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piece of pavement seems to be taken up with

tables and chairs spilling out of meyhanes, or

taverns, while street vendors sell mussels in

the shell, cooked with lemons in giant pans.

I squeezed my way down

restaurant-packed Nevizade

Sokak but found every table

full of locals feasting on grilled

– sh and knocking back raki, so

I headed over Istiklal Caddesi

to Nizam Pide, a cheap and

cheerful café that's one of the

best places to try pide, Turkey's

answer to pizza.

The next morning it was time for some

sightseeing, so after a terri– c Soho House

breakfast of poached eggs and avocado, I

wandered down to the 14th-century Galata

Tower, built as a protective forti– cation by the

Genoese in 1349. The top-Πoor gallery o ers

a stunning 360-degree panorama of Istanbul,

from the 1970s suspension bridge spanning

the Bosporus to the old city huddled around

the tip of the Golden Horn, one of the world's

most impressive natural harbours. From here

I could see my prime destinations: Hagia

Sophia and the Blue Mosque, the two most

famous landmarks in Istanbul.

The former, which means the Church of

the Holy Wisdom, was built by the Christian

emperor Justinian in 532 AD and converted

into a mosque following the Ottoman Turk

invasion in 1453; since 1934 it's been a

museum. The Blue Mosque, or Sultanahmet

Camii, was completed in 1616 and gets its

English name from the 20,000 dazzling Iznik

tiles that adorn the interior. Both buildings are

impressive for their sheer scale, bristling with

minarets and undulating with domes.

After a tasty lunch of grilled meatballs over

the road at Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi, I

headed deeper into the old city to the Grand

Bazaar - dating from the 15th century and

housing 4,000 shops under one vaulted roof

- before taking in the heady aromas of the

Spice Bazaar, where the trays of sa ron and

paprika, sumac and cumin form a patchwork

every bit as vivid as the carpets for sale in

the Grand Bazaar. Outside on the harbour by

Galata Bridge, I joined commuters grabbing

a grilled mackerel sandwich and a paper

cup of syrup-drenched doughnuts from the

harbour-side stalls on their way to the ferry.

Like all great cities, Istanbul is as exhausting

as it is exhilarating, so the next day I was

ready for some relaxation at the Mandarin

Oriental Bodrum, a short Πight away. You

can do as little or as much as you want here.

I was happy reading on my private terrace,

gazing over the aptly named Bay of Paradise

and wondering who owned the two massive

superyachts moored there. Had I wanted to,

I could have wandered down to one of the

two private beaches, taken my pick from

four swimming pools, or gone scuba diving,

parasailing, jet skiing, or paddle boarding.

I did leave my room to eat though:

perfectly fried calamari and a posh take on

a kebab in the poolside café for lunch; fresh

mezze and grilled – sh for dinner at Balikcisi,

picked from an iced display and eaten

overlooking the water. I could also have dined

at the Scott 'Kurobuta' Hallsworth-helmed

Kurochan, Italian Assaggio, or local hotspot

Juju, all dotted around the 148-acre site.

The Hong Kong-based Mandarin Oriental

group is renowned for the quality of its

eastern-inspired spa treatments and the

Bodrum outpost, which opened last year, is

no exception. My therapeutic massage and

aromatherapy facial were both faultless, but

what I particularly loved was sitting outside

in the spa's 'tea garden', listening to a tinkling

waterfall and feeling that there wasn't

another soul around. Paradise indeed.

I WAS HAPPY GAZING OVER THE APTLY

NAMED BAY OF PARADISE, WONDERING

WHO OWNED THE TWO MASSIVE

SUPERYACHTS MOORED THERE

GETTING THERE

British Airways Πies from

London to Istanbul three times a day

and Bodrum twice a week from £98 one

way. Turkish Airlines Πies from Istanbul

to Bodrum 15 times a day from £44 one

way; ba.com, turkishairlines.com

WHEN TO GO

Spring and autumn are the best

times to visit Istanbul; summer can be

hot and humid and winter cold and wet.

Bodrum is a delight to visit in May, June

and, especially, September, when the

sea is warmest; the peak season of July

and August are the hottest months

WHERE TO STAY

Mandarin Oriental Bodrum

Double room B¨B from £569 a night;

mandarinoriental.com/bodrum

Soho House Istanbul Double room

from £140 a night; sohohouseistanbul.

com

WHERE TO EAT

Nizam Pide nizampide.com

Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi

sultanahmetkoftesi.com

FIND OUT MORE

gototurkey.co.uk

Above: a junior suite at the Mandarin Oriental

Bodrum; below: Galata Tower in Istanbul

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