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Istanbul

Go Turkey

Istanbul might be snowy during the winter, but visiting in low season means more discounts, fewer crowds, and time for (warm) pleasures like historic museums and contemporary art galleries. While it’s not too cold to shop your way through Istanbul’s famous street markets during the day, it’s easy to relax in cafés like the renown Mado Café when the sun sets, snuggling up to traditional drinks like Turkish tea, Turkish coffee, and sahlep — a sweet, milky, and cinnamon-y beverage. Here’s a guide:

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For Lynne and Tim Martin, retirement wasn’t about slowing down — it was about seeing the world.

In 2011, the couple revealed to their family and friends that they were taking the unusual step of selling their California home, donating the furniture, and putting the rest of their belongings in storage so that they could travel the globe. But rather than set up shop in hotels, the Martins make themselves at home in vacation and apartment rentals through HomeAway, never staying less than a month in each destination. We sat down with Lynne to chat about how they manage this lifestyle — to get some advice for other roving renters.

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MondrianSoBe1The Morgans Hotel Group, which offers a spate of stylish, upscale properties around the world, is in the midst of some major expansion. The Mondrian London at Sea Containers is set to open September 30, followed by the Mondrian Doha, and the Mondrian Istanbul. The hotel group is also preparing to open their Delano brand in Las Vegas this fall, followed by Cesme, Turkey; Moscow; and Cartagena; then another in Karaköy, Istanbul. With all this new activity in mind, we took a step back to see how their second Mondrian property, in South Beach, Miami, which opened way back in 2008, is holding up.

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istanbul

With culinary influences extending from Central Asia clear through the Caucasus to the Mediterranean, the food in Turkey is justifiably world-famous. At the heart of the Sultanahmet district in Istanbul, however, you’re much more likely to find overpriced and under-spiced versions of Turkish favorites than anything else. For a more authentic and delicious experience, head a bit further afield to some of our favorite spots in town: Read more

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Maybe it’s the markets selling exotic spices and flavorful tea, or maybe it’s the alluring juxtaposition of ancient mosques and modern architecture. And then there’s the cuisine, from Old World street fare or 21st-century takes on Mediterranean delights. Whatever the reason, it seems that these days the flights to Istanbul are packed with tourists ready to get full on food.

Future visitors will be delighted to hear that Istanbul has responded to its growing popularity by building more everything — more hotels, more restaurants, and more bars and shops. Best of all, many of these new options to rest your head and fill your belly come at a favorable price. Here are some of our favorite picks:

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GoldenHornCruising down the Bosphorus is one of the most popular tourist activities in Istanbul, but most people will pay way too much (50 Turkish lira/$40 or more) to sit on a crowded, privately owned boat for three hours without every really getting the chance to interact with local culture. The public Bosphorus ferries are a bit better, at 25 lira ($20) round-trip, and they’re of locals traveling to the outer areas of the city, but there is an even better option: the Golden Horn. This curved estuary that divides the historic Pera and Sultanahmet neighborhoods stretches over 7 kilometers inland from the Bosphorus, and was in historic times Istanbul’s primary harbor.

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In Europe, when temperatures drop, so do the prices. Traveling to Europe outside of the summer season almost always guarantees savings — but this year you can get an even earlier start by jumping on this special offer from Lufthansa. The respected airline, a member of the Star Alliance, is offering low rates starting at $532 round-trip between the United States and a number of European cities, including Istanbul, Vienna, Berlin, Warsaw, Prague, and even Moscow. Read more

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“Dizzy” is a word we often hear people use to describe colorful, chaotic, history-rich Istanbul. There’s something travelers seem to love about throwing themselves into the alluringly confusing city – and with new flight routes and relatively regular airfare sales, doing so has gotten easier and easier. In the midst of all the sensory overload, orient yourself with this by-the-numbers guide on affordable thrills that can be had for $5, $10, and $100: Read more

Flickr/rjshadeAs the count down to the New Year approaches, so does the party-planning pressure. Most major cities throw vast, crowded spectacles for the occasion, but if you’re not so keen on ringing in the New Year elbow-to-elbow with thousands of strangers, consider planning something a little offbeat this year… Read more

Shoulder Season Spots in EuropeHere we are in September, and though certain parts of Europe tend to cool down faster than others (Vienna is already in the low 60s, while Sicily is keeping things at a balmy 75 degrees) summer season has for the most part come and gone. But don’t let that end your fun – or derail a possible vacation. Between now and Thanksgiving, there’s a special window of opportunity for savvy travelers known as shoulder season.

