On clearing immigration and collecting our baggage, we headed for the information desk, situated just outside the airport, in the waiting area, where our airport pick up kept paging us! Just as the airport doors slid shut behind us, letting us out into the cold frosty afternoon, I saw a guy holding a sign with Mr. R’s name on it! Yipeee!

The airport pick up, booked online through Alina at ‘Bosphorous Tours’, proved a blessing for only 21 euros. Yes, we did ask our hotel for a pickup, and quickly shunned the idea when they quoted 90 euros- albeit by a limo! Do we look like we care? No….

The ride to our hotel was what I would call different.. Yes I am used to crowds and traffic jams.  I can take small lanes going uphill.. but the sense of amicability and understanding between drivers, was something I had never seen in any of my travels.. They drove so close to each other, maybe even scratched each others vehicles, but drove off with a wave! Now, if this had happened in Dubai (like it happened to me the day before I left for Turkey), people would’ve called the police!

Istanbul is a city built over two continents, Asia and Europe. The European side which houses most of the Byzantine relics is the commercial hub. The city is bordered by the city walls. built for protection in the old ages, and is divided into two areas, Taksim and Sultanahmet! Taksim is where we wanted to stay originally, but shunned the idea when we realized that it was far from the city center and we would have to spend time, energy and money to travel into Sultanahmet!

After searching the internet for weeks, we finally got a great deal at the Doubletree.. Hilton and booked it for the 4 nights we would be here. It is situated right next to the Laleli tram station (the Istanbul University) and is 3 stops away from Sultanahmet, with the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque (of course we didn’t realize this or didn’t even take the tram until the next day.

The scenic non informative ride (I kept asking the driver questions, but sadly he couldn’t understand them…and I decided I’d be better off waiting till I tour the city) was without any hiccups- we finally fought traffic, and were dropped off at the entrance to our hotel, which rose up out of nowhere…

On checking in, we were welcomed with warm choco-chip cookies (and I was sold)!! Our room was a little small, by our standards, but was clean, smelt new.. Amazing fittings and lush carpeting! the bathroom just had a (rainforest) shower- no tub, but was fine with us, and Neutrogena bath products for our use…

The room overlooked another building and hence- no view.. but we were hardly in the room except to sleep..  and since it was cold, sleep we did- at all times of the day… wherever we could spare an hour!

I was not exactly pleased with the hotel, given the size of the room, but it soon grew onto me, and I’d definitely give it 4 stars… (yeah it is a 5 star, but in Istanbul, you cant expect Dubai standards.. again- Dubai pampers you!).

But here we were- our first experience of a city I would soon fall in love with!