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Go Abroad, Go Blue: A Whole New World

It has been quite some time since I last blogged! So much has happened since then including my final trip in Europe before I came home to the USA. As I mentioned in my last post, my family arrived in Barcelona the same day the spring semester ended and all my new friends flew home. It was amazing to see them and definitely kept me sidetracked from how sad I was to end this chapter of my study abroad story. I had five days with my brother, mom, and dad to show them in a nutshell everything I loved most about Barcelona. Next, we took a flight over to Rome and spent another five days eating, sight seeing, drinking wine, and eating more. I loved every minute of our family trip and particularly enjoyed being “wined and dined” at fancy restaurants with my parents! Afterwards, my mom and I ditched my dad and brother for a girls’ trip. We kissed them goodbye and sent them back to the USA as we hopped on a plane to the exotic and magical destination Istanbul, Turkey.

My mom and I always knew we wanted to take our own special trip at some point while I was abroad. The big question was where to go? We tried to choose a unique city to tie up this amazing experience. Istanbul was everything we could have hoped for – beautiful, cultural, and literally a whole new world (sorry if that last line made any of you break out in song singing the forever-popular tune from the Disney movie, Aladdin!). The mannerisms, streets, food, and transportation were like nothing I had ever experienced before. I was shocked by the size of Istanbul. Apparently over 13 million people live there (that is almost double the population in NYC!) and the city is split between two continents – Europe and Asia. One day we took a two-hour ferry ride along the Bosphorus Strait and saw both sides of Istanbul. Needless to say, I was super excited to tell people I made it to Asia while abroad.

We wanted to engage in the Turkish culture so took a day to visit all the major sites. Some included the famous Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia. Since Istanbul is primarily Muslim, the Islamic call of prayer played loudly throughout the city five times each day. It was extremely cool. We also spent time in the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market. These were incredibly fun and gave us the chance to interact with the locals. My mom and I already stuck out like sore thumbs considering we were the only two tall blondes in the city. Hence, we gathered lots of attention from the already persistent workers who tried to convince us their shop offered “the best deals” in the Bazaar. Istanbul is known for its gold, jewelry, spices, and carpets. Either the workers are very good or we are just easily persuaded because we left with a lot of new jewelry. My mom was almost convinced to buy what she considered to be the perfect rug for her beach house… until I reminded her we haven’t even rebuilt it yet!

Our trip to Istanbul would not have been complete if it were not for our accommodations at the Neorion Hotel. Every night there was a rooftop reception to watch the sunset and drink complementary wine. It was the perfect transition into night and offered the prettiest views I have ever seen in my life. Another great thing about the hotel was the amazing staff, specifically our new friend Elvan. She literally made our trip complete and provided us with great advice on things to do and places to eat. We enjoyed dinner at an outdoor “complex” called Reina that consisted of six other restaurants and turned into a nightclub around midnight. It was situated on the water and we casually watched huge ships sail down the Bosphorus Strait while we ate. The best part of our night… making friends with our waiter. The entire night we were convinced he was the secret twin brother of Joey Tribbiani (aka Matt LeBlanc in Friends). I am pretty sure that is the only thing we talked about from our first drink until dessert ended. The staff googled “Joey” and from that point forward started calling him Joey too. After reviewing our photos the next morning it was quite clear the two bottles of wine we drank played a significant role in that resemblance! It was by far the best restaurant I have ever been to and I would love to be able to go back someday. I could not have asked for a better way to end the nearly five months I spent overseas. I am now back home in Ann Arbor and while I miss Europe like crazy, I am so incredibly thankful for the time I spent abroad.

 

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