The iconic Four Seasons hotel - Bosphorus

This chic hotel set in a 19th century Ottoman palace, perfectly located on the European bank of the Bosphorus, offers guests an unparalleled experience, combining the magic of a palatial hotel with some exceptional things to see and do.
The hotel showcases the best of Turkish hospitality with attention paid to the finest details. Each of the 145 guest rooms and 25 elegant suites have contemporary mahogany furnishings . The palaces crown jewels are surely the Palace Roof suite with its private rooftop terrace and total privacy which are simply without equal on the banks of the Bosphorus.
There is no better place to recharge amidst a bustling city. The luxurious hotel is only a 5 minute walk from lively Besiktas Square where the vibrant night life and world class shopping will entice you. The concierge will swiftly arrange a taxi , alternatively I enjoyed the shuttle bus that offers complimentary trips between this hotel and the Four Seasons in Sultanahmet.
Be sure to experience exquisite dining with tranquility and elegance at Aqua Restaurant , the talented chefs use the freshest ingredients to create traditional and innovative dishes. For a more intimidate experience on a crisp winter evening, I opted to curl up snugly in an igloo while savouring my meal and soaking up the most breathtaking view of the waterfront skyline – I felt like a real life princesses.
Traversing the top floors , rooms overlooking the splendid Bosphorus in all its sun – drenched brilliance, fill the entire room with a warm sensation that made me smile.There is no better way to feel the caress of the sea breeze as it dances gently over your body through an open window, while relaxing with a good book
Indulge in the spa with its authentic hammam, the spa includes three separate hammams ( a first in the city ) nine treatment rooms and one VIP spa. The pool features underwater music , whirlpool and poolside relaxation areas. Decorated in light marble with coloured mosaic tiles adds to the Ottoman elegance that emanates through out the hotel.
The glamour of The Four Seasons exudes an ambience of opulence, defining what really matters to guests , warmth and an enrichment in experience. For fun loving travellers, business men and women and families alike , its a winning combination An early morning stroll along the waters edge gives way to the first rays of the day, the gentle breeze and slow waves on the river, flowing upward to the white puffed clouds in the brilliant sky above. Seagulls , flapping, whirling and dive bombing in and out of the water, waken the dawn with their symphony of song as they fill their beaks with breakfast
Enjoy a taste of the good life, whether its rubbing shoulders with golden-heeled guests, drinking Turkish coffee, sipping on a signature cocktail, watching the seagulls swoop into the cool waters or taking a dip in the heated pool there are all sorts of unique experiences to be had at the ultra – luxurious Four Seasons.
www.fourseasons.com


Travel India

The quintessential Indian-ness cannot be described in words.

Visiting this dizzying , creative burst of culture allows one to appreciate the raw beauty of this country. It is said this is a land of happiness, love, freedom that all go hand in hand – a paradox. A country filled with vibrant colours, abundant with various religions that all flourish here from temples, Mosques, churches, palaces , forts and many more architectural varieties that marks the epitome of India’s heritage, this was an experience like no other.

The country has about 60 languages, 29 states and a movie industry that is ranked as having the largest ticket sales and number or releases in a year. To explore the land of India from one end to the other with its biodiversity and geo diversity could easily take a life time.

So we decided to embark on our own tour that would cover most of the Golden Triangle. Our first city was Delhi, the unprecedented migraine inducing sounds of cars that never stop hooting crept into our heads and never left. Overcrowded streets, bursting at the seems with homeless people flanked by luxury hotels, cows that lay in the middle of the road causing traffic jams, extreme heat , people who can squat when they want to rest instead of sitting, where just some of the memorable moments that made Delhi – Delhi.

Gardens of Select Citywalk mall

Delirious Delhi

Stay at The Claridges Hotel. One of the best luxury 5 star hotels in New Delhi, this mid 20th century retreat offers old world service , sophisticated dining and a location that makes it favourable.
Madame Tussaud’s where a person gets to rub shoulders with the stars. The world renowned wax museum is located in Regal Theatre. One can see American celebrities as well as Indian
Have Henna done at the market outside Hanuman Mandir temple. This temple is dedicated to the monkey god. The henna designer didn’t speak english but she was skilled at her job.
There are approximately 10 shops outside Hanuman Mandir that showcase a plethora of colourful bangles. Made of 3 base materials, glass , metal & lac they are styled in many ways. Avoid Tuesdays, this is the busiest day at the temple, carry cash & remember to bargain.
Street food , this really captures the essence of Delhi. The tempting fragrances and sheer variety will make your mouth water and eyes pop out as you try and decide which delicacy to try.
Pop into Starbucks located in the posh Connaught Place constructed in the 1930’s for some comfort coffee in a cozy setup. Bustling with people the neighbour cafe brand first opened its doors in 2013
Stay at The Metropolitan and Spa Hotel located in the heart of the business and commercial hub. This 5 star deluxe hotel offered one of the best breakfast spreads i had while travelling around.
Eat at Taco Bell if you enjoy global chain food. Bright coloured graffiti walls adds to the atmosphere of a daring , urban vibe that dishes up tasty Mexican inspired foods.
Take a night visit at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib that is open 24 hours. It is one of the most prominent Sikh houses of worship in Delhi and is known for the pool inside the complex. First built in1664 as a bungalow, rebuilt in 1783 then the current structure was mostly built post 1947.
Catch the Gatiman Express, India’s first semi-high speed train that runs between Delhi and Jhansi. Currently the fastest train in India it departs Delhi around 08:10am and arrives in Agra at 9:50am. First class includes breakfast and air con.

