A witness to Turkey at its finest

Posted: February 28, 2016 in Travels

 

enjoying a ‘bubbly martini’ at Istanbul’s first hotel

Just your typical Sunday with another short and easy flight home from an incredibly exotic, culturally rich and endearing country. Yes… living in France โค๏ธ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท really is as fabulous as it sounds! ๐Ÿ˜Š I hate to brag ๐Ÿ˜ but something sunk in this week whilst I was away ‘on business’ in Istanbul. I was invited to participate in an event established to educate, promote and squash any fears about tourism in Turkey.

Third time must be a charm because I have an even stronger love for the country, and especially the people. Except ๐Ÿ˜ my latest flight attendant.๐Ÿ˜†

I was one of maybe one hundred travel sellers from all over the world… except France. Unless you count me! ๐Ÿค— I’ve never been one to think my life is better than the next guy’s, and I still don’t. But I must admit that yes, my story really is extraordinary. Magnifique! I don’t quite have my ‘rap’ down yet, especially when it comes to my business: am I representing the American market or the French? And certainly I’m not the first person ever to move to another country. Yet after answering the standard three questions nearly thirty-seven times, I realized that fuck yeah this really IS an incredible charmed life we live! I’m not arrogant… I’m truly grateful.

1. Are you American… where are you from? “Umm… New York.”

2. Wow! Do you live IN the city!? “Well… yes. I mean… I did, on the upper east side 70s. But… now I live in France.”

3. Oh! What brought you to France!? Who are your clients then? “I fell in love with a frenchman so now we live together in Toulouse… and I work from home, so my clients are the same as always.”

Honestly I never solicit opportunities to spew my information at random and am genuinely humble. But those inevitable questions consistently lead to gasps and envy, and inevitably more questions about how I got to where I am and what I am doing. And cocktails… of course!๐Ÿ˜‰ So, instead of trying to downplay it… I should own it, I earned it! I am an ethically driven woman who isn’t afraid to take risks, venture new places and market my experienced set of skills. As for love, that should be in the cards for toute le monde! ๐ŸŒโค๏ธ๐ŸŒŽ Though if I were too shy to dine out by myself or grab every opportunity and live it to its fullest… I would never have been in that pub in Roma.๐Ÿ˜ So yes. I live in France with a job that is stabilized, with a man who is simply remarkable, and we can travel to over 50 fascinating destinations in three hours or less, for less than the cost of a round-trip to Vegas. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

I was amazed by how much Istanbul has improved itself since we were there just 15 months ago. The renovations at Sofia Hagia are nearly complete, about seven new fabulous hotels have opened and the Turkish Lira makes everything affordable. The airports have even become more secure yet more efficient. The generosity and kindness of Turks is infectious. Listening to genuine sadness and empathy for the refugees who’ve overrun their borders, and their heart and pride in the wake of terrorism… it’s really quite touching ๐Ÿ˜ฅ if not overwhelming. I was ambivalent as I handed over my coat and purse to walk through the new metal detector at the entrance of lthe Four Seasons, where we stayed our last trip. It also struck me as odd on a Saturday sun-filled 17 degree morning how few people were around in Sultanahmet. On a freezing cold rainy December day just two years ago, the queues were deep at all the must-see attractions. My blonde self was confused at first until I realized this is what the incredible people of this amazing country have to endure now, while the world cowers in fear of a Syrian encounter or a suicide bomber.๐Ÿ˜ And Donald Trump.๐Ÿ™„ That is another high topic of distress for the international community.

I sat in roughly twenty 15-minute meetings learning about new Turkish destinations and revitalized existing ones. You could see an almost-deadened passion in each of their tear-welled eyes as they ask how our clients react now to their country, their homes. And it makes me feel angry. Seriously, don’t ever call me up and tell me you’re afraid. Perhaps I fibbed a little but I answered vehemently with what I strongly believe; that Turkey is no different than Paris… Turkey is no different than Bali. The assholes on the planet who avoid your country are avoiding everywhere they believe the Syrians to have taken-over. They’re avoiding all of Europe and the Arabic world choosing to cower in fear and teach their next generation a fear that hasn’t existed since the Cold War. And if they’re American, they’re probably voting for Donald Trump. ๐Ÿ˜ค They think they’re ‘safe’ in the SUV driving their paved streets from Applebee’s to the local basketball game… until some pissed off caucasian who got hold of a gun reminds the whole world of those frightening statistics. ๐Ÿ˜ž

Maybe it won’t make any difference in this crazy world of ours… but I, for one, will travel to these places even MORE now. I will encourage my frenchman to enrich his children and travel with them as well. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ These ‘dangerous’ places we speak of are, as one amazing Turkish businessman put it last night, “where I take my own children to school. Where I get in my car and drive to work every day. Where we play at the park and care for my elderly parents.” Yet, out of no fault of his own… he worries for his livelihood now because the economy is seriously being affected by an outrageous and ignorant fear of travel to his country. It’s sickening. He doesn’t worry one bit about the next terrorist attack or if his daughter plays with a Syrian on the playground. Why should he? So why are people boycotting travel to such these incredible, culturally rich parts of the world? ๐Ÿค” Do you think people are going to stop traveling to Paris?!!

During my one free day which was spent working in my hotel, I dashed out to Istiklal Street to grab a quick bite. Staying in Galata really has its advantages! Within seconds I’m just a part of the people, walking the streets. Passing the kebab houses and small markets… wondering which of these delicious delis or restaurants to pop into. And then I spotted it. ๐Ÿ˜ฒ Shake Shack. Don’t judge me!!! ๐Ÿ” I’m an American living in France with a grueling diet looming this Monday.๐Ÿ˜ Istanbul is still Istanbul. There is still ridiculous traffic. There are still loads of cats that randomly roam the streets. There is still Turkish delight everywhere you look and the whirling dervishes still whirl. The Bosphorus is as beautiful as ever and Katikoy is just as vibrant. But that gorgeous red flag still flies high ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท everywhere you look.

Thank you AIDA for enriching me. Trust I will spread the word! ๐Ÿ˜˜ Faites passer!

 

here….. kitty, kitty, kitty… !

 

Dolmabahรงe Palace , the ‘Versailles’ of Istanbul!

 

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