Saturday, 5 May 2012

I love Istanbul. It does seem though that so does everyone else!

Well darlings were do I start? You might be wondering (or not) how is it that a self confessed home body travelled, voluntarily, to a foreign place. The long answer could get complicated and deeply boring to anyone other than me. I can, however, give you a semi short (because I am incapable of doing "short" anything from explanations to hemlines)  to middle length explanation. My friend Sharon send me an SMS a couple of months ago that said something like "We are thinking of a trip to Istanbul. Can we stop over with you for a day or so on our way there?" I got all excited at the prospect of seeing my Special Friends and was about to say "Yes , yes , yes come immediately" when it occurred to me that actually I rather fancied a trip to Istanbul myself. Now I love the IDEA of travelling to all sorts of places but the idea and the doing are two  very different things. One is thinking  safely and the other is a bundle of neurosis waiting to explode. The notion that I could see Sharon and Shaun and see a beautiful place became, after a fair bit of agonising indecision,  all too much for me to not act on. I regretted the decision almost immediately and many times over, of course. I reminded myself that I was going to treat this like a bit of Kismet (well figuratively speaking - this is me we are talking about after all) and I  reminded myself that I should go with the cosmic flow.
I looked for places to stay on-line and went all neurotic again. Everything was toooooooo fraught with potential failure. What if the hotel was a rat infested flea pit. What if Istanbul was horrible and the people revolting? What if the aeroplane crashed before, during, or after take off? And then there is the whole landing the beast. What if the food was yuck and the weather cold? What if everyone wore red hats with green polka dots and I don't have ANYTHING in green and red polka dots never mind something so specific as a hat....... You get the idea. Anyway.... Sharon, "seasoned trip arranger extraordinaire", without knowing she was doing it, soothed my ruffled feathers and plans steamed ahead. Tickets were booked. The moment came when Sharon committed her (or Shaun's) credit card to our  all arriving at the hotel.   I could not back out now. Through all of this Bryan  calmly looked forward to the trip and did not once react to my panics and fury at the "what have I done moments"  that I inflicted on myself  - and him.

I was a nightmare at the airport. For example: Bryan went to the loo when the airport staff arrived at the check out counter. I had a quiet breakdown and knew that I would hate him forever for going to the loo RIGHT THEN. As it happened, believe it or not,  we got on the flight (surprise! surprise!).And so went the traveling part of the holiday. Me being predictably revolting and positive that we would miss flights or somehow get on the wrong plane. SIGH. Bryan is a saint. Why can't I be beamed up by Scotty when I want to go somewhere? Why is it taking so long to get this bit of sci-fi off the screen and into my reality? If scientists can clone a sheep why can't they unravel me and put me together across space and time? Is it too much to ask? It is not like I have to be created. Just taken apart and put back together. I am not asking to be sent to Mars. I will stay on Earth and won't require more than 3 or 4 hours time difference ever.

The neurotic brain fizz was worth it. Just look how pretty she is.
Pick a dome!

Wisteria on tres old wall.....

old, old , old hope I look this great when I am that old......

From the moment we left the airport to the moment we arrived back at the airport the holiday was simply an overload of beauty and delight at every turn. I could go on and on and on which ,as you all know, is not difficult. There are so many descriptions out there in cyberspace, by better qualified people than I, that extol the wonder that is Istanbul poetically so  I won't waste tooooooooo much typing space trying. Having said that.... the sense that you are in the middle of the greatest clashing of cultures is tangible in the best way. The history of the city is celebrated without judgement. Or so it seemed to me. The mix of East and West heartwarming. I am sure there are undercurrents. I am not that naive. The pride that Istanbulls have in their city is a pleasure to see. The people are so very, very accommodating and genuinely seem thrilled to share their home with the rest of the world. We felt so welcome. A shout out is required for the hotel we stayed at Best Point Hotel. What fabulous service. Nothing was too much trouble, ever.
view from the rooftop terrace of the hotel

what other tourists look like

Sharon, ( back view) Penny and Bryan being tourists in Istanbul.

Brilliant tour arranger Sharon with talented 'herder "
and holiday companion Shaun.
We did the full on tourist thing. Well there is soooooo much that you sort of have to do  to get all that bloody big history in. Sharon was by far and away the greatest travel planner ever. She should charge for her services. She also has the most amazing ability to make friends with everyone instantly. She was "best-est friends" with the shop keepers, the hotel bell hop, and  the cute lad that ran the Shisha joint that Shaun dragged us to (as you can imagine no kicking and screaming was required)  over several nights.  Shaun and Bryan filled their lungs with apple flavoured tobacco. Sharon was adored by her fan and I  drank Raki.
Wine or Raki the agony of indecision??????? Picture taken for Julie so that she can see that there are places in the world that know what a decent wine glass size is. FINALLY
The food, like the people, was just special. Everything was fresh and simple and ooooooo so yummylishous. It was a struggle to not just park off and eat all day long.  From the fresh, simply cooked fish to the Turkish Meze dishes. The food was delightfully familiar to me. So similar to Greek meals. As was the apparent pleasure in sitting down to a meal.
Other tourists taking a short break.
Serving Turkish tea and Turkish Coffee

Celebrating a football match win with dinner, music and dancing.

Preparing pastry for someones dinner.

I have to go back.

This is a problem for me as I am a "not much travelled person". So really if I am going to do a spot of travel I  should spread myself about a bit more. Istanbul needs more than one visit.  It just does. That is not just me the " I don't do travel" person talking. I have done a spot of blog spying and it seems that even the most seasoned of travellers ( including our travelling companions Sharon and Shaun) fall madly in love with the city and are drawn back to its welcoming atmospheric cobbled streets and people.


Special thanks to Bryan , Sharon and Shaun for sharing this wonderful experience.

PS Bryan took most of the pictures.


Sophia said...

... feeling the love... Sophiaxx

Hazel said...

Sounds absolutely gorgeous! Def on the bucket list!

Unknown said...

Dear Penny
Firstly I must agree with you that Sharon should start a travel planner business! She has the enthusiasm, management skills, style and taste, adventuresome spirit, and, most particularly, she places the highest priority on eating and boozing. Zimbosinlimbo take note.
Your visit to Turkey looked typical of her style.
Re: "The people are so very, very accommodating and genuinely seem thrilled to share their home with the rest of the world." I love this - it resonates with me. Now rumours are that you are Greek, and the Greeks go in for this too. I recall descriptions of similar such Greek hospitality in My Family and Other Animals, and The Magus, and especially The Odyssey. They - you - call it XENIA, I believe. This must be in your DNA too. I request a blog on this theme; which I would like to discuss with you later over the most enormous glass of wine. Sharon please arrange. Love, Zimbo in outermost limbo.