Henna hands

Agra- City of the emperors

Take an Uber from the Train station. Its the easiest and least stressful way. As one exits the station there is a barricade of sorts where policeman armed with sticks keep taxi drivers under control. If a person walks through this imaginary line of separation be prepared for the influx of taxi drivers who will harass you. A little further out is where all the tuk – tuks line up.
Stay at The Taj Hotel and Convention Centre. The 5 star hotels lies a short walk away from the Eastern Gate of the Taj Mahal. The rooftop infinity pool with breathtaking views will rejuvenate a guest after a hot day out exploring the town.
Shopping at the bazaar outside the Taj Mahal offers everything from hand crafted leather shoes, bright parasols which come in handy when taking photos at the Taj Mahal to hand carved elephants and more. Remember to bargain, if you want a price that suites your pocket.
Go for a ride on a scooter with a local. Its a hair raising experience as the driver navigates between all sorts of vehicles on dusty roads. The air and noise population is indescribable, with the wind blowing through your hair and local people staring with jaws gapping you cant help but have a silent giggle.
Eat at Sheroes Hangout this is a cafe managed by brave acid attack survivors. The women working here are happy to share their stories after having received a debilitating blow to their appearance. Food is served with a flavour of love so the menu has no pricing, patrons pay what they feel is suitable.
Wander around Agra Fort, this historical building was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty until 1638. It became a UNESCO World heritage site in 1983. Better described as a walled city, its recommend to visit here first before the Taj Mahal.
Feed the Indian palm squirrels at the fort. Handlers will sell you some food to encourage the squirrels to sit on your hand and hastily nibble away . They have become very tame & enjoy the limelight.
Be at the Taj Mahal at 5am for the beautiful sunrise. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 out of marble for his beloved queen almost 4 centuries ago, bestowing ever lasting fame on the town of Agra. Look out for the bench that Princess Diana sat on when she visited in February 1992.
Take the train from Agra. Probably not one of our best moments as we waited for our train that was delayed for over 3 hours, surround by people lying all over the floors swatting at the constant nuisance of flies buzzing around their heads and watching a pick pocketer operate in broad daylight. However when 4 “ queens “ gracefully glided past us with broad smiles in their bright saris they added immediate warmth to crazy environment.

Taj Mahal

Ranthambhore ( Sawai Madhopur )

Arrive at Sawai Madhopur station , the gateway to the national park. Here the walls have murals painted in black and white of tigers by a team of artists from Ranthambore School of Arts in 2015, reminding you that you have arrived in the land of tigers
Stay at Raj Palace resort with lush gardens and a big pool . As we enjoyed our evening swim the sound of croaking frogs filled the air. We even managed to hold one or two of them. Palace style accommodation appears to be the norm of this town, however service doesn’t always match the structure.
Stay at the 5 star Anuraga Palace hotel ,one of the most exquisite Palace resorts in the area, definitely a winner for us. With the calming music that plays throughout the building, it feels like time stands still. Decorated in the pristine white architectural style of a traditional Rajasthani haveli, the sprawling hotel over looks verdant green gardens .
Take a taxi to Ranthambhore fort, its cheap and the easiest way to get to see the evocative ruins of a 1000 year old hill fort that lies within the popular tiger reserve. This colossal citadel was founded in 944. Early morning we enjoyed a climb of about 200 steps up to the temples with the religious pilgrims.The majestic fort is set dramatically on a sheer cliff and surrounded by a verdant forest dotted with decaying pavilions, palaces, lakes and ponds.
Look out for the one humped camels on the road they are plentiful here. They are native to Rajasthan and Gujarat where they are best suited to a dry desert climate. India’s camel culture is globally unique, its taboo to slaughter or use camels for meat, sell their milk, sell their wool, or sell any female camels. Tradition only allowed male camels to be sold once a year at a fair, however male working camels have dwindled so camel numbers are decreasing rapidly in the country.
Tiger spotting at Ranthambhore Tiger reserve.It is a former royal hunting ground and home to tigers, leopards and marsh crocodiles. Visitors can only enter this beautiful landscape by participating in a guided drive, which is informative. There is no guarantee you will see tigers but spotting an indistinctive paw print pressed into the dirt is just as exciting.
Photograph the vibrant colours and local people they give new meaning to the word “ colourful “

Ranthambore National Park

Jaipur ( The Pink City )

Share a car trip with new found friends, this is the best road trip you can do. We realised that the British couple we met at a hotel in Ranthambhore we had also seen at our hotel in Agra . So after chatting on the tiger tour we drove with them to Jaipur. Its amazing how small the world really is.
Stay at the 4 star Nirbana Heritage Hotel and Spa. Situated in the heart of the pink city. Retaining its elaborate splendour , extravagantly decorated with hand-carved stones and painting. Aesthetically pleasing in public areas, rooms were bland & smaller than other hotels we stayed in.
Drive through the pink city, one of India’s architectural wonders. Largely built in the 1700s a romantic dusty pink hue defined the city since 1876 after it was painted pink to welcome Queen Victoria’d husband , Prince Albert. The Hawa Mahal palace made with red and pink sandstone is an extraordinary, delicately honeycombed hive that rises a dizzying 5 storeys. The 365 windows allowed royal women to observe street life without appearing in public.
Walk around Amer Fort . This nostalgic fort is one of the most well-known and most – visited forts in India. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013.The Diwan-e-Khas ( Hall of private audiences ) is the most exquisite part, walls are covered in intricate mirror work using glass imported from Belgium.
Souvenir shopping as you exist the fort, many people says its expensive but we found we were not pressurised as much as the other places, could bargain and received great service. We were also able to send some postcards from the shop that sold stamps.
Eat at the stylish 1135 AD restaurant for an opulent regal ambiance. Serving authentic, tasty Indian cuisine on candles tables. We toured the private dinning room upstairs with its silver backed chairs under chandeliers and a ceiling embellished with mirror fragments
Get some ice cream at Baskin Robbins because in the persistent heat you can never have enough. However the local frozen treat of milk, crushed almonds and cashews, sugar and cinnamon that are frozen in metal cylinders and look like little rockets are addictive.
Take a train back to Delhi when all the fun is over or you have run out of time to explore this beautiful city

