Sitting at the Ritz

We’re done, the cruise is over.  Got off the boat this morning, spent the day touring the city and now we’re at the Ritz until 5:15 am tomorrow, when the car comes to get us and take us to the airport.

Thursday

A sea day.  We slept late, ate lunch and played bridge.  For the first time this trip, I got to play with Gail. We sat N/S, Micky and Linda sat E/W.  We came in 2nd, they were just dead average.  This was the most important competition on the ship, as far as I’m concerned.

It was a formal night, and we didn’t want to do it, so we had reservations at the Japanese restaurant again.  Still fabulous, and there were 8 of us since our tablemates from the dining room joined us.  One thing a Japanese cruise line knows how to do is sushi.

Friday

We docked in Istanbul, the end of the line for this cruise.  But we didn’t get off until Saturday, so there was one more day of “cruise” left.  Gail and I are really getting into this lazy vacation life–we didn’t move out of the cabin until lunchtime.  The tour we booked was a cruise on the Bosporus, as if we hadn’t spent enough time sailing in the last two weeks.  It was fine, though.  There are many, many stunning mansions and fine home along the waterfront, on both the European and the Asian side, and we enjoyed slowly sailing past and gawking.

The final dinner on a ship is mildly emotional, as you are saying goodbye to your tablemates who have become friends who say they will keep in touch but nobody ever does.  I finally got to know one of them, Dave Rosenfelt, who turns out to be a popular author of mysteries and thrillers–which is the dull part, as he is also completely insane on the subject of rescue dogs and lives with 27 of them.  I may read his books, but I won’t be visiting his house.  We talked about his process for writing, and he just starts off and writes–no outline, no plan, no nothing.  He doesn’t even know who did the crime when he starts, that will come out as he writes.  Sort of like the way I play a bridge hand.

Saturday

They took all our luggage off the ship last night–we just have the clothes we are going to wear today.  So get up, shower, eat a last breakfast in the dining room (Gail tried the hash, I’m sticking to cereal and berries.  At least one sane meal a day.)  Walk off the ship, meet Micky and Linda in the baggage hall.  Find our bags, get a porter and then find the guide we hired for the day.

Hiring a private guide is hardly an extravagance–we had a guide and a driver, Mercedes van, all to ourselves, for about 1/4 the cost of a ship’s tour.

So off we went, to do the classic Istanbul tourist route–Topkapi Palace (home of the Sultans.  Huge palace and grounds, fantastic architecture and design, mind boggling collection of jewels. It’s good to be the king.), Hagia Sophia (enormous cathedral turned mosque turned museum.  1400 years old. ), Blue Mosque (enormous, stunning building.  6 minarets, the most in the country, fantastic blue tile work inside, hence the name.  Still in use–we had to remove our shoes, and Mike and I had to put on wraps because we were in shorts.), and finally, the cisterns, an ancient water system under the city, build of marble, lit like Disneyland.  Very interesting, and best of all it was cool down there. The city was a steam bath today)

Then we got dropped off at the Ritz, for an afternoon of relaxing and trying to shower off the heat.  Dinner was at a fine local restaurant recommended by the hotel–we didn’t even order, just told them to bring us food.  We had many different kinds of appetizer and a dinner plate of various meats to build little sandwiches or Turkish tacos out of.  It was tremendous.

The taxi ride home was an adventure–although we are staying in one of the best and most famous hotels in the city, in a 40 story building next to a football field, our taxi driver got lost, so we got a scenic tour of the city.   We know that it wasn’t just a matter of giving the tourists the expensive long way–I paid him considerably less than the meter (but more than the trip to dinner cost) and there was no objection.  I always enjoy an adventure.

So we have to be up before the sun tomorrow, flying from Istanbul to Madrid to Dallas to home.  The Bandlers are going through Munich and Chicago–it’s a race to see who gets to SFO first.

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