According to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News, James Bond is planning his third trip to Istanbul. He’s been twice before, once with Sean Connery’s face in From Russia with Love, and once looking remarkably Pierce Brosnan in The World is Not Enough.
But this time James Bond has the face – and other assets – of ruggedly beautiful Daniel Craig and I’m dreaming about reviving plans for another trip to Istanbul, possibly timed to coincide with a bit of star-stalking…
The difficulty is, filming’s due to take place within a few months, and this time I have a toddler in tow and a bump that’s due to become a baby sibling for the toddler, also within a few months. I’ve travelled to Istanbul plenty of times, but not sure I have the appetite for getting myself and my energetic two-year-old there now, not even for Daniel Craig as 007.
That said, getting to Istanbul is relatively easy from Didim. If you prefer low-maintenance, low-cost travel, you can get on a bus from Didim bus station that’ll take you straight there. Admittedly, it’s a 13-hour journey and you’ll have to negotiate the service bus that takes you from one of Istanbul’s satellite bus stations into the centre when you’re done, but at least for most of the journey there’s nothing more strenuous required than reclining in your seat, adjusting your ipod headphones and admiring the Turkish countryside as it goes from sweeping meadows through to jagged mountains before flattening out (hopefully) on the ferry across the Marmara to Istanbul.
Or you can fly – flights are hourly from Izmir airport, though you’ll have to arrange to get there first: two hours by private car or airport transfer, or more by intercity bus and then connection from bus station to the airport. Istanbul Ataturk airport’s pretty close to the tourist spots of Istanbul, Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen airport right out on another continent (literally) and way beyond the destination hotspots of Istanbul.
As a solo traveller, or without children but with husband, I’ve very happily done both (though my tolerance for the bus journey is a lot better one-way, can’t think of a time when I’ve done the trip in both directions by road!). And Istanbul’s well worth the effort taken to get there (at least for adults). My first and second visits were solo. First time I stayed in Sultanahmet somewhere and booked a two-day guided group tour via the hotel. Normally I’d shy away from such things but I can’t recommend it enough: Istanbul’s transport system is traumatic, even for locals, so it’s worth the money for the guided tour just to get from one amazing Istanbul highlight to another without stressing in the horrendous traffic – informative and entertaining guides a bonus! Mine took me under their wing and out for the evening afterwards and on to two different bars, one underground with live rock and the other open to the stars with live crooning. I’d certainly never have found them on my own, or as a lone female traveller dared to go in on my own, for that matter.
My second visit to Istanbul was more of a rush job – needing a break from the stresses of my job, I hopped on the bus yet again, this time unplanned. In need of luxury and escapism I walked straight into the lobby of the Hilton Istanbul and asked for a room; they took one look at my bus-mussed hair and said they only had suites available. Needless to say the price of a suite sent me on my way and I ended up in a more modest Taksim Square hotel where the room service menu featured a lamb dish interestingly called “lamp hands”. Still haven’t sussed out what that might have been. The next morning I was woken by gunshots, an air-raid siren and a city of empty streets. Fearing war, I was relieved to learn this was an annual memorial to the death of Ataturk.
My next two Istanbul visits were at a fab hotel, the Best Western Empire Palace, and in great company: best friends from London, Laura and Chantal, and godmother from Japan, Anne. Over those two trips we had Turkish baths in two of Istanbul’s historic, marbled Hamams; marvelled at the winter views across the Bosphorus from Topkapı Palace; saw Dervishes whirling at Sirkeci train station; tried $20,000 dollars of necklace in a jewellers in the Grand Bazaar; and admired armless mannekins modelling support garments in the back streets of Kadiköy.
My last (and I hope not final) visit was with Hakan at Christmas 2007. He’d found the right boat (later to become the Flying Fish) and I flew up to join him for the final sales negotiations. The deal was done in a notary office in Beşiktaş, and on the back steps of the office I handed over a plastic bag full of more dollars than I’d ever seen to the seller’s right-hand man as the seller and Hakan signed the paperwork with the notary as witness.
So it’s been four years since my last visit and we now have responsibilities. Yachts and children both need round-the-clock attention and it’s a lot more difficult to get away than it used to be. And I don’t think I can face the journey. But I really want to go back to Istanbul. I’ve even sussed somewhere to stay at a discount in Sultanahmet where the new Bond movie’ll be filming, courtesy of AirBNB’s great offers for first-time bookers: Discount accommodation direct from the owner. So the question is, Commander Bond, any space on your private jet?