TopDeck Turkey Diary Day 1 | Home to Istanbul

Last month I had the pleasure joining TopDeck on The Sultan’s Trail, a week-long tour of Turkey from Istanbul to Fethiye. It was a jam packed week full of culture, sights, sunshine, education and of course – a coach. The tour was so full that I’ve decided to bring you an old fashioned traditional blog, my TopDeck Turkey diary, taking you on the tour as I experienced it day by day. There may be other posts too (in fact, there will be, I’ve already written two!). Enjoy!

Fast train. I didn’t get this one.

After re-packing my case having changed my mind on what I should take (which turns out to have been a mistake as I did not have enough clothes!), I left my house at 9.15am to catch the bus into town. I knew I was in for a long journey, that’s one of the downsides of living in Lincolnshire – everything is a long way away and transport links are a bit on the rubbish side. I got into the bus station by 10am then headed to the train station via the newsagent for crisps and water (very important travel food!). My train to Sheffield was just two carriages but was pretty empty – it was so rickety, there were even holes in the sides between the doors and wall eek!! I tried to record some video (which you’ve now already seen – check it out on Splodz Blogz TV or watch below) but was a bit self-conscious, I need to work on that. Once in Sheffield I caught the train to Manchester Airport, an “express service” but one that took two hours to get there thanks to sitting still for a bit at Edale. Ho hum.

We stopped just outside Edale for half an hour. Nice view but no idea why!

The train station at Manchester Airport is really close to the terminals so it didn’t take long before I was queueing to go through security. It’s strange, I thought everyone knew that it’s no water and no full-sized toiletries nowadays, but apparently not as several people ahead of me got caught out by the security staff and made to chuck stuff away. Silly! I mean, it’s not like the huge signs on the way into that area give it away or anything…

After security I headed straight to Giraffe to get me some food; a Thai style duck stir fry and some awesome ginger smoothie. It was either that or Burger King but I thought I’d save horrible plastic food for an emergency just in case I need it at some point during the week. Airport food is always expensive but at least it was tasty, I’d order the salad again and most definitely that juice. And I’d much rather sit in a restaurant for an hour than waste my money on overpriced duty free shops.

Actually come to think of it there was no proper passport control like I’m used to. They glanced at it when I checked in of course, but after that it was boarding cards only; a quick scan of the barcode before going through security, then another can when we got to the gate. I suspect it’ll be stricter in Turkey, I had my visa printed out ready (Turkey visas need to be organised in advance and cost $20USD for a UK national).

The usual creeping forward ensued at the gate and it was amusing to see people being turned away for trying to board out of sequence. Good for you Turkish Airlines! I think people assume they won’t get on the plane even though they all have reserved seating – all they are doing is pushing to get seated in a metal tube for longer than necessary. Each to their own, I guess. On the plane I sat in my little economy seat (business class looked nice, maybe one day!), a window seat which is always my preference because I love watching the clouds as we travel, and I don’t get it when travelling with LincsGeek as he always steals the window. We were due to leave just after 4pm but didn’t actually push back until half an hour later, apparently that’s normal for this flight when you look at Flight Radar, something must be a bit wrong there.

Turkish delight. Yummy!

Once in the air we were all given a cube of Turkish delight, a nice touch that I enjoyed – I definitely hoped for many more little cubes of deliciousness during the week ahead. In case you didn’t know, it’s not the same as the terribly sweet stuff you get covered in chocolate here in the UK. A twitter friend told me I should hunt out some pomegranate Turkish delight while I was away, I made it my mission. I took the obligatory ground and cloud shots, browsed the rather impressive looking menu which described rather fancy sounding chicken or ratatouille, played on my iPad and phone, listened to music, and all that. Unfortunately the in-flight entertainment didn’t seem to be working at all, which was a bit annoying – I couldn’t hear any of the announcements (they were too quiet and mumbling, and quite possibly not even in English) so I don’t know if they explained that or not.

Dinner menu. And dinner. At least it looked like chicken. 

When dinner arrived about an hour into the four hour flight I was incredibly disappointed. The menu had made me all kinds of promises, and the fact there was even a bloke in a chefs outfit wandering up and down the plane gave me high hopes, but what I was presented with didn’t come close. It was like any other economy flight meal I’ve ever had; rubbery, dry, bland. I wish they hadn’t given me a menu, I wouldn’t have been looking forward to it then!

Despite the food being quite horrid and the in-flight entertainment system not working, it was a pretty good flight and the stewards were always smiling. It was great to see one of the stewardesses wearing trousers actually, much more practical than those pencil skirts you often see.

The view from my seat. Day and night.

We eventually landed at 10.45pm Turkish time and then stood in line for over an hour to get through security. I was hot and bothered and desperately needed sleep! I don’t think I’ll ever understand why it takes so long to get your passport checked; more customs/security officers needed. By the time I got to the baggage reclaim the cases from my flight had been moved into a pile in the corner, which took some finding and was a teeny bit stressful (okay, a lot stressful, I could have cried).

Waiting in line. For a long time. 

Thankfully the Efendi Travel transfer I’d booked for my landing was still waiting for me two hours after I should have landed (phew); I’d booked it knowing it would be very late in the day and after reading lots of horror stories about taxi drivers in Istanbul both over charging and also not really knowing where anything is. It actually meant I got a sneaky bucket list tick too; when I got through to arrivals there was a man holding my name on a sign!! Ha! I walked up to him and he took away from the crowd, where he stuck my sign on a pillar and told me to wait. A bit disconcerting considering how tired I was. A couple of other people and their signs joined me, and after about 15 minutes my driver arrived and showed me to my air conditioned Mercedes. The traffic around the airport was completely ridiculous; I’ve never seen traffic like that in the middle of the night before, not even in New York. But within half an hour I was in my hotel in the thankful to be somewhere with a bed.

My name on a sign… bucket list tick!

After a full day travelling I was definitely looking forward to exploring Istanbul as well as joining my tour group the next day. More soon…

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Thank you SO MUCH to TopDeck for inviting me to join them on the tour. TopDeck covered my flights and the tour itself in return for coverage here on Splodz Blogz, and I covered all other expenses (including food, entrance fees and excursions) myself. I definitely recommend this kind of travel to anyone who wants to explore somewhere new without any hassle. Take a look at the TopDeck website for the full range of tours available.

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