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Turkey - Travel agent and guides

Travel Agent

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The travel agent for our trip was Karen Fedorko Sefer, owner and President of Sea Song. In the past, I have done extensive research in advance of our trips and have made all of the travel arrangements and reservations myself. I started out intending to handle this trip in the same manner, and starting almost a year in advance did a lot of on-line research to decide where we wanted to go, and what we wanted to see. Then life got in the way. Suddenly, we were 60 days away from departure, I had made no reservations other than for our international flights, and I was panic-striken.

At that point in time I took the advice of a wise friend of mine, checked the Conde Nast list of "destination experts" and found Karen Fedorko Sefer and Sea Song. I sent her an email explaining my predicament, describing in bare bones what we wanted to see/do, the dates were were traveling, and the type of accommodations we desired. She replied via email immediately and sent a draft itinerary within a day or two. One phone call and one more draft itinerary later, we had our final itinerary and the exact cost of everything. Amazing. Even more amazing, it turned out to be the trip of our dreams.

With one exception absolutely everything went flawlessly throughout the trip. The hotel the first night in Istanbul was not quite what we desired, so we contacted Karen, described the problem, and she immediately flew into action. She sent her personal driver to collect us, revised our hotel reservations, and met us personally at the hotel that we changed to. There are invariably problems that occur in any trip, and it's important how people deal with them when they arise. In that respect, Karen proved herself to be a consummate professional.

The local guides hired by Sea Song were superb (see below), and we received telephone calls periodically throughout the trip from both Karen and representatives from her company to check on us and make sure everything was going well. Similarly, we were provided work and cell phone numbers in case we needed to contact Karen or one of her employees while in Istanbul, Cappadocia, or Izmir.

In summary, we give Sea Song our highest recommendation.

Guides

All of the licensed guides and drivers that accompanied us during our trip were arranged by Sea Song and were absolutely superb. Each of the guides was a highly educated (usually with advanced degrees), intelligent, and personable individual with whom we truly enjoyed spending time. Their command of dates, facts and figures was so incredible that they should be on a Turkish game show: Stump the Guide - because we rarely, if ever, asked a question that they couldn't answer - correctly, as best we could tell! Sadly, we cannot put any future travelers directly in touch with these individuals, so please do not ask; they can only be contracted through a travel agent, such as Sea Song.

Our drivers were all courteous, safe and excellent drivers, and maintained clean, comfortable vehicles. None of them spoke English, other than a few words, but we communicated with them easily through our guides.

Guys, thanks for a great time!

L to R: Akif (Sea Song Istanbul office employee), Metin (our Istanbul guide) and Josef (our driver in Istanbul)
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L to R: Ramazan (our Cappadocia guide), Tuncay (our driver in Cappadocia) and us
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L to R: Frank, "Muzo" (our driver in Izmir region), and Evren (our guide in Izmir region)
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Posted by BeachGlass 09:40 Archived in Turkey Tagged travel agent guides Comments (0)

Turkey - Hotels

Following are all of the hotels that we stayed at while in Turkey, with the exception of the hotel where we stayed the first night (which we don't recommend and shall remain nameless). I tried to remember to take photos of the actual rooms we stayed in, but in a few cases either forgot to, or didn't want to show them with the beds unmade and the rooms in the usual state of disarray we have them in! Please contact the hotels directly if you desire further information, including rates or reservations. Our travel agent made our arrangements; I have no affiliation with any of these hotels, received nothing from them, and never disclosed to them my intent to include them in any travelog or on-line rating. This information is simply offered for any travelers who may want to visit in the future.

Four Seasons on the Bosphorus - Istanbul (1 night)

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This was probably our favorite hotel of the entire trip, with good reason, as it was also the most expensive. It's a gorgeous facility and judging from the dinner and breakfast we had, their food and service are outstanding. The location, while wonderfully scenic, is not terribly convenient to sight-seeing in the old city, and is probably not a good choice if this is your first pleasure visit to Istanbul. We stayed in room 2403, which is an upgraded room, although I don't remember the specific class.

Four Seasons at Sultanahmet (2 nights)

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This was our second favorite hotel of the trip. To be fair, our room (112) there was quite a bit smaller (and less expensive) than the one at the other Four Seasons, and we never ate any meals there other than breakfast. But everything about it was top notch, and the location in Sultanahmet can't be beat. In case you're wondering, the hotel formerly was a jail (!) and still retains architectural fragments of its former life, such as the bars on some of the windows. Breakfast was good, although the offerings were not as large as at the other Four Seasons. This would be my first choice if returning to Istanbul for pleasure, vs. business.

Museum Hotel - Uchisar, Cappadocia (3 nights)

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This cave hotel occupies a gorgeous setting halfway up to Uchisar castle, and is exquisitely decorated with museum quality artifacts that its owner collected. It is a traditional "cave hotel" in that it is built into the side of the mountain and many of the rooms actually have stone cave walls on one or more sides. All of the rooms have names rather than numbers and we stayed in a suite called "Ebrulli." This hotel is probably not a good choice for anyone who can't handle stairs very well, or who has a risk of falling. Building codes in Turkey aren't like in the US, so handrails aren't always installed where advisable. In their dinner restaurant, food was good, and service was slow, although they appeared to be trying very hard to please. Breakfasts were very good.

Key Hotel - Izmir (3 nights)

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This hotel is sited beautifully along the waterfront in Izmir. Our water-view room (111) actually consisted of two bedrooms each with an en-suite bathroom, with a sitting room in between. Having this extra bedroom was a nice surprise, and helped when I developed a cold and was coughing a lot. Frankly, we found all of the concealed electronic controls in the ultra modern-styled hotel room a little baffling and frustrating. It was irritating, for example, to have to use a TV remote and cycle through menus to close the window shades at night. If you stay there, take a 10 year-old child along with you to operate the electronics! Mostly Turkish (vs. western) food items are offered at breakfast. Don't order fried eggs, for example, or you'll get eggs that have been deep-fat fried and unrecognizable. We never ate dinner there, as there were more appealing restaurants close by.

Istanbul TAV airport hotel (1 night)

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The only reason to stay here is if you have a long international layover or an early morning departure, as we did; otherwise, stay in the city. Be aware that there are two different sections in this hotel: In the portion designed for in-transit passengers not clearing immigration in Turkey, there are no windows. We stayed in the other, nicer, area that makes up the majority of the hotel. It's a pretty standard hotel, clean and nice. We did not eat there, and so cannot comment on the food. Staff were nice and there is a shuttle (which is NOT clearly marked, at least from the domestic terminal pick-up point) running between the hotel and the airport. It is a difficult and confusing walk from the airport, so the shuttle is definitely advised.

Posted by BeachGlass 09:44 Archived in Turkey Tagged hotels Comments (0)

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