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Review: Tomtom Suites Istanbul – My Stay As The Only Guest!



In a nutshell: the Tomtom Suites Istanbul is an excellent boutique hotel offering large, comfortable rooms in a historic building with a top-floor restaurant that serves an excellent breakfast with views of the Bosporus. The hotel in close proximity to the shopping along Istiklal Caddesi, and you can also easily catch the tram into the old city. This would be my first choice of hotel if headed back to Istanbul. 

The Tomtom Suites Istanbul was the last of the three hotels I picked for my brief time exploring Turkey’s largest city. I spent the first night at the Nish Palas and the following one at the Park Hyatt Istanbul. The Tomtom Suites Istanbul isn’t in the same neighborhood as the other two hotels, but it is easy to reach by taxi. The hotel is also the most boutique of the three I picked, with just 20 rooms.

Booking the Tomtom Suites Istanbul

The Tomtom Suites is a Small Luxury Hotel (SLH) property that participates in the World of Hyatt program. Like the Park Hyatt a couple kilometers away, it is a Category 4 property, requiring 15,000 points per night. Cash rates were over €180 per night before taxes, and I elected to use a Category 1-4 free night certificate I’d earned when I hit the 30-night milestone reward this year.

Stays at SLH properties include a number of benefits for World of Hyatt members, including:

  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Daily complimentary continental breakfast for two guests
  • Room upgrade (one category at check-in if available)
  • Early check-in (noon, based upon availability at check-in)
  • Late check-out (2:00pm, based upon availability at check-in)

I’d end up using every one of these benefits during my stay. But I was in for even more of a surprise during my stay!

A Unique Arrival Experience

I took a cab to the Tomtom Suites after checking out of the Park Hyatt. Similar to the previous day, my plan was to check in early, drop my stuff, and head out to explore the city all day. This would turn out to be my best day in Istanbul, as I had both a Bosporus boat tour and a hammam visit on the agenda. Given the state of travel, I figured the hotel would have no problem checking me in at 9:30 AM.

The taxi couldn’t get me quite to the hotel. There are pylons blocking the entrance to Tomtom Kaptan Street, and he dropped me about 100 meters from the hotel. This was no issue, but keep it in mind if you have a lot of luggage. I have to imagine that there is a way to enter and exit the street, as I saw other cars passing through successfully. 

The Tomtom Suites Istanbul is located in a neat old building that was formerly a convent. The “Franciscan Nuns’ House” as it was called, is over 100 years old. Across the street is the Italian consulate. I read the historical sign and admired the art in the entryway before continuing into the lobby. 

Although the hotel is within an old stone building, you’d never know it from the modern style of the lobby. The receptionist at the front desk greeted me warmly, asking, “you must be Mr. Snyder?” This caught me off guard. I’ve only been greeted once by name before check-in, and it was only because I arrived super late. It’s pretty easy to guess the name of the remaining guest to check into a completely full hotel.

It turns out is was even easier in the case of the Tomtom Suites. The front desk informed me that I was the only person checking in that day. The hotel had no guests the previous night, nor did they have any booked for the following night. I would very literally have the hotel to myself.

I’d figured occupancy would be down, but I didn’t expect to be the only person at the hotel. The Park Hyatt had felt deserted, but I did manage to spot a few other guests during my stay. This takes things to a new level.

According to the receptionist, the Tomtom Suites never closed during the pandemic, which surprised me. The hotel went for several weeks without a single guest during the spring. He did comment that they had roughly 50 guests over the weekend, so things are on the upswing. I can’t imagine how much money they have lost this year, though.

It did occur to me that I may not even be helping by staying on points. I’m curious how much Hyatt reimburses SLH properties for award stays. I have to imagine it is more than for their own brands.

The hotel did upgrade me nicely to one of their Deluxe Suites. The bellman accompanied me to my room and insisted on carrying my luggage. This was rather over the top, as I had only a small sports duffel and light backpack. But hey, it’s a 5-star hotel and they had a service standard to provide for their only guest.

Each floor at the Tomtom Suites has no more than 7 rooms. There were 6 on the third floor, which is where I stayed. The bellman gave me a little tour of the room in broken English and then went on his way. 

