Up 6am. Left hotel 6:45am. 7:00 ferry back to the Europe side (20 minutes). Kept driving. Stopped 8:45am. I must have dozed off before then, because I had a dream that 5 of us had to pay Şucru TL 1000 to take us around Istanbul on the last day, and I didn't want to hit the ATM again.
At 10:35am we stopped again, and Ibo said the Centrum Hotel was out of rooms and I'd have to share a room with Dave, but I'd get a partial refund of the My Own Room payment.
Heavy traffic in Istanbul, so we arrived at the Centrum at 1pm instead of the expected 12:15pm. We said goodbye to Şucru and Andrew & Megan, who apparently had no intention of hanging out with us any further. This tour officially ends tomorrow morning, but Ibo is continuing on to eastern Turkey with Megan, Andrew and Andy and another group. So effectively the tour is now finished. Most of us are meeting at 7pm, though, for the real final dinner.
We travelled 3500 km in 13 days. Good trip.
In the lobby at the Centrum I saw the list for the next Absolute Turkey tour starting on the 26th. 6 girls, 2 guys. Smaller group than ours, but more single girls. Bad timing on my part. Presumably at least one of those single girls wouldn't reject me on Facebook.
Ibo called my room and said I'd get a TL 80 refund at the desk, which I collected. Now I had TL 330 to spend in the last day.
Out to lunch. Köfte and beer up the street. Free tea. Turkey might have the best food of any of the 47 countries I've been to. Serbia...arguable.
The only major tourist attraction I was missing in Istanbul was Topkapı Palace. But Lonely Planet recommended 3 hours, which I didn't have. I went there anyway, and then to the Hagia Sophia tombs (free admission, not worth it, just 5 mausoleums with numerous cloth-covered tomb-shaped objects, and the guards made me put my shoes back on after the first one and I didn't want to do that 5 times).
Walked by Sultan Pub, which Lonely Planet recommended, but it didn't have an English pub vibe. Went to Starbucks for one final attempt to get a mug for Betty, but they didn't sell them.
Back to hotel 3:55pm. The room stank of cigarettes. What hotel in any country still has smoking rooms? If I owned a hotel and a smoker ruined one of my rooms, I'd kill him and his family, and then sue his estate for the cost of rebuilding the hotel. Assuming I'd get the law changed first, of course. Laws against same-sex marriage and killing pedophiles and smokers are so antiquated! It's 2013, dammit.
I bought a new camera on bestbuy.com. 10x zoom (very important) and 12.1 MP (not the state-of-the-art 16 MP, but 8 MP is the realistic limit). Wi-Fi too.
Katie added me to a Facebook group for the tour. Only us cool kids can be part of the group.
9 of us went to the unofficial farewell dinner at the Raymond Hotel Restaurant.
I love lamp! I love lamp.
This place had 700-mL Efes for TL 8! Nice. I was informed that an Imperial Pint is 20 oz.
I decided that Ibo was possibly the best of the 13 tour leaders I've had. Well done.
I had curry chicken here. Very good. And some beers. Now at 9.5 for the day.
Left the Raymond at 9:50pm. The remaining 6 of us who were social went to Ozler Resturant and drank on the roof.
Kent, Katie, Lee, Michelle and Shirley. This was a perfect relaxing final night on a rooftop. The Borussia Dortmund-Bayern Munich Champions League final was on the telly. Fun watching it with an international crowd. This might have been the best final night of any of my 13 group tours. Cushions.
A hookah showed up, so we smoked it. TL 15 for the group. It was butterscotch-flavored.
Katie said this tour would have been awesome with just 1-2 more younger people. I agree.
At 11:05pm, Shirley, Michelle and Lee departed, and we did our goodbyes. The group is now down to me, Katie and Kent.
At 12am we were done. Back to the hotel. I'd had 12.5 drinks. Said goodbye to Kent and Katie, whom I addressed as hyperlollipop (her name on the message board, which I whipped out at the last minute).
In my room, Dave was up already. He had a 5:30am flight. Around 12:30am he went downstairs to get a taxi and disappeared!
Again, this might have been the best trip ever if the group had been younger. Even with the age of the group, it's still arguable.
Dave returned to the room at 1:20am. I had half a beer from the minibar and was on the Internet in the interim. I fell asleep around 2am before he left. 13 drinks for the day. A good day.