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  • Shelley Dark

6. It's a little late.....

My darling travellers

We arrived at 4.30am to Ataturk airport. It’s now after midnight - you can imagine how much sense I am making 😜.

I’ve negotiated the maze of electrical cords under the desk in my hotel room - it looks like a nightmare, but the phone is hooked up to the laptop, the laptop is charging, both devices are on the hotel wifi, and I’m trying to decide whether to edit the photos on my mobile before I transfer them, or not. And then the photos from my camera as well. None of which is difficult, but after such a long wonderful day, and a couple of wines with the most amazing woman Kate Cody (@everydaycurator). I’m starting to wilt. It’s only the memory of such a funny day today, but more importantly the knowledge that you, who took such a leap of faith to sign up as a traveller with me, that is keeping me awake.

Istanbul is thrilling. Clean, busy, sophisticated, and thriving. The old city looks simply amazing with all the minarets punctuating the skyline. Can't wait to see it tomorrow. uh oh. Today.

Our itinerary provided for what we thought would be a quiet easy day today after the flight: a private guide to escort us on a Bosphorus cruise, sitting and gazing at the mansions on the foreshore.

Not quite as relaxing as we thought. But so good! With our guide, we strolled from our hotel across the Galata bridge to the ferry departure point and boarded a ferry for the long and scenic boat ride. So many magnificent stately homes and palaces along the shore. We were interested to hear that like San Francisco many of the houses are built of wood, and the government has had to legislate to preserve them, as renovators were knocking them down to rebuild. Even a story of a haunted mansion. Some of the treasures below..

Then off the boat at Sariya and on to the number 150 bus, with a u-turn at a town where the people are called ‘weird’. We passed a private university where the student cars parked along the main road featured brand names such as Audi, Maserati and Porsche.

Off our bus at the terminus, the town of Rumeli, a small quiet village at the junction of the Black Sea and the Bosphorus. A lighthouse still guards the strait, a huge working marina protects the fishing boat fleet, and the call to prayer echoes along the street. Men play cards and other games and dogs roam the street - one escorted us on our way, growling menacingly at any other dog which wanted to join the procession. The municipality takes these dogs as puppies, castrates them, puts a tag in their ear and returns them to their neighbourhood where locals feed and love them. One of the more relaxed ones below. (and the city loves cats! They are everywhere. And nearly every shop has a bowl of water, and sometimes food outside)

We had a picnic on a plastic chair and a street bench in front of the local bakery with a few local cats watching and the odd local calling out a greeting. Barek (above) is a street food made of filo pastry with cheese or meat or icing sugar. Further up the street, a dilapidated sofa bed against a front fence provides locals with a chatting place.

Not far back along the Bosphorus, a huge and incredible new bridge (below) is being built from both sides, to meet in the middle.

Back onto the 150, and 40 mins later, the terminus of the underground rail system. We descended 4 very long escalators before we arrived at our platform; the subway was constructed at this depth because of the risk of earthquakes. Six or so stops later, we came to Taksim Square, the beginning of the smartest street in Istanbul which is 1600m long, many of its shops the home of international labels. We walked its length, detouring to see the beautiful Çiçek Pasajı (flower passage).

Deep in an arcade, we tried deep-fried mussels with a delicious garlic sauce, mussels on the shell with rice and herbs, and sweetmeat of lamb on a bread roll. We wandered past fish markets, fruit and veg vendors, jewellery stores, through arcades, with a throng of people everywhere. Istiklal Street has a tram line, but otherwise seems to be solely for pedestrians. The odd ambulance roars through the crowd.

At the end of Istiklal Street, our guide left us, and we bought our tickets for the lift to the top of the Galata Tower. Built in 1453, it is as impressive now as it just have been then. The views were stupendous. And the state of disrepair of the rooftops of many of the buildings, which from the ground must look habitable, was amazing.

There's a school near our hotel, an Austrian school called St Georges. The staircase below was built by a parent to save his son having to walk around a block.

A late afternoon walk down the hill to our hotel, very comfortable and wonderfully situated, in time for a shower before a drink with Kate Cody, @everydaycurator on IG. It should have been on our rooftop bar (photo) but it’s pouring tonight. I could have spent hours with Kate - such an amazing and talented girl who is a living example of following your dream. She has worked for Lonely Planet, Weight-Watchers, and also in the health sector in Australia. She is at the moment working for Luxe Guides in Istanbul. She and her husband both gave up their steady jobs, and with three of their grown-up children came here to live here for a year, but because of visa problems, are now about to go travelling - Sicily, Corsica, Morocco…..

Darlings please forgive mistakes - spelling, grammar whatever. The photos are a bit out of order, and there are more, but it’s too late to edit them. It’s time for bed. Thank you again for joining me. It means a great deal. xxxx

ps just discovered that I was only allowed 10 comments, so I've upgraded and now you shouldn't have a problem. Will master adding video asap!

shelley dark, writer 

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