Istanbul: The Start of My Journey

Two Nights at the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul.

It can be overwhelming to consider who has walked the halls of this historic hotel in the Beyoglu neighborhood of Istanbul.

Room 311 at the Pera Palace in Istanbul

I immediately searched out the “Agatha Christie” room. She apparently preferred Room 411. I have imagined that her room was similar to mine because I stayed in Room 311. Has to be, right?! One floor down.

Forbes wrote a great piece on the intrigue and history of the Pera Palace.

I do not delude myself that this is how it looked in those days – not in the time when Ernest Hemingway stayed here anyway. And, drank here. I have searched out that bar. I think I got a glimpse of it. I joked before I left the states that declaring “Ernest Hemingway drank here” is probably a pretty safe claim. He likely drank in a LOT of places while filing dispatches from overseas.

I frankly came unprepared to visit Istanbul this trip (my second). I am here because the Orient Express departs from Istanbul for Paris. I gave myself a couple of days to get myself ready for that once-in-a-lifetime trip. So far, the experience has been “in my dreams”. In travel books, novels, YouTube, movies. Tomorrow – it gets real.

I had an interesting experience my first night in the Pera Palace hotel. I spotted two women: one American, one British. I suspected they were affiliated with Belmond, which runs the VSOE: Venice Simplon Orient Express.

My suspicions were realized when I happened to be sitting two tables away from them at a local restaurant. I overheard the American complaining “they take better care of the luggage than the people” (I suspect – and certainly hope – she meant the staff and not the passengers). The word Belmond did slip into their conversation. At one point, she reassured her English friend that “everything we talk about tonight is confidential.”

Ahem. Unless a) you happen to be staying in an Istanbul hotel famous for housing Orient Express passengers in the 19th Century and therefore b) likely to be housing 21st century passengers and c) you and your colleague are talking shop at a restaurant three blocks away from that hotel.

Not. Smart.



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