Gel Cor Kebap Salon (Istanbul, Turkey)

I have been reminiscing about my trip to Istanbul a lot lately and as I picked through my thousands of photos, I ran across a few I took at a restaurant we visited tucked behind the Grand Bazaar. The only reason we found out about it was because we made friends with a local shop-owner who gave us the name and after running around the maze which is the Grand Bazaar we finally found our way to it. It’s called Gel Cor Kebap Salon and you will not find it unless you ask the locals. It’s one of those ‘hole in the wall’ type places but by all means it is not a ‘hole in the wall’. It’s just one of those amazing place that only the locals eat at. And while it has been a while since I ate there, I will let the photos do the talking for me. 11-P1060532 12-P1060537 13-P1060539 14-P1060540 15-P1060541 16-P1060544

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Neorion Hotel (Istanbul, Turkey)

Our last stop this summer in Europe was Istanbul. We started at the tip of the continent in Portugal and ended in Turkey where Europe meets Asia.

Istanbul. You have won my heart. Your beauty, charm, history and friendly welcoming people. A first trip to Istanbul, I was not sure what to expect. Where to stay. What to see and eat. We ended up staying in the Sirkegi district at the Neorion Hotel, neighboring the historical Sultanahmet district where most of the historical sites are situated. The hotel is constantly rated No. 1 hotel in Istanbul by TripAdvisor, which also awarded it the Travelers’ Choice® 2013 Award: one of the top 25 hotels in Turkey, and one of the top 25 hotels in the entire world!  Based on these great reviews we had to stay at the Neorion hotel and experience the greatness for ourselves.


Upon arriving through the mazed streets of the neighborhood I really was not sure what to expect. An unassuming street with a more unassuming outside appearance. Once we walked inside all worries were put to rest.


Neorion hotel is located in the heart of Istanbul’s history, culture, food and nightlife. Only minutes walk from the Topkapi palace, the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Market and everything else that you want to see in a short stay.


Rooms & Decor:

The hotel, opened in 2011, was conceived and designed to honor and reflect all of the cultures that have enriched the city and its empires.The rooms are spotlessly clean each room decorated with a large colorful historical painting of Istanbul. A welcome letter from the owners and a gift were waiting for us. The rooms were quiet even though they were facing the front street.



The complimentary breakfast was a combination of eastern and western options. A wall of honeycomb slowly drizzling down is a hit with hotel guests.




Neorion hotel offers a health club with small pool, jacuzzi, sauna and two hamams. But for me the best part of the hotel was the rooftop terrace which offers free complimentary drinks at happy hour overlooking the mystical city.  Perhaps the most memorable moment of our stay occurred on the rooftop while sipping on a glass of wine, watching the sun slowly descend into hues of pink and red between the minarets of the Suleymaniye Mosque while listening to the evening prayers.  And who can complain of the complimentary early-evening meze buffet with delicious Turkish treats to go along with your glass of wine (or tea).
The staff were waiting to welcome us with a serving of tea. We were given a brief about the hotel and neighborhood and walked to our room. Perhaps what makes Neorion hotel so special is the friendly service and humble staff. Throughout our stay they went out of their way to make us feel at home. When you arrive at the hotel after a long flight or day of sightseeing, you are offered with a complimentary meal:  a bowl of soup, a sandwich, stuffed peppers, salads, a slice of cake and a cup of coffee or tea, or other light dishes.  What’s more? If you arrive early in the day like we did, you will be allowed to have complimentary breakfast and check in extra early if the rooms are ready. Really, it is this kind of service and thoughtfulness that makes the hotel so special and constantly rated number 1 on tripadvisor.


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Istanbul, My Heart is Forever Yours!

Landing in Istanbul and walking through the airport was quite a dramatic change from the rest of our European destinations. The mix of cultures, religions, languages and history was evident as early as the customs line up where women covered in the Islamic hijab stood in line next to girls in short skirts. I was already in awe and felt envious. In my motherland of Iran, such freedoms are not granted and it surprised me to see how harmonious the blend of individual choices and freedoms can be in a predominantly muslim country.


