City Chic | Verve Magazine
India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
May 24, 2011

City Chic

Water Colours by Bappa

With their hip streets, haute malls and buzzing ambience, Sydney, Istanbul and Florence offer an eclectic mix of attractive experiences. Verve asks three globe-trotters to explore three metros that, in their own ways, create a memorable kaleidoscope of style

An eclectic fusion

The sun always shines in Sydney! Beautifully tanned bodies soak up the warmth; street-lined cafes and bars are abuzz with chilled wine and seafood is savoured by the well-heeled and tourist brigade alike. A melting pot of cultures, cuisines and style, Sydney offers an intoxicating concoction of fashion, food and lifestyle. Sail into this vibrant harbour city where each day feels like a Sunday! And the makers of UGGs, Elle MacPherson and Hugh Jackman have concocted the perfect blend of all that is unique, stylish and intoxicating!

Step into The Bavarian Bier Cafe on York Street for some of its finest lager or stroll down to The Waterfront at Circular Quay for chilled wine and oysters and a stunning view of the Opera House and the harbour beyond. Don’t miss Darling Harbour for its live performances and nightlife – The Pontoon, Chinta Ria, Malaya, Zaffran and The Cockle Bay Wharf. But for an excellent bird’s eye view of the Sydney skyline, the revolving restaurants, The Summit and The Sky Tower, both on George Street, offer a visual delight.

Discover a style haven of hand-picked designer gems at Paddington’s chic boutiques. From Sass&Bide to Gary Castle’s fabulous heels, there’s a lot of shopping to be done here. The Paddington Saturday Markets are a treasure trove of talent where artists display their craft, from jewellery designers, bags and shoes to ceramicists and sculptors. Oxford street is one big party. It is the heart of the Mardi Gras Carnival, with a buzzing night life and some really cool hangouts….

Browse through Balmain’s eclectic mix of boutiques, antiques stores and weekend markets for that unique find. Away from the big city department stores, with its quaint little chocolatiers by Masterchef winner Adriano Zumbo; buzzing pubs and cafes, Darling street, Balmain is my favourite hangout place.

The homes of the rich and famous, and some seriously sensational sailboats and yacht parties, Mosman is known for its designer people in their designer homes. Soak in some of their luxury.

Set in the oldest part of Sydney, The Rocks host the best weekend markets on its cobble-stoned streets. Showcasing high-quality Australian-made design – exquisite jewellery, aboriginal artwork, hand-painted didgeridoos and intricately carved leather and wood, this is a one-stop shop for art lovers.

Martin Place, the venue of the Rosemount Sydney Fashion Week, transforms itself into a daily fashion parade, showing off an intriguing display of Sydneysiders’ originality and style. Step into the Lindt Chocolate Cafe between stops at Prada and Armani Exchange.

The Queen Victoria Building (QVB) is a landmark in CBD, identified by its exquisite architecture and green domes towering over the city. Shop for the biggest and best from Guess and Bally to Country Road, and a treasure trove of unique homeware at Victoria’s Basement. Go underground through to Sydney’s biggest department stores – David Jones and Myer, for fabulous choices from Tommy Hilfiger, Tigerlilly, Calvin Klien, ESPRIT and David Lawrence

Just across the ANZAC bridge, Birkenhead Point is the factory outlet to some great brands at great prices – FCUK, Baku, Billabong, Nine West, Converse, Crabtree & Evelyn, Benetton, Calvin Klein and more.

Bondi: You cannot miss Sydney’s gorgeous beaches, with all its BBQs and beach parties! Bikinis and boardies rule the fashion scene this side of town, where Zimmerman, Baku, Sea Folly and Billabong fight for your attention. Head to the Mudgee Wine festival at Balmoral or take a stroll down Manly beach and stop for some Kangaroo steak at Ribs n Rumps, or some hot Mexicana fare at Montesuma’s…and as the day ends, take a 10-minute drive up to North Head to watch the sun set on the city, a sight you won’t forget!

Venus Pereira
Venus Pereira is a make-up artist with an easy personal style, whose love for colour and form extends to ceramics, painting, sculpting and travel.

The local touch  

The drive from Ataturk Airport to Istanbul is the kind that fills you with intense romance. It’s a feeling that one cannot really explain. It’s almost like making love to a beautiful stranger – full of mystery and absolutely breathtaking.  The cluster of red and white arches – all stacked one on top of the other in the surrounding cityscape – provide a remarkable drawing for the eye. We hit Galata Bridge to go to Taksim.

Where to stay: In Istanbul, Taksim is the place to stay. It is very central in the city and is bustling with life and people. It is chock-a-block with shops and markets that sell a variety of fare and the best part is that it is very close to Sultanahmet…the Old City.

The cool quotient: In Istanbul, a really hip street to walk through is Istiklal Cadessi. Just off Taksim Square, it is only accessible by foot. The street offers phenomenal shopping opportunities with a range of very cool high street stuff like Topshop, Diesel and also several local brands, all at very reasonable rates. Istiklal Cadessi progressively gets narrower till it eventually becomes a series of steps and lanes through a maze of old cafés, and souvenir stores, leading to the Galata Tower…from where you can see the old city.

Feast fiesta : For me, what makes Istanbul chic is the plethora of restaurants and the places where they are located. On Istiklal Cadessi, the elitist rooftop restobar 360 serves unbelievable seafood and has a spectacular view of the Bosphorous Bay and the Old City. Truly worth a try.

