Sunday, 5 May 2013

Istanbul City Tour. September 2012

The Hotel Neorion. Istanbul 10 star service!
 I cannot even begin to tell you all just how good this 5 days in Istanbul was! It has to be the best City Tour ever.
The reason for the trip was Air Miles, acquired through the credit card. The tour to NZ all paid for by plastic (!) meant that a spending target was hit and that equated to one free air ticket and a free ticket
for a 'companion'. it had to be booked with the dreaded BA, but its free so who's complaining? Me that's who. And,  this is why what ever you do you need to avoid BA.
The journey was MAN-LHR-IST. we arrive at the BA terminal 3 at MAN, on time. 07.00 to be precise. The queue for check in was long and slow, the check in desk as unhelpful and rude as always! And guess what? the plane broke down. An electrical fault, so we sat and sat and sat with absolutely NO information from the BA counter. Some passengers who had very tight connections to the USA were very stressed at the lack of information. They went to the BA staff to request help, but the staff are skilled in rudeness and sent people away with no information.Eventually after a 4 hour wait we departed to LHR, as we were so late we parked on a remote stand and were then herded to the 'transfer' desk. This was another very long wait of over 3 hours to sort out all the connecting flights for the delayed passengers. The passengers sorted themselves into priority, letting the people who may have a chance of getting on a flight go to the frount of the Q. One couple heading to Texas was being routed through Nigeria with Air say they were not happy is an understatement. For us, we knew we had missed our connecting morning flight, (booked especially as it was a Boeing) and flight stats told me when the next BA flight to Istanbu wasl, so I had worked out that we would wait till 19.00 for the Airbus, I was correct. BA gave us a £20.00 voucher to use during our day a terminal 5, after I asked for it! We used it on a salmon & champers snack to keep our spirits up.
The flight was full and uneventful, and the visa process at IST was easy. Our hotel was sending a taxi for us, we had let them know about the delay. The taxi was waiting for us and it was in the early hours of the morning that we checked into the fabulous Hotel Neorion, this small, independent hotel is No 1 on Trip Advisor and the service we received is the reason why. the staff at this establishment were outstanding, to say they went the extra mile is a cliché, but they arranged a taxi to pick up a non guest at very short notice, let her sleep in our room for the morning she arrived, gave her breakfast and snacks all day(no charge) and even gave her a gift when we left.  Apart from the outstanding service, the hotel is well situated, just a short walk from all the attractions.
Up early the next day we headed for the ferry to take us up the Bosphorus. We got the ferry at the main Ferry terminal of Eminonu, very easy to find just opposite the 'New Mosque' with its fascinating Spice Bazaar, it is this Bazaar that is used in the filming of James Bond Skyfall and Taken 2. The boarding point is by the Galata bridge. The ferry stops at 13 stops as it makes its way up the Bosphorus, so gives you plenty of time to look at the houses and palaces that line the river. we stayed on until the ferry reached the 'fishing village' of Anadolu Kavagr on the Asian side of the river. Here we walked up to the ruined 14th centaury fort  to take in the views of the straights where the river meets the Black Sea. Following the short but very steep climb, we sat at one of the many small restaurants and enjoyed a freshly cooked fish lunch.

View from the Fort of the Black Sea.

Late in the afternoon we got the last ferry back to Istanbul, arriving in time to have our complimentary sun downers on the roof of our hotel.

The next day we were joined by our lovely daughter, fresh from Dubai. And set off exploring the Spice Bazaar and streets next to the Galata bridge, I was fascinated by the Leaches for sale in the Pet Market part of the spice bazaar!We then walked up to the Blue Mosque got the open top bus and drove round Istanbul seeing the whole city and its walls. Istanbul is so easy to get around, I think the bus is not needed and would not recommend it in this city. 


This advertising was seen from the bus.

Over the next 4 days we explored much of Istanbul going to Topkapi Palace with its Harem. The Blue Mosque, The Hipperdrome, The Basilica Cistern, that was my personal Favourite DO NOT MISS IT! The Haghia Sophia with the splendid byzantine mosaics. I experienced a Turkish Bath at the Cagaloglu Baths, if this is 'touristy' then I don't know what the genuine one is like as this was wonderful, almost brought a diamond necklace at a bargain price in the Grand Bazaar! Climbed up the Galata Tower in the Beyoglu district, went to a folk evening of Turkish dancing and this was not just belly dancing, a lot of the music and dance resembled Bulgarian / Slavic Dance. All in all Istanbul was a fantastic 'city break' destination, in the very short time I was in the city I learned much about history that I did not understand before, totally changed my opinion on Turkey. So now ask me if Turkey should be in the EU, its a very loud yes as its a European city with an exotic slant, and a city that should be visited & experienced by everyone before they die.