Category Archives: Travel inspiration

Top 5 things to do in Istanbul

Legendary Shopping District1. The Grand Bazaar
Four thousand shops, stalls, restaurants – even its own mosque. With goods that are both cheap and extravagant you’ll be sure to bag a bargain. Make sure you head over to Dhoku, whose hand-woven Turkish kilims bear ethno-cool designs conceived by the international architecture group Superpool. The best part is that prices are fixed and there’s no hard sell. A sure relief as throughout Grand Bazaar there is an army of arm-twisting  salesmen. For those looking for a piece of Turkish authentic furniture then head over to the Asmalimescit district for some curvy, organic wood furnishings from Turkey’s hottest interior design group, Autoban. Find out more here

Hotels near The Grand Bazaar:
Ottoman Hotel Park
Rast Hotel
Tan Hotel

Italian restaurant2. Lucca & Babylon
The Lucca, an Italian restaurant and cocktail lounge for people who want to  indulge in the city’s top after-work and pre-party scenes. The cozy interior sets the atmoshphere, plenty of artwork and even a few books, a DJ spins loud house and soul music while the professionals and socialites sip champagne cocktails and pomegranate mojitos. If your looking for a place with excellent music then Babylon is a must. The best live music from Turkey and around the globe, as well as the occasional star DJ, join the cool kids and dance until your hearts content. Find out more

Hotels near the Lucca & Babylon:
Swissotel The Bosphorus Istanbul
Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul
Radisson Sas Bosphorus Hotel

3. Mikla
For a fantastic view of Istanbul’s amazing skyline why not do it in style at the Mikla. This beautiful restaurant thanks to celeb chef Mehmet Gurs serves global-fusion food. Foie gras and porcini terrine, cherrywood-smoked lamb loin with walnut pistou, Turkish coffee, millefeuille and much more await if you can pry your eyes from the view.

Hotels Near the Mikla:
The Marmara Taksim
The Marmara Pera
Pera Rose Hotel

4. Topkapi Palace
The Topkapi oozes history, of course there are other attractions such as the ruins of the Roman Hippodrome, the massively vaulted Hagia Sofia Cathedral, the cobalt-tiled Blue Mosque. But the best stories lurk in the centuries-old walls of Topkapi Palace, where sultans plotted murders and invasions, eunuchs and harem girls cavorted in plush dens and court artists and artisans fashioned some of the most beautifully wrought creations in Islam. Make time to pop round the corner to the Blue Mosque – just avoid prayer time. Find out more

Hotels Near the Topkapi Palace:
Arena Hotel
Gülhanepark Hotel
Hotel Yasmak Sultan

5. Istiklal Caddesi
This 19th century, French influenced area is where Istanbullus eat, shop, drink and have fun. This cosmopolitan area includes cinemas, bars, theatres and restaurants as well as a wide range of shops. On the main drag there are cake shops of appalling sinfulness (Inci Pastanesi, Istiklal Caddesi, No 124), some of the best bookshops in the world (Pandora, Buyukparmakkapi Sokak, 3, and Simurg, Hasnun Galip Sokak). Nevizade Sokak is the place to go to drink beer and rakı. This is best approached through the Fish Market (Balık Pazar), which has its own Armenian church (Uc Horon). Find out more here

Hotels Near the Istiklal Caddesi:
The Marmara Taksim
Misafir Suites Istanbul
Nippon Hotel

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What’s hot in London this March

Ron Arad Retrospective at the Barbican Centre, London: Until 16 May
Ron Arad is one of the most influential designers of this generation. Arad moved to London in the early 1970s to study at London’s Architectural Association, and has established a reputation over three decades for challenging, daredevil work. Arad has produced everything from carbon fibre armchairs to polyurethane bottle racks. His beautiful furniture can connect to Bluetooth, send and receive SMS messages from iPhones and other smartphones. The exhibition runs at the Barbican until Sunday, May 16th.
Find out more here.

Click here to see recommended hotels near the Barbican

The Loft by Nuno Mendes: Throughout March
Nuno Mendes, a chef trained at El Bulli, last year invited people into his Dalston flat for a 10-course meal that he called his “personal test kitchen.” Mendes wanted to use it as a testbed for his experimental brand of cooking. He’s invited Swedish chef Ola Rudin, with his molecular cuisine to join him, and it can cater 16 at a time. Definitely worth a visit if you are in London. The cost is £100 per person, and you can find out more at

Click to see recommended hotels near Dalston

Dave Matthews at The O2: 6 March
Dave Matthews will continue his European tour on 6 March at the state of the art O2 Arena. Dave Matthews has inspired millions and has continued to deliver superior performances and bring people from all over the world together with his musical abilities. The Dave Matthews Band is one of the greatest American Jam Band’s of all time. This show is going to sell out quickly so be sure to buy your tickets as soon as possible. You don’t want to miss it. Buy tickets here.

