If we could, we would rename The Orient Pearl “The Orient Crystal”. There were no pearls but first thing that takes your breath away as you stepped in are the crystal chandeliers. There are total of nine chandeliers – all very fancy except for the one in the foyer. The biggest one was in the living room – of which even my 5 year old was so mesmerized that he asked if we could have one just like that back our home. There is one that lit up every single room including the 2 bathrooms. For an apartment this size, it is almost overkill but I realized that is perhaps what gave the ‘wow’ factor when you are in the apartment. It feels like a “boutique apartment” if there is such a thing.
The apartment unit is a designer showpiece - from the built-in cabinetry, marble counter tops, made-to-measure beds and matching armoires, modern fixtures/ toilet receptacles, recessed lighting in kitchen, soft blue night lights backlit light switches in bathrooms… Everything – from furnishing, décor, state of the art surround system, SONY Smart TV (we saw it on TV advertisements while in Istanbul), the 9kg washing machine, leather sofa settee, the duvet, down pillows down to the crockery, coffee machine (also one for Turkish coffee), silver ware, table and bed linen was high-end and mostly new or barely used. This probably explained the higher rental bracket compared to other apartments in Istanbul. You are paying for quality.
The exclusiveness of this apartment made us feel welcomed, at home, as things are laid out as if you are home. There is a hot/cold water dispenser (we were told by David, the owner, to look for coupons in the kitchen drawers but he didn’t know they had already ran out, probably used by last occupants). When we arrived, the water bottle was empty but David had previously emailed me detailed instructions how to order them which allowed us to purchase large 10 gallon bottles (7 TYR) to be delivered to the house so we do not have to keep buying small water bottles and used the refill from the dispenser instead.
Everything looked like in the pictures – even the little flower petal soap box.
There was plenty of room for our family of 3 adults and 2 small kids, 5 and 3 year old- we had to put away the lovely fragile displays and candles but most part, the house is child friendly. The kitchen – heart of the reason why we opt for an apartment over a hotel room, is well equipped with a full size fridge, full range of cookware and all the standard condiments – olive oil, spices, ketchup and mayo in fridge etc. The other apartment we were considering would have sent a “welcome basket” including a bottle of wine but in comparison, because David’s kitchen has almost everything we needed, and well stocked coffee/ tea, we didn’t feel we were any lesser off. In any case, we are non-coffee drinkers and we didn’t use much of the house’s supplies as we stocked our own, but it was nice to see the owner had so generously left things for the consumption and disposal of guests. As it turned out, we didn’t use the kitchen much apart from quick breakfasts in the morning because Istanbul boasts of such good eats everywhere you turn!
We love the super comfy mattresses – we found out they were Sealy Posturepedic when we changed sheets. I bring my own contour pillow everywhere I travel including 5 star hotels but it was redundant at this place. Everything smells fresh and clean, including the floor rugs. We usually do not wear shoes indoors and was pleased at the entrance there was a sign that encourages guests to remove shoes and next to it was a basket of comfortable house slippers. This makes sense as to reduce noise transferring to the unit below us. In the end, we didn’t need any as we love walking on wood floors – just like in our home.
There was a safe built into each of the two wardrobes. The dimmers on the chandeliers were nice features. Both bathrooms have double sinks – something we usually see only in US hotels and homes. Master Bath even has 2 shower heads - a rain shower and a nozzle with multi massage function on opposite side of the walls - allowing at least 2 persons to be inside at the same time! There was a hairdryer, and soap was provided in all the soap dishes. There were detergent and fabric softener above the laundry machine / station.
There were a few inconveniences that had almost ruined our experience. First, there was a misunderstanding about the internet access in the house. We had understood from David that internet was all hooked up in the apartment’s TV but when we arrived, we realized it still required a keyboard/laptop to get it working.
Apart from the labels of the washing machine where there was a typed up translation next to it, most of the things in the house including labels on the microwave, dish-washer, TV remote controls, DVD player, keypad on the sophisticated telephone are all in Turkish. It took a few days to figure how to use the phone (we never figure how to retrieve messages in the phone even though the light kept beeping) and get the word across that we needed to resolve the internet issue. We couldn’t communicate much with the caretaker – who was there from mid-morning till about 5/6 in evening, but only speaks Turkish and zero English; even though he was nice, he was not of any help. Many of the negative reviews we read about staying in apartments in Istanbul are poor reception, no help when needed or owner is absent when there was problem in the house. We finally got hold of David’s partner, Ugur. It was already 4th day of our trip and I was counting on planning our trip from day 1, using the internet – to check weather reports (fluctuates quite a bit during this time of the year when we were there), use the online maps that I had researched and saved, and to contact a local travel agent to do a side trip as well as getting some personal business done. We were so desperate we offered to buy a new keyboard but it seemed that wouldn’t have solved the problem either as the internet connection had a problem too. We kept getting error messages (in Turkish) from the connection even we had the correct password etc. The set-up is similar to any home- internet set up and we were almost certain that there is internet connection but it was not hooked up properly to link the various systems. Since everything was in Turkish, and it was always at the end of the day when we had finally time to look at it, the troubleshooting was the worst thing we had to dealt with. Eventually, Ugur got the caretaker to loan us his daughter’s old laptop. He came and left us the laptop. Imagine trying to navigate Windows in a foreign language – and with a keyboard with foreign strokes and alphabets, it was almost mission impossible to get much done. Also, there were firewalls and all sorts of unfamiliar stuff that made the entire exercise very frustrating. we gave up.
