A short stay at Soho House Istanbul aka my spiritual home
Ok, real talk...so I may have chosen Istanbul for my husband's surprise birthday weekend away because I wanted to buy a Turkish rug for our bedroom. Yes, yes, I'm a selfish cow. But he doesn't really mind where we go so long as it's not Benidorm. So everyone's a winner!
This whole child-free break is a pretty new thing for us. If you don't do it, I urge you to start. Travel is definitely not the same once you have kids and by god does it feel good to waft around a market/souk/bazaar without lugging round the usual load of snacks/crayons/toys, whilst holding your child in a vice like grip to stop them wandering off and getting lost/abducted.
I realise some people (apparently) have children who appreciate the wonders of wafting around a foreign market and behave impeccably in nice establishments, but we just don't. I love them to bits but they have zero regard for my wafting. Literally zero fucks given. Before I actually had kids, I was totally going to have those kind of children and was definitely not going to stop going to nice places just because I had kids in tow...And I tried, I really tried. I still do try in fact because I refuse to be beaten by the little buggers. But...IT'S JUST NOT THE SAME! Having said that, I realise we are very lucky to have amazing parents who are willing to help us out so we can escape for a couple of days once a year.
Anyway, I digress. Once I had settled on Istanbul I didn't even consider other options when it came to booking the hotel. I had seen sneaky pics of Soho House Istanbul's incredible interiors from when a friend had visited and I was desperate to have a look myself. We're not members btw. Nooo, we're not that fancy! But you can still book a Soho House Hotel through their website and this was a special treat after all...for my husband, definitely not me ;-)
So off we went. And here we are looking all smug in our room. Note: Brass mirror, concrete pillar and a holy trinity of ready mixed cocktails.
The rest of the room was alright too...
A little bit shabby, a whole lot luxe...
I felt so inspired by this bedroom and kept it in my mind when we were deciding on our own bedroom scheme. The palette of blush pinks and muted aquas was much more neutral than my usual style but I loved how it managed to be calming but super cool and not in the slightest bit meh. It's a reminder that you don't always have to shout the loudest to make an impact.
Now as you may expect, there are Turkish rugs everywhere! Rugs on rugs on rugs. I would loved to have been on that buying trip! Linda Boronkay is the lucky (and very talented) lady whose job it is to kit out every House with all the furniture it requires. Each House has that signature rough luxe style but always with a nod to the country it is in. So here we see the Ikat fabric on the throw cushions and the Turkish rugs on the floor. Check out Linda's Instagram to see a sneak peek of the new Soho House Mumbai interiors. It's good. Very good.
At the end of last year Soho House did the inevitable and launched their own Soho Home range for all those people who want a slice of the SH life in their own pad. You can also see the collection at their Liberty of London pop-up. It doesn't disappoint.
Incidentally all these rugs were only serving to confirm that I had definitely chosen the right place to come and celebrate hubby's birthday. After a cheeky aperitif in our room, we popped over to the main building for more interiors porn (me) and drinks (me and him).
The hotel rooms are housed in a modern glazed building next to the original 19th Century Palazzo building which houses the restaurants and the bar. And oh my days, it did not disappoint. We're talking full on grandeur. Decadent, dramatic and oh so elegantly faded.
All of which is ramped up with marble, brass, velvet and leather, again in those muted pinks and aquas. Soz for the grainy nature of some of these pics btw but you're not supposed to take pics in the House so these were quickly and stealthily taken when no one was looking. Woopsy, there goes my hopes of getting membership in the future!
Check out the pink and green padded leather bar?!? I mean....I really, really want to live here.
We ate in that very bar, got an early night and didn't wake up until 8.30am the next morning. 8.30am!!! What an absolute dream. The morning was all about exploring the famous Grand Bazaar on the other side of the Bosphorus.
But before I go on, I can't not acknowledge what is going on in Turkey and Istanbul at the moment because in truth it did affect how much I in particular was willing to do while we were there. When I booked the mini-break all was relatively calm in Turkey. But by the time it came to actually go, some scary stuff had gone down very close to where we were staying and by the famous Blue Mosque and I was a bit nervous about it all. But David insisted we go ahead. And like he said, we live in London, and these things can happen anywhere in the world. I'm so glad we did go because I loved it, but it would be disingenuous of me to say I wasn't very aware of the heightened security measures being taken around us and so we didn't wander as much or as aimlessly as we normally would have. The upside of this is that we were only there Friday to Sunday and so very much embraced the opportunity to properly chill out in the hotel, which we may not have done otherwise.
We did debate getting a taxi to the Bazaar but ultimately decided that we didn't want to come all the way to Istanbul and only see it from behind a taxi window. So we decided to walk. Istanbul is a heady mix of old and new and the difference was palpable the instant you set foot on the other side of the river.
The new Istanbul, like the trendy district of Beyoglu where we were based, is glossy, modern and cosmopolitan with cool coffee shops, stylish shops and restaurants, then you cross the river and it's like a different world with the calls to prayer ringing out from the many mosques.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given it's name, the Grand Bazaar is bloody massive. The biggest covered market in the world indeed. This presented a problem. The sun was shining and the last thing David wanted to do was spend all day traipsing around the cool, shadowy market while I shopped for stuff I didn't need. Fair enough. I could kind of see where he was coming from and it was his birthday after all, so we agreed we would buy a rug and head back out into the open to soak up some sunshine.
I've written a separate piece about my experiences and top tips for buying rugs abroad here, so I won't repeat myself. But one of my tips is not to rush into a purchase. Which I did a bit here to be honest. I would have liked more time to look around at different sellers but the sun seeker wasn't having any of it and we ended up in one of the first shops we came to. Don't be deceived by the small shops. These sellers always have a basement or loft packed to the rafters with options. SO many options.
I will say it's a really good idea to have a good idea what style of rug you want to buy because otherwise you'll end up feeling overwhelmed by options and might end up with something that isn't right for you. After some heated but fun bartering, I got my prize. Woop! And with one remarkably tightly packed rug under his arm, David practically dragged me out of the Bazaar before I could find anything else to buy.
On the way back to the hotel, we made a quick pit stop for Istanbul's famous street food Balik Ekmek. Literally translated as fish bread, it's a fried mackerel sandwich served with red pepper, onion, lettuce and a squeeze of lemon. It got the thumbs up from this one. Props to good old Rick Stein for flagging that one up on one of his shows.
Once back we headed to the Cowshed spa for our traditional Hamam. The spa looked like this...basically like a big marble spaceship. Picture us sat in here in teeny paper thongs waiting for the ladies to come and lather us up. Actually don't. But not gonna lie, it felt a bit of awks at first.
The awkwardness soon went, on account of the fact that the Hamam was totally dreamy and the most relaxing thing I've probably ever experienced. If you've never had one, try it if you get chance. Totally zenned out, we then put ourselves into a food coma at Istanbul's outpost of Cecconi's. Hellllloooo pistachio ice cream filled profiteroles.
The next morning we decided to join a pilates class in the gym. What we hadn't realised was that the class was in Turkish. Lols.
We spent the remainder of our final day enjoying uninterrupted eating and drinking (never taken for granted as a parent) in the sunshine before flying back to our babies rested and relaxed...for all of about five minutes!