29 January 2015

café hopping in Istanbul, Turkey...

Coffee lovers take note. Tea drinkers - you too. Your next vacation really should be in Istanbul, Turkey. You could honestly spend weeks and weeks exploring this city and not even begin to visit all the most popular caffeine oozing spots.

My favourite area of Istanbul? Most definitely the café lined streets of Karaköy, just behind Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamami, where tangled vines stretched across the open space creating a coffee lovers hideaway. Perfect for catching up with friends, people watching or just escaping the noise of the city with a good book or newspaper...

wandering through the café lined, pedestrian streets in Karaköy, Istanbul
wandering through the café lined, pedestrian streets in Karaköy, Istanbul

There were so many cool, creative cafés in Istanbul that after a few days I started taking photos of some of my favourites. Here's a quick snapshot of the variety on offer...

drip café, Istanbul
drip café, Istanbul

inside one of the many coffee shops we visited, Istanbul
inside one of the many coffee shops we visited, Istanbul

Que Tal café, Istanbul
Que Tal café, Istanbul

coffee inside a pickle shop?
coffee inside a pickle shop? 

the one and only Brew Lab, Istanbul
the one and only Brew Lab, Istanbul

would you like some live guitar music with your espresso?
would you like some live guitar music with your espresso?

my favourite - life is short!
my favourite - life is short!

Happy coffee guzzling Thursday! Hope that hot drink gets you through your day!

26 January 2015

delicious dining in Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul has always been a city I've wanted to visit. Famous for its architecture, culture, sheer size, and the fact that it's split between two continents so you can visit Europe and Asia all in a afternoon, Istanbul is a thrill I have always wanted to experience.

What took me by complete surprise about Istanbul though was the amazing café culture and restaurants on offer. Yes, that's right - Istanbul is also a foodies heaven! Venture out of the historic old town and across the bridge to Karaköy or Beyoglu - and you'll quickly find yourself with so many eating and drinking options that you won't know where to start.

My top 10 'best eats' in Istanbul, Turkey...

Located on a side street just off İstiklâl Caddesi, Kafe Ara is named after one of Turkey's most well-known photographers Ara Güler. On the walls of this cosy but lively café you'll see several samples of his work, and even the placemats are paper prints of Ara's photographs. The food here is just divine - fresh and full of flavour. Try everything if you have time, and if not I highly recommend the farrah salad seasoned with pomegranate dressing and a winter tea...

Kafe Ara - Istanbul, Turkey

Winter tea at Kafe Ara - Istanbul, Turkey
winter tea at Kafe Ara, Istanbul

2. Pim Karaköy Kitchen & Patisserie
One of the many cafés in the small winding streets of Karaköy, and situated just around the corner from the heavenly Kılıç Ali Paşa Camii - Pim Karaköy stole my heart with it's warm lighting, graffiti wall art and extensive menu. I stopped by here a few times for tea and lunch...

Pim Karaköy Kitchen & Patisserie, Istanbul Turkey

Lunch at Pim Karaköy Kitchen & Patisserie, Istanbul Turkey
smoked salmon papardelle with aş otu cheese
at Pim Karaköy Kitchen & Patisserie, Istanbul

3. Meze by Lemon Tree
Hubby and I had a meze feast here on New Years eve. From the moment we entered this warm restaurant (it was sleeting outside) we knew we were in for a treat. Generous with the new years raki bottle and serving the most amazing selection of meze, the service and food at Meze by Lemon Tree was spot on. A lovely, creative spot to visit if you're after some damn good meze...

first round of meze at Meze by Lemon Tree - New Years Eve 2014, Istanbul
first round of meze at Meze by Lemon Tree - New Years Eve 2014, Istanbul

4. gram
Another friendly restaurant / café serving up fresh, delicious food right in front of your eyes. The interior of gram was pretty cool too - furnished with two large wooden tables where you sit elbow to elbow enjoying your healthy but tasty freshly made meal. Try the salads - amazing...

