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!
Raffi and myself on the way to the Four Season Hotel to pick up the divas
Going under one of Istanbul famous bridges
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.
The newly restored Beyazit Mosque by the Grand Bazaar
Entrance to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
One of the many covered streets in the Grand Bazaar
Shops and more shops
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!
Dusk on the Bosforus
Arriving at the Four Season Hotel to pick up the gang
Me and the beautiful Nibbles
The stunning terrace on the Bosforus at Zuma Restaurant
Another view from Zuma restaurant
Jenn, Endar and Paulette Howell at Zuma
Loree Rodkin and Jen
Cher and Robert Kass at Zuma
Exotic fruit platter with tropical sorbet at Zuma
The beautiful mosque on the Bosphorus
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!
Stairwell at Soho House
One of the Grand Bars at Soho House
Soho House Lobby
Rooftop restaurant at Soho House
A tired Robert Kass leaving the Soho House