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Question

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Five day trip to surprise husband for birthday/anniversary in March. From the DC area. Ideas: Cartagena, Colombia; Dublin, Ireland; Istanbul, Turkey. Any others? My only real constraints are $ (don't want airfare over $1000/person) and time: I don't want to spend our whole time flying -- so no Asia; Australia; Africa. Adventure a plus. Would love your thoughts! Thanks!

Posted on Jan 07, 2012

3 Answers

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Istanbul is fantastic, and while one could easily spend a lot more time there without getting bored, a five-day stay would be well worth the effort. I've only been there in April, which is a great time to visit both because of the weather and because of the annual tulip festival. I suspect March might be a little on the cool side, but certainly no colder than the D.C. area. I recommend staying in the Sultanahmet district, where you can walk to the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Spice Bazaar, Topkapi Palace, etc., and still access much of the rest of the sprawling city by train and ferry. Lots of affordable accommodation available in old Ottoman houses. If you do stay in Sultanahmet, set aside at least one day to travel across the Golden Horn: Dolmabahce, the Galata Tower, and a walk down the Caddesi Istiklal should not be missed. And the do-it-yourself cruise up the Bosporous on the municipal ferry to Anadolu Kavagi, with a hike up the hill to the ruins of an old Genoese fortress, makes for a great half-day trip.

Posted Jan 07, 2012

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Pete - I booked Istanbul! SO excited. Do you have any specific recommendations for b & bs in the Sultanahmet district? I'd like something within walking distance of major sites that has a little bit of exotic charm. A view would be amazing, too. Any insights would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.

Posted on Jan 21, 2012

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In April 2010, I stayed for ten days at the Deniz Konak (http://www.denizhouses.com/). Clean, comfortable, friendly English-speaking staff, good (but not great) breakfasts, and an ideal location for exploring Sultanahmet by foot. A pleasant five-minute walk from the Blue Mosque / Hagia Sophia / Topkapi. It's a converted 19th-Century Ottoman house in a neighborhood that is tourist-oriented--thus lots of options for food and drink--but still retains a very local feel, so I think this matches your desire for exotic charm. The dining area of the hotel is on the top floor, which has small outside patios atop the building providing views toward both the Bosporous and the city in the other direction. Neither view is particularly stunning in a postcard-like way, but you get a strong feel for the city as well as a relatively quiet place for peaceful respite, especially during the evening call to prayer. The first half of this video was taken from my room: http://vimeo.com/15964020

I would definitely stay there again, although I think there are probably several comparable alternatives in the vicinity. If it's important to you, the Deniz Konak does have free Wi-Fi, although the signal isn't strong and you might find it necessary to sit in their cozy reception area to get it to work. They are affiliated with Backpackers Travel, and thus well connected to set you up with tours, ground transportation, etc., should you desire. Here's more info on them: http://www.turkeytravelplanner.com/tourop/bakpak/.

Have a great trip!

Posted on Jan 21, 2012

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Pete - I cannot thank you enough for the recommendation. Will definitely check it out. I am extremely excited about this trip and reading all kinds of things about Byzantium and Constantine on the sly. Best, Elizabeth

Posted on Jan 22, 2012

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I loved Switzerlafor so some adventure but it's a bit expensive traveling around within the country. I enjoyed Scotland a bit more than Dublin but we listened to some great live music in Dublin. I just got back from Costa Rica and that was a great adventure destination.  

Posted Jan 07, 2012

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