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Meet up with Findler-Bloor-Gormans...

We were pretty excited to see Istanbul, get resupplied with a few essentials and, of course have a lot of quality time with the 'rents!

The 2 Debs had been meeting to make plans for a few months and Rob had read his rough guide from "front to back". We'd booked accommodation months ago, so it was nice for us to have some time without having anything to plan. We had envisaged an emotional reunion at the airport, but it turned out we were arriving to airports at opposite ends of the city. Instead we rendezvoused at Frida suites, our home for the next 4 nights.

The Findler-Bloor-Gormans were chauffeured from the airport, while we took the bus and a short walk, but it sounds like our journey was easier... We arrived to find a locked door, no bell, note or anything, so I nipped into a local cafe to use a phone. A few minutes later, the characterful Ozzy arrived to show us in. It turned out that the others had to wait for 30 mins outside and a helpful passerby had berated Ozzy for his poor service, so we weren't far behind them. Ozzy found my mum on the stairs and informed her that we wouldn't be arriving until tomorrow, a hilarious rouse, which we kept up for a few seconds before having the wind squeezed out of us by a Mantis hug! Next was the Findlers where there were more hugs and a few tears...

Dinner for the evening was to be nibbles from the local supermarket, a couple of bottles of champagne, effes beer and a nice single malt. The food-drink balance was about right... We spent the night in Mum and Phil's room, which became the social area for the week, catching up, receiving my birthday cards and the odd gift (thanks everyone, you shouldn't have!), and generally having a laugh.

The next day was an 8am breakfast followed by a guided tour stating at 9am. We found a local breakfast place with fresh baked goods, a friendly owner and a menu with items such as "roasted with toasted" for us to try and decipher. It was all good so it didn't matter too much what we pointed to. Our private tour guide for the day was Urzu (apologies for any misspelling). Soph and I are usually too tight to pay for a guide and often like getting lost and finding things on our own, but for a group of 6, a guide was a good decision. It turned out particularly well as this was to be our only day of sunshine, so a great time to tick off all the main places. Urzu took us at a nice pace from our apartments, to sultanahmet, the Topkapi Palace, the hippodrome, a nice lunch stop, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and finally an underground cistern... No wonder we were all tired after! There is plenty in all the guide books about these places so I think the pictures show enough for the purposes of this blog. Needless to say, Istanbul is pretty incredible to look at and understand some of the history of.


A few things that we can remember from Urzu:
Tulips originated from Turkey and bulbs were stolen by the Dutch.
No images of people or animals are allowed in a mosque.
Hagia Sophia was made a museum to prevent warring over whether it should be mosque or a church.

We felt lazy after all that, so took the funicular up to Taksim Square to avoid the steep walk. It was fairly busy, with what we assumed to be preparations for independence day celebrations. There was to be huge firework and light show over the Bosphorus that evening, however, a second mining disaster in a month lead to a last minute cancellation. It was a shame to miss it, but the chance to have a more relaxed evening wasn't so bad given the days exersions. The little fish restaurant round the corner was reasonable and the fish was very tasty. Rob's plate of dry mini burgers and chips was not so good. We all agreed that not ordering fish in a fish restaurant is a bit like ordering an English meal in a Chinese restaurant and had only a little simpathy as we tucked in!

Day 2 and we were on our own. We tried a different place for breakfast. It was a highly confusing ordering process... A well presented English menu, stylish interior, plenty of staff and no one else in - seemed simple... First the waiter decided to take our order without writing it down. Then he went away part way through to fetch a pencil, but no paper. We repeated the order. Then another man joined him and the first man explained what we wanted, getting about 60% of it right, which was more than expected. Finally it was decided to write down the order, but rather than start again, we were to correct the order that the first waiter had decided we wanted... drinks took 20 mins to arrive, but surprisingly we got everything we ordered, I think...

So after a rather trying breakfast, we hit the grand bazaar where Sophie and I planned to buy all of our Xmas presents to send back. This plan did not work out. The architecture is impressive, a warren of archways, pillars, domes, semidomes and quarter domes, but the shops... Not so impressive. We had visions of chaotic scenes of trading, locals buying all sorts of weird and wonderful things, handmade crafts, etc. We also expected to get lost. The Marrakech souks it is not. Instead, it's a grid of expensive souvenir shops, very easy to keep your bearing, but not so easy to find decent presents, so sorry everyone... The Findlers did however manage to keep up their tradition of buying xmas decorations from around the world. Debra was chief barterer and used all the techniques: the walk away, the "we've found it cheaper round the corner" and finally the fluttered eyelashes... Nice work Debra. Mum got in on the action too after Deb had beaten them down!


Next we had a quick soup and coffee stop in a run down but friendly and tasty cafe, whilst sheltering from the rain, before heading through the backstreets surrounding the bazaar in the general direction of the spice market. The same tea sets, shisha pipes, etc were on display, but still we failed to find anything to purchase. The spice market was similar, though had a few better quality shops and a bit more atmosphere.

We had heard Kadakoy on the Asian side was worth a trip and a bit more of an authentic shopping experience, so we caught the ferry from the golden horn, across the Bosphorus. This incredibly exotic sounding trip costs less than £1 and gave us a nice perspective of the city, a welcome sit down, a bit of traditional music on the way and a warming cup of tea on the way back. An excellent way to travel. Kadakoy's highlight was the market street with fish, veg, spices, chocolate shops, a great yoghurt and honey shop and, at the end, a few bars where we could sit under cover with some nice warm heaters... Rob was a little disappointed he didn't have time to sample the fish fillet butties on our way back to the ferry though (they did look good and very cheap).


Soph did a bit of research and found us a nice restaurant, Babel, for the evening. Plenty of mezze, wine and margaritas... all pretty delicious and a nice evening. On the way out we were given a caramel vodka shot which proved to be a bit of a hit with a normally fairly teetotal Debra Findler...

Day 3: more rain, seaside town of Ortakoy, the Bosphorus bridge, a photography exhibition and Friday night out... We had a pleasant day pottering around and seeing another side to Istanbul. We called it a day to head back and grab an afternoon tea (at last Yorkshire tea) and to get ready for a night out...


We started at 360 bar, which had stunning views over the city and pretty good cocktails and then headed to another Sophie selected restaurant called Nineteen. Rather than make any decisions, we ordered everything and it was all good, washed down with a few carrafes of the house wine. Having stuffed ourselves, Debra felt the pull of the caramel vodka shots and dragged us into the place we visited the previous night (that's broadly what happened anyway)...


Our time with the parents had come to an end and after much too short a sleep, we breakfasted and saw them off in their taxi. Seeing everyone had been great and being treated to everything while they were with us made it nice for us to not have to constantly check whether things were in budget. We had a lot of fun, thank you!

We returned to bed to sleep off some of our hangover, before heading to our more budget accommodation for the evening. Our parents had worn us out, so a walk and a meal was just about all we could manage with the rest of our day before getting in bed by 7pm!

Next stop, Tokyo...

Posted by bloorsontour 03:43 Archived in Turkey

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Ha ha! This entry made me laugh and cry.

Love the photos. My fave was initially Deb and Soph with head scarves... until I saw Deb knocking back the shots!!

by kirst

The wonderful photographs of Istanbul would grace any tourist brochure and photos of you six show a happy group enjoying time together. Love you lots xx

by the wrinklies

It was a wonderful few days. Xxx

by mutsi

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