Simon Calder: Twenty years on - proof in the Pudding Shop

The Pudding Shop is a rare geo-cultural travel icon. Its location at the heart of Old Istanbul, together with the indulgent attitude of the staff towards long-haired, impecunious Western scruffs, helped it become the information exchange at the heart of the backpacker revolution.

Those who were serious about the Hippie Trail to Afghanistan, India and Nepal could pick up information, Volkswagen vans and, I dare say, mind-adjusting substances from travellers arriving from Asia, a 20-minute boat ride across the Bosphorus.

I first visited the restaurant that stands across the road from the magnificent bulk of the Aya Sofia in 1989. I was researching the prototype for our city-break series, 48 Hours. By then, the last hippie had faded away, but I was happy to recommend the Pudding Shop, not least because at the time, there were few places to eat in the historic centre.

The story had, I assumed, long been consigned to the recycling bin, where it belongs. Yet when I returned to Turkey's largest city to research the 20th-anniversary "48 Hours in Istanbul", I revisited the Pudding Shop – and discovered a framed copy of the article on the wall. A quote from it, along with the date of publication, appears on every place mat. Now, what I know about marketing can be written on a very small place mat indeed, but I imagine some prospective visitors will infer that no one has had a good word to say for the Pudding Shop since 1989.

Since the staff are unfailingly charming, the hours are long and the menu still includes the curious savoury-sweet combo called tavuk gogsu, the Pudding Shop remains my recommendation for "Out to Brunch". And the management is welcome to refresh the quote , rather than making it appear that the restaurant's glory days ended 20 years ago.

A village located on a road to nowhere – well, the B1191 to Horncastle – has an equally curious approach to self-publicity. Woodhall Spa has a vast amount going for it. In the 19th century, this central Lincolnshire village became a classic Victorian spa, celebrated for its "bromo-iodine waters". In the 1920s, a concert pavilion concealed in forest to the north of the village was converted into the Kinema in the Woods, still the local cinema: 2012 opened there last night.

The village hosted the RAF's 617 Squadron, better known as the Dambusters. The Petwood Hotel on the outskirts of town was the officers' mess, and plenty of Second World War memorabilia remains on show. Today, Woodhall Spa is home to the National Golf Centre, and heaven for cyclists: it straddles Route 1 of the National Cycle Network and offers hill-free rides alongside the river Witham to Boston and Lincoln.

None of this, though, is evident to the passing motorist, who is likely to conclude from the "welcome" sign at the, er, city limits that 48 seconds is about the right length of time to spend here. The notice informs you Woodhall Spa is twinned with Roézé-sur-Sarthe, a village near Le Mans that lacks the cachet of, say, Rio or Istanbul.

The sign also boasts, at least to that part of mankind straying along the B1191 or the village's other superhighway, the B1192, of the title "Best Kept Village" in 1989 and 1998. It does not reveal if that superlative was earned against competition from Lincolnshire, or the whole planet. But it invites the conclusion that, for the past 11 years, life in Woodhall Spa has been all downhill.

Watch your way around the world

Since the concept of prescribing 48 Hours of exploration in a great city was first unveiled in The Independent in 1989, we have tried to improve the offering. What began as half a broadsheet page with a single black-and-white photo has become a full-colour double-page spread together with a map (we have also tried to feel flattered rather than miffed when competitors have copied the concept and its title).

If it works in print, perhaps it could work on the screen: that's what we began to test out three years ago, and this week the pioneering television series of "48 Hours In..." is broadcast on Travel Channel. The first episode, on Tuesday 17 November at 9pm, features Rio. Other cities in the six-part series include Singapore, San Diego, Bergen, Zaragoza and London (but not Woodhall Spa).

Travel Channel is on Sky 251 and 252 in the UK; the films are also available online, starting with independent.co.uk/rio.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas