Traveling a Small Planet

Where to go next?

It’s the tail end of winter 2014. The days are nominally longer and when I get up the birds are beginning to talk to each other even before sunrise … or in the case of the Willamette Valley in Oregon … the fog of dawn. My friend (and cousin) pledged a trip when he got his latest awesome job (with great bennies) so he presented a list of possible destinations for me to sort through and rank on Tuesday evening.

Art Nouveau detail in this sign near the Rue de Rivoli.

Art Nouveau detail in this sign near the Rue de Rivoli.

The choices ranged from the known (Paris) to the exotic (Marrakech). The cities that made Clay’s list included places I’ve always wanted to see to places I really am not terribly curious about: Marrakech, Prague, Istanbul, Budapest, London, Moscow, Helsinki, Paris, Venice, Florence, Rome, Madrid. I immediately panned Moscow. Being half Finnish, I seem to have a deep built-in antipathy toward the Russians … maybe there is something to the idea of bred-in-the-bone or the collective social memory of my cold and starving Finnish forebears. Don’t know, but it’s there.

Both of us have been to Paris, love it, and while it would be lovely to go again, there are so many other places to see. Strike Paris. *sigh*

Prague and Budapest are both worthy destinations, but both ranked below Marrakech and Istanbul … I really want to go some place exotic and colorful. Helsinki is the home of my peeps … but in March?  Nah. I want some place a little warmer with SPRING!

Italy?  Who doesn’t love Italy!? It would be a little warmer but Clay has been to Italy a million times and was ready for a new adventure. Ditto for Madrid, though I admit I would love to see Barcelona. London was … prosaic. We speak English (after a fashion) as do the Brits. We have lots of English roots … even with the temptation of an English spring, we both thought it would be worthy of a couple days on the way to someplace else, but not on this trip.

Down to Marrakech and Istanbul. After some discussion, we opted for Istanbul … mostly for the history and architecture.

Design Inspiration in Istanbul

Americans were fascinated by the rich color and design detail in Turkish and Moroccan textiles, finish materials, and light fixtures.

Americans were fascinated by the rich color and design detail in Turkish and Moroccan textiles, finish materials, and light fixtures.

One of the primary reasons Istanbul, known as Constantinople until the Turkish republic was established in 1923, is so compelling is its incredibly rich history. The cultural complexity at the doorway between East and West has always been marked. For my purposes with respect to the house sites, Istanbul was a source of design especially during the Arts & Crafts period. Carpets, elaborately colored tilework, and saturated color schemes thread their way through many A&C interiors.

I’m on a mission to see what amazing inspiration I can find and bring home to incorporate a little exotica into my otherwise die-hard Pacific NW garden and home.

For starters, I must go to Jennifer’s Hamam at the Arasta Bazaar. They are working hard to keep the art and craft of towel and textile making alive. While I expect the prices to be a little on the steep side as everything is woven the old way on wooden looms by a select group of committed craft families, I also expect to find products that would grace even the most demanding home decorator. Fortunately, towels can be packed and hauled around the world without fear of breakage.

Travel sources for Istanbul

Turkey Travel Planner