Friday, November 1, 2013

Living it up at The Istanbul Marriott Asia Hotel

It’s nice to be spoiled every once in awhile and that is how I felt when I entered the Istanbul Marriott Asia.  The Marriott Hotel is one of my sponsors who help out with the logistics when I travel by plane.  As you know, my accommodations during the first two months of my trip have gone back and forth between camping, basic hotels, and being hosted.  I find that alternating my accommodations like this gives me a good balance on my trip of time to myself mixed with interaction with locals and ex-pats.  I’ve stayed in some nice hotels on The Thomson Bike Tour trips, but I must admit, the Istanbul Marriot Asia Hotel is by far the most luxurious hotel I’ve stayed in yet.  Thanks to Peter Reischl, the General Manager, and his accommodating staff, I was well taken care of for the night prior to my departure. 

They helped me transport my bike not only all packed up from the bike store to the hotel, but from the hotel to the airport, which was a good hour and a half away.  Erman, my driver was extremely entertaining and brought me on all sorts of side street “short-cuts” to avoid the traffic in Istanbul, which seems unbearable at any time of the day! Observing the roads on the outskirts of Istanbul, I was relieved that I had not attempted to come in to the city directly on the road.  The ferry was a smart and safe choice to enter Istanbul.

I probably stood out with my attire and luggage as I entered the hotel lobby, but the staff didn’t stare (nor honk) as others do when they see such an unusual sight.  All my belongings fit snuggly on a luggage cart and my bike even came up with me to my hotel room! 

I had a king size suite to myself, which was actually bigger than my old apartment in Barcelona. For the first 10 minutes in my room I oohed and awed at the sophistication of my room and the gestures of appreciation the staff at the Marriott had prepared for my visit.  I know they must treat all their guests the same, but the exceptional customer service of the hotel staff at the Istanbul Marriott Asia made me feel as though I was royalty!   There was a note waiting for me besides some of the sweet treats they had left me with some juice.   There were all sorts of small little toiletries, slippers, and a robe, at my disposal, including wonderful smelling lotion and conditioner.  I had access to the Turkish bath until 11 pm at night for free, and a complimentary dinner and breakfast at the hotel that night and the next morning. I’m usually quite happy with just the basics, but I have to admit, it’s fascinating to be spoiled every once in a while and experience luxurious treatment, especially after cycling almost 6,000 kilometers!

Dinner kebab plate

Dinner consisted of a variety of uniquely flavored sauces on bread, an enormous salad with fresh vegetables, and a special meat platter, a selection of the chef, accompanied by a roasted vegetables and a peanut sauce.  I hadn’t even cycled that day, but I had an incredible appetite and it all tasted delicious.  For desert I tried a warm semolina dough mixed with nuts and spices accompanied by ice cream. 

I probably should have gone to bed directly after dinner due to my to accumulated exhaustion, but my mind was consumed by the logistics I had yet to iron out for the Asian portion of my trip.  The next morning, I prepared all my luggage before heading down to breakfast.  Breakfast at the Marriott was similar in experience to wandering the aisles of the spice market and the Grand Bazaar.  There were so many different plates and trays full of interesting types of food prepared in such an elegant fashion, I didn’t know where to start nor what to try!  I probably should have had a small breakfast as I wasn’t cycling and would be sitting on a plane for the next 12 hours, but I fancied trying as much as I couple to say good-bye to the Turkish cuisine!  Honey is one of my favorite Turkish breakfast foods, and there were 4 different types of honey alone set out for guests.  I sampled some of the different cheeses, decorated a waffle, and had an assortment of dried fruit on top of my yogurt.  I was in heaven.  And although I’m sure the tea was amazing, I was happy with my coffee and milk, something I have missed while traveling throughout Turkey.

General Manager Peter Rieschl
Erman, my driver, he said he was too lazy to ride his bike :)

My stay at the Marriott ended with my airport limousine service with my bike box and all, again taking the scenic route through several different neighborhoods and over The Bosphorus Bridge (in a car, thankfully rather than on a bike, which is of course prohibited).  Although my stay at the Marriott was short, it was a much appreciated gesture of support by my sponsors and key in helping simplify traveling with a bicycle in an enormous city.  It’s fun to experience a luxurious night, being spoiled after two months on the road without many “extra” amenities.

Thank you Ronny Maier and Peter Rieschl for organizing my stay at The Istanbul Marriott Asia and supporting me as I cycle the loong way home!

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