The morning was bright without a cloud in the sky. We arrived at the Blue Mosque just as floods of people were leaving; Morning Prayer time had just ended. For those who are not aware, those who do not follow the Muslim faith are not allowed in during specific prayer hours. And all women, regardless of their faith, must cover their head, shoulders, and legs in the mosque.
A beautiful stillness seemed to encircle the space. There was a soft comforting feeling of peace that enveloped me the moment I walked inside. I sat in awe as the room soared above me; over 20,000 thousand hand-made tiles covered the walls and ceiling. I sat in silence and used the time to reflect on my journey while soaking in the beauty of my surroundings.
After leaving the mosque we enjoyed a short walk through the park past fountains and blooming flowers towards the Hagia Sophia. On our way, we stopped for lunch at The Four Seasons Sultanahmet. It is nestled amongst the narrow streets of Old Town. We arrived at The Seasons restaurant and were seated in their open air garden. We feasted on modern Turkish cuisine as hummingbirds floated around us. If you are in the mood for a cocktail you MUST check out the hotel’s rooftop lounge A’ya. While looking out over the rooftops, I felt as if I could reach out and touch the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. An insider tip: go at dusk and watch the lights begin to emerge and illuminate the darkening cobalt blue sky.
The sheer size of the Hagia Sofia was the first thing that hit me as we walked up to its gates. Once inside, we were mesmerized by the gold domed ceilings, the arched stained glass windows seemed to set them aglow. Enormous brass chandeliers were suspended above us; they dangled like spiders from the ceiling.
We walked up a steeply sloped ancient corridor and made our way to the Upper Gallery. We looked out over the complete interior from the vantage point that empresses used to watch church services over 1000 years ago. The history of this amazing building really sunk in as we observed ancient Christian mosaics that have been restored after being plastered over by Muslims in the 1400s.
As late afternoon approached we made our way back to our hotel to wash away the day in our luxurious Spa Suites at the Park Hyatt Istanbul. We then got picked up in a private car to head off to our last dinner. We boarded our private yacht and were whisked away up the Bosporus Straight. We sipped on champagne and enjoyed hors d’oeuvres as the sun sank lower towards the horizon.
As the fiery sun dipped below the silhouetted shoreline, the water began mirroring the glow of the sky. The cool night air began to envelope us just as dinner was served. The twinkling lights onshore came on bit by bit as we enjoyed feasting on sea bass marinated in olive and herbs, smoked salmon with capers, grilled octopus salad, warm grilled squid, mussels, cured swordfish, and fresh grilled grouper. We feasted under a full moon while gazing out at the ever-changing landscape of Istanbul. Cheers Istanbul, until next time!!!