Turkish delight in Istanbul – the Ritz-Carlton Spa


by Avril O’Connor

There really is no other city like Istanbul. Uniquely straddling both Asia and Europe, it is frenetic melting pot of cultures and peoples. It is architecturally breathtaking with the greatest examples of Byzantine and Ottoman art and architecture anywhere in the world today.

At the same time it is a city undergoing an economic revival with entrepreneurs opening up trendy shops, bars and restaurants. It has one of the youngest populations of any city. In the numerous cafes you are more likely to find yourself sitting next to Prada-clad locals than anyone wearing a Fez.

So whether you want to marvel at some of the world’s greatest buildings or shop till you drop, Istanbul will have something wonderful and enchanting for you. Another reason to visit now is that Istanbul has been named European City of Culture next year – so get there before the crowds!

One of the most luxurious and romantic places to stay is the Ritz-Carlton Hotel right in the centre of the city. There are not many hotels where you can watch a giant supertanker pass by your bedroom window! And don’t be fooled by the skyscraper exterior, inside this hotel is seriously sumptuous. It is decorated in Ottoman-style splendor with service to match. All rooms have flat screen TV, broadband Wi-Fi internet access, Bulgari toiletries, huge marble bathrooms and terry bathrobes.

The Laveda Spa, offering both Western and Eastern therapies using Carita of Paris products is the best in the city. There is a spacious pool surrounded by Byzantine columns and a painted ceiling to recreate the Istanbul sky. You can try a Turkish Haman – a traditional ritual of exfoliation and cleansing with a total body wash, followed by a massage.

In summer the open air spa allows you to feel the gentle breezes while indulging in a massage or other therapy as you gaze across the Bosphorus. One particular sumptuous and relaxing treatment is the Sultans Royal Six Hands Massage which is carried out by three therapists. Beware this spa is so relaxing that you may not want to leave –  but it does have a poolside bar!

Fact Box Ritz-Carlton Istanbul FROM $452, 290 £229, per room per night (+ 8%VAT) Breakfast: $43, €28, £22 (+VAT)

Traditional Hamam Treatment 30 mnts: $83, €53, £42
Laveda Signature Body Massage 60 mnts: $142, €91, £72
Sultan’s Royal Six-Hand Massage 50 mnts: $375, €240,£190 T: +90 (0) 212 334 44 44. www.ritzcarlton.com

Turkish Airlines: www.thy.com Reservations: 0844 800 6666 (from the UK)
Economy return to Istanbul from the UK (inc tax and charges prices may vary ): From Stansted $276, €177, £140; from Heathrow $393, €252,£199: Business return to Istanbul from (inc tax and charges) – from Stansted $889, €570, £450; from Heathrow $966, €619,£489

Don’t Miss

Visit the Blue Mosque is famous for its slender minarets and blue tiles made by craftsmen from the town of Iznik. Afterwards walk through the gardens to Haghia Sophia another of the city’s splendid mosques. Inside is a marvelous array of mosaics, friezes and more Isnik blue tile decorations. Spend the afternoon at Topkapi Palace which was home to Selim the Sot, who drowned in the bath after drinking too much champagne; Ibrahim the Mad, who lost his reason after being locked up for four years and Roxelana, consort of Süleyman the Magnificent. Must sees are the harem and the jewels.

The Spice Bazaar where you can buy all kinds of exotic foodstuffs including handmade Turkish Delight and the finest Persian saffron. Follow with lunch at Pandeli which is above the main waterside entrance to the market – fantastic mezze including caviar, followed by aubergine pastry and steamed sea bass. There are three salons covered in stunning turquoise glazed tiles and on the walls are the photos of celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn, who have dined there over the years. Misir Çarşi 1, Eminönü, 36420. T: +90 (0)212 527 3909

The Grand Bazaar is a huge Ottoman shopping complex where you can buy everything from carpets, leather goods, to ceramics, jewellery and the finest pashminas.