Amer Fort – Jaipur

Delirious Delhi

Birds nests of wires around the city is something I would stop and look at continuously. Walking in narrow streets with large tangled nests above me, I wondered how electricians even knew where to begin
Ride in a tuk – tuk ( auto rickshaw ), they are a common means of transport. Make sure you confirm the price before getting inside. The name tuk – tuk comes from its engine sound which is designed in a scooter style, the maximum speed is 50km to 60km. A fun and cost effective way to get around
Visit Sacred Heart Cathedral, one of the oldest church buildings in New Delhi. It opened in 1930 and has been visited by Pope John Paul II twice, once on 1 February 1986 and a second time on 6 November 1999
Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib near Parliament House was built in 1783 and took 12 years to complete. Its located at the exact spot where Dhan Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur’s headless body was cremated after the Mughal executioner beheaded the 9th Guru of the Sikhs on 11 November 1675.
Take an Uber to the Saket District to shop at Select Citywalk mall. The vibrant , upscale shopping centre has eye catching decor, beautiful gardens with fountains, international brand – name stores and a food court. Further down the road in another complex we discovered the Hard Rock Cafe, a bit of a disappointment we were glad we had experienced the mall.
Visit ISKCON temple, a well known Lord Krishna Temple.
Shri Lakshmi Narain Temple built in 1938 , it took 6 years to complete and was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi, but Mahatama Gandhi inaugurated with the condition that the Delhi Laxmi Narain Temple should allow people from all castes, especially untouchables.
Great street shopping in Pahar Ganj, the budget tourist district. Main Bazaar is an enclave full of budget guest houses, small hotels, tiny shops selling everything from clothes to jewellery to beautiful saris. There is a mix of bakeries, rooftop restaurants and classic street food.
Stay at the Treebo Yes Please hotel close to the station. A modern 2 star hotel that promises quality and comfort, its only 14km away from the International airport. We found it clean and refreshing.
Eat at Cafe Festa, a vegetarian restaurant. They have a diverse menu catering for types of clientele. Well priced , they offer a comfortable seating area with air con. All their meals are prepared freshly.
Last night in Delhi stay at the Radisson Blu hotel new Delhi Dwarka . The outdoor pool was the best place to experience a magnificent sunset in the city that never sleeps. This tranquil location takes one away from the bustling city.

Gita Mandir Mathura in New Delhi

There is so much to see in India that one holiday cannot possibly cover it all. Little things that stuck out for us were the beautiful flower displays in the hotels, so much effort was put into these daily arrangements.
We also learnt quickly don’t check out until you are finished using the WIFI, as soon as your key card is handed in, you are removed from the system and the Wifi cuts out. This can be tricky if you are still arranging transport.
Uber everywhere !!! it is incredibly cheap and they have air con in the cars, something you quickly realise is a necessity.
Cash payments are the easiest method, hotels will even tell you that their card machines are not working, so to avoid the hassle carry enough cash at all times.
Always book a hotel with a swimming pool, its the perfect way to end a busy day and cool down of course.
Delhi Belly is real, you can try your best to avoid it but you just cant hide from it.

This crowded and chaotic county is a land of every form of contrast – a clash of colour and a cacophony of sounds . Once you have traveled here once you will want to return time and time again.


Heart of the North West

Harties as it is affectionally referred to, is known as the adventure capital of the North West. An area oozing with history , beautiful Magaliesberg mountains that form the perfect back drop, sparkling blue waters of the dam and pristine African bush veld.
Encompassing all good things that make Africa great this is the ideal getaway for families from Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Accommodation – Harties is Africa

Be immersed in a truly unique African glamping experience only an hour away from any major city. This resort is hidden among the bush veld and offers 5 self – catering luxury tents with ensuite bathrooms as well as 3 fully equipped caravans. The property consists of dense bush, open grassland and riverfront views. An abundance of game includes springbok, a giraffe , wildebeest and so much more. You can relax here , whether it be splashing in the pool, sitting on the deck over looking the river listening to the chatter of the birds , going for a leisurely stroll through the pecan forests or learning more about the history at the Sappersrus blue plaque memorial up on the hill. After a busy day out exploring there is no better way to enjoy the African sunset, while braaing on your private porch looking out onto the mountains. The presence of roaming game combined with the sounds and smell of nature makes this a nature lovers paradise.

Bill Harrops Balloon Safari

Hovering gently above the tree tops at sunrise, while soaking up the views of the Magalies River Valley.Drifting above the world famous Cradle of HumanKind World Heritage Site, is indescribable. If this is what dreams are made of then floating among the clouds is sheer bliss for me. Bill and Mary Harrop have been running their daily, licensed service with professional pilots since 1981 – the oldest hot air balloon operator in Southern Africa. After the adventurous flight a delectable champagne breakfast is served where you can mingle with other guests. For the discerning traveller this is a trip of a life time, a choice that will be etched in your memory forever. This experience is for adults as well as children however children must be 7 years or older to fly and children under the age of 12 are 50% off the ticket price.

Elephant Sanctuary

Walk and interact with elephants, this unforgettable experience is perfect for the whole family. It brings elephant and man together in a unique and special way. There is a variety of different interactive programs that include learning about their anatomy, feeding the elephants, walking with them and giving the elephants a brush down and for those wanting a special kiss you might be lucky to get one. The monkey sanctuary is also on the property, so while you are there why not visit them also and feed the lemurs.

Harties Boat Company

No better way to experience Hartbeespoort dam than to enjoy a 2 hour sunset cruise. Gently cruising the waters that are over shadowed by the Magaliesberg Mountain Range, enjoying a delicious spread of gourmet snacks while travelling past the luxury housing on the banks of the dam. The boat is a fun outing for friends and family looking to enjoy a fun outing , birthday or celebration. The scenic dam with a magnificent sunset as a back drop is picturesque and the perfect way to end a day in Harties. Sitting on the upper deck gave us a birds eye view of our surroundings and we could breathe in the fresh air while listening to the water lapping on the side of the boat.

Lion & Safari Park

Only 13km from Lanseria airport this 600 hectare wildness reserve offers guests an incredible opportunity to get up close to many of South Africa’s most iconic animals. Children under the age of 12 are free, this is a fabulous way to educate children and encourage them to learn more about the these magnificent animals. All the lions are micro – chipped and recored on the national studbook and none of the lions are ever sold. There are various attractions at the park which include self drives , predator tours, mini safari tours, night feeding tours, walking with lions, feeding the animals and photo opportunities with lions and their cubs. On site there are restaurants , a kiddies play area and a shopping area. With so much to do this is a full day event that is sure to keep the entire family happy.

French Toast Coffee Cafe

Filmed in the cafe and in Paris, the movie was released on the 24 April 2015. This restaurant was built as the official “ bar “ in the film . Pieces of the set remain like the Eiffel Tower used and the “ I love you “ wall and the “ lock Bridge “ where you can place a lock of love and throw the key into the water of the fountain. The bridge fence is already full of locks and now visitors have become creative locking them on the tower, bicycles, flower pots etc. The Cafe does not have wifi, service is a bit slow but if its the photo experience you are going for its well worth it.

