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AROUND THE WORLD WITH SHELLEY

AROUND THE WORLD WITH SHELLEY

By Freshmoonstone1
Trip Plan Tags: 
adventure;,
arts + culture,
beach + island,
city,
design + architecture,
educational,
family,
food,
hiking + trekking,
luxury
Destinations: 
Africa + Middle East,
Asia,
Besiktas,
Beyoglu,
Bosphorus Villages,
Cape Town,
Europe,
Frankfurt,
Franschhoek,
Germany,
Istanbul

On the 8th of August I will have the distinct pleasure to take Shelley on her first trip around the world (or at least a few stops). We will spend a few days in Germany, several weeks in South Africa celebrating "Hot at a Half a century" (my sister Laverne will be joining that club) and will return via Istanbul one of the civilized worlds oldest cities. So for those of you that are not going to follow us on Facebook - we will be posting our Memories in the Making on this website!

ITEMS

See + Do

Table Mountain National Park

Cape Town's most famous landmark is Table Mountain, a flat-topped mountain that stands 3,563 feet above the city. It has two mountains on either side, Devil's Peak and Lion's Head, as well as a small hill called Signal Hill. The city center nestles within the circle formed by these mountains and the sea. Eighteen million visitors have taken the revolving Table Mountain Aerial Cableway to the top. The cars run every ten minutes and will lend you a better understanding of the city's layout. The mountaintop is flat and easy to explore, but for an adrenaline rush, try the world's highest commercial rappel, with Abseil Africa. Hikers do walk up the mountain face, and it looks easy from the cable car; however, we recommend this be done with a guide, as visitors regularly get stuck after underestimating the mountain or taking a wrong turn. Reserve a guide through the Cape Town Tourism office.

ALT HERE

See + Do

Beaches on the Garden Route

Long, often desolate beaches are the signature of the Garden Route, although you might miss some of the best—Keurbooms, Nature's Valley, and Buffalo Bay—if you don't detour off the N2. Victoria Bay, near George, is a tiny but renowned surfing destination and often hosts international events. Though Plett's popular Lookout Beach was wiped away by raging storms in 2007, it still has Robberg Beach, which ends in Robberg Nature Preserve, a wildlife sanctuary on a rocky peninsula teeming with seals. Both magical and off the beaten track is Noetzie, a few miles outside Knysna, which has a half dozen stone castles dating from the 1930s located next to the Noetzie River mouth. Two of the castles have been turned into luxury villas by the famed Pezula resort.

Eating

Salt Restaurant and Bar, South Africa

Ambassador Hotel, 34 Victoria Road, Bantry Bay
Cape Town 8005, South Africa
Tel: 27 21 439 7258
Website: www.saltrestaurant.co.za

Salt's location, poised on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Bantry Bay, is spectacular; ask for a table at the window to get the benefit of a glorious view through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The food is not as impressive as the view, but the sauté of squid, chorizo, butter beans, tomato, parsley, lemon, and garlic is deliciously hearty. Since you don't get the benefit of the view at night, come instead for lunch.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 12:30 to 10:30 pm.

Eating

La Petite Ferme Restaurant, South Africa

Franschhoek Pass Road
Franschhoek 7690, South Africa
Tel: 27 21 876 3016
Website: www.lapetiteferme.co.za

Lunch at La Petite Ferme, a mountainside restaurant, inn, and winery in food-centric Franschhoek, an hour outside Cape Town, puts us in a Great Gatsby frame of mind. With fans whirling overhead, faded terra-cotta tiles underfoot, white linens, white chairs, and white rosebushes, plus a great lawn that stretches to rolling vineyards, La Petite Ferme's sun-drenched veranda calls for a cloche hat and a long strand of pearls, or pinstripes and suspenders. Lunch is the only meal served here, but don't plan to eat lightly. The Mediterranean-African-Middle Eastern fusion menu changes frequently but might include crispy duck with saffron gnocchi, mushroom ragout, and a roasted onion and pear vinaigrette; venison medallions accompanied by a Moroccan vegetable crumble and a tagine jus; and an outrageously rich dark chocolate mousse with Morello cherries, orange Topfen ice cream, and a web of spun sugar. While there is no sommelier, the wine list—which includes several homegrown vintages—does offer pairing suggestions.—Josey Miller

Open daily noon to 4 pm.

