be a LONG trip. Class…
What fascinated me about this experience
I returned from Cairo to Istanbul to visit my friend and explore this “epically historic” city for the first time. I wait for my friend and nothing. An hour passes and I begin to get a little antsy (these days, cellphones were not what they are today and I believe you still couldn’t use a U.S. in Europe, had I brought mine along).
So I nervously wondered if my friend confused the day or time of my arrival. I realized I should call him at work and see. Since these were the days you could still find payphones, this would not be a problem. Except I first had to exchange money, hope for coins, figure out how much to pay for the call, etc. I called and it rang and rang. I kept trying and no answer. I was beginning to worry more now. I decided that surely someone was sitting around his desk or office so maybe I just had to keep calling until someone, in exasperation, decided to walk over and answer the darned phone. Someone sure did.
They plugged me through to my friend’s secretary and she told me she had been expecting my call (!) as my friend had unexpectedly and last minute been asked to make a trip abroad. So he left instructions with her to connect me to his girlfriend so she could let me in his apartment, etc. I rang her but in talking to her I realized his apartment was not near the city center which was the area I was going to be exploring and since my friend was not around, no point in staying far out.
I pulled out my travel book and found a hotel, the Pierre Lotti, which had availability and ended up working perfectly due to its proximity to all the places I wanted to see! What was great about this experience was that I explored Istanbul for 5 awesome days, met other travelers with whom I then did more social/less-touristy things, and had a great time! I did meet my friend’s girlfriend for lunch which was neat and which led to me getting lost on the way back to the hotel. But that, my dear reader, will be food for another post!