Trip to Istanbul

My first memory of Karin Eaton was when we were invited by Kay West to interview some Mediterranean restaurant by Vandy.  Kay knew that Karen was just like me, always game to review restaurants that were, you might say, slightly off the beaten track. I remember Karin dressed for the evening in a long billowy skirt and silk midriff top. The evening was rousing good fun, with belly dancers, incredible food and lots of wild and crazy Meds.  I have had a special place in my heart for Karin ever since.  (Hey, when you share a Hooka pipe with someone, that’s saying something.)

When Karin mentioned she was going to Istanbul recently, I knew we had to ask her to chronicle her trip.  Not only is she an amazing photographer, she a real sleuth when it comes to places tucked away from the common traveler.  

Seriously, get yourself a LARGE coffee because there are lots of photos to enjoy today. I couldn’t cut any – they are all exquisite.


One of the nicest things about travel is meeting people, and meeting people often leads to happy coincidences. For example, this past winter, I met my new friend, Tijen, in Los Angeles at the Design Blogger’s Conference. As it turns out, Tijen lives in Istanbul, which is one of my favorite places on the planet. So, when Tijen suggested that I attend Istanbul Design Week, I didn’t hesitate.

Istanbul, considered to be the gateway to Asia, actually straddles Europe and Asia. This photo is taken from the Topkapi Palace and looks across the Bosphorus from the European side of Istanbul to the Asian side of Istanbul. My husband, Robin, and I visited Istanbul 5 years ago. Knocked out by the magnificent mosques and palaces in the old town of Sultanahmet,  we vowed to return.  For this second visit, Tijen encouraged me to explore the Asian side of the city.

This elegant breakfast of cheese, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and simit (their traditional sesame-covered, ring-shaped bread) is a fantastic way to start the day.

Staying on the Asian side involves crossing bridges, which is where you come face to face with the reality of 20 million people all driving cars. Seriously snarling and stinky traffic that I have never encountered anywhere else.

However, staying on the edge of the Bosphorus is very soothing.

Just steps outside the lovely Hotel Sumahan begins the feast for the senses with this artful arrangement of figs…

A glorious haul of tiny cucumbers

These shiny little fish are called Istavrit and come right out of the Marmara Sea. They are lightly battered, fried and eaten whole. Yum!

Fat pomegranates ready to be juiced


Hanging Hookahs!

This friendly gentleman was happy to let me take his photo.

Ataturk founded the Turkish Republic in 1923 and his portraits are ubiquitous.

After my delightful morning stroll, Tijen came to pick me up to take me on a tour of the trendy neighborhood of Beyoglu. This exceptional view across the convergence of the Marmara Sea and Bosphorus Strait is on the terrace of the hip 360 restaurant.

Fantastic color dominates Cezayir Street as restaurants get ready for the lunch crowd.

Most of the boutiques in this area are independently owned and carry one-of-a kind, handmade pieces. This store carries clothes by the designer Cemil Ipekci.

This pretty shop window is at Bahar Korcan In Galata.

This young tailor at Antijen in Beyoglu customized 2 very fun dresses for me!

Magical antique store

The House Café was created by the Turkish design team Autoban

At the end of the day, ready for dinner, we head down to Galata bridge also known as Fish Restaurant bridge. It crosses the Golden Horn estuary to join Galata and Sultanahmet. Fishermen on the top and fish restaurants below. 

Raki is the anise flavored drink favored by Turks and drunk throughout dinner. I found this utterly delicious with fish.


For our last few days, my husband, Robin, and I moved back over to Sultanahmet. It is such a pleasure to return to a foreign city and to have a base of familiarity with the people and surroundings.

We decide to commit a whole day to the fabulous Grand Bazaar (next time it will be a whole week).

We were enchanted with the discovery of this tiny store in the Bazaar. This old gentleman has been selling exclusively Victrolas for decades. When we entered his shop he was listening to Ella Fitzgerald!

This 9’x7’ store in the jewelry section of the Bazaar has specialized in watches from the days of Constantinople for 3 generations. The shop owner enjoys his lunch while we look around.

These fantastic silk Ottoman robes date from the 19th Century

The view of the minarets and dome of the spectacular Blue Mosque combined with the enchanting call to prayer remind us of the complexity of Istanbul’s 8000 years of history.

The combination of gritty and glamorous, ancient and modern, Asian and European combine to make Istanbul an exotic,romantic, and endlessly fascinating destination. We will return.

StyleBluprint tip:  “Our friends at Belle Meade Vacations have some excellent itineraries to Istanbul and know the best places to stay.  During a month with turkey on the brain, turn the bird into a trip, and discover Istanbul”