gram, Istanbul
gram, Istanbul

5. Pilav with chickpeas and chicken - street food
Pilav (rice) comes in lots of varieties in Istanbul. I was introduced to pilav cooked in chicken broth served with chickpeas and chicken by my friend while exploring the Grand Bazaar. Like her, I became rather attached to the dish. You can find it pretty much everywhere - restaurants, street carts, small hole-in-the-wall type places. Oh so simple. Oh so yummy...

pilav with chickpeas and chicken - in the window of a small restaurant, Istanbul
pilav with chickpeas and chicken - in the window of a small restaurant, Istanbul 

6. Fresh juice
Another amazing cheap and delicious street food. Looking for something with a bit of zing? You can't go past a cup of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice!

juice seller - Istanbul
juice seller - Istanbul

7. Karaköy Güllüoğlu
The best baklava you'll ever eat. There's not much more to say here other than skip the tourist shops in old town and head straight to Karaköy Güllüoğlu for a cup of chai tea and a selection plate of baklava. The place is easy to find - just a few minutes walk from Karaköy wharf, situated underneath a large car park. You'll go back again and again I tell you. My favourite was the baklava stuffed with almond paste...

Karaköy Güllüoğlu - Istanbul. The best baklava you'll ever eat
Karaköy Güllüoğlu - Istanbul. The best baklava you'll ever eat

baklava from Karaköy Güllüoğlu - Istanbul
baklava from Karaköy Güllüoğlu - Istanbul

8. Kronotrop
If you get a little tired of Turkish coffee while in Istanbul head to Kronotrop in Beyoğlu for a flat white or latte. This coffee shop comes highly recommended by my coffee loving friends, and since it always had a bustling crowd I'm going to assume this coffee shop has lots of fans...

Kronotrop coffee shop, Istanbul
Kronotrop coffee shop, Istanbul

9. Solera Winery
Looking for the perfect place to sip on some local wine? Look no further than Solera Winery. This little wine bar has atmosphere, an amazing cheeseboard and the best selection of Turkish wine at affordable prices around. Solera Winery even had mulled wine by the mug while we were there - perfect for warming up and starting the evening!

Solera Winery, Istanbul
Solera Winery, Istanbul

10. Kubbeli Saloon Tea Lounge - Pera Palace Hotel
Last but not least, my Istanbul food post would not be complete without mentioning the descendant afternoon tea at Pera Palace Hotel. The sweet selection was amazing. The tea list bountiful. The  tea room like royalty, and the service spot on...

sweets at afternoon tea at Pera Palace Hotel, Istanbul

sweets at afternoon tea at Pera Palace Hotel, Istanbul
sweets at afternoon tea at Pera Palace Hotel, Istanbul

Hungry yet? Get yourself to Istanbul quick. I will be heading back soon for sure...

25 January 2015

friendship, cake & blogging

It's been a hard week. For lots of reasons (mostly work related) so there hasn't been much blog action recently.

So yesterday to lift my spirits I baked (yum), and had some friends over for afternoon tea. For me there's nothing like catching up with friends to start feeling human again.

Ta da: Crunchy Lemon Cake...

crunchy lemon cake

Even more exciting - this afternoon I am going to afternoon tea at Brown's Hotel in London with twenty-five other London bloggers! Wow - no doubt I'll have my blogging mojo back after tea, scones and some social time with some of my favourite London bloggers. Thanks to Kelly from Around the world in 80 pairs of shoes for organising.

Other things I do to keep my blogging motivation fuelled when life takes over:
  • Head outdoors. There's nothing like a brisk walk or run(!) to get the heart pumping and endorphins flowing.
  • Review my travel photos. I love looking back at all the places I've been. There's so many I haven't shared here yet.
  • Read other peoples blogs. I started this blog because I was inspired by other blogs I was reading. All you guys out there are my inspiration.
  • Check out my blogging notebook. It's full of lots of random ideas I've noted down over the years for blog posts.
  • Realise life takes priority over blogging. There's no point in worrying if there's no action on the blog for week. I write here because I enjoy it, and I definitely don't want blogging to become a chore.
Hope you're all having a lovely weekend. Watch this space - lots of travel coming your way next week...

