Witt Istanbul Suites
No one told me there was a Grand Prix for taxi drivers, and that it was being held in Istanbul on the weekend Mr Smith and I arrive in the city. By the time we’re dropped off, dizzy and disorientated, at the cool stone steps of the Witt Istanbul Suites, I seriously wonder if I’ll ever regain my balance again. Ten wobbly paces later, though, we’re in the soothing sanctuary of a sombrely lit lobby and all traffic woes are forgotten. The welcome we receive as we check in is warm and genuine, which, considering it’s 1am, is no mean feat.
I’m tired and still feeling slightly irked by the fact that one of our bags has decided to go somewhere else for the weekend, but all negativity disappears when we’re shown into our fifth-floor corner suite. It’s beautiful and my eyes are immediately drawn to the huge bed in which I hope to be imminently snoozing. Then I see the windows. I can vaguely hear someone trying to explain to Mr Smith how to make the fancy flatscreen TV work, but all my senses are now fully engaged on the view. The Bosphorus spreads out beneath us like a velvet blanket and the mosques of the Golden Horn are lit up like jewels beside a flame. ‘It’s OK,’ I say to the hotel manager. ‘We won’t be watching the TV.’ He looks mystified, as though I’ve said we won’t be sleeping in the bed.
The next morning, we wake in a dark and silent room after the best night’s sleep in ages. We pull up the blinds with the excitement of children on Christmas morning – and we’re not disappointed. The French doors next to the bed yield a view down to the turquoise Bosphorus across the manicured courtyard of the old Italian Hospital, and across to the Topkapi Palace. Thousands of higgledy-piggledy roofs sit in between, adding to the sense of chaotic beauty. We pop our iPod into the Bose dock, make ourselves some espresso and take our Turkish breakfast back to bed.
Being in our suite feels as though we’ve been given the keys to our coolest friends’ tip-top apartment for the weekend. There’s a kitchen for starters – how often do you see that in a hotel room? – and a bathroom that’s an intriguing mix of traditional and modern. Built with grey-veined marble, as found in many of the city’s hammams, it also features bobbly Ross Lovegrove fittings and a glass-walled shower – oh, and large bottles of Molton Brown products. The living area, which has its own Bosphorus-view balcony, comes with a leather-and-wood sofa, a marble coffee table, and a flatscreen TV and DVD player. The whole tone of the place is cosy and modern, with a simple natural palette of black, taupe, grey and white. A quirky, feminine touch can be seen in the floral patterns on the wardrobes and the white panel above the bed. Designed by Wallpaper*-friendly local architects Autoban, the end result is domestic luxury rather than hotel swank. I’d happily move in tomorrow.
When we finally bring ourselves to leave the room, we head over to Ni?anta?i for a session of what Mr Smith calls ‘nuclear shopping’. He’s got business meetings in the city tomorrow and all of his work outfits are in that missing bag. It takes him just an hour to find himself outfits for both work and play – about the same time it takes me to try on a swimsuit and then have a cappuccino to get over it. We eat close to the hotel, at Meyra on Akarsu Caddesi, where we enjoy the best aglio et olio this side of Rome and get delightfully sozzled in the warm afternoon sun.
The area of Cihangir, in which the Witt Istanbul Suites sits, is the sort of bustling quarter that only insiders know about. Its streets are a jumble of trendy cafés and creative start-ups, mixed in with traditional kebabçi, barbershops, mosques, hammams and crumbling family apartments. Just uphill from the hotel, at the junction with Akarsu Caddesi, is a 24/7 hub of taxi drivers, all-night terraced cafés and little eateries, whilst around another corner Anatolian women in traditional dress sit crocheting in the street and children with limpid eyes watch you from dark doorways. Just downhill from the Witt, on the shores of the Bosphorus, is the stylish Museum of Modern Art. In a city that, for thousands of years, has been at the crossroads of two cultures, perhaps it is natural to find such differences within a few square metres.
On Sunday morning, while Mr Smith goes off to talk business in his new clothes. When he returns, we head downstairs to check out, only to decide that we’ll stay here for a couple more days. ‘Welcome back,’ says the manager, smiling. ‘And the other good news is that your missing bag has arrived.’
I know exactly where it’s going to go. And, now that we’ve discovered the Witt, so do we. We genuinely don’t want to go home – unless, of course, someone in London is willing to lend us their beautiful, design-conscious apartment for the weekend.
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Smith extra at Witt Istanbul Suites
A welcome drink and basket of fresh fruit on arrival