Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Final full day of the trip :(

We can't believe that it is over, however, we truly made the most of the day!

Breakfast was enjoyed by the group before we headed out for the Grand Bazaar. After arriving around 9:30, we decided to break up into two groups and reconvene at 2:00 outside of the New Mosque (near the Spice Bazaar) so as to give people enough time to shop and also to eat lunch.

Interior of the Grand Bazaar upon entry

Some lovely lamps in a shop within the Grand Bazaar

My group - made up of Dr. Billy Byrd and his daughter Redding in addition to Laura, Michael, and Sophia - bought souvenirs in the bazaar until about 1:00pm. After the bazaar we decided to eat lunch in a place that I recommended located outside within view not only of the New Mosque but also the Bosphorus and Galata area (including, of course, the Galata Tower). 

Our lunch was a truly perfect experience! The food was super, the conversation and people fantastic, and the desserts were wonderful. And, to top it off, Dr. Byrd surprised us by treating us all to the meal! We were so touched...it truly meant a lot.

View from the restaurant - hello, Galata tower!

After meeting back up with the entire group on the steps of the New Mosque, we all got on the bus and headed for Pierre Loti hill. Pierre Loti is a beautiful hill overlooking the Golden Horn and the city of Istanbul, not to mention a beautiful historic cemetery. The view was lovely as we sat in a cafe at the very top sipping lemonades and other icy refreshments.

View(s) from Pierre Loti Hill, Istanbul

Following Pierre Loti, we returned to the hotel for some free time (mostly to pack and prepare for departure tomorrow) before we left for dinner which was tasty as per usual.

Once we arrived back at the hotel, the group surprised we three Group Leaders by giving us gifts of thanks with touching cards, prompting a session of heartfelt testimonials and thank you's from most of the group and Group Leaders. A few of us even shed tears as we realized that it was the last time that our group, which has become so intensely close, would be together. The trip was truly ending. :^(

Thus, some of we brave souls decided that it would not be the end and headed out to a local park to enjoy the last bits of time together that we could! Dr. Byrd and Burak impressed the group and locals with their soccer skills, the students played with the local children (soccer and basketball), and all of us were incredibly delighted to make the most of what little time we had left together as a group.

Brianna and Redding's "King of the World" Moment

Burak showing off his futbol skills...

Dr. Byrd joined in the fun!

Brianna enjoying watching the others play basketball with some of the local kids

Final night-final moments together

Our two wonderful middle school winners!

This has been a mind blowing, life-altering trip for everybody. It flew by! 

However, as we all leave at various times tomorrow we will do so knowing that we have shared a once-in-a-lifetime experience together and forged some remarkable and close bonds of friendship. 

Thank you again to all of the students and participants (and superintendent!) who not only participated in the Contest this year but who joined us on the 2011-2012 Global Connections Art & Essay Winners' Trip to Turkey - you all are amazing, brilliant, and we at Istanbul Center are honored to have been able to host you!

Much love... 


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