17 January 2015

Cappadocia, Turkey in panoramas

As you might already know I spent Christmas and New Years eve in Turkey. My favourite part of the whole holiday was exploring Cappadocia National Park - where the landscape completely blew me away.

Armed with a car, good friends, stunning views and my new iPhone 6 plus I went a little crazy - taking dozens of panorama shots as we cruised around. It was addictive. And actually, I'm pretty impressed with the results. So I have decided to share some of my favourite shots with you today.

Ta daa! Cappadocia, Turkey in panoramas....

view from our cave house - Uchisar, Cappadocia
 view from our cave house - Uchisar, Cappadocia

 looking towards the rock citadel of Uçhisar, Cappadocia
 looking out towards the rock citadel of Uçhisar, Cappadocia

lost somewhere on a small dirt road between Nevşehir and Derinkuyu, Cappadocia
lost somewhere on a small dirt road between Nevşehir and Derinkuyu, Cappadocia 

exploring Selime Monastery in the Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia
exploring Selime Monastery in the Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia 

 Ihlara Valley just before sunset. This spot is rumoured to have inspired the set of Star Wars
 Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia just before sunset. 
This spot is rumoured to have inspired the set of Star Wars

exploring Derinkuyu underground city, Cappadocia

Turkish coffee with a view in Avanos, Cappadocia
Turkish coffee with a view in Avanos, Cappadocia 

walking through Zelve Valley, Cappadocia (amazing!!!!)
walking through Zelve Valley, Cappadocia (amazing!!!!) 

Zelve Valley, Cappadocia at sunset - after all the tourist buses had departed and we had this amazing view all to ourselves!
all the tourist buses had departed and we had this amazing view all to ourselves!

Göreme - the tourist hub of Cappadocia
Göreme - the tourist hub of Cappadocia 

last but not least - Zelve Open-Air Museum.  A must see if you are ever in Cappadocia
last but not least - Zelve Open-Air Museum
A must see if you are ever in Cappadocia

Hope you're all having a lovely weekend.

15 January 2015

2015 travel planning and life...

If you're anything like me then you probably have a small obsession with travelling the world!!!! When friends and family, or even workmates tell me they are planning a trip somewhere I get all excited - my face lights up, my hands get clammy, and well I want to know everything.

This week's been a tough one at work so far, it's only Wednesday and I'm already thinking about the weekend when I can catch some extra zzzzzzs. To cheer myself up I decided to crack on with my 2015 travel plan last night. Here's what I came up with...

February
Portugal - not sure where yet, but somewhere warm and sunny :)

March
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Skiing holiday, Italy - with the girls

April (Easter)
Lapland
Or Sri Lanka the Maldives... swoon

May bank holiday #1
Paris

May bank holiday #2
Budapest

July
Oh Canada! 
More specifically Vancouver, Vancouver Island and Calgary for the 2015 stampede

August
Cornwall. There's nothing like fresh sea air in summer!
(Must convince my friend's boyfriend who has a car that he wants a road trip.)

September
Stuttgart Beer festival (with my bestie)

December
Vienna or Salzburg (or both), Austria for the Christmas Markets

January 2016
New Zealand

February 2016
Sapporo Snow Festival, Japan (oh I wish!)

Okay, okay - it's probably worth pointing out that none of the above is actually planned or booked. But now I have a wish list to work from.

I really want to blog from more places like this in 2015...

Blogging in Cappadocia, Turkey
me blogging in Cappadocia, Turkey (amen for WiFi), where I wrote this post

In other news I've been studying Japanese and rediscovering everything I forgot in the last seven years since living there. Call it a New Years resolution if you must. I've been listening to lots of Japanese podcasts and using Pimsleur Japanese again on my walks to and from work each day, which gives me about one hour study time in total.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. 
– Mark Twain
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