We were up around 7:30, after finally a good night's sleep. (Hopefully it was unrelated to finally being able to drink). We leisurely got up and ready, in no hurry. We ate breakfast after 9, and got out around 9:45. Today we had no tours of any sort; it was totally on us to do anything and everything. We walked over the Galata Bridge, and turned left towards Hagia Sophia. The road was very crowded, and we were walking faster than the cars were moving. We realized we didn't do too much walking here last time, and so we were walking through some neighborhoods new to us. Along the way we stopped in some stores here and there. Near Topkapi Palace, a guy tried to engage us in conversation, theoretically to let us know where to go. But we pretty much knew what we were doing (we had an internet package in Istanbul, and therefore Maps), and were very gun shy after shoe shine person day before. He said we were going the wrong way, but we weren't, as it was 6 of one, half-dozen of other, as two roads split apart and came back together.

Where the roads connected (right between the Hagia Sophia and the Cistern), we decided to go to the Cistern first, then Hagia Sophia. Just outside the cistern, there was a person trying to sell us carpet on the way to the entry. We, quite truthfully, have no desire for any carpet at all - that's just a magnet for our dogs to pee on. Inside, the cistern was relatively empty. And, after about 5 minutes, we realized there was very little water. There was construction going on, and they must be doing some work requiring the water to be drained. Unlike 2014, it was easy to get around, with the exception being by the "weeping" column and the Medusa statues. By the statues, there would be some calm periods, and then there would be "hurricanes" of Chinese tourists, all taking selfies and generally being completely oblivious to personal space or orderly taking pictures. Crystal noted they are "viewing" the entire experience through their iPhone lens, not their own eyes. That reminded Justin of something he read before heading to Oregon for the total eclipse in August, which is to make sure to look up every now and then, and look at things with your own eyes.

Since we had no guide, we just waited them out, got our photos, and then headed out. Across the street at Hagia Sophia, every other person was a guide trying to convince us to use them. Their sales pitch was that we could skip the line, but since the line had only about 10 people in it, it was not the greatest pitch. Inside, we just meandered around, as we'd been before and generally knew what we were looking at. There was still the giant scaffolding on the north(?) side. There was also some other stuff under construction too, and little stickers and paper notes taped up around the building. While there were lots of people, it was not nearly as many as in 2014.

As with the cistern, we just had to make sure to avoid the hurricanes of Chinese tourists that would come through every so often. It was kind of nice to be able to set own schedule, as we stayed in certain places longer and skipped over others. It was around noon when we left, and we couldn't decide on lunch or Little Hagia Sophia. So we walked south towards Little Hagia Sophia, and kept our eye out for food. Along the way we walked through the hippodrome, saw the Egyptian obelisk. It got much quieter just even a couple blocks south of the hippodrome.

Little Hagia Sophia was empty. We were literally the only guests for a few minutes, until one other couple came in. A guy showed us around, and indicated that all the carpet was gone because when strong rains came through recently, there was standing water inside the building. As we had read, this was an off-the-beaten-path gem, and it was a really nice place to visit; we were very happy to see it. As we were walking around inside, we heard prayer calls, so the guy told us to go upstairs really quick and get our last photos, then we needed to vacate. We did exactly that, and left just as people were showing up for mid-day prayer.

We wanted to go different direction, so we turned left (west) in search of food. In just a block or two we found Ziya Baba Slow Food, where all but one outdoor table was full (the picture below is after we left). We took this as a sign, and sat down at that table. Crystal got an Adana Kebab Wrap, Justin got a mixed kebab plate, and we split some fries. We also got a tea and a Coke, and even with tip, the total was about $16. For taste per dollar, this meal rivaled the Lemon Grass dinner we had in Bangkok in 2005 - we will remember it for a long time. The street was very narrow, and whilst eating we saw several instances where cars or trucks had to bring in their side mirrors to pass.

After lunch, we walked along the local streets, stopping in here or there to look for tea cups. The road was nice, but traffic was not, so eventually we turned north to head back for hippodrome area. Our next stop was the archaelogical museums next to Topkapi Palace. On the way we walked right past the Blue Mosque, deciding against heading back in. We wondered how good we've had it over the years on our travels that we had the ability to say "Nah, that's okay" when walking past the Blue Mosque, and what that meant going forward a few years where many of the places we visit won't have the same cachet as places we've already been blessed to visit. Hopefully we won't get jaded.