Eating

Knysna Oyster Tavern, South Africa

Long Street, Thesens Island
Knysna, South Africa
Tel: 27 44 382 6941
Website: www.knysnaoysters.co.za

Established in 1949, this no-frills tavern offers garlicky mussels, snoek pâté, fish and chips, and, as the name implies, a great selection of oysters. Both cultivated and wild local oysters on the half shell are available for takeout or to savor at a beachfront table. Make a reservation if you're visiting during the South African summer or during the Knysna Oyster Festival, held annually in June or July. Tours of the adjacent oyster-processing facility are available for a small admission fee and include a tasting of the bivalves matched with sparkling wine.

Eating

Firefly Eating House, South Africa

Old Cape Road
Knysna 6570, South Africa
Tel: 27 44 382 1490
Website: www.fireflyeatinghouse.com

The bright red cottage of the Firefly Eating House—located on the causeway leading out of Knysna—takes the "fire" part of its name to heart. Mother-and-daughter owners Dell and Sanchia Hadlow—known locally as the "Spice Girls"—give each dish on the menu a rating from 0 to 10 based on its degree of mouth-scorching-ness.The Hadlows are famous for their Cape Malay spring rolls made with bobotie (a South African specialty of spiced minced meat), but be sure to also try the Karoo ostrich samosas with kumquat chutney. Entrées range from a mild pork with fenugreek, cinnamon, and pear to the aptly named Bang Bang black tiger prawn (fire rating 6–8). Sanchia has chosen some great, lesser-known local wines like the Felteiras Verdelho, Diemersfontein Viognier, and Porcupine Ridge Merlot to complement the spicy fare. The small, intimate eatery is popular with foodies, so be sure to book ahead.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 6:30 to 10 pm.

ALT HERE

See + Do

Topkapı Palace, Turkey

Bab-ı Hümayün Caddesi, Gülhane
Istanbul, Turkey
Tel: 90 212 512 0480
Website: www.topkapisarayi.gov.tr

You'd expect the centuries-long family home of one of the world's foremost ruling dynasties and command center of an entire empire to be pretty impressive, and you shouldn't be disappointed by the Ottoman residence at Topkapı Palace. Avoid going on weekends or during peak periods of the day so you miss the busloads of people who move in flocks around the grounds in a veritable babel of chattering languages. The ticket system is irritatingly segmented: You have to pay supplements on top of your entrance fee to see the entire complex. If you're stuck for time, limit yourself to the main palace and the harem, the most intimate and personal rooms used by the sultans and their many, many women. Other highlights of the palace include the exhibition of generations of Sultans' portraits, the infamous jewel-encrusted Topkapı dagger, and a range of old relics collected by the Ottomans in accordance with the history of Islam—including the old doors of the Kaaba in Mecca and items said to be from the Prophet Mohammed himself, including one of his teeth, a lock of his hair, and a letter penned in his own hand. Shake off the crowds when you're done with a cooling stroll through the cypress groves of Gülhane Park, set below the palace.

Open Wednesdays through Mondays 9 am to 6:30 pm.

ALT HERE

See + Do

Sultanahmet: Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Don't even dream of leaving Istanbul without visiting this holy trinity of sights. Packed with tourists, touts, and queues they may be, but the history and scale of these buildings render them unmissable. The oldest of the three is the Hagia Sophia, built as a Byzantine cathedral by Emperor Justinian I nearly 1,500 years ago and converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Don't be fooled by its dull brick exterior: Its soaring dome and levhas (giant circular plaques inscribed in Arabic) are breathtaking, as are what's left of the original mosaics upstairs on the balcony level. Urban legend has it that the Hagia Sophia might not withstand Istanbul's supposedly "imminent" huge earthquake, so get there while you can! (Open Tues–Sun 9:30–4:30; open daily.)

