A Travellerspoint blog

Istanbul Old and New

This morning we breakfast on the rooftop terrace of our hotel. The food is very continental consisting mostly of cheeses, cold meats and bread. There are some tasty pastries that we wash down with juice and coffee.

After these we head out into istanbul again. We head down to Eminou which is an area near the Galata Bridge which seperates the old and new parts of Instanbul on the European side. We are approached several times by men trying to get us on various boat trips. I did a bit of research before the trip and was told to avoid these as the trips are ivariably on very small, often unseaworthy boats.

Instead we had a bit further to where the large commercial and passenger boats operate from. We find one offering a 1 1/2 hour round trip up the Bosphorus which is perfect for us. The alternative seems to be 2 hour trip up to the Black Sea a 2 hour stopover and then 2 hours back. A bit too long for us. As is is onyl 10.15 we find a cafe under the Galata Bridge for a coffee. There are hundreds of fishermen arrayed along the bridge trying their hand at catching something.

After coffee we head back towards the pier. This whole area seems to be fish central and is popular with locals buying what looks like sandwiches and small plastic cups filled with a red liquid. The smell is a little intense. I later learn that the sandwiches are called Balık ekmek and the cups contains pickles and vinegar. They are sold from these fancy looking boats that are moored to the pier.

We board our boat which quickly fills up but we have nabbed some good seats on the upper deck. I chose the port side to offer us some shade and good views of the cruise ships in dock as we pass. Most of the notable temples and fortresses are also on the port side as we sail up the Bosphorus, although I didnt know that at the time.

We sail slowley past the cruise ships first of all. Celestyal Crystal, P&O Adonia, Seabourne Odyssey and Celebrity Equinox. We then pass the Dolmabahçe Palace (Sultans Palace), Ortaköy Mosque and the Rumelihisarı (also known as Rumelian Castle). It was built by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II between 1451 and 1452 and look very impressive where it sits near to the Fatih Bridge. The bridge marks the northernmost point of our journey and we turn around to make our way back to Eminonou. The views on the other side are not so impressive but the journey overall was very good and a snip at £2.60 each.

When we leave the boat we cross the Galata Bridge over to the new city and catch The Tünel.It is an underground funicular with two stations, connecting the quarters of Karakoy and Beyoglu. Inaugurated on January 17, 1875 the Tünel is the second-oldest subterrannean urban rail in the world, after the London Underground (1863). It's only a very short journey and when we emerge at the top it takes a while for us to get our bearings. Once we have we head along a very busy and modern shopping district. The feel of this place is very diffrent to the old part of Istanbul where we are staying. It certainly feels a lot more hip, chic and younger.

We eat in the Hard Rock Cafe. Unsuprisingly for a mainly muslim country my fave pulled pork sandwich is not on the menu but the pulled chicken is equally as nice. From there we walk down a very steep hill that is full of quaint coffe shops and uber trendy fashion and general stores. We exit near the cruise port where there is a tram stop that will take us more or less back to our hotel. It's extremly crowded, a bit like the London Underground at rush hour.

We spend the rest of the afternoon in our hotel. We book a transfer to the airport for the morning and then shower and head out for dinner. We eat at a restaurant called Imbat and I cannot fault either the location, the service or the food. The Restaurant overlooks the Bosphorus and we can see the busy commuter ferries nipping too and fro across the waters as night decends. We can also see the impressive Bosphorus Bridge which is all lit up at night and changes colour frequently.

We order the Traditional Turkish Meze Plate (best we have had in Istanbul). I then have the Tombalak, which is lamb slices marinated with milk, onion & paprika. Peter has the Imbat Style Kebab (chicken and steak slices served on pitta bread topped with yoghurt and tomato sauce). We both enjoy very much. We finish with homemade Baklava. The local wine was superb too. After thise we take slow walk back to the hotel and retire as alarms are set for 4.30 for our 5.15 pickup for the airport.