The saving grace was Ugur, who spoke great English, was so sweet and had a good demeanor about him that it was hard to get mad at him for things not working right. He sensed our disappointment, apologized and tried to find a solution. At our plea, Ugur sent some people to come into the house two days later, during our absence, to straighten the internet connection issue. Unfortunately, out of many things, not having internet access was one that cost us the dearest. We finally got hold of the travel agent on the second last day before our departure, by then it was too late to arrange anything.
We had also requested a baby cot just before we arrived but it was not delivered until the middle of our stay. Normally, I wouldn’t have worried much but it happened our 3 year old was sick and because he hadn’t a cot, he messed up the nice duvet on the regular mattress he was sleeping on. This happened twice, in the evenings, which cost me a lot of angst and effort in cleaning up, changing sheets etc. Being a conscientious renter, we did our best to clean up the little mess but at the same time decided to send the duvet out for a thorough dry cleaning to return the apartment. Mr. nice Caretaker tried to help by taking it over from our hands as we exited the building with the big load, looking for a laundromat. However, the kind intention became disastrous because it appeared his laundry guy did not DRY-CLEAN the “down duvet”. It came back the next day with the down stuffing inside hard like a rock.
Well, the baby crib eventually was delivered. One day, Mr. Caretaker rang our doorbell, almost at midnight, to personally hand it to us. It could be a culture thing, but the lateness of the night (we didn’t answer the door for the longest time not knowing who to expect), the manner in which he thrusted us the huge box, and uttered something in Turkish, did not come across pleasant. Ugur explained later, that he was just being responsible. Although we appreciated the last min rush to get us a crib, we didn’t think we would be spending at least an hour being challenged to put together a crib with an unusual assembly and with instructions fully in Turkish. Again, we couldn’t communicate with the caretaker until 2 more days later, through Ugur, who got him to put it together for us when he stopped by for the housekeeping.
There was no housekeeping throughout our 10-day stay except once, after 5 days. Most apartments provide housekeeping every 2-3 days. Especially when we have young children and a group of 5, and for the length of time we occupied the unit (most guests, I think, in Istanbul stay less than 5 days) it would have been nice if cleaning was more frequent. When housekeeping crew (caretaker and his wife team) came in our absence, they did the minimal. The beds were not made, the counter or tabletops not cleaned, the shower stalls not cleaned, toilets not cleaned I doubt the floors are mopped… I think all they did was to take out the trash (and assembled the crib)
The other thing to note, the toilets, like most toilets in Istanbul do not take paper. This means you have to clear and carry your bathroom trash everyday (since there is no housekeeping) and walk it out the apartment to the main street for disposal. It isn’t that inconvenient but it is a small chore.
The apartment is on the top floor, and has a small view from the Master bedroom. But there is no elevator, so it is 3 flights of spiral (but clean) marble stairway walk-up if you forgot something. Caretaker was there to help with some of our luggage when we checked in and checked out.
This apartment is suited for two couples who like the extra space, families with kids, older couples and if you are independent travellers. With the absence of the owner or “reception” on site, you can’t expect to ask small details like train times, tips for getting around the apartment etc. Often, interaction with the owner or a friendly reception makes a big difference in the start of your journey. For example, we went three times to the Dolmabache museum – first time, they refused about 100 plus visitors in the line, because it was a “busy day”. The next day, we went back, but it was closed. The third time, we stayed in line for more than 1 hour before we got in. Also, without an on-site English speaking help, don’t expect to get your issues/problems in the apartment heard or fixed right away. This can turn a holiday upside down, if your time there is short and you don’t have the luxury of time to wait for them to respond.
To be fair to David, he was extremely helpful and forthcoming with all sorts of info and answering my questions in our correspondences leading up to our arrival. There was no free airport pickup offered but he readily gave detailed instructions on how to navigate the airport crowd (actually, we didn’t face any, perhaps because we arrived at 6 in the morning) and how to take a cab (very easy). He also suggested wonderful, good-value restaurant options, including the fabulous hole-in-the-wall small diner right across from the apartment, in the basement under a art gallery. That was our last meal before we left for the airport and was one of the best. He also suggested investing in the metro card – which was one of the best way to get around. We did cabs first couple of days but soon realized, because of traffic, shortest route isn’t necessarily the fastest. Get the type of card that you can refill with your credit card – its better. I wouldn’t, however, go for his recommendation of the “hammam” in the local district – I had a horrid experience there.
