I've been in Istanbul for just over 12 hours now, and it's wonderful. I met my parents in the Minneapolis airport, and together we flew to Amsterdam and on to Istanbul. A van picked us up and drove us on roads lined with thousands of tulips, along the shore of the sea of Marmara where hundreds of families were picnicking, to our hotel. We freshened up (I'd been traveling for 22 hours) and met my Aunt Flury and Uncle Mel (my dad's sister and her husband) on the rooftop cafe. We had a clear view of the Sea of Marmara - busy with ships coming from the Black Sea (via the Bosphorus), bound for the Aegean, Mediterranean and beyond (via Gallipoli). I looked to my left and saw the Blue Mosque, practically next door!
(Here is someone else's picture of the Blue Mosque... I won't be able to post my own photos until I get home. But it's pretty much the view that we had.)
After a little chatting and a bottle Turkish white wine, we set out for a brief tour of the neighborhood - lots of shops targeted at tourists selling mostly carpets, fezzes, beautiful ceramics, and an evil eye charm that wards off carpet salesmen; the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia; and a bunch of pretty buildings, in a bunch of architectural styles. We enjoyed a great seafood dinner (again with a view of the Marmara) and happily got to bed at 10.
(Here's the Hagia Sophia - again, not my photo.)
There are a lot of street cats here (probably about 10 outside our hotel door at any given time), and when I woke up at 2 am to open the window, a little grey cat greeted me! I'm in a street-level room, and there's no screen on the window - just an iron grille. I had to leave the window closed, because I didn't really want the cat to come into my room, and it looked curious enough that it just might.
I'm not sure what's in store for today, but at some point my sister will be joining us! I'm very excited to see her.