Old Nov 7, 10, 11:27 pm
Flying Buccaneer
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: TPA
Programs: DL Plat, AA Plat 2MM, HH Diamond, WoH Explorist, SPG Gold
Posts: 2,199
Sunday, November 7: Hanging around Beşiktaş

As I suspected, getting to sleep on Saturday night was a chore. After all, I had arrived at my hotel at 9:30 p.m. In Tokyo, that was 4:30 a.m., or about the time I had been waking up every morning. Eventually, I fell asleep after 3:00 a.m., but I was not able to sleep past 8:00 a.m.

It took me awhile to get myself going Sunday morning. My body clock was completely screwed up. I figured that since Monday would be a full day, I was entitled to spend Sunday hanging around the local area. Besides, I had to get a SIM card for my phone and call my contact at one of the local universities.

I had not looked outside at my balcony the night before, so I decided to take a look and see how cool it was outside.

Next step: get something hot to drink. I walked up Süleyman Seba Caddesi to the Caffe Nero near the W and ordered a grande latte and enjoyed it in the nearly empty seating area. I read the latest issue of Time Out: Istanbul which had been left in my room while the caffeine began to get my body jump started.

After the latte, I walked back downhill, crossed in front of the W, and cut through Sinanpaşa Köprüsü Sokak to Ortabahçe Caddesi. I wonder how many of the W’s guests never venture over to this area. It’s lined with shops and restaurants like any other regular Istanbul neighborhood. Mr. FB and I discovered it in late 2008, and it’s one of the reasons I decided to stay at the W again this trip.

It was still too early for the shops and restaurants to open, so I reversed my route and walked back toward the W, stopping at the Migros Supermarket for water, snacks, and some of the tastiest clementines I have ever eaten. Back in the room, I began to feel tired again. My body wasn’t sure if it should be eating dinner or sleeping. I relaxed in the room for a bit before heading out again.

Around noon, I headed to the Turkcell shop on the main road to get a SIM card for my phone. It was closed. No problem. There are Turkcell shops everywhere, and I found two on Ortabahçe Caddesi. I stopped in the first one and was helped by someone. Fast forward one hour. I left the shop without a SIM card. It seems that my phone has been “blacklisted.” I am not sure how that happened or even what it means. The only thing I can guess is that the SIM card I was sold at a Turkcell shop in Antalya in June 2008 was not documented correctly.

The idea of being blacklisted did not affect my appetite. It was time for lunch, so I stopped at Ramiz Köfteişi on the main road for a helping of Turkish comfort food.

I felt like a pig, because I inhaled the köfte. Then I realized everyone, including the four ladies at the table next to me, was eating quickly. When the food is good, you enjoy it!

Continuing my theme of staying in the vicinity of the hotel, I decided to visit Dolmabahçe Palace. I had gone by it many times without visiting, so I figured this would be a good time to change that. Walking along Beşiktaş Caddesi is the best way to get an idea of the magnitude of this complex.

I finally made it to the main visitor entry and passed through a police security station. I walked past the impressive clock tower:

toward the main entry gate,

where I saw something that looked like a changing of the guard:

I thought this was a pretty good time to arrive. Then I discovered that the ticket office was closed. It was just a little past 3:00 p.m., and the palace was supposed to be open until 4:00 p.m. Whatever the reason, I would have to wait until another time to visit the palace.

I walked back up the road. There were people everywhere, enjoying the beautiful Sunday afternoon. Before I crossed the overpass to get back to the W, I realized that the people weren't the only ones enjoying the day. You see cats everywhere in Istanbul, and Turkey, for that matter.

Back at the hotel, it was time to call my contact at İstanbul Kültür Üniversitesi. I realized that would be a challenge or very expensive without a SIM card. Then I remembered Skype! We Skype’d for about half and hour and made arrangements for our meeting on Monday as well as dinner that evening.

After catching up on a few emails, it was already dark outside, even though it was just a little after 5:15 p.m. Dark outside = dinner! I exercised a little self-control and didn’t leave the hotel until after 6:30 p.m. The area nearby was still full of activity. Many restaurants had tables set up outside, and people were eating outside even though the temperature was no more than 15C.

I was welcomed into Ali Baba İskender Kebapçısı. All the waiters were speaking to me in English, which caught the attention of the other diners. So much for just blending in. As soon as I was seated, I was presented with a tray with 8 dishes on it. Meze! What a wonderful tradition! I chose the eggplant and tomatoes marinated in olive oil. Next came a plate with raw kibbe and lettuce, a basket of bread, a plate of cheese, and a menu. The waiter tried to tell me how great the mixed grill was, but I figured I should have the dish the restaurant was apparently known for! I ordered the İskender kebap, and as soon as the waiter walked away with my order, he walked back with a bulgur kofte and a small lamahcun. I was supposed to eat all of this:

and the kebap?

All I can say is that I hate to see good food go to waste.

After such a large dinner, I needed some exercise. I walked around the neighborhood and lost track of time. When I got back to the hotel, it was after 9:00 p.m. Somehow, I had managed to make it through a relaxing, food-filled day in Beşiktaş. Monday will be devoted to work-related activities, including taking the tram and metro all the way across the city. However, this is Istanbul, and there are always sights to be seen.
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