What It’s Like to Retire in Istanbul | Kanebridge News
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What It’s Like to Retire in Istanbul

After living for 25 years in New York, a couple moved to Turkey. Despite some challenges, they are glad they did.

By ERIC FARBER
Mon, Apr 24, 2023 8:30amGrey Clock 4 min

In 1979, my wife and I married in Detroit and immediately moved to New York City. That was our home for 25 years—until we retired and later moved to Istanbul in 2004.

Why do we live in Turkey? Turks themselves frequently ask us, often with an air of incredulity.

Even as a young child I was interested in history. It became my dream to live close to the centres of the Ancient World. I love that the district where we now live, on the Asian side of the Bosporus, across from Constantine’s acropolis, was once known as Chalcedon. The town appears on the 13th-century Mappa Mundi, whose reproduction hangs on our office wall.

But most important, we have found a sense of community here that seems increasingly rare in big cities of the West. In our neighbourhood, Moda, we walk almost every day—to our bakery, butcher and fruit-and-vegetable markets, to our restaurants and bank, doctors and barbers—all places where we are known and greeted. People stop us to say hello.

The neighbourhood is expensive by local standards, especially for housing. Our apartment cost $500,000 years ago, and we have spent $100,000 more on changes and renovations. Real-estate agents tell us that today we could ask $1.5 million if we were to sell. A monthly fee of less than $300 covers our heating, maintenance of the common areas, gardening, a large outdoor swimming pool and the salary and payroll taxes of the building’s live-in super.

Our large living-room windows look out on the Sea of Marmara and the western sky. This view is the main reason we bought our apartment. Often, cruise ships glide past, or a supertanker heading for the Black Sea. In the distance we can see the Hagia Sophia, a mighty edifice in both size and history. Built in the sixth century as an Orthodox cathedral, it later became a mosque, then a museum, only to become a mosque again in 2020.

We no longer own a car. If we can’t walk to it, there are taxis and other forms of public transportation. Istanbul’s funky street life is improvised, hectic and refreshingly unregulated. We love it and miss it when we travel elsewhere.

It’s a short walk along the seaside to the ferry that takes us to the European side of the city in 20 minutes. On the boat, vendors pass through with tea and juices. Where we disembark, more vendors sell roasted chestnuts, mussels with savoury stuffing, roast corn, and fish sandwiches. Old men sell lottery tickets, and fortunetellers use live rabbits to select slips of paper of the kind found in fortune cookies.

We didn’t choose Turkey seeking an inexpensive lifestyle, but it is what we were lucky to get. Because our income is in dollars, the plunging value of the Turkish lira has worked in our favour despite high inflation. The two of us can have a full meal without alcohol in a fine restaurant for about $25. Turkish cuisine is good and plentiful in our neighbourhood restaurants, but Chinese, Japanese and Italian dishes have become options, too.

It has been relatively easy to make friends with Turks and fellow expats. We have a social life that is easy and rewarding. Many of our friends are younger than us and are a great help at times—particularly in dealing with government bureaucracy.

To live as foreigners in Turkey requires a residence permit that the government renews every two years. It’s a Byzantine process—we can truly say that here—that is never the same twice and can become fraught with tension as we try to figure out and obtain the changing documentation required. At times like this, it is good to have a Turkish friend to help us.

We exercise at our local gym, where I pump iron three mornings a week and my wife, Kay, does Pilates. Healthcare has become a large issue as we’ve grown older. For some years I had private insurance equivalent to what I would have had in the U.S. Although Kay, who is eight years younger than I am, remains insured through the same company, that insurer cancelled me when I turned 75. Since then, I have paid my healthcare costs in a private hospital out of pocket. The wonder is that I’ve gotten first-class healthcare, including an important operation, for a cost we could easily afford. I’ll add that Istanbul’s private hospitals are very modern, comfortable and easy to navigate.

We feel safe here. It is a comforting thing to be able to walk through our neighbourhood, even at night, without fear. The city historically has been subject to destructive earthquakes, such as those that recently ravaged parts of southeastern Turkey and Syria. But, so far, we’ve experienced no tremors of any consequence.

The winter here is rainy and cold, but it rarely freezes. Spring and autumn are long, and there is plenty of heat in July and August.

There are, to be sure, some challenges.

Although public transportation is plentiful, it can be maddening as well. The system lacks the same convenience one finds in a city like New York.

Turkish isn’t a simple language to learn—at least for us. Partly this is the fault of our ageing brains and hearing. But I also find that Turks are prone to speak quickly.

As for shopping, while international products are more available than before, our choices are still limited. Also, many products are of a lesser quality than what we were used to in the U.S.