Directly opposite the park outside is the majestic Blue Mosque (pictured), also known as the Sultanahmet Mosque, a relatively more recent structure built in the 17th century and still in use for worshippers at ordained prayer times, during which visitors are not allowed inside. This resplendent structure is one of Istanbul's finest, with its stacked shining gray domes and piercing minarets that are magically circumscribed by flocks of seagulls by night. Women should cover their heads when entering all mosques, although the authorities at this one seem to be a little more relaxed on that rule (open daily).

Finally, head down to the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı), which is smaller than the other two but no less incredible. The vast colonnaded underground well was built by the ancient Romans to store water that came into the city via the 12-mile-long aqueducts from Belgrade Forest. The cistern lay disused for centuries and has now been renovated into a superbly lit, slightly macabre subterranean wonder (open daily 9–5).

Eating

Sofyali 9, Turkey

Asmalımescit Caddesi, 9 Sofyalı Sokak, Beyoğlu
Istanbul, Turkey
Tel: 90 212 245 0362
Website: www.sofyali.com.tr

In the center of the once-bohemian but now increasingly commercial Asmalımescit area just behind Tünel Square, Sofyalı 9 sits like a brightly colored vestige of old Pera, when the neighborhood was a hotbed of European influence (this is where passengers on the Orient Express trains would put up). This multistory building is one of the favored of the many meyhanes (taverns) on the street, along with the ever-popular Refik a bit farther down (10/12 Sofyalı Sokak; 90-212-243-2834). Begin your meal here with Raki or wine, accompanied by cold meze from the large tray that will be ceremoniously presented to your table upon seating—there's patlican salatası (eggplant salad), enginar (artichoke in olive oil), and dolma (stuffed grape leaves). By the time the traditional hot appetizers have done the rounds (we recommend the meat-stuffed house borek or the kaşarlı cheese alternative), most diners can't find any room for a main course. For the large-bellied, however, there is a good selection of fresh fish and grilled meats.

Eating

360 Istanbul, Turkey

32/309 İstiklal Caddesi, Mısır Apt., 8th floor, Beyoğlu
Istanbul, Turkey
Tel: 90 212 251 1042
Website: www.360istanbul.com

A number that has become synonymous with trendoid Istanbul, 360 is the city's quintessential fly spot: A restaurant complete with summer terrace, bar, a strong nightclub element with regular DJs and live music, and, of course, the crucial circular view, it's pretty packed any night of the week. Located halfway along İstiklal Caddesi near the Galatasaray school, in a classic old Pera apartment building, its cool may by now be a little too well-worn, especially with the likes of the cozier Leb-i derya a few minutes down the street. However, 360 remains a contemporary Istanbul classic: South African chef Mike Norman has created a varied international menu with an amalgam of influences. There's duck carpaccio and calamari stuffed with cheese and tomato as well as "East" and "West" pasta dishes comprising Pad Thai or fettuccine with short rib. It's all good, but never much better than good.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick

Hotel

W Istanbul, Turkey

22 Süleyman Seba Caddesi, Beşiktaş
Istanbul 34357, Turkey
Tel: 90 212 381 2121
Email: wistanbulreservations@whotels.com
Website: www.starwoodhotels.com/whotels/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=3028

Istanbul is fast becoming Europe's capital of cool, and its hip-o-meter certainly clocked up a couple more notches with the April 2008 opening of the W in the unlikely (but still central) neighborhood of Beşiktaş. Set in a perfectly preserved four-story 19th-century residence that once housed officers from the nearby Dolmabahçe Palace, the hotel's interior is every bit as modish as its global counterparts, with an extra layer of Ottoman opulence worked in by Istanbul's designer du jour, Mahmut Anlar. Rich black-and-white fabric patterns adorn the upholstery in the purple-tinted downstairs lounge, Sip, while the main bar in the first-floor "Living Room" is crisscrossed with traditional latticework set against the W's signature deep-maroon tones (it's a great spot for pre-dinner cocktails, even if you're not staying here). The smaller standard rooms are ample and cleverly laid out, with bathroom sinks embedded behind cupboards to save on space; try for one on the ground floor for a little private garden, or on the second floor for a funky wooden cabana connected to the room via a walkway. What the W lacks, alas, that other hotels in Istanbul can boast by the bucketful, is the uninterrupted Bosphorus panorama; however, for a view of the newly developed upscale shopping street outside—part of the same development—go for one of the brighter and more spacious "Fantastic" suites.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
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Hotel

