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LUXURY HOTELS: Four Seasons Bosphorus, Turkey

Style: City resort
The Scene:  On the banks of the Bosphorus
Seen in the lobby: Turkey's elite, tourists with taste

The sun sparkles on the water as the early morning ferries take busy Istanbul residents to work but here on the terrace of Four Seasons Bosphorus things are far more relaxed. Coffee is poured, waiters in white serve breakfast and the bougainvillea is a bright pink contrast against the blue sky. It is hard to believe that we're only a walk away from the exciting centre of Istanbul.  Yet we are. It is harder still to contemplate leaving the hotel's hallowed grounds.

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Is that a swimming pool I see beckoning, surrounded by temptingly shady cinnamon-coloured umbrellas and sun-loungers just begging to be laid upon?  It is, it is. My companion it seems is slightly more immune to the charms of the terrace-on-the-banks-of-the-Bosphorus and is tapping her guide book impatiently. Istanbul is a fascinating city and there is much to be seen. Perhaps just one more lime and mint juice before we go? No? After all we're almost part of the action just sitting here. I suspect that many of the tour boats chugging past can't tell the difference between our elegant hotel and the fabulous European palaces and mansions that line the banks of the Bosphorus beside us, were it not for those tell-tale pool umbrellas. Did I mention them already?
In fact the hotel was originally an Ottoman palace, now two modern wings flank the 19th-century waterside Atik Pasha palace. Istanbul life is closely linked to the water and one of Four Seasons' best privately curate excursions is the Sea Mansions Tour which takes you by private boat to explore Turkey's rich architectural and design heritage on the banks of Bosphorus. You sail past elaborate wooden mansions (known as yalýs) that line the Bosphorus Strait as you head towards the rolling Asian shore. The highlight of the tour is a stop on the Asian shore at the home of Serdar Gülgün,  a world-renowned interior designer, Ottoman art expert and historian who has a passion for bringing his country's history to life. Over Turkish coffee Gülgün shares the fascinating story of his designer yalý before guiding you through his eclectic antique art collection.
We also enjoy some simpler seaside pleasures. We sit on plastic stool eating just-barbequed fish bread by the Galata Bridge while a samovar brews tea for the locals who come here to socialise and enjoy the view and hop on and off the local ferries.
Our one-Bedroom Bosphorus Suite is in one of the new wings. We have sublime views of the Strait of Bosphorus from the bedroom. The living room is separated by French doors and has an invitingly squashy sofas. But I prefer to sit in the window seat and read Orphan Pamuk's novel, Istanbul, Memories and the City:
"Life can't be all that bad,' I'd think from time to time.' whatever happens, I can always take a long walk along the Bosphorus." Writes Pamuk.
 Not bad at all I agree as I glance down on the hotel's beautifully landscaped gardens and the water beyond.

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In the public areas of the hotel there is a blend of contemporary style with Ottoman Turkish touches; hints of deep blue or terra-cotta, with marble inlays and brocade sofas. In the quiet corridors 18th-century prints celebrate the Istanbul's past, in the lobby some splashy modern art celebrates its present and echoes the offerings found in the art galleries nearby. 
The outdoor pool isn't the only place to relax. There is also an extravagant basement pool surrounded by pillars (put your head under and hear classical music is piped through the water) and spa-wise this palace of relaxation elevates the traditional Hammam to steamy new heights with ten private treatment rooms on offer.
However it is the terrace that attracts us most. In the evening the lights from the shore opposite glitter like the coloured glass we saw in the Aladdin lamps in the Grand Bazaar. There is a balmy breeze off the water. As I sip a  cocktail I find it easy to see why this was the site of one of the sultan's summer retreats and  why the residents of Istanbul have such a special relationship with  the   Bosphorus  and its enticing  banks.
 
TLTB also recommends Four Seasons Sultanahmet 
Check in: Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus , Çýraðan Cad. No. 28  34349 Istanbul
Beþiktaþ Tel. +90 (212) 381 40 00
Room keys: 170 guest rooms including 25 suites
Ultimate Luxury:  The luxurious three-bedroom suite Atik Pasha Suite on the second floor of the 19th-century Ottoman palace
Most Indulgent Moment: Breakfast by the Bosphorus
Insider Secrets: Try a traditional Turkish hammam treatment in the private hammam.
The Little Things: The concierge is so good he sources books of Turkish poetry if you need them
Junior Luxies: Welcomed with open arms in Four Season's style
Dent in the platinum:
Luxury Hotels Link: www.fourseasons.com
Hilary Doling 8/8/14
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