Day 102 - Istanbul

Trip Start Apr 10, 2011
Trip End Jul 25, 2011

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Today is our final day in Europe, and even though we have two nights in Singapore ahead of us it feels like after today our trip will be over. We had another late start this morning, followed by another fabulous buffet breakfast on the roof terrace. We headed out firstly to the Grand Bazaar, although had a brief stop while Mike had his hair cut at a barbershop. He really needed to be convinced to go in initially, but so enjoyed the experience that he was gushing about it afterwards. They did everything including a cutthroat razor down the neck, head & shoulder massage and the part that made the girls giggle, singeing his ear hairs with a cigarette lighter before trimming both them and his nose hair. Eeew!

Even after he had finished at the barbers it still took us quite some time to make it to the Grand Bazaar because the girls were attracted by nearly every shop lining the streets on the way. When we did eventually make it, we were met by all the sights, sounds and crowds that you'd expect. The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest & oldest covered markets in the world, opened in 1461; it has more than 58 alleys and over 4000 shops. The girls went into shopping overdrive, and from starting the excursion very timidly asking me to do all their haggling for them, they took a more active role by the end of our time there. They came away with all sorts of purchases from bracelets & purses to genie lamps and belly dancing costumes (obviously inspired by last nights show) – so all the essentials!!

I didn’t do too badly myself, (although I didn’t succumb to a belly dancing costume) and got into the swing of haggling pretty quickly. The girls now think I am awesome and amazing at haggling – their words, not mine. After coping with the heat and the crowds for almost three hours we were finally shopped out and really hungry. We headed back to the hotel to drop off our purchases before heading out for a late lunch of pide (Turkish pizza).

When we had finished lunch, we headed to the spice market for our second encounter with the crowds. This bazaar was opened in 1660 and is the centre for spice trade in Istanbul. Spices, dried fruit, nuts, Turkish delight etc are on sale, although shops selling rugs, jewellery etc have begun to creep in in recent years, so it now has a very similar feel to the Grand Bazaar.  We only spent about hour in the spice market, before deciding to hunt out ice creams that we picked up from a stall near the Galeta Bridge. The guys serving put on a real show for the girls, using novel ways to trick them each time they reached out to take the ice-cream – they moved so quickly that the girls would either end up grabbing thin air, or only a cone with no ice-cream etc – a you-had-to-be-there moment. Shame the ice cream itself wasn’t as popular – Mikayla rejected hers within minutes and Sarah persisted but eventually ended up binning hers as well. It had a gelatinous syrupy consistency; very different to the creamy ice cream they are used to.

We had originally intended to catch the ferry across to Asia today but we had all had enough by this stage so contented ourselves with peering across the Golden Horn to Asia from the Galeta bridge instead. We made our way back to the hotel in the stifling heat, and stayed there for the remainder of the night, opting for a couple of bowls of chips and drinks on the roof terrace for dinner, which doesn’t sound like the ideal way to end our trip but it was really lovely – the setting is stunning, with a fabulous view over the water, it could just as easily have been an exclusive restaurant.
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