Thursday, June 16, 2011

Join Travelife's Turkey Luxe Tour

I'm staying in a beautiful boutique hotel in Istanbul with a perfect location for someone who has been here several times. It's near enough to the tourist district, but also convenient for restaurants, shops and places where real Istanbul life takes place. Best of all, the suite I'm staying in -- the hotel's equivalent of a presidential suite -- is designed very nicely, and it has a massive terrace with a gorgeous view of Old Istanbul. If I could buy an apartment in this city as a pied-a-terre, this would certainly be it. As it is, I've got a flight to Lisbon tomorrow and I don't want to move out of my Istanbul hotel just yet. Yes, I'm living in this suite if I win the lottery...

October 27 to November 3, 2011

This gem of a hotel will remain nameless for now until I've had a chance to write about it properly in an upcoming issue of Travelife Magazine. I'm also thinking about using it for my upcoming Travelife Luxury Istanbul & Cappadocia Tour in October-November, which will offer the best of these two cities in one convenient one-week trip. It's not an over-the-top hotel, but it's all about refined and understated luxury. Just like Travelife's upcoming Turkey tour.


The Travelife Luxury Istanbul & Cappadocia Tour won't be for everyone. But if you'd like to experience these cities in a truly wonderful, unique and stylish way, and with like-minded companions, this tour's for you. It's literally a tour I would do for myself and my friends -- and, yes, a couple of friends are coming along for the ride. Although one of my friends, who's just promised to attend every single Travelife event and tour this year, and in fact he's already inputted all the dates in his diary, says this is the only one he won't be going on as he'll be going to the Pacquiao fight happening a week or so later halfway across the world.

Call Rachel at Travelife Magazine (813-8400/ 892-2620) and tell her you want to get on the Travelife Luxury Turkey Tour mailing list if you're
interested, as this will be a smaller and more exclusive tour compared to the other Travelife tours so far.

By the way, our Travelife Gastronomic Tour of Northern Italy this September is so popular that we're practically preliminarily booked even before the details have been finalized! It was so nice to see so many familiar names from our Travelife Amazing Turkey Tours by the way. We're so happy we have so many repeat Travelifers. Looks like Italy will be a reunion of the Turkey groups. How fun!

If you're interested in this, call Rachel as well and get on the Italy list as this will also be first-come, first-served. Once details are finalized, we'll start counting confirmed and paid reservations based on the order of people on the list. Some people will likely drop out before final confirmation, so make sure you get yourself on the list if you're interested.)


The other hotel in my shortlist for this Travelife Luxury Turkey Tour is the Ciragan Palace Kempinski right by the Bosphorus. It's the grand dame of Turkish hotels and full of old world elegance. I've stayed here a couple of times and have very good memories, although I've always found it way too expensive.

I've already come to terms with the hefty room rates, but I've had lots of discussions with the management here about why they place a service charge on top of some restaurant bills that are charged to the room (simply for charging to the room instead of paying directly at the restaurant) and why they charge for overnight shoeshine service, which is a standard service in good hotels.

In fact, once, I was so fed up that I asked the manager: "Do you charge to breathe the air as well?" He didn't miss a beat and so even I had to laugh. He replied: "Only if you breathe too deeply, Madame."


Well, I was back at Ciragan Palace again today for lunch, just so I could decide which hotel I would use for the upcoming Travelife Luxury Turkey Tour. Old World and old-fashioned or stylish, understated and hip? Funnily, I was reminded of Ciragan's price issue again, as I'd driven to Ciragan Palace and parked the car in the hotel parking lot, fully expecting to get my parking for free with lunch.

We had a nice and certainly not inexpensive lunch outdoors at the hotel, and on the way out at the parking office, I was literally shocked to be charged 20 Turkish lira extra for parking 90 minutes even after we'd shown them the hefty lunch bill. That's about 10 euros just for parking, if I'm doing my calculations right. So I guess you now know which hotel we'll be using for Travelife Magazine.


In the afternoon, we finally went to the Istanbul Modern. I've always recommended this museum to art-loving friends visiting Istanbul and I'll do so very strongly again in this blog. It's an amazing museum for mind-blowing art, and it's got a great cafe with the best view in the whole city besides. It's also a great contrast and complement to all the historical sightseeing spots elsewhere. After seeing all the old stuff, believe me, you'll appreciate a bit of the new.

I wanted to take photos but this wasn't allowed. But almost everything I saw was truly out-of-the-box -- something like a feast of molecular gastronomy for the senses instead of for the stomach. I came away with so many new ideas for design and events.


One of the installations was a video of a woman in a negligee constantly smearing her lips with lipstick and then kissing every surface of her pure white room. It was both mesmerizing and erotic in an innocent way; and for me, it symbolized the relationship that people have with themselves. What you do when no one is looking.


Another standout installation was a darkened theater showing a video of two men -- one a master and the other a servant. They started out in the mountains of central Turkey riding pretty small donkeys, and the size of the men vis-a-vis the donkeys made the scene look rather ridiculous. But the high point of hilariousness was when these two men stopped a simple villager in the middle of nowhere and asked him to point the way to the Tate Museum in London, and to tell them how far it was from where they were. I burst out laughing at this inanity. The installation was entitled The Road to the Tate Museum.

I've been to many modern art museums all over the world, but this has got to be among the most enjoyable for many reasons: it's not too large so you don't get overdosed on art in a day, it's very user-friendly, it's in one of the most stunning seaside locations in the world, and it's so unpretentious as a museum that its simplicity almost makes you teary-eyed. Go see it if you're in Istanbul, after you've done the Topkapi Palace Museum, the Aya Sofia, the Blue Mosque and the Dolmabache Palace.


This will be on the Travelife Luxury Turkey Tour as well, along with a lot of other wonderful and delicious stops that I can't be talking about here for obvious reasons. Only we at
Travelife can plan a trip like this, and I'm going to be taking the group myself. So if you're inclined to do Istanbul in style, come join us this November. There won't be another tour like this again.

And now, I'm back to having champagne with grilled fish on the terrace of my suite, with the Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque all lighted up in front of me. But tonight, there's a fun party going on next-door and a live band is actually playing songs I like. And when they stop, I have my iPod ready on the dock with my favorite songs from my Sri Lanka trip and my last Silversea cruise. Kenny Loggins, Hall & Oates and a handful of eclectic stuff like Kalapana.

My last night in Istanbul and just another day in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful, Travelife.

This is my private terrace
where I've been writing my blogs, by the way...


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