So overall this has been a very interesting trip. Some lows (delayed baggage) and some highs. Taormina, Rhodes Old Town and magnificent Istanbul. We really, really enjoyed our first Celebrity Cruise. Connie was a beautiful ship and the perfect size. The itinerary was great and we tried to do something diffrent on those ports visited before. All in all a great holiday.

Busy Bosphorus

Busy Bosphorus


Fish Boats

Fish Boats


Ortakoy Mosque

Ortakoy Mosque


Rumeli Fortress

Rumeli Fortress

Posted by Patch64 17:00 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Istanbul not Constantinople

We awake in Istanbul. When I venture out onto the balcony we have a spectacular view of both the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia in the distance. The sun is just rising and the eastern skies is coloured with pinks and oranges. We shower and dress before heading to the Oceanview for breakfast. We sit out on the Sunset Bar which has a good view of the Galata Tower. We go up to deck 11 to get some more photos of the city before returning to the cabin to gather our belongings.

We head down to the Ocean Liners restaurant where Elite guests can wait for their baggage tag number to be called. They have coffee, juice & pastries there if you want them. We hear that there is a long line at immigration but will be called soon. At around 8.40 we are called and so we head to deck one and leave Connie. It's been a really good cruise despite the early debacle with the luggage.

We join a long line of people for passport control but it's constantly moving and before long our passports are stamped and we are through to where the luggage is. It's all neatly labelled and number in rows and we quickly find our cases and head out. I look at the time and it is only 8.55. We find Peters name for our taxi transfer and in no time we are heading out onto the busy streets of Istanbul. Our hotel, The Tan, is located in the Sultanahmet which is the old city part of Istanbul.

We are told that check in is not normally till 2pm but we are lucky there is a room available and so we are taken straight up. The room is fairly basic but nice and clean and will suffice for our 2 night stay. After a bit of trouble with the old fashioned safe we head up to the rooftop bar which has a great view of the Blue Mosque. We enjoy a coffee here before heading out to explore.

We exchange some £ and € for Turkish Lira and head straight to the Hippodrome of Constantinople. The Hippodrome was a circus that was the sporting and social centre of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire. Today it is a square named Sultanahmet Meydanı (Sultan Ahmet Square) with a few fragments of the original structure surviving. Most notable are 2 large Obelisks. From there we head toward the Sultanahmet Park which sits nicely between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. We take lots of pictures.

Following signs we find ourselves queuing to enter the Basilica Cistern. The Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. The cistern was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. It's quite dark down in the cistern where most of the pillars are lit from beneath by soft orange lighting. It's give the whole place an eerie but beautiful look.

Back outside we walk through the Topkapi Gardens and then down towards the Bosphurus. We head back into the Sultanahmet and decide we need to eat. One thing you notice in Turkey is that you will be continually accosted by people wanting to either sell you something (usually carpets) or entice you into their eateries. They can be quite aggressive so you need to be firm but polite with them. It can get quite tiring though. Later in the day we balk at entering the Grand Bazaar as we know we would be constantly harangued. That said a kindly gentleman invites to eat on his rooftop terrace and so we agree.

We order a mix meze to share and then grilled chicken each after that. the meze is really good. Hummus, tzatziki, olives, grilled vegetables and anchovies. All very nice. The grilled chicken is cooked perfectly and very tasty. It's is now getting extremely warm so we head back to the hotel for a couple of hours.

We venture out again mid afternoon and walk down to a restaurant called Imbat to check they have our reservation for tomorrow evening. They do. From there we have a beer stop before hopping on the metro to visit the Grand Bazaar. The sea of people around there and the persistent vendors mean we don't enter and take a slow walk back to our hotel.

Our hotel has a rooftop terrace as do many throughout this part of the city. Sadly the bar here is not as well stocked as the sunset bar and there is definitely no Sapphire Martinis tonight. The gin is poor quality and there is no JD so we head out and find another call the Sultan Bar. This one has an amazing rooftop terrace, although the climb up requires stamina and a head for heights. Slim hips are a bonus for the final iron staircase too.

