Thursday, September 22, 2011

Istanbul, hotels and shopping

I received a request this week to say a little more about the "commercial" aspects of my May trip to Istanbul (see previous posts here and here), and I always meant to do so, I'm just a little late! I stayed in two different hotels, in two very different neighborhood, and at different price ranges. First I stayed at the Hotel Nomade in Sultanahmet. And this was my view at breakfast every morning (OK, I took these photos at dusk, but you get the idea). From the rooftop terrace I had a beautiful view of the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya and the Sea of Marmara beyond. I think just about every little hotel in Sultanahmet boasts a similar rooftop terrace and that was a major reason I wanted to stay in the area. I can't tell you what pleasure it was to sit down to breakfast every morning and drink it all in (the breakfast itself was pretty great too!).

While the common areas of the hotel were very nice (they have redecorated since the web site's photos were taken), the little room I stayed in felt very much like a budget hotel room (which in fact it was). But the staff was helpful and all the major sites were just steps away (as were all the tourists and all the touts — the drawbacks of this neighborhood).

After five days at the Hotel Nomade, I crossed the Golden Horn and moved into the House Hotel Galatasaray. This neighborhood had a completely different feel — all galleries, antique shops and stylish little cafes. Very few tourists. The hotel was housed in a gorgeous old building that had been lovingly restored. Given that some of the area's noble structures were literally falling down, it was nice to see something preserved.

But the real draw for me was that the hotel was designed by Autoban, the genius design team behind this apartment and some amazing, expensive furniture (some of which is available stateside at De La Espada). Seyhan Özdemir and Sefer Cağlar are major players in the city's design scene and have designed a whole series of cafes (I ate at the one in Ortaköy) and hotels around the city. Needless to say, this place cost double the Hotel Nomade. (This picture is of the entryway. The chandelier is an Autoban design. I had two of them in my room!)

All of the rooms in the hotels are "suites" with an inner and outer room. I was just in a "junior suite," so both my rooms were pretty narrow, but I must confess, I thought the division of the space added some intrigue and glamour. As you can see, all the furnishings are super neutral, and the color palette is strictly limited. This is not a look that I would want in my home, but I def appreciate it in a hotel. It's a stylish cocoon.

There was also a shower in the bedroom. I don't really understand why having baths and showers outside of the bathroom is considered a luxury, but that's clearly the way of the world now, so I guess I have to roll with it.

And once again, there was a great view at breakfast (that's Galata tower in the distance). BUT, some caveats, considering the price of the hotel... First, the windows in my room looked out on a brick wall. I figure only two rooms in the hotel are so situated, so it's possible to avoid this when you book. Second, there was an outdoor cafe abutting the back of the hotel that was quite loud at night (the Hotel Nomade also overlooked an outdoor cafe and was equally loud). And lastly, there is no elevator in the hotel and the breakfast room is on the top floor. But I'm not too fazed by view-less rooms, noise or steps, so none of these things was a dealbreaker for me.

A brief word about a hotel I didn't stay in: the Splendid Palas in Büyükada (a view from the front porch in this post). The exterior is postcard perfect and the interior has this bygone charm that's been atmospherically preserved. Hercule Poirot would have stayed here. After I poked my head in, I told my friends, "next time I come to Istanbul, I'm staying here!" Büyükada would be a great place for an overnight escape from the city.

The reception desk.

Wrapping this up! Shopping! Go to Istanbul Modern! It's a great museum with a great gift shop, full of local products and interesting posters.

Before I left for the trip I toyed with the idea of buying a carpet or suzani, but ultimately I bought what I usually do when I travel: art! It's lightweight and flat! And I bought a piece at the Grand Bazaar. That turned out to be a much more low-key affair than the guidebook had warned about, but I think it's the carpet sellers who are really aggressive.

I'm very happy with my drawing (seen here in the gold frame on my art wall). I can walk by it everyday and remember a wonderful trip.

We now return to our regularly scheduled interiors blogging.


johanna said...

this is awesome! thank you for writing it up! i had been considering that house hotel, wondering if it was worth the $ and it's great to get the scoop. am so looking forward to my trip.

henzy said...

It looks like an amazing trip. So beautiful.

Erin said...

What?! I blogged that hotel a long time ago -- can't believe you actually stayed there. Super dreamy, except for the weirdo shower thing.

Super jealous.

Oh, and your art wall looks fantastic! More pictures, please.

Cassie said...

You know Erin, I know I read that post because I COMMENTED on it, but I don't think I actually made the connection when I booked it. Yeesh. You are now subconsciously affecting my travel plans.

Link to the Design Crisis post:

Anonymous said...

Such beautiful photos! The picture of shutters and windows makes me so hungry to get lost looking up. Any more travel plans?

ohomemqueviuquasetudo said...

Ask for room 67 in Splendid, one the best I've ever stayed in: two palm trees frame the view, even from the shower!