And now for a story of an Istanbul development, a highly expensive project in the making. At the end of it all, two ambitious Turks will be able to open one of Europe’s most amazing luxury resorts, 370 steep feet up from Bebek, the St-Tropez suburb of Istanbul.
As is her wont, and her reputation, the gal was privileged to be the first to be shown around what will be, as of early 2014, the Viceroy Hotel Istanbul. As is also her physical need, she was straight on to rungs that serve as the ‘staircase’ of one of the old buildings being converted, and extended, to form this resort.
First, the history. A monastery existed here for ages. The monks farmed their 16 acres of perilously steep hillside, they hosted an apothecary for the locals and did all the good things that monks do. The monks went away at some point, and the land was bought by Serkan Gocmen and Erdun Timur, the first an entrepreneur and the latter a construction magnate.
Thanks to the fact they were able to produce old black and white photos of what the monastery had looked like in decades past, they got planning permission to recreate it, as long as the exterior looked the same. While the rebuilding was going on, some of the surrounding land was used to set up the Bebek area’s top athletics club MAC.
At first the two visionaries thought of making their ten ‘new’ buildings into residences, to sell or rent, but then they thought that an Aman-style resort would do splendidly. They signed up with Viceroy, and the Viceroy boss, Bill Walshe, put in as GM Spencer Yeo, whom he had known from his former job.
Spencer Yeo is already there, very much in charge although he will not have any other employees for some months, and at present all his buildings are mere shells. They look perfect outside, but inside is another story. Here he stands in front of what will be the concierge area, with his office above.
Somehow it reminds me again and again of the Westcliff in Johannesburg, namely a village with a steep zigzag road connecting the buildings. Here the ten buildings will hold in all 66 bedrooms, of which 45 will be suites. People coming here will be escaping from the hustle and bustle of central Istanbul, with its horrendous traffic.
Come here for views down to the Bosphorus, where the hotel will have its own 16-passenger boat. Come here, says Spencer Yeo, to hike, to enjoy the spa and gym (they are building their own rather than using the MAC facilities).
Right from the start a long barn had to be recreated to appease the planning permission people. This will have a ballroom and meeting rooms upstairs. Downstairs will flow from a restaurant with ultra-long kitchen so that all the food – farm-to-table concept, possibly including produce from the hotel’s own land – is prepared in front of you.
Beyond will be the bar, probably called Apothecary in honour of those monks’ philanthropic work. Beyond that will be a library-snug, something special for the hotel guests. It is expected, says Spencer Yeo, that, once here, people will want to stay for several days.
It already looks ‘established’ and so much of the monks’ trappings remains. The main road is being retained. It is great for serious runners: hotel guests will, by the way, leave their cars higher up the hillside and they will be taken down to the luxury hotel by buggy.