It always seems that wherever I travel there’s a quality of light unique to that place. Glasgow is no different. Though this time of year the days are quite short and the skies a cobalt grey, there’s a few moments every day where the light seems to escape the barrier of cloud and washes the stones of the tenements and architecture in an otherworldly glow. There’s a luminous quality to Glasgow’s denizens too, an antidote to the short days, a warmth and readiness to engage in a quick discussion about almost anything. Although my visit was brief and the weather mostly inhospitable, in the West End you can escape the rain and the cold into a lively cafe, the air thick with voices and lively people, good food and hospitality. Special mention goes to two places on the Crow Road in which I could have happily lost several more hours: Kothel, a coffee shop of sharply tailored gents serving up some great platters of food and freshly baked goods, and The Wee Lochan, where the service is prompt and the food imaginative and delicious without veering into silliness. For those in need of a free oxygen boost there’s also the warm welcome of the botanical gardens, where one can breathe deep of the fresh air and contemplate the important things in life, such as family, health and the beauty of a day. Thank you, Glasgow. I can hardly wait until I get another dose of your signature glow. Having had another little taste, I hunger for a feast.
It was a long, long summer, as you know. The good news is, that, despite the stresses and strains, life is again returning to the city. It’s autumn and Istanbul is like that kid in the schoolyard that won’t submit to the bully. Sure it’s taken some hits. But it keeps on picking itself up. That attitude inspires us at Union Pacific. Our sign is properly mounted and lit up. We have a fantastic team led by the inimitable Chris James Maxwell, formerly of Cochine, who are plating up a great mix of flavours and experiences from the vast and varied shores of the Pacific. We have a fierce baker in-house whose skills with sweet or savoury are becoming legend. We have coffee from some of Istanbul’s artisan roasters. We have new items coming to the menu weekly (check up above). But most of all, what do we have? A great time.
Like to travel? You don’t have to go far to begin the journey. Step on in. We’ve got places to take you.
Union Pacific General Store & New World Eatery – Şah Değirmeni Sokak 6A, Şahkulu Mahallesi, Tünel, Beyoğlu,
+90 212 252 7274.
Innes means ‘island’ in Gaelic. Perhaps it’s little wonder, then, that I find myself drawn to islands. I know of some people who feel trapped on an island, but I feel different. Like I have smuggled myself to a new reality. That’s even more true with Burgazada. Despite being within the jurisdiction of the Istanbul megacity in which we live, it’s something of a strange wrinkle in time and space. Plonked in the Marmara between Kınalıada and Heybeliada, Burgaz is nowhere nearly as touristic as its big brother, Büyükada. With no traffic noise other than the clop of hoofs and the clang of the coachman’s bells, the occasional whirr of electric scooters that the locals sometimes use, Burgaz is well removed from the city’s infernal traffic chaos. It’s quite amazing what removing automobiles does for stress levels.
Mornings are a real boon. An uphill walk from the harbour side of the island, dawn light warm on your back, lungs filling with a cool draught of pine-scrubbed air, western vistas tugging the mind towards the kind of calm with which it’s good to begin every day. You’ll meet few people early in the morning. A nod here. A softly uttered greeting elsewhere. There is space. Ocasionally you might encounter an untethered horse nosing around in the grass and weeds roadside. The watchful gaze of a crow. You’re not exactly alone, just temporarily untroubled. Back down in the harbour, an early morning coffee at Burgaz Cafe, or a tea at the patisserie, watching a handful of people hasten to the ferry or seabus is a gentle reminder to you that the fuming city is still there, and how fortunate you are that you don’t have to hustle, at least for today.
In fact, with the exception of Sedefadası, Burgaz must be the most overlooked of the Islands. Therein lies its charm. There is just enough to make this a functioning Island, but no more. There are no chain stores. No big brands visible. A couple of good local tavernas, one solid coffee shop and roastery, Four Letter Word. Faintly, in the distance, looms a large sky and the shadowy tones of newly erected skyscrapers on the Anatolian side, the memory of a city still traumatised by the summer’s events. You can forget you’re in Istanbul for a while. Something most, if not all of us, have needed for a while.
