There’s no place I’ve ever been that’s quite like Istanbul. It feels so very far away (in fact, it is very far away). The assault on all senses is so powerful and relentless, and Istanbul’s towering minarets and spice-filled bazaars are places I shall not soon forget. Especially not because our hall closet, where we stashed our souvenirs, shall probably forever smell like a potent mix of curry, cinnamon, and cumin.
Anyway, this post is to offer a review of an incredible place to stay while seeing the sites. The Neorion Hotel is a true gem of hospitality and comfort, all at a fine value (a bargain, even, you might say).
We checked in on my birthday and were greeted with a birthday cake complete with candles! I was so touched. Really made me feel special so far from home. And you know how you (I) get all sensitive on your (my) birthday if people don’t recognize with appropriate fanfare.
Because our stay in Istanbul was not especially long or leisurely (three days) we had to plan our excursions carefully in order to get to everything we wanted to see (for instance obviously the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and the like) The hotel staff helped us plan each day with a realistic schedule as a paid, personal travel agent would have, making sure we made plans to hit each location on a day it was open (failing to know the days of closures for landmarks would have been an easy mistake for amateurs, and would have cost time). They also used our credit card to pre-purchase our tickets online so we avoided long lines at the sites — a huge advantage that made us feel very V.I.P., especially as we skipped over the crowds waiting in full sun in the sweltering July heat (close to 100 F while we were there during a heat wave).
I’d especially like to call out guest services pro Elvan, who was so sweet in helping us plan, and just such an overall kind, effervescent, joy-radiating person. My husband wanted to buy a special piece of jewelry as a birthday gift to me, so we asked Elvan where we should look. She suggested Spice Bazaar (where I wouldn’t have known they’d have jewels) and seemed just about as excited as I was about the prospect of my new bauble!
There is the kind of hospitality that comes from super high-end places where you expect and demand it because you paid for it. And then there is the kind of hospitality that can come from only sincere graciousness and warmth, which is the feeling you get at the Neorion. It seems to come from within.
Let me also add that the hotel will never let you go hungry. You could practically eat all day on the beautiful breakfast, included in the nightly rate, plus the mezze offered nearly all day 1 to 7 p.m.), and then the bonus complimentary wine offered on the roof at sunset hour. My husband and I will not soon forget those special sunsets spent among other hotel guests and staff.
A word also about the overall experience: Istanbul is a fabulously exciting place, filled with frenetic energy and barely organized chaos (part of the allure of the bazaars and the like, of course). The Neorion feels like a magical retreat that separates you from that mania when you are ready. The beautiful air-conditioned lobby and our guest room (#604) made us feel utterly relaxed, calm, and at home.
One particularly memorable part of our visit, as I mentioned, was the extreme heat. Although I am very heat tolerant, I’d return from a day of sightseeing feeling utterly spent. We’d head down to the cool indoor pool prior to taking in the sunset on the roof, and it was a divine refresher. I also took in a traditional hammam experience on my birthday (there is one on the pool level) and I swear it helped eliminate the severe pain I’d developed in my neck from a week of planes, trains, taxis, ferries, and unfamiliar beds. It actually also made me feel like I might die from heat stroke. But I didn’t! And my neck felt way better.
Another N.B.: I’m an insomniac and an easily disturbed sleeper but spent a 10-hour night of sleep in the Neorion (practically the stuff of myth for me), where the bed is extremely comfortable (soft by European standards) and the blackout shades do just that. So the sleep quality is terrific, an impressive feat for a property so well located in the middle of it all.
When we departed, the staff sent us off with a goodie bag of Turkish treats and all stood outside and waved, making us feel like family after only a three-day stay.
As a new blogger, I guess I don’t really have a rating system yet for reviews. So I’ll just give the Neorion three cumins up in a minaret formation.
Or, wait, here I shall invent my rating system before your very eyes and use it forthwith and herefafter:
Neorion Hotel, Istanbul, Turkey
Price: $$ out of a possible $$$$
Location: 3 out of a possible 4
Sleep quality: ZZZZ out of a possible ZZZZ
Service: **** out of a possible ****
Overall grade: A
Date of visit: July, 2012