News, views, culture and cuisine, wine, recipes, DMC team members profile, where to shop, concerts, fiestas and so much more.

GTAlk is intended to be an on-line destination magazine to give you an insight into life in our destinations as well as the normal MICE news on new venues.

February 1 to February 4 2013 – Istanbul Fam Trip

Amazing Istanbul is growing and the list of impressive hotels is extending. Dining is a total pleasure and the night life ….!!!! Ten hotels and eight venues in 2 days plus met Osman, his delightful family and pets at his home.

Istanbul is such an exciting, popular, destination that leading brands are lining up to open – Shangri La is aiming for an April/May 2013 and Raffles should follow soon after. Last month a luxury phoenix rose from the ashes – literally. The famed Grand Tarabya, favourite haunt of movie makers, had closed and suffered a fire only to be rebuilt as an amazing Conference and Incentive hotel. Tarabya “opened” exclusively for a g2o client conference for over 400 pax.

With the competition “hotting” up and such excellent properties opening these last few years It is not surprising that the established 5 star hotels are stepping up their game.

We saw a brilliant newly refurbished hotel – a modern classical touch with a seamless style from reception through bedrooms and the meetings spaces. Meeting spaces are light, airy and inviting. However, the biggest wow is reserved for the restaurant – a series of open kitchens!!!

Other 5*’s are planning to refurbish – add separate showers in bathrooms, free Wi-Fi in rooms and at least a coffee maker. The newer hotels also have under floor heating in bathrooms.

The Ciragan still offers that spot on service … and the breakfast … fabulous . The best I have ever experienced and Baris, the Sales Director’s, impressed us over breakfast with his immense knowledge of Turkish specialist wine and food, suppliers and sources. Thanks Baris for the walnut recipe and thank you for having this dish added to our breakfast.

We had a unique show round by g20′s friends in the Shangri La’s sales team – a hard hat preview tour of all of the show rooms. Ordinarily only 1 or 2 show bedrooms can be shown but our friends also showed us rooms that only staff and builders had seen prior to our tour. We are waiting to see the finished building. AND contrary to the suggestions circulating the lower 6 floors are underground but not immersed in the Bosphorus.

Too many places to eat, too little time. So we experienced a range. The best Kebab house in Istanbul, followed by roof top drinks in a late night bar with views over the hill to the Bosphorus Bridge. Saturday night’s dinner was brilliant – a lovely restaurant with great view of the bridge, superb service and the Mediterranean/Ottoman menu was…..wonderful.

Lunch on Sunday and another change of style – The House Cafe popular with the locals and on the river front. High quality and inexpensive – I loved the pomegranate sauce on my grilled salmon salad.

And, sadly as it meant our stay was ending Sunday dinner was in the middle of the Bosphorus. We tried a gala dinner menu in Gaye’s favourite fish restaurant.Three days and not a glass of Chardonnay in sight – why would you drink imported wine/European grapes when Turkey was the world’s first wine producer and makes some amazing white and red wines.

Finally, as Valentines approaches, for those thinking of weddings Istanbul plays host to a large number of UK couples’ weddings. One hotel we viewed has 8 UK weddings booked in for this summer and there are a number of dinner venues which are as fabulous for large scale weddings as they are for Corporate Events.

And a sad goodbye to our wonderful friend at g2o Turkey our DMC.