Posts Tagged With: Istanbul

Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul

Turkey Trip Overview
Booking Flights To Turkey
British Airways First Class Lounge IAH
British Airways 777 First Class IAH-LHR
Transiting Heathrow and British Airways A320 Business Class LHR-IST
Marriott Courtyard Istanbul Airport
Pegasus Airlines Istanbul to Izmir and Back
Ephesus, Mary’s House and Basilica of St. John
Swissotel Efes
Pamukkale Bus and Preiene
Ritz-Carlton Istanbul
Major Sites to see in Istanbul
Radisson Blu Bosphorus
Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class IST-IAH

As I mentioned in the second post in this series, I’d heard wonderful things about the Turkish Airlines lounge in the Istanbul Airport and wanted to check it out on my return flight.  The folks at SeaSong came and picked me up at the Radisson Blu Bosphorus and I enjoyed a private transfer.  My guide even came into the airport with me and ushered me through the ticket counter and up to the security checkpoint.  On our whole trip we enjoyed great customer service from the folks at SeaSong.

With a little time to kill, I set out in search of the lounge.  Maybe I didn’t know what to look for, signage-wise, but in the end I just stumbled upon it at the end of the concourse.TK Lounge Entrance Continue reading

Categories: Turkey, Turkish Airlines | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Radisson Blu Bosphorus

Turkey Trip Overview
Booking Flights To Turkey
British Airways First Class Lounge IAH
British Airways 777 First Class IAH-LHR
Transiting Heathrow and British Airways A320 Business Class LHR-IST
Marriott Courtyard Istanbul Airport
Pegasus Airlines Istanbul to Izmir and Back
Ephesus, Mary’s House and Basilica of St. John
Swissotel Efes
Pamukkale Bus and Preiene
Ritz-Carlton Istanbul
Major Sites to see in Istanbul
Radisson Blu Bosphorus
Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class IST-IAH

Our final hotel for the trip was the Radisson Blu Bosphorus. Once again we arranged with the folks at SeaSong to transfer us from the Ritz to our new hotel. The hotels are only 2.5 km apart – 6 minutes with no traffic but that’s too far to walk with a week’s worth of luggage and significant traffic, so we were glad we opted for the private transfer.

As its name suggests, the hotel is located right on the water. It even had a small area for boats to dock and it was from here we were able to board the boat for our cruise of the strait. The main dining area is at sea level, which is one level down from the entrance and front desk. In addition to inside dining there’s also a covered terrace which provided a great view of all the traffic on the Bosphorus.

We checked in a bit early and our rooms weren’t quite ready so we sat in the lobby for a bit, wanting to get our luggage stored before our cruise. Just when we’d decided we needed to eat something (it was nearly noon by that point) before our cruise, our rooms were ready so we quickly took our luggage up then headed down to the patio to eat at the StarBoard Restaurant.

Radisson Blu Istanbul Front Desk

Radisson Blu Istanbul Front Desk

Radisson Blu Istanbul Lobby

Radisson Blu Istanbul Lobby

The waitstaff here could use a refresher course in service. I know that the standards are different in various countries and that in Turkey one is expected to flag down a server when something is needed rather than expecting a server to be proactive.  But at lunch the first day and both days at breakfast we often had trouble even finding a server or getting them to look our way so we could indicate we needed help.

After the fabulous breakfast we had at the Swissotel Efes, any other buffet would be a letdown so I was somewhat prepared for that but still, I was a little disappointed by breakfast here. I’m not complaining too much as it was free with my Club Carlson Gold status which I obtained just by having their credit card. While everything at the Swissotel seemed fresh and colorful, it seemed the buffet here was a bit dull. They did have a cook-to-order station one day though I don’t think they had it the next.

Radisson Blu Istanbul Buffet 1

Radisson Blu Istanbul Buffet 2

Radisson Blu Istanbul Buffet 3

Radisson Blu Istanbul Buffet 4

Radisson Blu Istanbul Buffet 5

Radisson Blu Istanbul Buffet 6

Radisson Blu Istanbul Buffet 7

Radisson Blu Istanbul Buffet 8

Radisson Blu Istanbul Buffet 9

Radisson Blu Istanbul Buffet 10

Radisson Blu Istanbul Buffet 11Cereal was an option on the buffet both days but there were no spoons on the table or by the cereal station. The first day my server managed to bring me a tablespoon (suitable as a serving spoon) while the next day I was directed to a basket of spoons – nowhere near the cereal – but they were iced tea spoons. I was hoping for a short-handled “regular” spoon or at least a soup spoon but got neither. I found it very odd that no one else complained about this.

