Monday, 27 October 2008


I've just returned from Istanbul - a city I've wanted to visit for ages. My brothers and I took our mum there for her birthday and we all had lots of things we each wanted to do. My younger brother, Beppo, wanted mosques, architecture and literary walks, my mum wanted spice markets and ferry trips and my older brother, Ferdie, didn't care what we did as long as there was plenty of good eating and drinking. My prerequisite was for rooftop cocktails (strong ones), Turkish baths, street life and, of course, chocolate.

We found it all - loads of great street food (fish bread and stuffed giant mussels were my favourite), markets heaving with treats - coffee, baklava, nougat, fish, sheeps heads, sumac, pomegranates, cheese pies. We got good at taking our shoes off for all the mosques, got chatting to loads of distinguished looking Omar Sahrif lookalikes, checked out the delights of the Istanbul Modern, got a good scrub down by women with great pendulous breasts in the hamam, carved up the Bosphorous on the ferries, ate delicious mezze and drank cocktails. Lots of them.

My eyes would dart around, so busily - there was so much activity. It seemed so industrious and every doorway presented some kind of artisan doing his thing - the Gepeto style toymaker downstairs from our flat, the glorious looking barber down the street, signmakers, metal workers, carpenters, music production, painters - all holed up in darkened, cavernous shops, busying away at their craft.

And who knew that the Turks were so into their cacao?! OK, so the hot choc wasn't a patch on that of Paris or Barcelona or Choc Star, but it was a damn site better than almost any crappy excuse for it that most places in Britain offer. And all those nasty Turkish patisseries you get in Shepherd's Bush were put to shame by those we discovered in the Cukurcuma district. We even found some brownies which my mum claimed were almost as good as mine (they weren't).

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