Istanbul Adventures

It's hard to believe that a whole week has already passed since my Istanbul adventures ended, but needless to say it was a very busy week between a few days in the office, plus an unplanned trip up to NYC for Turkey day with my mom and sister before finally getting a half-day off on Sunday to do all the things that I haven't done in forever - clean the apt, grocery shop, etc.

Anyway...I wanted to start this week off with just a few highlights from my time in Istanbul...

First there was the hotel, Hotellino, which was exactly what I was looking for after two weeks in Iraq. A very small (23 rooms) boutique hotel with cute little rooms, clean, with all white linens. Located in the old city, it was close to all the main tourist attractions while still been right near the bridge linking up to the modern part of the city. Plus at less than $100 a night, with breakfast included, it was a sweet little deal!

Then there were the sights. Between the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Tophaki Palace (and yes, you must go into the Harem), the Hippodrome, and Galata Tower (just to name a few), I was literally blown away by all the history and architectural beauty in this city. The mosaics are literally just ridiculous!

If the architectural wasn't enough, there was the art. Istanbul Modern may have been a little too modern for me, but it did provide an wonderful glimpse into what Turkish artists are up to these days and it has a wonderful hip restaurant overlooking the Bosphorous. There there was the Past, Present and Future exhibit showing a collection of UniCredit's collection and last but not least, the Pera Museum. This was my favorite of the three because of the exhibition on Hungarian painter Mihály Tivadar Csontváry. The museum also has this classy little cafe which was just what I needed after a long day of walking.

Finally, no trip would be complete without a little shopping! The Grand Bazaar is something that must be experienced. I was in Istanbul over Eid so I only got to go to the Bazaar on my last day in town when it reopened, however this would have been my first stop. I have come to hate haggling and the Bazaar is overwhelming and you have no idea if the sales person is just taking you to the cleaners. Not too far from the Bazaar, you have some wonderful shops like Tulu and Abdulla, I literally could have bought everything in both stores (if only money didn't get in the way...) as it was all so lovely! I was really determined to find modern designs by Turkish designers and while I did find a few, my next trip to Istanbul would definitely involve seeking out a lot more. Shops like Aida Pekin, Arzu Kaprol (which was unfortunately closed when I was there), and Atelier 55 are a bunch of fun shops (nestled between cosy little cafes) showcasing local designers in the neighborhood of Galata. My next trip will definitely include hanging out in this little neighborhood again along with visiting areas like Levent, Etiler and Şişli (particularly the area of Nişantaşı). Ohhh and of course the trip would be incomplete without 10 pounds worth of Turkish decor magazines (and a few English and French versions that are hard to come by in DC) - just in case my obsession with home decor needed any more fuel!

Beyond the shopping, eating, people watching, tea drinking, site seeing and more, my Istanbul adventure was a time to just relax and explore a new place on my own terms. I'll admit that it took me a little while to get into the swing of things as it's been a long time since I travelled somewhere for so long on my own. I wasn't sure what I really wanted to do and applied the touristic pressure of "must see all the big sites and do everything" unto myself. However, once I let that go and accepted that chilling in a cafe and watching the world go by was as important to me as seeing whatever great monuments, the trip became much more of what I needed.

{Photos: Brandie + Hotellino}

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