Staying at the Sirkeci Mansion was like staying at a palace, a really, really friendly palace that smelled like a spa. Everywhere we turned, the staff was there to greet us with a genuinely friendly smiles. From the first point of communication by e-mail – I was sent a detailed description of ideas for possible itineraries and offerings, which only made me more excited for the trip to Istanbul.
Upon arriving in Istanbul, Kelsey and I had a slight idea of which direction we needed to head to find our hotel — hopping on two different metros to make our way to the Sirkeci stop, we then realized that our Googled directions weren’t so clear. Walking down several streets, we knew we were a bit lost, but not yet defeated. Seeing our confusion as we tilted the phone in different directions, a man approached us (we had been hesitant to ask for directions or accept help, but he turned out to be completely genuine in his actions) and asked what we were looking for. He ended up calling the hotel for us and then said, “Okay, go straight. Then left. No right. Left.” Confused by his words, he realized he didn’t know English directions so well, so he proceeded to charade the directions for us in the street.
Alas, we found the hotel and were so giddy to have finally made it – together.
Grabbing a butterscotch candy, I plopped down in the chair and listened as the concierge gave us a detailed description of the area and showed us main sites on the map. He offered up great suggestions for walking tours and sights to see, but at that moment – Kelsey and I only had one thing on our mind; FOOD. As we stood up to head upstairs with the bellboy, the concierge added that breakfast would be from 7am until 11:30. Score. Time to sleep and time to eat, music to my ears.
Entering into the room, we said our thank yous and plopped down on the big white bed. To our delight, a plate of Turkish Delight was mounted on the bed-side table and we immediately grabbed a handful. I had never tried the famed Turkish Delight before and only read about it (mainly from Chronicles of Narnia) so I was very intrigued and curious. It’s difficult to put into words — the texture, similar to the consistency of mochi, but a bit harder and sort of cake like, minus the flour, but coated in powdered sugar. Whatever it was, it was good, and we quickly devoured the entire plate.
Turkish Bath: Returning from a late night meal of delicious street kebap, Kelsey and I were so excited to learn that the hotel had a Turkish Spa and even though it was closed for the night — the staff escorted us there to show us the grounds. Hot damn, was I wishing that I had brought my bikini. The next evening, after a full day of exploring and smoking too much shisha, we were rather exhausted and needed a break before heading to our dinner reservations. “Spa?” We both chirped to each other, eyes lighting up in anticipation. Rushing up to our room, we quickly ditched our clothes and opted for the plush bathrobes and cozy slippers.
Slipping into the spa, we were greeted by a hippie looking man with long fiery hair, headphones around his neck and matching earrings. He gleefully smiled at us [this whole smile thing for me is huge – living in Paris for the past year, I quickly learned/became accustomed to the rule of never smiling in the streets, so this is very refreshing for me!] and showed us around the facilities. Having never been to a Turkish Spa before, Kelsey and I were a bit confused as to the procedure and exactly what it entailed — the guy at the desk suggested we try the sauna first and then the bath, but we’re stubborn and opted for the other way around. Setting foot in the “warm room” of the Turkish Bath, we were taken back by all the sinks filled with bubbling water faucets. “Oh? This is strange” I said to Kels as she walked over to the basin. Quizzically looking at the pan sitting atop the washbowl and the hot and cold levers adjacent to the spout, she picked up the pan and questioned, “So uh, how does this work? Isn’t it supposed to get steamy?” We looked down to the faucets and then back at other, both of us with a bewildered look on our faces. Ummm….. Kelsey started laughing at how dumbfounded we both were, grabbed the dish, dipped it into the watered and poured it all over her head. Dripping wet, she jokingly said, “Well, I feel refreshed.”
Realizing the man at the desk was right – we exited the warm room and headed to the sauna for a good sweat and then returned to wash in the Turkish Bath (also known as hamam) afterwards.
Breakfast: The next morning, Kelsey and I slept past our alarms (typical) that had been set for 9am. Opening our eyes at half past 10, we quickly jolted out of bed, threw on clothes and raced downstairs to make it in time for breakfast. An array of typical Turkish breakfast foods were set out – olives, cheeses, cucumbers, figs, yogurt and honeycomb.
Before arriving, I had seen a clip of Anthony Bourdain talking about Turkey’s famed honey but the slab of amber-hued honeycomb dripping golden nectar, just waiting to be dug into was completely unexpected and totally welcomed.
Our final morning, Kelsey and I hot-footed it downstairs to catch our shuttle to the SAW airport at 5:45am. Even at that hour, the staff was extremely friendly and though breakfast was still in the process of being set up, they invited us to grab food for the road (and of course, we did – because food). Definitely one of my favorite hotels to date, the Sirkeci Mansion displayed Turkish hospitality at its best. Also – the WiFi was unfaltering – and in foreign countries, this is huge!
Location: Located just down the street from Gulhane Park, the hotel is maybe a 10 minute walk from all of the Old City’s main attractions and historical points, namely the Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern And Topkapi Palace.
Taya Hatun Sok. No:5 Sirkeci, Fatih, Istanbul 34120, Turkey (Formerly Sirkeci Konak Hotel)
Price: $$$ (prices subject to season/room, about $150-180 per night)
Accommodation: 5-star boutique hotel
Thank you, Sirkeci Mansion!