One of the main reasons I travel is to experience life in a different place. Some people like to focus on history and spend all their time in museums, but I am much more fascinated by modern life. I want to find the places where the real citizens go, eat what they eat, drink what they drink, shop where they shop. Before a trip, I try to read up on all the customs and habits of the place I am visiting: which way does traffic go on a sidewalk; do they look each other in the eyes; how to they greet each other; thank each other; what is the proper way to order food. Then, when I get there, I try to blend in. Some places its easier than others.
Some people think trying to blend in is silly, but I think it leads to a lot of nice surprises. Maybe I get into the modern art museum for free because I look like a citizen. Maybe the handsome men at the next table buy us dessert because we admired theirs. Maybe the shopkeeper sends me to his favorite restaurant, or the fruit seller gives us a few pears as a gift.
Now that the Mister and I travel together, we rent apartments in neighborhoods, instead of hotels in the city center. In Istanbul we stayed in the Karaköy neighborhood, which is across the Golden Horn from the old city. We had nice views of Galata and the old city, but when we went downstairs the street was full of appliance and light fixture stores. We could walk to İstiklal in ten minutes to party with the locals, or stay in our apartment to drink wine and play games as the gorgeous Galata Tower loomed over us.
I love people watching. So does the Mister. We spent so much time in Istanbul sitting in cafes, sitting in parks, watching people, wandering around, watching, listening, tasting. We explored back streets and fish markets, rode the ferries and the trams, peeked into workshops and stores. We got lost so many times, but stumbled on cafes and antique shops and schools and cemeteries, and it was really all so wonderful.