A welcomed “Slaggy” day and an amazing dinner party on the Bosphorus under a full moon

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Sightseeing in Istanbul is an endless proposition; there are so many amazing sights to see that you just can’t do it all in one trip. Loree and Cher are doing just that today, with a guide and the Manchurian assassins in toe; but today I’m choosing laziness over culture, massages over large crowds and pool life over mosques. It goes without saying that I have done all the sightseeing in Istanbul many, many times through the years, so I feel OK with taking the day off. My own Nibbles is the best companion for such lazy days, we both truly appreciate the art of “Slagging” and do so with such grace and meaning. But nothing happens in Turkey before the usual, amazing Turkish breakfast served on the terrace on the waterfront; it is by far one of my favorite traditions in the world…not to mention, fattening!

Today’s highlight is a massage session with Olga, the hefty, scary looking Russian lady who looked so much like a KGB agent than a massage therapist. The moment she lays her hands on me, I realize this will NOT be a relaxing hour. She’s a powerhouse of a woman with hands so strong, I am literally in tears from the pain she’s inflicting on me. All along she keeps telling me of all the many physical shortcomings she’s discovering in my pathetic body, immediately followed by a brutal painful solution that has me screaming even louder. Clearly, she is adamant on informing me of all the many areas in my body where I apparently collect excessive water, or excessive fat, or stress knots, or lactic acid! I feel like just hanging myself and calling it a day! Having said this, it is probably one of the best massages I have ever had in my life and once I get over the excruciating pain, my body feels brand new and ready for a BIG nap! I don’t think I ever cried so much during a massage session.

 
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The classic Turkish breakfast (Borrowed Image)

 

IMG_3150Sucuk (Turkish Sausage), peeled tomatoes and fried Eggs…amazing!!! (Borrowed Image)

 

The day goes by in no time and before you know it, it’s time to get ready for a real treat: dinner on the Berrak Instanbul III, cruising up and down the Bosphorus. After the obligatory cocktail time by the pool at 9PM, we are off to the Four Season to pick up the “Diva” Gang for our last night in Istanbul; tomorrow we are off to the South of Turkey for a “Yachting” week around the Mediterranean. We cross the waters and arrive at the Four Season Hotel to pick up the girls; Cher is now surrounded by fans and hotel staff trying to get a photo with her. Tonight we also have the pleasure of having a few more very special friends joining us, among which the dashing Omer Karajan and his mate Alasdair Dundas, Endar, the Turkish beauty Ozlem Onal, Gabriella and date and the one and only “General K”. Once the whole lot is aboard, we start with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the top deck of the elegant, Berrack Istanbul III: a 19th century handmade, teak boat complete with white suited waiters helping you with all your needs.

 

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The Barrack Istanbul III arriving to pick us up

 

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Docking at The Four Season Hotel

 

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Another view of our boat

 

The backdrop for the entire evening is the magical city of Istanbul’s panorama as you can only experience from the water, with all its monuments, palaces, bridges and sheer beauty. Besides a few rough moments when the wind picks up and glasses, nut trays, hats and wigs are flying around the deck and into the Bosphorus; cocktail time is a great opportunity to catch up with my dear friend Ozlem Onal, who is one of the most ridiculously beautiful creatures I have ever met; on top of that, she’s incredibly bright and so, so sassy and naughty…right up my alley! Another favorite of mine is Omer Karajan and Alasdair Dundas, the chicest and most fun couple in the continent, one a native of Turkey and the other an English man; I’ve know both for almost 30 years and believe me, it’s never a dull moment with these two. After a few hours of serious pollinating, it’s time to go to the lower deck terrace for dinner; tonight’s menu is all Turkish specialties, mainly fresh fish dishes caught in the morning. There must be 15 different dishes on this incredible buffet; I recognize several of them, but I’m definitely not afraid of trying all the new food so beautifully displayed in front of me. Turkish cuisine is largely the heritage of Ottoman cuisine, which can be described as a fusion of Central Asian, Caucasian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Balkan cuisines. The focus is on vegetables and fish, which is readily available in large quantity in the country.

 

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The Gang boarding

 

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Nibbles and Omer Karajan

 

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Raphael Tessier and Ozlem Onal

 

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View of the Royal Palace from the boat

 

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The Ciragan Palace

 

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Istanbul’s bridge at dusk

 

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Loree Rodkin and Gabriella with the Palace behind them

 

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The delightful Endar and friend

 

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The most beautiful girl in the world: my Nibbles

 

At the dinner table I have Raphael on one side and Cher on the other and there is no lack of laughter here; Cher is on a roll tonight and Raphael is bursting of happiness from all this new stuff he’s experiencing, so far from his home in Montreal. The evening goes one for hours and hours, though it seemed like just minutes; finally it’s time to take the girls back to the hotel and for all of us to retire for a goods night sleep…tomorrow it’s off to Göçek in the South of Turkey.

