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Saturday, January 31, 2015


A warm and welcome oasis after a long day of touring Istanbul’s Old City afoot.
Photo: Phyllis Shess, Pillar to Post blog, January 9, 2015
WARM AND WELL LITBy Thomas Shess, Coffee Tourist--Friday we spent walking the amazing Old City section of Istanbul.  The blue skies and sunshine of a 40 degree F January day was long gone and a chilly breeze had come in off the nearby Sea of Marmara.  By 9:30 pm after 12 plus hours strolling in and out of the Old City shops, sites and with the temperature falling, we were ready to call it a night and head to our room at the Hagia Sofia Hotel on Yerbatan Street.  

Earlier, we were fascinated with the dancing waters of a large fountain in Sultan Ahmet Park.  At night, changing lights are synchronized with the jets of water giving the park (situated between the Ayasofya Museum and the Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque) an even more inspiring atmosphere.

Café Grande is near
the Sultanahmet tram
stop in Istanbul’s Old City.
Cutting across the park, we dodged the omnipresent trams and noticed a pleasant looking patisserie along Divan Yolu street (tram line). Called simply “Grande,” the shop was a classic warm and well lit café serving bakery goods, tea and coffee.  Overwhelmed with the choice of pastries we opted for a strawberry tart.  After walking 20 miles in a day my sense of menu exploration faded.  But I did order a Turkish coffee with no sugar.  Phyllis, wife, and official tour leader ordered what turned out to be one of the best cappuccinos she’s had in a long time.
Our local guide said coffee in Istanbul would be strong.  Take that to the bank.  Turkish coffee can be drunk with no sugar, little sugar or much sugar.  The distinctive feature of it is that it is simmered, served in small porcelain cups with plenty of crema (they call it scum) on top.  In the old days, Turkish coffee in cafes were prepared in copper coffee pots on embers, but today automatic machines are widely used.

Also, cafes catering to only coffee and tea are easily found but the coffee is so good in all restaurants, bakeries and sidewalk stands that you don’t have to find a place that serves only coffee or tea to get a great cup.
After ordering, we then noticed how small the main floor of Café Grande really was. Patrons will find plenty of tables lining the sidewalk.  The man behind the counter noticed we weren’t exactly excited about returning to the now 25F outside.  He suggested we go upstairs to the “beautiful terrace.”  He pointed to an elevator in the back that was partially hidden by stacked store supplies.  It wasn’t the most elegant departure point for the “beautiful terrace.”  But when in Istanbul you hop on the two-person elevator and very slowly make it up five floors to what indeed turned out to be a terrific room filled with cabaret style chairs and tables.
As we waited for our coffees and pastry we were treated to a remarkable view as posted below.

Being Friday, Istanbul was still awake.  And so were we as the caffeine bolted us into another pleasant hour of conversation and coffee atop the Grande while recalling our favorite sites, shops, and meals we had earlier in the day.

Beautiful view of the Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque) from the terrace of Cafe Grande
Note: We noticed Starbucks outlets in the Old City were hugely popular with the residents.  Jammed would be a better choice of a word.   And, on the Asian side of the Bosporus we noted a McDonald’s had a maître d’ complete with suit and tie.  We didn’t stop but filed that nugget of McDonald’s info to go with the surprisingly stunning Euro-modern interior décor of the McDonald’s near Madrid’s Atocha train station.

Café Grande
Haci Tahsinbey Sok. No:44
Sultanahmet/Istanbul—Avrupa, Turkey
+90 212 512 7780

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