With so much to do in the area I recommend staying over for at least one night. It makes for a great family or romantic getaway. Glamping was the perfect choice for my boys, they were in their element , forgetting about city life and breathing fresh air while listening to the sounds of nature. It also made the day trips a lot easier to manage.

Contact Details

www.frenchtoastharties.co.za

www.lionandsafaripark.com

www.hartiesboatco.co.za

www.hartiesisafrica.co.za

www.elephantsanctuary.co.za

www.balloon.co.za

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A to Z of Istanbul Airport

Airport Ambience
The pleasant , airy airport is rapidly becoming the most loved airport in the world. With a great vibe, sleek design, a focus on wellbeing and clever technology one is excited about being transported anywhere in the world. The largest airport terminal building under a single roof you will find there is loads of exploring and walking to be enjoyed.


Buses
Getting to your hotel is easy and relaxing after a comfortable flight. Ensure you have bought an Istanbul Kart at one of the many machines alongside the buses. The card can be used for all public transport in Istanbul and is cheaper than paying per trip. Havaist airport shuttle service operates on several lines between the air port and spots all over Istanbul. The buses are comfortable with TV services, WiFi, and a USB charging port. Trips take an average of an hour depending on traffic, the timetable on their official website will help one plan their arrival and departure times.


Concourses
Massive concourses enhance a travellers sense of direction, with 75 – foot – high vaulted ceilings and natural light the high – tech terminals improve the traveller experience aesthetically and logistically


Duty free
Operating in retail business for over 30 years, Unifree Duty Free has a total sales area of 55,000 square metres. This includes elite boutique shops, classical duty free and the bazaar area.The speciality concept stores found inside the ‘ Old Bazaar “ offer everything passengers like about Turkey. Be it a box of lokum, tea, dried fruit and nuts, ceramics, textiles or beautiful Turkish lamps. Besides the bazaar type shopping there are also leading brand stores, Louis Vuitton is by far the most spectacular and dare i say the most beautiful shop exterior in the travel retail world. With at least 24 shops, travellers are spoilt for choice.


Entertainment
The airport lounges are full of entertainment but my personal favourite is the the grand piano that never tires of playing, there is no better way to enjoy the gentle melodies that flow out of the self playing piano than to get a cup of coffee and sit close by. It has moved over from Ataturk airport and continues to put a smile on passengers faces when they enter the lounge, it adds new melodies to its repertoire.


Food and beverage
Enjoy a lavish hot and cold buffet inside the various lounges as well as a self – serve bar. In the main lounge you can watch the chefs prepare meals surrounded by small cafe type tables and chairs. There are food stations all over the lounges which include a large selection of salads, spreads, soups and hot dishes. The dessert spread is mouth watering and quenching your thirst is easy with ample fridges offering a variety of drinks and coffee stations that offer espressos , cappochinos and anything in between.


Golf stimulators
Golf enthusiasts will be pleased to know that a golf simulator can be found in the Turkish Airlines lounge, it was added to coincide with the airlines sponsorship of the Turkish Airlines Open golf tournament. The high- tech stimulator allows players to practise their swing using real golf clubs while looking at the screen as one is hitting the ball.
H- Shape
This single terminal building , is laid out with five different piers. One is domestic and the other four are international . The building is roughly H shaped with an extra pier in the middle. The airport was built to reflect the style of Istanbul’s doomed mosques and baths , while the air traffic control tower’s elliptical shape is inspired by a tulip, a centuries – old important cultural symbol in Turkish lore. Views of the tarmac and runways are sheer happiness for plane spotters.
Istanbul
The most populous city in Turkey and probably most famous, as it transcends its exclusive geographical quirk by being a showcase for how two contrasting cultures – East and West – can mingle as one and flourish. The best way to explore this cosmopolitan city is by foot. The winding cobbled streets and brightly coloured houses are some of the fun attractions. The city has a real sense of tradition and authenticity and is perfect for people watches with little cafes dotted all over.


Jewellery Stores
A unique shopping experience with a variety of stores that sell jewellery. Look out for the distinctive Turkish style accessories with classic handcrafted designs from the Ottoman Empire or spoil yourself with some fine gold pieces.
Kids Playground
In the Smiles & Miles lounge the children’s playground is a magical wonderland. With an airplane for them to climb inside, popcorn machines and kiddie movies to watch . Ideal for the children to burn some energy before embarking on their flight.
Inside the C.I.P lounge the amenities rival most 5 star hotels , bright, airy and with multiple playrooms with balls, toys, video games and bean bag chairs. Outside the playrooms, there’s a Scalextric slot car race track where parents can challenge their children to a road rally through the streets of Istanbul.


Library
Consisting of 2550 books , the library is found in the domestic flights terminal . A selection of books that encompasses literature, children’s books, english books, magazines and 500 Nobel Prize-winning books. Once a passenger has membership they can borrow a book and either return it back to the library or any other public library in Turkey.
Modern Museum Art
Art lovers can enjoying browsing the art at one of the two art exhibition centres within the airport. One features a photographic history of the development of the airport and the other photography. Istanbul Modern Art Museum has showcased 38 works of art in the Turkish Airlines Business lounge, the exhibition brings together important examples reflecting four main trends of Turkish modern art.
Newspapers
Available throughout the airport there is a selection of both Turkish and English print newspapers. The hard copies can be found in the various lounges so that passengers can enjoy sitting back and reading about daily events while simultaneously enjoying a drink.


Operational
Open 24/7 the new airport became operational on 29 October 2018 and is the only airport on the European side of Istanbul for commercial passenger airlines. This new aviation mega-hub reinforces the country historical role as a bridge between East and West. As a pivot between key routes across Europe, Asia and the Middle East it has been designed to handle as many as 200 million passengers annually once it runs at full capacity by 2050.
Pray rooms
There is a total of 44 prayer rooms available throughout the airport. 22 each for men and women. Part of the airports expansion includes a plan to build a Mosque.


Quiet areas
Designed to be a quiet space the airport does not have ambient music and the acoustics are hushed. The intimate public lounges offer quiet spaces to relax . Selections range from recliners to day beds to cabanas, putting ones feet up and having a quick snooze between connecting flights or the start of a journey couldn’t be more comforting.