At the archaeological museum, our first stop had stuff from the time of antiquities, including stuff from Babylon, Egypt, Persia, etc. Sadly (or amusingly) the piece that stood out the most was a tile painting that looked just like Charlie the Unicorn, but from multiple millenia ago. Perhaps Charlie is a time traveler as well. Our second stop was all ceramics and tiles, with a ton of turquoise tile, which we had no luck finding in San Diego - go figure. Our third stop was the bathroom; from the outside it wasn't clear that this building housed only some offices and some restaurants. The fourth stop was full of different crypts from different places and times. Fifth and last was a mish-mash of different stuff, in an exhibit that itself was very dated, 1960s or 1970s if we had to guess. We were at the museums for a couple hours, and we were kind of museumed out by the end of it, so decided against walking or catching a cab to the Chora Museum (a couple miles away to the northwest).

Instead, we went searching for rooftop bars. Our first stop was Omar Terrace, mainly because of the name. On the top level there were glass lights everywhere, and both of us (especially Justin) had to watch our head. We kept hoping for it to get warmer and for the sky to clear up, but that wasn't happening. If anything, it was getting more gray. Nevertheless, we were very much being back in Istanbul and taking in the sights. After grabbing one drink, we headed downstairs and went to find the next stop. But right by the Omar Terrace we stopped in a store, where Crystal got her tea cup, and we both got a nice conversation with the proprietor. As with many people we ran into, he really liked the USA, really disliked 45.

The second bar stop was Cihannuma, which was completely open - no windows or bars in the way. But the drizzle was coming down a bit harder. It was windy also, so the awnings were turning into kites. The server kept rolling them back a little (so there would be less wind resistance), and eventually he asked us all to go inside. On the inside, rather than facing east towards the historical buildings, we were facing north over the Golden Horn. We probably could see our hotel across the Horn, but weren't sure exactly what it looked like. After about 20 minutes the weather picked up a bit, the window next to us flew open, and everything on our table got knocked over. The staff got things cleaned up, and we got new drinks - eventually. With everything else going on, Crystal's wine took awhile to gte to the table. All told, we had only 2 drinks in over 2 hours there - perhaps that was for the best.

When we headed out, we saw a restaurant with "barbecue" in it, and that rang a bell in the recesses of our brain. We had put together a Google Doc a few months back with ideas for Istanbul, and we were pretty sure that one of the restaurants in Sultanahmet had "barbecue" in the title, so we looked up our document. The restaurant in front of us wasn't the one we had written down, but then we saw the one we had written down was only 443 feet away. So we made a right turn, went about a block or two, and grabbed the last table. Crystal got her Iskander kebab (she'd been craving that), and Justin got Adana kebab. We had only 8 lira left, so made sure to keep order under 80 lira (as we could use our credit cards for everything but the tip, and the tip is usually on the order of 10%). Our order came to 60, but the guy wrote it down to 50 - we gave him all 8 for our tip.

We walked back towards the Galata Bridge, and thankfully the weather was now better. Istanbul is a really nice place, and we were really enjoying it. Crystal decided she wants to live here for a year sometime before "our" 55th birthday (the mid-point our respective birthdays). Our goal for 35 was 7 continents - we did that. Our goal for 40 was a Hawaii house - we did that too. The goal for 45 was to pay off the houses - we'll see about that, as we still have 3+ years. Fingers crossed we can accomplish that. We need a goal for 50. We decided we can't make Istanbul a goal for 50, because it's not really feasible with pups, and we don't want to make a goal that would be impacted by the dogs still being with us. We should be able to come up with something.

We got back to the hotel around 9. We went up to our own rooftop bar. It actually had a pretty good view, except for Suleymaniye, which was blocked by nearby building. The bar was very empty, with only 1 person there when we got there, and one other couple came and went whilst we were there. We headed down a little after 10 and caught up on the news - we really should stop doing that. One thing we saw is that our friend Erin was able to get out of Puerto Rico shortly after the airport re-opened, and before things became too crazy because of lack of food, water, shelter, electricity. After counting our own blessings, we fell asleep.

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