We have to manage our financial affairs by long distance, and this can be frustrating at times.

Finally, while the internet and email are great, we miss not seeing our friends and family in the U.S. more often.

On balance, though, we are more than satisfied with our lives here. Our travels have taken us to many countries, and we know that no place is perfect.

Retirement gives one the opportunity to discern the themes and through-lines of our lives. As I reflect on the key choices I’ve made in life, I realise that what I’ve chosen most often is a sense of freedom and a variety of experience. Our expatriate life is one of those choices.



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Designing Dreams: David Charette’s fascinating Spaces for Children’s Adventures

David Charette has teamed up with CIRCU Magical Furniture to design spaces that capture the essence of childhood wonder.

Tue, May 21, 2024 4 min

This collaboration between David Charette, founder and principal of Britto Charette, and CIRCU Magical Furniture aims to stimulate the imaginations of children, encouraging them to invent their own tales of adventure. Drawing on his extensive travels, Charette believes that journeying through different cultures can spark creativity in young minds.

His latest venture uses a mix of luxury elements and magical themes, incorporating products from CIRCU, Covet House, and other vendors to create unique, enchanting children’s rooms. These spaces are designed to reflect the excitement and mystery of exploring new worlds.

The Sleeping are:

David Charette has transformed a Montreal residence into a magical sleeping area where time seems to pause, and adventures await. Known for its long, cold winters and short days, Montreal served as the perfect backdrop for Charette’s vision of a space that remains warm and bright throughout the year.

Central to the design is the concept of “light and bright,” brought to life using de Gournay‘s hand-painted wall coverings in fresh mint, decorated with flying butterflies. These elements beautifully complement the original shapes of the KOKET Nymph Wall Lamp and the organic curves of the CIRCU Tristen Bed.

Charette’s attachment to the Tristen Bed stems not only from its youthful appeal but also from its ergonomic design, which makes it easy for children to climb in and out of, enhancing both its functionality and charm.

The Bed:

Charette paired the modern lines of the bed with the unique design of the Boca do Lobo Wave Nightstand and the funky style of Delightfull’s Billy Table Lamp. By blending these contemporary pieces with the classic elements in the decor of this luxury kids’ room, Charette has crafted a unique space that breathes a natural breeze of inspiration into any child’s environment.

This combination not only adds aesthetic appeal but also stimulates the imagination, making the room a perfect sanctuary for creativity and dreams.

The seating area:

The room also includes a cozy seating area perfect for young readers. Centred around the CIRCU Dainty Armchair, this space is tailored for kids, with the chair’s delicate structure and elegant design enhancing the room’s charm. Its pink velvet upholstery adds a vibrant pop of color, enriching the room’s palette. To distinctly separate this reading corner from the rest of the sleeping area, Charette chose the Boca Do Lobo Gold Folding Screen from Covet House, which not only adds an element of privacy but also contributes a touch of sophistication to the space.

The Play and Study area:

David Charette aimed to create a space with an “Out of Africa” vibe to spark a child’s imagination and inspire a passion for lifelong adventures and travels. Drawing from fond memories of camping during his own childhood, Charette incorporated a Teepee Tent into the room’s design, allowing children to feel as they are camping in a forest right within their own bedroom.

This nature-inspired theme is beautifully complemented by the Fornasetti wall coverings from Cole & Son and the Filigree Cricket Wall Lamp, which are insect-shaped sconces by Boca do Lobo.

Adding to the ambiance, Charette notes, “The clouds on the ceiling further the idea of camping (in this case “glamping”) and dreaming, and the Circu Cloud Suspension lamps add to the dreamy camping vibe.”

To maintain this adventurous theme, Charette selected the CIRCU NODO Suspension Chair. It not only brings a hint of outdoor fun indoors with an elegant flair but also offers a comfy spot for kids to unwind and lose themselves in their favorite stories.

In his design, David Charette, of Britto Charette, focused on enhancing the sense of freedom and sparking children’s imaginations in their own space. He chose one of his favorite pieces from CIRCU, the Sky Desk, for its playful design and inspirational form. Shaped like an airplane, this desk not only becomes the central feature of playtime but also transforms homework into an exciting adventure. The unique design aims to captivate and motivate young minds, turning everyday tasks into a flight of imagination.

David Charette designed this luxury children’s room with the hope that it would inspire children to dream, play, and develop a deep respect for nature as they embark on their own adventures.

He crafted the room to be “transitional,” capable of evolving with a child from toddler years into adolescence. This design approach not only aims to create a lasting, imaginative space for children but also to show parents the value of investing in unique, high-quality pieces like those from Circu. These carefully chosen items stand out from mass-produced children’s designs, offering both aesthetic appeal and long-term utility.

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