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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Istanbul

Between winding down in DC, moving, and all sorts of traveling, I apologize that I haven't found the time to sit down and write a proper blog post. But I'm back, and eager to share what I've been up to!

Earlier this year, John and I started planning a trip to Rome for our friends’ June wedding. One thing led to another, and we ended up with a three-week trip to Turkey, France, and Italy! I’ve posted some photos on Instagram, but because we packed up our house and moved six days after returning from our trip, I haven’t had time to share them here. I'm still processing the past two months..such a total whirlwind, and a complete visual feast. I can't wait to see how what I saw on our trip will impact my design work down the road. 

Today's post: Istanbul! While booking our flights to Italy, we discovered that the least expensive tickets we could find were on Turkish Air with a layover in Istanbul. With no expectation that it would actually work, I created a multi-trip itinerary on kayak.com with a 4-night stop in Istanbul. The price of our tickets actually dropped, significantly. It was an offer we couldn't refuse! 
New Mosque in Istanbul, from the balcony of Hamdi restaurant


Gorgeous fountains like this are outside every mosque 
John fell in love with Istanbul on a family trip there when he was 19 and has been talking it up to me since we first met. Over the years, each description of Istanbul included yearnful reminiscing about the Grand Bazaar... specifically, the ritual of going into a shop and drinking endless cups of tea, kept flowing by boys who race through the Bazaar balancing small glasses and sugar cubes on silver trays, while you talk and at some point, maybe settle on a price with the merchant for whatever object you're admiring. Upon our arrival in Istanbul we headed straight to the Grand Bazaar so that John could re-live and share this nostalgic dance with me. Without a map and on memory alone, he wove us in and out of narrow streets, up a hill, and into the Bazaar.  The "Grand" Bazaar is aptly named...it is enormous! The main thoroughfares are very crowded, and can be a bit overwhelming. Our favorite spots in the Bazaar were the small, quiet courtyards, or, hans - former merchant's inns, tiny oases in the large market that weren't always obvious...you had to stumble on them, and I found it challenging to find the same han more than once!  
John completely blissful in a han in the Grand Bazaar 
A veteran of the Bazaar, John's advise was that we use our first afternoon there to scope it out without buying anything. It was a daunting task, but I somehow kept almost all my Turkish Lira in my purse the first day and bought nothing except for a few kabobs. We returned on our last day to purchase items that caught our eyes, including Turkish towels, some jewelry, and a kilim. I really had no intention of buying a kilim, but we sort of fell into a shop, and as tends to happen with us, one thing led to another, and after many, many cups of tea, and a very persuasive vendor...
Our Kilim!
We didn't plan too much leading up to this trip, so most of our days were pretty wide open. We spent lots of time simply walking around exploring, sightseeing, eating, and drinking. We crossed the beautiful Bosphorous countless times, and paused throughout the day to listen to the call to prayer that echoed from mosques throughout the city. I really love to travel this way, as I think it leaves your days open to the unknown. However, in retrospect, I would have planned a little more in terms of pre-purchasing tickets/tours for the major sites of the city, as the Hagia Sophia Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and the Blue Mosque all had 3-4 hour waits for tickets that prohibited us from getting inside them. We weren't too disappointed, because we definitely plan on returning to Istanbul again in the off-season. Here are some of my favorite images from our days spent wandering!

Sunset over the Bosphorous from a ferry 

Detail shot of Iznik tiles, found throughout mosques in Istanbul 

John in front of stunning doors at the Blue Mosque. Wondering why we didn't try to beat the line and sneak in through these? ;-) 

Looking up in the New Mosque 

Inside Leb-i Derya, where I had my favorite meal in Istanbul

View from Leb-i Derya
Mesmerized by this bone inlay cabinet in the Grand Bazaar 

I loved this rug, and thought it would look fabulous in an all-white, modern room


Garden of an antique store in Cukurcuma, Istanbul's antique district
View of Galata Tower from our hotel room
View of Galata Bridge 
Detail of the preppiest-looking Kilim. Regret not buying it! 
Breakfast in Istanbul was hands down my favorite meal of the day. French fries for breakfast? Yes, please! 


Next up, Italy!