•“Grazing" in Cisek Pasaji, Istanbul’s version of Covent Garden with over 60 restaurants offering a wide variety of cuisines.
•A private tour though the history and grandeur of The Blue Mosque
•Shopping in the city’s swankiest neighborhood of mansions and marquee names like Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton among others.
•A private cruise on the Bosphorus with lunch at a waterfront seafood restaurant named “ one of the ten best in the world” by Departures Magazine
Day 1 Depart USA
This evening you board your overnight flight to Istanbul, one of the most fascinating cities in the world. A blend of east and west, old and new, traditional and yet, very contemporary. The city has seen three major eras. The first was as the center of the Eastern part of the Roman Empire. This part, in fact lasted longer than the Eastern part of the Empire based in Rome. The next major era was the Ottoman Era when Muslims took over from Christians until World War I and the ill-fated alliance with the Germans caused the collapse. The current era began when the father of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk created a secular society beginning in the early Twentieth Century. While still overwhelmingly Muslim in religion, the city honors all of its past and keeps its eyes both on Europe and Asia which it connects across the Bosphorus.
Day 2 Arrival in Istanbul
You arrive in Istanbul in the morning feeling reasonably alert thanks to your Business Class seat. After completing formalities you will be met by our guide who will take you to the car for the private transfer to your deluxe and centrally-located hotel. You have a chance to relax, unwind and do a little exploring around the hotel before dinner is served.
Day 3 The Byzantine City of Constantinople
Today you will focus on Constantinople as it was in the days of Justinian and the other Roman Emperors. You depart the hotel with your personal guide who is also a lecturer on the history of the City. The morning will primarily be spent at Seraglio Point where you are first taken to the site of the famous Hippodrome. Here you will see the obelisk of Theodosius with its 4th Century reliefs. You then visit Aya Sophia, the great church built by the Emperor Justinian. After a private and instructive tour you are then taken to the impressive Yerebatan Saray which is an underground cistern created by the Romans as a water source for both the Byzantine Emperors and later the Ottomans' Topkapi Palace. (Fans of the James Bond movie "From Russia with Love" will recall that Bond paddled across the cistern to spy on the Russian Embassy.) The underground chamber is supported by rows and rows of columns and has been totally restored to its original splendor. Leaving the cistern you go to Istanbul's best Kebab restaurant for lunch then head for the Theodosian Walls built in the 5th Century to protect the city. Nearby is the Kariye Museum, once the church of St. Saviour in Chora, famous for its superb mosaics depicting scenes from the life of Christ. After returning to the hotel to freshen up and relax, you are met by your guide and taken to Cicek Pasaji which means FlowerPassage since, like Covent Garden in London it was once the city's flower market. Today it has been transformed into a glass covered arcade with over 60 restaurants filled with local people. In addition to tasting Turkish wines you will be offered a variety of foods to accompany the wine. An excellent way you get to know Turkish food, wine and, most importantly, the people.
Day 4 The Reign of the Ottoman Turks
Today we concentrate on Ottoman Istanbul beginning with a visit to one of the city's (and the world's) greatest monuments, Sultan Ahmet Camii, better known to us as The Blue Mosque. With your expert guide you will learn that the Mosque was built in the 17th Century and is famous for its great dome, six minarets and an interior covered in blue Iznik tiles. After a detailed visit you then visit the Museum of Islamic Art. Housed in the 16th Century Palace of a Grand Vizier (who was executed by Suleiman the Magnificent),the museum offers an intriguing and surprising insight into the opulent lifestyle of the Ottoman aristocracy. The exhibits include reconstructed interiors, miniatures, carpets and manuscripts dating from the 8th to the 19th Centuries. Your last visit of the morning will be to the legendary Topkapi Sarayi. Begun by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453, it was the palace of the Ottoman Sultans for over 300 years and is a supreme example of Ottoman architecture. With the help of your expert guide you will explore its many pavilions, courtyards and gardens, including the famous Harem, and see unrivalled treasures from the collections of the Ottoman Sultans including dazzling jewelry and unique porcelain. You'll break for lunch at a restaurant located inside the Topkapi Palace Gardens run by the fourth generation of the same family and specializing in Ottoman Imperial Cuisine. After lunch you are off to the Grand Bazaar, a unique covered market with over 4,000 shops selling carpets, leather goods, jewelry, and many other items. You will have a chance to shop but with your guide nearby to ensure that you don't get lost. Before returning to the hotel you stop by Gulluoglo Baklavacisi to learn the secrets of real Turkish Baklava. After resting at the hotel, you meet your guide who, in keeping with the Ottoman theme, will take you to the Haci Abdullah restaurant which was founded in the 19th Century and specializes in Ottoman-Turkish Cuisine. It was a personal favorite of Sultan Abdulhamid II.