 

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Some of the many Turkish delights offered for dinner (Borrowed Image)

 

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Grilled fish (Borrowed Image)

 

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Turkish fish stew (Borrowed Image)

 

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The medieval castle on the Bosphorus

 

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The stunning Mosque on the Bosphorus

 

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Another Mosque


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The military academy

 

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A very happy Robert Kass with his two besties: Loree Rodkin and Nibbles

 

This is one of those moments where you really feel so lucky; not only for the obvious privilege of being able to experience such amazing places, cultures and traditions but most of all, realizing how much love and friendship you have all around you, something that is more valuable than any possession in the world. Tonight magic is once again, thanks to the kindness and generosity of our hosts Mr. and Mrs. K.

Thank you, I love you so much!!!!!

Hitting the Grand Bazaar with Cher and Loree Rodkin, dinner at Zuma and party at Soho House, Istanbul

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Starting the day in Istanbul, or more specifically at Nibbles’ house, is quite an experience; breakfast is served on the outside veranda, right on the Bosphorus and it’s an eclectic feast of local fruits and vegetables, a variety of breads, home made jams, feta cheese-cucumbers and peeled tomatoes, olives, omelets, and more!!!! It’s so much food, but all so delicious you can’t stop! Today we are going to the famous Grand Bazaar, an Istanbul institution and a must-do when visiting this city.

The Grand Bazaar, built in the 15th century, is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops, which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. It is listed No.1 among world’s most-visited tourist attractions with 91,250,000 annual visitors. 

It’s not for the faint hearted, in fact it’s a hustle and bustle of the craziest kind; it’s the art of buying and selling at it’s best. If you don’t know how to haggle…you will be taken advantage here with no mercy! I’ve been going here for years and sharpened my skills with every passing year to the point of perfection!!! Everyone shops here: locals and tourists alike, there are western prices and local ones and the trick is to get closest to the local price as you can. However, today’s visit will be a whole new experience for me; why you ask? Because CHER is going with us! I cannot even imagine how it will be like visiting the Grand Bazaar, with hundreds of thousands of visitors, with one of the most famous and iconic figures of our century…I’m breathless with anticipation!

We are off to the Four Season Hotel to pick up the divas: Cher & Loree Rodkin with entourage. It’s a quick boat ride across the waters and under a few bridges on the Bosporus and here we are here. Loree is already waiting in the lobby, as she is always on time; unfortunately you cannot say the same of lady” C”… one hour and a half later, HRH makes it to the lobby. With us is a pair of a Turkish version of a Navy Seals, who look more like Manchurian assassins than body guards…they are terrifying!! It was four of them to begin with , but Cher felt it would warrant unwanted attention, so cut it down to 2…thankfully!


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Raffi and myself on the way to the Four Season Hotel to pick up the divas

 

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Going under one of Istanbul famous bridges

 

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At the Four Season Hotel waiting for the Divas

 

After a 45 minutes van ride to the old center of town we are ready to rumble. Your first time at this 600 year old market is truly breathtaking; the energy around here is intoxicating and the thousands of stands selling everything and anything your heart desires make your head spin. We walk through the grand entrance into one of the main streets of the bazaar; people are staring the entire time, but can’t quite make out if it’s really Cher, a “Look-a-like” or a drag queen. What are the chances of her walking around one of the busiest markets in the world with just two bodyguards and a few friends; It’s the foreigners that recognize her immediately, but have no doubt, NO one is getting through the Manchurian Assassins!!! We shop and shop and shop till we can’t feel our feet anymore; I’m the chosen “Haggler” for the whole group, so after 3 hours of wheeling and dealing; I’m literally spent!!!! It’s time for a swim, a massage and a nap back home before getting ready for dinner at one of my favorite restaurant in Istanbul: Zuma.

