Today I went with my mom and sister to Istinye Park, a fairly new mall in Istanbul. It's quite large, and feels just like any other mall with the exception of a lovely section on the bottom floor made to resemble the bazaars. There's fresh fish, spices, vegetable and fruit stands and my favourite— the nuts and dried foods stand. There are all sorts of delectable little goodies, apricots stuffed with almonds, these fabulous long chewy molasses tubes stuffed with walnuts called sucuk (soo-jook)— which is also the same word for a type of sausage.
Another thing I found interesting was the Christmas décor. I've been told that Christmas has become very popular in parts of Turkey as a gift-giving holiday, with the religious bit omitted. I saw tinsel, trees and Santas, loads of wrapping papers and some snowmen.
Lunch at the food court doesn't necessarily mean suffering through McD's or some MSG-laden Chinese food— you can certainly do that if you choose, but there are all these restaurants that serve a more traditional Turkish fare. I love them. I had manti, little pillows of dough filled with meat in a tomato sauce topped with yoghurt, mint and hot pepper. Ayran (eye-ron) was my drink of choice; a nice cold beverage made of water, yoghurt and salt.
Later on this week I'll be going to the Grand Bazaar, possibly the oldest still in-use shopping mall. It's a fantastic labyrinth of a place with avenues and alleys of carpets, jewellery and just about anything you can imagine. I can't wait— it's one of my favourite places in Istanbul, a great place to get some sketching done.