Istanbul: General

Fi-na-lly spring again, but more importantly; it was finally time for my trip to Istanbul. Unfortunately, that has passed now as well, but that means I have loads of tips for you now in case any of you would ever want to visit Turkey’s capital.

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As usual, I’ll start with some general stuff like hotel and transportation, and then in the next posts I’ll tell you what we did every day of our trip.

Flight

This time around, I flew Pegasus Airlines. This is a Turkish budget airline company that flies to Sabiha Gokcen International Airport, one of Istanbul’s aiports that’s located on the Asian side of the city. This airport is about 50 kilometers away from the city center and a lot smaller than Ataturk Airport.

Once again, I had a very pleasant flight. Nothing to report really. The flight did what it had to do; get me to my destination. I would fly with them again for sure.

The only downside was that the flying hours weren’t all that interesting. We arrived in Istanbul Friday at 6:30 pm and the return flight was already at 10:30 am. So we kind of lost two days travelling to Istanbul and back home.

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Transportation from / and to the airport

To get from the airport to our hotel, we initially wanted to catch a bus to Kadıköy and then take the ferry boat to Eminönü, which was close to where our hotel was. This way, we’d have a lovely view on the old city of Istanbul. But unforunatelly we spent one hour and a half queuing for passport control, and it was already 8pm by the time we got out of the airport. So instead, we caught the Havatas bus to Taksim Square. This costs 14 liras. (= +/- 5,5 euro) and takes about one hour up to two hours depending on traffic. You don’t have to buy your ticket in advance. You just get on the bus and once it’s full, the driver will come to collect money for your ticket.

From Taskim to our hotel (which was in Sultanahmet) we took a taxi as we didn’t fancy wandering around dark streets at 10pm trying to find the tiny hotel. But you can easily take a tram or metro if you don’t want to take a taxi.

Then to get back to the airport Tuesday morning, we booked an airport shuttle in our hotel. (You can also book it online here). We took the one that left at our hotel at 5:45 am just to be sure, as we were afraid traffic would be horrible on a Tuesday morning. But we shouldn’t have worried. We arrived to the airport at 6:45am already. Either way, it was better than stressing about whether we would make it in time or not.

Hotel

For four nights, we stayed at Erten Konaka lovely small hotel about 150 meters away from the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia museum. There was a 24/7 reception and the people were really nice and helpful.

We got a deal as we payed only two nights and got two for free. This way it was a nice price for this hotel. The full price is maybe a bit too much considering this hotel is sort of a former glory. Nonetheless, we had everything we needed (the hotel even provided hair conditioner, for which my hair is forever grateful as I couldn’t take any in my hand luggage!).

But with it being so close to the Blue Mosque we got ourselves a 5 am wake up call every single day with the moslim call to prayer. While it might have been somewhat annoying, it was still quite the experience. And since it was light pretty early, we just got up a little after the call to prayer to have a little walk in the neighborhood before coming back to the hotel around 7:30 am for the breakfast buffet. The buffet was basic, but honestly, I don’t really need a lot of choice of food in the morning.

I’d recommend this hotel to everyone who just wants the basics a hotel provides. It’s nothing too fancy, but you have all you need. If you want to, you can even have dinner in the hotel – which we did once as we got it in our deal as well – but don’t expect too much of it. It was a basic meal, but good nonetheless.

So if I ever went back to Istanbul I would definitely consider going back to this hotel.

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Public Transport

The public transport in Istanbul consists of a few metro and tram lines, and buses. Each of these can be used with the Istanbulkart which you can get at every station and have to upload with money (much like the Oyster Card in London). The first time you have to pay 10 liras to get the card, but those 10 liras are already on the card (which we didn’t know and added another 10 liras). You can use one card for more people, so it’s fairly easy once you get used to it.

Luckily, thanks to the fact that our hotel was situated in the very center of the old city of Istanbul, we didn’t really need a lot of public transportation. We prefered to walk places as long as it was possible. We only took the tram once to go to Taksim, and then one bus to get to the Wall of Constantinople. The tram was 4 liras one way and the bus 2 liras.

You can also use the same card for the ferry to Kadıköy or Üsküdar. We went to Üsküdar one evening and payed only 1,60 liras one way. A bargain if you ask me. 