Deluxe Suite

While not a true suite with separate bedroom, a Deluxe Suite at the Tomtom Suites is very large and stylish. It’s definitely more understated than the Park Hyatt, but I really liked the room. The art and large windows in the old building brought some life to the space.

I usually spent time (sometimes too much) at the desk working at least a little bit while traveling, and I always appreciate a comfortable desk. While the chair and desk are comfortable, an outlet is difficult to access. The desk also had information on the hotel, the restaurant, and a cool Tomtom Suites postcard.

While not intended, the welcome letter offered a bit of irony that the hotel was delighted to “have me as their guest.” Yes. Their only guest. There were a couple other details provided on the facilities, including that breakfast would be available on the top floor terrace and the hotel restaurant Nicole was closed.

The bathroom was exceptionally nice. You have a large shower, deep tub, and double sink. Everything is in one large room. While I preferred my stay at the Tomtom Suites overall, the bathroom at the Park Hyatt definitely outshines this one.

The entryway contains the kettle, minibar, and snacks and Turkish wine for purchase. It always amazes me that luxury hotels in some parts of the world provide Nescafe. This first blew my mind when we were staying at the Hyatt Regency Palais de la Méditerranée in Nice, France. This was my first introduction to super nice Hyatt hotels, and I couldn’t believe instant coffee was acceptable. Then again, it is France, and the better choice is to grab an espresso at a café down the street.

I did enjoy the bottle of Turkish red wine during the evening. I’d never even heard of Öküzgözü, a grape varietal native to Turkey.

Although my room was a few floors up, there wasn’t much of a view due to the trees across the street. I can barely see the Sea of Marmara to the south. The view from the fop floor restaurant, however, is quite nice.

Overall, I really liked my room at the Tomtom Suites. It was spacious, well-appointed, and I slept quite well that night (at least compared to the previous two).

Breakfast at the Tomtom Suites Istanbul

The room key card holder had the breakfast hours printed on it. The front desk had not mentioned that the Tomtom Suites Istanbul hosts a tea time, but I would guess it is canceled during COVID-19. It would just be weird for them to provide it for one guest. Plus, I wouldn’t even be at the hotel during that time anyway.

Heading up to the top floor terrace just before 8:00 AM, I found it appropriately deserted. Well, except for the place setting. Was I to have a guest? Maybe they were about to surprise me.

The server appeared after a minute. He was pretty standoffish and didn’t speak English all that well. He said they had a Turkish breakfast for me, and I said that sounded fantastic. And, man, it was. Fruit, vegetables, chees, nuts, olives, smoked salmon, and an assortment of bread are far more than enough for one person for breakfast. It was a bummer I was flying solo this trip. 

The manager came up from the front desk during breakfast to see if I needed anything. Given the amazing breakfast spread, I was set. But this was an especially kind gesture. Gotta check on your only guest!

The top-floor restaurant does offer decent views of the Bosporus and old city. At the top of the hill in the distance are the Topkapi Palace and the Hagia Sophia, both of which I visited the previous day. 

Hotel Amenities and Character

The Tomtom Suites isn’t all that big with just 20 rooms. I poked around on every floor, heading up and down the beautiful marble staircase.

Besides the lovely edifice and artwork, the Tomtom Suites offers a small library off to the side of the lobby for guests to enjoy. If I’d have had more time, it would have been nice to enjoy reading about this fascinating city as well as exploring it.

The hotel also offers small meeting facilities. There is no pool or exercise facilities. But walking the streets of Istanbul should provide all the exercise you need.

Excellent Location

The hotel location is one of the best features. The other World of Hyatt hotels are much further from the city center. You can certainly access the metro or take a taxi (which are cheap), but the Tomtom Suites location lets you easily access everything by foot. It’s a quick 2-minute walk up the hill to Istiklal Caddesi. This is a long pedestrian shopping street that stretches from Taksim Square all the way to the Galata Tower. 

If you head down the hill, you’ll be at the tram station in less than 5 minutes. Here you can catch the tram to take you to Sultanahmet and all the sights in the old city. If you want to stretch your legs, it’s maybe a 15-minute walk to Galata Bridge. This was the place that the guidebook suggested you start your visit of Istanbul, and it isn’t wrong. Enjoy getting your bearings at the Golden Horn for a bit and then head out to explore. 

