Plans, Plans, Spontaneous Plans

So I’m pinching myself at the moment.

Yesterday I had two people ask me two questions…

‘Hey, wanna come to Jamie Oliver’s The Big Feastival with me on Sunday?’

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‘Hey, wanna come to Croatia with me on Monday for a week?’

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Ummmmmm.

YES.

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So I am currently in the middle of packing, booking tickets and generally organising myself in a panic.

There’s going to be a little break in my blogging, BUT, when I return there are going to be some great posts I promise.

Any bar/restaurant recommendations in Hvar, Croatia…send my way please!

 

Nicole

 

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18 Tips For Travelling Europe On A Budget (and throwback photos)

My 18 tips for travelling on a budget in Europe (oh and some mildly embarrassing photos of my baby-faced 18 year old self Interrailing)…

1. Save enough money plus buffer.

Self explanatory. That bit of extra buffer money may come in useful for emergencies or random fines you may encounter because you’re not used to European transport….. (hopefully this won’t happen to you). 

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2. Budget per day

Sounds obvious and boring but it’s necessary. Use websites like these to work out how much you need to budget in each country. Take a notepad to jot down how much you’re spending per day and work out how you’re doing compared to your budget per day. Obviously don’t make budgeting the main priority and dampen the fun, but having a general idea of your expenditure is great. 

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3. Plan a route.

Get a big ol’ map (or get up Google maps) and plan a route of all the places you want to visit. Even if it’s just a rough one. Then you can see if there are any places of interest in between your desired destinations. Then you can research and get an idea of transport links between each place too. 

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4. Get a guidebook.

Or just do research online and write it down. But getting a guidebook is easier. This one is great for travelling Europe on a budget.

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5. Book some hostels before you go.

Don’t book all your hostels in advance because then you will create a schedule for yourself which you may not stick to. Instead I would recommend booking 3-5 hostels before you leave, especially for places that are likely to be busy during peak season and places you really want to go. When I went Interailing we booked hostels for our first stop in Paris, our last stop in Amsterdam, and our beach stop in Croatia (because we’d heard most hostels got fully booked up here during the summer). Doing this puts the mind at rest. Hostelworld is the best sight.

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6. Book the rest of your hostels one stop before.

For the rest of our hostels, we booked them using free wifi one day before arriving at our next destination. Again, for peace of mind knowing we’d have somewhere to stay when we got to our next destination. Very easy to do. Again using Hostelworld.

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7. Don’t be afraid of staying in crazy sounding hostels.

Big rooms = big savings. In Prague we stayed in a gym turned into a 90 bed hostel. Quite the experience. Don’t be afraid to go for the cheap option where possible!

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8.Take a padlock.

For the lockers, and your bag when travelling…. oh and take ear plugs. If you remember one thing… EARPLUGS.

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10. Socialise with fellow travellers

Talk to people you’re sharing your room and people in your hostel, they’ll be able to give you tips on good places to stay and go. You might even meet some people you want to continue travelling with.

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11. Book hostels with a communal kitchen.

If you’re on a super tight budget, its a good idea to book a hostel with a kitchen so you can cook your own meals. It’s also nice to cook your own food for a change if you’ve been eating out a lot.

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12. Have a half way rest point.

It’s a good idea to have a ‘rest’ around half way through your trip. Try and stay with friends/family or book a hostel in a sleepy town or by the beach. You’ll appreciate a few days of laying in and monging.

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13. Take 1 book.

You can swap your book in hostels for new one.

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14. Download podcasts.

Of something that interests you. And music of course.

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15. Learn some card games.

Good to pass the time whilst travelling, and also good for drinking games to play with all your new hostel friends.

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16. Take normal washing tablets.

You can get these ‘travel’ washing tablets or liquid. They’re shit. Take the normal strong stuff.

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17. Interrail and buy one of these.

Having an Interrail pass means you reduce your transport costs whilst you’re away and you know how much you’ve spent on the bulk of your transport before you go away. Using the trains is a  breeze, although in some countries (France and Italy I’m looking at you) you have to book yourself onto trains before you go on them for no extra cost. Not too much of a problem as long as you remember in good time. Get the European train time book, the Bible of getting around Europe on rails.

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18. Stay East.

Cheap, hot, beautiful. What more could you want. Paris, Amsterdam and Rome are all beautiful, but on a budget you don’t want to stay there too long. The East has more to offer in terms of town, beach, lakes and mountains.