Day 5 Discovering Contemporary Istanbul
Today you move into the 21st Century and explore contemporary Istanbul. Your driver will be waiting to take you first to the Levent District and the Canyon shopping complex which, while an open-air venue, has special air conditioning that cools in the summer and heats in winter. You have a chance to peruse the many upscale and, in some cases, funky shops before rejoining your driver for the trip to Nisantasi known as "The Aristocrats' Quarter". Between the Macka, Valikonagi and Harbiye Streets you will discover old mansions along with Louis Vuitton, Emporio Armani, Gucci, Balenciaga and Chloe to name a few. After you have wandered around and enjoyed lunch the rest of the afternoon is at leisure. Dinner is at the hotel this evening but after dinner we suggest you explore some of Istanbul's nightlife especially if you are visiting between May and October since many outdoor venues feature music of all tastes, drinks and views of the Bosphorus.
Day 6 A Day on the Bosphorus
After breakfast you will meet your guide for a day spent on and around the Bosphorus,the body of water that not only connects the two parts of Istanbul but also the continents of Europe and Asia. You start with a drive to the Dolmabahce Palace built in the 19th Century by Sultan Abdul Mecit as a summer palace. It has an "over-the-top" European- Turkish style designed to demonstrate that the Ottomans were still a force to be reckoned with. Less than one hundred years later, however, the Sultans were overthrown. The Palace, which overlooks the Bosphorus, is divided into ceremonial and private quarters, with marble, gold, silk and crystal in abundance. After the downfall of the Sultans, Kemal Ataturk lived and died here and all the clocks are stopped at 9:05 a.m. the time that the founder of modern Turkey died. After a private tour of the palace you are escorted to a nearby pier where your boat is waiing to take you on a personal cruise of the Bosphorus. During the journey your guide will point out the various "yali" which are picturesque wooden houses built along the water's edge.You will also see the twin fortresses of Rumeli and Anadulu Hisar and Imperial palaces along the shore. You disembark on the Asiatic side of Istanbul at the Korfez Restaurant's Private Pier where a table for lunch has been reserved. With its unique views, state of the art cooking and excellent service it is no wonder that Departures Magazine named it "one of the ten best waterfront restaurant's in the world". After a pleasant and scenic lunch we have arranged for you to visit with a Turkish family whose family has lived in a ‘yali' for several generations. It is one of the rarest mansions on the Bosphorus possessing the original architecture and furniture. After enjoying afternoon coffee or tea, you are returned to your hotel for a chance to relax. This evening you will once again dine on the Bosphorus but this time from the European side. Feriya is located in a restored historical building with a dining terrace right on the waterfront. Its cuisine matches its location.
Day 7 The Culture and Cuisine of Istanbul
Today we want to immerse you in the culture of Turkey, particularly Istanbul. Your guide picks you up and delivers you to your chef/instructor who is going to introduce you to the basics of Turkish cooking. The first stop will be the markets where you pick up the fresh ingredients needed for today's lunch preparation. You depart for the kitchen where you will assist in both the preparation and consumption of lunch. After lunch you have the opportunity to try to unique Turkish pastimes. The first is the Hamman or Turkish Bath which both refreshes and rejuvenates. You then are invited to try a Nargile in which tobacco or, more recently, fermented fruit are smoked through a long pipe with the smoke being cooled by passing through water and thus removing the harmful elements. Turks can spend several hours in discussion while using the Nargile but we just expect you to give it a try. On this, your final evening we take you to 360 Istanbul located on top of an apartment building. With high ceilings and a glass curtain system opening on to a panoramic terrace, the views are spectacular. The focus of the restaurant is to have small plates of many of the variety of foods on the menu. It will be a fitting end to your Istanbul Interlude.
Day 8 Return to USA
After breakfast, your driver will be waiting to take you to the airport for your return trip to the USA. You arrive back later that same afternoon.
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