Cover photo for Matt Mayo

London, Istanbul / Nov & Dec '23 Update

Matt Mayo
London: Oct 10 - 17, 2023
Istanbul: Oct 17 - 23, 2023

During the last couple of months I embarked on my first international adventure since the pandemic. An old friend of mine invited me on a trip to Egypt and I couldn't resist. This summer has mostly been solo travel, and I jumped at the chance to travel with a companion. I had done countless hours of YouTube research, booked Airbnbs in Cairo, Alexandria, and Luxor. A couple of nights before our flight war broke out between Hamas and Israel causing a re-think of traveling to Egypt. Furthermore, there was a report of tourists and their guide being shot and killed by an Egyptian officer. That was just enough to feel like traveling to Egypt might not be the right time so a decision was made to do London and Istanbul instead.

A week in London in the fall was quite nice. A jacket was sufficient in the mostly sunny and dry with occasional misty rainy days. All in all I checked into 31 places. Many coffee shops, famous sites, restaurants, parks, and Uber boat ride down the Thames.
Checked in places in London, England via Swarm

Getting around in London was fairly easy. The tube pretty much takes you everywhere. Pro tip: Don't buy the Oyster card. You can use NFC payments via credit card or digital wallet. There are daily maximums that will keep you below the weekly pass amount. You also won't have to figure out which zones you'll be in.
London Tube Pocket Map

A week at this Airbnb was fantastic. It was in Parsons Green a posh looking neighborhood full of row houses with food and groceries within a walkable distance. The bnb was the penthouse suite of a three story home. The hosts, Omar and Nadia, were from Egypt and avid travelers, which made for very interesting conversation.
The bnb in London with the door knob in the center of the door!

Penthouse suite with a view of the neighborhood rooftops.
Mandatory fish and chips from Fishers
One of the many London cafes

The next stop was Istanbul, Turkey. I checked into about a dozen locations. Missing out on quite a few as they all weren't present on Swarm. The bnb was again a penthouse suite of a multi-story apartment building, but this time the whole place vs just part of the home. It was located in Besiktas close enough to the most visited locations, but far enough to get local vs tourist prices.
Checked in places in Istanbul, Turkey via Swarm App

Getting around was easy. It's most recommended to user a taxi from the Airport. Or Uber, which is just a way to hail a taxi, but simpler. Using Uber you can pay via the app and it seems harder to get scammed. Being a transit enthusiast I opted and encouraged use of the metro via underground and overground trains. It was a little intimidating at first, but easy enough after a few trips.
Metro Map in Besiktas

Istanbul was full of new and unfamiliar sensory inputs. The most surprising thing (to me) was that there were cats everywhere. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that there are more cats in Istanbul than people!
Kitty guarding the shop entrance

I had to try the Turkish coffee, which was gritty and strong. I have to admit I prefer espresso, but when in Turkey...
Traditional breakfast pastry and Turkish coffee

This was also my first foray into a predominantly Muslim country. There were mosques everywhere. And Adhan, call to prayer, was beautifully to hear throughout the day.
The Hagia Sophia

Central chamber of the Hagia Sophia

Seeing the Hagia Sophia was surreal. I remember seeing the building in video games (Civilization series) and history shows. Although not always, it currently serves as a mosque. During times of prayer you cannot walk in the center. The Blue Mosque, another famous mosque, is located across the way. Pro tip: the restrooms at Blue Mosque are likely the cleanest and most fancy in the city.
Turkish tea

Turkish tea is super popular among the locals and quite good. You can pretty much get it anywhere on the cheap (usually).

I've also been riding my mountain bike around Missouri. There's a trail that just about goes from Saint Louis to Kansas City called the Katy Trail. Not to be confused with the trail by the same name in Dallas, which I visited a month or so prior. I rode a 10 mile segment from Jefferson City to Hartsburg. It was absolutely beautiful.
Stop on the Katy Trail, Missouri
One of the many bridges and passes

The Missouri River along the Katy Trail

It's officially winter time here in Missouri with nights dipping below freezing. Due to Ill Niño December has been mild. Up until recently I was able to ride my bike, but now I'm thinking it's a bit too cold! I'm planning to take the bike and to head to California for the winter.