Don’t Cry for Me, Istanbul: Shopping Part II

Before we all start crying into our luxurious Turkish carpets because I missed out on the Mother of All Shopping Meccas, please know that while I did not purchase tons of trinkets at the Grand Bazaar, I did come back with an overstuffed suitcase.

In addition to buying possibly-illegal-for-export sahlep and ceviz receli, and, the aforementioned carpet and a Turkish tea stand, I also bought a few decorative bowls at the Kadikoy Market on the Asian side of Istanbul and some evil eye medallions at the airport shop on my way out because I had suddenly decided, after DAYS of walking past them disinterestedly, that I absolutely could not even fathom leaving Istanbul without buying an evil eye. Head snapping decision making at its finest.

We also hit a couple of shopping areas, including Istiklal Cadessi and the City’s Shopping Mall in the Nisantasi neighborhood, and hit the jackpot.

My personal stylist XFE and I saw this dress at a store called Kotton in on Istiklal, but we kept walking. Then, our last night, while out grabbing our gigantic Ali Babba kebab feast, we saw another Kotton and saw this dress again and decided to buy it. Unfortunately, it was snowing and we were pretty wet, so I didn’t try it on. We figured that for $20, it was worth a shot. You can’t tell from the photo, but it has this adorable little keyhole at the top, and then the arms of the dress have similar keyhole openings along them. And, of course, it’s too tight in the arms.

So, Operation Michelle Obama Arms has begun again in earnest (this is version 4 for those keeping count). It involves lots of pushups, planks, and tricep dips, but honestly, I may have to take this to the tailor and get it made into a sleeveless dress. I’ve never had any success with Operation Michelle Obama Arms.

Moving on. Somehow, despite the lack of planning on my part (I swear), we just happened to stumble upon a Mango on Istiklal. I love Mango. It’s almost impossible for me NOT to find something to buy at Mango. And the European counterparts carry enough different stock to always make a stop worthwhile.

But we didn’t find just any Mango in Istanbul, we found what we think was four floors of a Mango outlet! Which meant some off-season stuff at around $10 an item. I stocked up on some summer stuff for the upcoming trip to Australia.

I got this lightweight button up camp shirt in a light pink and a light gray, which you can just see peeking out of the back there.

This is probably the most “Turkish” looking thing I bought. But I did notice that they had a lot of very Turkish or gypsy looking stuff. Lots of full skirts and peasant tops with embroidery and sequins. It was pretty interesting. Almost costume-y.

Two pairs of shorts: the front pair are dark brown linen with a cuff and a paperbag waist: good for hiding large stomachs after gorging on Australian barbecue, I’m sure. The other pair are a dark gray with a very faint glen plaid.

But, the piece-de-resistance is an item we found at the oddly named “Pologarage” in the City’s Mall. Pologarage was a very cool, hip store, with low lighting and lots of dark wood. But they had very affordable prices. I bought a very cool long brown leather and chain belt that has a leather tassel on the end (I forgot to snap a picture — trust me. It’s cute.).

But this is the real steal.

We saw this awesome clutch at another super chi-chi store in a fake ostrich-type gray leather for about $200. I was not at all prepared to shell out that kind of money, but I did love the clutch a lot and almost talked myself into going back and getting it. Do you notice the built-in knuckle ring on the clasp? How cool is that??

Then we saw an almost identical version on a table at Pologarage, in all black for about $60.  I snapped it up and held it to my chest, barely letting go so the sales girl could ring it up.

It’s got skulls, y’all. And some other slightly sinister stuff. It’s totally over the top and gothic and ridiculous and a conversation started and I’m absolutely obsessed with it. So is Petunia. That cat has such good taste.

At Least We Didn’t Bring Home a $24,000 Rug: Shopping in Istanbul

I’m not even going to pretend that I am ambivalent about shopping. I’m the furthest thing from it. I shop quite a bit. Some might even say I shop more than my fair share. Other’s might suggest that I shop enough to keep a (very) small economy going. Perhaps something along the lines of self-proclaimed micronation Seborga. (While we are on the topic, I’d like from here on out to be referred to as Her Tremendousness Poe. That really does have a nice ring to it)

So when this happened on the day my shopping-buddy for life, XFE and I tried to go to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, I was extremely devastated:

 “On Saturday, Istanbul — a city of more than 12 million — was left without heating or electricity for several hours, and its subway and tram system were closed down.”

OK, yes, people were left without heating, electricity or anyway to get around, but what about the real tragedy here? Ie: I could not shop. You see, the Grand Bazaar is a COVERED market. A little warren of more than 58 covered streets and over 4,000 tiny shops tucked in next to each other. They all had one thing in common: they rely on electricity and light for perusing of goods.

Looks nice and bright, doesn't it? This is not my picture.

Continue reading At Least We Didn’t Bring Home a $24,000 Rug: Shopping in Istanbul

Unbuckle Your Pants, This is a Long Post About Turkish Food

I think I must have been Turkish in a previous life. Which I guess would make me an Ottoman. And despite the fact that I don’t believe in reincarnation. But neither do the Turks, who are predominantly Muslim, and not Buddhist. Which is just another fact that reinforces my belief that I must have been Turkish in a former life – ie: neither Turkish people nor I believe in reincarnation, ergo: I must have been Turkish in a former life.

