Little did I know that when I got fired from my job as an Engineer 28 years ago for taking too much time off that the firing would lead to an all-paid trip (plus $3,000 in my pocket for speaking for an hour about my book The Joy of Not Working) to Istanbul, which is now on my top-3 list of most satisfying journeys that I have made in my life.
The National Turkish Congress on Quality actually spent $14,000 on the Executive Class airfare and put me up in an executive suite at the Ritz-Carlton for three nights (the corporate rate for the suite was $1,280 per night.). So total cost to have me speak in Istanbul was over $20,000.
Top-Ten Highlights of My Trip to Istanbul
- The Number 1 highlight of my trip was the number of important historic buildings such as the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque as well as variety of the non historic buildings such as the waterfront houses on the Bosphorus.
- Meeting so many beautiful Turkish women was definitely the number 2 highlight. After making my speech about The Joy of Not Working to the National Turkish Congress on Quality, a number of the women in the audience wanted to have their photos taken with me, and they were all beautiful. The most beautiful woman of them all, who works at Remax Turkey, asked me for my e-mail address and my phone number. If anything will bring me back to Istanbul, it's the historic sights and the women — not necessarily in that order.
- Ernie Zelinski and Nadide Tastan at the Istanbul Convention Center Restaurant
- The joie de vivre in many parts of the city including the happening restaurants, bars, and clubs around town. One of my hosts, Bahadir Akin, treated me to dinner at Vogue, a new trendy restaurant that was full on a Tuesday night. We arrived at about 8:30 PM. It's a good thing that we had a reservation.
- Taksim Square, which is a 5 minute walk from the Ritz Carlton Hotel where I stayed, gave me a true sense of the people living life in a neighborhood in Istanbul. The degree of energy in the square is definitely worth experiencing. Surrounding Taksim Square are numerous travel agencies, banks, restaurants, pubs, and even international fast food chains such as Pizza Hut, McDonald's and Burger King. There are several other grand hotels in the area including the InterContinental and The Marmara Hotel.
- It was interesting going from the worst hotel room in London that I have ever stayed in (on Sunday night) to the executive suite at the Ritz-Carlton with a view of the Bosphorus the next night (Monday night) that turned out to be the best hotel accommodation that I have ever had — and I have stayed in some pretty swanky hotels on my speaking travels.
- Having a driver with a new car assigned to me for 3 whole days by the National Turkish Congress on Quality was a treat. The driver was available from early morning until midnight to drive me anywhere I wanted to go. (Not having spent one cent in Istanbul for 3 whole days due to the National Turkish Congress on Quality paying for all my meals and accommodations, I did give the driver a 100 Euro tip when he dropped me off at the Istanbul airport for my flight back to London.)
- The great weather that I was lucky enough to get sure added to my Istanbul adventure. On Monday the high was 11 degrees Celsius, on Tuesday it was 17 degrees, and on Wednesday it was 21 degrees. Istanbul was much kinder to me than London where it rained and the temperature reached highs of about 5 degrees Celsius for my two days there.
- Experiencing the traffic jams in Istanbul where rush hour starts at about 5 PM and lasts until 8:30 PM is an experience that puts the traffic problems in Canada in proper perspective. On the journey from a TV Station where I did a live interview about The Joy of Not Working, my driver told me that we had traveled 2 kilometers in an hour. It took us 2.5 hours to complete a journey from the TV station to the Vogue restaurant. Regardless of the destination, the same distance in my home town of Edmonton would take 20 to 25 minutes maximum in rush hour traffic.
- Given that Istanbul has vehicles of all types and varieties — many more types and varieties than you will see in any city in Canada or even in London — one of the pleasurable experiences in my 3 whole days in Istanbul was not seeing one of the disgusting redneck-driven 4-wheel drive Quad cab pickup trucks that are so prevalent in Alberta and that so many sophisticated Albertans despise.
- I never saw any fat people in Istanbul which just goes to show that there is no reason for so many Canadians and Americans to be grossly overweight. This also shows that their justifications for being overweight are false excuses and silly fabrications to cover up the fact that they are pigs when it comes to food and lazy when it comes to exercise. Incidentally, I thought that I may gain weight on this trip due to the many fine meals that I ate but I actually lost 2 or 3 pounds due to all the walking that I did in Istanbul and London.
Above all, the number of things to see in Istanbul is amazing. Trust me on this one: One can easily spend two weeks in this city without running out of interesting things to see.
NOTE: Check out Istanbul Travel Video on Lonely Planet (Particularly for Women)