There is a requirement for upfront payment of safety deposit, which my research told me was pretty unusual for Istanbul hotels or apartments of this category (they may use your credit card to “hold” your spot but never take any money in advance) but David fully refunded our deposit via paypal, about 2 weeks later, as promised.
Ugur called us before May 1- to warn us of the major planned protest by Turkish laborers in Taksim Square, taking into concern our safety since the apartment was close by. We felt that it was thoughtful of him to contact us regarding the possible uprising and breakout. (It was because he called, that we had the chance to tell him about housekeeping issues - small things like no detergent for the dishwasher etc etc)
We didn’t have any problems with the heating or cooling system in the house. The hot water was at times a little sporadic but there was plenty of hot water for showers for everyone. Again, it took us some trial and error and an hour to figure how to turn on the hot water heater as instructions were in Turkish and we didn’t know who to ask. The AC cooled off very quickly. On the 4th day, the master walk-in shower started clogging. We tried to fix it ourselves (much easier than playing charade with caretaker) but after few days, the clog became so bad that we had to take showers standing in a flood… Ugur was quick to send caretaker the next day to fix it once we informed him.
A couple other things that were not working were the auto sensor for the foyer, both the bedside lamps in the master bedroom, and the nice big clock in the living/dining.
One of the nice amenities in the house was the avail of 3D TV and a built-in movie library. If not for the various hiccups, spending our precious hours PC troubleshooting, clean-ups, fixing cribs, clogged shower … I think we could have managed to relax more and catch a couple more movies.
Although we wish many a times to be in Sultanahmet – as it really does help to be first in the line (lines can take up a lot of time), we were super happy to have found a nice club (called Café something) literally opposite the apartment. It was a fantastic 6 or 7 piece band that plays some of the best world music along with latin and jazz mixes. You can’t beat taking 2 steps (to cross the street) and to be back at the comforts of your home from partying. Live music only happens on Friday evenings. And for those who are worried about noise, yes the noise is there – you have to give and take. The close proximity to Istiklal means being next to where the action is - clubs and loud noise. If you don’t want the noise, you’d have to trek either up or down hill further away from Istiklal, and some of the hills are pretty steep (and appear more when you are tired). And, the house does have very good double-glass paned windows which helped filter most of the noise but I guess the bases at the clubs are stronger.
I want to wrap up saying the reason this charming apartment earned a 4 star from me was because of the internet access problem. The other issues were small; if you can overlook them, you’ll see they do not warrant much demerit from the strong aesthetic appeal and quality appointment of this place. The location is wonderful – a block from Istiklal. Even though we were there 10 days straight, we didn’t get tired of watching the throngs of people weekdays and weekends hanging out, enjoyed unique performances by talented street buskers, and checking out the various small eateries, being a stone throw from The Flower Passage as well as the food and party street Nevizade (try Ahlem). A side note, on the French Street (Istiklal Cad La Rue Francaise or Cezayir Sok ), great atmosphere but don’t eat at the restaurant at the beginning / top of the stairway and has a French name. The young man/tout will say his mum cooked the food in the kitchen (all rubbish), he'll say the cuisine hailed from Izmir or “northern” - they serve cold fries and salty tasteless platters while he lied lamely that’s the way it’s supposed to taste… Diners there all agreed it was horrible, overpriced wine, worse meal in Istanbul!
If you have young kids like us, you may end up spending a few TYR more each time you return to this apartment as being situated in the middle of Istiklal, the train-subway/ metro system does not pass by this spot conveniently. It is much easier and most cost effective to take a cab uphill home from the nearest metro station “Tophane” than to use the Tunnel then change to the historic tram, which we never hopped on during our entire stay there (nicer to take picture of). In addition, when arriving from airport (35-45TYR), make sure you get the cab to stop you exactly where the apartment is. If you overshoot, it’s a pain to backtrack, hauling your luggage on an uneven cobblestone street since the cab will not reverse on a one-way street. Across the street, under the great bar, is a convenience store for your basics.
|How easy was it to book the property?||How helpful were the directions to the property?|
|How easy was key pickup/access to the property?||Overall condition of the property|
|Bedding & mattresses||Kitchen & utensils|
|Bathroom cleanliness||Other facilities & amenities|
|Friends getaway||Older travelers|
|Families with young children|
|Check-in / front desk||Service|
|Check-in / front desk||Service|
|A romantic getaway||Luxury-minded travelers|