Apologies for all those who voted Dominican Republic to be this months travel blog. I’m still wading through pictures on our desktop before I can pull it all together! Back in the day, it wasn’t iPhones or smart phones that makes it so easy to be “instant” nowadays!! But we promise to still cover Dominican Republic in the coming months. I promise you won’t be disappointed with this months substitute: Istanbul!
Firstly, I must say, I love this place. I’ve been there once with the girls, again with my husband (you’ll see pictures merged of both visits); and if given the chance, would happily go there again.
The vibrancy, culture and ambiance of this city is what I love. Both visits were different from each other, with so much to see and do.
When visiting with the girls, we stayed closer to the football stadium and did a bit more evening galavanting (as you do!). Our evening escapades included an evening out to dinner in the bospherus area, and finding this quirky place you could chill, smoke, play games, and drink. Apart from the smoke (which England has made us sensitive too!), it was a fab jamming spot.
When with the hubby, we stayed in the old town near the grand bazaar. Both locations equally as awesome.
I could go on and on about this place but with so much on the list to tell you about, I’ll stop the chit chat and get on to the fun facts:
1. Enjoy your hotel. Simple but necessary. Relax your mind (there’s so much to fit in, you’ll need it!). Both hotel locations were lush (you might spy a picture of me & the girls posing in the hotel!)
2. Visit Topkapi Palace. Be sure to get the information speaking headphone / guide – it’s a massive palace, you’ll be sure to need it. The palace was the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman Sultans. The grounds & views also beautiful
3. Dolmabahce palace – I loved this place (more so than Topkapi but that’s simply personal preference). This palace was also the main centre of the Ottoman Empire but the gardens, design and layout, overlooking the sea is what made it that little more spectacular for me
4. It’s definitely worth a visit to the largest ancient “Basilica Cistern” that lies beneath the city of Istanbul. Inside, there are people offering you weird and wonderful things (ie, to dress up in the era and take a picture), but the wonder of this place is seeing the two heads of Madusa.
5. Galata tower – a must. Depending on your time of travel, be prepared to wait in a queue. The views are worth it. You can have a light bite at the top before heading back down
6. For the shoppers, Grand bazaar is THE place to be. You can get lost here, and I’d advise to take someone with you who’s good at bartering (I’m totally rubbish!, thanks to my sis, she’s the haggler of the two of us!). Depending on what you’re after, look out for the good “copies” and ask someone to show them “putting a lighter on leather” – this shows you the authenticity. Hubby & I also found some tasty authentic food in the bazaar, nice and cheap so were happy bunnies. I’m a foodie over shopping (can you tell!)
7. Blue mosque – just wow. So, hubby and I recently came back from Cairo were we saw their kind of blue mosque! It just didn’t compare! This mosque is just stunning. Sitting proudly up on the hills, to be seen from near & far. You’ll have to wear something on your head / cover your legs (but don’t worry, they’ll give you cover if you don’t have). As it’s an active mosque, you’ll also have to take off your shoes to go inside.
8. Just by the Blue Mosque, you’ll find Hagia Sophia (also close to the basilica cistern). Here, this church meets Christianity and Islam. With signs from both religions in-scripted in one part of the ceiling. This to me was the miracle
9. Taksim square – due to security issues, this Square was closed when the girls & I went, but was thankfully open when hubby & I went last year (2017). Great place to relax, eat, drink, and watch the world go by. There was a market on during our visit (and I assume most likely they have different ones through the course of the year), so more shopping / mooching for us to do
10. Take a walk along Galata bridge. Stop and take a moment to fish or watch the mass of many others fishing over the bridge. The best thing for me (again, another food story!), was at the top of galata bridge, you’ll see the boats. You can either do a boat trip (which I did with the girls), and/or, grab yourself a fresh fish sandwich. The best fish sandwich ever! Then indulge in some sugary donut after #yum
11. Hubby loves to cook so he enjoyed the Spice bazaar (even bought us some mint for lamb and used it when we got back!). It’s a great place to visit also
12. Last but not least: Gulhane Park (but I’m sure there’s still more for me to find in this awesome city). Hubby & I enjoyed a beautiful stroll through, and again, so much happening around you, it was an experience in itself.
As you can see, this city has so much to offer, and from England, a very cheap location to get to; and once there, you certainly won’t be disappointed. We also felt very safe on both occasions. So if you haven’t already, put Istanbul on the list (and maybe remember to invite me along with you!!)
See you next month. Below you’ll find a selection of pictures, but do subscribe to our YouTube channel (Tina Benson) where you can see the full video and brings this all more to life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-RRwFk2_o0