Yesterday was mainly for the grownups. A day of – what Ella says, with an air of patient resignation – sightseeing. Today was a day for everybody, a day on a boat.
This was the luxury day of the holiday: six hours on our very own motor launch. The kind I have always dreamed of having (that is when I graduated from dreams of sailing boats to something easier to control). Apart from a luxury dining cabin which we never used, there was ample seating outside and, better still, a large sun deck above (which I could only get to when the boat was calm).
We were looked after very professionally by a steward called Attila, who was discreetly helpful as I struggled with my balance.
One of the more mortifying and distressing aspects of this trip is realising how lack of balance – exacerbated by non functioning knees and ankle – is becoming a serious issue. I was further hampered when climbing ladders on a rocking boat by not being able to grab things with my right hand.
It was another glorious sunny day as we whizzed out, passing the famous sight of Galata Tower on our left and on our right, the giant Süleymaniye Mosque, then the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia and finally Topkapi Palace, which we have not yet visited. And as we came out into the Bosporus opposite was Asian Istanbul, stretched out as far as we could see on the left. This trip reinforced our sense of the sheer size of Istanbul- 15 million people living in one of the world’s five most populated metropolitan areas (actually a taxi driver has just insisted 20 million plus 3 million foreigners (Syrians etc).
We were heading out to the Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara.
Ella, in particular, was in seventh heaven and soon wanted to clamber along the side, to be right in the bows. Maddie of course wanted to follow, escorted by Ed, and the three of them spent much of the outward trip there, getting pretty drenched and causing me some nervous anxiety (I have never liked being with children in danger of falling off cliffs or being swept out to sea.)
We headed for Büyükada, the largest of the islands (I was disappointed not to see the house where Trotsky lived).
We landed at the Turkish equivalent of a seaside resort, complete with Italian ices, and opted to use our limited time ashore on a pony and cart trip rather than lunch.
If you can ignore the undernourished look of the two ponies nobly dragging the five of us up and down the coastal route, it was quite a jolly trip.
The island was apparently originally a holiday resort for rich Greek and Jewish families, and certainly some of the houses were large and comfortable. We were struck by the number of clapboard houses, reminiscent of American colonial or Wild West films. Then, just time to grab a huge and delicious ice cream corner and our crew arrived to take us back on board.
The next stop was to a picturesque cove so Ed and Ella could have a swim!
Attila weighed the anchor and then set up a ladder into the water at the stern. After an initial hesitation until Ella was persuaded the jellyfish were harmless, they both jumped in – and declared the temperature as warmer than the St Laurent le Minier (our benchmark for I y water). Maddie tried to follow suit and bravely got into the water, but quickly declared it too cold.
The two swam round the boat and then Ella asked for the landing board to be lowered. She would have been jumping off this all day, but it was time to set back.
This time we passed along the Asian side. As well as a complex of docks we saw some huge army barracks which are, I think, the site of the hospital set up by Florence Nightingale.
Then back to the familiar landmarks – the various palaces and mosques. Maddie is particularly proud of her ability to spot Galata Tower.
Only fly in the ointment of a wonderful day: there was no water in our appartment.