After this we head to a restaurant called Mozaik that I had pre booked. The place is really busy as we get seats sat outside. There is a long table of 23 guests opposite us on the street and an older couple sat to our left. They order a bottle of red wine and insist it is chilled in some ice...weird. This part of town is crawling with strays cats and two of them decide to have a territorial disagreement right in front of us all. They are forehead to forehead both making a wailing that would not sound out of place on the loudspeakers that call the faithful to prayer several times a day. A lady from table 23, clearly not a cat lover, decide to empty a glass of water over them both. Undeterred the cats take the confrontation under their table causing much consternation with people standing up, sitting down & waving napkins at the cats who are still eyeball to eyeball and clearly about to erupt into a whirlwind of tooth, claw and fur. Such fun. Sadly the waiters who I expect see this kind of feline unrest often send both cats off in opposite directions. Normal service is resumed.

The food we order is very good. Like at lunchtime we order a mixed meze to share. Peter then has Lamb Kebabs and I have a Black Plum Stew. Sadly some of the gravy from the stew is spilt onto my white shirt as it is delivered but quick as a flash the waiters are dealing with it with wet wipes and I remark when I get back to the hotel that you can't see a stain at all. The meal took nearly two and a half hours in total so was quite late by the time we finished and so we head back to the hotel. Tomorrow we will attempt a boat trip up the Bosphorus.

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque


Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern


Mosaik Restaurant

Mosaik Restaurant


Dinner

Dinner

Posted by Patch64 17:00 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

North Aegean and the Dardanelles

This is our last full day on the ship and it is a day at sea as we travel further north through the Aegean Sea toward Istanbul. There is a blustery northern wind that we are sailing into which makes it seem worse than it is. The sky is pure blue with not a cloud in sight. As we wake we are passing by the Island of Chios on our starboard and Psara on our port.

We are slow to get moving this morning. We don't have to rush to get off ship. Breakfast is in the Oceanview Cafe. We make a start on packing our cases which is strange for me as I only unpacked mine 3 days ago. We didn't want to be worrying about it later and when done we can relax for the rest of the day.

We head to the photo gallery and pick photos from almost all our ports of call. Unusually we like most of them although there are inevitably some that don't make the grade, they head to the recycle bin. The rest of the day is spent reading or listening to music at various spots around the ship. The reflections lounge, the solarium and even deck 4 outside. We venture into the theatre at 3pm. Leanne Mitchell, who won the first series of The Voice UK is performing. We only stay for a couple of songs as we are not overly impressed. She's a belter but without much range or charisma.

Around 4.30pm the captain announces that the ship will be entering the Dardenelle Straits. This narrow strip of water connects the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmaris. It's about 38 miles long and it will take us about 3 hours to traverse. The captain explains there are many World War One monuments along each side commemorating those who lost there lives, mainly during the Gallipoli campaign. The narrowest point is near the town of Canakkale where the captain say you can see the wooden horse that was used in the Brad Pitt movie Troy a few years back. It was gifted to the town as the movie was filmed nearby. He did mention binoculars might be useful to see it. I search unsuccessfully to spot it as we pass by.

We are booked in The Tuscan Grill for our last dinner on board at 8.30pm. At least we thought we were. Luckily Peter calls to check, they don't have our reservation and they are now fully booked. Peter sets off for the restaurant to see if he can fix. He does albeit for the later time of 9pm. As we are now eating later Peter is dispatched to the Oceanview Cafe around 6.30pm to put together a little tapas plate. We have not eaten since 1pm and I worry we might waste away without immediate sustenance.

