Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Travel Guide: Istanbul

Istanbul first hit our radar after watching Matt Lauer flirt with a belly dancer on this past May's "Where in the World is Matt Lauer." So after our good friend, Nicole Darmanin went on a business trip for Mario Badescu (lucky dog!) we hit her up for all the deets. (Want to know what was in her carry on?)
What surprised you most about Istanbul?

I’d heard that Istanbul was a progressive and modern city but I think I was still envisioning something more old world. The city is very modern, but what shocked me the most was the general affinity for American culture. When I mentioned this to my host he smiled and said, “Yes, some people call Istanbul the 51st State.” I was also surprised by brands that are represented in the city, I wouldn’t blink an eye at a Mc Donald’s but Starbucks, Pizza Hut and (are you ready?) Aldo Shoes?!? I couldn’t believe it!

How was the nightlife? How does it compare with say Vegas, New York or Miami?

The only city of the three that I would compare it to would be New York-if you are running with a Euro crowd. We went to a night club called Cahide which was packed on a Tuesday night and a lot of fun.

How was the shopping? Is it more local artisan type stuff or is it high end boutiques (Louis Vuitton, Prada, etc.)?

If I learned one thing while I was in Turkey is that these people are serious about their shopping. I saw at least 2 different high end shopping strips comparable to NYC’s 5th Ave, with high end stores including Louis Vuitton and Burberry. Mall shopping is very popular there, I was able to visit Istinye Park and Canyon (which houses a Harvey Nichols store).

For traditional artisan shopping go to Spice Market (I had a cultural revelation when I figured out where the NYC restaurant got its name) and the Grand Bazaar. In these places you find things like metal spice grinders, lamps, hookah pipes and beautiful Turkish Tea cups in transparent Jolly Rancher candy colors.

Were the guys cute? Friendly?

The guys were very good looking especially if you are into the dark and handsome variety. They were really friendly, even though there was a bit of a language barrier in some cases.
You said your bathroom at the hotel was crazy. What was so cool about it?

I stayed at The Ritz Carlton where the bathrooms were outfitted with marble floors, a shower and a separate (big) bathtub. Being the product junkie that I am, I was so excited to see little pouches of amazingly scented colored bath salts and a giant container of bubble bath. After a long day of walking around the city (which I swear is 90% cobblestone) that bath is going to look good to even the most die hard shower girl! Oh and my room had a view of one of the professional futbol stadiums, I had a birds eye view of the games.
You mention cobblestone. Did you wear heels?

It’s funny that you ask about heels on cobblestone. One of the days I was there I was supposed to do a presentation so I was wearing heels. When Dr. Diler picked us up from the hotel he said that there was a change of plans and that we were going to see one of the Palaces. Well, I guess back in the day you needed a really long walk way leading up to your palace in case if someone tries to attack you. I swear it was like a quarter mile walk up to this palace on a path paved with broken pieces of slate and pebbles. By the end of the hour and a half long tour my ankles were trembling but I was trying to act cool because we were with our client.

Would you recommend Istanbul for a girls' trip? Why or why not?Absolutely! Istanbul really has everything, history, amazing night life, food, shopping and great people. Do keep in mind though, that although modern, this is a different part of the world and there are still cultural differences. Expect to go through bomb detectors when entering your hotel, shopping malls etc.. No matter where I go I try to do a little research about the culture before heading over to avoid inadvertently saying anything disrespectful. We were lucky enough to have a wonderful host while I was in Turkey, Dr. Ali Kerim Diler who is a premier Dr. of Aesthetics and man about town in Istanbul.

In need of Botox, Restelyne, Mario Badescu Skin Care? This is your man.





Anonymous said...

I loooooved my visit to Turkey in 2006! Fab place for 20 something girls, and totally safe. see my pics here:

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