Tag Archives | Middle East

5 Unwritten Rules for Being an Elegant Traveler

Elegance is not the prerogative of those who have just escaped from adolescence, but of those who have already taken possession of their future.-Coco Chanel

Rule #1 Manners-

Japan bowI know, I know…you knew that we were gonna start here.  For good reason.  The easiest way to be an “Ugly ( Aussie, Brit, Yank….enter country of choice)” is by completely tossing all convention of what is classy and what is not to the wind whilst on holiday.  Don’t be that guy/gal!  One of the beauties of traveling is exposing yourself to new cultures, social norms, and new viewpoints.   As a part of your trip prep, don’t skip of the chapter on local traditions and customs.  No need to go over board and bow to the Japanese waiter every time he returns to your table to fill your water glass.  But you might use “Nin” instead of “Ni” when speaking to someone in China to show respect.

The elegant traveler treats the bellboy with the same respect as the hotel’s CEO.

 

Rule #2 Dress-

This is likely one of the more obvious aspects of traveling with elegance.  I remember the first time I traveled abroad and saw a gentleman wearing a sharp tweed jacket, tasteful kerchief in the pocket, button down shirt and cotton pants.  He looked so sharp.  A great example of an elegant traveler.  It doesn’t take much to go from blah to vavooom.

Beautiful woman black dress

Guys–  OK guys, I know, this is vacation and all, but let go of the jeans with paint on them from the last remodel project.  Leave the grubby ball cap at home.  No need to go overboard here either.  You don’t need to pull a Mike with his preppy kakis and button down shirt.  Spiff it up a tad gents.

 

Gals–  Lets start with hemlines.  Harken back to rule #1.  Just because your wardrobe is acceptable where you came from, does not mean that it will be ok where you are going.  Conservative countries in the Middle East, Asia and even parts of Europe frown on too much exposure.  Know your location.  The elegant traveler plans ahead, and has the right ensemble for every occasion.  And for heaven sakes leave the fanny pack at home!!!  Better yet throw it away!

 

Rule #3  Courtesy

Common courtesy is an international language.  Unlike manners, it is not requisite to be fluent in the local customs to show courtesy.  One simply must put others needs before their own.  Ideas include holding doors open for others, accommodating those that need “a little extra time down the jetway”, patience in trying circumstances.  Some of the stuff your grandmother tried to teach you.  Show respect to seniors, give a harried mother a hand in the airport, lift a bag for someone.  And of course the golden rule of courtesy …please and thank you.  These should be the first words you learn in the new language.

 

Rule #4  Dress for dinner

montecarloTake a lesson from the popular TV show “Downton Abbey” and dress for dinner.  The Elegant Travel Dame always has a little black dress.  The Traveling Gentleman always has a fine dinner jacket.  One of our most elegant travel moments came in Cusco, Peru of all places.  We try to include at least one really nice meal when we travel.  During our Peru adventure, we elected to have dinner at the il Monastery in Cusco.  Highly recommended! We had just come out of the jungle, and we cleaned up and had an amazing meal dressed to the nines.  It made us feel like a million bucks.

 

Rule #5  Do the Homework

Our final rule is to do your homework.  Truly seek to understand what you are seeing on vacation.  Find destinations that really interest you.  Plan a trip to Turkey!  Dig a little deeper.  Ask questions.  Do all of this before you get on the jetplane.  Learn a little bit of the language, enough to show respect for you host country.  We typically plan our trips 6 months to a year out.  We do this on purpose, it gives us enough time to do the homework.  We learn the language, a little of the dominant religion and culture as well as search out the off the beaten path locations.

So those are our rules for becoming an elegant traveler.  Did we miss anything?  What advice can you give to others?  Leave us a comment below.

 

 

 

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Open Love Letter to Istanbul

I Love Istanbul. Let me count the ways.

The People

Istanbul hagia SofiaOur love Fighting couple love letter to Istanbul must begin with the people. But before we start our overture, let’s say we accidentally fell in love. It was Luci’s year to pick our location for the annual big trip. We went back and forth on various spots around the world. Luci wanted a place with history, culture and food. I showed her a video of Turkey. In the next 24 hours, we booked a trip to Turkey. It happened so fast, she says I “Jedi-Mind Tricked Her.” She spent the next six months trying to get to Greece! But it turns out our “accident” in selecting Turkey was a dream come true. We fell in love.

Like most Norte Americanos, the first thing that comes to mind when we think of “Turkey” is the poor foul that gets placed in the center of the table in November. But Turkey is one of the most hospitable countries to visit.

We found Turks to be the epitome of kindness and generosity. On several occasions, Turks went the extra mile to show off their country and culture. As an example, once my subway card won’t work, and a man came up and swiped his. Whether we were buying a rug or a kabob, we were greeted with a smile and a “Welcome, my friend.”

The Shopping

Istanbul TurkeyShopping is one of our favorite pastimes. Shopping in Istanbul is a contact sport! If you can buy it, you can find it in Istanbul. Of course, you cannot visit Istanbul without a trip to the famous Grand Bazaar. It literally takes days to explore it from top to bottom. There is so much to take in, so many little dark alleyways leading to hidden treasures.

A friend recently asked if an hour would be sufficient, we laughed. An hour is sufficient to have lunch before even going in. The main attractions at the Bazaar are rugs. Prices range from a few dollars to hundreds of thousands. Part of the game is agreeing on the price. Turkey also sports some beautiful hand painted pottery and delicately designed ceramics.

