Fun on the Bosphorus
Wednesday 10th December 2014
Istanbul is right up there amongst the world’s greatest cities. And my 4th visit in the name of the mighty Arsenal has not changed my opinion. The vibrancy, passion, culture, food, sights and what can sometimes feel like organised chaos all contribute to the overall package. Great fellow travellers and a thumping good win means I fly home with a whole host of good memories yet again.
It feels a long time ago that we got off our plane at the city’s Araturk Airport but some great service and arguably a little too much red wine on board our Atlasjet flight from Luton meant the tedium that this form of transport often brings passed by far quicker than the near on 4 hours suggests.
A nice hotel in the Sultanahmet area of the city soon played host and we headed out in search of a small example of the Sunday night offerings. A fine meal was enjoyed nearby and the usual liquid accompaniment had some of our party ‘calling it a day’ slightly earlier than others. Video evidence does exist of what was an extremely amusing incident but you know the rules folks, ‘what goes on tour…….’ 😉
Monday was ‘ tourist day’ especially for those in our group that had never visited this wonderful city before so accompanied by the incredible haunting sound of the ‘calls to prayer’ echoing from every corner of the city we took in attractions such as the Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market, all magnificent in their own individual way.
Passing the hundreds of people fishing we then crossed the bridge and headed up towards the vast Taksim Square and sank some cocktails (darling!) in the stunning Pera Palace Hotel, originally built in the late 19th century to welcome passengers from the Orient Express having reached their final destination of Constantinople.
A thoroughly awesome way to rest our weary limbs after a typically lengthy Stubbsy walking tour it preceded another fine bar/restaurant that played host until we took cabs and stumbled back to our hotel.
If there was anything slightly disappointing about the whole trip it was the fact our hotel room was located overlooking a school playground. I’ve nothing against educational establishments of course but when the kids turned it into their equivalent of Wembley at 8am every morning, I genuinely wasn’t very complimentary especially given how much we had enjoyed the city’s hospitality well into the wee small hours!
Matchday arrived and another restaurant for most of us, the offerings ranging from quite a ropey veal escalope to an incredible dish cooked in a sealed clay pot over an open fire before it was quite vigorously tapped until the lid popped off revealing the superb dish inside. Delicious it was and all part of the experience.
It was difficult to know how full Galatasaray’s Turk Telecom Arena would be given the fact our hosts had nothing more to play for than pride. Located high up in the away end I think we all left hoping we might get to return one day for a game that dictated a sell out. The noise that the small crowd made last night was fantastic and definitely left us all feeling that way.
Given the difficult few days we have all experienced since Stoke, the first half was probably just what the doctor ordered. The media scrutiny brought on by the huge and over heated debate regarding the present and the future of our great football club has been immense and quite divided. So Poldi slamming home after a few minutes was extremely pleasurable and set us on our way of giving us an outside chance of claiming top spot in our group.
Rambo’s recent form has yet to reach anywhere near the incredible heights of last season, we all know that. But I do believe he is getting there and the three goals he has grabbed this week have to help especially as there isn’t a bad one amongst them. His 3rd last night in fact was an absolute stunner.
So we end the group in second spot but comfortably through yet again and look forward to next week’s draw and the destination for our next overseas jolly in March. As I write these thoughts that could be anywhere from Madrid, Paris, Munich, Barcelona, Porto and Monaco. Having not seen us play there the latter would be my first choice. It would be nice if we could actually get something ‘interesting’ out of a draw for once unlike every one we seem to get in our domestic cup competitions!
Newcastle come to London N5 next and in the middle of a fine run of form. On Saturday afternoon they brought our West London neighbours down to earth and destroyed any chance of them matching our unbeaten season. One day we might just get the credit we deserve for that incredible achievement you know. But I doubt it.
For now, I desperately need some sleep. Not just because it has been a heavy few days. But due to some noisy football playing kids!!!
Keep the faith boys and girls.