 

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The newly restored Beyazit Mosque by the Grand Bazaar

 

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Entrance to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

 

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One of the many covered streets in the Grand Bazaar

 

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Shops and more shops

 

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Looking like a total tourist at the Grand Bazaar


IMG_4617 2One of the many Cafés inside the Grand Bazaar



IMG_4616The amazing painted 15th century arched ceilings inside the Grand Bazaar



IMG_4619Café life at the Grand Bazaar



P1010158The amazing 15th century vaulted ceilings in the Old Grand Bazaar

 

10PM, time to pick up the gang again for dinner at Zuma (www.zumarestaurant.com). Yes, dinner in Istanbul starts at 10PM and continues till the wee hours of the morning…no Blue Light Special here! It takes a while to get used to eating so late, but when in Rome. Zuma’s cosmopolitan twist on traditional Japanese Izakaya cuisine, sits well with the Turkish elite. Like Las Vegas in the 90′, Istanbul is attracting all the big names in the culinary world: like Nobu, Cipriani, Spago, Ciccone’s, etc. Zuma, however, has one of the most beautiful terraces on the Bosphorus and sitting here for dinner overlooking the water, the lit mosques and the colorful bridges is truly spectacular! The food is delicious and reminiscent of Nobu’s cuisine; the miso marinated black cod wrapped in hobs leaf, the roasted lobster with chilli ponzu butter and the chili marinated lamb chops and homemade pickles, take the cake! A lovely lady from the table next to us, courageously comes over to our table and tells Cher how honored they are that she is in Istanbul and extended a big welcome on behalf of the Turkish people…dramatic but heartwarming. What an amazing group tonight: Loree Rodkin, Cher, Raphael Tessier, Jen, Endar, Paulette Howell and myself; we are all having the best time and all thanks to the best hostess in Turkey, our own, wonderful Nibbles. Once again, before you know it, it’s 2am and time for the ladies to retire and for the boys to go hunting!


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Dusk on the Bosforus

 

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Arriving at the Four Season Hotel to pick up the gang

 

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Me and the beautiful Nibbles

 

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The stunning terrace on the Bosforus at Zuma Restaurant

 

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Another view from Zuma restaurant

 

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Jenn, Endar and Paulette Howell at Zuma

 

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Loree Rodkin and Jen

 

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Cher and Robert Kass at Zuma

 

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Exotic fruit platter with tropical sorbet at Zuma

 

IMG_4594 2Turkish balls on ice…couldn’t help myself.

 

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The beautiful mosque on the Bosphorus


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One of the many changing colors of Istanbul’s bridges

 

Endar, Raphael and myself are going to the newly opened, member’s only, Soho House Istanbul (www.sohohouseistanbul.com), for a few nightcaps and a mingle with Istanbul’s elite…or so I’m told. The building, built in 1873, is absolutely spectacular; prior to Soho House takeover, Palazzo Corpi, as it is named, used to be the home of the US ambassador. In 2014, Soho House bought the building and began extensive restoration work on the Palazzo, returning it to its former glory. We are greeted with open arms by Soho’s charming manager who takes us for a tour of the Palazzo before we join a few of Endar’s friends on the rooftop bar. The place is beyond beautiful and without doubt, the most beautiful Soho House of all. The view of the Bosphorus and the city skyline from here is just amazing, not to mention, the rooftop pool looks very inviting and available to guests for a swim anytime. The crowd is definitely über chic and a testament to the growing, young Turkish society that is hungry for the best the West has to offer! It’s now 3AM and I am ready for my gorgeous bedroom on the water; tomorrow it’s sightseeing and a marvelous sit-down dinner on an old steamer boat, up and down the Bosphorus with best friends from both the US and Turkey…cannot wait!

 

IMG_4719Arriving at the stunning Soho House Istanbul

 

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Stairwell at Soho House

 

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One of the Grand Bars at Soho House

 

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Soho House Lobby

 

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Rooftop restaurant at Soho House

 

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A tired Robert Kass leaving the Soho House

A quick flight over the Swiss Alps and off to one of my favorite countries: Turkey.

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I could hardly sleep last night from the excitement of today’s trip to one of my favorite cities: Istanbul. It has become a yearly pilgrimage of sort, an event that I look forward too the entire year: a time to visit my beloved, adopted Turkish family. It’s a time of raw fun, beauty, drama-free-unconditional love from the most unassuming, generous and loving people one could hope to have in their life’s…a really hard thing to find in my neck of the woods. This time around, my friend Raphael is flying in from Montreal and joining me in Istanbul for a 3-week journey all around Europe.

