Oh what a beautiful morning, here in Istanbul. The gal was ready at 6.30am, as scheduled, for a pre-breakfast stroll along the European side of the Bosphorus. Every Friday Gerhard Struger, the Austrian GM of Swissôtel The Bosphorus, invites colleagues and guests of the 501-room luxury hotel to join him in a 90-minute run. A car takes you down to a Migros ministore and along you run, east past the Egyptian consulate, a fairytale palace right on the waterfront in Belek village – this part of Istanbul used to be a series of villages. Today the others taking part include the hotel’s Director of Operations, Emiel Van Dijk, from the Netherlands, and the hotel’s head of fitness, former Turkey tennis champion Bulent Ozdemir (Mrs Van Dijk started off with us too but she soon raced ahead, practising for her next marathon, and we never saw her again).
Right, today is Vitality Day, here in sunny Istanbul. On arrival in my Living suite, I found vitality drinks, lemonade (99 calories), plus pomegranate (86 calories) and strawberry (88 calories) drinks, with calorie counts listed – there was also a sign that said Or Not, namely a whole bottle of Absolut, in case I wanted to go to the opposite extreme. I was tempted by the excellent fitness centre‘s workout programme, which offers lessons from 7.30 am, say spinning, or six-pack, right through to a beginners’ yoga session – a full 50 minutes starting at 8 pm, but, guess what, there was no time this visit. I would have loved to do the hotel’s own paracourse circuit, in its 55-acre garden. But I felt good, anyway, having had a Vitality salad for dinner last night: baby spinach, Hatay olives, wolfberries, walnuts, avocado, peppers, quinoa and mint, a mere 183 calories (a Vitality burger, with falafel, is 240 calories).
And at breakfast, after the hectic run along the shoreline, there was a choice of yoghurts and the chefs cooked eggs to perfection. I hear about Sunday brunch here, when kids are entertained by Gymboree, a UK-based company that really knows how to look after youngsters of all ages. This inspires thoughts that, really, weekend brunches are becoming more essential in top luxury hotels everywhere. I have had great brunches on Fridays at Fairmonts both in Abu Dhabi and in Dubai, where families seem to spend most of the afternoon and much of the evening brunching and recovering. Sunday brunch in Cape Town sees A-listers congregating at Belmond Mount Nelson, around the pool, and at One&Only Cape Town.
And so on and so on. But it is not a weekend here. There is just time now to admire the salts and peppers here on the table in Istanbul’s top luxury hilltop hotel, Swissôtel The Bosphorus, and get ready to leave (the run this morning will be a lasting memory – see the video below). In the Mercedes, the iPad has a farewell note, personalised, from a manager thanking me for staying. Now that is a lovely last touch.