Hotel Empress Zoe, Turkey

10 Akbiyik Cadessi, Adliye Sokak, Sultanahmet
Istanbul 34400, Turkey
Tel: 90 212 518 2504
Email: info@emzoe.com
Website: www.emzoe.com

Set alongside the glut of cheaper hotels, guesthouses, and hostels in Sultanahmet, the Empress Zoe is one of the rare places in the area to display any spark of creativity in its concept and design. Named after a female ruler of Byzantium (and an infamous polygamist), it occupies a number of old wood-and-brick town houses, resting partially on ancient Byzantine walls and vaulted passages that are visible in the lobby. The charming garden (whose few tables serve as a fair-weather breakfast venue) is bordered by a disused 15th-century hammam. The 25 rooms come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with a lived-in feel that might lead more exacting hoteliers to freshen up with a change of curtains (rooms are being spruced up a few at a time). But they are quaint, with an overriding Anatolian style—black-stained oak, terra-cotta tiles, kilims, embroidered upholstery—that spills over into a number of the bathrooms, some of which are marbled mini-hammams. The Penthouse Suite in the main building has a private terrace with Blue Mosque views, and the Deluxe Garden Suite in the Chez Zoe annex has a platform bed framed by a harem-like screen. The location is great for sightseeing but is diminished by the adjacent Akbıyık Degirmeni Sokak, a street that's invariably a beer-drinking backpackers' haven.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Hotel

Hotel Les Ottomans, Turkey

168 Muallim Nacı Caddesi, Kuruçeşme
Istanbul 34345, Turkey
Tel: 90 212 287 1024
Email: info@lesottomans.com
Website: www.lesottomans.com.tr

When Hotel Les Ottomans opened in 2006 in a renovated 18th-century mansion in Kuruçeşme, a little way up the Bosphorus on the European side, it unequivocally raised the bar for boutique hotels in the city. The sultans themselves would have appreciated local designer Zeynep Fadılloğlu's lavishness and attention to detail. Handmade Turkish furnishings mingle with imported Indian, South African, and Venetian artifacts, from the stunning "tree branch" chandelier in the Yalı Hatun restaurant (which serves outside in the summer) through the open-plan reception area and lounge, to each of the ten suites on the upper floor. The cheaper quarters ($1,200 and up) are of a standard that would pass for la crème in other hotels: Individually themed, they are usually split-level and sufficiently spacious, whereas the larger suites with their extra living rooms and office space almost feel excessive. In terms of bang for your buck, comps abound, including free minibar and breakfast, and yacht trips on the Bosphorus; frequent packages throw in things like a couple's massage in the excellent Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa, or open entry to the in-house Q Jazz bar. The team of helpers includes a butler, a translator, a dietitian, and a professional shopper. The downside is that only four of the ten suites face the Bosphorus; the others look out onto the hotel's garden, which is abruptly interrupted by the busy coast road.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Hotel

Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul, Turkey

32 Çırağan Caddesi, Beşiktaş
Istanbul 34349, Turkey
Tel: 90 212 326 4646
Email: reservationoffice.ciraganpalace@kempinski.com
Website: www.kempinski.com/en/istanbul/Pages/Welcome.aspx