It’s always hard to leave my family, but after the usual chaotic, screaming children, food flying, back talking breakfast at the Kass’s, I’m ready for the next chapter. My brother Jonathan drives me to Lugano’s own tiny airport; an Airport that surprisingly has gone in and out of business 10 times in the last 40 years, so you never know if you can fly into it or out of it! Thankfully, it’s in business today, so I can catch my flight to Zurich for my connection to Istanbul. After a teary goodbye with my little brother, it’s time to board this tiny Austrian Airlines propeller plane…not exactly my cup of tea, in fact, I hate small propeller planes, this little “Suiso” needs “Jets”; but the alternative is a 3 hour train or car ride to Zurich…so suck it up! The flight to Zurich is only 30 minutes but absolutely spectacular; flying over the Swiss Alps mountain range is truly an amazing sight. I couldn’t help but notice that the amount of snow on the mountains is the lowest I have ever seen in my life; As far as I can remember, it was always totally white, year round. Now, it’s hard to find the snow; they say climate change is to blame…sounds really scary to me!

 

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Lugano’s own small airport

 

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Austrian Airlines propellor plane to Zurich Airport…God help me!

 

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The Swiss alps with surprisingly little snow to show for

 

Once arrived in Istanbul airport, my hosts “Welcoming’ agent is awaiting at the end of the ramp to escort me through Visa lines, Passport lines and just about every other line in this very busy airport. He’s been welcoming me for years now and we still cannot communicate one word to one another: him no English…me no Turkish. He’s an ex cop in charge of Airport security who looks more like a Manchurian assassin than a greeter; the first time I saw him I ran the opposite way, fearing for my life. That’s until I found out he worked for my hosts and is, in fact, the biggest Teddy bear ever!!! Once at the baggage claim, I reunite with my friend Raffi who arrived just about an hour earlier and was waiting for me to go to our final destination on the Bosporus.

Traffic is a big problem in Istanbul; a lot like Mexico City, so the fastest way to Nibbles’s house is driving to the nearest ocean point on the Bosporus and then have a speedboat meet you there and take you the rest of the way to the house on the water (certainly NOT an option if you’re on a budget). After a 45 minutes drive we reach the water where Nibbles’s captain is waiting for us; the boat ride to the house is breathtaking no matter how many times you do it. You go by so many monuments along these old waters; palaces after palaces from the old Ottoman Empire, built by the very lavish Sultans. You go under the new, modern bridges that link the European continent to the Asian one; the contrast between old and new is striking.

Finally we are home! Seeing Nibbles, dad and the kiddies is always an enormous pleasure; after lots of kisses and hugs we make our way to the guest suites to settle in and prepare for tonight’s “Welcome” traditional Turkish dinner party at the house. We have a special treat this summer: after trying for years to get the one and only Cher to visit this amazing country, she finally agreed and has arrived today in Istanbul along with BFF (and my wifey) Loree Rodkin and will be joining us for dinner tonight and for the next 3 days. After a much-needed nap, it’s time to get dressed and meet my fab friends Mr. and Mrs. K, Omer Karajan, Alasdair Dundas and sweet Endar for drinks at the fabulous, Roman columned veranda overlooking the Bosporus. Catching up with everyone over fresh watermelon and vodka martinis is always a favorite of mine and watching the boats going back and forth in front of you, with beautifully lit medieval castles and bridges is truly magical…never gets old!

 

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On the boat and on our way to Nibbles house

 

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I think Raffi is happy to see me

 

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Çiragan Palace from our boat

 

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View of the medieval castle from my bedroom

 

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View of the pool and the bridge from my bedroom

 

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View from the bridge from the gardens

 

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Amazing night view of the bridge linking both European and Asian continents

 

At last, my darling Loree Rodkin, Cher, Paulette Howell (who’s husband is the producer of South Park) and her long time assistant Jennifer, arrive via boat from the Four Season Hotel; it’s time for an amazing Turkish dinner with all it’s Mediterranean influenced dishes…and more watermelon martinis. It’s a really fun group and such an intimate delightful gathering; before you know it, we laugh our way to 2am in no time.

Tomorrow is a BIG day, so it’s off to bed for a relatively early night; I cannot wait to show “newbies” Cher and Raphael the Grand Bazaar tomorrow…God help us!

 

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Two of my favorite people: Loree Rodkin and Raphael Tessier

 

IMG_4546Three of my favorite people: Nibbles, Raffi and Loree

 

IMG_4539Nibbles, the “dashing” Omer Karajan and Paulette Howell

 

Boat day on lake Lugano and rocking-out at the Harley Davidson’s music festival…sounds like a plan!

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Today is a very busy day! After being woken up by 2 little bandits who attacked me in bed, it’s off for a swim in the pool and breakfast with the Kass family. I’m really exited to be spending the day with both my childhood BFF’s: Fabrizio Malfanti and Gigi Nasoni, with whom I’ve been friends with since we were 15 years old; we even shared an apartment during our college years in Lausanne, Switzerland.