The room itself was actually a very nice size. We’d ordered a twin room and had added a roll-away bed. They gave us a connecting room and the roll-away was place in front of the connecting door so we all got a little space this way. Unfortunately it also made it easier to hear the crying baby next door on the second night!

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room Desk

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room Desk

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room Closet & Safe

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room Closet & Safe

We got a chuckle out of the combination TV stand/mini-bar as it looked like something out of “The Jetsons” to us but we weren’t watching TV anyway. There were plenty of accessible outlets, which was nice but we did run into one unpleasant surprise. Only four devices per room may be connected to the internet during any 24-hour period. Unfortunately two of us cranked up our phones and tablets right away, leaving the third person without a connection. A warning certainly would have been nice! It’s possible that the front desk folks could have helped us but we didn’t realize the situation until we were all locked in for the night and we didn’t mention it the next day.

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room TV Stand

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room TV Stand

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room Mini Bar

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room Mini Bar

The bathroom has a window over the sink that looks back into the room. We were a little worried at first because we’re friends but not THAT kind of friends! Fortunately we found a shade on the outside of the window that raises up to give privacy in the bathroom. There was a single sink with a good-sized vanity. The shower/tub was fully enclosed with glass doors but it was quite a step up into the tub from the floor. While we three could handle this it might be tough for shorter people or those with mobility issues. Anne Semonin-branded toiletries were provided as was a hair dryer.

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room Bathroom Window

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room Bathroom Window

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room Toilet - note the high step up to the tub

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room Toilet – note the high step up to the tub

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room Sink & Vanity

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room Sink & Vanity

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room Toiletries

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room Toiletries

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room Shower & Tub

Radisson Blu Istanbul Twin Room Shower & Tub

The hotel also had a small gym and a hair salon though we did not make use of either.

Radisson Blu Istanbul Gym

Radisson Blu Istanbul Gym

Radisson Blu Istanbul Gym

Radisson Blu Istanbul Gym

The location of the hotel is a beautiful one though I don’t think it’s very practical if you don’t have your own transportation. Just to the east of the hotel is the Ortakoy, a small outdoor mall of sorts. Lots of open air shops and cafes. We had fun just browsing through it and we ate dinner in the area both nights. Once you cross the main road in front of the hotel, go back a block or two and you start getting into a more residential area. We loved looking at the fresh food stalls as well as the non-touristy stores where the locals buy their goods. There is a small mosque not far away but it did broadcast the calls to prayers before midday – something we were thankful for because when they did broadcast it, it was quite loud.

Fresh Fish Market near Radisson Blu Istanbul

Fresh Fish Market near Radisson Blu Istanbul

Fresh Produce Market near Radisson Blu Istanbul

Fresh Produce Market near Radisson Blu Istanbul

So the service here is not what we experienced at the Ritz or at the Swissotel but then, neither was the price. I redeemed 100K Gold Points for this stay. If I’d held the credit card at the time I made the reservation the last night would have been free – as it was, I nearly cut it too close getting the credit card and the gold status came through just hours before we checked in.

Categories: Club Carlson, Hotel, Lodging Review, Turkey | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Major Sites to see in Istanbul

Turkey Trip Overview
Booking Flights To Turkey
British Airways First Class Lounge IAH
British Airways 777 First Class IAH-LHR
Transiting Heathrow and British Airways A320 Business Class LHR-IST
Marriott Courtyard Istanbul Airport
Pegasus Airlines Istanbul to Izmir and Back
Ephesus, Mary’s House and Basilica of St. John
Swissotel Efes
Pamukkale Bus and Preiene
Ritz-Carlton Istanbul
Major Sites to see in Istanbul
Radisson Blu Bosphorus
Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class IST-IAH

