I pick my holidays to what food that country has to offer. I wasn’t sure I could do another round of tapas or pasta eating again. Provence area seemed lovely and appealing but by May, everything was booked up for June/July, apparently Provence is THE place to go for the June/July season. Anyway I’ve always been fascinated by spices, history, Sultans and anything that has a Roman link to it so picking Istanbul as my destination really was no brainer. Funnily enough food was not part of the equation this time, though it should be, clearly mysteriousness captures me more.
Prior to this trip my experience with Turkish food was non-existent, there was the odd greasy kebab that I had at ungodly hours or the occasional visit to the very good Persian restaurant in Hammersmith but nothing on the Turkish food side. Frankly, it was a gamble on the gastronomically side of things because what if I disliked it? Now that would have been terrible! To cut this short story even shorter, I enjoyed every moment and nearly every morsel of the food in Istanbul from the Ayran to the Baklava.
We stayed at an apartment about 150m away from Galata Tower and since we were on the fourth floor (climbing stairs exercise everyday) we had a view towards the what I’ve termed the ’Old City’, a view that you could never get tried off. It takes about 10 minutes uphill to walk towards the main street Istikal Caddesi which is very lively every night, more so during the weekends, with the nostalgic tram that runs in the middle of the street from Tunel to Taksim. Personally, I would recommend tourist to live near this street, or be no more than 10 minutes away because if you are the type of person who thoroughly enjoys a buzzing atmosphere, strolling after dinner and sleeps late then this is the place for you. Plus you get the best of both worlds, by being somewhere where it is still lively at night time but an easy walk or quick zip on the tram line from the historical centre where you’ll spend most of the day at.
The transport, Tramway, is very easy to use in Istanbul. Just remember to purchase an Istanbulkart or Akbil, both are the same things but we found that many store vendors still went by the older term Akbil. It costs 6TL to buy, refundable at the end of your holiday, it works exactly like the London Oyster or the Hong Kong Octopus card. This makes life much easier as it saves you purchasing tokens or finding coins to pay for the transport every time. Note that you can’t purchase the cards at the airport and you’ll have to buy it once you are in the city, just a mentioned on the airport – city or city- airport transportation, arranging a private transfer and taxi costs more or roughly the same. We had a pick-up service when we landed in Istanbul and hailed a taxi on our way back to the airport at the end of the holiday.
In fact any transport is easy to use in Istanbul one you have the Akbil, maps are clearly shown and destinations are clearly written. It’s all very user friendly, if in doubt just ask any person near you. Every Istanbul-lite we met is friendly and all very willing to help the lost, clueless and confused tourist. Please note that the previous statement has come from a person who has lived in London all her life.
It doesn’t say in guidebooks, but we realised that many toilets around Istanbul state clearly that you can’t put toilet paper down the loo, instead they have a bin where you dump the used tissue. We sometimes used the toilets in 5* hotels (because when you are sightseeing, nothing is more luxurious than stepping into good air-con and nice-ish toilets) and I assumed that they had better flushing system as there was no sign to state that any type of tissue should not be thrown into the toilet. Just remember to always carry packets of tissues with you.
That’s all for now, more updates will slowly make its way here.
Goodnight from London