We made it! The trip we've had planned since the last few days of our China/Bali trip has finally arrived. As I sit writing this post in Istanbul, Turkey, I can tell its the start of something truly spectacular. The trip started easier then any trip before it. Instead of staying the night at an LAX hotel, Jake spent the night, the night before our departure and drove us to the airport. It tuned out to be a great start to the trip, even if we almost died trying to take a picture of us driving.
When we got to LAX we dropped off our bags at the KLM baggage drop off counter where we encountered one of the least interested airport workers we've ever seen. And we've seen some bad ones. She gave me little to no confidence that our bags would arrive or that she was planning on working at KLM after the day was done. We made it through the security line with two hours until boarding. We had lunch at the Lucky Fish on the second floor of the newly remodeled Tom Bradley terminal. Jenn got the chicken bowl while I got the beef bowl, which were both really good. We spent the majority of the two hour wait sitting overlooking the new terminal and getting excited for our trip.
When we finally boarded the KLM flight to Amsterdam we had the incredible blessing of getting three seats for just the two of us. Which meant we could stretch out for the 9+ hour flight to Amsterdam. After the doors were closed for the flight we were told there was a slight technical problem and that we would be leaving soon. Another fifteen minutes later and the captain let us know that one of the hydraulics was not responding and that the plane had three other sets. Supposedly they fixed the problem and we were on our way after a brief scare. We had a similar thing happen on our way to Beijing last year, but luckily in both instances it worked out. On the flight Jenn watched The LEGO Movie, Maleficent, Grown Ups and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I watched A Million Ways to Die in the West and The Million Dollar Arm (see a pattern there?). We both didn't get much of any sleep but it was a nice flight all things considered.
We landed in Amsterdam a half hour late, which was fine as we had a 2 and a half hour layover. When we arrived in Amsterdam we were super underwhelmed with the terminals we were in. A lot of people told us that the Amsterdam airport was nice but from our experience it was the pits. The terminals we were in were having heavy construction and had almost nowhere to sit. We fortunately found a spot in sketchy dark lounge on the second floor of the terminal. It was depressing up there. Then when we went to our gate we once again had to go through security. Good news is for the first time in any Europe trip I've made it through one full leg of a trip without being hounded by security. So progress.
Our flight from Amsterdam to Istanbul also ended up being a half hour delayed. When we boarded our plane to Istanbul there was someone in our seat, so I kindly asked him to move and no problem. What I didn't realize is who I'd get stuck next to for the next three hours. I've never been a huge socializer on planes but after not sleeping on the entire first leg all I wanted to do was put on my headphones and close my eyes. The gentlemen flying next to me had other ideas. Every time I put my headphones on and closed my eyes he would start talking to me. Needless to say it was a long three hour flight into Istanbul while Jenn slept I tried to avoid looking conscious in fear that my seat-mate would strike up another conversation.
We made it to Istanbul safe and sound. We ran off the plane, purchased a Visa, and made it through customs without issue. By the time we got to the luggage carousel our bags were there to pick up. We quickly grabbed our bags and were out to the airport exit. When we walked out the sliding doors there were literally a hundred signs with different peoples name on it. We went through twice and didn't see our name for our driver. Luckily when we exited a nice gentlemen asked which hotel we were going to and pointed us to a sign that was staring right at our face. We boarded a Mercedes van with another family and drove off to the TomTom Suites.
Going into this years trip both Jenn and I were super nervous about our first leg of the trip in Istanbul. So far we are nothing but impressed. Istanbul seems gorgeous. Its far more modern, well kept, and wealthier then I think either of us every expected. We had a really nice drive to our hotel that was only around a half hour from the airport. When we go to the TomTom Suites in the heart of Istanbul we were instantly greeted at the front desk, given maps of the city, and dinner recommendations. The staff so far at the TomTom have been some of the best we've experienced. We got to our room, took a video of the room, and sat back and marveled and what a nice place we landed on. The suite is a perfect size with a nice living area, bedroom area, and a gorgeous bathroom.
We put our stuff in our room, and headed up to the 4th floor bar/restaurant for a free welcome drink. Jenn got a glass of white wine, and I had a turkish beer (Efes Pilsener) and got to take in the gorgeous hill-top views. After our drinks we made our way down and out of the hotel and a couple blocks down to the concierge recommendation for dinner, Peymane. We were able to score a last minute table and were so glad we did. We both started with a glass of red wine, Jenn got an awesome fresh lasagne and I had the spicy lamb kebab. Both were absolutely incredible. For desert Jenn really wanted ice cream but the waiter was adamant that our pistachio baccala did not need ice cream. We started cracking up after he left, I'm not sure if it was a language gap but he was really insistent that we didn't need ice cream. Luckily he was right, the baccala was delicious and it was a perfect send off for the night.
We walked back the couple of blocks to our hotel and ran to our room to go to bed. After 14 hours of flying, and being awake for who knows how long, we were both ready to call it for our first day of our Epic Europe Trip 2014.