Istanbul Again


Saturday, 05 October 2019

We had quite a lightning and thunder show in the middle of the night and the first rain since Batumi about a month ago.  It was nice to be able to lie in this morning and not be up, packed, breakfasted and ready to roll.

We ate a light breakfast at our nearby deli café and were welcomed back by the waiter who had served us on previous visits.

We had to meet Sabahattin (the owner of our tour company) at 11:00 to pay for the remainder of our tour.  We only found out yesterday that Sabahattin is the older brother of our driver Orhan, but now the family resemblance makes it clear.  Like Iran and Uzbekistan we have not pre-paid any of our tours.  Commerce in Muslim countries really does work on trust.  Another cousin of the family owns a carpet shop in Istanbul so while we were talking to Sabahattin we were simultaneously looking at carpets that were being flicked out onto the floor.  They also had a few nice sofrehs but they understood that we were not buying today.  It was good to make a contact nevertheless as we did talk about trading some of our “less loved” carpets.

We trod our well-worn path to the Grand Bazaar to see Erol but he was away in Bodrum at his summer house, as he did not get our email and we did not receive his phone calls.  We spoke to him on the phone and he will return to Istanbul on Monday or Tuesday to see us.

We returned to Karakoy for a very nice lunch at our Lokantasi.  Welcomed back by some of the staff who recognised us from previous visits.  Shared zucchini fritters with a yoghurt dip for entrée, Clive had liver and Cheryl had lamb on a aubergine puree base for main and a shared yummy rice pud (sutlac) for dessert.  A glass of wine for Clive and an ayran for Cheryl.

A blissfully relaxed afternoon doing not very much and a simple chicken doner and ayran for dinner rounded out the day.

Sunday, 06 October 2019

A sleep in, again!  We bought some eggs, bread, butter and jam and had breakfast “in” for the first time in a month.  We didn’t get out until nearly 12:00! Slugs!

IMG 1835IMG 1839IMG 3948

We took the tram to the end of the line at Kabatas then continued walking along the foreshore of the Bosphorus, past the Dolmabahce Palace to the Naval Museum.

IMG 3949

It was very busy along the way as there was a football game on at the Besiktas Stadium and the police were out in full force with barriers, shields, helmets, gas masks, … the works.  It seems the Turks take their football seriously.  Fortunately, there were no incidents and we arrived at the Deniz Muzesi without incident.  To our surprise, Sundays, (or today), entry was free – even better.

Even though the museum was a bit of a “what to do?” excursion it turned out to be very interesting.  The major feature of the display was the extensive collection of the Ottoman Sultans’ “grand barges” the largest of which had 144 oarsmen.

Like all of the museums we have visited in Turkey it was very good and well documented the nearly 1,000 year history of the Ottoman/Turkish navy.The late afternoon was spent in blissful indolence in our comfortable studio.

We dined “downstairs” at our Lokantasi and had a very good dinner.  Marinated mackerel for entrée followed by thinly sliced zucchini in a light batter with a yoghurt dressing, then grilled prawns and grilled octopus and a tomato and red onion salad.  Finished off with a shared semolina cake.

Monday, 07 October 2019

We walked over the Galata bridge to Eminounu and to the Rustem Pasha mosque (our personal favourite) but unfortunately it is undergoing some restoration work and visitors were not permitted.  The mosque is in the bazaar for bbqs, heaters, pots and pans so we took the opportunity to buy a new stainless steel grill for our rusty old Roquebrun bbq to extend its life by a few years, followed by a thin wooden rolling pin for our pasta-making exploits.

Strolling back through the kitchen bazaar we spied through a doorway a renovated Han (inn) so nipped in for a look.  The building has been brought back from the brink of ruin and made into a lovely open courtyard area for cafes, dining and small shops selling tea, coffee and spices.  We lingered over a Turkish coffee and then bought all the spices needed for our stay in Roquebrun (which can sometimes be difficult to obtain in France).

IMG 1876

By now it was near midday and we ventured into the Spice Bazaar (built in the 1660's) to Pandeli restaurant which was written up lately in Cornucopia magazine after a recent restoration.  Pandeli is actually situated in the Spice Bazaar building and has hosted many famous people: including Queen Elizabeth II, Audrey Hepburn and Ataturk (none present today).  We had zucchini in a light batter, lightly fried liver followed by stewed lamb on a puree of aubergine – all delicious.

After lunch Cheryl strolled down to the hammam at the Kilic Ali Pasha mosque (constructed between 1578-1583) to have a good scrub and remove all the road grime form the past month’s travel.  She returned glowing.

Tuesday, 08 October 2019

This is our last day in Istanbul.  After our customary breakfast at our deli café we had to walk up the hill to near the Galata Tower as Cheryl had made an appointment for a haircut.  It was raining and the walk up on the wet cobbles was a good test for how well Cheryl’s knee has progressed in the last month.  With Cheryl safely deposited at the Bayan Kufure Clive struck off to explore but unfortunately turned up nothing interesting.  The haircut took an age (well, longer than Clive’s would have) and the young chap seemed intent on cutting each hair individually.  Turned out quite nice – he even tamed the cactussy bit at the back.

Our next objective was to go to Gallerie Shirvan and take possession of the little rug we had reserved a month ago.  The rug had needed some tender loving repair when we saw it a month ago and it had been done brilliantly by Ramazan and had been stretched and looked “as new” – not that one really wants a new looking rug but you get the meaning I’m sure.  As it was near lunch time Erol invited us for lunch, as he usually does, and we walked to the Aslan Restaurant just outside the market which is a classic lokantasi where you have to go look at the dishes and pick the ones you want.

Returning to the Gallerie, Erol showed us a few selected pieces that he thought were particularly special and would really appeal – they were magnificent, if only we didn’t already have two houses full we would have been tempted.

We returned to our hotel in Karakoy to rest and do a final re-pack before having a final dinner at the Lokantasi downstairs which was again excellent.

Reflecting back upon Georgia and Armenia; the food there (not to mention the wine) was really bad.

Early to bed as we have to get up at 04:50 to catch the plane back to Toulouse. 

Wednesday, 09 October 2019

It was a very quick trip to the new airport at 05:15 in the morning.  The new Istanbul airport is vast and you have to walk kilometres.  The tedium of air travel just gets worse and worse and is really turning us off any further travel.

Thankfully slept most of the way without getting a crick in the neck.

Gone are the days of separate queues for EU citizens on arrival with a quick glance at the passport – its all nationalities in the one queue and it seems to take ages, especially when two planes arrive at the same time which doesn’t quite happen to be the start of the shift for the border police – grrr!

We are leasing a car for the duration of our stay this time as we can’t be bothered picking up and dropping off hire cars.  Ironically, the paperwork and time taken in getting a lease car (which you technically own) is far less than getting a damn rental car in France.

The drive to Roquebrun went smoothly.  French roads and drivers are just so good compared to parts of the rest of the world.

Stopped at our Carrefour supermarket on the way home to do a big shop and it was like two kids in the lolly store: wine, cheese, …

Our little house was there to greet us.  It is amazing that, thanks to our sturdy wooden shutters, it hardly even gets dusty in the 9 months that we have been away.  By sunset we had unpacked, had all our rugs out and “were home”.

Clive says he’s not going nowhere not ever again so this is the final word on this travel blog.  For anyone that has read this far, we hope you enjoyed it.

© Cheryl & Clive Miller 2019-20