Sunset bar is crowded. Most people seem to want to make the most of their last evening. It's strange seeing land on both sides of the ship as we progress gently through the Sea of Marmara. Dinner in Tuscan Grill is excellent. We more or less order what we had on our last visit. We are more relaxed this time as we are not worrying about our luggage and not wearing the cheap shirts on our backs. After dinner we head back to the room to change and put our luggage out into the corridor to be collected later. The sunset bar is much quieter at this hour and we enjoy a last glass of wine as we watch the lights of small towns in the distance. We have a last flutter in the casino before heading to bed around midnight. We are due to dock in Istanbul around 4.30am and will leave the ship about 8.30.

Sailing through the Dardanelles

Sailing through the Dardanelles


Monuments

Monuments


Peter waves from our balcony

Peter waves from our balcony

Posted by Patch64 17:00 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Minarets & Moats

Slept really well but struggle wake up today. Bed is very comfortable. It's about 6.45am and we intended to get up at 7am to ensure we are ready for breakfast in San Marco which is only 7-8.30am. Peter is despatched for the coffees whilst I head out onto the balcony. We are already docked in Rhodes and the starboard side of the ship, where we are, has a magnificent view of the Medieval part of Rhodes town. I can see castle towers, minarets, domes and clock towers. The sun has yet to fully rise but the sky is brightening the whole time.

After we shower we head to San Marco for breakfast. We return and put on sun lotion. Forecast is for a balmy 31 degrees today so we want to get off and start exploring before it really heats up. As we emerge from the underbelly of Connie we are hit by the heat. It's going to be a toasty day alright. We make our way out of the port on foot and enter the walled city by the Virgin Mary gate. One of 12 gates around the city.

We immediately find a cafe for our wifi fix before heading further into the city. We walk through the Square of Jewish Martyrs and up Sokratous Street which is lined with shops that have yet to open we are so early. We are taking pictures the whole time as the place is so pretty. We emerge near the Palace of the Grandmasters where the Knights Hospitallers, the strongest military order in the whole of Christendom, held their seat of power in the Eastern Mediterranean during the 15th century.

We have to escape the rising heat once again and order soft drinks in a small cafe. My medium cola is delivered in a glass boot which is huge. I struggle to finish and would hate to see a large. We head deeper into the city and along Ippaodamou Street. They are lots of little craft and souvenir shops all along the way. We emerge from the city at the St Athanasios Gate. From here we can see the massive walls of the city and the former moat that is now dry. We skirt around through some pine woodland and re-enter the city via the St Johns Gate.

We make our way back to the gate we entered though and walk along side the port and look at all the pretty little fishing boats. Some Nigerian ladies pounce on us as we walk beneath the castle walls. Luckily I had spotted them earlier and saw their trick offering their hand to shake. In a flash they would fasten a woven bracelet around your wrist and refuse to take it back unless you paid for it. Naturally I warned Peter about their sleight of hand.

Peter directed us through another gate that we thought would take us back into the city but we ended up in the moat with some other hapless tourists. We just kept walking praying that we would not have to make a full circumnavigation of the fortification but just as we feared we would we spied a couple of tourists disappear through a small tunnel. They didn't re-appear and so we followed and managed to make our way back to civilisation.

We lunch at a small Taverna off a side street which is lovely and shaded. The tavernas in the main squares are heaving with diners trying to cool off and eat. The one bonus of the weather today is the cooling breeze that swirls about the city. I'm not sure we would have lasted as long as we did without it.

After lunch we return to the ship. Ships staff greet us on the pier with ice cold towels and drinks. The ship is blissfully cool as we head back to our cabin. We change and head back to deck 4 to sit outside and read. We have snack in the Oceanview around 3pm and then I take a dip in the Thalassotherapy pool.

It's the 2nd formal night tonight and I have my own Tux this time. We dress, this time Peter wears a red waistcoat, now and pocket square. I stick to traditional black tie. It's takes ages to get served at the Martini bar as there is a film crew there wanting to catch the barmen do their specially multi drink pour into 6 martini glasses all at once. We chat to a nice couple from Congleton that we got talking to the previous evening whilst we wait to be served. They remind us of Madge and Mel from Benidorm.

