Istanbul

Istanbul
March 2014
Four days away
Me and J
By British Airways
Stayed at Pera Palace Hotel

What I read:
The Istanbul Lonely Planet Guide Book (this is not a lie or a shameless plug for Lonely Planet, but Istanbul and its history are fascinating. This, along with the fact that my knowledge was so lacking, meant I actually did read the guide book cover to cover)
The Economist magazine

The gist of it:
J and I booked this weekend in January via the BA sale and got a great deal on flights and accommodation for this weekend. We knew the weather in March would not be hot, but we did not anticipate quite how much rain we would see in Istanbul. It rained for the entire the trip. But, that did not (really) get in the way and I loved Turkey so much, I am trying to convince J we should got back this summer.

Our hotel was beautiful and historic, which we had no idea about until we arrived and were treated to a ride in Istanbul’s first elevator. The Pera Palace hotel was built to house travelers visiting Istanbul on the Orient Express. It is beautiful and the service was excellent and the sauna was much needed to dry off after our days in the rain.

We arrived in Istanbul on Saturday around mid-day and spent the afternoon exploring Beyoglu. Over the course of the weekend we saw many of the city’s landmarks including Hagia Sofia, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, the Spice Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar. We also saw dervishes whirl in a traditional ceremony at the Galata Mevlevii Museum (see photos below). Everything we saw was incredible, in particular Hagia Sofia, which is definitely not to be missed despite the flocks of tourists. 
 
Eating was also a central feature to our trip and did not disappoint. Not one of our meals was less than great and I was nowhere near being sick of meze and grilled meats by the time we left. My top food recommendations are Sehzade Cag Kebabi  and Meze by Lemon Tree, but we also had great meals at Sofyali 9 and the House Cafe (which we later found out is a chain). We also had some very tasty pides (kind of like Turkish pizzas) at Hocapasa Pidecisi, which is on the same street as Cag Kebabi. Despite Hocapasa Pidecisi humble exterior the food was excellent and we were told by our kind waiter, who also took the photo of me and J below, that it had been run by the same family for three generations.
 
There was loads to buy in the bazaars, but J and I were restrained. For any girls who are fans of Anthropology’s jewelry, the Grand Bazaar has a wealth of jems to pine after at very reasonable prices. I bought one pair of earrings and we also picked up a few hand-painted bowls and loads of spices and teas. We may have gotten a little carried away at the spice bazaar, seeing as are now not quite sure what we bought in our unmarked bags!
Top food recommendations:
Neither of these places can be called hidden gems, as they were recommended by friends, guide books and a variety of reputable publications, but that does not mean they are not worth visiting.

Sehzade Cag Kebabi (delicious kebabs close to the Spice Bazaar)
Meze by Lemon Tree (up-market Meze in Beyoglu)

Next time:

Too much to list here.

Pictures:

The weather and the byzantine architecture worked against my cause on the photo front, but here are a few of the best ones from the places we visited.

The patisserie in the Pera Palace Hotel. This photo does not do all of the pink justice.
The view from the Galata Tower
Hagia Sofia
That awkward moment when the person serving your table catches you taking a picture of your tea and coffee (above) and then insists on taking a photo of you drinking said tea and coffee.
The Spice Market
Whirling Dervishes at Galata Mevlevii Museum
Topkapi Palace
Sehzade Cag Kebap (so delicious)
The Grand Bazaar
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