Journey to Istanbul

We first came to Istanbul in 2000, 22 years ago. The girls were in junior school and my dear mum was with us. Our visit came at the end of our first ever cruise, which was from Barcelona to Istanbul, and something my parents had planned for us to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Sadly, dad had passed suddenly in 1998, but mum still wanted us to do it. It was a fabulous trip which ended with 5 nights in Istanbul in a little historic hotel called Yesil Ev (Green House), literally next door to the Aghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. We fell in love with Istanbul on that trip and have been back many times. It is a wonderful blend of east and west, some areas reminiscent of Vienna…. some very much more Middle Eastern, with strong echoes of the Byzantine and Rome…..

We have a house in northern Cyprus and we generally travel via Istanbul to get there. So, sometimes either at the start or the end of the trip, we elongate our change of planes into a mini break. This time we have 3 days here.

An easy journey from Lucy’s flat in Maida Vale to Heathrow Terminal 5. Uber to Paddington. Elizabeth Line to T5. The latter was superb. About 17 minutes door to door. We were so early, we had time for a coffee before bag drop opened.

The flight with BA was jam packed. I really dislike BA short haul, which believe it or not, is what 4 hours to Istanbul is classed as. The seats are narrow and don’t recline. There is no entertainment system on board and you have to buy your food. Oh, well, that’s not quite true, you do get a mini cup of water and a bag of crisps free. They might as well change the logo to a harp and rebrand themselves Br-Yanair. I feel sorry for the staff. To put it in perspective, our usual flights are with Turkish Airlines and they manage to serve you a hot 4 course meal, full drinks service, a snack, full entertainment system and bigger reclining seats for much the same price. We had a BA voucher to use up hence booking with them this time.

We arrived early into the mammoth Istanbul Airport, bags were waiting for us, and we got a regular taxi from the rank to our hotel. It took about 50 minutes and cost 350 tl – about £17. Our hotel, Hotel Niles, is a lickety spit from the Grand Bazaar, 10 minutes walk to the Aghia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, 15 to Topkapi…… It’s very Turkish, lots of wood, has a lovely roof terrace with Bosphorus view and very welcoming staff. The area is pretty lively and we will enjoy exploring tomorrow.

Tonight after our welcoming apple tea and turkish delight, we unpacked quickly, freshened up and went out to get some dinner. The hotel recommended a place called the Antakya (Antioch) restaurant which was about 4 minutes walk away. It hit the spot, plenty of grilled meat and kebabs, nice wine and beer and a good atmosphere. They were doing good business and we would definitely return. Not posh, bit touristy but it was reasonable value for money. We both chose Ottoman dishes for a change and these mix meat with fruit and nuts. They were delicious. Bob had beef with apricots, walnuts, small black fruits that might have been young black peppers. I had meat balls with tomato, peppers, apricots and yoghurt.

Wandered back through the still bustling streets excited for a day in the bazaars tomorrow.