2. WHO WE ARE: not fancy.
CHRIS: I’ve only ever known the simple pleasures of Economy: the desperate inhalation of honey-roasted peanuts, the personal validation when the hot flight attendant leaves me the soda can after pouring my drink, and the existential bliss of waking to a rising sun, slowly evaporating the drool from my pasty complexion.
JEN: I’m not what you’d call a “classy” traveler — more what you’d call “that person who smells like garbage and fell asleep across three seats in the terminal and someone should probably wake her up because her flight is boarding and she’s snoring, like, LOUD.”
AUBREE: I’ve flown first class once, but I was so hungover I almost vomited before takeoff and then slept the entire flight. I did wake up feeling well rested and far less pukey. I think “fancy” might be my thing.
3. WHAT THIS LOUNGE IS: fancy.
The Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge in Istanbul is out-of-control extravagant, not to mention HUGE. It has everything, from massage chairs to beds. BEDS!
5. First, we basked in the ambience.
AUBREE: Normally at airports, I sit on the ground and stalk people from high school on social media, and here, I didn’t do that once during our extended stay. I feel like the lounge and I both deserve a medal.
JEN: It was super revitalizing just to sit somewhere that didn’t feel like an airport. Of course, it didn’t hurt that this place was STUNNING. And that I’m a simple creature — free Wi-Fi is pretty much the key to my heart.
CHRIS: I’m always terrified that if I sit down at an airport, I will fall asleep and miss my flight. For me, missing a flight represents the ultimate personal failure redeemable only in the form of traditional Japanese seppuku. To prevent this failure, I drink loads of coffee, stand in inconvenient locations throughout the terminal, and stare purposefully at the arrivals and departures screen, often grunting in approval as flights board and take off on time. Give me a lounge with gourmet coffee stations every 10 feet and an olive tree grove to stand amongst and you, sir, have just made a dream come true.
6. Next came the most important meal of the day: coffee.
JEN: Hydration is key while you’re traveling. Of course, so is caffeine (how else will I finish the giant novel I wanted to read on the plane?), and caffeine makes you dehydrated. I loved this lounge for catering to such a beautifully vicious cycle.
AUBREE: I drank seven cappuccinos and two Turkish coffees, and I’m not even sorry. My only regret is that I didn’t go the Chris route and try, like, every bev.
7. While Aubree and Jen stuck to espresso, Chris drank all the drinks.
CHRIS: I could have easily lived a fulfilling life in that place and never have chewed again. If given the choice between leaving the lounge or evolving (devolving?) into a jellyfish only capable of absorbing liquid nutrition, I would have chosen the latter. Fill up a tub with that traditional Turkish yogurt drink and toss me in!
8. Then we took ACTUAL SHOWERS.
CHRIS: Can I just get emotional real quick and talk about how safe and protected I felt in this perfect little shower room? My father always reminds me that I should start a 401(k) and invest in my uncertain future, but did I think about that once while debating whether to wear anything under my free robe? Nope. I simply LIVED.
AUBREE: This was literally the nicest place I’ve showered as a real adult. It had a damn rainfall showerhead and water pressure that I’m sure I’ll dream about for the rest of my natural-born life. Also, I don’t know about y’all, but nothing makes me feel more glamorous than putting on a robe in the middle of the afternoon, brushing my teeth, and taking a selfie.
JEN: Brushing your teeth is bae. So are rainfall showers and complimentary loofahs. By this point, I was already very unsure I’d be able to go back to normal life.
10. …and found ourselves surprisingly enthralled by the slot car racing.
CHRIS: I’ve always approached life like a slot car: one speed, one track, go go go, you know? But I didn’t know that you have to strategically slow down when rounding a tight corner or that you can change lanes if you want. Which means I didn’t just play at the airport — I learned.
AUBREE: I was extremely (like EXTREMELY) proud of my slot car skills, and sort of shocked to discover I have this hidden talent. No one could beat me, like not even the guy who ran the gaming section. OK, so I didn’t actually play him, but I could tell by the way he was eyeing me that he knew he didn’t stand a chance.
11. Then, of course, we had to show off on social media…
JEN: After both Aubree and a 5-year-old destroyed me in slot car racing, I decided to selfie my heart out. The only thing to improve your confidence after defeat like that is shamelessly bragging to your 15 followers, and I loved every minute of it.
13. Finally, it was time for food.
CHRIS: You know how earlier I agreed to be a jellyfish forever? Can I just amend that request real quick and add on the ability to also eat select solid foods? Specifically grilled meats. I will be a jellyfish who also eats grilled meats. Great, thanks.
JEN: My greatest skill as a traveler is probably that I’ll eat anything. I’m also very talented at not hating the cardboard sandwiches from those grab-and-go lunch places in airports. But when you get to eat food that actually tastes good, it just makes you feel like a human again. Your body knows the difference between day-old tuna salad in a plastic container and an assortment of fresh gourmet dishes.
14. This also included traditional Turkish mantı, which was handmade right in front of us.
AUBREE: Watching the mantı being made was completely hypnotic — a leisure activity all its own. Honestly, I stood there for 25 minutes with my mouth slightly agape. And I refuse to tell you how quickly I ate it, but it definitely took WAY less time than it did to make.
15. And, of course, dessert.
AUBREE: Give me free desserts, and I’ll be your best friend. Give me free desserts that are THIS GOOD, and I’ll never leave your side. Seriously — the lounge and I are getting married, and you are all invited.
CHRIS: Here is my plan to save the world: Turkish desserts are drenched in delicious honey, right? Honey comes from bees. The more honey I eat, the more I support the bees. The more I support the bees, the more things get pollinated. I AM LITERALLY SUPPORTING THE CREATION OF LIFE ON THIS PLANET, THEREFORE MORE DESSERT. You’re welcome.
JEN: Chris had an existential experience. Aubree’s was borderline romantic. Mine was mainly cultural, considering the airport had cakes imported from a bakery in Vienna and I ate seven.
16. The #gorg plating made us feel seriously out of our league, but that didn’t stop us from eating everything.
JEN: You haven’t lived until you’ve had ground pistachios in an airport tbh.
17. We had a few hours of “free time,” during which we each went our separate ways. Aubree, naturally, took a nap…
19. …Chris used the golf simulator…
CHRIS: I saw this not simply as an activity during a layover, but as an investment in my future. A little swing here, a little chip there, one firm handshake on the 18th hole, and, BOOM, you’ve convinced a billionaire to invest in your startup and bring waterless toilets to every home in the world! Never mind that I missed the ball entirely — no one will be able to hear that noise over the sound of my success.
21. Before we knew it, the sun had set. It was time for our departure — not only from the airport, but from the people we once were.
JEN: On our last walk through the lounge, I decided I was never going back to being a normal person and/or eating normal person food again. That was, obviously, a lie — I will eat all food, always — but I’m NOT going to like it. Once you’ve tasted the dream, it burns your mouth…or something. I don’t know. I’m a mess.
AUBREE: When I realized it was time to leave the lounge I got like irrationally sad. I’m still sad. Like I could cry at my desk. Actually, I’m crying. Don’t look at me.
CHRIS: My memoir will be titled My Heart’s Layover: How One Airport Lounge Showed Me Just How High I Can Fly. Read it. Take this journey with me.