Istanbul is a teeming, vibrant city and there’s no way to see everything in the short period of time that we were there. Having spent a single day here previously I knew I wanted my friends to be able to see a few of the highlights during our short stay. Once again the folks at SeaSong provided us with a guide and a driver, which made getting around quite easy. I won’t go into a lot of detail because these are major attractions and there are plenty of websites that will cover these in more depth but here are what I’d consider our highlights:

The Big Three: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace

These are the three attractions that garner the most attention and they’re definitely worth visiting. They’re all within walking distance of one another so it’s very convenient to see them together. We visited the Blue Mosque and Topkapi in the morning, stepped away for a bit to have lunch, then came back to do Hagia Sophia in the afternoon. Since SeaSong had arranged our tours, they took care of getting the tickets and we had our own private guide, which was terrific. It’s so nice to be able to go at your own pace and have a guide who can answer questions rather than being rushed through or only having an audio guide.

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque Interior

Blue Mosque Interior

Blue Mosque Ceiling

Blue Mosque Ceiling

Fountain in the courtyard inside the Blue Mosque

Fountain in the courtyard inside the Blue Mosque

Egyptian Column in the Hippodrome outside the Blue Mosque

Egyptian Column in the Hippodrome outside the Blue Mosque

Ornate Gate inside the Topkapi Palace

Ornate Gate inside the Topkapi Palace

Tilework on the wall of a summer pavilion at Topkapi

Tilework on the wall of a summer pavilion at Topkapi

Balcony of Topkapi Palace

Balcony of Topkapi Palace

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia Interior

Hagia Sophia Interior

Mural inside Hagia Sophia. While the building was a mosque, murals like this had plaster put over them.

Mural inside Hagia Sophia. While the building was a mosque, murals like this had plaster put over them.

Grand Bazaar

After visiting the Big Three, our van whisked us away to the Grand Bazaar. It’s one of the largest covered markets in the world with 60 streets and 5000 shops. It’s always busy, attracting between 250,000 and 400,000 people daily. I love the signs in its midst that indicate it’s been open since 1461 – that’s over 550 years! Note that it is closed on Sundays and closes at 7 pm nightly. If you’re on foot, it’s about a 15-minute walk from the Big Three but there are also three tram stops nearby.

Grand Bazaar main entrance

Grand Bazaar main entrance

Grand Bazaar interor

Grand Bazaar interor

Dolmabahçe Palace

The Dolmabahçe Palace is the European-style palace that was once the residence of the head of state. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, considered ot be the father of modern Turkey and its first president, lived here and used the palace even after his presidency. It was here that he died in 1938. The palace is right on the Bosphorus which I imagine would be great in the summer since it could get the breeze from the strait, since there is no air conditioning here. There’s also a cafe on the grounds and we enjoyed having a dessert there after we took the tour. It’s just down the (rather steep) hill from the Ritz Carlton so we walked down there and took the tour ourselves. The box office was cash-only but fortunately we happened to have enough cash with us. There are several types of tickets that will let you into various parts of the palace. Don’t forget to check out the ornate gates that face the main road just outside as they’re quite beautiful.

Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahçe Palace gate from the street

Dolmabahçe Palace gate from the street

Bosphorus Cruise

After three nights at the Ritz we moved on to the Radisson Blu Bosphorus which is situated right on the strait. It even has its own small dock, which made it a perfect place from which to take a cruise. It was so pleasant out on the water and we got to see a side of the city that’s not as easy to view from the land. The folks at SeaSong arranged this for us and we were able to use their services to move our bags from the Ritz to the Radisson, check into the hotel then hop right on the boat for our cruise, which was very convenient.

Remains of fortress walls as viewed from the Bosphorus

Remains of fortress walls as viewed from the Bosphorus

Another view from the Bosphorus cruise

Another view from the Bosphorus cruise

Taksim Square

The Ritz is very close to Taksim Square, which has all kinds of food and a bit of shopping as well. There is a steep hill leading up to Taksim but that just made for an easier walk downhill at the end of the night. We ate dinner in this area several times and between Yelp and the Ritz’s concierge we were able to select a few very reasonably priced options for our dinners. There are also lots of ATMs in this area.

