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Yep, we’re back in the UK after our long weekend in Istanbul which was enjoyed by all. I was certainly impressed with what the city had to offer in the way of history and architecture, but also in its people. Yes, some areas can be very touristy and you do get some hassle from touts in those places but it’s mild compared to other parts of the world I’ve visited and once you get away from that the atmosphere changes. All of us agreed that the vast majority of local people that we met made a really positive impression.

This morning it was time to fly back with a different airline from a different airport. Today we were flying with Turkish Airlines from the International airport on the European side rather than where we landed at Sabiha Gökçen on the Asian side. The airport was opened in 2018 and already covers a huge area, although there’s plans to expand it even more. Now, I have a love/hate relationship with flying. If I can avoid it I will because of the environmental cost and damage flying causes (especially domestic and short-haul), but sometimes there’s no viable alternative. That said, I do wince when I see massive new airports like Istanbul’s. The facilities may make life a lot easier for passengers but there’s a huge amount of steel and concrete involved in there construction, as well as clearing the land for the site and all the servicing facilities and power needed. Then there’s the fact that – really – they’re often huge shopping centres you merely catch flights from and International was no exception to this. There’s a mammoth amount of stalls selling luxury goods, expensive trinkets and the obligatory duty-free. On the plus side, the place isn’t cramped and claustrophobic the way some older airports can be, although there was a distinct lack of seating until you get to the gates. Maybe the planners just want you to spend your time wandering aimlessly through the shops in the hope you’ll buy something.

Security’s tight here too. Your baggage gets x-rayed as soon as you enter the terminal, then there’s the ID checks at the check-in desk, and again at baggage drop. Then you go through passport control and have your hand-luggage x-rayed once more. Finally, when you arrive at the gate there’s another ID and ticket check as well as another security search.

Finally, we made it onto the plane which was 25 mins late departing, but that was no big deal. Airlines get away with a lot when it comes to late flights. If it was a train people would be playing merry hell but at an airport people just seem to accept it. However, I can’t complain about the flight. Our plane was an Airbus A321-271NX which was as old as the airport. Unlike Pegasus, Turkish Airlines offer a full service onboard as part of the ticket price (just don’t ask how much extra you pay for luggage!). The staff were both friendly and efficient and the service really good. On the 3hr 50m journey we were served a hot meal which is in my case consisted of a Hummus starter with bread roll, chicken with rice and veg, then a chocolate pudding. You had a choice of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, plus tea or coffee to wash it all down with at the end.

Not a bad effort…

It felt like a far cry from some of the offerings of British Airways where you get a cardboard box with a sandwich and a chocolate bar – although to be fair the BA I’ve never flown more than short-haul into Europe with them for many years. Oh, and not booked by me I may add, but by companies on press trips when the Eurostar trains were full!

After such a good flight even Manchester airport didn’t let us down. We breezed through passport control, picked up our bags in reasonable time, then made our way to the station to catch a busy Trans-Pennine Express service to Huddersfield where Aubrey (having had a successful day in court where the jury was sworn-in) was waiting to pick us up and ferry us back to Halifax.

Now it’s time to unwind, having unpacked and prepared to resume life back in the UK. Dawn’s still on holiday tomorrow and off to watch the coronation with Fran and Kath (two more of the five) whilst I’ll be having a busy day at home catching up with work and picture editing from our travels. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with another highlight of our Turkish trip. Regular readers will know of our love for cats. This is a love that’s obviously shared by many Turks. Several mornings when we eating breakfast we had this charming companion distracting us – as we did today before we left…

Cute, no?

Here’s another thing that caught my eye. Tsunami warning/instruction signs in the Karaköy district where were staying.

There’s many more Turkish pictures to follow over the next few days, from tourist sites to streetlife, food to shipping. I’ll let you know where (and when) they appear…

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