Lara Beach Hotel, Antalya (Lara), Turkey ****

Currently, there is a major construction site next to the hotel, but so far it’s been relatively quiet.

Nice place with a super pool, excellent food and really good service.

I have to admit it: I’m not here for vacation - in fact, I don’t even want to be here, but it’s a heck of a lot better than most travelers stuck due to the biggest aviation disaster ever (see my travel blog for details); they are spending their time stuck in an airport, while I get to lounge in a nice vacation resort.

The place is really quite nice, about 30 minutes east of downtown Antalya and apparently only 12km from the airport. It is one hotel in a long row of hotels, some of these are quite spectacular. The Lara Beach Hotel doesn’t fall into that category, quite the contrary, it is relatively ugly from the outside. Not that this matters, but be aware of the fact that the hotels in the vicinity remind me of Las Vegas casinos whereas this one just looks, well, “useful”.

Subsequently, most of the hotels here seem much newer. The Lara Beach Hotel was built in 2005, which isn’t that long ago, but it has the flair of a refurbished 80’s hotel. But the room I am in is in very good shape and comfortable enough.
The hotel pool, garden, etc. are also very nice - no complaints. There is a huge (!) construction project next door, but you only hear it if your room - like mine - is in that direction and you have your window open. The closed windows absorb a lot of noise, they are double-paned.

The food is very good, something for everyone including a huge dessert buffet.
There is free Wifi in my room, I just had to enquire the connection password from reception. The speed is excellent, I had several (Video-) Skype sessions with very good throughput, one to the US and one to Germany.
The pool offers some nice water slides for adults, but they have separate slides (some quite challenging) in the kiddie section, so there shouldn’t be any complaints.

The beach is very nice, though I suspect that during high season it will be quite full, as it is relatively narrow.

Negative Aspects
What really surprised me: the hotel only has four non-smoking rooms! To be honest, I’m in a smoking room and really can’t tell, but for a country where smoking is not permitted in buildings, I can’t understand that they wouldn’t at least offer half of the rooms as non-smoking.
The air conditioning system was quite obviously switched off due to it being pre-season (and - most of the time - very pleasant temperature-wise); the system only blew same-temperature air into the room, room temperatures in other parts of the hotel were higher than I would have expected. This wasn’t a real problem (except for the early afternoon, when the outside temps peaked). It did mean opening my windows to let some fresh, cooler air in (which I’m fine with) and subsequently quite a bit of noise from the construction site next door.
The water temperature in the shower seemed oddly inconsistent. Not that I scalded myself, but it varied more than I felt comfortable with.
Last but not least, an issue for a business traveller: when I checked out at 6:00h in the morning, the guy at the reception desk was unable to generate a bill for me - this, apparently, can only be done by accounting - and they wouldn’t be there until 9:00h... I just hope I don’t have any issues getting a bill sent to me by email.

Radisson Blu, Ankara, Turkey ****

The hotel is quite a drive away from the airport, but seems to be pretty centrally located (I say that, because I saw nearly nothing of Ankara when I was there).

Internet access is free in the room.

Green Park Hotel, Istanbul (Asian Side), Turkey **

Istanbul’s “Asian side” features some really neat sights and sounds. For example, there is a huge area in the Bostanci district that consists of rows of garages that work on cars from different manufacturers. I’ve been told that the mechanics are usually much better than at the official garages, so if your car breaks down in Istanbul, consider going here.

Where I would not recommend you go (or rather: stay) is the Green Park Hotel, which happens to be smack in the middle of this car-repair island.

To be fair: the area is relatively low-traffic at night, mainly because no one is working on cars at that time. Unfortunately, this makes the area very popular with stray dogs, which also prefer to “live” where there isn’t so much traffic.

I had a really tough time falling asleep here just from the dog barking. If you’re used to that sound, it probably won’t bother you, but it certainly irritated me. Especially, because one particular dog barked continuously for at least half an hour - I didn’t know this was physically possible (learned something new)!

The room was spacious enough but not particularly attractive. The hotel is apparently one of the first to be erected on the Asian side, and it shows. More annoying is, however, that the folks that work here are just plain unfriendly, something not at all common in Istanbul.

The price was okay at 90€ plus tax (Istanbul is expensive!) including breakfast. The latter was also quite good with a relatively large variety of food.

Our partner in Istanbul booked me at the Green Park due to the fact that the Marriott Asia was fully booked. If necessary, I would probably stay here again (instead of staying on the European side), but only if necessary.

Marriott Asia, Istanbul, Turkey *****

What more do you want: a brand-new hotel, with well-insulated windows (to keep out noise), large and comfortable rooms, a large pool and nice gym? Okay, it is quite pricey, but Istanbul hotels tend to be expensive.

Our partner was able to get a rate of 159€ per night. Mind you, this doesn’t include breakfast or internet access...

If you can afford it (or if you get a really good rate), I highly recommend this hotel!