Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | September 4, 2012

The best way to travel…fitness luxe, Istanbul edition

We all know travel is a delight and feeds the soul and expands one’s world, but amid all of these romantic benefits, well, it’s hard to get a good workout in when you’re on the road. I generally do one of two kind of trips: I go serious fitness and climb Kilimanjaro or go to surf camp or hike in Nepal, or I go for a different kind of stimulation and visit a city like Paris (ah, Paris) or Jerusalem and tour museums and eat until my head and tummy are (happily) overstuffed.

The Hagia Sophia, first a church then a mosque, always breathtaking

The Hagia Sophia, first a church then a mosque, always breathtaking

The Blue Mosque at night. The nights in Istanbul were over the top gorgeous. You could almost touch the moon.

The Blue Mosque at night. The sleeveless summer nights nights in Istanbul were over-the-top gorgeous. You could almost touch the moon.

Well…I’ve seen a new light. Take a look at this – wow. The Hagia Sophia (right) built by Constantine in 360 AD and one of the most beautiful places in Istanbul, was just another stop on my fantastic week in the ancient city with Escape to Shape.  I was there at the end of August this year and I can’t say enough great things about the trip. Erica Gragg, the woman who co-owns and runs Escape to Shape with great care and attention to detail,  scouts out some of the most interesting places on earth and puts together week-long, highly considered itineraries that combine cultural highs, food fantasies, local secret and stylish finds, a touch of pampering, and daily get-your heart pumping exercise.  From daily 90 minute (excellent) Jivamukti yoga, to morning jogs along the Bosphorus,  to swimming in the Sea of Marmara and hiking on Prince’s Island, I think my feet touched the ground maybe maybe once when I was there.   Yes, Istanbul is a richly spiritual place – maybe that’s why I kept thinking, is this heaven? Or perhaps it was the Turkish Bath that made me find religion…

Escape to Shape focuses on a healthy approach to soaking up a culture.   Yes, we drank lovely wine at dinner, but the food was generally “clean” (no rich creamy sauces, no fried foods) and it was always, always fresh. Erica takes care of everything, and reservations and menus are pre-set. And she has great taste.

Basically, from the time I was picked up at the airport to the time I was dropped off a week later, my only decisions were what to wear and what to buy in the famous sensory overloading bazaars. Yup – I can handle that.

The Grand Bazaar made my head spin with choices.

Escape to Shape has about 12-15 guests per week. Depending on the location, Erica rents a villa or an entire small boutique hotel for the group, so you truly feel at home and relaxed wherever you go. The folks on my trip were great – I went with my fabulous friend Elsa, but I would have been fine and happy solo, too – basically, the people who sign up are a self-selecting group of adventurous types who like to stay fit, be healthy, and are curious about the world. If this sounds like you, I’d recommend signing up. Escape to Shape goes to Cambodia, Croatia, Cartagena, Guatemala, Morocco, Puglia Italy, and other must-experience, soul-rocking places, and they just started a Detox/Renewal spa-ish program in Hudson NY.  Wherever you go, bring good walking shoes – in Istanbul, we  explored for many miles and hours every day with our top-notch guide Resa, who explained the history of the ancient city. Every “Escape” spot has  it’s own story that you’ll want to learn about and touch and experience. Heels? Not so much. Save ’em for dinner.  During the day you’ll want to Indiana Jones it up – by night, however, Scheherazade or Jezebel may appear. Hah, you never know, so just say yes and go, and if you reach out, please say hi to Erica for me, and tell her I’ll be back 🙂   xxoo Steph   What’s that? More pictures? Of course!

Happy Escape-To-Shapers outside one of the massive iron doors of the Hagia Sophia

Inside a hidden mosque near the Spice Market

Yup, they really do sell Turkish Delight!

Yoga every day. Thank you, fabulous Kari Zabel, for the great teaching and insightful adjustments. With 20 years more practice, I’ll be like you!


  1. Steph- not only are you a pure delight to travel with you are also a fabulous writer! Your post brought me back to the Bospherus & beyond. Thank you SO much…. I am so looking forward to sharing more time with you & creating more memories… in some other fab location! xoxo


    • Great post! It motivates me more to travel and get fit, and go for adventures. What a real nice and healthy fun way to explore such wonderful places, considering the tour is packed with yoga and exercises.


  2. […] To Shape, an adventure travel/fitness company  I LOVE. The first time I traveled with them was to Istanbul last summer and in June, I went to Marrakesh. To make things extra wonderful,  with my dear friend, the lovely […]


  3. […] and delivers special experiences wherever she goes. (This is my third trip with her, including Istanbul and Marrakech – all amazing.) This time home base was the charming and historic UNESCO site […]


  4. […] they were fantastic hosts. (I think I’m addicted to their trips as I’ve been to Laos, Istanbul, and Marrakech with them…) I’m happy to say, the Galapagos Islands are aggressively […]


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