For the smaller ones among us, there are many simple delights. Swimming at the local beach club. The occasional ice cream. New friends made poolside. A tour around the island on a horse drawn carriage. Screen time diminished. Outdoor fun augmented. The echoes of old school summer bliss still seem to resonate here among the youth. I can only imagine and envy the euphoric days spent here by friends in previous decades when school let out and their families empty their city houses and decamp, refrigerators and all, to Burgaz for the span of a summer.
Of course not every day is perfect. There’s a heaviness on the last day. Waiting to cram oneself on the ferry and sail off back to reality, you wonder when, or if, you will return to the same place. Will it remain as untouched and charmed as it is? A place that seems serenely outside the current circumstances that surround us? You hope so. Long live Burgazada.
Early every morning in the village of Vouno, Elisabeth (pictured above) rises and sorts through what looks, at a distance, like a pile of rocks and twigs. Working in a shed beside her village home, her deft hands, gnarled like the trunks of the trees from which she harvests her treasure, meticulously plucking the sticky resin that drips like angels’ tears from the other detritus that carpets the ground of Chios. Reputed to be the birthplace of Homer, Chios is largely overlooked by the hordes of tourists from continental Europe who descend upon Greece each year. But despite the island’s literary pedigree it is the Pistacia lentiscus variety of gum tree unique to Chios that makes the island famous.
After scraping and scoring the bark, the tree releases resin which subsequently falls to the levelled ground around the tree trunks and is collected by people such as Elisabeth. This local industry is an important part of Chios’ cultural heritage and helps supplement and support earnings. I was told that one kilo of the pure resin can fetch up to 80 Euros. Mastic is used in everything from Mastica liquor, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics as well as instrument and furniture manufacture.
Mastic smuggling also features in Amin Maalouf’s entertaining and erudite novel, Balthasar’s Odyssey in which the “… Turkish authorities only allow it to be used in the Sultan’s harem, where it’s fashionable for the noble ladies to chew it from morn till night to whiten their teeth and perfume their breath. The farmers on the island who grow the precious tree (Pistachio lentiscus), which is very like the pistachio tree we have in Aleppo, have to hand the mastic over for a fixed price, but those who produce a surplus try to sell it on their own account, though if they’re found out they may spend a long time in prison or in the galleys or even be put to death.”
Thankfully for kind and generous Chians like Elisabeth, such penalties no longer exist and mastic can now be enjoyed by a much wider audience than the Sultan’s harem.
As much as I love the Mediterranean coast, it’s hard to beat the Aegean in July and August. Here’s a handful of highlights from the sun-drenched, salt-splashed days of a summer I won’t soon forget. Endless blue. Endless beauty. Endless days would have been nice too. I think I’ve found my favourite escape. Thank you. Oh … did I mention the wine?
It’s well known Istanbul doesn’t lack for shopping malls. What it does lack for, however, are good, free, publicly available leisure spaces for children. Yet every once in a while something really surprising occurs and you find much more than you expected. Such is the case with the children’s park outside Zorlu Shopping Mall. Other parents had extolled its virtues for some time but I didn’t realise I was in for as much a surprise as my favourite small person. I could go on and on about the clever design by CARVE and WATG LAND ARCHITECTS (but you can read about it here instead) and that it has several different thoughtfully prepared play structures, or that no smoking is allowed on the grass or around the play structures. The possibilities for climbing, crawling, jumping, sliding, exploring, are nearly endless — and more than one adult was unable to resist the gravity of the slide. But the most important case for the park is evidenced in the expressions you see above. And that the person pictured above also slept straight through the night thereafter until 07:10 AM. Just remember to bring at least one change of clothes. The water play zone is particularly irresistible for the little people. The squeals of pure delight still ring in my ears.
Steel and glass swallowed by wood. Trees thick as rooms. Rain soft as seltzer. A bridge. I can’t help but wonder … have I stumbled into Elysium? Difficult to tell. But before the last ship sails into the western light, I trust this will be my port of call.
