TURKEY: 48 HOURS IN ISTANBUL.

Istanbul is the only city in the world that spreads across two continents. Its strategic geographical positioning, rich culture, delicious food, sublime architecture, vibrant atmosphere, and hospitable locals create an immeasurable experience that exceeds the expectations of even the most seasoned traveler.

Believe me, 48 hours is hardly enough time to scratch the surface.

WHERE TO STAY

Taksim Square (the heart of modern-day Istanbul) is located in Beyoglu on the European end of the city. It is typically my go-to base due to its central location, a myriad of accommodation options, restaurants and a slew of entertainment options to partake in.

THE MARMARA HOTEL, TAKSIM

The Marmara hotel overlooks Taksim square. Again, perfect location !! I found a great deal on booking.com and pounced on it. Even though I did not have an Instagrammable view, I enjoyed every bit of my stay. The rooms are spacious, well maintained, and equipped with all the necessary fixtures to make your stay comfortable. Most importantly, the team at The Marmara hotel is helpful and friendly. They go above and beyond to make their guests stay memorable.

The hotel boasts an expansive swimming pool that overlooks the Bosphorus, a well-maintained spa and a gym, an a la carte terrace restaurant, and an extensive wine cellar stocked with Turkish wines. Wine is not the first thing that pops in one’s head when they think of Turkey but to my surprise, Turkey produces some pretty decent vino. 

This salmon-colored Rose, Minoj by Vinkara Winery was surprisingly good and paired well with the hot summer days. I can’t wait to try other Turkish wines.

ISTIKLAL AVENUE

A long colorful pedestrian shopping street and probably the most famous street and entertainment hub in Istanbul. Nearly 3 million people visit Istiklaldaily. Istiklal is every shopper’s paradise hosting both local and international brands. There are also countless restaurants and cafes offering both Turkish and international cuisine.

GALATA TOWER

The Galata Tower is another iconic structure and apopular place in Istanbul. This old Geoese tower has an open deck that offers an unbeatable 360degrees panoramic vista over Istanbul.

BASILICA CISTERN

Located just a few blocks from the Blue Mosque is the Basilica Cistern. It is the largest cistern in Istanbul. Its mystical essence evokes wonder to all that lay their eyes on this architectural gem.

This underground water reservoir was built in the 6th century. Visitors can access it by its 52-step staircase.For you 007 fans, you would be pleased to know that the cistern was featured in the 1963 James Bond movie “From Russia With Love.” Look out for the impressively carved Medusa heads. 

ORTAKOY MOSQUE

This is one of my favorite squares and one of the most picturesque mosques in Istanbul. The Bosphorus Bridge that serves as an idyllic background accentuates the Mosque’s unmatched elegance.

Start the day with a leisurely Turkish breakfast at The House Cafe. It is quite an experience especially if you are lucky enough to get the waterfront tables with the stunning views of The Bosphorous. Am I saying Bosphorus too much? LOL

GRAND BAZAAR

My trip to Istanbul is never complete without swinging by the spice bazaar. Located in the Eminönü quarter of the Fatih district, it is one of the biggest and atmospheric bazaars in the city. I can not guarantee you a peaceful shopping experience because each vendor will try to sell you something but trust me the vibrant colors and smell are worth a visit.

THE BOSPHORUS

The Bosphorus (also known as) the Strait of Istanbul is a narrow 19 miles long strait that connects Asia and Europe & Marmara and the Black Sea. It is an eternally charming site that will dazzle your senses. 

Partake in one of the many Bosphorous tour cruises or simply hop on to a ferry and immerse yourself in what the area offers. Look out for some of the city highlights like Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Galata tower, The Maiden tower, Camlica Mosque, and many more.

HAGIA SOPHIA

Hagia Sophia is an iconic structure in Istanbul. It isimpossible to miss. This popular tourist site attracts millions of visitors annually. For nearly 1000 years Hagia Sophia was the world’s largest cathedral and Christian place of worship. It was viewed as a symbol of Christian and Muslim solidarity. Even after it was converted into a museum, it was still regarded as a sacred place.

It has saddened many that this architectural marvel has been converted into a mosque. Nonetheless, I am still inspired by its everlasting beauty and what it once stood for. 

I thought of a clever way to wrap up this post that would effectively embody my experience in Istanbul, but I came up short. This is because Istanbul is one of a kind. No words can conceptualize this city.

Lora By Lora.

EATING OUT IN FLORENCE | BRUNCH AT DITTA ARTIGIANALE.

Ditta Artigianale has two different locations in the heart of Florence. I love swinging by the one on Via Dello Sprone. It is just a short walk away from the Ponte Vecchio. Their airy courtyard is a great place to sit back and enjoy their amazing coffee.

Food is impeccable, reasonably priced, and quite generous in portion. I can’t have enough of their Avocado on whole-grain toast and smoked salmon. It is my go-to brunch treat.

DITTA ARTIGIANALE,

Via Dello Sprone 5R – Firenze, IT +39 0552741541

Lora By Lora.

EATING OUT IN FLORENCE | SCRUMPTIOUS PISTACCHIO AND RICOTTA CANNOLI FROM DON NINO.

Located on the right-hand corner of Via Ricasoli at the Piazza del Duomo Don Nino has become one of my favorite pit stops on cheat days. I can’t get enough of their scrumptious pistachio and ricotta cannoli.

Don Nino – Piazza del Duomo 10, 50122 Firenze

ITALY | CAFFÈ GIUSTI RESTAURANT IN MONTECATINI ALTO.

My husband is from a little town in Tuscany called Montecatini-Terme. Famous for its thermal waters, it is considered one of the biggest “spa towns” in Italy.

Located at the highest point of Montecatini-Terme, right on top of a hill, is a small medieval village called Montecatini Alto, which offers a panoramic vista of Montecatini-Terme. To get there, you can either drive, hike up to the village, or take the Funicular railway. The latter dates back to the end of the 1800s but is still functional and fun. Our son is a big fan of it. Read more

THE AWE-INSPIRING MAJLIS RESORT IN LAMU, KENYA.

The Majlis Resort is a privately-owned luxury beach hotel on the north coast of Kenya in the Indian ocean.  Uniquely stylish and tastefully designed to reflect Lamu’s heritage tradition.

This beachfront resort is serene and peaceful making it the perfect hideout to escape the hustle and bustle of Lamu . Read more