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48Isea&iIWINTER 2012

WINTER 2012I sea&iI49cityguideSpectacularly historical yet refreshingly edgy,magnificently opulent but eminently tasteful, Istanbulis a city of layers and contrasts - a place in which tobe dazzled and decadent. Its Bosphorus is calming,its bazaars chaotic; its Ottoman and Byzantine décoraesthetically enriching and its food equally tantalising. Domesand minarets spiral up around every street corner behind a veilof mystical hookah smoke, and bazaars are a sensory overloadof volume, vibe and visual flamboyance with incense, spices andsmoke swirling together in an intoxicating concoction. Divide your time between ancient mosques and edgy streetcafés, linger in Prada boutiques and speed across theBosphorus. In the evening, swallow your reservations and diginto the mouthwatering contents of a döner, burrah, iskenderor shisk, for although the kebab might wallow at the bottomof the food chain elsewhere in the world, in Turkey it is not-to-be-missed fare. Restaurants and hotels range from traditional and quaint toultra modern and extravagant. In both types of venue, stylehas become a watchword, with minimalist principles flirtingwith the flamboyance of the country's incredible history. Thisis a city that truly triumphs in celebrating the best of east andwest, ancient and modern. PILLOW TALKFor boutique offerings, three hotels in particular stand out. A'jiaHotelis a traditional Ottoman mansion resplendent onthe edge of the Bosphorus. There are just 16 rooms andpure white glamour reigns inside and out. A complimentaryboat shuttle is available for trips to nearby attractions, of whichthere are many.Alternatively, The House Hotel Galatasaray, which openeda little over 18 months ago, is set in a four-storey mansiondatingback to the 1890s. Renovated by interior designerAutoban, it has 20 suites and a lounge and bar and reflectsboth vintage and modern with original marble staircases,fabulous leather sofas and roaring wood fires - everywhereyou glance is pure style. Also sporting Autoban inspirationis The House Hotel Nisantasi,near the Blue Mosque andGrand Bazaar and in the heart of the city's most exclusivedistrict for shopping, fashion and entertainment. A designconnoisseur's dream, it is full of earthy colours and white,with lots of welcoming curves and sleek Venetian blinds.There are 45 rooms and suites, with one of the nice touchesbeing the cocktail accessories that are provided so that youcan get creative with a shaker and spirits - one up on theusual hotel mini bar. ?istanbulArching from Europe to Asia, Istanbul is the only city in theworld to straddle two continents. Kate Rigbyunpeels thelayers of this ancient Turkish wonder on the banks of the Bosphorus