 

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Morning wake-up by local little bandits

 

One of the best things to do in summer in Lugano, is take a boat on the lake for the day and have lunch in one of the few amazing Grottos around the lake. Today Gigi is taking Fabrizio and me on his boat for the day and we are having lunch at Crotto del Lago (www.facebook.com/pages/Il-Crotto-Del-Lago) in Porlezza, in the Italian side of the lake. Crotto del Lago specializes in local fish dishes so the three of us have a field day gobbling up all sorts of specialties, not to mention a few bottles of “plonk”. After lunch, it’s time for calm and digestion, so Gigi takes us to his secret lagoon, somewhere on the lake, where you can swim and relax in total seclusion…except the curious swans and ducks. Swimming in a lake is so different from the ocean; the sweet, cool, green tinted water and the lush landscape around you, really create a unique experience.

Finally, it’s time for a tour around the lake and a peek at Campione d’Italia’s relatively new Casino designed by the famed Swiss-Italian architect Mario Botta. What strikes you about this building is it’s sheer size; so disproportionate to it’s small village environment; there’s big money at work for you. It’s time to go back to shore; tonight I’m having dinner with my family’s old butler: Ettore. Ettore worked for my family for 20 years and pretty much helped raise David and I in both our Swiss and London home; he is one of the most charming and kind Italian man with whom I have so many fond memories. I haven’t seen him in 15 tears so I’m really exited…he must be in his 80′ now and I can’t wait to hear all the tales from my youth, my parents, The Beatles and other icons that were hanging around the house in those days, London, etc… I remember that when I was little, I would blackmail him into paying me money to do the things that my mom and dad had asked him for me to do; I knew that he would get in trouble if I didn’t, so scalping a few pennies seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea…lovely child I was.

 

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Boarding Gigi Nasoni’s boat for the day


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Captain Gigi Nasoni

 

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Damn tourists…

 

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Approaching Crotto del Lago in Porlezza

 

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Table with a view

 

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Crotto del Lago’s Menu

 

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Beautiful lagoon

 

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Nothing like a swim in sweet waters

 

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Local visitors

 

IMG_4430The old customs building between Switzerland and Italy

 

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Stunning lake villa

 

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Small lake village

 

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Refurbished old farm house

 

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The very large Casino di Campione by Mario Botta

 

We are having dinner at Osteria la Palma (www.osterialapalma.ch) where they serve the BEST risotto al Barolo in the universe; I’m telling you, this dish is simply insanely good!!!! And I know… I’ve been around!!!! Barolo is an Italian, bold red wine, which is what they use for this local specialty. Jonathan, myself with family in toe, pick up a slightly frail Ettore at his home and off for dinner. Ettore is definitely emotional and overwhelmed by the whole situation; after all, it has been so long since our last encounter.

After a little time to adjust, the stories start flowing out one by one like a gift that keeps on giving; hilarious stories about the Beatles at our home, the Rolling Stones, Rod Steward, Alice Cooper, Joan Collins, Edgar Bronfman, Roger Moore, Michael Caine, the Bee Gees and so much more. You see…at the time of Ettore’s employment, my dad was a very successful music executive: President of Apple Record (the Beatles own Label), President of MGM music, head of Warner Brother’s music for the UK, etc; so having all these music icons around the house was a normal, daily event; that is why Ettore has so many tales about the shenanigans at 30 South Street (our home in Mayfair, London). Good Lord, most of them I cannot even repeat they are so scandalous…maybe on my Biography when I’m much, much older and most of these people are dead!

 

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Osteria la Palma

 

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Osteria la Palma entrance

 

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Jonathan Kass, our old butler Ettore and yours truly

 

All good things come to a close and it’s time to leave the family and join my Brazilian friend Wesley Torriani at the Harley Davidson Music Festival in the center of town; an unusual event for Lugano given the rough and tough demeanor of the Harley Davidson brand in comparison to the very conservative and quiet nature that is Lugano. Perhaps they are finally coming out of their shell…but Harley Davidson??? Who’s making the decisions around here??? The center is packed with Harley freaks from all over Europe, not the American rougher kind, more the gentle, old and bohemian European type…Oh no he didn’t!!! The rest are young locals, thrilled that there is finally some activity in their town. My generation? Nowhere to be found…they rather stick needles in their eyes before part taking in such a mundane event.

Of course here I am in the middle of it with my friend Wesley looking so out of place without our black leather HD outfits. No matter, 5 Vodka Tonics later, no one cares anymore! What next? Since I am leaving tomorrow, I promised my brother’s employees at his restaurant Etnic that I would join them at a local night club for my last “Hurrah” in Lugano…how bad can that be?

