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Last time ( the first time) I flew to Istanbul, sleeping in Europe and spying on Asia across the Bosphorus, it was with intrepid curiosity and two hyperactive kids in tow. From the pirate treasure of Topkapi Palace to the underground labyrinth Cisterns, we played hide-and seek amidst ancient architectural wonders. In May I returned, for an indulgent sleepover weekend, SoHo House Style; a lovingly restored frescoed palazzo in the arty PERA district the latest (and grandest) addition to Nick Jones’ club/ hotel empire.
So seductive was the combination of rooftop cocktails, Cowshed spa and a gaggle of old friends beautifying every velvet alcove, it’s a miracle we even made it to the souk. But Istanbul tourism without a map, or a cultural checklist, proved a different kind of joy. Just drifting, pomegranate juice in hand, stumbling upon vintage stores, playgrounds and steamy bakeries; on to a traditional hammam where the shy surrender to violent soapy scrubbing on a slab of mosaic marble – more like a dare than a treat. The therapeutic (masochistic) antidote to late-night dancing. Istanbul – where all worlds collide in a soulful clash of historic pilgrimage and modern magpie wanderlust.
Words by Laura Bailey
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