Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Memories of the old Pera Palas hotel in Istanbul, where Agatha Christie once stayed.



I've been to Istanbul countless times over the past 20 years. On one of those trips, I took 70 readers of Travelife Magazine on a great adventure to Turkey.

Many of them have joined us again for other trips to other parts of the world.

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TURKEY 20 YEARS AGO

For visits to Istanbul, I usually like staying in hotels that are out of the tourist route but at the same time convenient for it. 

I'd stayed in all the grand hotels, including the most luxurious one (Ciragan Palace) and the most historic one way before it was renovated and re-opened (Pera Palas).

I've also stayed in the newest super luxury hotel along the Bosphorus (Shangri-la Bosphorus).


All of these stays have been memorable.

But, yes, on my very first visit to Turkey almost 20 years ago, I stayed at the historic and amazing -- the truly unforgettable -- Pera Palas Hotel.

STRAIGHT OUT OF THE BIBLE

I can't ever forget that stay.

There were so few foreigners in Istanbul then, and it was far from a modern city.



In fact, arriving in Istanbul then was like opening a page of the Bible and walking straight into it.

That trip blew my mind away in a manner I can't even begin to describe.



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THE HOTEL WHERE AGATHA CHRISTIE STAYED

And I still remember how we took a car from the airport and rode up to the Pera Palas, just as a wedding party in all sorts of amazing dress was coming out.


The scene was just like something from an Agatha Christie novel.

And incidentally, Agatha Christie stayed at the Pera Palas and wrote part of her thrillers here.


Unfortunately, Agatha Christie's room was turned into a museum so guests could not book this room.

So instead we were given Zsa Zsa Gabor's favorite suite, which was rather nice as well.


THE FANCIEST DINING ROOM IN ISTANBUL

The very fancy dining room of the Pera Palas was then the place to be in, for local Istanbul society.

I still remember how it had a two-storey high room, glittering chandeliers, masses of flowers everywhere, and very old-fashioned service.



There was also an antique elevator which actually worked, and it had an attendant inside and chairs for guests to sit as they were ferried up to their rooms.

It was all quite amazing.


And, in that beautiful dining room, my friend and I were forever the topics of discussion among the other diners, as there were no other Asians around but us.

Yes, even way back then, I was already living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.



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