Sunday, June 12, 2011

A lifetime of Istanbul

Good morning from a gorgeous boutique hotel in the heart of Istanbul, a short walking distance from the historic district of Beyoglu. This is my nth visit to Istanbul, one of my favorite cities in the world, and each time I drive into the city from the airport and I see the familiar silhouette of the mosques and palaces in the distance, my heart never ever fails to skip a beat.


I must have been Turkish in a previous life because each time I land in Istanbul, I somehow feel I've come home. In fact, this warm and fuzzy feeling of familiarity strangely begins at Hong Kong airport, on every flight I've taken to Istanbul and after I've cleared transit and gotten my boarding card. I don't feel anything at all while waiting in the lounge for the flight to board, but once I'm at the gate, I really have this feeling that I'm going home. And once I enter the Turkish airlines plane bound for Istanbul, I just feel part of everything. Don't ask me why.


Turkish Airlines, by the way, is a great way to get to Europe. The other day I left Hong Kong close to midnight, watched a movie, had a great dinner and went to sleep on their very comfortable and spacious life-flat beds. When I woke up it was less than an hour to landing and I barely had time for breakfast. Talk about a painless way to cross several continents. I landed in Istanbul completely refreshed and raring to head to one of my favorite pastry shops for a slice of kunefe.


I guess one reason why I feel so at home in Istanbul (if I'm not to take this "previous life" school of thought...) is the fact that I began coming here as a college student and so I feel I've grown up with this city -- or rather, that this city has watched me grow up. So when I'm here, everywhere I look, I see reminders of my life, of people I've been here with, of milestones that happened, and epiphanies that never fail to occur when I am in this wonderful city of mystery, mysticism, culture and vibrancy all in one.


Istanbul is a great city for epiphanies because it makes you realize your place in the universe and in the larger scheme of world history. Here, you're faced with so much evidence of greatness all around from men who've changed the world but who are now long gone. No matter who they were, it was ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Even the most powerful sultans with the largest harems eventually disappeared into the ground. If that thought doesn't put anyone in his or her place, I don't know what will.


Just this morning I drove past the Topkapi Palace along the seaside road, for example, and I saw it looming on a hill next to me. Immediately I remembered how last November, I'd sat at the Topkapi Palace's outdoor cafe facing the sea on a gorgeous day, feeling I was on top of the world. Or at least on top of my world. Travelife Magazine had just brought 70 readers and friends to Turkey from Manila and the tours had gone fabulously well and everyone had had a great time. So great a time, in fact, that many of them want to join us on other Travelife tours. These Turkey trips -- like almost everything we do -- were true labors of love, so the personal satisfaction of seeing so many happy people is a feeling I just cannot describe.

We're planning a
Travelife Gastronomic Tour of Italy
from September 16-25
and a Travelife Luxury Tour of Istanbul & Izmir
from Nov 5 to 13.
Call Bernice at Travelife Magazine (8138400/ 8922620)
to get on the mailing list for details
if you're interested.


And I was thinking and feeling this while having an espresso on the terrace cafe of the Topkapi Palace, on my second to the last day in Turkey last November. Friends reading this will know that I almost never drink coffee; but that moment at the Topkapi last November was one of those few times I felt I just had to have a coffee at that particular time.

This time, it's really just a chill trip through Istanbul on my way to Lisbon to catch a Silversea cruise that will take me to Barcelona. Nothing much on the agenda except to walk through some old neighborhoods like a local, visit a couple of favorite haunts, and see the Chora Museum and possibly the Istanbul Modern. I'm also hoping to visit the Topkapi Palace Museum again (my fifth time in the last 12 months!) simply because the Topkapi Palace kitchens, which were under renovation for the last two or three years, have just been re-opened. If tomorrow is a fine day, I may rent a car and drive all the way down to the Black Sea, past some of the most picturesque seaside neighborhoods in the world.


So the past two days, I've been showing a friend who joined me from Manila around my city, pointing out everything like a tour guide, and perhaps even more because few local tour guides really know the good life in Istanbul outside the touristy routes the way I do.

"You do realize you're actually getting an honest-to-goodness bespoke Travelife tour with the best tour guide, right?" I teased. "Just in case you didn't realize how special this is. There's no Turkey tour as good as a Travelife tour." And definitely none as good as one I've done myself in my beloved Istanbul - I might have added.

Travelife Magazine is planning a small-sized Luxury Istanbul & Cappadocia Tour this early November, incorporating gourmet food experiences and exclusive cultural opportunities.

Please stay tuned to this blog for more details, or leave your name with Bernice at Travelife so we can get back to you with more details soon. Travelife Magazine: Tel 8138400/ 892262

Travelife's Special Summer Issue
with Angel Aquino in Boracay
Angel Aquino in Bora
for Travelife Magazine's April-May 2011 issue


No comments:

Post a Comment