The taxi ride to the Neorion Hotel was like no other. While most airports are in a dreadful neighborhood outside of town where getting to the center requires looking out at the freeway and other not so pretty scenes, the ride to the center of Istanbul was the most breathtaking airport ride of my life. We were driven right next to the Marmara, with a view onto the Bosphorus. I was surprised by the overwhelming green space and lush gardens that covered most of Istanbul. It was love at first sight. And while my love for Paris will never be replaced Istanbul rose quickly to the top as my favorite destination. Maybe it was the melancholic reminder of memories of my childhood in Iran and the similarities or maybe it was the history, the people and beauty of Istanbul that made me fall in love. I’m still not sure. All I know is I have never been so sad to leave a city behind. I am left wanting more and planning my next destination to Turkey.

Of all the amazing things that Istanbul had to offer, the hospitality, generosity and warmth of the Turkish people was what left the biggest mark on us. This post is dedicated to the Turkish people and features mostly photos of the generous people of Istanbul.  From the fig stand man from whom I wanted to purchase one fig from, who gave me 3 for free and insisted on not accepting my money because he only sold by the kilo to our hotel manager who personally rode the train with the Count to the other side of town late one night to pick up medication. And so the stories and myths of turkish rip-offs all turned out to be just that: myths and tales from an angry tourists past.



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Istanbul, a universal beauty where poet and archeologist, diplomat and merchant, princess and sailor, northerner and westerner screams with same admiration. The whole world thinks that this city is the most beautiful place on earth.
Edmondo De Amicis
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A Thanksgiving to Remember

Autumn. My favorite season. I love watching the descending leaves turn and twist in the air before falling to the ground. I love watching the leaves change color from green to hues of yellows, oranges and reds. The air is fresh and crisp, the sun is shining making the colors glow in a magical way that only nature can do. Pumpkin based recipes fill menus all over the country from pumpkin pie to pumpkin spiced latte.
Walking on dry leaves is one of my all time favorite fall time activities. I love listening to the leaves under my feet. Throwing myself into a pile of dried leaves…sadly ready to be taken away and burned. Love the smell of burnt leaves and chimney fires. Most of all, I love thanksgiving and all that it symbolizes. I love gathering around with friends and family and feasting away. What is your favorite Thanksgiving moment?
Here I am sharing just a few of my favorite thanksgiving recipes including oven roasted Turkey, Oven Baked Yam, Mushroom Gravy,  Brussels Sprouts and Cranberry Sauce.
Prep time- 10 minutes Cook time- 4 hours
1 Turkey, approximately 15 lbs*
1 Lemon (juice)
Salt and Pepper
Melted Butter 
1/2 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
Sprigs of fresh rosemary
* If you need help deciding how big your turkey you should get here is the general rule: 
12-15 lbs turkey for 10-12 people
15-18 lbs turkey for 14-16 people
18-22 lbs for 20-22 people
1. If frozen turkey allow it enough time to thaw and bring to room temperature before cooking (I generally defrost overnight). Allow approximately 5-6 hours of defrosting for every pound. Do not remove plastic wrapping until you are ready to cook. 
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. 
3. Once you remove the plastic wrapping, remove the neck and giblets usually tucked inside the cavity. I use the giblets to make stock for the stuffing and giblet gravy. If the legs are tied check to see if you need to remove prior to cooking. If you remove then you will need to tie the legs together using string. 
4. Wash out the turkey and pat it dry. Spray the inside of the cavity with lemon juice and sprinkle the inside with a handful of salt. 
5. Optional step: Place stuffing inside the cavity (stuffing recipe below). Another option is to fill the inside with chopped onions, celery, carrots and parsley. Cap the outside with foil so that the filling does not spill out. Close up the cavity with a metal skewer and make sure once again that the turkey legs are tied together. 
6. Rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. 
7. Place turkey breast up on the bottom rack in heavy bottom metal/foil roasting pan. Add fresh sprigs of rosemary to the outside of the turkey. 
8. Place turkey in the oven. It is recommended that you cook 15 minutes for every pound. However, you will want to check the instructions that comes with your turkey. You will start cooking at 400 F for the first 30 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350 F for the next 2 hours. Add two cups of water. Reducing to 225 F for the next hour until ready. Meanwhile every 15-20 minutes you will have to remove the juices from the roasting pan using a turkey baster. This is KEY to make the turkey juicy and tender and also one of the most arduous tasks. Remove the juices with the baster and spray all over the turkey. 
9. Using a meat thermometer, insert deep into the thickest part of the turkey breast- the turkey will be ready with the temperature reaches 160F for the breast and 170F for the thigh.
10. Once the turkey is removed, allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes prior to serving. 
Oven Baked Yam: 
Prep time 5 minutes Cook time- 30 minutes


