For the last six days I had the great pleasure of traveling with the beautiful, brilliant, best of friends, Alyssa Raven Thomas.  What a welcome change from the repetitive (though largely enjoyable) pattern of spending my time with people who don’t know me.

Just the highlights, then. We met up Sunday at our hotel in Sultanahmet, one of several historic districts of Istanbul. Reunion joy. Our hotel room was called the Grand Bazaar. The next day we visited the real Grand Bazaar, an enclosed warren of alleys and shops that housed a frenzy of action, color, light and exchange.  There, Alyssa purchased  enough evil eye bracelets to protect a Sultan’s entire army.  We spent the afternoon at Hamam Cagaloglu, Istanbul’s oldest and grandest Turkish bath, sweating and scrubbing out at least a week’s worth of grime (on my part, anyways). We scooped water from marble basins and lounged on heated marble slabs as gray light and a few drops of rain filtered through small holes in the domed marble ceiling.  The Blue Mosque, Haiga Sofia (pronounced and spelled Ayasofia, it would seem), and Topkapi Palace of course had their places of honor, and despite the aggressive masses of anxious cattle pushing to the feeding troughs (over-zealous tourists), these sites were spectacular.  Huge Turkish breakfasts, nearly unlimited cups of free tea (thank you, Turkish hospitality!), and squares of flaky baklava dripping with honey formed the delicious brackets between which our sightseeing took place.  We cruised the Bosphorous, took a ferry from Europe to Asia and back, criss-crossed nearly every inch of the city by foot, and braved wind rain and cold to take on Istanbul.  I’d say we emerged victorious.

The Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Cami) as seen from the Bosphorous.

Stunning Byzantine mural inside the Ayasofia.

Alyssa and I enjoy one of the best views of the Ayasofia from a rooftop bar in Sultanahmet.

Alyssa is now heading home and I am about to set out for Cappadocia, land of the fairy chimneys. I will find out what that means and report back.