At Sulaymaniye mosque

It’s been a year since Istanbul

At Sulaymaniye mosque

About a year ago, by some sheer luck, I was whisked to Istanbul, Turkey. That destination that always tops every traveler’s bucket list, Istanbul is ranked the world’s most popular travel destination, surpassing perennial favorites like London and Rome. Stepping into Istanbul is like stepping into another world – century old buildings stand near modern skyscrapers and despite the modernization of this tourist destination, the remains of Istanbul’s opulent past remained intact.

We walked through these cobblestone street and saw colorful buildings lined side by side.


Cafes I wanted to check out (even though I really don’t drink coffee). Unfortunately, like any other press/media trip, there was no time for that. Our itinerary was hectic and we kind of jump from one place to another. I’d like to do slow traveling to Istanbul next time. You know, travel for the sake of traveling.

in the streets of Istanbul

Istanbul in November was beautiful. It was autumn and the air is crisp and cool and filled with the smell of roasted chestnuts, a very popular street food.


The Turkish people are very proud of their country. There were many flags all around the city.


We explored Istanbul by foot – a lot that I had to wear (oversized) slippers (not mine but my travel buddy’s) on the last day because my feet would’ve died on me already. Being a very popular travel destination, there is nothing serene about the main streets of Istanbul. The traffic is heavy on most roads on weekdays, just like any other major city in the world, really.


We merged into the crowd near the Egyptian bazaar. All the while I was thinking as I was busy taking photos, what if I get lost in this crowd of people? We weren’t able to explore the Egyptian bazaar because it was too crowded. It could be just like any other bazaar but then, I still wanted to see what’s inside.

traffic in Istanbul

We saw amazing sunsets along the way, on our way to the airport. It was our last few moments in Istanbul and the sky kind of gave us a grand closure to our short trip.


Istanbul was fun, especially if you’re sharing the trip with friends, old and new. (This is my friend Sheila of AB and Me blog – great travel buddy!) It’s always nice to do silly things…with someone else!

street scenes Istanbul

Istanbul was cold in November and we were all wrapped up at Bakirkoy, one of Istanbul’s famous shopping districts. I really liked the company of these ladies. They made the exhausting (enjoyable but cannot deny it was exhausting) trip so much easier.

in bakirkoy

Interesting people you see around, locals or tourists alike. The guy on the left was insisting we take a sip of Cay or Turkish tea. He looked right through me to convince me that Turkish tea is the best. I said ok and walked away, LOL! The photo on the right is most probably a tourist taking a selfie near the Hagiya Sofia with a (very!) grownup son in a baby(?!) carrier.

street people local tourist

I’ve only been to Istanbul for three days and yet it leaves me wanting for more. It’s been a year but I am still thinking about it.

in the streets of Istanbul

After all, there are so many places to explore – for one, I haven’t been to Istiklal Caddesi, the perfect metaphor for 21st-century Turkey, the busy Taksim Square, the symbolic heart of modern Istanbul. Then I want to walk across the Galata bridge at sunset to experience Istanbul at its most magical when the historic Galata Tower is surrounded by shrieking seagulls and see the mosques atop the seven hills of the city. Hmmm, I guess I’ve been reading too much travel guide books!

Behind the scenes of airplane food & jumbo jets up close

Turkish airlines

So I wrote about the touristy part of my trip to Istanbul a few months ago {and still reeling with so many beautiful memories of Istanbul} and left out the ‘technical’ part of the trip: visiting Turkish Do & Co and Turkish Airlines Flight Academy.

Turkish Do & Co is operating nine gourmet kitchens all over Turkey. Over 60 national and international airlines are catered from these locations. While Turkish Airlines represents 70% of the sales, British Airways, Air France, Asiana Airlines, Emirates are also among its wide range of customer portfolio.

Think about 150,000 meals being prepared in this huge hub. Every. Single. Day.

Turkish Do & Co

Turkish Do & Co
What surprised me was the fact that despite the heavy volume of work, most of the preparations are done by hand. Manual peeling and cutting of apples, for example for apple pies, etc.

Turkish Do & Co

Turkish Do & Co

What’s interesting was that the facility had mock rooms replicating actual part of Turkish Airlines’ carriers. Here at the business class section, we get to try “airplane food” as prepared by Turkish Airlines’ flying chefs – The “Flying Chef” is part of the crew and is responsible for the perfect product presentation in the Business Class on board and the culinary assistance of the flight attendants.

Turkish Do & Co

Photo credit: Sheila, my travel partner

It was a great insight into what goes on behind the scenes of the airline food industry. Next up: Turkish Airlines Flight Academy!

Turkish Airlines Flight Academy

Cabin personnel undergo training during emergency, like water landing. I am glad they didn’t ask us to experience this…although that would have been cool too!

Turkish Airlines’ Flight Training Academy was founded in 1998 to provide training and consultancy services to companies, organizations and individuals in the civil aviation sector. Experienced and expert instructors train cockpit and cabin personnel at the Flight Training Center, which provides flight training of all kinds to International Civil Aviation standards.

Candidates for pilot and cabin crew receive training in simulators exactly as if they were on real airplanes at the Flight Training Center. We were excited that we could experience it as well but unfortunately, all the flight simulators were being used at that time.

Turkish Airlines hangar

How many have you been into a hangar? Not ever? Me too until Turkish Airlines took us to the hangar at the Turkish Airlines Flight Academy. A hangar is where these big jumbo jets are maintained, checked and repaired. Unfortunately, taking photos inside the hangar was not allowed due to safety issues so we only took photos outside.

Read more about my trip to Turkey here.

I was invited by Turkish Airlines along with other bloggers from the GCC (Dubai, Qatar, Egypt and Kuwait) for this Istanbul bloggers trip.  All views and opinions are mine.