Final Thoughts as the Only Guest at the Tomtom Suites Istanbul

From the friendly staff, to the comfortable accommodations, to the excellent breakfast spread, I really enjoyed my stay at the Tomtom Suites. It was a unique experience to be the only guest, and while at first I thought it might be creepy, it was actually an interesting twist to have the hotel to oneself. As a Category 4 World of Hyatt property, you can definitely get good value from your points or from your Category 1-4 free night certificates, like I did. I just suggest you stay more than one night at the Tomtom Suites Istanbul, unless you like to hotel hop like I do!

By: Family Flys Free
Title: Review: Tomtom Suites Istanbul – My Stay As The Only Guest!
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Published Date: Mon, 02 Nov 2020 15:08:08 +0000

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What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?




People have always liked to drink on board flights, especially people from Australia. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that there was an inflight bar offering in the 1970s.

Ansett Airlines were a major player in the Australian domestic market up until their demise in September 2001. For many years, there were two domestic airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett.

Ansett’s Inflight Bar

At the time, Ansett operated Boeing 727s, Douglas DC-9s and Fokker F27 Friendships on domestic routes in the country. Airline tickets were quite expensive, with tariffs agreed upon by both airlines thanks to Australia’s weird two-airline policy at the time.

While tickets were expensive and food complimentary, you still had to pay for a drink at the bar. Here is an inflight bar menu from the era, showing the drinks available and their prices.

Clearly the pricing is astounding by today’s standards – 30 cents for a beer? I’ll have thirty-three please! I like how Australian gin is 35c while the imported gin is just 5c more. Which would you choose?

You can tell it is from another era as you can buy cigarettes on board. These price up at 45c, a far cry from the extortionate prices people in the west pay these days for a smoke!

Overall Thoughts

The on board offering is pretty comprehensive for internal flights, and I imagine you’d be hard pressed not to find something you might like. In those times, all payments would have been by cash as well, which would have meant a lot of coinage being handled on board.

Of course, things haven’t changed too much over the years. On many airlines you pay for your drinks just as they did back in the 1970s. Shame the prices aren’t the same of course!

Did you ever buy drinks on board flights from the inflight bar back in the day? Do you still? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Daniel Tanner on via Wikimedia Commons.
Menu image by Ikara on Australian Frequent Flyer.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?
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Published Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:03:14 +0000

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These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?




The shrimp stop swimming at dusk and gather near the river’s edge. After sunset, they begin to climb out of the water. Then they march. All night long, the inch-long crustaceans parade along the rocks.

The parading shrimp of northeastern Thailand have inspired legends, dances and even a statue. (Locals also eat them.) During the rainy season, between late August and early October, tourists crowd the riverbanks with flashlights to watch the shrimp walk.

Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp first learned about the parading shrimp, and the hundred thousand or more tourists who come each year to see them, about 20 years ago. When he started studying biology, he returned to the topic. “I realized that we know nothing about this,” he said: What species are they? Why and how do they leave the safety of the water to walk upstream on dry land? Where are they going?

Mr. Hongjamrassilp, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to answer those questions himself. His findings appeared this month in the Journal of Zoology.

Working with wildlife center staff members, Mr. Hongjamrassilp staked out nine sites along a river in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province. They found shrimp parading at two of the sites — a stretch of rapids, and a low dam.

The videos they recorded revealed that the shrimp paraded from sundown to sunup. They traveled up to 65 feet upstream. Some individual shrimp stayed out of the water for 10 minutes or more.

“I was so surprised,” Mr. Hongjamrassilp said, “because I never thought that a shrimp can walk that long.” Staying in the river’s splash zone may help them keep their gills wet, so they can keep taking in oxygen. He also observed that the shells of the shrimp seem to trap a little water around their gills, like a reverse dive helmet.

DNA analysis from captured shrimp showed that nearly all belonged to the species Macrobrachium dienbienphuense, part of a genus of shrimp that live mostly or fully in freshwater. Many Macrobrachiumspecies spend part of their lives migrating upstream to their preferred habitats.

