Turkey: July 3rd - July 12th, Bodrum, Turkbuku and Istanbul
Current Location: Florence, Italy, July 12th - July 22nd
Turkey was, by far, one of my most favorite places that I have been while on my travels. It could be because my wonderful friend Lindsay and I met up there after weeks on weeks of solo travel. Or, it could be simply because Turkey is awesome.
Turkey is a place that has a similar flavor to a mash up of New York, Paris and Athens. There are streets that look like Soho, buildings in Beyoglu that could transport you to St. Germain and then you are surrounded by amazing architecture and cultural landmarks, just like the Acropolis seems to sneak up on you in Greece.
What my friends and I often like to do is plan vacations that are "half and half." Half culture - where you see something and learn something. But also, half veg time at the beach where you feel glam while napping, sipping and reading. Turkey lets you do all of these things and do them beautifully. What is especially cool is that Turkey also feels about 8 minutes from every New Yorker's radar, so act fast friends. This is not yet the Amalfi coast (although it bears a resemblance) where you could remove a strappy sandal, throw it and hit 12 couples named Matt and Jen who live in Midtown. Inspired yet? Chop Chop.
Here are a hot list of Turkey highlights...
1) The great blue is beautiful. I say great blue because Bodrum is located where the Agean meets the Mediterranean Sea. It is picturesque and the water is clear and crisp. Bodrum what, you ask? The Bodrum Peninsula. How do you get to here if you want to go to there? Fly into Istanbul (9 hours from NYC) and then connect on a 1 hour flight to Bodrum. Poof, you are transported into a sea of white houses, dry mountains and blue Agean - slash - Mediterranean water.
2) You can day trip into Greece. Yes, this might not be the best time to venture to Greece. In fact, many people we heard are coming to the Bodrum Peninsula instead of Greece because of the light similarities in look, feel and food. But, if you desire you can hop a 20 minute ferry and go to Kos. Or, you can go to Rhodes although I'm not sure what is happening there. If you do venture to Greece no one (obviously) is taking your plastic card from Visa. So, bring cash (which is another deterrent for some visitors). I hear however that there is a peacock zoo in Kos. How thrilling.
3) The best hotel I've been to is here. Turkbuku, on the Bodrum peninsula - but outside of Bodrum town is fabulous. Fabulous! People are writing that it is akin to Saint Tropez. I don't know if I would go that far but if Koh Tao in Thailand felt like a twenty-something's playground, with a strip of restaurants and bars bordering a beach of fire dancers and $5 whiskey in a bucket, then this is a playground for the older set. This playground involves a main drag along the Agean lined with sophisticated eateries and bars - think white couches with chandeliers on a jetty over the water next to a more homey option with blue checkered table clothes and low lighting. Turkish wine flows, as does Raki (the mean brother of Uzo and honestly, Sambuca).
There are all sorts of places to stay in Turkbuku but we went for it and booked a few nights at the very lovely and very well designed Macakizi. (Match-a-kee-zee) Trust, you want to be here. A reviewer once called it "enthusiastically expensive". It might have been the remote controlled black out shades, the loungers perched on top of the sea or the stunning views. It is really hard to say because every aspect is wonderful. I'll draw comparisons for this hotel to The Blue Palace in Crete and the Santa Catarina in Amalfi. Go now. You'll love it.
4) Istanbul is incredible. Old city and new are colliding in the most fantastical of ways. The call to prayer fills the streets and the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia are some of the most stunning architectural structures I've ever had the privilege to see. (Note, these were built in the 6th century and are not piles of rocks, unlike what Siem Reap is boasting, built in the 9th century. #justsaying) Yet, you can hop on the tram that connects the city and feel far from these ancient sites but be in Beyoglu, an area that feels Soho-like with stellar rooftops and beautiful cocktails. You can even stay at the two month old Soho House. Bring your highest heel for that jaunt.
5) The Grand Bazaar. I. Can't. Say. Enough. This place is massive (over 5,000 shops) and was a hub for goods and trading since the late 1400s. It is the (or one of the) world's largest shopping areas. Now, taking this beast on alone can be a lot. People are calling out to you and you see a wide array of the good along with the bad. How are you to know, though, what is actually good? Cue Istanbulite.com. If you go, you need to call Eda - a wonderful, chill and fun Istanbulite who can be either your guide for the day or your Istanbul concierge.
What's at the Bazaar, you ask? Well! Textiles like fabric for pillows, turkish towels, bathrobes, rugs both traditional and modern, pottery, faux luxury goods made of impeccable quality, jewelry, art, leather and fur (shhhh, this leather/fur designer is also who Balmain and Max Mara turn to each season but once that label is sewn in, zeros are added onto the price). The Grand Bazaar was a journey I thought was going to take 2 hours. It took seven. It rocked. Can't say enough about it and for Eda's guidance. You will actually feel like an insider and beat the crowds.
6) Food. Something I love to do in new places where I am unfamiliar with the culture is go on food tours. It is a way for me to understand the city, language and what to order next time I am out to eat.
Lindsay and I did a food tour in Istanbul which took us on a ferry over to the Asian side of the city (As half is in Europe, half in Asia and unlike some brassy tourist who said "she has been to Asia and doesn't need to go" please know it feels like the same city. Not China. Some people, I can't) The tour was marvelous. Cheese, olives, stuffed grape leaves, kabobs, hummus, eggplant dip, grilled fish and lamb on lamb. All phenomenal.
7) Street Mussels. The best thing by far we ate nearly everywhere were Turkey's trusty street mussels. Lindsay had magical memories about them from the last time she was here and they lived up to the dream. And, sure, you might be nervous to eat fish from the side of the road. But, go with it! When made, the mussels are raw, stuffed with seasoned rice and then steamed. They are drizzled with lemon and served up street side. Costing roughly .40 a piece, you and a large gaggle of people will be standing around the mussel man, ordering one after another an loving life.
8) The Friendliest people. It is always jarring coming from New York when strangers are friendly and want to help you. Help you! What? But, that is what is happening in this country. Helpful, hospitable and happy. When we left one hotel a member of the housekeeping staff came into our room and shook our hands to wish us well. Water was even thrown after our taxi for good luck in hopes we would one day return. I'd like to see you try this on the streets of lower Manhattan. You'd get some choice words and probably the middle finger.
And, that is it! Turkey is a place that I would in an instant hop on a plane and return to. We had big dreams for about 24 hours about going to Cappadocia so that we could ride in a hot air balloon and take in the vista, but that was not to be this trip. Also, there were a lot of conversations regarding hitting the hamam. But, that too was put on the back burner for a slew of reasons.
Next time. Life is long And I can't wait to see what else phenomenal Turkey has to offer.
More pics on the Turkey images tab.