The real reason I think this must be a fact is that I absolutely loved every single thing I ate in Turkey. All of it. And not just “liked.” Luuuurrrvved. Made noises and carried on about. Ate more than my fair share of and stabbed others who might have wanted a second helping of something. (Well, I am a girl with a hearty appetite)

Let’s start with my absolute favorite thing in the whole wide world from now on and forever. Behold, Ceviz reçeli. It’s a dessert, but it sounds pretty unappetizing. It’s basically whole walnuts still in their husks and shells, that are softened with slaked lime and then candied in sugar water and spices. I know, I know, sounds gross, right? I thought so too.

They come out on the plate all dark and slick and disgusting looking. But ceviz receli are the most unusual and divine thing ever. They’re soft but still firm and just so different from anything else you’ve ever eaten. I immediately demanded that our tour guide Levon takes us to a market stall so I could buy a jar to take home, which I did. I’m also very relieved to find that you can buy a jar online for about $10, so I don’t have to bogart my stash.

Continue reading Unbuckle Your Pants, This is a Long Post About Turkish Food

Hotel Crashing: The W Istanbul

Let me start by saying that my feelings for the W Istanbul are in no way influenced by the fact that we crashed a private wrap party for a photo shoot for a vodka campaign in the W bar on our very first night in Istanbul. And, subsequently, drank for free amongst a lot of very, very pretty people.

People were being interviewed going into the hotel. We don't know why.

That being said, the W Istanbul is a very swanky place full of very pretty people. Decorated in rich, dark tones of eggplant, burgundy, and chocolate, it’s got a sensuous, exotic vibe in both the common areas and the rooms.

It’s the first W hotel in Europe and opened in May 2008. It’s located in a block of row houses that used to house the guards of the nearby Dolmabahce Palace. Known as Akaretler Row Houses near the Bosphorus, the W is walking distance to the nearby Besiktas fish markets and all the great fish restaurants, hookah bars, and cafes there.

The W Istanbul is also walking distance to Nisantasi, the SoHo of Istanbul, which we checked out on our last day in the city. The sports stadium is also walking distance, making this an ideal location if you want to go see a soccer match. The home team (Besiktas Football Club) was playing on the Sunday we were there, but we had not planned tickets ahead and decided to skip the effort of trying to get last minute tickets.

The hotel is also a short drive to the Old City, Taksim Square, the Blue Mosque and Orkatoy, another trendy bar and restaurant area we went to for dinner on our second night.

There were tons of restaurants near the hotel as well, including the Turkish version of Starbucks (Kahve Dunyasi), a wine bar called Corvus that we went to one night, and a place called Winston’s Brasserie that was always busy when we walked past. There was also a large supermarket across the street.

The view of some interactive video place outside our window. And yes, those are cobblestone streets. Hell on heels.
Another street view from our room. It snowed our last evening there.

The W had a breakfast buffet, but we were generally up and out every morning and got breakfast at one of the local bakeries. Since breakfast for two ended up costing about $1.60 for three pastries, we weren’t too put out. My daily cup of coffee at the Kahve place was a bit more expensive, but so worth it.

The W Istanbul has 134 rooms, and 26 suites. There are 11 different room types, some with gardens, terraces and cabanas and all have 5 different lighting settings in the rooms. The beds were the standard W beds, totally comfy and cozy, with nice, high thread count sheets. A 32in flat-screen TV, iPod dock and Wi-Fi were standard.

I'm just realizing just how dark these photos are. But it was that dark! And cozy!
This was this awesome velvety seating nook where you could sit and watch the street outside.

The shower rooms were huge and set up like steam rooms with a GIANT rainfall shower head (seriously, it’s the biggest shower head I’ve ever seen), built-in benches, and a sink with hot and cold taps for splashing water on yourself while steaming (Turkish bath style).

The showers were coated in what’s known as “hammam” marble, which was kinda gray striped. We definitely made use of the steam room set up after coming in from the frigid temperatures every day (it was in the 30s the whole trip and even snowed a couple of days, a fairly unusual sight for Istanbul, according to our guide).

And, they had some of the best towels ever. HUGE cotton sheets, basically. It also marked the first time we did not have to call down to have additional towels sent to the room.

The lobby is small but gorgeous, with plenty of seating areas and free wi-fi. A curving staircase takes you to the second floor where the bar is. This would be the bar that was hosting (what we think was) a wrap party for the aforementioned vodka photo shoot.

After dinner on Friday (our first night), we went back to the hotel for a nightcap and some more hotel exploring. We were snooping around the third floor where the restaurants are located, when a big group of very pretty people came pouring out of one of the restaurants and went down the stairs to the second floor. We were right behind them going down the stairs to the second floor, and when they turned off to a side room off the second floor bar, we just kept following them.

Next thing you know, we were drinking free mojitos, doing watermelon vodka shots, and avoiding eye contact or conversation with a very puzzled group of people.

A fun night was had by all, or, at least, a fun night was had by these two party-crashing tourists.

