last couple of days in Istanbul
We pretty much did all that was planned - a promenade down Istiklal Caddesi to window-shop and soak up the busy atmosphere of modern Istanbul. Rex and Oli tackling the steep ascent for a panoramic view from Galata Tower. Dotty (how I miss her) and Rex visiting the cool depths of Basilica Cistern where water used to be stored for the Great Palace. Different empires have occupied Istanbul and each has made its distinctive mark on the place. I've never been a history buff but can't help being impressed by it all.
We stumbled upon Arasta Bazaar and its lovely collection of shops. One buy led us to the owner's other four shops where every effort was made to sell us a Turkish rug over a glass of Apple Tea. It's always a good idea to exercise a little caution in business affairs!
Generally the Turks are so friendly and hospitable - it's hard to believe the branding that moslems often receive. It's been such a pleasure to stay at Sebnem Hotel where the lovely staff have become like family and the parting was sad. It was what made our stay in Istanbul so special - then there were the restaurant hawkers who we regularly came across (one who wanted to know if we ate crocodile, another had written on a piece of paper his proud lament of true blue kangaroo, the waiter who turned a serviette into a tulip).
We started our last day typically with a huge and impressive breakfast spread. The beautiful sunny day lent itself to a Heybeliada island visit. We explored the laneways and pine groves by bicycle and when the muscles tired, we hired a 'fayton' (horse drawn carriage). It was my birthday after all. That evening we departed Istanbul on the overnight train to Ankara.