Restaurants
Lavish displays of sweets, pastries, slow turning lamb or chicken and the fresh smell of bread complimented with steaming hot Turkish coffee or tea it guarantees to evoke the history of the Ottoman Empire.The various venues in the food court are impressive with their offerings and pay homage to the county’s rich food culture. There are the standard fast food venues, however the renowned Turkish food is far more impressive.


Shopping
Luxury shopping mall is the best way to describe the retail spaces. If its retail therapy you require you are in the right place. The modern concept offers selected international brands, this one-of-a kind shopping experience with its exclusive stores for luxury, fashion and lifestyle provides passengers access to the latest innovations in not only fashion but also technology.


Tourism and Touristanbul
Sightseeing in Istanbul is an obvious start to any holiday planned in Turkey. There are approximately 20 tourism services and travel agencies scattered throughout the airport, they not only assist with Istanbul sightseeing but with any other places you intend on visiting while in Turkey. All international transfer passengers who have flights with Turkish Airlines through Istanbul can participate in the free Touristanbul service. To make use of this fabulous perk, connection times between flights should not be longer than 24 hours and shorter than 6 hours. The perfect way to discover some of the top sights in this melting pot of a city with a diversity of cultures and taste Turkey’s world renowned cuisine. Istanbul is vibrant and bustling , the city beats to its own tune so this walking tour is the best way to be a part of it. The informative tour guides will be with your all the way and your bus will take you right back to the airport to board your connecting flight.

Uniquely Turkish
Warmly welcoming the airport ensures all passengers experience the unique Turkish hospitality in both service and food. In the lounges there are areas that bring out the culture whether it be the fabrics used on seating, stone work around some cooking stations or the traditional round silver tables.


Virtual reality experiences
Fleet of humanoid robots specially designed for the airport are a first for Turkish airports. The size of a small child , the eggshell-blue machines have bright digital faces with cartoonish round eyes. With a touch screen attached to their chest that allows people to interact with the machine these friendly robots can point passengers in the right direction and assist with flight schedules.
WI- FI password generator
Free wifi is available at the airport but is tricky, you require an sms to activate it. So either your phone is on roaming or else y0u need a Turkish sim card. The lounges provide voucher wifi, the wifi generator machine requires you to scan your boarding pass and it will give you a username and password to log in with. It worked the first time for me, so I found it to be hassle free.


X- ray
When passing through passport control you will take of shoes and anything metal , so normally the bling items for women. However if you still “ beep “ when going through the detector you will be called over to the full body X – Ray scanner where a person puts there hands up in the air and the scanner rotates around your body The body imaging , or millimetre wave imaging machines scan a passenger on all sides and transmit the image of the passengers body to the security agent. The object is to identify if there are any concealed items.
Yotel – Boutique hotel
Due to the location of the new airport there are not many hotels in the vicinity, YOTEL found inside the airport is the best choice if you have an early morning or late evening departure. There are two of them, one is airside and the other is landside. Ergonomically designed with high – tech pod- like rooms that feature monsoon rain showers, remote control fold up beds, smart TV’S, 24/7 gym , self service breakfast and free wifi the convenience and location is worth the price.


Zones
Wavy ceilings and sizeable space between gates makes the public spaces enjoyable. Zones through out the airport include duty free shopping zone, nap zones with round couches , lounge chairs that have bamboo privacy walls and day beds. There is the food zone, play zone for children and so the categorised areas continue. All are cleverly designed with ample lighting and state of the art fixtures.
Istanbul airport is a travellers playground , catering to all tastes no passenger will pass through it without feeling that their journey comprised of luxury and comfort.

For info on flights with Turkish Airlines go to www.turkishairlines.com

Istanbul airport information www.istairport.com

  • All images belong to the writer


Sierra Hotel - room with a view

Located in Pretoria’s central business district, this 8 floor, 251rooms, 3 star hotel with magnificent lush gardens makes a guest feel they have entered into an Oasis. Perfectly located across from the historic Burgers park and down the road from Melrose House, its home away from home.

What to expect

Room with a view

My spacious and clean room on the 8th floor came complete with a coffee machine, a kettle ,unlimited wifi , Tv with DSTV channels and en-suite bathroom that included a bath and shower and its own lounge area. With air con to help on those hot evenings I couldn’t have asked for more. Sitting at the table, sipping on my hot coffee and looking out at the Union buildings in the distant with storm clouds looming ominously over head, the purple Jacarandas standing proudly in all their glory was the ultimate happy moment for me. The skyline view will have you mesmerised.

Sierra Hotel

Sierra Hotel – Double bed

Long corridors with royal style carpets

The journey to the room should be enjoyable and easy for guests to locate their rooms while at the same time giving them a glimpse as to what else is available in the hotel to do.Corridors only became common in the late 17th century. Prior to this people would simply flow from one room to the next. Corridors were driven to a certain extent by socio-economic factors and evolving moral attitudes. They were a means of separating the occupants of a building and created privacy. The robust corridors of the Sierra hotel are well lit and spacious, the wall to wall royal style carpet absorbs sounds so one doesn’t here the other occupants. The versatile shade is a statement peace and is worth stopping to admire.

Sierra Hotel

Numerous conference facilities

With 12 well equipped venues to choose from, there is a room suitable for any occasion. Immaculately clean and well maintained . Not only is the space available but the hotel can assist with full service offerings from start to finish and everything in-between. Full day and half day packages can include a screen, flip charts, public address system and the extra touch for the tables like mints, water, pens and not pads. With stylish room names like the Ambassador or Africa house, its interesting to know that Serengeti and Etosha have been restored having been in existence since the late 1800’s.

Sierra Hotel

Sierra Hotel

Gigantic koi

Colourful, ornamental versions of the common carp, Japanese koi are believed to date back to early 19th century in Japan where wild, colourful carp were caught , kept and bred by rice farmers. The oldest koi in the world was Hanako, who lived to be 226 years in Japan. The hotel has some humongous, elegant koi that grace their indoor and out door ponds, with water sparkling above these swimming jewels I wondered how much bigger they would get. I soon realised my photos did not do justice for their size.