Budapest Part 3

Check out part 1 and part 2 of my trip if you haven’t already!

Our last day in Budapest was a beautiful, sunny one which made leaving even harder.

We headed to our usual market and enjoyed a serenaded breakfast in the park…

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We decided to spend our morning venturing over to the Buda side of the city and hike up to Gellert – a woodland green park on a big hill with a huge statue at the top, which would no doubt be good for some final snaps.

We crossed a very windy bridge in the south of the city at the start of our exploration….

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And looked up to where we would be walking!

A Jurassic looking waterfall at the bottom gave us a nice cool spray before the long hike up to Gellert.

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And up we trekked!

Always a good time for a selfie..

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The statue at the top reflected our mood of reaching the top..victoryy.

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As we’d expected the views were incredible of the city and the bridge we had just crossed.

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Me and my new found favourite city.

After a potter at the top and looking at the city from all angles, we trotted back down again under the cool shade of the trees.

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We headed back to the city centre to chill in the water pool in Erzsebet Square and look up at the Budapest Eye – a super expensive temporary attraction we avoided.

We sat here for ages paddling in the water and catching the suns rays……before heading to a beer festival conveniently only a few steps away!

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We had chocolate beer which was uhmazinggg. Cold, creamy and rich. Nothing beats a good European beer festival in the summer!

And before we knew it it was time for our last meal before heading back home. We found a great, cheap Italian place in the shadows of the Opera House (surprisingly) on Hajos Utca which served mammoth pizzas and pasta dishes – just what we needed before heading to the airport.

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Simply deliciously carb heaven.

After that went to the most amazing ice cream parlour that we’d heard was the best in Budapest, and it sure lived up to our expectations. It’s called Fragola and you must go if you visit Pest! I was too busy eating and gawping at the flavours to remember to take photos.

So that marks the end of my trio of Hungarian blog posts. I can easily say Budapest is the best European city I have been to so far! Great sights, food, bars, people, weather and prices. I cannot recommend it enough to any city lover of any age.

Stayed tuned and follow for more posts coming your way soon – I upload every Monday and Friday! Thanks for reading!

Budapest Part 2

If you haven’t already read my part 1 blog post read it here!

Our 3rd day in the glorious city of Budapest was upon us and we started the day off with our usual market breakfast of fruit, pastries and cakes. We set off to the river side and parliament building for more bimblings in the muggy heat. The sun refused to come out to play on this day!

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Before we knew it it was time to eat again, and we headed to a modern looking restaurant with a huge garden we’d spotted the day before called Bordo Bisztro. We had three courses and a cocktail each for less than £5 each (still can’t get over the value you can get in Hungary).

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To start I had cold cucumber and mint soup which was creamy, garlicky and delicious. My sister had warming Goulash soup. All washed down with a Mojito and Bloody Mary.

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The best Bloody Mary I have ever had –  heavy on the Tabasco, vinegar and vodka.

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For main I went for griddled herbed chicken, veggies and rice.

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And my sister opted for pork skewers on sweet potato cake.

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All tasty dishes that filled the bellies! 

The best course however was definitely pudding…

Gooey chocolate cake with an orange marmalade sauce.

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With bellies full and our pockets not much lighter for it we headed to the Central Market to gawp at more food!

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The market had the most amazing array of meats, cheese, spices (namely Hungarian paprika and saffron), pickles, fruit, pastries and other non-food goods that we obviously had no interest in.

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How cute?!

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The top floor of the market had an array of traditional Hungarian eateries and cafes selling stews, hunks of cooked meat, potato dishes, and other typical Hungarian fair! Looked great but slightly pricey for Budapest.

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The moody view across the river outside the market…

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On our walk back to our apartment we came across the most wonderful ice cream place. Hungary is apparently famous for exporting lavender, and this little ice cream parlour used lavender and other herbs and spices in it’s ice cream to create taste sensations!

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On my cone I had dark chilli and chocolate ice cream, which was utterly rich, spicy and delicious, and vanilla and lavender which cooled down the chilli heat and was floral and wonderful.

I got a bit excited by my new found flavour combination!…

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And with that all gone, we headed back to the room to chill before going out for drinks later that evening.

