It really just seemed like getting here was going to be a huge pain in the ass. And it was. At precisely 7 a.m. on the morning of the day we were supposed to leave for Italy on Lufthansa, DS called me and said she'd just received an email from United, through whom I'd booked, saying that our Lufthansa flight was cancelled. No offer of rebooking, no automatic reschedule. I'd watched this activity the last day or so and thought for sure that it was over. No beans. So I leapt out of bed and in a sleepy stupor dialed two different United numbers on two different phones. One I was told I'd be on hold for 19 minutes, the other went right through. I spoke with the delightful Daphne who fairly quickly booked us on Turkish Air, leaving at nearly midnight Boston time (instead of 5 p.m.) on a 9 hour flight to Istanbul (instead of 7 to Frankfurt) with a 6 hour layover in Istanbul (instead of 90 minutes in Frankfurt) and arriving into Rome at 10:50 pm (instead of 9 a.m.). We had, in effect, lost a whole day, but were lucky to be arriving ahead of the tour. Reading Twitter and Facebook, I realized just how lucky we were to find out so early.
So once I'd called to notify and change what had to be changed to accommodate the new departure/arrival time, I spent most of Friday just killing time at home and playing with the cats. And then it started to snow.
Our driver ended up being a half hour late and deathly sick to boot. If either one of us gets sick in the next few days we might just hunt him down and shoot him. He was also ridiculously antagonistic about what a great start to our vacation we were having. A$$hole. I will be thinking twice about using this car service again.
We arrived at Logan for a trouble-free checkin, we walked to the restaurant for a nice quiet sit down meal and found that they were just closing. Yes, had we been there a half hour earlier we would have eaten (thanks, driver). At this point I think we were both waiting for the other shoe to drop and something else to go wrong or permanently derail the trip. I ate a mishmash of unappetizing fast food in the food court and then we stumbled into Vino Volo, where we experienced two flights of wines, the first being "Roman Holiday", how apropos.
After a half hour delay for de-icing, we boarded Turkish Air and I was astounded to find out how clean and spacious it was. It was reminiscent of flying pre-9/11, when you had real silverware, amenities like blankets, pillows, toothbrush and paste and free booze. The legroom was astounding I inflated up my neck pillow and got a solid 5 hours or so of sleep. I missed dinner, which DS said was stellar. She had ricotta ravioli, tabouli and red velvet cake, all of which she loved. I woke for breakfast which was scrambled eggs and fried potato slices, orange juice and coffee. I made up a sandwich from the hot roll and cheese for DS, who woke too late for a tray.
Istanbul Airport is more modern than I expected but it is a bit limited in its offerings. Lots of high end shops but not a lot of low end shops for junk souvenirs like we were looking for. We immediately jumped on a turkish ice cream stand, where we had a cup of mixed vanilla, chocolate and pistachio ice cream that was to die for. Very gooey and sticky but very strong flavors. We walked around a bit and killed time until we found dinner.
We both wanted to try something Turkish and there weren't too many options for that believe it or not, with the food court full of Burger King and Sbarro or similar type places. We ended up in a sit down restaurant (not fast food) and both of us had Turkish ravioli, which were tiny little pillows filled with what we think was lamb, with a tomato sauce and yogurt on top. Yogurt seems to go on everything, according to the menu and the fact it was on every tray we were served on the plane. We also had parmesan croquettes rolled in almonds and flash fried, which were interesting, and each of us had a large strawberry rum cocktail in a jar, which tided us over until we flew.
Both of us came to the realization that the IStanbul detour was for a reason. Both of us were intrigued by the food we ate and the culture we saw. DS in particular was amazed by the amount of prayer she saw, with several men stepping aside in the departure lounges to go through the ritual of prayer. I think between the flight itself and what we saw in the 6 hour layover, Turkey just raised itself up both of our bucket lists.
The flight from Istanbul to Rome was uneventful but after 15 hours you really just want it over. 2 hours and 20 minutes later, we zipped off the plane, blew through passport control (we did not get stamped in Istanbul) and picked up our luggage. Emiliano was our driver and apparently was a long lost relative of Mario Andretti, as we clocked him several times pushing 95 mph (if my metric to English conversion is right) and we were at our hotel by midnight and in bed by 12:30.
Our room is large with two twin beds that are as DS says, "uncomfortably close" but we both got a solid 7 hours of sleep in before being woken by rain. And so the holiday begins.