2 Large Yams
1 tablespoon rosemary (crushed)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt/pepper


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
2. Wash yam thoroughly
3. Chop into round pieces about 3 inches
4. Mix the olive oil, rosemary and salt and pepper
5. Toss the yam in the oil mix. 
6. Place individual pieces of yam on a roasting pan. 
7. Place in oven and cook for 15 minutes on one side and turn over for 15 minutes on to the other side. 

My classic mushroom gravy: 
Prep and cook time: 20 minutes
1-2 cups of Turkey drippings
1 cup mushrooms
1/4 cup of corn starch
1 teaspoon salt/pepper
1. Wash and chop mushrooms diagonally
2. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil and cook mushrooms for 10 minutes
3. Separately, scrape the drippings off the bottom of the roasting pan and add along with the turkey juice into a small skillet. Ladle off excess fat with a spoon
4. In a separate bowl take a quarter cup of corn starch, add water to dissolve the corn starch. Beat cornstarch with a spoon to remove lumps. Add the corn starch slowly to the turkey mixture
5. Add mushrooms to the turkey mixture
6. Allow the cornstarch to thicken the gravy
7. Add any additional spices to taste
Cranberry Sauce: 
Cook time: 10 minutes
Cranberry sauce is not one of the easiest thanksgiving recipes but one of the most delicious. I hope after reading this you never ever turn to canned cranberry sauce again (although sometime the canned sauce tastes oh so good).
1 bag of fresh cranberries
1/2 cup of orange juice
2/3 cup of brown sugar
1. Wash the cranberries. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes. You will hear a popping sound. Don’t worry that is the cranberries exploding. Stir the mixture every few minutes. 
2. You are done. Bring to room temperature and serve. 

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts:
Prep time- 5 minutes Cook time- 30 minutes


1 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed (option to cut in half lengthwise)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 black pepper
1/2 garlic powder


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
2. Chop garlic 
3. Mix all the olive oil, garlic and spices
4. Toss Brussels sprouts with all the ingredients
5. Place on a baking sheet and roast, stirring once or twice until the the Brussels sprouts turn a deep golden brown, crisp on the outside. 
6. Transfer to a bowl and serve. 

Finally, after cooking all day I am ready to eat. Happy Thanksgiving to all my wonderful readers and followers. Please feel free to share your favorite recipes and let me know if I have left anything out. 



The Hungry Nomad

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Rouge (Istanbul, Turkey)

After having read this article in the New York Times just before heading to Turkey, I was determined to try out one of the wine bars in Istanbul. While waiting for my travel partner one afternoon close to the large Taksim square, I headed to Rouge to check it out. As lovely as the place looked, as equally lovely was the service. Chatting with the waiter about the city, its people and its products, he offered me a glass to sample while perusing their menu.

Our meze-style dinner later that day consisted of small plates with Turkish cheeses, eggplant rolls, shrimp with a range of delicious sauces, sweet pies for dessert and more, all accompanied of course with, unknown to me before then, delicious Turkish wines. All in all it was a delightful evening, enjoying beautifully presented modern versions of traditional Mediterranean cuisine, surprisingly good wines (personally recommended to go with your meal by knowledgeable staff) and a relaxing atmosphere.

Rouge also includes a store downstairs to bring some bottles home as well as, as the friendly waiter told me, live jazz music once a week at their restaurant.