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So that’s all for the general part, I think. If you have any questions about these topics (or any other questions), don’t be afraid to leave them in the comment section below or drop me a message.

Over the next few days, you’ll learn all about what I did in Istanbul during my three day stay.

Until next time,

With love, Ellen t

Still Alice

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What is this movie about?

A linguistics professor and her family find their bonds tested when she is diagnosed with Early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

Director: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
Cast: Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin
Genre: Drama
Duration: 101 min

My rating? 5/5

What I thought of it?

Yesterday I was finally able to go see Still Alice in my local theatre, and my mind is completely blown. The story is just so compelling and watching Alice decline so rapidly is really heartbreaking to watch. It’s hard to witness the effect of this horrible decease on both her and her family and loved ones. It really makes you thankfull for what you have in life.

But the reason why I’m completely blown away, is mostly because of Julianne Moore’s acting. What. a. performance! She more than deserved that Oscar for how perfectly she portrayed this character. I also loved all the other actors and actresses in this movie. They all did a really great job in putting their character out there without stealing too much attention from Julianne. Perfect supporting work. As for my favorite actress; Kristen did just an amazing job with Lydia. Definitely one of her best performances to date.

The only tiny remark is that I feel like the ending was just too abrupt. I know that in the book it was sort of in the same way, but it doesn’t work this well on screen. Otherwize, this was a perfect adaption of the book and I recommend everyone to go watch it.

And in case you’re interested in supporting the Alzheimer’s Association; in honor of Kristen’s 25th birthday, we’re raising money for this cause so they can find a cure for this horrible decease. You can find all the information here.

To end this post, I’d also like to send out my thoughts and prayers to family and friends of Richard Glatzer who passed earlier this week after a long battle against ALS. He will be remembered.

“…live in the moment,” I tell myself. It’s really all I can do – live in the moment.”

Until next time,

With love, Ellen

Fifty Shades of Grey

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What is this movie about?

Literature student Anastasia Steele’s life changes forever when she meets handsome, yet tormented, billionaire Christian Grey.

Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Cast: Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson
Genre: Drama, Romance
Duration: 125 min

My rating? 2/5

What I thought of it?

For those who have  been following my blog for quite a while will know that I’m not a fan of the Fifty Shades of Grey book series. To be quite frank; I loathe it. And I loathe the hype that goes with it even more.

But as people who have seen the movie were calling me out for not knowing what I was talking about since I hadn’t actually seen the movie (only read the books), I sort of forced myself to watch it anyway. And oh well, I was quite curious to see why everyone called it romantic when I can’t see Christian Grey as anything else than a pushy, manipulative, abusive asshole.

And yes, dear people, he’s still an asshole in the movie, although they have toned it down a bit. A bit less stalking, tiny bit less of the mind games, but he’s still trying to push her and manipulate her into a lifestyle she’s clearly not comfortable in. And that is still a big fat no to me. It’s so freaking obvious that she doesn’t want it, yet he pushes her over and over again to sign the contract all the while he’s not willing to change himself for her. Asshole first class. I mean, if you claim that someone is “everything I want” you might want to at least step out your comfort zone a bit to make sure that person stays in your life? But no, not Mr. Grey. So don’t you dare to call him romantic or call this romantic, but it sure as hell ain’t. There might be a few romantic scenes in it, but this isn’t a romance story.

Furthermore, I never really like Jamie Dornan as Mr. Grey, and now that I’ve seen the movie, I haven’t changed my mind about this. He might play the role decently (He is really good-looking, not denying that!), but he misses the charisma and power that I always envisioned Christian to have. Dakota does give a nice performance, but both characters just lack dept and most of the time the reason for their behaviour and actions is just “Because”. Conversation between Christian and Ana were often dull and in my opinion, they also lacked chemistry. It wan’t bad, but it wasn’t anything to write home about either.

And don’t even get me started on the rating for this movie. This book is soft-porn, yet the sex-scenes in this movie are nearly laugh-worthy. It doesn’t really show that much more than another movie would while the book is explicite as hell. Yes, of course we get to see Dakota in her full glory, but the female watcher is left with just a nice bum. I guess they just wanted to make it more mainstream by making it more suggestive. Either way, it doesn’t work for me.

