We had opted for the free tour of Istanbul that Turkish airline offers if you have a long layover. In fact, the only reason we opted for Turkish airlines and chose a flight with a long layover was so that we could do the free 9 hour tour of Istanbul. They give you that or a free hotel stay. Why sleep if you can explore a new city, right?
Please note that we were traveling with hand luggage only. We had the option to pay for them to hold our hand luggage while we toured, but we opted out (and I don’t know why). Hence, we were told to leave our boxes on the bus while we toured.
The tour was great, started with breakfast. And it wasn’t one of those annoying fully guided tours. They basically took us to each place, set us in the right direction and gave a time for all of us to convene. At the last stop which was the Grand Bazaar, aka Lagos market for those of you who know, we all agreed to meet at the grand square for 4:15pm so that we could head back to catch our connecting flights.
Es and I were having a filled time at the market. People were calling us “Beyonce” and all sorts; staring like we were celebrities. There weren’t many black people around, you see. We got carried away buying jewelry, and we kept walking deeper and deeper into the market. At a point, Es pointed out that we needed to start heading back. Oh yes! We had all been warned that anyone who didn’t make it back by 4:30pm would be left behind because they couldn’t risk other passengers missing their flights.
It’s 3:50pm and we’re trying to retrace our footsteps. We keep going and going. Until I’m like “wait a minute, we never went by all these bedsheets & curtain stores”. We didn’t panic. Yet. We made one turn and kept going. We had used this huge mosque as our landmark, so as long as we could see the mosque we were good. We just needed to get to the front of the mosque. Well, imagine walking around from the back, trying to get to the front, and never finding the front. We just kept going deeper and deeper into the market. At this point, our power walk turned into a light jog. It was now 4:08pm. We started asking for directions, and it seemed like regardless of where we were, everyone just said “go straight down and turn right”. After many a right turns, we had to take off our cardis and turned into full fledged sprinters. We were expertly navigating our way through the hundreds [maybe thousands] of people in the market. Again, just imagine Balogun/Lagos market.
I stayed hopeful, telling Es to let’s try here and let’s try there. At this point it’s 4:30pm and she’s like “they’re gone, let’s find our way to the airport”. Eventually I agreed, so we tried to get to the train station, as there was already a lot of traffic around. After many more “go rights”, we gave up on finding the train station. We could see the trains; or trams rather. But we couldn’t find where to get on one. Eventually, we found a taxi and told him to get us to the airport as fast as possible. Thankfully, we got to the airport at 5:50pm [our flight was for 7:45pm].
But remember. We left our boxes on the bus. Being the only black people on the bus, we were 100% sure that the tour guide would notice that we missed the bus back and would have dropped our bags at the Turkish airlines office. NEGATIVE! When they called the bus, they said all passengers had been dropped off and the bus was gone. Imagine traveling with only a hand luggage and losing said hand luggage. Meanwhile, you’ve been stuck in the same clothes for almost 36 hours. I was deflated at this point. But the fantastic attendant at the airline called the bus driver and got us in a cab to go get our boxes from him. He blatantly refused to come back with our boxes. He said “it wasn’t his responsibility”. Again, we went into panic mode. What if we got stuck in traffic and missed the flight to Paris?
Thankfully, our cab driver was a star. He got us there and back in time. When we got there, we saw our boxes from across the road, sitting there looking lonely. Thankfully, we got our boxes, in perfect condition. And so the vacation went on.
It was one hell of a day…filled with laughter, and a lot of running, jogging, and walking. I’m pretty sure each of us lost at least 5 pounds.