Monthly Archives: April 2012


The cast and crew of the latest James Bond film, ‘Skyfall’ have  recently descended upon the streets of Sirkeci, or what many tourists know as Sultanahmet. Roads have been closed, sets have been built and a staff of 300 people (including Daniel Craig) are currently in Istanbul for this production. Buildings were restored, a fake bazaar was built around the edges of the infamous Spice Bazaar and the city and its visitors await to see what happens next. Rumors have spread about the millions of dollars that have been given to shopkeepers impacted by the filming. Durum shops have been kept open to feed the crew and ensure the illusion of authenticity. The filming has already created a stir. A motorcycle stunt damaged the storefront of a infamous jewlery shop near the Grand Bazaar, and the outdoor sets were destroyed by the harsh winds that overtook Istanbul two weeks ago.

Here are some pictures of the set:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

James Bond Comes to Istanbul


1.) The parks contain perfectly manicured hedges with labyrinth designs

2.) Spanish Hot Chocolate is the most decadent thing on earth- literally melted chocolate with milk. Thick and amazing.

3.) They love small dogs.

4.) Street Musicians roam the streets

5.) There is color everywhere! The streets, cafes and clothing are full of vibrant and lively colors.

6.) The street signs are made of beautiful painted tiles

7.) The city has an amazing metro system. If you do not mind switching lines, it takes less than 40 minutes by metro to reach the city center.

8.) There are Roman ruins hidden throughout the city. You can find them on display underground at the Opera Metro Station and in the gardens of El Parque del Retiro

9.) In my opinion, they have the best nightlife in the world. The evenings are spent visiting 2-5 different bars, sipping wine, chatting and sampling the tapas sent to the table. It is a wonderful way to experience barrio life, visit with friends and absorb the energy of the city!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Delightful Details and Quirks of Madrid


I had a wonderful time in Madrid, and it exceeded my expectations in just about every way. As I wandered through the beautiful parks and streets, I was amazed by the city’s energy, vivid colors and lively nightlife. This city loves the arts and the night. I stumbled upon a free Chagall exhibit and ate to my heart’s content. Rumored to have 1 bar for every 6 inhabitants, there is no shortage of things to do or try in Madrid. Each barrio has a unique flavor, and most bars serve as a home base for people living nearby.  I stayed in the lively neighborhood of La Latina. The side streets are full of tiny restaurants and bars, and it is home to the famous El Rastro market every Sunday: the ‘largest flea market in the world’

Before I get into the specifics, I will provide an overview of my time in Madrid. Perhaps it can serve as a 4 day itinerary for those planning a trip of their own.

Day 1: Exploring the City

My favorite day of travelling. I devoted my entire day to wandering the streets,  sampling every type of food and getting to know the city.

Plaza Mayor- A lively square full of street performers and cafes.

Mercado de San Miguel-A beautifully restored food market offering the best of Spanish wines, seafood and tapas. This is a foodies heaven and a perfect place for lunch.

Plaza de Oriente, the Opera House and Jardines de Sabattin- The royal palace is surrounded by beautiful squares, gardens, street performers and cafes. If you get lucky, you may even catch the ‘Changing of the Guard’.

Musseo Thyssen Bornemisza- The home of the fabulous Chagall exhibit I stumbled upon

Chocolate con leche and Churros-While it is not a location, it is an experience certainly worthy of its own line! Thick, melted milk chocolate and a fresh churro seem too indulgent to be true. Perfect for my little holiday!

Parque del Buen Retiro- The most amazing place on earth! Beautiful rolling hills, green grass, tall trees draping over the walkway, Roman ruins, beautiful statues, hedge gardens and a lovely pond full of row boats! I spent 2 hours exploring this amazing park and would go back in a heartbeat simply to return to this small piece of urban paradise.

An evening trying the various bars and restaurants located in the back streets of Plaza Anton Martin.

Day 2: A day of Art and Music

A coffee in Plaza Mayor

Lunch at La Soberbia (near Sol)- we ordered amazing wine, paella, and a tomato salad. superb!

La Reina Sofia- An amazing modern art collection including the works Dali, Picasso and Miro. The museum is home to Picasso’s  iconic Guernica. It’s size and scope cannot be captured in photographs. I spent 25 minutes sitting and staring at the painting. It was glorious!

A stroll through Parque del Buen Retiro- I could not stay away!

Mueseo del Prado- Housed in an 18th century neoclassical palace, this museum is home to more than 7000 paintings. The works of Goya and Valazquez lie at the very heart of this collection.  The best part? The gallery is free from 6-8 PM…and there are lines around the museum of people waiting to enter!

Populart- One of the city’s most iconic Jazz bars, this place does not disappoint. We listened to fabulous jazz, sipped mojitos and befriended 4 old Spanish guys who shared their crazy stories with us.

