After a long day of flying from the UK, with a very early start, Aude finally arrived in Istanbul early Friday evening. We headed down to Baghdad Street, on the Asian side, for a quick dinner of kebabs. Our cab driver was the worst that I’ve encountered in Istanbul – and that’s saying a lot. In the end, we got out and walked, fearing for both our lives and our stomachs if we continued on in the taxi.
I don’t know where this myth started about the Turks having great food. Sure, you can get your choice of lamb or chicken grilled to perfection at most places. But that’s about it for variety. Maybe a salad or some fish, grilled without any sauce. For the record, if I never eat Turkish food again, it will be too soon. The diet is one part of this country I certainly won’t miss. The Turkish have one of the highest smoking rates in Europe – nearly 90% of adults here smoke. And they have a correspondingly low life expectancy. But I suspect that their early death has nothing to do with their smoking – they smoke so they don’t have to eat their rubbish food, and eventually they face their millionth kebab and just give up the will to live.
Never mind. Aude had brought some champagne with her, so we had a few glasses and called it an early night back at the hotel.
Saturday morning, I hired a car and driver to spend the day with us. I did the same thing when I was in Sydney and Bangkok, and I remain convinced that this is the best way to see any city if you’re short on time. Our chauffeur whisked us off to the European side of Istanbul (via ferry, which was a nice way to get our first views of the old city) and then from one place to another, no waiting, no confusion, no language difficulties, and most importantly, no hassle. He even recommended a great fish restaurant for us at lunch. We had the terrace to ourselves, and had a great time watching the world go by.
Aude did a great job setting out our itinerary (I’m usually useless at things like this, and happily handed over the guide book and delegated all responsibility for planning our day, my role having ended at booking the car.) We took in all the big sights in the old city – the Topkapi Palace, the Aya Sofya, the Grand Bazaar, and the Egyptian Spice market. It was a great day out, and the weather stayed absolutely perfect for us.
I took loads of photos, but I’ve chosen a small handful for this website. I’ll stick the rest up later when I finally have some time.
Matt and Aude on the ferry from the Asian side of Istanbul to the European side
A group of Muslim women visiting the Topkapi Palace
There are cats everywhere in Istanbul. Here’s one of the little guys peering out of a fountain at the Palace.
Matthew standing outside the entrace to the kitchen at the Topkapi Palace.
The entrance to the inner courtyard at the Topkapi Palace.
Aude in the gardens of the Topkapi Palace, enjoying the perfect weather on a November morning.
Aude on the stairs in the gardens at the Topkapi Palace.
A view of the Asian side of Istanbul
One of the mosaic doorways at the Topkapi Palace
Lunch in an Istanbul restaurant
Aude outside the Aya Sofya
Aya Sofya. Clearly the signs didn’t apply to the cats.
Aya Sofya, looking fantastic in the setting sun
Gold sellers at the Grand Bazaar
The Egyptian spice market
Uh oh! Aude needs to be on the lookout for counterfeit products — they’re everywhere!