Monday, August 15, 2011

Life in hotels in Turkey

We made it home, hooray! At this point, I've abandoned the idea of doing a Day 1/Day 2/etc sequence of blog posts, so I'll highlight some great/terrible experiences and do thematic posts on other topics. Here we go!

First up: a post about the hotels we stayed in during our trip. You should know by now that Jeremy and I don't mind staying in a crappy hotel every once in a while, but since we were with our kids on an extended trip, we decided to take it up a notch (in quality). Quick hops through uncomfortable nights of no sleep are fine when you can look forward to being home the next day. When you have ten days of heavy sightseeing and exploring stretching out in front of you...not so much.

TripAdvisor ended up being the most helpful resource when we were trying to figure out where to stay. I especially loved that we could filter the reviews to feature the ones written by people traveling with their families.

In Istanbul, I knew we wanted to stay in the Sultanahmet neighborhood, because that's where everything is (and that's where we stayed when we visited Istanbul in 2004). I had dreams of staying at Hotel Sebnem again, but somehow, the price for a room there seems to have quadrupled since our stay there in 2004. Sad. Instead, we found a room in a converted house in Sultanahmet (I'm beginning to think every hotel in Turkey is actually a converted house), not too far from the Blue Mosque. Our room was on the third floor, up a rickety spiral staircase that the girls loved to climb and descend in a reckless manner.

This was the view out our window:

Ha ha. The building next door was under construction (perhaps it was a house being converted into a hotel?), but at least they knocked off work before bedtime each night.

But THIS was the view from the breakfast terrace:

And this was our actual room (sorry, it was the only picture I got):
It was quite literally a room with a bed in it, with this wedge of space to spare. There was a double bed and a single bed, and we pushed them together. When we were figuring out the sleeping arrangements, Jeremy joked that the three girls should be on the double bed and he would take the single bed. We all had a good laugh at that. Guess what ended up happening? Yeah.

We spent three nights there quite happily. The girls claim that that was their favorite hotel, since a passel of street kitties lived right outside the front door. (This reminds me of when our family took a two-week trip to Alaska and when we got home, my 4-year-old brother Steven said that his favorite part of the whole experience was throwing rocks in a river.)

Next up was the overnight train ride from Istanbul to Kayseri:

Then there was the hotel FAIL in Göreme (Cappadocia, central Turkey). I don't have any pictures of the original room, or the lack of pillows, or the drunk people. And I want to say that that place would probably be a lovely hotel to stay in during the off-season when it's not full, or if you don't have small children with you (Jeremy stayed there in 2007 in such a situation). But for us, at that particular time, it was not an option.

So we moved onward, and upward, to my favorite hotel of the whole trip. It was - surprise! - yet another converted house, but this house happened to be a cave house. Cave houses are all over the place in Göreme. They're not a contrivance for the benefit of tourists - they're how people have lived in that area for centuries. This particular cave house that we stayed in was originally the home of the hotel owner's grandfather. It had such a good feeling about it.
 It also had a separate room for the girls, can you believe it? LUXURY.

One of my favorite things about staying here was that the city was having power outages while we were there. We spent parts of the two evenings we stayed there telling stories in the cave by flashlight. Good times. Another few favorite things:

It was located up this lovely dead-end alley (and the Ramadan drum-beating guy must have thought it wasn't worth his time to walk up it because we didn't hear him any of the nights we were there).

It had its own rooftop terrace, which we had all to ourselves.

And we ate a delicious breakfast each morning at this terrace across the way (our room was on a separate property from the actual hotel).

Lovely lovely lovely.

Anyway, when this hotel took us in, they promised us the three nights we needed even though we were in the high season and so many hotels were full. For the last night, they transferred us to a different hotel (another converted cave house) down the road, under the same management, because our original room was booked. It was a gorgeous room and we found out later that the hotel had only been open for five days, and also that our room cost more than we paid for it since the owner gave us the same price we paid at the previous room.
Still, I liked the other room better, even if this one was technically nicer.

Here is the breakfast terrace, just outside our room (and the drum guy came busting through at about 2am, FYI).

And here is the view of the hotel from the street. We got really good at walking up hills and stairs on this trip.

What we thought would be the last night of our trip was spent on another overnight train, this time going back to Istanbul (more about that in another post).

But then we got to the airport in Istanbul, ready for our 1am flight, and saw that it had been cancelled. I'm sure it's no surprise to you that there are not a lot of flights to Sharjah from any given airport. We were very, very, so extremely lucky to find a flight to Dubai that departed at 1pm. So we spent an unexpected night in the airport.

There is a lot more to that story, and believe me, you are going to hear it. Just not right now while I am still feeling the effects of it.

One of the unexpected joys of a vacation is coming back to your own house and bed and remembering how good it feels. We had pretty good luck with the hotels on this trip, and I loved loved LOVED staying in the cave hotels in Göreme, but wow, is it ever good to be home!


Liz Johnson said...

Those cave hotels looks AMAZING!!!! I want to stay there!!!

Jennifer said...

Yes, the cave hotel looks so cool! And no drum beating guy--what an added bonus! Can't wait to hear more about your trip.


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