I try never to read too much about a destination ahead of landing. I like to experience a city emotionally at first: smell the breeze, eat the food, look at people in the eyes. I didn’t know what to expect out of Istanbul, this complex and iconic gem of the Middle East. Traveling on the last week of July, we were blessed with clear skies and flawless weather. We giggled in the cab as we passed a huge Travolta billboard ad on our way to Taksim. We marveled at the flower beds bordering busy streets, and wondered how it is even possible that a city holding 25 millions inhabitants can be so clean and well kept. The loud, romantic sound of the Muslim prayer gave us goosebumps. We fell in love with the bright red hue of the Turkish flag… What we discovered here is a passionate, emotional culture with so many layers, colors and flavors. Here are some of the highlights from this exciting first leg of our #LiveFASTSummerTour with Amuse!

Putting on the Ritz

Whenever I have a 24-hour transit and know too well how exhausted I will be when I finally reach my destination, I make a point to book a 5-star hotel. At the luxurious Ritz Carlton on the Bosphorus, we were greeted with Turkish delights and hot apple tea in the lobby. I mean - it’s the Ritz, you know what you’re gonna get: impeccable service and sophisticated amenities, a plush bed and great shower pressure. These little details are worth every single dollar spent when you’re jet lagged. On the first night, a few of us decided to unwind in the cocktail bar lobby to the sound of live music and we all hit the indoor pool first thing in the morning before a memorable first Turkish breakfast. Pictured here also is the property’s Open Air spa, where Chelsea indulged in a little r&r before we checked out.

An afternoon on the Bosphorus

On our first day in town, we drove to the swanky neighborhood of Yenikoy to take some pictures of the colorful Ottoman era waterfront houses and explore the European shores of the Bosphorus strait. Upon coming across a lively fisherman’s community, we decided on a whim to ask if one of them would take us on a boat ride. “80 Turkish liras for 45 minutes,” he mumbled in Turkish to our friend Tules, who kindly acted as our guide & translator for the duration of our stay. $27 - that’s how cheap Istanbul is, by the way! On the water, smack dab in between two continent, I remember thinking how crazy it is that if we kept going straight on this river, we could sail straight into Russia.

Dance the night away at Reina

Hungry from an eventful day on the water, we had mezze at Sur Balik in Arnavutkoy, a fabulous rooftop restaurant specializing in fresh fish and seafood. After dinner, we headed out to Reina, the trendiest nightclub in Istanbul. With a glittering Bosphorus view and a beautiful crowd, it might as well be the sexiest spot to party on that side of the world. Note to self: don’t drink too much Raki, and most importantly, don’t mix it with any other kind of alcohol - the traditional Turkish booze is said to cause memory loss to the point of barely recalling your own name… ;)

Discovering The Karakoy Neighborhood

Dubbed Istanbul’s cool new district by the Condé Nast Traveler, this colorful part of town is where you can spend countless lazy hours observing life and discovering the city’s bohemian culture: sitting outside at a cafe, checking out art galleries, stalking cats, playing chess, smoking hookah and making friends with the locals.

Vault Karakoi Hotel

Set in an imposing 19th-century bank, the trendy Vault Karaoke was our home away from home on the second half of our stay in Istanbul. In the penthouse suite, we took a bubble bath with a view before heading down to the Hammam, the best way to cure a Raki hangover (that shit’s real).

See you next time Istanbul, you can be sure we’ll be back for you ✌ Shop the looks featured here.

Photography by Ali Mitton, Laura Austin, and Vivianne Lapointe | Model Chelsea Schuchman