Sierra Hotel

World class bar

Spacious and with superb fittings, the distinguished hotel bar has friendly , attentive staff. After a days work the vibe in such an establishment should be upbeat yet sophisticated. Laughing and chatting to people its easy to hear the person next to you as one engages in an unpretentious conversation on any topic ranging from sport, work, life to of course the much debated politics of the country. You can bring your entire family, so long as they are over 18 years of course and enjoy a good chin wag. Before you know it, its time to drag yourself upstairs into your comfortable bed

Sierra Hotel

Shuttle bus

Free shuttle services to all Government buildings within Pretoria , as well as a free shuttle service to Bosman Gautrain Station. Other destinations like the airpot incur a surcharge. With comfort, reliability and aircon for the hot summer months in Pretoria, its fantastic to sit back and let someone else do the driving.

Sierra Hotel

Business Centre

24 hour business centre perfectly located in the lobby area , is available to all hotel guests. It offers computers with complimentary internet access as well as printing facilities. Secretarial services are available.

Sierra Hotel

Magnificent flower arrangements

Floral strategy is a deliberate marketing ploy that allows a hotel to shine. As a frequent traveller i always pay close attention to a hotel’s floral and decorative displays. Flowers put a smile on a persons face and extend a warm welcome, one of the reasons hotels place arrangements intended for guests to stop, smell and photograph so that they can remember their stay long after leaving. The spectacular arrangements scattered around the foyer brightened my day, the red roses are a favourite of mine so I lingered longer to get some extra shots.

Sierra Hotel

Large and comfy lobby

Hotel lobbies have become a centrepiece of guests experiences, it is a space to socialise and where new friendships are made, jokes shared and experiences exchanged.The spacious lobby area has numerous places to sit and read the complimentary newspaper, order a cup of coffee or enjoy the free Wifi. Elevators are centrally located making it easy to gain access to ones room. The comfortable seating in the versatile lobby kept me seated for longer that I wanted but something i appreciated

Sierra Hotel

Sierra Hotel

Dining at its best

Buffet style dinner and breakfast is served at the Garden Grill Restaurant. With a wide selection of cuisine guests have the option of relaxing on the terrace , looking onto the pool or eating indoors. Dishes change daily and if you would prefer to order from the menu there is a good selection. The restaurant caters for Muslims and can also assist patrons who require Kosher meals. Thursday night is known for being the bar menu evening with a touch of African cuisine, so if its local you want then defiantly make your reservation for Thursday evening. I highly recommend ordering the malva pudding from the menu, a well sized portion , the hot custard compliments its perfectly.

Sierra Hotel

Sierra Hotel

A friendly Chef

Often at a hotel guests eat the delicious food but have no idea who is responsible for preparing it. At breakfast I was very pleased to be able to put a face to that person. The chef is friendly and full of smiles. While preparing an omelette for me with a “ sprinkle of salt “ as he put it we had a good chat. When serving the food he also made some suggestions to compliment it, I appreciated the extra input.

Sierra Hotel – the Chef

24/7 fitness room

Fitness fanatics will be pleased to know the hotel has a gym facility to burn some energy and lift some weights. With air con, filtered water and an TV all your needs are catered for.

 

Sierra Hotel

Sierra Hotel

Relaxing pool area

After a long day of work or sightseeing there’s nothing quite like a refreshing dip in the pool.Whether you are looking to relax on a lounging chair at the pool side or take a splash in the pool, set in a lush garden, surrounded by imitation grass and a wooden deck on one side this is a special hideaway from blistering hot days. Tranquillity surrounds you, not only do the birds sing in the trees but some have become rather tame, a hadeba bird stood a few feet from me drinking from the pool oblivious to the people around it. No hotel is complete without a good pool.

Sierra Hotel

Sierra Hotel

Burgers Park

Across the road from the hotel, lies Burgers Park founded in the 1870’s as a botanical garden it covers 4 acres and has been declared a South African National Monument. It is named after Thomas Francois Burgers, who was the fourth president of South Africa from 1872 until 1877. Ambling around the well kept gardens on curving paths I noticed the WW1 monument built to honour those among the South African Scottish Regiment who died in battle. Inside the florarium the cacti garden has some impressive plants including a small lily pond. Outside and not far from the fish pond is the Koningin Wilhelmina tree planted on 31 August 1898. Surrounded with a green fence , the stem of the tree seems to be hanging on for dear life. Gigantic trees are confirmation of the age of this park and ideal to sit under when shielding oneself from the mid day sun

Scottish memorial at Burgers Park

Burgers Park

Melrose House

Three storey, stately Victorian mansion complete with turrets and Dutch gables, this attraction is a “ must see “ when staying at the hotel. The grand house built in 1886 belonged to George Heys, it was named Melrose House after Melrose Abbey in Scotland where Heys and his wife had visited on a delayed Honeymoon. The house remained in the family until 1968 when the City of Tshwane bought it. Amongst other historical moments at the house one of the more notable was The Peace Treaty of Vereeniging that was signed here on 31 May 1902. Beautifully restored with many original pieces in the house it takes one back in time to a bygone era when electricity didn’t even exist.

Melrose House

Melrose House – The drawing room

With so little time and so much on offer not only inside the hotel but surrounding it also, one can see why this hotel has stood the test of time and continues to attract people whether they are attending a business meeting or church function or just dropping in for a night cap. The warmth and hospitality of the hotel says it all.

www.sierrahotels.co.za


Protea Hotel O.R Tambo - The mood to travel

Located conveniently close to the O. R Tambo International airport and close to Rhodesfield Gautrain station this pristine 4 star hotel with its industrial ambience , polished concrete floors and soundproof rooms is perfect for any traveller setting off on an adventure or a business trip.

I stayed there before embarking on an international trip and the modern aircraft hangar theme of the hotel excites a person so much that as an avid traveller I nearly didn’t want to leave. The 5 story building offers rooms with a full view of the airport, I sat staring out of my window watching the planes land and take off for what seem liked an eternity, lost in a dream world

This superb business hotel with 213 elegantly furnished rooms, offers a free shuttle transfer that is available to and from the airport with a stop at the Gautrain station which is 800m meters away. The relaxing, inviting ambience in the bar and lounge area is not only sophisticated but it is also fully wi-fi enabled. The Warehouse serves delicious meals from an ala carte menu and the scrumptious English buffet breakfast are mouthwatering. My dinner was one of my favourites, salmon. Then just when I thought nothing could beat this tender, juicy piece of fish, along came the dessert – all I can say is “ wow “ the presentation immediately required a photo, as much as I was drooling I was hesitant to destroy the masterpiece set before me. The indecisiveness only lasted a few seconds and then I tucked into enjoying every mouth full.