 

Istanbul, Turkey

The Spice Market

 

The Spirit

Call to prayerOur exposure to Islam has been very limited. In preparation for our visit, we invested some time to learn more about the world’s second largest religion with 1.5 billion followers or over 22% of the earth population. A few of the keys to understand about Islam: Followers of Islam are called Muslims. Muslims and Islam are not different (common misunderstanding).

Muslims take their teachings from the Qur’an. They believe that the religion was revealed universally through prophets including Abraham, Moses, Jesus and the last prophet Muhammad.

With a basic primer in Islam, we took in many of the famous holy places in Istanbul. Many of the historic mosques are now open to the general public to enter and explore. Again, we found the people of Istanbul more than willing to help us interpret what we were seeing. The artwork, carpets, stonework and the parishioners make visiting these places something special. Hearing the call to prayer at diverse times of the day added to the mystic of the city. We found the “quality” of the prayer caller to be dependent on the size of the city. Istanbul hosted the most beautiful prayer callers.

 

islamic call to prayer

Regardless of your religious bent, take the time to understand what you are seeing, what it means to the people and why. Most of all please be respectful of the buildings. Most mosques require conservative clothing, women’s heads to be covered and shoes removed.

The Water

IstanbulOne of the defining features of Istanbul is the water. It is magical. The city itself is dived in half by the Bosporus River. It is not like the wimpy canals of Venice. The mighty Bosporus is a powerful, choppy and colorful symbol of the city. The bridges that link the city and two continents are works of art in both day and night time. Also, check out the Basilica cistern with discarded columns underground that held the city’s drinking water. It’s another monument’s to the city’s dramatic water.

Istanbul….(or is it Constantinople?), we love you. We love your intense waterscape, spirited markets, your warm people, and your heart. We can’t wait to go back!

If you are looking for help booking your holidays to Turkey, look no further!

 

 

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The Magic Carpet Fight

One of the greatest pastimes in Istanbul is shopping.  Pastime is not the right word.  Experiencing the grand Bazaar it is one part contact sport, one part human psychology 101 and one part exhilaration. Shopping in Istanbul is truly a timeless art form.  Yes there are the chinsy tourist items, the fake Rolexes, carpets made in China.  But it also has some of the best handcrafts and jewelry we have ever seen.  The Grand Bazaar has it all.

English: Lanterns in a shop in the Kapalıçarşı...

Glass of the Grand Bazaar.

How to do the Bazaar

We don’t have an answer for this.  It is funny to watch other couples enter and say to one another…”I will meet you over by the one carpet dealer.  See you in an hour.”  Good luck with that!  LOST!  The size of the bazaar is so difficult to describe.  Where does the Bazaar end and the city begin?  Is the Bazaar just one story?  Is there better shops in one are over another?  We don’t have an answer.  The Bazaar is best enjoyed with a lot of time and money.

 

The Art of the Deal

I have seen some incredible salesman in our travels.  None rival the talent on display in the Grand Bazaar.  Some of the hawkers in the bazaar are three, four and we even found one five generation salesman!  These men, we didn’t come across a saleswoman, so yes they are almost all men, are tuned and trained to evaluate you and devise a plan to separate you from your cash.  It is almost a science for them.  Language barrier?  Not in the bazaar.  Everyone speaks the language  of sales.  I was able to chat up a young salesman that let his guard down a little.  Our conversation went something like this:

Me: “When did you start selling?”

Him: “Sold my first thing when I was only 5”

Me: “Impressive.”

Me: “Whats your secret to making sales?”

Him:  “Reading customers.  And keep them talking to you.”

Me: “How do read a person?”

Him:  “Shoes and eyes.”  (Enter big smile aka end of sales training)

Him:  “Would you like to see some of my best stuff?  I keep it back here…come my friend” (Enter sales pitch)

Put this to the test.  Walk past the best salesmen in the bazaar.  They will check your shoes in as you approach and then they will focus on your eyes.  Eyes tell everything.  They point to the things you find most precious.  They reveal your love for an object.  Very telling.

Heart of Darkness

Go get lost in the Bazaar.  Go deep.  The bazaar cannot be “done” in an hour.  We are not sure that it can be “done” in a day.  Enjoy the experience for what it is, you are a part of history.  Breathe in the experience.  Take in the mosaics at every turn.  Drink some tea with some salesmen.  Play with the shop owners kids.  Most importantly, buy stuff in the Bazaar!  Don’t let the salesmen intimidate you.  You will never forgive yourself if you don’t buy that silver bracelet you found.  First off, you will never find it again in the melee of the bazaar.  Candidly, we found our best deals when we were completely lost in dark alleys deep in the beast of the bazaar.  Find your own path.

 

Check our our Facebook page for more pics of the Grand Bazaar.  While you are there…give us a “Like”.

 

The Carpet Fight

Add the Grand Bazaar to the list of 1000 places to fight before you die.  Mike wanted to buy a rug.  Of course we agreed to a price ceiling before we even set foot in the market.   Of course Mike paid no heed to that agreement.  He boldly walked into carpet shops and looked at stuff we couldn’t afford.  (Don’t do this.)  We ended up meeting the George Clooney of carpet sales.  Mike the great white salesman himself had met his match.  We went round and round on the price.  In the end, we paid way too much.  With that said it was a great experience.  Today, the rug welcomes everyone that comes into our home.

The Grand Bazaar is not to be missed.  Turkey and Istanbul especially is a wonderful couple travel destination.  It offer so much.  Experience the bazaar.  Spend some money!

Have you been to the Grand Bazaar?   What did you find?  We would love to hear from you.oo much for our little rug.  But it was great fun!  Our little piece of Istanbul greets everyone that walks into our door.

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