There are bargains to be had but you must haggle. Buy beautiful diamonds and brown topaz earrings at Jewels Edel– Kapaliçarşi Kalpakçilar Cad no 73. T+ 90 212 527 9797. Email akurtulmus@edeljewels.com

Topaz Restaurant & Bar This is a new restaurant, with walls of glass, perched on a hill in the Gurnussuyu district with spectacular views, particularly at night, of the city and the Bosphorus. Sophistictated Mediterranean and Turkish menu. T + 90 (0)212 249 1001. www.topazistanbul.com

Kanyon Shopping Mall

The place to buy designer labels. A modern shopping emporium with a Harvey Nichols store, and boutiques such as Dolce & Gabanna, Gucci and Banana Republic, Mango, Next and Max Mara www.kanyon.com.tr

Ismail Acar’s Gallery

One of Istanbul’s most famous artists has a rather unusual gallery spread across several floors of a wooden house. Ismail works across several different mediums, incorporating traditional historical themes into contemporary works of art including portraits and even kaftans. He has exhibited in galleries in New York, London and Strasbourg. Karaköy, Lüleci Hendek Cad. No: 116/1 Beyoğlu. +90 (0) 212 252 03 88 Email: ismail@ismailacar.com.tr www.ismailacar.com.tr

Bosphorus cruise
– hire a motor yacht with butler to see the waterside summer residences of the Ottoman aristocracy and foreign ambassadors built in the 17th,18th and 19th century. The rates for private boat tour (min. 2 hrs) on an 18-metre motor yacht accommodating 12 passengers starts from $780, €500, £395 (+18% VAT). $390, €250, £197 (+18% VAT) for each additional hour. Arrange through your hotel concierge.

Get lean and mean – eat turkey


London: With the Olympics coming up, Britain’s athletes could find they have a secret weapon for success – a plate of turkey meat.

Eating turkey could enhance an athlete’s performance by up to 20%, according to scientists. Turkey breast contains one of the highest concentrations of the muscle-building dipeptides, anserine & carnosine. When we eat a food containing these dipeptides it is broken down into beta-alanine and histidine. We all have plentiful supplies of histidine in the body, but it is beta-alanine we need to consume to counteract the effect of pH acidity that causes muscle fatigue, as the body is only able to manufacture small quantities from uracil in the liver.

Researchers at the University of Chichester’s School of Sport, Exercise & Health Sciences carried out tests on the effect of consuming carnosine and beta-alanine on volunteers who underwent muscle biopsies and performance tests. The 800mg beta-alanine supplements they used, the equivalent to 145g portions of turkey breast meat, increased muscle concentrations by 40% and improved cycling performance by 13%.

Research leader Glenys Jones said: “The exciting thing is, I believe we are nowhere near the top. In fact, I suspect if we raise the dietary intake of beta-alanine to 250-300g of turkey a day for 6-12 months we will see a progressive rise in the values of a possible 80% increase in muscle concentrations and further performance improvements, as seen in high-dose/short-term supplementation studies.”

Jones is looking to start a longitudinal investigation into the effect on muscle concentrations of introducing a regular dose of turkey into the diet and the subsequent effect on performance in the very near future.

Sharron Davies, former Olympic swimmer and mother of three, says: “New dietary research is something all athletes welcome – especially when the food recommended is as easy to obtain, cook and eat as turkey. When I was swimming competitively, I always included turkey in my diet because it’s low in fat and high in protein and even today, turkey remains an important part of my balanced diet. But even non-athletes should be interested in keeping their bodies as healthy as possible so this research could have positive benefits for very many people in all walks of life.”

Rowing, cycling, speed skating and certain distances in running are the other disciplines researchers say are most likely to benefit.

The research at Chichester University, overseen by Prof Roger Harris, discovered anserine and carnosine was high in certain muscle meats, including whale, prawns and turkey. The scientists chose to concentrate their research on turkey for practical reasons.