 

Forgive the dark and blurry photos. We were trying to be incognito!

Istanbul, But Why Not Constantinople?

This is our last morning in Istanbul and it’s been an amazing and enlightening trip. I had no idea that Turkish history was so, so interesting. Istanbul is modern yet ancient, and completely surprising.

We spent the first two days being led around by our tour guide Levon from Melitours. And we’ve had a driver, which was the best, best decision ever. Istanbul can be a hard city to navigate and the traffic is the worst.

We went shopping at the Spice Market, and bought some Iranian safron, which Levon insists is better than Turkish.

We went to the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia.

We went rug shopping at a private gallery, which was a very unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience involving a whole education in rug making and lots of tea. Yes, we bought one, and no, I don’t want to discuss the price.

We spent a morning on the Asian side and then back to the European side for an afternoon at Topakpi Palace, the home of Turkish Sultans up till the mid-1800s and which contains the “three-spoon diamond,” the second largest diamond in the world.

Unlike the rug, we did not buy the diamond. The guards just wouldn’t haggle.

And we ate. And ate. And ate some more. I am now thoroughly in love with Turkish food.

So we’re heading home with lots of memories and a few souvenirs (and tighter pants). I’ll get into more detail in the days ahead.

Going Forward, Toons Will Be Named ‘Speckled Oak’

Hello there my little kitty cats. Yes, I did steal that from Brandi Granville of RHoBH fame. She’s fantastic. Although, I don’t think it would hurt her to put a bra on once in a while, but that’s just me. (I hear Victoria’s Secret is having a sale right now, Brandi. Might wanna look into that.)

We had a very productive and fun weekend at the Poe House.

We celebrated the birth of, if not the name of (Blue Ivy? Blech. Sounds like some sort of skin condition), the newest member of hip hop royalty.

This trip is coming up incredibly close and extremely fast. So we did some trip planning. While enjoying the daisies.

Cue the “holy crap we have a trip coming up” insomnia. Not for Toons though. She’s getting plenty of sleep.

There was ironing, of course. Per usual, Petunia was less than helpful.

I went for my first run in 2012. Actually, my first run since the Las Vegas Rock N Roll extravaganza. And man, it’s amazing to me how quickly you lose any type of conditioning whatsoever. Needless to say, it was not a pretty run. No land speed records were broken during my three-mile jaunt (I refuse to call it a run). Petunia got her workout on later in the evening on her scratching board. Actually, she just lays on it. She and I have very similar workout philosophies.

The weekend was capped off with football and XFE’s amazingly awesome Old Bay wings. Senorita Fluff-N-Stuff was there, but was just too tired to watch football. All that running and Tebowing and repeated challenges just wore her out. I agree. I miss the RedZone too.

Anyone else do anything fun this weekend? Didn’t it feel like it just flew by?

Let’s Build a Better Toilet

Somebody is finally working on an important issue. My hat–and pants—off to you Gates Foundation.

“The foundation announced $41.5 million worth of grants on Tuesday aimed at getting someone to reengineer the flushing porcelain pot, which has been in use since the 1700s.

‘No innovation in the past 200 years has done more to save lives and improve health than the sanitation revolution triggered by invention of the toilet,’ Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the foundation’s global development program, said in a statement. ‘But it did not go far enough. It only reached one-third of the world. What we need are new approaches. New ideas. In short, we need to reinvent the toilet.'”

Man, I hope they have good toilets in Istanbul. Because I plan to do some damage on this and this, and it all really looks like it could hurt me. And my friend Linda sent me this article from the Washington Post and I definitely plan to eat with these dudes. I’m taking my stretchy pants to Istanbul, fo sho.

"come drink pickle juice with us. We have sharp knives and aprons over our ample bellies."

But more importantly, my toilet concerns arise from our most recent trip to Italy and Zurich earlier this year.  For those who don’t know, we got food poisoning for about 11 days. From buying salami (a supposedly-CURED meat. Maybe curing methods are different in Italy?) from a very respectable-looking outdoor market. I have never been so sick in all of my life. Or humbled. You really get to know the person you love when you’re both suffering through the same illness. It definitely makes your relationship—and your abs–stronger.

You feeling me Galliano-supporter, Kate Moss? Yeah, you look like I felt.

The worst part, by far, of the Italian Food Poisoning Experience (yes, that is now capitalized) was all the great food we missed out on and couldn’t eat. And, the food we ate but ….well, let’s leave it at that.

"If I throw up the 3-Michelin star, 12 course luncheon, we don't have to pay the bill, right?"

We got an answer to that question: yes, yes you do still have to pay the bill. But everyone will be so glad to have finally gotten you out of their nice restaurant that they will load you up with foreign books and publications featuring writeups of their very fine restaurant. Buh-bye, don’t come back again, lady.

Don’t forget: Yertle the Turtle is looking for your questions for an upcoming post. Want to know what kind of turtle he is? Wondering what he eats? Did you know he hibernates? Want to know where he pees and poops (maybe we can get the Gates Foundation working on that one)? Submit your questions in the comments, or on Facebook or Twitter! Or via email at thepoelog@gmail.com