This mid-19th-century palace, located on the site of an 18th-century residence belonging to the last Ottoman sultans, housed the Turkish parliament for two months before becoming a city dump: You follow that? Well, all you need to know these days is that this is one of only two grand hotels on the European shores of the Bosphorus (the other is the just-opened Four Seasons) and it straddles two neighborhoods: colorful harbor-front Ortaköy with its outdoor restaurants and Beşiktaş, where you can hop on a Bosphorus ferry. Nearly all the 315 rooms are in an adjacent modern building—a charmless E-shaped block that is most remarkable for its water views. What you don't want is one of the 102 Park View rooms in back; unfortunately, to upgrade to the least expensive sea-view room adds about $165 per night. If you do so, you won't gain much in decor: Recent renovations haven't dimmed the corporate, ahem, magnificence. Throughout are armoires, headboards, desks, and nightstands in matching fancy wood veneers; the same cluster of faux-bazaar brocade pillows adorn each bed; superior rooms add an Arabian Nights canopy over the top. Still, they're large, the common areas are numerous and plush, and you can escape into the opulent hammam or the pool that butts right up against the Bosphorus—as do the three restaurants.

$199 or less
Editor's Pick
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Hotel

Ayasofya Mansions, Turkey

Soğukçeşme Sokağı, Sultanahmet
Istanbul 34400, Turkey
Tel: 90 212 513 3660
Email: info@ayasofyakonaklari.com
Website: www.ayasofyapensions.com

It would be hard to get much closer to history than one of these small rooms that back onto the outer walls of Topkapı Palace and look directly at the side of the Hagia Sophia. Located along a row of brightly painted old wooden houses on a marvelously restored cobbled street with a guard placed at either end (presumably to maintain the scene's Disney-like innocence), the Ayasofya Mansions are a reasonable option for those wishing to stay in the heart of the historic district. Indeed, you'll know you've arrived when you hear the call to prayer coming from several mosques in the vicinity (the first one just before dawn). The little lane was transformed in the late '80s by the Touring and Automobile Club of Turkey, which later also undertook the restoration of the Hotel Konuk Evi farther down the street. Both places are run from the same reception base and offer a pretty independent setup, with guests responsible for letting themselves in, and rooms that are clean, if a bit shabby, with tacky brass beds. The Konuk Evi is located in a grander, mansionlike building with late-Ottoman chandeliers, giant gilded mirrors, piano with candelabra, and a huge 19th-century painting of Sultan Abdülmecid hanging on the wall.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Hotel

Pezula Resort Hotel & Spa, South Africa

The Heads
Knysna, South Africa
Tel: 27 44 302 3303
Website: www.pezularesorthotel.com

Pezula's 78 rooms are scattered in groups of four across a headland that overlooks the Knysna lagoon to one side and the Indian Ocean on the other. Bordering the property are 2,500 acres, with a golf course, an estate for million-dollar homes, and a "field of dreams" specially constructed to attract 2010 World Cup soccer teams. The excellent Zachary's Restaurant serves what might be called pan-African cuisine, and the nine-room spa, which also offers Pezula's own rooibos tea–based Maruwa products, is a must, even if only for the post-treatment room with hot water beds. The only downside is that the property isn't on the beach. Anyone wanting to laze on the sand will have to take a shuttle to get down to Noetzie Beach, which is dotted with old castles built at the turn of the century for use as vacation homes. The hotel recently renovated two such castles and turned them into ultraluxurious suites (the larger one's first guest was Nelson Mandela).

$400 or more
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Hotel

One&Only Cape Town, South Africa

Dock Road, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
Cape Town 8001, South Africa
Tel: 27 21 431 5800
Website: www.oneandonlycapetown.com/

$400 or more
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Hotel

Babylonstoren, South Africa

Klapmuts/Simondium Road
Franschhoek, South Africa
Tel: 27 21 863 3852
Email: enquiries@babylonstoren.com
Website: www.babylonstoren.com

$199 or less
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Hotel

Pure Hotel, Germany

Niddastrasse 86
Frankfurt, Germany
Tel: (49) 69 7104 570, Fax: (49) 69 7104 571
Email: info@the-pure.de
Website: the-pure.de

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.