Ah, always such a good feeling to be home! I had, well, we all had, a great time in Istanbul, and I think we were there just the right amount of time. Saw and experienced a good deal without overdoing it, and we were ready to come home without chomping at the bit to leave.
I could very easily go back to Istanbul again. Some cities I visit once and feel like that's enough, that there's nothing more for me to get out of it, really, that I kind of get what the city is, at least to me. But Istanbul is engaging and multifarious - I could easily spend another weekend there trying to figure it out.
Our two nights out in gay Istanbul were pretty cool. There is quite a large scene, at least when considering you're in a Muslim country. There're definitely some bars that cater more to foreigners and the upper echelons of society, and others that are more regular; I enjoyed the latter the most. However, the closestedness of the city was made apparent when we were asked to not take any more pictures inside the clubs as many people do not want to be photographed in a gay establishment. The bars and clubs definitely had a foreign, Middle Eastern feel to them, but overall were open and friendly. We met locals who helped steer us right, and were a bit surprised at the near-London prices of drinks.
Our final night was spent in a traditional meze restaurant with musicians playing Turkish songs that occasionally riled the locals to song and dance. Our neighbouring table talked to us, as best they could, and we had many toasts together. Really, the Turks are a welcoming, friendly people and I hope their new government won't cause them to pull back from their current openness with the West.
Back in London now; flight was good, journey was easy. Now it's the grind for two weeks before heading to Miami on 16 Feb, and New York on 22 Feb.
I'm attaching a few pics from the weekend here; if you'd like to see them all, you can check them ou at share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=0AZOXLJwzcNmLCEA.
1) DSC00019 - the view of the city coming in
2) DSC00023 - a "parked" car on a stairway
3) DSC00026 - our hotel, the Poem
4) DSC00033 - view from the Sultanahmet side to the other
5) DSC00037 - Financial district in the distance, on the ferry to Asia
6) DSC00039 - crowed Taksim on Friday night
7) DSC00047 - Me, Todd and Forest Mallard at Tek Yön
8) DSC00048 - The Blue Mosque
9) DSC00050 - Inside the Grand Bazaar
10) DSC00052 - The Hagia Sophia
11) DSC00060 - Patrons took to dancing at the meze restaurant
12) DSC00063 - The view of the Bosporus from my hotel room; a bit grey that day
13) DSC00064 - Random Istanbul street
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