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The tour group ate lunch at a place that’s open just for tourists and tours. The food is marginal and the only beverage included with the meal is water and every other beverage is exorbitantly expensive. I had water. We sat at tables of 8-10 and had to force conversation with people we either didn’t care to know or someone who didn’t speak our language. Or we remained silent (that’s what I chose). The guides all sat outside and smoked whilst they waited for us to finish eating. Everyone smokes. Up a storm. I wanted to go outside immediately since it was so warm and sunny but if I wanted to wait in the courtyard at the tables I was smoked out. And if I left the confines of the restaurant and its courtyard, I was accosted by merchants trying to sell me stuff. The best part of the whole thing is that it was across from the Marmara Sea – – a beautiful bit of scenery, especially with the sun. So I waited outside in a corner away from the smoke and watched the sea. Then they told us which bus to board. “You! Lady! You get on that bus!” So I’d board, find my spot in the back left of the bus, and wait to go to the next destination. In a way I liked being shuttled around, not thinking at all and not feeling the need to talk to people.

Next we went to other parts of the city: a little mosque near the Spice Bazaar. Beauty everywhere! And it doesn’t hurt that the sun was shining brightly. Here are some photos around the little mosque.

The tour ended with a visit to the Topkapi Palace. As well as a royal residence, the palace was a setting for state occasions and royal entertainments. It is now a major tourist attraction and contains important holy relics of the Muslim world including the Prophet Muhammed’s cloak and sword. The Topkapı Palace is among the monuments contained within the “Historic Areas of Istanbul”, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, and is described as “the best example[s] of ensembles of palaces […] of the Ottoman period.” From the end of the 17th century the Topkapı Palace gradually lost its importance as the Sultans preferred to spend more time in their new palaces along the Bosporus. In 1856, Sultan Abdül Mecid I decided to move the court to the newly built Dolmabahçe Palace (I saw this on a different tour), the first European-style palace in the city. Some functions, such as the imperial treasury, the library, and the mint were retained in the Topkapı Palace.

Following the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1921, the Topkapı Palace was transformed by a government decree dated April 1924 into a museum of the imperial era. The Topkapı Palace Museum is administered by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The palace complex has hundreds of rooms and chambers, but only the most important are accessible to the public today. The complex is guarded by officials of the ministry as well as armed guards of the Turkish military. The palace includes many fine examples of Ottoman architecture. It contains large collections of porcelain, robes, weapons, shields, armor, Ottoman miniatures, Islamic calligraphic manuscripts and murals, as well as a display of Ottoman treasures and jewelry.

It’s a beautiful place. The grounds are gorgeous with an excellent view of the Bosporus. I saw many of the things mentioned above; it was beautiful. But I preferred to walk outside on the grounds and to look at the people and the views.

After the tour ended and I was delivered to my hotel, I decided to head over to the Ritz Carlton and enjoy some high living in the bar there. It was beautiful and I had a great experience sitting in the bar blogging, listening to music, watching the view on the Bosporus, and being treated like a queen! That’s always nice, temporarily.