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After featuring one half of Mums The World, Jenny,  several weeks ago and her trip to South Africa, it’s now the turn of Laura. Laura also resides in Dubai with her husband and two gorgeous boys – and having been lucky enough to explore much of the world as a member of a cabin crew, she’s well placed to give great travel tips about a whole host of destinations. I’m delighted that she’s sharing her trip to Istanbul in Turkey.

Over to you, Laura…

FotorCreatedWhat do you look for in a holiday?

Living in Dubai we are lucky to have year round sunshine and the beach close by, so when it comes to holidays we love to explore new cities and sight-see. However, we all need a little relaxation now and again and like to combine the two where possible, and do a few days in a city, followed by unwinding with a few days by the pool!

Where did you go?

We went to Istanbul, Turkey.Grand Bazaar Entrance

Why did you choose this destination?

We booked a holiday to Halkidiki in Greece, where the nearest airport is Thessaloniki. As we couldn’t take a direct flight from Dubai we decided to combine the trip with a mini break in Istanbul, and then fly on to Greece with Turkish Airlines.

We chose Istanbul as our stopover destination as we were so intrigued to visit the city where East meets West. My son also really wanted to see the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar, featured in the last James Bond!

Who went?

My lovely little family –  myself, husband Pete and our two boys Finlay (6) and Elliott (3), who were a year younger at the time.

Hilton Doubletree Hotel Lobby 2Where did you stay? How did you decide?

We stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton in Istanbul’s old town. It was a great central location for us to explore all the sights by foot and it also had a tram stop just across the road for anywhere else further afield.

The hotel was lovely and they catered to the children really well. Anyone that has visited a Doubletree hotel will be aware of the yummy warm cookie presented to you at check-in. The boys loved this (as did we!)

We had an interconnecting room, which gave us all enough space as the rooms weren’t quite big enough to accommodate a family of four. Breakfast was included and there was also a rooftop restaurant with a good selection of food that we enjoyed on our first night.

Were there plenty of activities for the kids?

In a word – no! We wanted to show the boys the sights and soak them in culture. On this occasion there wasn’t a Kids Club in sight and they spent the weekend being little explorers. We made it as fun as possible for them and it was a real adventure for us all, seeing new places and trying new food. It opened their eyes to a city that isn’t brand new and shiny like their birthplace of Dubai.

Blue MosqueYour most memorable moment/s of the trip?

I have lots of happy memories of this trip, from being sat watching the sunset behind the Blue Mosque eating fresh watermelon, to the boys throwing coins in the water at the Basilica Cistern making wishes. My youngest son’s face when he tried Turkish Delight for the first time and my husband taking us on the longest walk one evening insisting he knew where we were going…nope, we were lost!

Bosphorus Cruise 1What did you get up to? Any sights you want to shout about?

Yes – so many…

• The Grand Bazaar – A hive of activity in one of the largest market’s in the world! The shops all sell pretty much the same kind of thing but enjoy the atmosphere and haggle for a bargain! *Arrive early before the masses!

• Bosphorus Cruise – Quite possibly the easiest way to see the city in a short space of time. We took a 2.5 hour round cruise which, in hindsight was just slightly too long for our two boys, however there are different durations available. The architecture along the Bosphorus is stunning and so varied with both European and Asian influences.

• Basilica Cistern – Another attraction featured in a James Bond movie, so this went down well and is a great spot for an hour to escape the heat. Basically an old underground chamber where you can walk across wooden bridges suspended over the shallow water. It’s very atmospheric with low lit lighting illuminating the grand columns and arches – look out for the upside down Medusa column.

• Turkish Delight – Because you can’t visit Turkey and not try it!Basilica Cistern - Medusa Statue

Was it good value for money?

Yes. We found things to be very reasonable coming from Dubai. Eating out and excursions were good value and if you want to pick up some trinkets to bring home with you, the Grand Bazaar is bargain-tastic but be prepared to haggle! 

Grand BazaarYour top tip/s for the area?

We found taxis to be disastrous! There were a couple of occasions we tried to use them and they refused to take us to where we needed to go L I’d recommend using the tram or just walking it, where you tend to see more anyways.
The cobbled streets can be a little tricky with a pushchair but not impossible so go with an open mind and embrace it!
Allow for traffic when making your way to the airport, it gets pretty heavy.
Don’t forget to arrange your visa in advance before you travel.
Take a scarf/cover-up if you’d like to go inside places of worship.
Memorable pic!

Which photo is your favourite and why? Tell us the story behind it.

The photograph of me with the lady placing the flower headband on my head gave us all a giggle that day! It was by the Blue Mosque where a lot of street sellers hang out to prey upon tourists. After politely declining them and finding a free bench to watch the sunset, this lady appeared and in the end we just laughed, went with it and bought a couple of her hand-made flower bands – I think we made her day!

Would you recommend to a friend? Would you go back again?

Absolutely! We really enjoyed the raw-ness of Istanbul and feel we only scratched the surface. On our next visit we will definitely explore the other side of the city across the Galata Bridge to the more modern parts of Istanbul. With its cosmopolitan bars, galleries and shops, it could be one trip to try without the little ones 😉

Turkish KebabsWhat are the five holiday essentials you couldn’t live without?

• iPhone (for pics & social media – never a day off for a blogger!)
• Hand Sanitizer
• Guide Book
• A scarf – Doubles up as a whole host of things from a picnic blanket to keeping the kids warm, to a cover up if you’re venturing inside a mosque.
• Lip Gloss 🙂

What is your most favourite place in the whole world and why?

This is such a tough question! I would probably have to say Paris. I’m a real city girl (perhaps coming from a sleepy Northern UK town I’ve developed this fascination). I love wandering through all the different neighbourhoods; some with their edge and rawness and others upscale and high-end, there’s always something to see.

I also love the café culture and sitting in a European ‘square’ having a mid-day drink watching the world go by. Paris lived up to my expectations and more besides – I can’t wait to return!

If you would like to be featured on Holiday Snapshots, please email me at [email protected] and I look forward to including your travel stories.snapshots

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