Let's Talk Turkey: Part I

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Read my Paris travel story HERE.

Saying au revoir to Paris was bittersweet. I was sad to leave the magical City of Light but eager to travel to exotic Istanbul. With my Tempur-Pedic neck pillow in tow, I hopped on a four-hour Air France flight to Turkey, excited about the built-in naptime. Not even the little kid kicking my seat or the smell of airplane foie gras (apparently it was delicious!?!) could wake me from my oblivious slumber.

Upon arrival, our friendly airport escort retrieved our luggage and led us to our town car. Within minutes, we were off to the Ceylan InterContinental Istanbul. The impressive hotel is the ideal base from which to explore the Ottoman capital's endless historic sites, museums, restaurants, clubs, and shops. Located in Taksim, the Ceylan boasts beautiful views of the Bosphorus, Istanbul skyline, and Blue Mosque.

We walked into the elegant lobby, and the genuine staff instantly greeted us with warm smiles and outstretched arms. They took our bags and whisked us off to our respective rooms. Talk about VIP. Was this a mistake? My suite featured a sprawling living room, large bedroom, two bathrooms, and a roomy Jacuzzi overlooking the sparkling city of Istanbul. What a view! The coffee table boasted a colorfully decadent spread of goodies and sweets: macarons, baklava, and red wine. I jumped on the plush bed and marveled at my sensational surroundings. The kind people at the InterContinenal had indulged me with a Bosphorus honeymoon suite. (But I only just got engaged!) Either that or this really was a mistake. Well, I certainly wasn't going to open my mouth. A girl could get used to this type of treatment.

After an hour of unwinding in my luxurious room and attempting to use the intimidating Jacuzzi, I went downstairs to the spa at the Ceylan InterContinental for my massage treatment. I'm used to gentle, petite masseuses, so I was taken aback by the large, muscular man who walked into the room. He had a strong touch, and at times the treatment teetered between pain and pleasure, but after an hour enduring the rubbing, kneading, and de-knotting, I felt wobbly, wonderful, and weak in the knees. I went to the spa lounge, where I had a few minutes to soothe my unsteady body in a heated chair and admire the vast view. Fortunately and unfortunately, I didn't have the time (or, let's be honest, the courage) to go au naturel and experience an authentic public Turkish bath. I'd have to live with that decision.

After a quick private shower and one more head dive into that delicious bed, I rejoined the group at the hotel's City Light Bar, where we sipped champagne and enjoyed the upscale atmosphere and incredible view. After whetting our appetites, we went a short distance to the balcony at Safran Restaurant. There we got a titillating taste of all the traditional flavors that Turkey has to offer. For once my eyes were not bigger than my stomach, and I greedily feasted on every mouthwatering morsel. I could have made a meal of the puffy pita bread, spicy hummus, and savory feta cheese. The roasted eggplant was to die for, and my chicken entrée was simple and fresh. I could tell that this city had my kind of food.

I thought I couldn't feel any happier, but then dessert was delivered to our table: an assortment of baklavas with fresh crème on top. I thought baklava was baklava. But it turns out you don't know baklava until you've tasted it in Turkey. Sugary, syrupy, and layered with rich, buttery phyllo dough, these pastries were both sinful and heavenly. I was giddy, and a sudden onset of food coma was about to strike in three, two, one ...

Luckily for me, I was only a few floors from my posh pad. I retired to my regal room, uncorked the complimentary cabernet, and filled the Jacuzzi with steaming hot water. I hadn't yet discovered the history of Istanbul or witnessed the diverse culture of the city, but tonight was not about old buildings and legendary landmarks. Tonight was all about me, a bottle of wine, and the sweet suite life.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post. Be sure to wear your comfiest walking shoes. I'll be taking you on a vicarious walking tour of Istanbul. We'll go to Topkapi Palace and see how the sultans were spoiled silly. We'll visit the Grand Covered Bazaar and shop till we drop for souvenirs and knickknacks. And we'll eat.... Oh, yes, there will be eating.