Thursday, 29 August 2019


 Hi folks, this blog is all about travel plans and adventures past and future, hope you will enjoy it.  Come and join me (use the follower button) leave a comment so I know you are there, thanks!


Here is a link for you to cut and paste that takes you to and a very brief video of what we saw in Istanbul, Turkey.

 ''We' is always me with my hubby, who is mostly in charge of the camera (and the budget!).

We flew to Istanbul during Ramadan.  Everywhere was crowded, especially the park around the Blue Mosque, where many families came in the evenings to eat dinner after sundown.  There was a fabulous atmosphere as in the late afternoon/evening the park was packed with thousands of people.  Lots  of interesting food was being set out on huge sheets, toys for children, cushions and blankets. The women spent ages arranging place settings, fruit and water on the picnic sheets while more and more people arrived.  We stayed quite late watching as our beautiful little guest house,although tucked away, was within walking distance of the Blue Mosque.  We were aware that there had been a previous terrorist incident here and I honestly did not even think about this, everything was very peaceful although police were very visible.

We  stayed at Yusuf Pasakonagi in Istanbul  very near the Blue Mosque.  The staff there are extremely friendly (so are the local cats).  It's next to a fish restaurant but there is no odour, just a lot of friendly cats wandering around looking hopeful. As a veggie I didn't eat there but it was popular.

A gem tucked away down a cobbled road, neighbours were little old ladies in wonky wooden houses and a duck with his own paddling pool.

We ate in local cafes, sometimes outdoors, we ate baclava in the rain under plastic covering, snacks in the market and main meals in cafes (no alcohol mainly, most places are unlicensed unless you go to tourist restuarants, which we avoided).  Some cafes had blankets on the chairs to snuggle up in, it was chilly when the sun went down.  Below is some street food we ate next to the tramline in a busy place where there was a long queue at a canteen style place opening on to the road, we were seated at basic metal chairs/tables on the pavement alongside trams whizzing past! you had to keep your elbows in!

Below was a 'sandwich' I enjoyed which was a cheese filled pastry, it was just the job for a quick snack.  Everything, no matter how small, fast or simple, was served with care and presented nicely wherever we went.

Below is a Turkish pizza (we call it Turkish slipper!) and in the background some lovely crisp, hollow bread that was hot and delicious.

After rain for 2 days  our last day was gloriously sunny.  It was a celebration of Attaturk that weekend and all public transport was free.  We took the tram and then the ferry over the Bospherous to the other side of Istanbul to explore the food market. To see more of that you need to go to my video link at the top of the post.  In the markets we found a whole road would be devoted to each product, so you would get a road of dried fruits, a road of pots and pans, a road of nuts and pulses, and so on.  The colours, smells and sounds are intense, the vendors want to invite you in to buy and are persistent, but we like this and don't mind at all.

window of blue mosque (photographs prohibited within)
 The blue Mosque looked more of a soft grey to my eye but I can imagine in certain lights it would appear blue.  It has presence, you can feel it is there, even without looking at it. It is, indeed, a special place and I can understand why so many faithful flock here. It is undergoing extensive rennovation but its beauty was accessible.  Inside it was cool and calm, photography was discouraged and not allowed at all during prayers though, so I only took a snap or two of the fabulous stained glass, it was very dark in there.  It smelled of wood, you take your shoes off and walk on soft, red carpet.    The exquisite tiling inside and stained glass windows were worth the long queue to get in.

Inside the Basilica

The Basilica was cool, a great place to go when you are overheated.  It was crowded though and I had to wait a long time to get this lovely pic of Medusa washing her hair.  It was drained of the water when we visited as undergoing repair/rennovation, but that did not detract at all from it's beauty.  In fact, it enabled us to see in detail the various chambers. 

We visited the spice market twice, because we love the atmosphere, smells and sounds.  People are so friendly and interesting, young lads keen to direct you to their family carpet shops just cant be ignored, learning multiple languages to engage with us tourists, we felt they deserved our attention, we didn't want to buy carpets but we appreciated their efforts.  They will happily walk with you chatting for some time in the hope you will return to them.  Some are from rural areas (a tulip farmer,  sheep farmer and a chap from the Atlas mountains) visiting just like us tourists for the Summer and not seeing their families for months.

We discovered delicious pomegranate syrup to drizzle on salad,... turkish pastry filled with potato and spinach, fresh hummus served with flat bread and olive oil, home made lemonade and a dish called teste, a kind of stew slow cooked in an earthenware pot of delicious vegetables, caramelised with intense natural flavour, warm and filling.  There are various meat versions too.

We used the public tram and ferry to get across the Bosphrous.  It's crammed but fun.  The weekend we visited there was free travel on all transport (we still had to get a ticket but people were very helpful, no problems at all).

More food!  kebabs in the market and below people preparing to break their fast at sundown during Ramadan, it gets dark after 9pm but long before that thousands of people are here with their picnics spread out, preparing to eat together, there is music (men only) and everyone is very happy.

in the market, nuts and pulses

in the market, spices

We like fairly active holidays and did lots of exploring, but still had time for calm evenings watching the cats outside our hotel and sipping a cold beer.  I would stay at the same guest house if I returned, mainly for it's proximity but also the friendly staff, it had a traditional bathroom where you wash over a bowl with running water.

Bed was comfy and breakfast was delicious (continental, help yourself).  What shone the most was the staff, young people, mostly University students, working very hard but always with a smile.

traditiional shower facilities