It’s the end of the month again and as some of you know (or if you are following me on Instagram), half of my April was spent on holiday in Turkey. So our TSM Fave Things for this month will be a special edition, a list of some of my favorite things I found in this exciting part of the world.
1. Favorite New Airline: Qatar Airways
Okay BUT before I start talking about Turkey, let me first begin with my new favorite airline. This was my first time to try Qatar Airways. We took the flight to Doha, where we stayed overnight before leaving the following morning for Istanbul. The inflight service was excellent, good food and wine were free flowing, airport lounge was amazing, the transfer provided was efficient and hassle free. No wonder Qatar Airways is a recipient of many awards and is now rated as one of the best airlines in the world. Best part? They always have good deals! Check their website here to find out more about them.
2. Favorite New Place: Turkey
So let’s now talk about Turkey. This historically rich country is now my favorite new place to explore! Although this is my second time here (first one was more than 15 years ago), this trip with my whole family (yes, with 3 kids in tow) proved to be a very challenging and special one indeed! There were too many sights to see, too many things to do, and too much good food to eat — that I don’t even know where to begin in my sharing this adventurous trip with you! Thus I decided that for now, I will give you a rundown of my favorite things in Turkey, starting with this post.
This photo of Istanbul at night, was taken at the balcony of Mikla Restaurant, which is also one of my favorite places to have dinner in the city! Check their website here to book ahead.
3. Favorite Travel Companions: The Three Kiddos
Yes as challenging as it may sound, with 3 different ages and 3 varying personalities, these 3 little kiddos are my favorite travel companions. Thanks to their inquisitive mind during the trip, I also learned more about the place around me. Their endless curiosity and interest about Turkey’s history, culture and people amazed me. It was their playfulness that provided a good respite during some of the most tiresome days of the trip. And it was also their sillyness that made me laugh out loud on those days when I can barely move my feet from walking!
Photo above is one of my favorite photos of them together, taken in front of the Bosphorus, the body of water that separates the two continents : Europe and Asia. In this photo, we were standing on the European part of Istanbul and they are looking towards the Asian part. So yes, if there is another interesting and fun fact about this place that both kids and grown ups would love to learn : Turkey is the only country in the world that can be found in two continents!
4. Favorite New Pastry: Turkish Delight
In this trip, I was able to try a lot of new things. One of them was this sweet little pastry called Turkish Delight. The first time I took a bite out of it, I knew right there and then that I would be hooked! Taste and texture wise, it is very similar to a Japanese Mochi: sweet, soft, sticky and gummy.
But what makes this special are the ingredients and flavor found inside. The varieties range from : pistachio to dates, honey to nougat, rosewater to bergamot, pomegranate to chocolate. These tiny confections are usually cut in small cubes that have been dusted with sugar and is usually eaten at the end of a meal with a cup of strong black Turkish coffee.
5. Favorite New Drink: Turkish Coffee
As mentioned in the beginning part of this post, if you have been following me on Instagram, Im sure you would have seen several photos of my coffee in Turkey. I am a big coffee drinker, and I always take them black — so when I first tried Turkish Coffee, I just knew I found the special one for me!
Turkish Coffee is rich, dark and bold. It is famous for the way it is made, usually in an ibrik or a small coffee pot that is heated. Sugar is added (according to your preferred quantity) during the brewing process – and not after, as we are used to doing. This eliminates the need for a teaspoon or stirrer beside their coffee cup. Cream or milk are also NEVER added, as this would be a major offense to their dark roasted coffee beans!
Turkish Coffee is always served in demitasse cups (and believe me they have the prettiest coffee cups I have ever seen!) and is usually, accompanied by a cube of their famous pastry, the Turkish Delight. Another interesting thing to note about their coffee? In some places, your fortune can be told by the placement of the coffee grinds that are left in the cup!
6. Favorite market in Istanbul: Spice Market
Now this is a real market place. And if you are like me who prefer food shopping when you are travelling, then this is the place to be in Istanbul. Hundreds of colorful spices are displayed neatly in rows alongside the jewel-like Turkish Delight pastries, tea flowers, dried herbs and many other things that prove to be total eye candy for the thousands of tourists and locals who make their way here everyday.
Aside from spices and pastries, I also went crazy here buying Baklava, raw honey, Turkish cheeses, as well as a dizzying amount of mixed nuts and dried fruits! Even if you don’t end up buying anything here, you can still visit and simply marvel at the well-preserved market building which was built from the Ottoman era (1600’s) and is still standing strong until today. In fact, if there’s another thing to note about the Spice Market’s history, is that in its early days, this was called the Egyptian Market as it was the last stop for the camel caravans that travelled the Silk Road then : from China, India and Persia.
Photo above shows me in one of the most – if not the most highly recommended place to get Baklava (another famous Turkish sweet pastry) in Istanbul : Gülloüglu, located inside the Spice Market.
7. Favorite Flowers: Pink and white tulips
Every April, Istanbul blooms with millions of fresh tulips all over the city. It was the perfect time to be there as we saw hundreds of these pretty flowers strewn all across town : from parks to avenues, traffic roundabouts and just anywhere in between!
Nature’s beauty coupled with the beautiful and rich historical sights in Istanbul is really what make this city one of the loveliest and most interesting places I’ve ever been.
I can’t wait to share with you the rest of this trip…believe me I’ve got a hundred and one more stories and photos to share! So stay tuned!
In the meantime, keep on following me on Instagram, since (as of date of this publishing) I am still posting photos from Turkey!
If you want to see what were my favorite things from last month, click here : TSM’s Fave Things March 2015