Well after a busy few weeks I’ve finally got a chance to catch up on this! I’m not even going to try and remember what we did on what days, in what order, for our last few days in Istanbul.
We did go for a cruise on the Bosphorous River though. It was pretty cold and windy, so while we spent a lot of time on the deck, we ended up spending the second half inside out of the wind. A lot of people say a Bosphorous cruise is a ‘must do’ in Istanbul. While it was an interesting activity to take up some extra time we had, I wouldn’t rate it a ‘must do’. We did the short version (2 hours return) and saw some interesting buildings overlooking the river (the coolest were probably the Ottoman forts) but I don’t think you’d be missing out on a lot if you didn’t do it. It is a good opportunity to see what the other parts of Istanbul are like though, parts you probably wouldn’t visit otherwise.
We also visited Taksim Square in the new city of Istanbul. There’s some kind of memorial in the middle of it, which we didn’t pay a lot of attention to because the square as a whole was kind of boring, but there was an assortment of stalls selling lots of brightly coloured flowers along one side.
There was also an old-school tram which did a loop through the area and turned around at Taksim Square. We took a walk down the pedestrian mall leading off Taksim Square where, much to our delight, we found a Giolitti gelato branch! This was very exciting as Giolitti made the best gelato we came across in Rome. Unfortunately this branch didn’t seem to have beaten their gelato quite enough, so some of it was a little grainy, but the flavours were still just as spectacular as the ones we had in Rome. It also had a much smaller selection of flavours as it was only a little store.
We saw the Galata Tower – one of the highest vantage points in Istanbul – but decided we couldn’t be bothered queueing up just to find out how much it even cost to go inside. Our last dinner was at a restaurant recommended to us by a couple who were on our Anzac tour, right on the water front. It was pretty expensive by Turkish standards – nearly 100 lira for the two of us, easily four to five times the price we paid for many of our meals – but this was still under £30. We were again reminded of Turkey’s lax smoking laws, as our ‘terrace’ seating (still enclosed with glass windows) allowed smokers. I had lamb again and was a bit disappointed that I was served fewer cutlets than the previous night’s dinner, and for a higher price (and far fewer sides)!
Our flight home was rather uneventful. We booked a shuttle service with the company we did our walking tour with, and our driver was there first thing in the morning to take us to the airport for our 9 o’clock flight. The passport line was absurdly long – the longest, I’m sure, we’ve ever had to wait in a passport line – but we still got through with enough time to find some breakfast before boarding our plane.