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To Istanbul and the Black Sea

Our journey starts in Istanbul - well to be precise it started at LAX (Los Angeles) where we boarded the Turkish Airlines flight for Istanbul. I was last in Istanbul alias Constantinople once known as the fabled city of Byzantium, in October. We had an overnight stop in the Port of Istanbul during the course of my Aegean and Adriatic Dance Cruise Odyssey and did the must-do tourist sights - Topkapi, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, as well as a morning cruise north on the European coast and back south on the Asian coast of the Bosphorus.

The Turkish Airlines flight out of LAX leaves at 6:50 PM and gets to Istanbul's Attatuk Airport (IST) the following afternoon around 5 PM. TA boasts that they are consistently voted Best Airline in Europe and I have to say that I think their food, and the cabin crews are very good. Their fares are very competitive and I was able to get a Business Class ticket for a round -trip plus stopover destinations at a reasonable price.

The food is prepared by men dressed in kitchen whites with chef's hats. It sort of gives the illusion that the food has just been made fresh in the kitchen. I love the meztes  trolley that starts the dinner service.

Although our flight departure was delayed an hour because of a problem with one of the seats, the time was made up over the 12 hour llfight and our actual arrival time was only about twenty minutes later than scheduled. Passport control was quick. We had previously obtained our visas for Turkey through AHI Travel. We collected our luggage and found the AHI group for transfer to the Marti Hotel.

The check-in at the hotel went very quickly despite the large numbers arriving at the same time. The three tour directors for our group, Fred, Chiara and Sergey, decided to postpone the welcoming cocktail party to the second night - a wise decision. I had not slept on the plane at all and needed sleep badly. We decided to go out for an early dinner and get an early night.

The Marti Hotel Istanbul is a couple of blocks away from Taksim Square, down a long street that is lined with outdoor restaurants. Istiklal Street is a mainly pedestrian street though the occasional car or motor cycle does screech down the cobblestones. We sat at one of the outdoor tables and had a pleasant dinner. The waiter brought a platter of fish to the table for us to see. We decided to try the sea bass. The platter that arrived was huge but very tasty.

The ambience was quite reminiscence of the restaurant row in Athens near the Plaka. Warm evening breeze, lots of chatter, tables filled with diners while people strolled by, checking out colorful picture menus. After dinner we strolled back to The hotel, and I was only too happy to unpack a few necessities and then snuggle into the very comfortable bed  and fall asleep. The following day we were going to explore Istanbul via the Hop On Hop Off bus and it was going to be a long day with lots to absorb.