Istanbul: View of the Golden Horn.
A Turk singer and three Derwish
dancers preparing for a video shoot
I just returned from a week’s trip to Istanbul with a group of 26 and a lot of information to share with you.
Trip and organization
First I would like to address the actual travel details.
We flew with KLM (a flight shared with KLM’s partner NW) directly from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Istanbul Attaturk Airport without any delay.The fact that KLM is now a subsidiary of Air France apparently did something good to KLM: Flying in time. Flight attendants who behave much more gracious and hospitable and even the food simple, but better than I remember from years ago, when I used to fly business class and decided not to fly KLM anymore due to exorbitant rates, very unfriendly flight attendants, and horrible food and had handed my frequent flier card in. Kudos for KLM!
The trip was partly booked through a Travel Agent No Beach. They also did a wonderful job in getting the group transferred by private couch from and to the airport, provided two nice guides fro some sightseeing, fully bilingual in Turkish and Dutch (to be more precise: one was speaking with a Flemish tongue, the Belgian version of Dutch). They organized some intermediate transport by coach and ferry to a nice restaurant at the Asian side of the Bosphorus and finally the transfer back to the airport. They made the hotel reservations solved some issues arising from an an overbooked hotel. All in all very conveniently organized. Once more the experience convinced me that for a group you should rely on an experienced travel agent and not on your own time consuming Internet rummaging and the hassle of negotiating with hotels you don’t know. Kudos for No Beach!
As the frequent reader may remember from the two previous posts in this series, Part 1 in January and Part 2 in April, we had arrived at a shortlist of a couple of hotels:
It turned out that part of the group stayed a couple of days in Lady Diana and I would suggest that as the hotel to stay in when you like to be in the old center and in the walking vicinity of several of Istanbul’s highlights, several good restaurants and in the vicinity of a very easy cross city tram by which you can avoid the car congestions you will face when taking a taxi (apart from the fact that almost every taxi driver tries to make enormous detours to jinn up his bill).
I myself stayed in The Celal Sultan Hotel fro the whole week. The owner lives in Belgium (hence the Dutch spoken) and the hotel has being decorated by a Belgian interior decorator. This is a very nice hotel, very nice staff, good service and good amenities, a cozy lounge and two nice roof terraces with view on the Aya Sophia, but we stayed in a standard room which is more the size of a room in a Pod Hotel than of a decent hotel room, which is a bit too much if you are used to 75 sqm suites in your own hotel. Their superior rooms have the usual 4 star size and are acceptable.
The main reason for my verdict in favor of the Lady Diana is that their roof terrace is much more spacious and spectacular than that of the Celal Sultan with a far better view over the city, the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara with the possibility to have breakfast on the roof. The Celal website is the best of the three. It gives good photo impressions of its interior, but is scarce in giving rates and prices. They should upload newer photo’s of their renovated roof terraces. At least the rack rates I saw announced in the lounge of the Ceal Sultan are higher than the rack rates of the Lady Diana published on their website. As everything in Istanbul one should negotiate the best rates.
The Kybele Hotel is just located between the two others and is also a very nice place for a drink, a lunch or a diner. It has a street terrace and a nice and cosy inner court terrace, without view, and is probably the cheapest of the three. I did not actually see their rooms, but I like the owner who decorated the hotel with thousands of small Turkish lamps (which he sells off course) and who, when we were looking at an Europa Cup football match between Istanbul’s Fenerbace and AC Milan, wore an AC Milan shirt, but was very satisfied that Fenerbace won 1-0 against AC Milan, the 2006 Europa Cup winner.