on July 10, 2010
The Swissotel in Istanbul is a beautiful hotel but unfortunately also a very expensive one. I was booked in there by local agents who worked for the company I used to be employed by and I was shocked when I realised that they booked me one of the more expensive river-view rooms. Yes, of course I was 'worth it' as they say in the L'Oreal adverts, but I was surprised they thought I had that sort of expense account. I’ll admit I was impressed by the opulence but since I spent only a few hours each night in the room, almost none of them in daylight, the fabulous view of the Bosphorus was really rather wasted.The hotel stands in a new up-market part of the city that I think is known as Taksim. It wasn’t an area I managed to get any feel for because I was driven in and out each day and didn’t really see any of the surroundings other than a large football stadium. This district is popular with business travellers because there are many international hotel chains which have stricter security precautions than some of the more touristy areas and this visit took place at the time when war had just kicked off again in Iraq after 9/11. It's not the best location for tourists as it's not at all close to the Sultanahmet area where most of the tourist attractions are located. For a little bit of history, I was interested to discover that the hotel is located in what were once the grounds of a grand palace and it’s a remarkable quiet area overlooking the Bosphorus.There are a few things I remember well about the hotel. The lobby was spectacular and on my last morning it was filled with security guys. I was used to Turkish hotels having rather cursory security checks on entry (usually an airport-type walk-through archway that was ignored when the buzzer went off if your skin was light enough) but on this occasion, it was all being taken much more seriously. Apparently Colonel Gaddafi’s daughter was staying at the hotel. I also remember the bizarre Swiss restaurant (one of 10 dining options) complete with lots of cheesy (literally and metaphorically) Swiss stuff like cow bells and dirndls galore.The sports facilities are well renowned but I spent so little time in the hotel that I didn’t get a chance to use them. They include both indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a big gym and a super-swish spa. It’s a shame I had to work really. There’s a very good business centre and rooms are set up well for working with internet and good desks. But who wants to work when you’re rooms laid out to encourage you to lie back on the couch and stare out of the windows? My room was stunning, the view was exceptional but I really didn’t need either. I could really only recommend it if someone else is paying!
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