When in Istanbul…

I am a homebody.

This may not seem obvious since I live very far away from “home;” however, I am. I love nothing more than a day – or even better, a week – spread out before me with absolutely no commitments, just a blank space of time for me to play in my cave – aka office – at home.

(Of course, I complain about the boys being like bears hibernating in their caves and that we have to drag them out – kicking and screaming, no less – into the sunlight, but I guess they come by it genetically.)

In any case, despite my tendency towards homeboundedness, I do recognize the value – and necessity – of getting out and about, as well as mixing up the routine a bit.

Unfortunately, if left to my own devices, my extent of “mixing” tends to be limited to outings in the neighborhood or near-neighborhood region.

And generally during daylight hours.

(Bedtime is at 10pm.)

(Yes, boring, I know. I’m a morning person, what can I say?)

(And the school bus leaves at 7AM.)

(And the boys have been known to oversleep on occasion.)

(Or, more accurately, on multiple occasions.)

(Which makes me the designated human alarm clock.)

Which is why this week was nice because my outings were left to others’ devices.

(And not limited to daytime-only hours. Woo-hoo!)

So, not only did I get out and about three times this week, but it was to new places that are definitely worthy of many return visits and, I think, something to add to the typical list of sightseeing targets if you ever make it to Istanbul.

(The typical list including places like the Blue Mosque (real name Sultan Ahmet Mosque), Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya), Dolmabahce Palace, Topkapi Palace, Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul Archeology Museum, The Grand Bazaar, Basilica Cistern, and Galata Tower. Plus a boat tour of the Bosphorus. Of course.)

Like the gem which is the Pera Museum. Started by the Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation in 2005, this is the kind of museum you pair with a nice lunch and some meandering in the Taksim (pedestrian) area.

We saw works by Sophia Vari; photographs by Yıldız Moran (1932-1995; first female photographer of Turkey with an academic photography education); paintings by Osman Hamdi Bey; ceramics; tiles and more. They have a standard collection of works, as well as special exhibitions. We spent about two hours there.

(There is also a nice cafe in the museum that serves a mean cappuccino.)

Some images from our visit:

Sophia Vari at work on one of her sculptures (she is married to famous poet Fernando Botero), as well as some of her works (she paints and sculpts, as well as does collages)…




…and some beautiful photographs by Yıldız Moran (she committed herself fully to every picture, truly getting the stories behind the images…which may explain why, when she married and had children, she gave up her work to focus entirely on her family…her photographs are all from her pre-family period)…


IMG_5216…and just one of the ceramic objects we saw. This picture shows a ceramic pitcher made in Kutahya (after Iznik, Kuthaya was the most important center of ceramic production in the Ottoman Empire). In Kuthaya, Christians and Muslims worked side-by-side producing tiles and ceramic objects for both communities. The pitcher here reflects the friendship between Christians and Muslims (interesting fact: the object is made by a Christian; this, our guide told us, you can tell because there are pictures of a person on the pitcher, and, in Islam, one can’t depict people on such an object)…


And, of course, in addition to the cultural aspect of the outings was the culinary aspect.

One stomach-pleasing outing was a restaurant just near the Pera Museum. Called the Istanbul Culinary Institute, it is both a cooking school and a restaurant. What is great about this is that the food is cooked by the school’s students (once they have completed a certain amount of training). Plus, the menu is changed regularly, offering a variety of unique, mouth-watering options.

(I had the duck and my apologies for no image; as is typical of me, I started eating before I thought of snapping a shot. It was scrumptious.)

I did manage to pause my fork just long enough to snap these photos of food enjoyed at another gastronomic find, Yeni Lokanta. This is not far from the Pera Museum, but inside the Taksim pedestrian area. Some warm bread served with smoky butter…

(We had fun trying to figure out how you smoke butter…doesn’t take much to entertain a bunch of moms of 9th graders as it turns out.)

…hummus; grape leaves with special, melted cheese, peppers and other goodies; and sausage with some concoction on it…

(These descriptions do not give any indication as to just how delish these were…and, yes, I should have checked the menu to provide more accurate descriptions, but, again, I was too busy tucking in.)

IMG_5236…and I had sea bass (levrek in Turkish) for the main course, served with a layer of carmelized onions and cheese and salad on the side; also mmm mmmm good.


Both places were English friendly, had great service – very hospitable waiters.

AND were reasonably priced.

I also finally ticked off from my list of places to try the restaurant Lucca in Bebek, a trendy go-and-be-seen place, although the food was tasty, too.

(But the music inside a tad too noisy, so either get ready to become hoarse from yelling across the table if you have a voice like mine that carries sound as well as a sieve carries water OR snag a table outside…even in January, people were sitting there, thanks to the heaters and wraps provided.)

It was a great week.

And I am so happy it’s (almost) Friday because this human alarm clock is going to hit the snooze button all weekend long.

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