Flights aren’t necessarily cheaper compared to the rest of the year, and yes, temperatures can fluctuate quite a bit (you may luck out weather-wise, but it’s never guaranteed), there is one sure benefit to traveling at this time of year: fewer tourists.

This in-between season offers a calmer, less hectic way to enjoy Europe’s traditionally touristy destinations like Rome and the Greek islands. With the dip in foot traffic comes shorter lines, greater flexibility in organizing tours, and easier access to in-demand restaurants and hotels – in short, a better vacation. Here, we offer suggestions for the activities you’ll want to add to your itineraries for a visit to Europe in the next month or two. Read more

Bailica Cistern, IstanbulFound under the Eminönü district of Istanbul, the Basilica Cistern is a 6th century underground chamber that features 336 marble columns, vaulted ceilings, and arched doorways, all made without a mold – incredible when you consider that it was built in 532CE. This is the place where 80,000 cubic meters of water were stored for use in the nearby Great Palace and surrounding buildings. After part of the cistern was destroyed and covered by dense construction during the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, it was rediscovered in 1545. Since then, the location has been restored to its original condition – even though the Great Palace no longer stands. Read more

Great European Train TripsEurostar recently tested service between London and Aix-en-Provence. Later this year, the TGV will begin running a direct service between Paris and Barcelona, and, starting in 2016, a new Deutsche Bahn route through the Channel Tunnel will link London to Amsterdam, Cologne, and Frankfurt. Ditching Europe’s budget airlines in favor of its railways is beginning to look more attractive. Not only is rail travel throughout Europe often as quick as, if not quicker than flying, it also has the bonus of spectacular scenery along the way.

Our favorite European rail journeys are not necessarily the fastest, but they are some of the most memorable.

The Bergen Line: Bergen to Oslo, Norway

Traveling along the 231-mile-long highest mainline railway line in Northern Europe offers you a front row seat for some of Norway’s most spectacular landscapes; think dramatic fjords, lush forests, and crystalline waterfalls. If you have the time, take the branch line that runs from Myrdal to Flåm, a village at the inner end of Aurlansfjord, an arm of Sognefjord, Norway’s biggest fjord. This 12-mile route takes around one hour and climbs more than 2,838 feet making it the steepest standard-gauge railway in Europe. Read more

Great Deals in Turkey: Is it Safe?From its dreamy Mediterranean coastline to Istanbul’s thrilling cuisine and nightlife, Turkey basks in the spotlight as one of the hottest travel destinations for 2013. But in recent days, images of the political protests in Istanbul – and volatile clashes with riot police – have been splashed across the international press. As a result, hotel booking engines are reporting a sharp decrease in searches for Turkey. Could this spell a golden opportunity to visit – with major discounts? Or is it unsafe? Read more

Jokulsarlon LagoonLooking to expand your travel horizons this summer or fall? We’ve got the deals for you. From Bonaire to Bali to Bulgaria, travel outside the usual domestic or Caribbean destinations and head somewhere truly special this season – and still save in the process. Read more

With this edition of our Monday Deal Alert, we’ve compiled some of the best airfare currently in the market, from West Coast escapes to journeys to Eastern Europe. Rates start from as little as $69, so whether you’re looking for a quick weekend getaway or a long vacation, we’ve got plenty of ways for you to fly away this fall.

Virgin America’s current fall sale features amazing one-way rates between West Coast cities, like $69 between San Francisco and Las Vegas, $89 between Los Angeles and Portland, and $109 between Seattle and San Francisco. The sale doesn’t only apply to West Coasters, though: you can also fly one-way to Los Angeles from Chicago, Dallas, and Philadelphia for $139, or from Orlando, New York City, or Boston for $159. Just book your getaway fast – this sale ends at midnight tonight. Read more

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