When my friend A and I left our friend’s wedding in Greece, we embarked on a tour of Turkey. We divided our travel planning responsibilities and I was in charge of the accommodations. My first booking was something low-risk and familiar: a Hilton DoubleTree in Istanbul, where I knew we would be greeted with a warm, fresh-baked cookie! All DoubleTree hotels automatically get their first Chitalian Scale point for that yummy cookie!
Upon arrival, late in the evening, we headed up to the Terrace Restaurant, which was pleasant and cool, and offered a simple but varied menu, where I think everyone would be able to find something to suit their tastes. Another point for the nice restaurant. The view on one side is not stellar, but in the other direction, you can see out pretty far, including a nicely lit up Mosque (no idea which one), and the coolest thing is that out on that terrace, at the right time, you are perfectly located to hear the simultaneous Call to Worship from at least 3 different Mosques, blending together in a haunting and impressive chorus. Two points for that! I’m sure that gets old when you’re there for longer, but at least for a short trip, for someone who doesn’t live in an Islamic country (or next door to a mosque in a melting-pot country!) it is quite beautiful. Suffice it to say that over the course of my short trip here (and the time I have spent in other Muslim countries, and within earshot of a mosque) the novelty has not yet worn off for me.
With regards to the rooms, I found the hotel room to be elegantly outfitted and well set up. Another point. It was a little small (-1/2) but the space was very well used (+1/2), so that cancelled itself out. We did have a lot of trouble with the thermostat though, never quite seeming to be able to get it right. Minus a point for that, because it did get a little uncomfortable.
The hotel had spa services in-house, and gave us a special offer for a Turkish Bath package at check in. +1. I didn’t take advantage of it, but A did, and she came back with tales of a lovely massage & Turkish bath package, administered by a short hairy man, wearing nothing but a towel…. I say plus 3 points for the comedic value of A’s recounting that tale (though A might want a point subtracted from that for the creepy Turkish man!) Otherwise, she seemed to enjoy the Turkish Bath experience enough to talk me into trying it at another hotel and doing it again herself, so I’d say that’s another point in the spa’s favor!
The front desk staff was very friendly, and very helpful in giving us advice on getting around in Istanbul, so another point there. They even taught me a trick to learn how to say Thank You in Turkish…. That would be “tesekkur ederim” in Turkish.. pronounced Teh-sheck-oor Eh-dur-em, as best as I can phonetically write it… The front-desk guy’s trick? Two sugars and a dream. If you say it quickly (and with Turkish pronunciation), it kind of sounds vaguely like Tesekkur Ederim!! 2 points there for going above and beyond and making me laugh!! And if you’re ready to figure out public transportation, the hotel deserves 2 points for being located directly in front of a tram stop! I’d take away a point for how crowded and hot the tram is, but I can’t really punish the hotel for that! Another area they make things easy for tourists is with the free internet access from the business center (well, free for Hilton Honors program members – I think at all levels…. as a side-note, I think this is a pretty good loyalty program – you accumulate points pretty quickly), so it is great for looking up tour bus schedules and the like. 2 points there!
Finally, if you’re looking to have breakfast at the hotel, they offer a very good & broad breakfast spread. Plus a point there, though that point is immediately lost because I found the breakfast to be a bit pricey. We did it on our first day, because we wanted to plan our day out, and didn’t know what was close by, if anything, so we wanted to get some energy for the day ahead. In retrospect, we should have just walked a couple of blocks towards the center of town and we would have found markets and cafes and plenty of opportunities for more wallet-friendly breakfasts. It was a good spread, and we did caffeinate sufficiently, but I probably wouldn’t do it again.
So where does that leave us? With 15 Chitalian points. What does that mean? No one knows exactly. But comparing it to other hotels this Chitalian has rated, that’s pretty good! Eventually this Chitalian scale will get figured out! I will leave it to someone smarter than me to interpret my results! 🙂