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Trip Report Istanbul in February - returned

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We just returned from our February break in Istanbul. First of all, a gracious thank you to Fodorites, in particular otherchelebi, as many recommendations were thoroughly enjoyed.
A week in the city is wonderful, I would not want less and certainly we will go back again.
We had typical winter weather, in the 40s and 50s, some wind and clouds. However, the weather was fine for us. More importantly, we were thrilled by our visit, walking and taking the tram was easy. We stayed in a boutique hotel near Taksim Square in Beyoglu, Larespark, which was recommended by a Fodorite (thank you!). It was an ideal location with comfortable rooms and a nice small hamman downstairs
We took a leisurely and lavish breakfast buffet the first morning as we got used to the time change. After that we just walked down to the corner Simit shop for coffee and pastry. Taksim was a great area for the evenings as there was no shortage of restaurants and activity. We walked Istiklal Caddesi often and took side streets to find little shops and cafes. Our favorite meals were at places recommended by otherchelebi and we would not have found them on our own. At GaniGani, we sat on rugs and pillows in an old pasha's house, ate Turkish specialities and drank tea while chatting with the waiters. I plan the trips, but my husband is the ambassador, adept at picking up new languages and trying them out, he gets into conservations everywhere we go. On Valentine's Day we had a romantic and friendly meal with the friendly folks at an Armenian restaurant called Prokopi. My birthday dinner was at Changa - good idea otherchelebi! Very chic and delicious with truly excellent service. We dined one night at 360 Istanbul which was a choice picked from the NYTimes Travel Section, nice but not as personable as our other dinner locations and overly "trendy". We thought our table service was fine, but we went to the bar for an after dinner drink and the service was so inefficient we left. We enjoyed dipping into little cafes that offered homecooked dishes set out on trays and enjoyed hearty comfort food, like stews, rice, and vegetable dishes. Our days were spent in the Sultanament area. We were spellbound by the Blue Mosque and Aghia Sophia. The Archeological Museum was spectacular - I could have spent days there. The number and excellent condition of ancient artifacts was fascinating. The Grand Bazaar was totally fun and although we are not shoppers we found ourselves packing to go home with a kilim and several scarves. The kilim-buying afternoon was worth it for the experience and the rug sellers were impeccably polite and interesting. And now we have a lovely memory on our floor to admire. The Topkapi was very interesting and worth the visit although you pay twice to see both the palace and the harem. Another high point was a ferry ride up the Bosphorus. It was windy and gloomy that day but still so enjoyable to actually see the coasts. We wandered across the Galata Bridge into the fish market for a sandwich one afternoon and hopped the ferry with commuters over to the Asian side. We enjoyed the little planning needed and headed out on foot each day without an itinerary. Still we managed to see all the major sites on our list and could have easily stayed longer. But a week in a city is a good amount of time for us country folk. Please accept my thanks to Fodorites on this forum - your ideas helped to make our trip wonderful. Next up, we plan to return to Greece in summer 2012, and combine it with some beach time along the southern Aegean coast of Turkey. I'll be looking for insights again! Thank you.

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