As we go through life, we find ourselves on certain paths that just happen organically. Ours obviously includes living in the USA. But because our love for our family & friends in Belgium is so strong, the travel back and forth to Europe has brought us to many places we would have never discovered if we wouldn't have followed that path. 
This time, we ended up in Istanbul right before Christmas, only because the plane tickets from Atlanta to Brussels were ridiculously expensive during the Holidays. There was no way we would spend our yearly vacation budget on 5 plane tickets to Belgium, but not going "home" for the Holidays was definitely not an option either. 
Nic's natural born "problem-solving" mind found an affordable flight with Turkish airlines.  Atlanta - Istanbul, Istanbul - Brussels with a total of 24 hours travel.
Instead of suffering through the cruel itinerary we changed our mindset and decided this was the perfect occasion to show the kids the very interesting history of CONSTANTINOPLE with its World Heritage. Istanbul had been an imperial capital for almost 16 centuries, ranked 7th largest city in the world with close to 15 million residents. 
Tips and tricks and places to go 
 Find a hotel through World Concierge.
We didn't make our schedule too busy ( 3 jetlagged kids ) but we did enough to get a feel for the history of the Ottoman Empire. 

My mama won't be proud but we arrived in the Istanbul airport with no hotel booked. Thank God for amazing friends! One call to Marie & Thierry from World Concierge and everything was taken care off, even dinner reservations!

This company is absolutely amazing and I would highly recommend them for all your travel. Thanks to them, we got an unbeatable last minute deal and when we arrived in the hotel we received the warmest welcome with toys in the kids'room ( say whaaat?), sweet turkish delights & a personal letter from Thierry, the owner of World Concierge. 

Day 1 :

The Old City

Needless to say that with an 8 hour time difference and an overnight flight in the books we slept like babies on our fluffy beds. The next morning, after the best mediterranean breakfast, we took an Uber to the historic center, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Since it was our first time in Istanbul we didn't know exactly where we were going. Read : we had no clue! It was with great luck we stumbled upon our guide Osman. 

Osman guided us with such passion and kindness through The Blue Mosque, The Hagia Sophia, the Hippodrome and the Basilica Cistern. 

Definitely try to connect with Osman when you go to Istanbul. You can find him on instagram @getyourguideistanbul.  Not only did he keep our kids on their best behavior but he gave us a history lesson with fun stories we will always remember. He guided us through the little streets of Istanbul and even took us to his friend's store for a private pottery making lesson!


The Blue Mosque or Sultan Ahmed Mosque

Hagia Sophia 

Basilica Cistern

 Dinner at Vogue Restaurant

But BRRRRR it was freezing. After visiting the historics sites and a short (way too short) stroll through the Grand Bazaar we were all starving and ready to warm up. If you are ready for an amazing view and a yuppie scene, Vogue restaurant is THE place to be. We didn't fit in with our big shawls and coats and our kids were the only ones there, but it didn't bother us, nor did it seem to bother the young crowd at the bar. The food and atmosphere were so fun, the perfect Friday night vibe!

Day 2 : 

Dolmabahçe Palace 

We spent our last day almost entirely at Dolmabahçe palace. This is another MUST visit when in Istanbul. This palace served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire. Dolmabahçe Palace was ordered by the Empire's 31st Sultan, Abdulmecid I, and built between the years 1843 and 1856. The collection and size of Baccarat chandeliers is beyond any imagination. Too bad we weren't allowed to take pictures inside. The views on the Bosphorus river and the ornate interior is just absolutely crazy. No surprise the construction of this palace cost five million Ottoman gold lira, the equivalent of $1.5 billion in today's values. In order to visit this palace you have to make reservations one day ahead. You will understand why once you have seen it with your own eyes!  


The Grand Bazaar

Last but not least, and right before heading to the airport, I had to pay another visit to The Grand Bazaar. We spotted a few fun 'boutiques' the day before and felt the urge to take a peek one more time. Shopping with the boys is never a good idea in our family so this time I only took Nina-Marie and Sophia with me. 

What an adventure. The girls helped me negotiate and to Nic's surprise we arrived at the airport with an amazing white fur coat and a few other goodies. I am not sure how often I'll wear it but I do know I will treasure this souvenir forever. 

Once we got in the plane on way to Brussels we immediately regretted we didn't take the time to enjoy the 3 step process of a Turkish bath ( sauna, steam and massage ). During our stay it was also too cold to experience a cruise on the Bosphorus river to the Princess' Islands. 

I have faith our path will lead us back to Istanbul ( this time in the summer ), and I hope my post inspires you to discover this fascinating city yourself.

Don't hesitate to shoot me an email if you have any questions or want to share your own travel experiences.

Have an amazing week! 

Silvia, X

























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