December 31, 2015: Happy New Year from Istanbul

As always it is very hard to figure out where one post should end and the next begin when you are dealing with things like “up all night” overnight flights and such.  We were in the air for three hours when midnight rolled around making it New Year’s Eve.  The girls managed to sleep for a good portion of the flight and watched shows for a good chunk of it, too.  Dominica could not sleep at all because it was so warm.  She was feeling awful the entire way.  Almost sick the whole time.

During the flight I managed to watch a lot of movies.  I watched enough movies that my eyes and ears were in pain from the close up screen and the cheap headphones.  I watched several movies that I have been wanting to see like Anchorman 2, Blades of Glory, Vacation and Kingsmen.  International flights are great for this and I get in nearly all of my desired movie watching by doing this.  It kind of works out.  It also works out great that Dominica watches completely different movies than I do and gets to see lots of films that I have no desire to have to sit through.  So it is a double bonus for me.  Liesl watched Transylvania twice and then watched Transylvania 2 twice.  Liesl sat in the middle and Luciana sat on the other end of the row beyond Liesl so I did not have good visibility into what shows she was choosing.

We had two meals served on our flight, both dinner.  One was very early on served late in the evening last night.  The other was towards the end of the flight today when it was a late lunch in our arriving time zone.  All of the food was excellent and they had food and drinks available “anytime” that we wanted. There were two chefs on board!  Other than the oppressive heat, everything was awesome on this flight.

We were surprised when we heard the captain say that we were landing in negative one temperatures and that we would be seeing some snow.  It never occurred to us that it would be snowing in Istanbul, it always seems like such a warm place.  But when we came in for the landing, there it was, everything was covered in snow and a good amount of snow coming down, too.

Every flight after Houston on this trip ended up having no gangway but instead we had to take buses to and from the planes out on the tarmac.  So landing in Istanbul meant that we had to walk down icy cold metal stairs outside with our six carry ons and two small children.  Luckily everyone had coats except for me.  Might was checked.  I was fine, though.  The wind was not so bad, but it was very cold.  Especially cold after having been in Panama and Nicaragua all summer!  This was a pretty big shock.

We got into the airport at Ataturk and learned that many flights had been delayed and cancelled due to the weather.  We looked at the board, saw a flight to Athens and ran to that one.  It was the wrong one, though.  Had our flight not been delayed, we would have missed it!  That was a close one.  We looked and looked at the boards trying to find our correct flight.  Eventually we found it.  It was delayed, and then cancelled.  Dominica had to scramble to cancel our hotel, our ground transportation in Athens and to move our Aegean flight from Athens to Chania until tomorrow evening.

We had no idea what to do.  Ataturk is a massive and very packed airport.  This is very much the crossroads of the world!  I have never been anywhere that was so completely cosmopolitan.  Just reading the flight boards was something.  Flights to so many cities and countries that I have never seen flights to before.  Istanbul is one of the world’s connection cities.  In the heart of everything.

We had to deal with a help line to find out what was happening with flights.  That took at least an hour.  The girls and I camped out while Dominica went through the line.  The line was crazy and erupted into a fight at one point.  A crowd gathered and people were filming.  I thought that it was probably Dominica until I realized that the fight was in Turkish.  Dominica managed to make friends with some people traveling home to Tehran in the line.  She got to hang out with them for a while.

We stopped by the luggage desk and made sure that our luggage was going on to Athens directly and that we did not need to pick it up or anything.  We are very concerned that this is going to cause our luggage to be lost.

Air Turkey got us tickets for a flight to Athens at noon tomorrow and sent us down to another level to talk to a hotel desk about getting accommodations for the night.  We went downstairs and got into the hotel line which stretch for about four hours.  We put in an hour or two in the line, mostly with Dominica waiting in line while I sat with the girls.  While we were waiting in this very long line a kind stranger came up and gave Liesl a sandwich for her and Luciana to share.  This worked out great as they were very hungry and after I pulled off the meat, they loved the sandwich.

hotel line
Dominica in the Hotel Line at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul

Dominica was very worried that there would be no hotels or if there was that it would be so late that we would not get any sleep and that tomorrow would be just horrible.  So she called around and found the five star WOW Istanbul very nearby and booked us a room there.  We got out of line, grabbed a five Euro cab (they do not use Euros in Istanbul but they are common enough here) and got the hotel which turned out to be quite amazing.

The WOW Istanbul was just what we needed.  A gorgeous hotel that took care of everything.  We got a nice, big king room and decided to take it easy just getting room service for the night.  We did not have the energy to even go down to the restaurant to eat.  The food was very good and we managed to have a very authentic Turkish dinner, as far as hotel delivery can go, while in Istanbul.  We are so glad to be back to the world of good and healthy food.  Boy have we missed it.

WOW Istanbul
View from the WOW Istanbul Hotel

It was off to sleep pretty quickly for us.  There was nothing for us to do and there was not enough time for us to get as much sleep as we really wanted.  We all had basically no sleep last night so just wanted to get to bed and pass out.

The room was pretty warm so we actually slept with the window open, even though it was snowing outside.  The room never got that cool, but it was comfortable.  Both girls slept in the bed with us.