The only thing I really liked in this movie was the soundtrack. I love Ellie’s ‘Love me like you do’ and Beyonce’s new version of ‘Crazy in Love’. And trust me, that frustrated me so much in the beginning, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can love a song without loving the purpose for what it was written.

I just hope the hype wil die down soon, or that at least people will see this story as what it is; manipulative and degrading towards women. Because then I wouldn’t mind it so much anymore, I think. Then it would be a way to bring attention to those kinds of situations and react to it accordingly. So please, whatever you do, don’t fucking romanticise ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ because it’s not. Did you know a 14 year-old girl has already died re-enacting the movie? She bled to death due to her injuries because she thought it was romantic to be whipped. Something to think about, right?

Anyway, as the movie didn’t have a good base to start with, I didn’t really expect it to be good anyway. Yes, call me prejudiced because I hated the books, but my feminist side just can’t accept the way Christian treats Ana- even in the movie. So basically I still hate the story. The cinematography didn’t excite one bit. The conversations were dull at times. Acting was okay and soundtrack is wonderful. Nothing more.

Until next time,

With love, Ellen

Wild

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What is this movie about?

A chronicle of one woman’s 1,100-mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent catastrophe.

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Cast: Reese Witherspoon
Genre: Drama, Biography
Duration: 115 min

My rating? 2,5/5

What I thought of it?

The reason why I mostly wanted to watch this movie was for the scenery of the Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from the border of Mexico all the way up to the American-Canadian border. It sort of reminded me of ‘Into the Wild’ and I hoped to see something alike. Other than that, I wasn’t expecting a lot of it. And basically there isn’t a lot more to it.

This story is basically a jumbled mess of drugs, booze and grieve. To me it came across as chaotic and I was shocked at how unprepared Cheryl started her Pacific Crest Trail. I didn’t like her character at all. She was sort of a whiny, selfish bitch. But Reese definitely deserves some recognition for carrying that freaking backpack throughout the entire movie. And well, her performance wasn’t bad. It was just a lousy character.

But the cinematography is really amazing. It almost makes me want to go to the Pacific Crest Trail myself. Well, no, it actually makes me want to go do it, but I know that I wouldn’t survive a day out there.

It definitely doesn’t come even close to how beautiful ‘Into the Wild’ was. The story just lacks dept and an interesting character. But yes, the views are really stunning. So just for that, I’m glad I’ve seen it.

Until next time,

With love, Ellen

How to Get Away with Murder (Season 1)

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What is this series about?

A group of ambitious law students and their brilliant criminal defense professor become involved in a twisted murder plot that promises to change the course of their lives.

Creator: Peter Nowalk
Cast: Viola Davis, Alfred Enoch
Genre: Crime, drama, mystery
Episodes: 15, each +/- 45 minutes

My thoughts about this series?

Yes, this is the first time I’m writing something about a series, because I just couldn’t not write something about this one. To be honest, I’m not much of a series junkie (basically, I don’t follow any), but when I saw the first episode of ‘How to Get Away with Murder’ on Belgian television, I was instantly hooked. And now I’ve just finished the last episode of season 1 and I’m sort of mind-fucked so I thought I’d convince you all to watch it as well and become mind-fucked with me. Nice of me, huh?

‘How to Get Away with Murder’ isn’t your usual crime series. Instead of trying to find who committed the crime, you’re half of the time trying to find a way to get the suspect of the crime cleared off all charges. It’s pretty exhilarating. And on top of that, all through the series, you are trying to find out who murdered a girl found in a water tank on the roof of her student house. A pretty brilliant plot if you ask me. It constantly challenges you and makes you want more. I simply couldn’t stop watching it. Many people complain that it’s a realistic representation of law students or criminal defense in general, but this is fiction so who even cares? It’s entertainment and it entertained the hell out of me.

This series is also full of really amazing acting work. Viola Davis impresses most, but the others all have their moments to shine as well. No one really fell out of it, so once again, I’m blown-away.

The only bad thing about this series, is that season 2 is only coming out in September and I’m still left with so many questions. I can’t wait until fall now!

Until next time,

With love, Ellen