It happens every time I go to Istanbul. I visit for a few days and the city embeds itself so far under my skin that I find it emotionally distressing to leave. This is how it used to feel when I left Rome during my bright college years when I was coming and going for thesis research. But back in the early 2000s, I was ballsy and my brain was more malleable, so I could see myself moving abroad (I did!) and learning the language (did that, too). Now, a move doesn’t seem so easy and the complexities and financial sacrifices of relocating makes the pangs of homesickness I feel for Istanbul that much more acute.

This trip was particularly special, as it is springtime in Istanbul and my friend Şemsa and I made the most of it with daily breakfasts and dinners on her balcony. We both enjoyed the ridiculous view of the Bosphorus Bridge and I felt particularly pampered by her extraordinary artichoke-driven cooking.

I had a few really wonderful meals out, including lunch with Tuba at Çiya, a place everyone freaks out over, but which I sometimes find disappointing (world’s worst içli köfte, anyone?). This was not the case on Wednesday. We had some amazing seasonal kebabs like sarımsak kebabı (garlic kebab) and yeni dünya kebabı (loquat kebab).

Lunch at Kasap Osman in Sirkeci was downright disgusting…they put melted cheese on my doner! Vomitous. So I went across the street to Namlı Rumeli Köftecisi for a nice plate of redeeming, palate-cleansing köfte.

Another meaty highlight were the köfte at Ali Baba in Arnavutköy, my ideal comfort food.

I also enjoyed strolling along the Bosphorus admiring the houses I will never be able to afford.

Back in the thick of it all, I spent an afternoon in the Grand Bazaar, something I never do because the hawkers are so profoundly obnoxious. But this time I went after a good lunch at Şeyhmus Kebap Evi with my buddy Ansel of Istanbul Eats.

Sufficiently nourished and armed with headphones and a stone face, I braved the hey ladys and where you froms shouted by the tchotchke vendors and hightailed it to the antiques section where I window shopped for sugar bowls, marble mortars and copper samovars.

Then it was back to Şemsa’s for another fabulous meal. With a spread like this, leaving seems like a crime against good sense.