We decided to go back to the Jewish Quarter area of Pest where we had been before. The first bar we stopped at played jazz music and had cute hats on the ceiling as lampshades.

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The next bar was a quick beer stop…

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And before we knew it we were back in Szimpla Kert from the previous night! We sat up stairs this time in one of the old gutted graffiti’d buildings.

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After many a drink, we walked home and may or may not have had a kebab on the way…… guilty.

Another great day in Budapest even with out the sunshine!

Thanks for reading! The final post of my trip will be up on Monday.

Budapest Part 1

Unlike my last trip (and blog post) to Istanbul, my trip to Budapest with my sister was on a budget. We flew with RyanAir, booked a hostel and budgeted our whole trip, something I actually enjoy doing. We’d heard Budapest was cheap, but just how cheap we weren’t quite prepared for.

We arrived at 3am (not ideal) to our ‘hostel‘ which turned out to be a whole self catered apartment! (pretty ideal). We stayed on the Pest side of the city just off Andrássy út close to all the sights.

We woke up the next morning to a bright and beautiful interior balcony.

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Our first morning in Pest was a drizzly, so we bimbled  around, finding breakfast in quiet but large nearby market, and eventually sitting down to some traditional Hungarian comfort food and shelter from the rain.

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Sweet paprika stew and meat and bread dumplings for a couple of quid! Tasted great but tasted even better knowing the price.

After lunch we headed down to the river, the clouds parted and we had a wonderful view over to the Buda side of the city.

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And of the (strangely very new) parliament building on our Pest side.

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We walked along the river a came across this thought provoking Jewish memorial.

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Next on the agenda was ice cream!

We found this place near our apartment on Andrássy út where you could chose your ingredients and then they would make your ice cream in front of you on cold plates, very cool. I went for banana and peanut butter mmmmm *drools*. Unfortunately I  didn’t take a photo as I was too busy eating. This is them making it though on the cold plate…

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That evening we headed out for some drinks at the well known Szimpla Kert, an edgy looking venue made of of disused building surrounding an outdoor garden area. There are multiple bars for different types of drink and loads of interesting stair cases and rooms. One of the coolest bars I have ever been to – would highly recommend!

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A few beers and cocktails later our awesome first day in Budapest came to an end.

The next day we woke up to glorious sunshine and headed to the market we’d been to the previous day for breakfast. Lots of fruit and pastries were purchased and eaten.

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After filling our tummies we hopped (literally…see below) back down Andrassy Ut past the Opera House into town to do more exploring!

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We decided to cross the Chain Bridge to see what the historic Buda side of the city had to offer…..

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…and started to climb up to the Royal Palace and National Gallery.

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When we reached the top we were greeted by the hilarious display of the Hungarian changing of the guard. No offence to any Hungarians but it was more like a dance routine than anything else! 

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There were more great views from the top.

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Me loving life.

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The National Gallery…

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And the castle…

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And more glorious views over the river looking to Pest.

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After mooching around on the hill and taking in the beautiful buildings and view, we headed back to Pest to experience one of the things Budapest is most famous for; it’s thermal baths. We went to the largest of the baths ‎Széchenyi at the top of Pest, I cannot recommend it enough. We spent four hours mulling in the warm waters and feeling on top of the world.

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Even though from these pictures it looks busy, it wasn’t really and it was easy to find your own space and drift into a dreamy mermaid state – blissful. 

After all that ‘swimming’ (ahem), we were starving, so headed back to Szimpla Kert to find an amazing looking burger van which we’d spotted the day before.

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Oh daymn these burgers were goooood.

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Mine had cheese, beer cooked onions, pickles and salad in it. Perfection. 

And the fries…….were just unreal.

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Above it my sister’s burger with coleslaw, cheese, the same onions and god knows what else tasty stuff. The van prided itself on using it’s own locally made beer in the burger recipes.

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And that, naturally, was a very full end to our second day in Budapest and Part 1 of this blog post.

Pretty great looking city so far right?!

Thanks for reading.

Istanbul Day 2

This is a big ol’ post so be prepared.

Our first day in Istanbul had been great and we woke up the next day keen for more exploration! 

Another wonderful buffet breakfast was laid on at our guest house, with a great view to match.

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Note I had another plate of fruit, 3 freshly made pancakes with honey, a plate of home made pastries and cake (hand made by the cooks in the guest house every afternoon!) So good. Too busy eating to take photos of it all oops.

