When we left Athens, our next destination was the Spanish island of Mallorca, pretty much due west across the Mediterranean Sea.
Our flight itinerary, however, took us on a kind of flattened horseshoe around the northern reaches of the Mediterranean.
From Athens we flew east-northeast to Istanbul, from Istanbul to Barcelona, and from Barcelona to Palma, Mallorca.
We did not choose this route based on convenience, nor (obviously) the directness of the route. It was all about price. We had an overnight layover in Istanbul.
But the itinerary worked out just fine. All of our departures and arrivals were on schedule, and the flights themselves were very pleasant.
There was a particularly memorable moment on our morning ascent out of Istanbul, captured in the photograph here.
Just as our plane reached its cruising altitude, we caught a perfect birds-eye view of the Bosphorus Strait, looking south from the Black Sea to Istanbul, and beyond Istanbul to the Sea of Marmara.
Now, that was a thrill!
Oh, and if an overnight layover in Istanbul sounds like a hardship, well, it wasn’t. Quite the contrary.
We booked a room for the night at an upscale hotel near the airport. This was on the Asian side of Istanbul.
Because of a dispute between the U.S. and Turkish governments, both countries had suspended issuance of tourist visas.
Luckily, we already had visas, good for six months, from our recent visit to Turkey, so we were free to enter Turkey. Just to be sure, we sent an email inquiry to the Turkish Consulate in Athens while we were there. We received a prompt, polite response confirming that our visas would be honored.
When arrived at the hotel in Istanbul, we found it all but empty. Their normal clientele, business people from America, were absent.
The palatial hotel was pristine and beautiful, but pretty much a ghost town.
As we checked in at the reception desk, we noticed a photograph of a special suite, much more costly than an ordinary room. The photo depicted an in-suite Turkish hammam.
We pointed to the picture and jokingly said we would like that room.
With a smile, the attendant, a gracious young man, told us he would grant our wish.
We found ourselves in what amounted to a sizable apartment with a separate living room and — wonder of wonders — our own private hamman.
Thus did we enjoy what amounted to the most luxurious accommodations of our lives, for one short night on the Asian side of Istanbul.
We also earned the privilege of claiming to have slept in Asia in the course of our vagabond travel adventure.
Check that Asia box!
Lounging Around Mallorca
Does all of the foregoing seem like a bit of a digression in a story about Mallorca?
Well, okay, we admit that it is.
We are leading up to the simple fact that we did next to nothing in Mallorca. In contrast to most of our travels, we treated it as a vacation.
We stayed in a delightful little boutique hotel hidden away down a country lane. At the end of our lane was a 13th Century church, the oldest on Mallorca.
Our hotel and the Oratorio Sant Blai
Except for one brief half-day beach outing, we spent virtually all of our time on the hotel grounds.
We played Scrabble. We read cheesy magazines. We swam in the pool.
We chatted amiably with our warm hosts, a gay couple named Grant (a Brit) and Jordy (a Catalunian from Barcelona who cooked scrumptious meals, making it unnecessary to leave the premises).
We befriended the other guests, from England, the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden.
Life in our little compound was quiet and happy.
Our half-day excursion to a local beach recommended by Grant, and to a nearby harbor town for lunch, was a perfect little outing.
The season in Mallorca was drawing to an end. Although the weather was sunny and warm, there were no crowds to speak of. It was delightful.
Pictures from our beach outing and our lunch at a waterfront restaurant in the harbor town of Colonia Sant Jordi
After three days, we felt restored.
And that pretty much sums up our long weekend in Mallorca.
On Sunday morning, we caught a short flight from Palma back over to the mainland.
Our destination was Valencia, a city we visited last year and enjoyed so much we decided to return for a second visit.