Prof Harris said: “Whale meat is not exactly available, or desirable in the UK, and you would have to eat an unpalatable amount of prawns, which are themselves high in cholesterol, to achieve the same results.”

The turkey is a relatively recent domesticated farm animal and closely related genetically to the wild turkey of North America, one of the heaviest flying birds. The flood of adrenaline that a wild turkey needs to lift its body weight off the ground to escape danger is the key. This involves rapid mobilisation of energy in the wing and breast muscles, and a concentration of histidine containing dipeptides called anserine and carnosine. Our digestive systems split these dipeptides into beta-alanine and histidine, which then reform as carnosine when transported into muscle.

Funding by the British Turkey Federation has allowed Prof Harris and PhD student Glenys Jones to continue their research. Jones is currently evaluating how putting beta-alanine into the drinking water of turkeys increases the concentration in their muscle.

She said: “Our aim is to get the highest concentration of the histidine dipeptides possible for inclusion in people’s regular diets. The implications of which could provide health benefits for the elderly, who suffer a reduced acid-based regulatory system as they get older, and indeed for all individuals who want to maintain an active life is tremendously exciting.”

Interest in the research at International Conferences has been extremely high and supportive. The potential uses of beta-alanine and the dipeptides as supplements led Prof Harris to stating “Literally, the sky’s the limit!”

The British turkey industry has welcomed the findings. Dr Cliff Nixey, a world authority on turkeys, said: “If we can help British athletes find Olympic success we would be delighted. But we are also pleased at the potential health benefits in all walks of life.”

Dr Nixey explains why turkey meat would contain high levels of substances involved in energy metabolism.

“The turkey is a relatively recent domesticated farm animal and as such is closely related genetically to the wild turkey in North America. The wild turkey is one of the heaviest flying birds, with males weighing around 16lbs (7.25kg) and females 10lbs (4.5kg). To avoid danger, they have explosive flight upwards to gain height rapidly and then they glide long distances. The take off of such heavy birds must involve very rapid mobilisation of energy in the wing and breast muscles. It follows that this species has evolved a system to cope with this which logically would involve high levels of substances involved in energy mobilisation.”

Supporting Research:

Influence of b-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle Carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity
School of Sports, Exercise & Health Sciences, University of Chichester, Chichester, UK

Summary: Muscle carnosine synthesis is limited by the availability of b-alanine. Thirteen male subjects were supplemented with b-alanine (CarnoSyn tm) for 4wks, 8 of these for 10wks. A biopsy of the vastus lateralis was obtained from 6 of the 8 at 0, 4 and 10 wks. Subjects undertook a cycle capacity test to determine total work done (TWD) at 110% (CCT 110%) of their maximum power (Wmax). Twelve matched subjects received a placebo. Eleven of these completed the CCT 110% at 0 and 4 wks, and 8 and 10wks. Muscle biopsies were obtained from 5 of the 8 and one additional subject. Muscle carnosine was significantly increased by +58.8% ad +80.1% after 4 and 10 wks b-alanine supplementation. Carnosine, initially 1.71 times higher in type IIa fibres, increased equally in both type I and IIa fibres. No increase was seen in control subjects. Taurine was unchanged by 10 wks of supplementation. 4 wks beta-alanine supplementation resulted in a significant increase in TWD (+13.0%); with a further +3.2% increase at 10 wks. TWD was unchanged at 4 and 10 wks in the control subjects. The increase in TWD with supplementation followed the increase in muscle carnosine.

Too much turkey – try tummy tuck jeans


London: The party season is a test of everyone’s resolve…but even those with the strongest wills…will start to bulge at the seams a little. So why not enjoy yourself feeling absolutely comfortable..

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Telephone order within the UK 0871 987 1166

Sizes 10 – 22 (Remember to order one size smaller than your normal dress size)
Cost £99



This contains the 25 amino acids which are the building blocks of the body and is found in fish, meat, beans, peas, lentils, eggs, cheese and soya.