These days a private garden, shielded from the clamour and chaos of the city is an increasingly appealing idea. For those of us who can’t yet bring ourselves to abandon the manic pattern of our urban days, we can at least find a corner or two in which to plant a seed or two of happiness. With this in mind, Murat Patavi has brought us Epicure, named after Epicurus, the famous live-for-the-moment philosopher, who taught his students in his private garden groves outside Athens.
Located in the neighbourhood of Armutlu, opposite Mr Patavi’s Sushimoto restaurant, the store stocks everything you might need to create your urban oasis, with lots of low maintenance succulents, planter pots, clippers, soil and spades and plenty of decorative details and all sorts of other accessories, which can help you celebrate today and create an escape for tomorrow.
bilgi sok.no:23/b armutlu etiler, İstanbul, 34450, Türkiye
+90 (212) 323-13-53
It’s probably inevitable that anyone who inhabits a loud, sprawling, stinking mega-city believes at one time or another that the only antidote is some form of pastoral life. But would it truly work after a few weeks? If it was somewhere in Prince Edward County it certainly might. Until relatively recently, this large isthmus which juts into Lake Ontario was only inhabited by “Proudly Loyalist” settlers, and overlooked by much of the population of its own province, not to mention the world at large, because once upon a time people, especially Ontarians, sneered at the idea of Canadian wines. Now, however, this latest of Ontario’s appellations proves that’s no longer the case. Winemakers can safely praise such things as the “limestone purity” of their chardonnays and calcaires because over the last decade or so PEC has gained a foothold in the imagination of both connoisseurs and purveyors of enological culture.
For what was once simply a staid but sun-kissed summer land of wheat, corn and potatoes is now a booming area of blue sky thinking on vineyards and green-oriented agriculture. Wine culture has prompted food culture in general to take root as part of the county’s blissful offering, meaning artisanal cheese shops — one of which claims to be Canada’s “greenest” cheese outfit — as well as swanky little bistros, breweries and Waupoos’ County Cider Company (top four pictures), a distillery, and many more food and beverage enterprises have all added their flavour to the County experience.
However, let’s get back to the reason that prompted everyone to flock to the PEC in the first place: wine. The county is simply bursting with vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms. These vary from elegant little rustic outfits operated out of reconditioned barns to ambitious forward-thinking complexes constructed of raw concrete, to cater to the needs of high flyers from Toronto.
Huff Estates, for instance, boasts an impressive art collection, indoors and out, with installations ranging from a few hundred dollars to some which cannot be as easily carried away as a few cases of wine. It also has an inn where you can sleep off the enjoyment of one too many glasses. Sofia’s favourite experience was, however, the Hinterland Wine Company, which also raises free range chickens and has a nice little playground behind its main building for the easily bored, underage set.
Although not pictured, the adult consensus seemed to be that Norman Hardie‘s vineyard was the choice place to while away a few hours. In addition to a very welcoming tasting room Mr Hardie offers up the delights of a patio with a wood-fired pizza oven and some very drinkable glasses of wine. This is a place where they only do the things they can do very well. Which is why it was unfortunate to miss Sunday’s oyster shucking.
Winner of the most charming rustic location visited was definitely Closson Chase Vineyards. With a small air-conditioned tasting room, gallery and a beautifully landscaped garden overlooking the vineyard, you could be forgiven for wanting to take up residence.
This, unfortunately, is just a small accounting of the many delicious and satisfying enterprises taking place. The feeling of just having scratched the surface can easily leave one with a long, lingering itch to return to Prince Edward County.
Hello there. Haven’t written in a while, partly because I haven’t had a moment to myself. Last couple of evenings I’ve finally had the chance to sit back a bit and appreciate the beauty of another vista. Have to say I love the way light seems to be unique to each and every place you go in the world. The way it slants. The way it bounces off the scuffed boards of a barn. The way it trickles like honey through a beautiful woman’s hair. Pure, natural magic. Today, I’m going to bottle it.