 

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Seven Restaurant in Lugano

 

IMG_4460View from our table at Seven Restaurant



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The amazing risotto Milanese


IMG_4461Lovely bread presentation


IMG_4469Box of Petit Fours for all guests


IMG_4481An unusual sight for Lugano: Many Harley Davidsons

 

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The main square: Piazza Riforma

 

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Big stage in Piazza Riforma for Harley Davidson’s concert event

 

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Crousing the Piazza with my Brazilian buddy Wesley

 

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Final “hurrah” at Club Chocolate with Jonathan’s employees

 

3AM, dying to get home but to drunk to drive…why do I do this to myself? I guess it was worth it, I had an amazing day, an amazing night and I am ready for bed and even more ready to leave in the morning for my beloved Istanbul!! Loving my life…ZZZZZZZ

Birthday week in Switzerland

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After a wild week in London, I am looking forward to a mellow and grounded week in beautiful Switzerland with family and friends and much needed rest. I’ve written several pieces on my hometown Lugano, but it never seems to get old and I find that there is always more to share with you about this amazing small city bordering Italy. I arrive in Zurich airport, and this time, I decided to take the train down to Lugano instead of a rental car or small plane; the train leaves directly from the airport so it’s an easy operation all together. I’m happily surprised to see that the first class wagons are now panoramic, an option that did not exist when I was living in Switzerland. Taking the train through the Swiss countryside and mountains is already an amazing treat in itself, but having a panoramic ceiling, well…what more can you ask for. Even better is the fact that there are only two of us in the entire car. After a 3 hours train ride, I arrive in Lugano to find my brother and his 3 kids along with my BFF Fabrizio, with whom I’ve been friends since we were 3 years old, waiting for me at the station…right there and then you understand the feeling of love and the true meaning of coming home, no matter how many years it’s been since I’ve left Switzerland.

 

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Arrivals at Zurich airport

 

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Swiss trains first class panoramic car

 

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Amazing view from my seat

 

Since this will be a quiet week of relaxation and family time, I won’t be doing a 1-day review post, but rather I’ll talk about the highlights of my stay in Lugano.

I always love walking around town in Lugano, not only it is such a beautiful city, but it carries so many amazing memories from my youth: like Gabbani Market (www.gabbani.com), an iconic gourmet market that has been in Lugano since 1937 and also the place where I had my first summer job when I was 15 years old so that I can earn enough money to buy myself a moped!!! I worked outside under the arcade selling fresh berries (don’t even…), there, the first seeds of what would become a fearlessly independent entrepreneur, were planted. The food at Gabbani is beyond amazing and the presentation is just fabulous! Walking through the streets of Lugano is a real treat; you will find such amazing buildings and churches from way back in the 15″ century. One thing about Switzerland is that they take good care of their national patrimony and all historical buildings look as they were built just a few year ago.

 

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The iconic Gabbani market in Lugano where I had my first summer job at 15 years of age


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The famous salami arches at Gabbani

 

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Gabbani’s amazing sandwiches

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Santa Maria degli Angeli, Lugano’s oldest church and monastery, circa 1499

 

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Santa Maria degli Angeli, interior

 

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The last supper at Santa Maria degli Angeli

 

IMG_4229The stunning alfresco “Passione e Crocefissione” by Bernardino Luini.



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The newly renovated Palace Hotel and residence

 

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Lake view

 

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Another amazing lake view

 

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The oldest building in Lugano, circa 16′ century

 

I loved having lunch with one of my oldest friends: Stefano Pesce; an art dealer and representative of one of the biggest Salvador Dali collections in Europe. He takes me to one of my favorite Grottos on Lake Lugano: Grotto Pojana (www.grottopojana.com). As I already explained in previous posts, a Grotto is a uniquely Swiss Italian phenomenon; it’s basically an old mountain home, turned into an open air restaurant by the family living in it only during the summer season, after which, it turns back into the restaurateur’s home fro the winter. The owners of the Grotto make all their foods in house and all specialize in typical Ticino specialties like: Polenta, Risotto, Brasato, local cheeses and cold cuts, horse meat, pork ribs to name a few. Anyway, back to Gotto Pojana! This place has been around forever and the food is still amazing to date! I had the Cipolla Tonnata, which is a take from the Vitello Tonnato (one of my favorite dishes in the entire world…); basically a grilled sweet onion with a Tuna, anchovy, lemon and fresh mayo sauce. As an entree I had the Persico filet (a local sweet lake fish) with Risotto alla Parmigiana…delish! Stefano had the fried lake baby fish with French fries, also amazing and typical of this area. A bottle of their own Merlot wine and there goes a perfect lunch by the lake before going to visit the foundry that exclusively casts all of Salvador Dali’s sculptures, of which Stefano is the representative.