Day 3: Palaces and Flowers

Placio Real- The 10 euro entry price initially kept me away, but my curiosity grew after admiring the royal portraits and learning about the talented artists commissioned to paint the murals of the palace. The ‘Spanish Versailles’ consists of 2800 r00ms, and astounded me by its sheer size and ornate details. The walls are covered in rich silks, the floors are composed of beautiful marble, covered in elaborate carpets and the murals are masterpieces in and of themselves. Do not miss it!

The Botanical Garden- My visit marked the first real week of Spring weather, and the entire city was in bloom. I had to see the beautiful tulip beds that tempted me from the street. There are numerous fountains and inviting benches. It was the perfect setting to finish my book.

A night out in Chueca! We feasted, we drank, we danced. It was the perfect Friday night.

Day 4: A day-trip to Toledo

A 40-minute train ride away from Madrid, Toledo was a wonderful town to explore. Situated on a hill, this medieval city is surrounded by old city walls. Hundreds of steep stairs lead you to the city center, where you will find numerous churches, monasteries and a beautiful old cathedral. Additionally, there is an old Sephardic temple, that now serves as the Sephardic Museum. We had a long leisurely lunch, wandered through the cobblestone streets, in and out of the churches, and ended our day crashing the end of a wedding to escape a hail storm! It was very exciting!

We ended our day with a sampling of bars along Calle de la Cava Baja in La Latina. At our final bar, we befriended 7 Spanish guys out under the title of a ‘Bachelor Party’, but too in love with the women in their lives to do anything too crazy. We spent two hours talking to them about our travels, global politics and the Spanish economy as we sampled different tapas and indulged in wonderful Spanish wine.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



I leave for Madrid tomorrow. I have two friends currently living in the city and cannot wait to see and experience their favorite places, restaurants, bars and neighborhoods. Earnest Hemingway said the following about Madrid:  “I have never been to a city where there is less reason to go to bed, and… if I did go to bed, to sleep”. I cannot wait to experience Madrid’s magical nights and wonderful array of tapas.  I will be there until Sunday…stay tuned for stories and updates!

Madrid, Here I Come!


Tables unfold onto the cobblestone streets of this magical neighborhood. There is not a tourist in sight, and traditional Turkish folk musicians wander in and out of each restaurant. The old city walls surround the lively square, and the Bosphorus view lures patrons to the top floor of these fish and raki restaurants. Each restaurant fights for our attention and business. We finally settle on Samatya Balik Evi Restaurant, and our party of 11 takes over the second floor. The buzz and magic of this place is impossible to ignore. Two other large parties of old friends join us on the second floor, as does one of the wandering music troupes. We order Tekirdag Raki for the table, and the appetizer platters are passed around. We point to various fish, eggplant, bean and other meze delights and soon more than 15 different platters fill the table. The beat of the drumer, and the richness of the clarinet fill the room. People leave their tables and start to dance traditional Turkish folk dances. People clap, and chat among one another and laughter fills the room. It is a perfect Istanbul evening.

Even in the worst of traffic, Samatya can be reached by taxi from Taksim Square in 20-25 minutes and around 17 lira. We spent around 55 lira per person and feasted like kings. It is a truly extraordinary place, rich with tradition and people from all walks of life. If you have a spare evening in Istanbul, do not leave without going to Samatya for a meal of mezes, fish and of course, Raki.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

An Evening in Samatya



I love these posters!  I want each and every one of them. Playing with color and Art Deco style, this poster company presents Turkey’s most famous sites and attractions with fun and flair. These will be on the walls of my home some day…

Check out the full collection here:

Art Deco Travel Posters of Turkey


On Thursday I had the unique and thrilling opportunity to take my class to Van Gogh Alive, a unique presentation of the work of Vincent Van Gogh. After two weeks of special projects to highlight the vivid colors and captivating images of Vincent Van Gogh, we were ready. We walked up the stairs of Karaköy Limanı Antrepoları and were led into the large, dark exhibition space that hosted this unique presentation. As we sat in one corner of the large space, images of Van Gogh’s work surrounded us.

There were some interesting special effects at work. Each piece of furniture appeared one by one, to create Van Gogh’s famous bedroom scene. We floated up into the night sky to experience Starry, Starry Night. A train moved around the entire exhibit space to bring Van Gogh’s sketches alive.

Beautiful classical music filled the room, perfectly synchronized to the images that moved up and down each wall, and faded into the next. This was not your traditional art exhibit, it was more than an installation, it was an experience. Over 3,00o different images covered the walls, columns and even the ceiling, allowing the viewer to feel completely immersed in the vivid colors and vibrant images of Van Gogh’s work. It was absolutely captivating and a wonderful way to immerse oneself into the art and world of Vincent Van Gogh.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Van Gogh Alive