Istanbul in November


A friend of mine posted a lot of photos of snow in Turkey in Facebook recently. Istanbul was covered in snow that I almost didn’t recognize it. I was just in Istanbul in November but except for the tall standing minarets of the Hagia Sofya, I couldn’t make out where the pics were taken by my friend. White winter can change the scene, definitely.

Turkey was glorious in November. Or at least when I was there towards the end of November.


People basked in the sun at the plaza. It was wee bit cool at about 14C but the sun was out.


Even the cats of Istanbul loved the weather, I think.  One of the interesting things I found in the streets of Istanbul are cats and dogs. There are plenty of them. And it seems Istanbul loves its street cats too. They are not regarded as pests  – rather feline neighbors – and plastic containers of food are often left for the animals by locals. Legal Nomads has a great post about the history of cats in Istanbul.

istanbul cat

At one part of the Topkapi Palace, the Bosphorus was quite a sight.



I love the colors of Istanbul’s sunny winter. You can see a lot of these food stalls in the streets selling freshly squeezed juices!


The guidebooks said that November weather in Istanbul is unpredictable. But on the day where we needed to be out and about to be the typical tourists, the weather Gods were on our side.

inside topkapi

I loved the distinct fall colors on the trees. It made me miss the four seasons – something we don’t experience here in Dubai.


The best time to visit Istanbul is September to November. That’s when the crowds diminish, the rates drop, and weather is spectacular. This three-month window is sandwiched by the too-hot summer and too-cold winter. Also one very important issue that might be looming in your minds regarding travel to Istanbul is safety. There had been civil unrest in the city some months back but when we were there in November, the whole atmosphere in Istanbul was very peaceful. I never felt unsafe or inconvenienced not even for a moment. But do check your local travel advisory bureaus before going, if that makes you feel more confident and safer to travel.

Disclaimer: I was invited by Turkish Airlines for a short trip to Istanbul. Turkish Airlines offers daily direct flight from Dubai to Istanbul (it’s only 5 hours!). All opinions are my own.


Istanbul here I come!


When this post goes live, I’ll probably be up in the air aboard Turkish Airlines, bound for Istanbul. I’m part of a group of bloggers/media invited for a trip to the historical city of Istanbul (and report back what we’ve seen there or Tweet/Instagram live from the location).

How cool is it?

As of this writing, my husband has called me 5 minutes ago to ask what cake I like? Chocolate? Red Velvet? Plain old vanilla? No, he is not celebrating my going-away-for-the-weekend. It’s actually my birthday on the 22nd (Friday) and it’s the first time in years that I’m away from family.

In fact…maybe it’s the first time that I’m celebrating it alone. So we’re having a little celebration at home, in advance.

No biggie, though but what’s big deal for me (still is) is Benjamin. Yeah, punch me for I am that kind of mother who paces back and forth trying to make a decision to go or not to go, convinces herself it’s ok to go, decides to go and then feels guilty of going.

I’m 100% female. I have a fickle mind. And then, I am also a mother. I worry. I feel guilty when I spend time for myself.

I know I’m going to enjoy this little break and Benjamin will be alright and perhaps the thought that he might not even remember he was mom-less for three days when he grows up is calming me a bit…but I digress. I know I will terribly miss the little guy I’ve been sleeping with for the past two years or so. How can a hotel pillow ever replace that?

Oh shut up, I tell myself over and over again. He will be alright, he will be alright. On the other hand, maybe I am not going to be alright – you know, weaning him suddenly like this. I’d have cabbage leaves under my bra in the middle of Turkish winter.


Even then, I’ll be a proper grown up and keep my cool so stay tuned for photos and stories of the trip by subscribing to this blog (enter your email address at the box at the top of the right sidebar), following me on Twitter, Instagram and Liking the Sandier Pastures Facebook page!

Istanbul is calling


Next weekend, I will be in Istanbul.

Turkish Airlines, Europe’s best airline in 2013,  is sponsoring a group of bloggers/media in the GCC to see the beautiful, historic city with a side trip to Bosphorus. I’m totally excited and very honored to be part of this group! It will be only for three days (including my birthday on the 22nd!) but I’m already excited for this little break and wonderful photo opportunities.

I’ve always been fascinated by Turkey since I took interest in history: strategically located on the Bosphorus peninsula between the Balkans and Anatolia, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, Istanbul was successively the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, and the Ottoman Empire and has been associated with major events in political history, religious history and art history for more than 2,000 years.

So this trip…while I’m very ecstatic, I have my set of worries because you know me…”worry” is my middle name.

Weather forecast for Turkey at this time of the year says cool temps between 10-14C – definitely colder than Dubai! And bam, I have no ‘warm’ clothing! What to pack then? I have light cardigans and a winter coat (which I used in Japan) –  I don’t know if the light cardigans are too light or if the winter coat is too hot. Either way, I’m bringing both. My other worry is Benjamin – I am sure that he will be alright, he will be in safe environment at home and loving arms of his carer + 2 other backups (my friend and cousin) but it’s certain that there will be crying…from both of us. I am not even sure if I can sleep well thinking about him and how my body is going to cope up this weaning period (engorged, painful chest parts are more like it).

Fellow breastfeeding moms have encouraged me to go.

“You’ve done enough service…two years!”

“He will be alright. You need a little mommy break.”

This might be the perfect chance to finally wean Benjamin who at two, is still breastfeeding (for comfort, mainly at night).

It took me days to gather all my mommy courage (I’m soft on tough love) and said yes to this trip. I will be gone for 3 days and 2 nights so it shouldn’t be that bad? I’ll be video chatting with the kids as soon as I land, I am curious how Benjamin would react!

Stay tuned for photos and stories of the trip by subscribing to this blog (enter your email address at the box at the top of the right sidebar)!

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