It was back to clear blue skies on our final morning in Istanbul and after a leisurely breakfast we completed our packing and checked out of the Holiday Inn Istanbul Old City which had been an ideal place to stay during our city break. We trundled our luggage the short distance to the nearest tram stop and boarded a service that for once wasn’t too crowded, enabling us to find somewhere to stand with our luggage. We had decided to return from Sultanahmet as we had noticed a terminus there quite near to the Blue Mosque which was reasonably convenient for us and it seemed sensible to board at a starting point.
A coach was already in the bus bay and although several passengers had already boarded, there were plenty of spare seats. As with the outbound journey, we were given receipts for our luggage as it was placed in the hold so there was no danger of anyone taking it by mistake which was reassuring. The return journey to the airport took 55 minutes and cost 18 TL (£2.38) each which we paid for using our shared travel card. On arrival at the airport it’s necessary to place all bags through a security scanner near the entrance. This seemed to be operating efficiently as there was no queue whatsoever.
The gleaming new Istanbul International Airport is a far cry from its predecessor Ataturk with its spacious interior and clear signage. We checked in at the Turkish Airlines desk for our return flight to London Gatwick and were surprised to note that there was a designated queue for passengers travelling from the UK, USA and Israel. No-one was actually waiting in this queue so we were soon on our way to passport control.
Moving onto security, lines of passengers snaked around the zone as far as the eye could see. Worst of all, several of the security scanners were not in use. Surely the airport must know how much traffic to expect and be able to operate at full capacity during busy periods.
Eventually we made it through to the airside terminal which had plenty to occupy us until our flight was due to depart. Food options though were surprisingly limited with numerous units yet to be occupied. After strolling around awhile we settled down to feta and tomato rolls and cups of coffee costing 31 TL (£4.10) each – astronomical by Istanbul standards but still very reasonable compared to other international airports.
Don’t expect to be able to use the free wi-fi in the airport. There are plenty of signs advertising this, but as with the majority of cafes and restaurants in Istanbul, it’s necessary to enter your mobile telephone number and believe me, it never seems to work!
At 13.30, twenty five minutes before the scheduled departure time we were settled into our seats on an Airbus A321 which gave me an opportunity to start catching up on some more recently released films. I started with ‘Red Joan’ starring Dame Judi Dench which I found captivating and then managed to squeeze in a second one ‘The Fishermen’s Friends’ which was light hearted and also enjoyable.
Turkish Airlines provide an excellent service on their medium length flights (4 hours from Istanbul to London Gatwick) with a full lunch service. We both opted for beef stuffed aubergine with rice and yoghurt dressing, roll, butter and a strawberry mousse. We accompanied our lunch with small bottles of Turkish wine and my red was of a reasonably good quality. Tea and coffee were served as the trays were collected and after a smooth and uneventful flight we landed into London Gatwick on time after a very pleasant short break in Istanbul.
A final glance at our aircraft after returning to London Gatwick
This brings to an end my series of posts on Istanbul which I hope you enjoyed reading. It had been a very interesting city break with plenty to keep us occupied and with prices much lower than in most other European countries, a very tempting destination!
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As this will be my final post before Christmas, I would like to wish all of my many readers who celebrate the festive season a very Happy Christmas.