Taksim Square by night

Taksim Square by night

Rug Shopping

Finally, what’s a trip to Turkey without seeing how Turkish rugs are made? We did stop for a bit in a rug shop to see the demonstration and of course they brought out rug after gorgeous rug to tempt us. While the rugs were definitely priced well under what we’d pay for them here in the US, they were still outside my budget, sadly.
Of course there’s lots more to see in Turkey like the train station, home for the Orient Express, where the Whirling Dervishes perform, loads more mosques and temples to see and other markets as well. It’s definitely a city that deserves more time that we had to give it but hopefully one day we can return.

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Ritz-Carlton Istanbul

Turkey Trip Overview
Booking Flights To Turkey
British Airways First Class Lounge IAH
British Airways 777 First Class IAH-LHR
Transiting Heathrow and British Airways A320 Business Class LHR-IST
Marriott Courtyard Istanbul Airport
Pegasus Airlines Istanbul to Izmir and Back
Ephesus, Mary’s House and Basilica of St. John
Swissotel Efes
Pamukkale Bus and Preiene
Ritz-Carlton Istanbul
Major Sites to see in Istanbul
Radisson Blu Bosphorus
Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class IST-IAH

Ritz Carlton Istanbul logo

After returning to Istanbul from Izmir via Pegasus Airlines, the friendly folks at Sea Song had booked us an airport transfer to the Ritz Carlton, where one of my traveling companions and I had used our Marriott points for three free nights. We were not able to combine our points but when making the reservation we’d gotten on a conference call with the Marriott agent and she was able to deduct points for two nights from my friend’s account and one night’s worth of points from mine. While they were two reservation numbers, there were notes in both reservations to point to the other reservation and that way we didn’t have to change rooms after two nights, which was nice.

The van dropped us off at the hotel entrance and, like at the Swissotel, our luggage went through an x-ray machine. But the bellmen took care of that for us so we were able to go straight to the check-in desk.

The lobby was just beautiful. Marble floors, lovely decorations, very calm and luxurious-looking. At certain times they also had pomegranate juice available.RC Lobby

RC Piano

RC FlowersWe were escorted up to our room on the fifth floor. We walked through the entry and past the bathroom and large closet into the main part of the room.
RC EntryIt contained twin beds and they brought up a rollaway for us. It made things a little tight in the bedroom area. We had to rearrange the chair a bit to make things fit.

RC Beds

RC Chair and ViewWe also had a desk with another chair, a combination TV stand/mini-bar and some floor space where we could put some of our luggage.

RC Desk

RC Mini Bar

RC ToiletriesWhile the bed area was a bit cramped, we had no such issue in the bathroom. It was huge! We had a separate tub and shower stall, only one sink but it had lots of counter space and a huge mirror over it and there was a separate toilet room. My only complaint about the bathroom was that the hair dryer was stored in a lower drawer and was somehow connected to the wall via the drawer. I’m a bit above average height for a woman and I got a good biceps workout trying to lift the hair dryer high enough to reach the top of my head because the cord kept pulling it back down. I’d really like to see them have a hair dryer on the counter top – though I suppose that ruins the effect of luxury when looking at the counter. Toiletries were Asprey brand.

RC Sink

RC Tub

RC Shower

RC ToiletThough we didn’t use them, the hotel had a nice gym and a gorgeous indoor pool with hot tubs. There was, of course, also a spa area with Turkish baths. There were also outdoor pools and lounging areas.

RC Gym Cardio

RC Gym

RC Indoor Pool

RC Turkish BathRight next door to the hotel Vodafone Arena is under construction. It will be the home stadium for Beşiktaş J.K., the city’s professional sports club which includes its football (soccer) team. The hotel is on a very steep street but it’s an easy downhill walk to Dolmabahçe Palace, the first European-style residence for Turkey’s rulers, which was completed in the mid-1850s. That’s well worth a visit too.

The staff at the Ritz was fantastic and the concierges gave us some great help with finding places to eat as we were so near to Taksim Square. Unfortunately the walk to Taksim was UP the steep hill but it made it easier coming home at night.

We really enjoyed our stay here and it was so conveniently located that we wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again.

Categories: Hotel, Lodging Review, Ritz Carlton, Turkey | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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