A trip to Istanbul is not complete without a visit to the Spice Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar.  Or, if you’re like me, 4 trips to each.  And I still felt like I didn’t spend as much time as I wanted to in each, but there comes a point when you’re completely shopped out.  That point arrived on the very last day of our trip.  My wallet and my husband were over it.  Dano, Darryl and I hit up the Grand Bazaar the first day of our trip and paid a visit to one of my favorite vendors who is known for carpets, kilims, and suzani.  If you’ve never had the rug experience, I highly recommend putting it at the top of your “must experience” list.  You sit down and drink chai, apple tea, or turkish coffee while rugs are presented to you.  The history of each is told to you and your blood is flowing with caffeine which adds to the excitement. This makes you want to drop some cash, like Darryl and I did on the first day of our trip.  Totally unexpected but soooo worth it, and not an inch of guilt as we bought it from our favorite magic carpet man.  The Spice Bazaar is filled with enough spices and Turkish delight in every flavor imaginable to make you want to become the most exotic and experienced cook ever. The presentation, the colors, the smells, the textures — it’s pure heaven.

Hand-painted plates and bowls at the Grand Bazaar.  I never tire of looking at (or buying) these.

Beautiful lamps

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a beautiful suzani.  The colors!

This is near the entrance to the shop of our favorite carpet dealer.  You can’t see the actual entrance, but you walk down a narrow staircase into a basement-like space and that’s where the magic happens.

We decided to take a lunch break before the carpet shopping began.

Nothing like a little Turkish coffee to digest all the kebap.

A very old kilim.  Around 60 years old, actually.

This was meant to be mine.  Funny thing is, I saw this on the first day of the trip but we ended up buying a large rug instead.  I really wanted this but I didn’t want to pay the asking price, which of course always ends up being lower (and a lot lower depending on how great your bargaining skills are).  But after the big rug purchase, I just couldn’t do it.  The second time I went back to the shop I took my friends who ended up buying two rugs. That brought the price of this little gem down, but I still couldn’t do it.  The third time at the tail end of our trip I took another group of friends who bought four rugs, and that’s when I couldn’t say no to the insanely low price the dealers gave me.  I’m now the proud owner of this beauty!

This is the man, Abdullah, who knows carpets like nobody’s business.  He is one of the kindest, most lovely human beings I’ve met.  He met his German wife at the Bazaar while she was browsing his shop.

And this is Abdullah’s father rolling up carpets after making his grand presentation.

I love this.  This was made for good luck and to ward off evil from coming into your space.  Isn’t it amazing?

On the way to the Spice Bazaar we passed the fish market where you can buy or eat fresh fish.

All the locals sit and have lunch and choose how they want their fish made.

Throw some anchovies on the stove and you’re set.

I was lucky enough to have my best friend Sara and her boyfriend Pete join us in Turkey!  We took them to the fish joint before our second trip to the Bazaar.  Pete likes to show a little leg.

Our fresh catch on the grill…

Was turned into a sandwich that was deeeeelicious.  Just some lettuce, onion, salt and lemon juice — simple yet tasty

Sara and I

Welcome to the Spice Bazaar

Figs stuffed with almonds, rosewater turkish delight, dried apricots, gigantic walnuts, I wanted it all.

Any kind of tea you want.  I ended up with chai, apple, sage, a magical tea that knocks out a cold, Istanbul tea, and I know I’m forgetting another one.

More delightfulness

Sardines, anchovies, caviar.  I love the packaging.

Cheese.  Yes, please.

See the “Turkish Viagra”?  I have no idea.

Our stop at Ucuzcular where we all bought lots and lots of spices and teas.  Our amazing friend Alex who lives in Istanbul recommended Ucuzcular for our spices, oils, and potions.

This is the owner standing in front of his oils

I also bought a special beauty potion

And some henna

We left the spices and fought our way to the Grand Bazaar with Pete and Sara

And ended up at another one of my favorite vendors.