Istanbul (not Constantinople) – Saturday

At last the long-awaited long weekend arrived, and with our BA flight from London Heathrow necessitating a <8am check in, I took up Janette's offer of spending Friday night in Surbiton with her and Richard. That meant leaving H's farewell JPM drinks at 7pm, but I'm sure Raji made sure she made the most of her evening!

Fast flight out, thanks to an easterly tailwind, and we landed at Istanbul Ataturk airport 6 minutes early. A v smart shiny and new airport, in stark contrast to the shabby congestion of Heathrow Terminal 1.

The £10 tourist visa really was as simple as the blurb suggested – hand over your £10 note, and you get a 3 month tourist visa sticker in your passport in return.

After stocking up on 10,000,000 Turkish Lira notes, we hopped on the Havas bus, handed over 20,000,000 TL and got 8 million back- the first indicator of the impact of the 60% pa inflation which the guide books tell us afflicts Turkey’s economy.

The Conrad Hotel proved every inch the international 5*hotel, coming complete with red uniformed doormen and sweeping spiral staircase in the lobby. We had a great room and swanky bathroom goodies and luxury towelling bathrobes and matching slippers.

After settling in and sussing out the transport options, we headed out to the Besiktas ferry, much to the surprise of the reception staff…..managed to buy jetons and the work out the need to take the ferry over the Bosphorus to Uskadar on the Asian side, and to pick up the Eminonu ferry from there. Nipped into the Tansas supermarket en route buying water and nuts for sustenance en route.

From Eminonu quay we took the tram (more jetons!) to Sultanahmnet, a stone’s throw from the Blue Mosque and the Agia Sophia. In the heart of the old town, we opted for the friendly Mosaic cafe next the our intended eaterie (the Rumeli restaurant) but still we dined in a cosy timbered merchants house, and feasted on grilled vegetables, domades and tortelini. All for the princely sum of 28m TL.

After dinner, we walked over and explored the floodlit Blue Mosque and the Agia Sophia by the light of a crescent moon, and then taxied back home from Eminonu quay.