Teşekkürler 

Thank you in Turkish. It was a wonderful visit – a good mix of relaxation and culture, the familiar and the new. I stayed for the first four nights at Six Senses Kaplankaya in the Bodrum peninsula. The hotel amenities are extensive and service was professional. There are four food outlets at the hotel serving International (Sage & Sea), Pan-Asian (Wild Thyme), Seafood Grill (Meze by the Sea), and modern Italian (Anhinga – which was the disappointment). There are also four beach areas that form part of the hotel complex. My last two nights were in Istanbul and I stayed…

Byzantium

After twelve years, I am back for my second visit to the city first known as Byzantium, then became Constantinople, and Istanbul today. The city that is both ancient and modern, Europe and Asia, familiar and exotic. I visited for the first time two sights I failed to see the last time: the Basilica Cistern and the Istanbul Archeology Museum. And also took the opportunity to re-visit the Topkapi Palace and of course, the Ayasofya. In July 2020, the Ayasofya was decreed to be used as a mosque again, annulling the use as museum – the mosaics on the balcony…

Turkish Riviera

[Say goodbye to Turkey and say hello to Türkiye. International organizations, including the United Nations, have already adopted Türkiye, following a formal request from the Turkish government.] I am back in this alluring country after twelve years. Heading straight to Bodrum as first stop, located 840 kms south or an hour flight from Istanbul. Bodrum is a port city in the southwestern region of the country and lies at the northern end of the Gulf of Kerme of the Aegean Sea (opposite the Greek island of Cos). When people wax lyrical over Bodrum, they are often describing the heavenly bays…

Ephesus

A UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site, Ephesus is Türkiye‘s grandest and best preserved ancient city with classical ruins. A showpiece of Aegean archaeology, the stellar ruins of Ephesus have provided travellers all the impetus to justify a trip to this stretch of picturesque coastlands. The ruins were rediscovered in the late 1800s and excavations have been going on for nearly a century. The Temple of Artemis that was built in the 4th century BC and was recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Its fame reached distant lands and it became a pilgrimage site for merchants, kings, and…

Balesin Island

The next island escape on this trip is to Balesin Island, situated off the eastern coast of Luzon in the Philippines – only a short 25-minute flight from Manila. Also featuring white sands and clear blue water, Balesin is a 500-hectare island traditionally inhabited by fishermen and has been developed into a private member’s club. There is a wide variety of food outlets in the island serving Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian, Thai, Greek and Spanish food. We stayed at a Regency Villa which had a wide array of amenities including a pool table, ping pong table, infinity pool, and direct…

Amanpulo

A brief 70-minute flight (or 360 kilometres south) from a hangar at Manila airport takes me to the Cuyo Archipelago of northern Palawan in the Philippines. My island escape is Pamlican Island, where Amanpulo is located. A private “peaceful island” with white powdery sands, crystal clear waters, and pristine reefs – this island is extremely tranquil and serene. There are three food outlets in the island. The Beach Club offers Mediterranean cuisine. The Lagoon Club offers Japanese food for dinner and outdoor oven-baked pizzas during lunch. The Clubhouse serves Filipino and Asian dishes. I found the Lagoon Club and Clubhouse…

La Dolce Vita

Mangia, Mangia! (Eat, Eat!) In Siena, I had a wonderful meal at Osteria Da Gano. Serving Tuscan dishes in a casual setting with friendly service. At the hotel I stayed at in the Chianti Region, they served outstanding meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner at their two food outlets – Pavilion and La Torre. La Torre is a Michelin-starred restaurant where both food and service was top notch. First stop in Florence was a cappuccino break at Gucci Giardino 25. Osteria Filetto d’Oro served traditional Tuscan dishes with attentive service. I had to return to Trattoria Sostanza for their famous…

Giardino

Instead of being huddled with the crowds, I decided to go visit gardens to get some fresh Tuscan sun and air. First stop is Giardino di Boboli, originally designed for the Medici and located behind Pitti Palace. The Giardino Bardini is an Italian Renaissance Garden located in the hilly part of Oltarno. Opened only recently to the public, it is one of Florence‘s well kept secrets.

Firenze

Three time lucky, as they say – and all my three visits to Florence have been a charm. I will never tire of this city. With most of the main sights lying within walking distance of one another, Firenze, is the cradle of the Renaissance and one of Europe’s great art cities. There is so much exquisite art and architecture within its ancient walls that it is easy to become overwhelmed. The plan is to visit sites I have not seen before. On exhibit at Palazzo Strozzi is Donatello, the Renaissance. A historic exhibition which sets out to reconstruct the…

Chianti Region

Spread between Florence and Siena in the heart of Tuscany, the Chianti wine region is the romanticized Italy of daydreams. Traversing the gentle hillsides, a twisting, picturesque route known as the Chiantigiana, landscapes are filled with terra-cotta-roofed towns, vineyards, olive groves and peppered with case coloniche (farmhouse). I based myself in Barberino Tavarnelle, located in a great position between the Val d’Elsa and Val di Pesa in the heart of Chianti, and only 25 kms from Florence. This is a part of Tuscany that is not too crowded and filled with charming, hidden corners.