 

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My childhood friend Stefano Pesce and myself at Grotto Pojana

 

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Grotto Pojana’s own Merlot wine

 

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Pesce persico del lago with risotto alla parmigiana

 

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“Pesciolini del lago fritti” with french fries

 

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Grotto Pojana’s Menu

 

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View of the lake in front of Grotto Pojana

 

The whole bronze casting process is really astonishing and watching each piece going through all the different stages and become the final shiny bronze sculpture it is meant to be, is something really special. It reminds me of my art school days when I was doing sculptures and castings in plaster. You could see some of Dali’s famous pieces, like the stretched out clock and his Knight on a horse fighting the dragon…amazing!

One of the highlights of my stay was coming home from a luncheon and being surprised by my 3 nephews with a small chocolate tart with candles for my birthday. The best part was the 35 year old candles…the fact that they think I’m 35 is in itself, the best birthday present EVER!!!! There is nothing like family my dear Possums and that is one of the main reasons I come to Lugano so often, so I can see my brother, and watch his kids grow up and be a small part of it…and because they think I’m 35!!!!!

 

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Dali’s bronze sculpture

 

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Dali’s famous Knight fighting the dragon

 

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Two stunning bronze heads that I sooooo wanted to steal!!!!

 

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One of the many stages of bronze casting

 

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Dali’s famous stretched clock

 

Another Grotto worth mentioning is Grotto del Pep (www.grottodelpep.ch); once again, we’ve been going here for many years, so Jonathan, my youngest brother, decided this would be a good place to celebrate my Swiss version of my birthday with a few friends and family. They are known for their pork ribs and the Polenta with trifled mushrooms…to die for!!!!! The meats are BBQ’d outside on the grill for all to see; sitting outside on the signature granite tables and benches on a warm summer evening is a real treat. The drink of choice in Grottos in this region is “Merlot with Gazzosa”, which is red wine with a lemon soft drink that they mix together and drink out of these unique porcelain cups that look like tea cups without the handle. After eating half a pig, 10 lb. of polenta and mushrooms, 5 bottles of Merlot and Gazzosa, and having such an amazing time with my friends and family, I am ready to end the Swiss part of my “Global Birthday Celebration” and prepare for the upcoming Turkish Birthday week…too much? Hey…until you can still stand up and celebrate the fact that you are still alive…I say go for it!!!!!

 

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My own little dynasty celebrating my 35th birthday…ish

 

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Entrance to Grotto del Pep

 

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Outdoor terrace

 

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Outdoor grill

 

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Specialty dish: Polenta with trifled mushrooms

 

IMG_4086Signature dish: Costine di Maiale con Patate


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The beautiful and serene view from my bedroom at dusk…is he watching me?

Lunch with the dinosaurs, tea with Dame Joan and total madness at the Summertime Ball festival at Wembley Stadium

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Another day…another packed schedule! Today I’m revisiting my childhood by going to one of my favorite museums in the world: The Museum of Natural History (www.nhm.ac.uk). I can still remember my reaction when I first saw the massive Blue Whale hanging form the ceiling and the first dinosaurs in my life…I must have been 5 or 6 years old. Since then I have seen many dinosaurs, in fact, I’m surrounded by them back home in Beverly Hills…but that’s all together another story! My very handsome and very fit friend Robbie Banner, picks me up at 11am and off we go to see the lizard; after an hour searching for parking (don’t bother driving in central London, It’s impossible to find a parking and when you do, it costs a fortune!!! Better to use Uber or a cabby), we finally make our way into the iconic building that is The Natural History Museum. The first site in the main lobby, is an amazing skeleton of a Brachiosaurus Dinosaur who reveals a striking resemblance to so many people I know back in the US…oh no he didn’t!!!!! Just kidding…not really. The place is exactly how I remember it exempt all the animals and skeletons seem much smaller. Both Robbie and I are suddenly 15 years of age again, looking in wonder at all these amazing creatures filling the halls of this beautiful museum. After a quick lunch at the grand cafeteria at the museum, it’s off to the legendary Harrods (www.harrods.com) for a look-e-loo. I’ve been visiting Harrods since I was a baby and nothing has ever stuck with me more than Harrods’ food halls; they are truly a thing of beauty, imagination and perfection! I can spend hours wondering these halls, not to mention, I can also spend a small fortune here on all the amazing world foods readily available at all times. Harrods has gone through lots of changes through the years, but it is still a treat and a London MUST DO when visiting this amazing city.