Pre dinner drinks are in Cellar Masters where they provide us with a little tapas plate of cheese & olives. Dinner in San Marco is the best we've had this trip. We have a good table as well looking down over the diners on deck 4. I start with Sea Scallops which are really nice, followed by Prosciutto Salad and Duck L'orange for main. the duck is amazing. Peter has Salmon Rillette, Prosciutto and Beef Wellington. He gives them all the thumbs up. Apple Pie Al la mode finishes off his meal. Ice cream mine.

We head up to the Sunset Bar after dinner. It's very quiet. We sit enjoying a drink as we sail further away from Rhodes. We can see the light of mainland Turkey in the distance as boats both large and small pass by on there way to who knows where. We end up in the casino where we try our luck again. We don't win our fortune but it was fun trying.

Grand Master Palace entrance

Grand Master Palace entrance


Grand Master Palace entrance

Grand Master Palace entrance


Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea


Blue Archway

Blue Archway


Sponges

Sponges


Narrow streets

Narrow streets

Posted by Patch64 17:00 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Santorini

The sun peaks over the rim of the caldera as Connie sails into Santorini's crescent shaped bay. The whitewashed buildings of Fira the capital sparkle in the early sunshine. Apart from a smaller Seadream Yacht we are the only ship docked in Santorini. We have no real plans in Santorini today other than to get the tender boat ashore and visit Fira itself. We have been to Santorini many times before.

We eat breakfast in Oceanview Cafe. There is fried bread which I have not eaten in many a year. It's great with baked beans, (English) bacon and scrambled eggs. The pastries are excellent too. We spend an hour or so back in our cabin before changing to go ashore. Connie is using the port tender boats rather than her own and they come in all shapes and sizes. We get one of the larger ones and as a result it takes some time to fill up. Soon we are making our way ashore. We alight quickly to get ahead of the crowd and make for the cable car station. It's the quickest way up the steep sided caldera. The other being by donkey or by foot. After our escapades in Capri my calves are still sore and I would pity the donkey that would carry me.

Once up top we find a bar with great views for a soft drinks. We take too many pictures of Connie anchored below. Next we wander the narrow but pretty streets of Fira which is thronged with tourists all posing with their backs to the sea it seems. We find ourselves doing this.

Next we find a Taverna and order Greek Salads for lunch along with Mythos a beer which we really like. The salad is ok. Not the best we've had but far from the worst. There is a lot of red onion in it which I don't mind but Peter isn't keen. The bread with Olive Tapenade is also very good.

It's blisteringly hot by 1pm and so we head back down the cable car and to the tender boat back to the ship. Once aboard we change and head to the Solarium which is very quiet. We both bathe in the Thalassotherapy pool which is very warm. I figured it would be good for my back which is still very stiff and sore. We get a strawberry and Mango lava flow which was ok. Following this we have coffee and cake in Al Bacio and then a glass of wine on the pool deck.

The Sunset bar is the most crowded we have seen so far this cruise. Seats are a premium as people watch the sinking sun to the west in our wake. We sit at the bar and order our Jack Daniels and G&T's. The place empties a little once the sun has set and we get better seats soon after. We are undecided where to eat this evening. We always said we would try the Buffett for dinner one night but have never done so in 11 years of cruising. Before heading to the Martini Bar we check out the menu in San Marco and decide we would try the Buffett after all.

We try a new Martini tonight. A Blue Wave which was nice but a little too sweet before heading back up to the Oceanview Buffett. We make up our own tapas selection and then I opt for the delicious Lamb Curry. Peters ask the cooks to prepare him some grilled chicken and pork. I skip a dessert but Peter has a selection. We finish off back out on the sunset bar with a cheese plate and some wine. Very nice.

We have a flutter in the casino before heading back to our room at 11pm. Weare exhausted. Connie makes her way slowly eastward toward Rhodes.

Connie sits in the bay

Connie sits in the bay


Lunch Greek style

Lunch Greek style


Pretty

Pretty

Posted by Patch64 17:00 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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