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Friday, July 17, 2015

Asia Through the Back Gate and The House of Waris

With such a limited time in Istanbul we knew 
our days would be busy.  We started the day 
with a beautiful Turkish breakfast.  Mr. Wonderful
and I had stayed at this hotel the first time we were
in Istanbul.  We told Midi about it and he stayed 
here the next time he was in town.  It is a small hotel, 
the rooms are small but nice but the reason we stay
here is for the breakfast, it is fantastic.  It is such a 
spread that our first time we stayed here we had to
make two trips to the buffet just to be able to taste 

This is the honey dispenser,  I'd love to
have this at home.

But enough with the food, we had sites to see.
The first stop was the Hagia Sophia,  I told my
kids that the first time I entered the vast room
I gasped and I hoped it would have the same 
effect on them.  Sadly, there was construction
scaffolding on one side so that took away from
the soaring impact of the space.

We could still enjoy the beauty of the architecture.

And enjoy the beautiful mosaics.

After leaving the Hagia Sophia we strolled
over to the Spice Market and stocked up on
some of our favorites.

And who could pass up the Turkish Delight?

Afterwards, it was time for lunch and we decided
to go to Asia.  Asia you may ask?  Yes, Istanbul is 
the only city located on two continents and it is 
only a short ferry ride away.  

We arrived in Kadikoy on the Asian side of the
Bosphorus and I was looking for a particular
restaurant.  We hiked up and down winding lanes
trying to find it.  Locals were happy to help us, one
young woman google mapped it and even called 
the restaurant to confirm the directions.  

When we finally arrived I told the man at the
door that I had read that some said it was the
best restaurant in Istanbul ~ he countered with,
oh no, the world.  We weren't disappointed.
There were no tables outside though and since
it was such a nice day we wanted to eat outside, he
said no problem, we have a few restaurants on 
this street and all the food is the same.  He took 
us over to one of the other restaurants and gave
us a description of each of the dishes.  The food
was fabulous.

We walked off lunch with a stroll back through 
the winding streets to the port to catch a ferry
to Karakoy on the other side of the Golden Horn.
From there we took the funicular or mountain
tram as they call it and walked up the hill until we
reached the Pera Palace Hotel.

The Pera Palace is a grand old hotel and it
was especially interesting to us since we are
Agatha Christie fans and this is where she 
wrote Murder on the Orient Express.

The grand tea salon was being used for a private
party so we headed out to the terrace.  Kate and I 
headed inside to find the wash room and came into 
the tea salon as the turbaned and bearded Waris
Ahluwalia of the House of Waris was giving a 
speech about creativity and our need to take time 
for tea.  Waris is a some time actor, designer and
now I suppose tea peddler.  This event was part of
Istancool, an international arts and culture festival.
The crowd had gathered in the middle of the room
and Kate and I were stuck in the crowd so we stayed 
for the speech.

Back on the terrace we enjoyed some lovely
beverages and desserts.  Following this we
headed back to the hotel for a rest.

Later in the evening we went back to 
Sultanahmet for dinner.  On our way 
to find a restaurant we came upon a
Whirling Dervish performance.

Brennan chose the restaurant this evening, he
wanted one of the places where you sit on the
floor on pillows.

Thankfully, the food was good too.

Then we stumbled back to the hotel and
fell into our beds.  A grand day in a grand city.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Return to Istanbul

Midi and I were returning to Istanbul, we had
both been here a few times though never together.
I  was so excited to introduce my kids to this vibrant
 city for the first time.  When you exit the metro from
the airport at Aksaray, you are nearly blown over by the
fact that you are in a new and different place.  The flags
and banners are waving, the warm air smacks your face,
the foreign music that is blasted from speakers is so 
unusual, the delicious aromas from the food vendors
on the street, it is all a reminder of being in a faraway
land and you are still in Europe, at least in this part of
the city.

We took a short rest and freshened up and then it
was time to get out on the streets, we would only
be here for a short time and we had a lot to see.
We took the tram down Divan Yolu to the
 Sultanamhet district and walked around a bit to
see the Hagia Sofia...

...and the Blue Mosque.

Then we took a short stroll up Yerebatan to 
find one of my favorite little restaurants in
Istanbul.  I told the man at the door that I
had been there a few times before but it was the
first time for my family.  He asked if I had ever 
been to the roof garden ~ well, no,  hadn't.

And he led us up a winding stairway to this
funky, folky roof garden painted like a gypsy
caravan.  I could move in!  

We were only here for drinks and an appetizer
since we had so little time and so many places 
we wanted to go.  The appetizer was a fabulous
cheese plate with cheeses and turkish cucumbers
and tomatoes and dried fruits and nuts.  It was
delicious!  We watched the sky turn dark blue as
the sun set and then it was time to move on to 
our next stop.

On my very first night in Istanbul I passed this 
restaurant and said I wanted to eat here and I
had never gotten around to it.   So tonight was
a first for me too.

In this type of restaurant the food is already
prepared and you point to what you want.
Honestly, the salad plate had filled us up so we 
just shared one plate between the four of us.  

Since it was such a lovely night we decided
to eat outside, there are tables set up along
the side street.  This is a great spot for people
watching as it is in the historic district and it
is always crowded.  After dinner we were 
exhausted so we jammed ourselves into the 
packed metro and headed home to sleep.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Going Old World in Prague ~ Cafe Slavia

We were exhausted after returning by train from a 
day spent out of the city in Kutna Hora.   Though we
all could have fallen into bed for a nap we also realized
we were running out of time in Prague.  The next day 
we were traveling to Istanbul so if we wanted to see 
everything on our list, we had to slap ourselves awake 
and get to Cafe Slavia.

Cafe Slavia opened in 1881 and has been the place to 
meet for writers, artists, poets and performers.  It is
located along the river right across the street from the
National Theatre.  It is the type of place to gather and
discuss and debate politics, art and the latest projects
of the movers and shakers in the art world. Vaclav Havel
 used to hang out here.

As we were enjoying our hot drinks, Midi nodded to a 
nearby table and said, "Check out this guy, looks like a
truck driver, sounds like an opera singer".  Yeah, it's 
that kind of place, a few tables away a beautiful woman 
was being interviewed by a nervous guy.  The woman's
cute cocker spaniel ended up jumping up on the guy 
for a taste of his dessert and that broke the ice and 
allowed the guy to relax and get on with it.

As you enter the main door be sure to check out the
sweets case and remember the number of the item 
you want to order.

Try to get a table along the river for great views 
of Prague Castle.  It is lovely to sit and watch the 
boats on the river and the people walking by.

It is nice to go late in the afternoon for a
snack and coffee.  A piano player performs 
late in the day and it is a perfect place to relax 
and soak in a bit of Prague history.

For us, the guys headed home afterwards but Kate
and I took one final stroll over the Charles Bridge
to say goodbye to Prague.