With a full stomach and total sense of contentment over taking me, I headed up to my room. The attention to detail can’t go unnoticed, with room numbers displayed on a airplane wing, to the beautiful picture above the bed of an aircraft. The old fashioned luggage chest serves as the bar fridge and table top for the kettle and tea / coffee that is supplied. Heading into the bathroom I took great joy at attempting to take a selfie using the fan above the toilet that was also a part of an airplane.

Excited to be heading out on a journey the next day, I couldn’t help but realise that staying at this hotel was the perfect way to begin a holiday. Firstly there is no stress to get to the airport on time, secondly I could leave my car at the hotel for the length of my holiday and didn’t need to pay an additional fee for parking. Lastly I was going to have the best nights sleep one could dream of, the bed was so comfy I was rather grumpy when the alarm went off in the morning. All I really wanted to do was roll over and pull the fluffy duvet back over my head.

Showered, dressed and downstairs in the spacious lobby I snuck out to look at the pool. The solar heated pool with the building as its back drop and the airport in front of you is perfect to lounge at and sip cocktails. The pool is surrounded by a well manicured garden with chairs scattered all around.

Not to be forgotten are the premier event facilities, with 10 state of the art venues and ample space for conferences, exhibitions and auto shows. There is also a business centre and 24 hour gym.

For a time conscious international and local travellers they can enjoy the convenient location .Whether stopping over or having an extended stay to explore the gorgeous city of Johannesburg, this hotel has it all. No detail has been spared, the staff are professional and work with a smile on their face, eager to assist wherever necessary.
What a pity I have not discovered this hotel sooner. It will now be the start of any journey I intend on making through O.R .Tambo in the future

https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/jnbor-protea-hotel-or-tambo-airport/


Navigating Nepal in 48 Hours

One will be surprised at how much you can see and do in a city in 48 hours. With a plan and a reliable taxi driver you can wiz through the city and at the same time enjoy the sights and linger a bit longer at the ones that tickle your fancy.

Flying from Delhi to Kathmandu these are my tips on what to see

Fly on Indigo Airlines or Nepal Airlines

We flew to Nepal on Indigo and returned on Nepal airlines. If I had to choose I would definitely choose Nepal Airlines. Indigo does not supply any food or drinks they need to be purchased on board, whereas Nepal Airlines supplied a small meal and drinks. The staff where also a lot friendlier on Nepal Airlines.

Stay at Norbulinka boutique hotel

Perfectly located within the Thamel district the main street is within walking distance. The hotel included an airport transfer on arrival. Seeing someone stand with my name written boldly and a big smile at the arrivals entrance immediately put us at ease. The room was spacious and wifi connection great. Breakfast was included, the buffet was ample to get us going for a busy day.

Walk around Swayambhu Stupa

The best time of the day is sunset, with sweeping vistas of the city of Kathmandu below. This ancient religious site sits on top of a hill, the Tibetan name for the site means “ Sublime Trees “ because of the many varieties of trees found on the hill. Visitors have been calling it “ Monkey Temple “ since the 1970’s because the name is such a tongue twister. One of the holiest Buddhist stupas in Nepal , it is said to date back to 460 A.D , legend has it that is was born out of a lotus flower that bloomed in the middle of a lake that once spread across the Kathmandu Valley. Our driver took us almost to the top, I was exceptionally grateful for this when I spotted the other option which is steep stone steps that lead to the top. This peaceful setting is the ideal way to end off a busy day of sight seeing

Explore Bhaktapur

I would rate this as my highlight for my visit in Kathmandu. There was a tragic earthquake in 2015 which caused terrible devastation and many lives where lost. Fortunately only a few temples where destroyed. My first love was the paper ticket we received on entering the town, the making of Lokta paper is an ancient trade , a community development project that was initiated by UNICEF in 1981, this has helped communities improve their quality of life and not allowed a part of their culture to die. Bhaktapur has three major squares with sky – high temples, to get a birds eye view enjoy some hot lemon tea at one of the roof top restaurants , the view is magnificent. The local arts and crafts are found down narrow, cobbled alley ways. Everything from the nava-durga dance dolls, street food, artists painting and a variety of clothes are only some of things available. Bhaktapur is the perfect way to experience the tapestry of Nepali life. A UNESCO Heritage site, it deserves an entire day to explore all the nooks and crannies.

locket paper ticket and lemon tea

Boudhanath Stupa

The massive mandala makes this stupa one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal. This imposing landmark is visible as soon you land at the Tribhuvan International Airport. The 36 metre high structure is one of the largest in South Asia, we arrived just after a heavy down pour of rain, so negotiating the pot holed, non existent roads now filled with water took some amazing driving skills. On entering the grounds of the stupa I stood in awe absorbing everything that surrounded me, the perimeter is beautiful shops with different brick facades, one area is the pigeon zone and they mill around your feet looking for food. The atmosphere here is one of electric calmness, if such a contradiction can occur. The friendliness of the monks and the store owners all add to the vibe of this clean and welcoming stupa.

Walk the streets of Thamel district

A bright chaotic tangle of market style shops , bars, restaurants and accommodation , this maze of side streets filled with hidden gems is everything you could want and more. Chaksibari street is one of the two longest streets in the area, I found walking around at night a lot easier, there is less traffic so no need to try and jump onto a type of sidewalk all the time. The bars and clubs come alive at night and the area is said to rival some of the best travel night spots in the world. The yak wool products caught my attention, the difficulty came in when I had to choose, so after much touching, feeling and attempting to justify a purchase I settled on beautiful cup coasters made out of a rainbow of colourful round balls. The area has a lot of walking gear for those people aiming at attempting the hike in Himalayan country, picking up one of the snow hiking boots I wondered how big a persons calves must be to lift a leg and take a step , one after the other. This fun entertainment district is not to be missed and don’t forget bargaining is the order of the day

Eat momos

Namaste ! Asian style dumplings and popular across the Indian subcontinent and himalayan regions these are an absolute must try. The filling can range from spiced meat to cheese and vegetables, and they can be steamed , fried or steamed and then pan fried. Almost every restaurant overs them on their menu, the most popular are the buff ( buffalo ) momos followed by the chicken. I bought some from a street store in Thamel, with my potion came the momo achar also, dipping them into the sauce added to the incredible flavour. Nobody should leave Nepal without trying these edible works of art.