Most parading shrimp that Mr. Hongjamrassilp captured were young. Observations and lab experiments showed that these shrimp probably leave the water when the flow becomes too strong for them. Larger adult shrimp can handle a stronger current without washing away, so they’re less likely to leave the water.

Walking on land is dangerous for the little shrimp, even under cover of darkness. Predators including frogs, snakes and large spiders lurk nearby, Mr. Hongjamrassilp says. “Literally, they wait to eat them along the river.”

And the shrimp can survive on land for only so long. If the parading crustaceans lose their way, they may dry out and die before they get back to the river. A few times, Mr. Hongjamrassilp came across groups of lost shrimp dead on the rocks, their once-translucent bodies baked pink.

Yet most navigate upstream successfully, and scientists have spotted other freshwater shrimp around the world performing similar feats, scaling dams and even climbing waterfalls.

Leaving the water when the swimming gets tough may have helped these animals spread to new habitats over their evolutionary history, Mr. Hongjamrassilp said. Today, the number of parading shrimp in Thailand seems to be declining. He thinks tourist activity may be a factor, and learning more about the shrimp might help protect them.

The study’s authors made “some really excellent observations,” said Alan Covich, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the research. But understanding why the Ubon Ratchathani shrimp move upstream, and how far they travel, will require more research, he said.

“The most surprising thing to me was that it attracted so many tourists,” Dr. Covich said. He doesn’t know of any other example of people gathering to appreciate a crustacean in quite the same way.

“We have crayfish festivals, we have all kinds of things,” Dr. Covich said, “but generally it’s people eating them, not watching them move.”

By: Elizabeth Preston
Title: These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?
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Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 17:02:07 +0000

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Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?




There are reports that Aer Lingus have applied for 1,500 slots at Manchester Airport for the Summer 2021 season. This will allow the airline to base four aircraft there and service flights to the United States.

At present, there have been no press releases from the airline stating what is going on. Even so, it probably makes sense for the Irish airline to do this in the current market.

Aer Lingus And Manchester

From what is known, there will be three Airbus A321LRs and an A330 based at Manchester. These will operate non-stop services to New York JFK, Boston, Chicago and Orlando, and the season starts on 28 March 2021.

With Thomas Cook having gone out of business, there is likely space for another competitor. New York and Orlando will see competition from Virgin Atlantic, while the other two routes have no airline flying at the moment.

Aer Lingus has been connecting passengers over Dublin very successfully from the UK regions for a while now. Due to this, they will have visibility on traffic patterns, potential yields and more, making this an informed decision.

I imagine they also hope to cream off some of the connecting traffic that routes through London Heathrow on British Airways and Amsterdam on KLM among others. It would prove to be quite successful.

Transatlantic Joint Venture Approval

The US Department of Transport has tentatively given its approval for Aer Lingus to join the oneworld transatlantic joint business. This is operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair.

These airlines coordinate schedules and pricing, share revenues and expenses. For the consumer, it means more choice – those making a booking on British Airways across the Atlantic will also see options on American Airlines on the BA web site as one example.

Theoretically, it would allow people seeking flights on the British Airways web site to automatically be given options to fly non-stop with Aer Lingus, along with the Manchester-London Heathrow-US city connecting itinerary.

Whether Aer Lingus will join the oneworld alliance, even in a oneworld connect capacity remains to be seen. Frequent flyers would welcome it, especially those in Ireland.

Overall Thoughts

No doubt the boffins have been working behind the scenes to see if the business case for transatlantic flights from Manchester stack up. As things have proceeded as far as a slot application, I would guess chances are good that it will go ahead.

Either way, let’s see if this happens and if it does, whether Aer Lingus will stay for the long haul. If they can make more money elsewhere, they’ll up sticks and leave. Regardless, it is an interesting development in European aviation.

What do you think of Aer Lingus starting transatlantic services from Manchester? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

To never miss a post, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
All my flight and lounge reviews are indexed here so check them out!

Featured image by N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons.
Aer Lingus A321neo LR by Pitmanaaron via Wikimedia Commons.
Business class cabin via One Mile At A Time.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 18:03:48 +0000

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