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ImageAs far as birthdays go, this one has been a blinder!

For my actual birthday, myself, Mu & Jordan joined friends for a lovely meal at Jaffa’s down by the front.  The service was a bit wanting but the food was lovely and the wine, extremely drinkable. The presents were spot on too and everyone had been so thoughtful with their choices, I loved every single one of them (the presents and the friends of course!).   For those that don’t know Jaffa’s, well, it is very close to the Luna Park and this became very appealing after a few drinks. So, there we all were, in our finery and buying tickets for the Ferris wheel!  Highlights of the evening were actually getting Pauline to join me on the Ferris Wheel, little Michelle hitching up her skirt and riding the bronco and Murat’s expert firing skills that won me a cute cuddly dinosaur christened Dino.  I then watched as poor Kimberly got totally battered on the bumper cars by Clint, Jordan & Murat….the photos are great!

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The next morning, off I went to Istanbul courtesy of Pamukkale Seyahat for a visit to one of my bezzies in Beşiktaş. The journey was ok but ran over its 12 hour scheduled time due to an hour long wait by the ferry port and consequently, by the time I arrived Magi & Helen were well over three sheets to the wind having started the party without me!

The plan for day one of my Istanbul birthday was a trip to the Islands.

We were at Kabataş Ferry Port around 1pm; myself and Magi checking out some hats for sale. Along comes Helen and we all decide that today should be a hat day: I buy a large brimmed brown hat, Helen buys an even larger brimmed pink hat and Magi chooses a black trilby. Sporting these on our heads, we pose for a photo before getting on the ferry in our best impersonations of Audrey Hepburn and the like.

Forty five minutes later we are stepping off the Ferry and onto Burgazada turf. I am instantly reminded of New Orleans and the Creole Townhouses; it all feels very French Colonial.  Impressive wooden houses now sadly in desperate need of a lick of paint and restoration to their undoubted former glory.  Small eateries grace the side of the port, serving fish dishes, ice cream sundaes or offerings of blended coffees and sweet pastries.  We rest for a while, drinking coffee and soaking up the ambience as brightly coloured faytons (horse and carriage) trundle by carrying their fares around the narrow streets.

Parrots call from the tops of the trees and well fed street cats lick their paws as they sit among the marigolds, watching us humans chilling in the sun.

Sated with Lattes and Americanos, we three wander along the coast, making note of a trendy bar with a sign outside saying ‘Mojitos 15tl’….we know where we will be after sunset!

As we wander, Magi spies her favourite carriage driver sitting in a small cafe drinking cay. After hellos and how are you’s he tells us just to come and find him when we are ready to take the tour. We head off in search of the Greek Orthodox Church but unfortunately it’s closed and no-one has the key so we return in search of the driver and shortly after we are trotting along in a turquoise blue carriage, hats perched Audrey fashion on our heads.

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We are heading up and the views of the Marmara are stunning; small coves with strips of gold sand and the occasional bather.  We pass the monks quarters of the ancient monastery, standing empty on a precipice.  Attached to this is a remodelled church, still in use. I have of course looked this site up on the internet and it appears to go under several different names so I am going to go with ‘the Church of Metamorphosis’ as that’s the one I like best!

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We are chatting away when I hear the strains of an aria from Puccini’s Madam Butterfly and I shhhhhh everyone, not quite believing my ears.  Ringing out through the air from a very average looking cay house/cafe, is Un Bel Di……Translation?  ‘One Beautiful Day’ what could be more fitting eh?

At the top, we take the obligatory photos with the driver we head into the mountain top restaurant decked out in a very Greek blue and white. Finding a table cliffside, we plonk our bags, hats and bums on the wooden chairs and order water and mezes from the passing waiter. Soon a selection of compressed fava slabs, tomato coated aubergines, thick haydari and hamsi wrapped decoratively around stuffed green olives adorn the table and we get down to the serious business of tucking in.

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It’s a beautiful sunny afternoon, the sea is twinkling, the trees gently swaying and seagulls float effortlessly on the breeze, keeping their eyes peeled for diner’s titbits. We are just chatting as girls do when there is a sudden rustle in the air and a siege of Herons appear; sadly, none of us can get to our cameras in time and it’s a great photo opportunity lost.

After a lazy and satisfying lunch we acknowledge the fact that we could do with a bit of exercise and decide to walk back down into town, admiring the coast view and some fabulous houses on the way. Not quite Beverly Hills but no doubt with a serious price tag all the same.

Back at the harbour we head for the bar we had seen earlier. It’s after 5pm and the firemen attached to the small station opposite are on a break and are playing volleyball in the street.  İt’s a fabulous little place to sit sipping cocktails and watch the world go by; men in suits on their way home from work, elderly ladies in their best frocks out for an evening stroll, smart young things in high heels and plenty of makeup sauntering along, mobile phones attached to their ears. Our Mojitos are delicious and so the one turns into two……… The sun goes down, the tiffany lamps burn bright inside the bar, a kaleidoscope of purple and green bubbles gently rotate on the ceiling from a projector inside the bar and smooth jazz emits from the speakers.  We are all a bit reluctant to leave and so we order just one more mojito each……. There’s a faint chill in the air as myself and Magi pull on our thin jumpers that we had the good sense to bring. Helen however only has a hamam towel with her, an earlier gift from Magi. Its pink and white stripped and she wraps this around her shoulders and places her large pink sunhat on her head, turning the rim upward. She now looks very much like a Mexican so I christen her Chiquita Gonzales…. She seems happy with her new alter ego.

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We are very good and stop at three Mojitos, pay the bill and amble along to the ferry port passing the waterfront restaurants on the way.  Securing seats on the ferry, myself, Magi and Chiquita (yes she is still wearing her Mexican ensemble) while away the journey with chitter chatter until the boat docks at Beşiktaş where we disembark and head home with heads and cameras full of happy memories.

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