Photograph doorways

Always a fascinating subject for me, but I must admit not always easy. Kathmandu is full of interesting and expressive old doorways. A barrier between two worlds, the outside world where I am standing and the inside world which you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of. If you are fortunate enough to come across such a doorway, you send a powerful message sharing both the inside and outside world. In Kathmandu doorways are used as social spaces where people regularly meet and they are also a physical representation of the building owner’s interests. From bright blue doorways, to one with a Coca Cola sign I was spoilt for choice. so don’t just walk past them, take a moment to stop and think about the many feet that have passed through them and the stories they carry.

Ride in a rickshaw

Explore the streets like a local, an old fashion means of transport but still one of the best, the evening rides are a great way to see the city. Start in the tourist hub of Thamel. The expert driver will weave between the buzzing bazaars and market squares while you sit back and relax. There are many tours available for tourists which generally last about 4 hours, this includes disembarking and walking around markets like Asan, which is one of the busiest. The rickshaw is fondly referred to as the “ street helicopter “ when cycling past the Asan market the aromatic spices will pull you inside. A fun way to see the city its not to be missed.

Once the main trading route between Tibet and India, this vibrant, chaotic spiritual, historic city is unique and different to any place you will visit. A melting pot of Buddhist and Hindu religion the welcoming city will keep you busy


Exciting Ethiopia

The rugged, landlocked country is found in the Horn of Africa and is split by the Great Rift Valley. This is a country of ancient and diverse culture, soulful people , breathtaking natural beauty and delicious cuisine.

If you have 24 hours in the capital of Addis Ababa which translates as “ New Flower “ best you get stuck in and immerse yourself in this youthful and pulsing heart of the nation’s resurgence as one of the worlds fastest growing economies.

The comfortable climate of” Addis” as its fondly referred to makes it an ideal location in East Africa to explore the bustling streets and mingle with the locals.

Swoop up the history

Visiting the National Museum of Ethiopia is the ideal way to get an over view of a country that prides itself on its history. One of the only 2 African countries that was not colonised, along with the general acceptance that the first humans came from the Rift Valley running through Ethiopia and one of the worlds oldest Christian traditions, Its easy to see why the nation is proud of its heritage. Entering the museum I met a lady dressed in traditional clothes, she was full of smiles and very eager to assist. The most important item in the museum is Lucy, the oldest and most complete hominid skeleton ever discovered, she was found in 1974. Adri is also there , he was heavier and preferred tree climbing more than Lucy. The art combined with traditional crafts makes for the perfect overview of the country

 Delicious food

Having eaten Ethiopian food often at home at authentic restaurants, I knew exactly what I wanted. Injera is the national dish, this white or brown spongy type pancake is served with a variety of vegetable and meat toppings and some sauces. No cutlery is used, with good reason. The infusion of flavours on your finger tips makes it even tastier. Washing ones hands using the traditional silver jug makes sure you have a healthy experience. After this delicious meal its best to end off with the local coffee and popcorn to snack on. I ate at 2000 Habesha Cultural Restaurant, its a favourite in the city and used by tourists as well as local business men. Evenings include traditional dancing displays while you eat.

Gift Shopping

I am always on the look out for something local to take home after a trip so when i popped in to Ekeram’s Tradition clothes and souvenir shop I was delighted to see the large selection of Ethiopia’s traditional style of white cotton scarves and clothes with strips of intricate colourful patterns along the edge. After much oohing and aaaahing I settled on a scarf with gold and black trimming. The lights come on with some cranking of the generator and you feel like you have entered Aladdin’s cave. The shelves are filled with treasures to buy rating form the traditional coffee pots, bead work, clothes and so much more. Located on a busy main road its easy to spot with the bright mannequins all dressed up and swaying in the breeze.

Holy Trinity Church

Now you could try and take the easy way out and arrive at the gates and take a quick snap shot and say you saw it but you are missing so much. It is worth paying the small entrance fee and getting a full page , hand written ticket to gain entry to this massive and ornate cathedral that is the second most important place of worship in Ethiopia. Its also the final resting place of Emperor Haile Selassie and his wife Empress Menen Asfaw. Their massive granite tombs can be viewed inside the cathedral under the watchful eye of the Priest or guide. The exterior of the building is made up of a large copper dome and flamboyant mixtures of international styles.
The entrance fee also includes entrance into the small museum of ecclesiastical artefacts on the grounds at the back entrance. No photos are allowed but its worth seeing the collection. The graves of many patriots who died fighting the Italian occupation can also be viewed, although over grown and not easy to get up close it gives one an appreciation of the history of the country.

 St George Cathedral and Museum

Another church to see in this city of religious buildings is the St George Cathedral, built in traditional octagonal form it was completed in 1911 and was commissioned by Emperor Menelik 11 to commemorate his outstanding 1896 defeat to the Italians in Adwa. The exterior is rather bland in comparison to the interiors flashes of colour and art. The outer walls are covered in paintings and mosaics by the renowned Afewerk Tekle.
The grounds have many people wandering around and praying, there are also beggars but after a polite refusal they will move along.

Drink the world renowned coffee

Known world over for its fine Arabica coffee, its imperative that on a hectic schedule you stop at a roadside coffee spot to enjoy the hospitality of the people and its potent coffee. The legend goes that a young boy named Kaldi was a goat herder who discovered the coffee plant around 850AD. He was sitting under a tree minding his goats, one of them wandered off in search of food and stumbled across and berry tree. After tasting the unknown berry, the goat started to jump and dance around the field . The boy and his father were so impressed with the effect the berry had on the animal they tried it themselves . Hence, coffee with its stimulating effects was discovered. today coffee represents about 50 % of Ethiopian exports. Different regions have different shaped Jebena’s , made of clay ( the container used to brew the coffee ) that are used in the coffee making ceremony.

My advice is to hire a driver so that you can get you around. Not only will you experience local driving but you will get a running commentary from the driver who will fill you in on quirky facts. This country not only has the highest capital city in Africa, it has over 80 spoken languages and is an absolute pleasure to see.
I cant wait to return and explore more of the countryside

My driver