And our little breakfast view over the Bosphorus…P1020660

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Not bad eh?

Me ready for the day ahead..

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Our first stop that day was the cool, damp depths of the the Underground Bascilica Cistern, once an underground storage for water.

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Very interesting and a lovely cool escape from the suns heat.

We then head off the the famous Grand Bazaar for a bit of shopping and bartering.

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My new hand gear. I tried bartering but failed miserably so left it to the pro – my aunty.

The bazaar sold all sorts of treats, although I wouldn’t particularly recommend going there as a young female without a male…

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Naturally we had to stop for a few snacks. These carts were dotted all around the city.

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And of course a kebab! Kebab houses are everywhere too. These ones from a place just outside the bazaar were very good – doner meat, salad and yoghurt.

We thought we’d better experience some hubbly bubbly pipe too (a healthy day as you can tell).

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After a busy day, we went back to the guest house terrace for the rest of the afternoon to relax before what was about to be the best dining experience I have had to date.

We had booked a table at Giriliti Restoran on Keresteci Hakki Sokak (I don’t know how you say that either) and after a little trouble finding it walked into a lovely hidden garden with a wood burning oven fire with a man cooking bread and pastry. P1020787

Firstly the service as soon as we sat down was amazing, so friendly but not intruding.

The only menu Giriliti offers is a type of mezze, and boy were we in for a treat.

First course some sort of fish based ‘pilaf’, think it was more like orzo pasta though. Delish.

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Next up were 15 plates of yummyness; sea food, salads, hummus, pickles etc.

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All soooo good. I got a bit too full here not knowing how much more food was to come, oops.

Next up we had a pastry (made by the guy manning the wood fired oven outside) filled with Turkish cheese, spinach and topped off with seeds.

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And then (yes there’s more)….

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The most tender barbecued octopus.

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A ring of lightly battered squid with a scoop of something delicious but I have no idea what, very moreish.

Next we had a choice of fish, I opted for sardines in vine leaves. Delicious but I forgot how I don’t like vine leaves, rooky error.

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Finally (stuffed) we rounded things off with freshly fried mini doughnuts and ice cream made in a fryer outside near the wood burning oven.

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The best dinner I’ve ever eaten hands down. And as far as I’m aware, it didn’t break the bank either.

We also sampled some honey, florally liquor 

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All gone.

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Tipsily we walked back stuffed to the guest house!

The next morning we looked inside the beautiful Hagia Sophia.

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Then reluctantly hopped on a flight back to the UK.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Istanbul! It’s a beautiful city with a lot to offer and some great food if you look in the right places. I also forgot to mention we spent the first afternoon in Turkish baths, a MUST if you visit Istanbul!! I’m not sure if it is somewhere I would visit as a back-packer or with friends, but for this kind of trip it was a perfect location. If I go again I would love to go on a boat ride on the Bosphorus, and visit the Asian side of the city.

Stay tuned for a string of posts on my trip to Budapest!

Istanbul Day 1

So I am back on the blogging scene after graduating and ready to start showing y’all my travels! The next few posts will show my travels in the last month. After that I’m hoping to do more ‘live’ as they happen posts of my travelling.

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I set off for a 2 day trip to Istanbul last month with my sister and aunties. I had never been to Turkey and was super excited to experience the culture, sights and food.

We arrived at night and woke up the next day to glorious sunshine and a wonderful buffet breakfast (pictures in the next post…..I’m talking fresh fruit, cakes, fruit….the good stuff) in the guest house we were staying. We were staying near Hagia Sophia and all the big sights so set off on our first morning for a day of exploring.

The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.

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We then had a wonder round the huge and wonderfully interesting Archaeological Museum.

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After all that walking we felt we deserved a well earned lunch (nothing great to talk about here unfortunately) and first cup of Turkish tea (which was wonderful).

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We spent the afternoon bimbling more and picking up an appetite for dinner. We stumbled across a little place (can’t remember or find the name of it online anywhere!!) where you could chose your fish from a refrigerated platter, then take a seat with a glass of wine and wait for it to be cooked on the barbecue out back. We went for the sea bream and when it arrived oh mann…BBQ goodness…

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Demolished! And all washed down with lots of wine and a spot of Raki…

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A wonderful first day in Istanbul! Day 2 post to follow soon.