By this time on Saturday I expect to be enjoying a view of the Bosphorous with some form of kebab in my hand. Yes! We booked in March and the time is finally here: we’ll be holidaying in Istanbul for ten glorious days. I wish we were taking Abroozi but he’ll be in good hands with our friend SD (her family) and her dog, Simba – Abroozi’s best friend.
It’s been two years since our last international holiday – I’m amazed I convinced the DH that Abroozi would be OK without us for ten days. He had vowed never to leave our Abroozi again after our 7 day trip to Malaysia in 2012. But the lure of antique shops, flea markets, spice bazaars and awesome food was too much. Plus the sentiment, ‘We’ve worked hard this year, we deserve a holiday’ doesn’t hurt.
While preparing for Malaysia we relied more on travel blogs than guide books. Although we did buy a guide book – totally unnecessary I realised later – our internet research and travel wit were more than enough to guide us through three cities of that wonderful country. But we weren’t as technically equipped as we could have been (no 3G for instance) and our GPS and over-reliance on there being wifi everywhere to access our Google maps was a big mistake – one we are not going to repeat in Istanbul. Sadly the Istanbul Eats App (bible of the culinary backstreets of istanbul) is too expensive.
Maps, 3G, wifi and GPS I believe are essential for travel to a new country. My dear sister has given us a guide book and paper map from her travels to Turkey, so that’s going in as a back up in case all tech fails us. We’ve downloaded a few free apps (trip advisor, my destination), even borrowed my mum’s Ipad Mini (How i dislike Apple products but more on that another time) but Google maps is vital.
But our overlord masters at Google have gone and messed with a good thing. Don’t you just hate that! Windows XP was just fine before Windows Vista and Google My Maps was so much more versatile than the new My Places which doesn’t have half the features of its predecessor. I’m all for progress as long as it doesn’t mess with the good things of the past. Google My Places have the forums abuzz with a number of irate travellers.
I just want an App where I can access ‘my’ google maps (with my own way points) offline with GPS capability and FREE. There is no downloading of Google maps for Turkey for offline use (whether that’s GOogle or the country that decides I’m not sure) and you can’t cache your own way points/my maps (they removed that facility with the new Google Maps) for any country. And you can’t view the new Google My Places on Ipads. After much trawling of forums I found Locus Free (or Pro to pay for) which claims to have all the features we need (offline google maps with our own way points). The test will be when we get to Turkey. Someone in the silicon valleys of the world please make an APP for travellers! I’ll even pay for it… Till then we’ve done some offline mapping, storing of lat-longs, even screen grabs of My Maps…sigh…we’ll know when we get there. I’m told the Turkish people are very helpful (although their language is bloody complicated) so we hope that good ol’ friendly citizens will be on hand. Plus I’ve got a man who specialised in navigation so I’m not worried.
You learn from your travels. Ever since Athens when I was 12 years old and dragging my overpacked bag across a busy road and the strap broke, my father has drilled it in to our skulls : never travel with a bag you can’t carry yourself (and won’t break). For Malaysia we travelled with ruck sacks and had to borrow a suitcase because we bought so much stuff. This time we’ve researched the flea markets and know we’ll be buying plenty; so in an unprecedented travel move we bought two ginormous suitcases. Being in just one apartment in one city (thanks to Air BnB) the whole ten days means no lugging it around. These suitcases are bigger than the one I brought back from London with 6 years worth of stuff!
In Malaysia we relied on ATMs and we racked up some crazy bank charges. So we’ve got ICICI’s travel card with no charges to swipe and very low charges (US$1.50 (Rs90)) per withdrawal at an ATM (and free minutes on a Matrix calling card). India, a land of a billion people is where the concept of privacy is non-existant. In true Vellore/Vizag/small community style, we had to sign a register for the travel cards at the bank and saw the names of all the people before us, most of whom we knew, who had taken travel cards, with the bank lady voluntarily dispensing information on how many dollars and how many times people we knew had recharged their cards while on holiday abroad. I wonder who’ll be hearing about our expenses!
Apart from money and APPS we mustn’t forget about the preparations for Abroozi’s ‘vacation’: 15kgs of beef pressure cooked, 30 eggs bought, 5kgs of dal made. All frozen and ready for the next ten days. And Whats App downloaded to keep in touch with his shenanigans. If a vacation is time away from your own home to have new experiences elsewhere, then Abroozi is on a vacation of his own (with Simba and family). In fact, this holiday would not have been possible without SD’s generous offer to look after Abroozi while we holiday abroad. No amount of spices and Turkish Delight will be able to repay what she is doing for us…but it’ll have to do. Yes, we are sad about leaving him behind but knowing that he’s with a mother as paranoid as I am about our dogs, makes me feel more relaxed and excited about this trip.
So you’ll be wishing us ‘Gule Gule’ or Bon Voyage and we’ll be saying MERHABA! when we land at Ataturk airport.
More to come from the land of the Turks…