While Britain shivered waiting for Spring to arrive, I was away for Easter, in Istanbul, Turkey’s capital in all but name.

I stayed in the Beyoglu neighbourhood, which was lively and easy’ish to get to from the airport (1 metro ride, followed by a busy tram, followed by a funicular up the hill) – just over an hour, and about £3.70 all in all. Unfortunately, it’s more difficult to recommend the hotel I chose (Ansen Suites) who claimed not to have my reservation, despite the fact it had been made directly through their website. Luckily I had the print out. It also faced the charming “Good Mood” bar and club directly opposite, which pumped out Donna Summer till at least 2am on Fridays and Saturdays. Ho hum. Ear plugs are a traveller’s best friend.

Istanbul is a great destination for a long weekend. About 3.5 hours from London, and heaps to see and do. Easy to get around. Great food and very friendly people. (I know the “friendly locals” is a terrible cliche, but I have always found the Turks to be fantastic, ever since I first went there as a student in 1989).

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Looking out from the balcony of the 360 bar and restaurant in Beyoglu, towards Ortakoy and Yildiz

The tram in Beyoglu runs up to Taksim square along busy Istiklal Avenue - a bargain at £1.15

The tram in Beyoglu runs up to Taksim square along busy Istiklal Avenue – a bargain at £1.15

Mean-looking graffiti panda in Beyoglu

Mean-looking graffiti panda in Beyoglu

Looking towards the Blue Mosque

Looking towards the Blue Mosque

Inside the Grand Bazaar - surprisingly unhassly

Inside the Grand Bazaar – surprisingly unhassly

Yum - a glass of freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice ("Nar Suyu") for 4 lire or about £1.50

Yum – a glass of freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice (“Nar Suyu”) for 4 lire or about £1.50

On the Galata bridge, where the locals have more important things that tourists on their mind

On the Galata bridge, where locals have more important things than tourists on their mind

A ride on an Istanbul ferry is a bargain at 3 lire (£1.15)

A ride on an Istanbul ferry is a bargain at 3 lire (£1.15)

Busy Erminou is perhaps the most tourist-friendly spot from which to catch a ferry, after you've wandered over the Galata Bridge or visited the Topkapi Palace or Hagia Sofia

Busy Erminou is perhaps the most tourist-friendly spot from which to catch a ferry, after you’ve wandered over the Galata Bridge or visited the Topkapi Palace or Hagia Sofia

Erminou

Erminou

When I first went to Istanbul in 1989, the Lonely Planet guide advised a certain spot inside Hagia Sofia where you stand and clap and you'd hear the echo all around you - something that I think just isn't possible in these days of easyJet and Ryanair

When I first went to Istanbul in 1989, the Lonely Planet guide advised a certain spot inside Hagia Sofia where you stand and clap and you’d hear the echo all around you – something that I think just isn’t possible in these days of easyJet and Ryanair

You don't have to go too far from the centre of Istanbul to feel like you're in a small Turkish town instead

You don’t have to go too far from the centre of Istanbul to feel like you’re in a small Turkish town instead

Yum - Turkish pretzels ("simitci")

Yum – Turkish pretzels (“simitci”)

Istiklal Street - Istanbul's main pedestrian thoroughfare, packed with shops and cafes - and people!

Istiklal Street – Istanbul’s main pedestrian thoroughfare, packed with shops and cafes – and people!

This week’s Newsweek magazine offers another of those “must see” round ups which got me thinking about my own personal list.

Do you agree or disagree? Let me know. What’s on your list? In no particular order….

Iguazu Falls from the Brazilian side

(1) Go to Paris. Just walk around and get lost with no set agenda.

(2) Go hiking in Nepal, to Annapurna base camp and back. Waking up in a tea house in the morning and looking up to see those humongous mountains against a clear blue sky is almost beyond words.

(3) Take an overnight bus – in these days of “budget” airline travel that has stripped us of all dignity, taking a bus just reminds you it’s quite a big world out there full of ordinary people. Turkey has a great network, and in Argentina you can get seats that recline 180 degrees, but my most memorable journey was from Katherine to Alice Springs in Australia. I woke up when we got to a rest stop about 5.30am, looked out of the window and there was the silhouette of a tall wind mill set against the reddest soil I have ever seen in my life. It’s just an image that has always stayed with me.

(4) Take some children to Disneyworld in Florida. Cheesy? You bet – but the sight of a small child’s face when they see Mickey, Minnie or Donald for the first time is a really wonderful thing, however cynical you may be.

(5) Go star gazing in the southern hemisphere – try Namibia or outback Australia. Just somewhere far away from light pollution. It will blow your mind.

(6) Do a safari in as remote a place as possible. I was very lucky to be in northern Zambia a few years ago (north Luangwa). In the middle of the night a hyena let our a scream about ten feet from where I was sleeping that put the hairs on the hairs on the hairs on the back of my neck on edge, and they didn’t come down for about six months. And the same trip I went up in a microlight first thing and saw lions yawning as they woke up and swooped over a pod of hippos. Expensive, very; magical, definitely.

(7) Drive through small town America. As Brits we tend to go for the “big names” even on third or fourth trips to the States but I have done driving trips in Missouri, South Dakota, Utah and Tennessee and there’s heaps more to do in “smaller name” states than you’d think, above all unbridled hospitality when they hear an English accent. Stay in a non-chain motel with slightly sticky carpets. Have those eggs over easy. Yes your waitress really is called Betty Sue. Now y’all come back ya hear.

(8) Iguazu Falls. I’ve been to a few waterfalls and it was always “yep, pretty impressive, snap snap snap with the camera, OK now back on the bus”. But Iguazu Falls are different. Wow. Amazing. Wow. I was there three days and could have stayed longer. Did I mention “wow”?

(9) The Taj Mahal in India – for me, the only man made structure that lives up to the hype and then some. I mean the Sydney Opera House certainly gets points, and I love the Chrysler Building in Manhattan but I don’t remember being wowed by the Great Wall of China (was it the Mastercard advert hung on the side of it?)

(10) New York. Full stop.