Saturday, December 22, 2007

And now we are in...


Style, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

On the plane now, flying over eastern Europe, on our way to Istanbul, for an eight day Christmas holiday. No family Christmas this year. For the people below us, it will be a white Christmas, as most of Europe seems to be under snow. Amsterdam was very white when we left, not so much because of snow, we have a bit of iced drizzle yesterday but because the damp air was freezing and turning all the trees white, a process which I had seen the day before on my way up from Paris and also at the office. It only started yesterday in Amsterdam and with the maximum temperature only minus 4, the freezing continued all day and the city became whiter and whiter. I can’t remember really noticing this phenomenon before.

The pity is that we chose today rather than tomorrow to fly to Istanbul. This because the day started with bright sunshine and it would have been absolutely spectacular to see and photograph all these white trees everywhere. This and the fact that we not only have the final instalment of the latest BBC version of Oliver Twist but also the final of Strictly Come Dancing. Matt and Alesha are both in the final and I am not too bothered really who wins, but I would prefer Alesha to do it as she has been consistently the best dancer. I must say that she does miss the ‘wow’ factor, unlike Matt who wow-ed us with his Samba and his waltz. Anyway, after two years of sportsmen winning, it’d be nice for a half-black woman to win. Apparently, only white people win these voted-for-by-the-viewers shows and it would be nice for this to change.

My sister Diana did not want to watch Oliver Twist because it was directed by an Eastenders writer, or something like that. Well, I am not sure why that should count against the show. I think they have done a really good job of bringing the book to life and making it seem very exciting, gripping even. The music, which is a bit loud and a bit modern, could be seen as being intrusive, but I think it just adds to the excitement.

I had read in an internet review that our hotel, which is rated as number 1 hotel in Istanbul on www.tripadvisor.com that you can pick up the normal BBC channels there. I do not exactly believe this, but it would be very odd for us to spend our first evening in Istanbul glued to the television. We’ll see. Anyway, the Sirkeci Konak hotel looks to be a very nice one, with lots of facilities, including a swimming pool and Turkish baths and I am hoping it will be worth the money we are spending on it.

During our trip, we would like to go to Bursa, a largish, but apparently very beautiful city just south of Istanbul, the other side of the Marmara Sea, not too far from the ski slopes of Mt Uludag. Would be nice to visit the mountains as well, if just for a day trip. We have been to Istanbul about four times before and have always used it as a place to start off a trip around other parts of Turkey rather than visit the city on its own merits, with the consequence that every time we come we tend to do the same things and see the same monuments and so on. Now we have more time, we will try to investigate some of the less obvious places and neighbourhoods. Hopefully, we will find a nice church to watch a Christmas service on Christmas Day, although I believe it is just a normal working day. The Muslims, in the meantime, will just have finished their second Eid holiday, making it a festive season all round.

Fred has his Dorley Kindersley guide to Istanbul, full of photos and three-dimensional plans of mosques and churches and so on. I have a book we took with us the first time we went to Turkey (in 1991), namely Turkey – The Independent Traveller, by Daniel Farson, a whimsical, personal guide, written by someone with a particular passion for Turkey and moreover someone who can impart his enthusiasm to the reader. It is because of this book that we first made it to Bodrum and later the Datça peninsular, as well as visiting Behramkale/Assos and Ayvalik during our first visit.

Almost getting ready to land, a little bit late, at 14.00 so we hope we can get to the hotel before sunset (at 16.35, although nowadays the days are getting longer!). The weather promises to be fine today and to remain so. The BBC weather had kept showing rain, whilst yahoo weather was showing better conditions but now they are both showing sun, with some light clouds and maximum temperatures of about 6 or 7 degrees. We will be lucky if it does not rain, so let’s hope we are lucky! In the meantime, it seems that the big thaw in Holland will start already this afternoon an dno-one is expecting a white Christmas anymore. I have a feeling they might be pleasantly surprised…

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