 

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Natural History Museum

 

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Main Lobby and it’s main attraction: The Brachiosaurus Dinosaur

 

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T-Rex skeleton

 

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Robotic T-Rex

 

Now it’s off to Belgravia for tea with my ex-step-mother Joan-Collins…now Dame Joan!! Depending on the mood, It’s always a laugh catching up with Joan and the mood is better than ever now after recently receiving her title of Dame Commander of the British Empire from Britain’s Prince Charles…She is one happy and proud Brit!!! It’s also really nice sharing my recent experience in Peru with Joan’s husband Percy Gibson, who is himself, a Peruvian.

 

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Dame Joan after receiving her title of Dame Commander of the British Empire from Britain’s Prince Charles

 

It’s 6PM and Robbie is on his way to pick me up for the highlight of the day: The Summertime Ball at Wembley Stadium. I don’t know if I’m ready for this…I hate concerts and I hate big crowds, but my boy Bob Semanovich is behind this event so I will suck it up and make the best of it! The ride to Wembley Stadium is only about 30 minutes but parking your car is another one hour (should have taken a damn Uber!!!). The event started at 3pm; it’s now 7:30pm and we are entering the arena: “God help me”, it’s packed with 60,000 screaming teenagers; there is no way in hell I will survive in here…I’m already planning my escape! “Alright Kass, it’s survival mode: first thing…find a bar, get drink, calm nerves!” I desperately wobble through a maze of hotdog stands, pretzel stands, Slurpee machines and screaming kids to find the mother load: alcohol. I finally see something that looks like a drink but is in fact a Smirnoff wine cooler bar…it will have to do, I’m desperate! Robbie and I make our way back to our seats and slurp away on our disgusting wine coolers through three acts: Ariana Grande, Ne-Yo and Pitt Bull before we agree that it’s really time to leave!!! It’s 10:30pm and we are famished; we must find a suitable place to eat before joining Bob at the Summertime Ball private after party bash at Mahiki in Mayfair. Turns out that finding a place that serves food after 11PM in London is quite a challenge…shocking!!!!! We went by a dozen restaurants and all of them already stopped serving food; what’s up with that??? Isn’t this London???

 


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Tickets to Summertime Ball

 

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Wembley Stadium

 

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Ariana Grande performing

 

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Ne-Yo performing


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Pit Bull performing

 

All right, time to regroup and think…we take a cocktail brake at the very glamorous The Wolseley on Piccadilly Road (who’s kitchen is also closed), inhale 10 mini cheese balls each from the bar, two Martinis and…Eureka!!!!!! Hard Rock Cafe is just down the street and it’s definitely open till late!!! We stumble down what seems much further than I remembered, but finally arrive at “Old faithful”: the very much OPEN, Hard Rock Cafe. At the risk of aging myself, I came at the opening of the Hard Rock Cafe in London with my Dad back in the 70′ when we lived in Mayfair; it was the very first Hard Rock Cafe and the then owner Peter Morton, was my dad’s friend and that joint became a favorite of ours for many, many years. Memories aside, I’m salivating over the idea of the HRC bacon cheeseburger with a black & white shake…It’s on!!!!

 

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Having a drink at The Wolseley in Mayfair with Robert Banner


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Hard Rock Cafe London

 

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Hard Rock Cafe interior

 

1am…food coma! Got to snap out of it, it’s time to join Bob at the after party up the street at Mahiki! After a few meltdowns at the door when they couldn’t find my name on the list, we finally make it down to the basement floor of this 4-story club and reunite with a now very “Happy” Bob and co. Needless to say, it doesn’t take long before Robbie and I catch up with the rest of them, especially when very large bottles of Ciroc vodka are parked in front of us calling our names. The rest of the night is a little blurry and probably not suitable for this blog anyway.

4am…What an amazing day: I am exhausted, drunk, happy and “one” damn year older!!!!! Tomorrow it’s off to Switzerland to visit my family and celebrate my birthday once again, in a much more civilized and subtle way…it’s always good to keep a good balance!

Good night everyone and Happy Birthday to me!!!!!!!

 

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The Shot Boat at Mahiki in Mayfair

 

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The 19 year old amazing DJ that rocked the house

 

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Robbie Banner trying to tell us something about the very large bottle of Cîroc

 

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A very happy Bob Semanovich

 

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I don’t quite know what’s going on here with Mr. Kass