For some reason I am finding it very hard to put into words our experiences on our recent Turkish holiday. Probably because there was just so much in terms of things to do, cultural experiences and historical attractions. I thought therefore rather than try to describe places like Ephesus, (despite practising descriptive writing, I know my limitations) I have decided to add some ‘photo blogs’ of the highlights together with a few things we learnt along the way – these could cover culture, food and random thoughts as they pop into my head!
We left a day early having been given 2 complimentary rooms and free parking for the duration of our holiday at the Holiday Inn Gatwick. It made a nice start to the break and so not having cost us anything we decided to splash out and have a meal in the hotel that evening. We all slept well then handed in the car keys, caught the transfer coach and checked in with plenty of time to enjoy a drink before boarding our plane.
Our flight on Turkish Airlines arrived on time and we were collected with three other people to make the arduous journey, because of the amount of traffic, across Istanbul to our hotel. If you get the timing right, it can take 20 minutes, but get it wrong and it can take 3 hours. We were fortunate and got to the Hotel Grand Haliç in around an hour. As we entered the old part of Istanbul I said “Do you realise it is 20 years since we were last here. We stayed in a hotel close to the Galata Bridge and it was an easy walk to the Spice Market”. Almost as soon as I had finished speaking, we crossed the bridge, turned left and stopped outside our hotel. Talk about coincidence, the name on our itinerary hadn´t meant anything, well twenty years is a long time, but as soon as we pulled up, we recognised the place we had stayed all those years ago.
After collecting our cardkey, we went to our room on the 2nd floor. I had ordered a triple room throughout our tour because the savings we made more than paid for our optional excursions. After freshening up the three of us went to eye up our travelling companions in the Welcome Meeting.
It was, compared to other Archer/Cosmos tours we have done, a large group, 43 in total and slowly as we got to know each other, I can confirm it was a really good crowd of people. With the exception of one, you always get one; we all gelled together well, looked after each other and had some laughs, with and at each other. On each tour we have been on, until we get to know our fellow travellers, we give them nicknames. This trip was no different and it was only at the end we learnt from others that we are not alone in this. We all had similar names, we of course were ‘The Canaries’, we had ‘Knee’ when referring to Terry and Gillian from Auz as he had recently had a knee replaced. ‘The Derby Girls’ Elsa (from Denmark) and Chris who both now live in Derbyshire, ‘Little Sister’ the Indian family of 4 she was 70 although didn´t look it and was adopted as Jim’s little sister being a couple of years younger than him, and so it went on.
Our Tour Director was Aykut Gun who has vast knowledge and pride in his country and our driver who made us feel very safe was Birol.
After a good night’s sleep (For those who know I don´t do EARLY mornings, there were lots of 6.00am wake up calls! ) we head out to our coach and drive through the city. As I said, it was 20 years since I was last in Istanbul and at that time, it felt very foreign. Today it is a very different place. Istanbul, in fact everywhere we saw in Turkey is very prosperous, the people are well dressed; they drive new cars and have beautiful homes. Istanbul is the only city in the world that spans two different continents, it is huge, colourful and vibrant … but more about that later as we get to spend a couple of days here at the end of our visit. For the time being, we start skirting the Sea of Marmara as we head for Gallipoli on the European side of the Dardanelles.
So stay tuned for the ‘official start’……