When we decided to go to Istanbul if I am honest Andrew and I didn't think too much about it in advance and didn't really know what to expect. Being self employed there never really is a right time to take a holiday but I was pretty sure no work would pop up between Christmas and New Year.
Upon arrival after a direct four hour flight from Dublin we checked into the 'W' Hotel which is a slickly designed boutique hotel with house music providing a hip soundtrack throughout. Immediately I loved it. Location wise we were central to lots of shops and restaurants but most importantly the staff were so attentive. Our room had a lovely balcony which filled with snow by the end of our trip. The bathrooms were stocked with Bliss London products which are so, so good. It's these little pieces of attention to detail that I notice and love.
On our first night we ate in the hotel which had a really good menu and although considered expensive for Istanbul, it was still a reasonable €50 for starters, mains and drinks for 2.
On our first day we set out to explore The Grand Baazar, which is famous and extremely vast. Here you can buy spices, tea, turkish delight, carpets, pashminas, leather, crockery, jewellery and antiques. Walking through you get an incredible feeling of bustle and commerce.
After the Grand Baazar we found a great buffet restaurant for lunch on yelp. The W hotel gave us a portable mobile phone on a Turkish network which was great for maps and looking things up. Baran Restaurant was just a short walk away. Being buffet style it was really easy to select and also despite being fairly casual it was one of the nicest meals we had throughout our trip. There were so many vegetarian options also. The owner was really friendly and eager to get a picture taken. Another thing to note is that the place was very busy so the food was fresh.
Afterwards I saw a lovely looking bakery and wanted a little treat. Baclava is everywhere, and it's delicious but don't limit yourself to just that. The bakeries are really good and do lovely cakes and macaroons. I bought flowering jasmine tea which I love. I should say that I really should have haggled much more. Things seem reasonable but bargaining is expected and aside from getting a little bit of a discount, it's also fun. All sellers we spoke to spoke good english also.
That night Andrew had booked a restaurant as a surprise and I didn't know where we were going. I found a salon near the hotel that did €10 blow dries so got my hair done, got dressed up and waited to see what he had planned!
As soon as we arrived at the Ciragan Palace I knew it was going to be a special night. The restaurant was so beautiful and ornate.
During dinner it started to snow quite heavily which only added to the atmosphere. After the meal Andrew suggested a walk outside which seemed bizarre to me but once outside he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him!
It was such a special magical moment and everything is a gorgeous blur of happy emotions.
Back at the hotel the celebrations continued. The staff were so welcoming and all congratulated us. I couldn't write about the staff without commending Koray. He had actually helped Andrew coordinate things for the proposal and was so genuinely caring. Calling my parents and family with the lovely news was such a special moment. I was in a total daze for hours!
On our last day we wanted to do something historical so we got a taxi to Basilica Cistern. This is the largest of several ancient cisterns built in the 6th century. It's an amazing feat. There are so many fish and on a certain area you are invited to make a wish and toss a coin in. I wished for 2016 to be all I hope it will be and of course for a happy married life!
Afterwards we went to a mosque. You've to take your shoes off before entering and cover your head. They are stunningly beautiful inside. On our last day we (briefly in my case) used the hotel gym and went to a local restaurant just around the corner that evening. The Winston Brasserie was a 2 minute walk from the hotel and was cheap and cheerful really good healthy food.
One thing about Istanbul is there are so many cats and dogs - which I loved! They are considered sacred and there was food left out for them on street corners and they look well cared for, if a bit cold.
On our last day I think the emotions of getting engaged started hit home and I found myself constantly welling up packing and as we checked out.
If you are going to Istanbul (which is a direct four hour flight from Dublin) I highly recommend The W. We felt so taken care of and loved every minute of our magical trip. Turkish Airlines also had good movies and nice food!
Lots of love,
The W Hotels site - http://www.wistanbul.com.tr
You can also check out the whole trip on my Vlog: