Istanbul (not Constantinople) – Monday

Our original plan to do the Bosphorus tour was ditched in view of the generally cold climate – 8c daytime average during our stay – and instead we followed our usual ferry route to Eminonu, enjoying the bluer skies and weak sunshine.

First off, we explored the “New Mosque” (commissioned in the 16 century, and actually The New Queen Mother’s Mosque), which boasted another stunning interior, before exploring the delights of the Spice Market. You can tell there aren’t many tourist in town given the various wiles employed by the stall-owners to get us to look at their rugs/ spices/ Turkish Delight/ apple tea/ tiles/ plates/ belly dancer outfits/ Turkish viagra….

Out in the alleyways we found our way to the Rushtem Pasha mosque, initially coinciding with lunchtime prayers, so we did another circuit to kill some time before going into the mosque and being stuck again by the interior, which contrasts so with the chromatic simplicity of the stone exterior.

Wandered back round to the cafes, where we took apple tea at the breathtaking price of 3m TL a cup, and fended off perfume sellers a plenty.

Walked through the streets of shops to the Grand Bazaar and spent the afternoon exploring there, taking sandwich sustenance at the hip Fez Cafe in one of the caves near the Central Market.

Around 4pm we emerged through one of the main gates and took the tram back to Eminonu and thence back to Conrad via the ferries (and, of course, Tansas for more water!).

I had a throbbing headache by the time we got in, and went straight to bed to sleep it off, despite the BBC reports of non Russian vetos and American warmongering.

Slept on and off until 8pm when Janette returned from killing time scouting out the health club and the pool, and the dining options. Headache abated by water and ibuprofen, I got up and allowed myself to be persuaded of the merits of dining at the hotel’s Prego Italian restaurant, and I’m glad I did (overcoming my innate meanness). We had a delightfully civilised meal – delicious food, charming service, complete with amuse-bouche mini pizza squares and three x three mini meringues (which looked a bit like mini-burgers, but tasted beautifully light and sweet, with a hint of lemon/coffee/chocolate-noisette).

We rounded off the evening with a drink (mineral water for 2, which confused the bar waitress no end) in the Skyline Bar on the 14th floor, agreeing that the nighttime view wasn’t quite as impressive as the daytime skyline. But it wasn’t bad!

09 February 2014: for photos see my Flickr set Istanbul, March 2003