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Sweet Tooth (Istanbul, Turkey)

This week I leave you with little words but with all the more sugary and syrupy goodness hailing from Turkey. Kadayif, lokum (turkish delights), traditional candies, baklava… My favorites: coffee, mastic and bergamot flavored candies from this lovely historic store. Can you make out all their awards hanging there on the wall to the left?

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Sweet & Savory Streets (Istanbul, Turkey)

Another great post from our resident blogger, Kim. Enjoy!

Surely I love a good restaurant as much any other girl. But sometimes the best treats can be found out there on the streets. Just imagine enjoying fresh ice cream while strolling in the summer sun or warming up on spicy hot cocoa on a crispy winter day. So when I went to Istanbul, of course I had to try all the Turkish on-the-go delights. 

It took a long time for me to open up to chestnuts, but on a cold cold day these hot roasted little treats are exactly what you might need to warm up and continue your adventurous walks around town. I have seen chestnuts stands from Northern Italy and Geneva to Athens and also in Istanbul people munch happily on chestnuts while out and about. Also, keep your eyes out for chestnut treats in coffee shops and restaurants as there are some seriously deliciously chestnut cakes and deserts to be found. 

A new discovery for me when I went to Turkey was fresh pomegranate juice. All around the city you may notice small coffee shops and kebab stands squeezing and selling orange & pomegranate juice to take away. Extremely refreshing, I love how it makes for a healthy change from sipping on (also very enjoyable) Turkish coffees and black teas.

Much less greasy than the varieties I have tasted in Greece, kebabs in Istanbul are a popular fast food. My favorite is the döner kebab with a thin pita, lamb meat, sour pickles and veggies (which you see in the picture), yum! Couple it with a pomegranate juice, relax on a bench and enjoy the bustle of the city around you.

Salep is a sweet and spicy drink which will definitely do you good on a rainy and chilly day. Originally made from the salep orchid, it is now usually made with hot milk, cinnamon and salep flavorings. You can see salep being sold by some traditionally dressed men pushing their carts and shouting “Hot Salep, hot salep!”. A word of caution: Salep is extremely hot, so don’t burn your tongue. 

Simit (“koulouri” in Greece) stands are present on every street corner in Istanbul. Considered breakfast by many in this neck of the woods, you almost can’t go wrong with these simple bread rings sprinkled with sesame seeds.
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Istanbul Impressions (Istanbul, Turkey)

Istanbul has been on my to-go list for a very long time and finally this winter I made it! Such a wonderful place. Literally at the border between East and West, its long history remains tangible everywhere you walk in this vast city. I was dazzled by the beauty of its historical mosques, palaces and churches while I thoroughly enjoyed all the modern city had to offer. Tea houses and wine bars, modern art galleries and ages-old mosques, eastern bazaars and western malls all make for an exciting mix for the traveler. I will be sharing more of Istanbul with you soon, for now a few colorful impressions. (by The Dutch Nomad, Kim)

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Musée Rodin (Paris)

Musée Rodin, one of my most treasured places in Paris. I would go there often on sunny spring days to sit and study or read a book in the beautiful gardens. But it is not only the extensive garden that is alluring but also the museum that houses many of famous french sculptor, Auguste Rodin’s artwork. Most tourists flock to the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay (which are nothing less than a must for any lover of art). However, I highly recommend those spending more than a few days in Paris to squeeze in a few hours for the Musée Rodin. It is very accessible and you can get there very easily but taking the metro and getting off at the Varenne stop. The garden also has a small and quaint coffee shop. 
The Hotel Biron was Rodin’s residence from 1908 and he later donated his entire collection of sculptures to the French State on the condition that they turn the building into a musuem dedicated to his work. So folks if you are lucky enough to physically see Rodin’s masterpieces all under one roof then make sure to thank him in spirit for dedicating his work to the general public. The museum houses most of the sculptor’s artwork, including the famous ThinkerThe Kiss and The Gates of Hell

Rodin Museum: 79 Rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris, France, 01 44 18 61 10 
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