From Taksim… about a 20-minute cab ride away is Ortokoy, a totally unreal place. Two landmark clubs – Reina and Sortie – dot the European side of the coast. In Reina, the Who’s Who of Istanbul, the rich and the famous, the A-list tourists can indulge their palates till the wee hours of the morning. Its interiors spell haute class and those who frequent it are finely turned out in swish couture. A restaurant in Reina, called Blackk, serves black cod to die for. Another definite place to eat in Nisantasi is Al Jamal for its Lebanese cuisine…and belly dancers, unique décor and great wine.

The other side: The European side of the Bosphorous is more fun…a great choice to stay for someone who is looking to be out and exploring…the Asian side has fantastic resorts and boutique hotels along the water…but is a bit far from where all the action is.

Ulus Park is another place to explore where ULUS29 conjures up a juicy steak and hand-churned ice cream, a must-eat in Turkey. Also, do stop at street-side cafes and ask for Turkish coffee. If you love coffee, this is a treat. Do make sure that they give you a shot of mint liquor to finish it with….

A shopper’s delight: The place to shop here is Nisantasi which is known for its plethora of local Turkish designers and high-end labels right from Louis Vuitton, Chanel, BCBG MaxAzria to Yves Saint Laurent, Diane Von Furstenberg, Hugo Boss and all. If you have a penchant for malls, head out to Istinye Park to get a feel of the latest haute arrivals in town. Or leisurely visit Andipecki, a famous street that is dotted with all the high-end boutiques….

And, finally, the most definite way of grasping the scale of Istanbul is to take a cruise along the Bosphorus Bay. The clear difference in cultures between Europe and Asia is classically displayed.

R Burman
Fashion and celebrity photographer R Burman is an intrepid traveller – fond of food and exploring new areas – whose eye for detail captures the essence of the cities he visits.

A painter’s palette

Florence or Firenze is a gem, tucked into the heart of Tuscany. Eons of history, art, culture, and artisanal tradition blend seamlessly with cutting-edge fashion, neo-cuisine and technology. Florence, being one of the most popular destinations in the world, is a virtual melting pot of cultures with people of every nationality walking its ancient cobblestone paths. The city is built around the River Arno flanked by shops, galleries and eateries. The central part of Florence is dense, compact with virtual treasures in every shop. Cheeses and wines rub shoulders with impeccably crafted leather goods. Antique bookstores, trattorias and New Age design outlets – such as Kartell and Bang and Olufsen – are housed in ancient buildings.

What strikes the eye first is this gorgeous mellow palette that the city has; unlike bigger cities that are a sea of beige and grey, Florence has a painter’s palette of terracotta, melon and sandstone ochre colours on its buildings with accents of green and reds.  Walking around the city is the best way to see it.

Shopping in the open-air markets that are set up for the day is a great way to source local cheeses, meats and wines. I picked up some delectable Pecorino, wild boar salami and some wonderful aged wine at the Saturday market at Piazza Republica.

The Ponte Vecchio has some stunning jewellery shops, most of which are hundreds of years old. The jewellery is not too expensive, beautifully made and very Florentine. It is said that the term ‘bankruptcy’ evolved here; the business used to be conducted on tables or ‘Banco’. When a merchant couldn’t pay back his debts, he had to shut the table and was forced to leave business. Hence the name!

The leather goods industry is highly evolved, with some of the world’s most famous labels being produced around Florence. One can take their pick from the most renowned Italian labels such as Prada, Gucci, Tod’s or even unbranded yet exquisitely made leather bags in the market across the Ponte Vecchio.

Look at the smaller vintage shops where you may find a steal from the biggest brands at a fraction of the price for a one-off item, including some treasures from even the ’30s and beyond – bags, scarves and clothes.

The outlets stores are famous for big designer goods at discounted prices. These are all outside Florence and need a day trip.

The food in Florence is divine! Most trattorias, smaller restaurants too have great hearty rustic food. Avoid anything obviously touristy around the main. La Giostra is supposed to be excellent [and was hugely recommended by world traveller and co-foodie Abhishek Bachchan], which I couldn’t visit during this trip. I will recommend Trattoria Marione, a quiet yet extremely busy no nonsense restaurant where I had the most fabulous farafelle with beef and light as a cloud Tiramisu. The best way to know where to eat is to ask the locals. Usually, people are eager to help and will guide you to places that serve authentic non-touristy fare.

The Duomo is the Centre of most action along with the Piazza Republica, and Piazza della Signoria. The hip store ‘Luisa Via Roma’ is a great place to see global trends and brands such as Lanvin, Proenza Schouler and Rick Owens that are not easily available.

Do not miss The Duomo Cathedral, the under-rated Santa Croce Church, beautifully tucked into a corner of the city and the Palazzo Vecchio with stunning frescoes. The ‘Uffizi’ gallery has acres filled with the most stunning art, including Botticelli’s masterpieces. The queue is a few kilometres long usually, so it’s important to pre-book your tickets.

Most of all, Florence is a city that’s comfortable to see and savour. Unlike the rapid pace that a fast-paced metropolis will demand of you, Florence is really about going out and experiencing the city than merely ticking things off your to-do list. Take your time, do things that you will relish! A cappuccino, some nourishment for the soul at a museum, a tranquil lunch alfresco followed by a bout of shopping (further soul-food) and gelato…it’s truly a city that nourishes your soul.

Nachiket Barve
Fashion designer Nachiket Barve is inspired by nature, loves making textiles and clothes, enjoys playing with colours, cooking and eating food, travel and photography.

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