This is a review of the four day pre-cruise trip we took threee weeks ago before boarding the Regent Seven Seas Navigator. We hope to write a cruise review as well.
We'll write more when we get over the terrible colds (actually, bronchitis for Joe) which we got from the miserable weather on the trip. It rained all or part of the day the first 9 of our 13 days (we never did see the sun in a week in Turkey), with an all day rain three of the days (a downpour with wind at Ephesus). Despite the awful weather, it was a great trip. Cappadocia is beautiful beyond belief!
An uncomfortable Transatlantic trip, with jet lag and cramped conditions, improves when we see a charming girl holding a sign with our names on it. Seamless connections to the hotel. We find a delightful restaurant on the Taksim Square, and enjoy our meal fully.
We were part of a group of 8, with the two of us (ages 64 and 62) the babies of the group. Three or four of the others were over 80, and maybe 5 of the 8 had mobility problems. So there was no hotel switch. We met our guide, Sayat Turabik, in the lobby of the hotel. Nobody gave us a name or meeting time, but we were ready early in spite of our jet lag, and eventually connected with Sayat in Istanbul. For what we paid, we should have had that information. Sayat handed us a printed schedule of our Cappadocia adventure. We spent the morning visiting Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Sayat's advice about shopping the Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar was accurate and helpful. Lunch at Hamdi was superb. We had a view of two continents, appetizers and pizza, and a mixed entree. I bought 1/2 c. saffron for $2.00, and Rahat Locum (known simply as Lokum in Turkey). Back to the hotel by 3:30, we walk around and find a modest restaurant. We're drinking bottled water, on Sayat's advice. Superb buffet breakfast in the hotel, a delightful meal.
Turkish airlines gets us to Cappadocia in the rain. They serve a meal on the short flight: yogurt, water, cheese sandwich. A bit of sunshine for about two minutes, a waiting bus, and our tour begins. We hike up and down the justifiably famous Goreme Open Air Museum. We visit Avanos, walk into a cave and see a potter making a dish. I don't buy, although the place is obviously a shop. More sight-seeing of the remarkable Cavusin and Pigeon Valley, more caves. Wonderful lunch in a restaurant where they bake your stew in a clay pot and break the pot to serve you. The local wines are quite good, as my fellow-travelers sip a glass or two at their own expense. We are greeted with juice or wine on arrival. Unpacking, refreshing baths, and a buffet dinner fill our evening. Everyone's happy with an early bedtime.
Buffet breakfast the next day is excellent, bountiful and varied. Joe and I acquire a taste for their cherry juice. Joe is now insisting that PANORAMA is the Turkish word for Gift Shop, half-jokingly. The Turkish Lira is worth less than the dollar, so shopping is a pleasure.
The Lykia Lodge, is, I'll admit, a bit dreary; but we weren't there for much else other than eating and sleeping. They greeted us with complimentary beverages (hard or soft). We got two good nights of sleep, so the small rooms didn't bother us. The food at the Lodge was terrific: great buffets at breakfast and dinner. We almost became addicted to sour cherry juice! The other meals on the trip were excellent, with one exception: a perfectly awful lunch at the Topkapi Palace just before we boarded the ship.
The guide, Sayat, was a very flexible guy. Seeing the age of the group, he switched our whiling Dervish reservations from 8:30 p.m. to 5:30--and we had front row seats. When it became obvious that the group (other than me) had knees too tricky for the underground city (the vote was 7 to 1 against going, with Joe the one Yes), we went instead to the Keslik 4th century cave monastery. The frescoes are far more expressive than anything in Europe at this time, and the keeper is happy to see us. We are the sole tour group there. Sayat finds us a Roman excavation so recent, we can't photograph it because it has not been fully recorded yet. Fascinating. We even went to a winery.
The fairy chimneys are wonderful beyond description. We do not have a chance to ride a donkey, but we have a wonderful visit. Sayat jokes the donkey ride is $1- to get a ride and $10.00 to get off....Plane back to Istanbul the next day is a nightmare of people trying to get 10 bags each into the overhead compartment, a lobby without bathrooms or water, and the seats in the far back of the plane. It's a holiday weekend, and Topkapi Palace is so crowded we can't get close to the exhibits, and the lunch here is only so-so. (Joe's view--bloody awful!) The wind and rain make the Navigator especially welcome. Joan