Click to see recommended hotels near The O2

Soap at The Riverside Studios: 5 March – 25 April
From the same creator of La Clique, Markus Pabst, Soap finally hits London after a ten month run in Berlin. A mix of circus and cabaret, the show takes place in a bathroom setting where eight peculiar characters perform a mix of dance, burlesque, comedy, gravity-defying moves and precise aerial acrobatics, using a bathtub, showers and water to create mesmerising visual effects. Find out more here

Changing Media Summit: 18 March
The Changing Media Summit returns to London bringing you another packed one-day fix of all things digital media and providing you with access to speakers, content and networking you simply can’t get anywhere else. Confirmed speakers include, Michael Wolff, the founder of and author of Rupert Murdoch biography The Man Who Owns the News and Austin Heap, executive director of the Censorship Research Centre and Twitter activist during the Iranian elections. Find out more here

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Lady Gaga’s hotel hotspots

Outrageous, extravagant, loopy. Just some of the words used to describe Lady Gaga in the past few months and whether you like her or not, you certainly can’t ignore her. After winning three Brit Awards on Tuesday, she is the hottest celeb in London right now (she’s been staying at the fancy May Fair Hotel), and if you want to sample a bit of Planet Gaga, try one of her favourite hotel hotspots…

1. The May Fair, London
The hotel where the Lady has been staying during her Brits visit to London. A swanky five-star in the West End which has just had a £70 million refurb, Gaga is no doubt in thrall to the contemporary-style interiors from some of the world’s best design houses, including Fendi and Baccarat.
Check out The May Fair, London – from £143 a night
Find hotels similar to The May Fair

2. Andaz Liverpool Street, London
A smart, funky hotel, Gaga stayed here last year whilst filming a reality doc which will be screened later this year. Although its home is the glorious Victorian building which used to be The Great Eastern Hotel, the five-star Andaz was rennovated by Sir Terence Conran in the early Noughties and it shows. Sleek and modern interiors make an interesting contrast to the hotel’s history, particularly the stunning Masonic Temple, said to be a haunt of local badboy Jack The Ripper. We’re sure Gaga would approve of the Gothic undertones.
Check out the Andaz Liverpool Street, London – from £121 a night
Find hotels similar to the Andaz Liverpool Street

3. Hotel Missoni, Edinburgh
Alive with colourful Missoni designs, this designer hotel on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile was home to Gaga when she played Scotland’s T In The Park last summer. It has free Wi-Fi, a stylish cucina and bar and luxurious rooms with a free minibar and a movie library.
Check out the Hotel Missoni, Edinburgh – from £120 a night

4. La Tremoille, Paris
La Tremoille was originally a private mansion built in 1883 and was fully renovated in 2002. Ideally located and quietly concealed in the haute couture and luxury shops district, only a stones throw from the Champs Elysees, it’s a perfect retreat for a star who likes a fancy dress.
Check out La Tremoille, Paris – from £285 a night
Find hotels similar to La Tremoille

5. Palms Casino Resort, Las Vegas
This four-star hotel is just moments from the excitement of the Vegas Strip and is a favourite of George Clooney as well as Gaga. Offering a 24-hour casino, a variety of restaurants and a relaxing spa, guests can enjoy stunning views of the city in the hotel’s Moon nightclub, which boasts a retractable roof.
Check out the Palms Casino Resort, Vegas
Find hotels similar to the Palms Casino Resort

See all of Lady Gagas hotel hotspots here.

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Weekend escapes: Oxford

In the current financial climate, it’s not always possible to jet off to America or Australia to discover new cities, bars, restaurants, night life and cultures. However, this last weekend I realised that you don’t always have to travel thousands of miles, put up with grumpy passport control, security checks, stand in the 3 mile Stansted queue or learn a new language to discover a fantastic new city. There’s nothing wrong with exploring your own country, or even your own city, a little more. It was this thought on Saturday that sent me out into Oxford, determined to re-discover (or in many cases, simply discover) the city I have lived in for most of my life.

Why is it that I’ve spent 20 years in Oxford and never taken a tour around the university? Why is it that, although I’ve walked past it many, many times, I have never climbed to the top of Carfax tower to look out at the ‘dreaming spires’ of Oxford? Sure, I’ve stopped for coffee on a long day’s shopping trip, but why is it I’ve always picked a certain and very generic coffee brand over the hundreds of little cafes nestled in amongst the ancient buildings? After reading Tony’s New York blog post, I realised how lucky I was to live in a famous old city, so I decided to head off and check it out.

I headed into Oxford on Saturday and parked in a little back alley after navigating the one way system through the colleges. I headed out to my starting point for the day, Carfax Tower. I’m not going to bore you with the history of all the old buildings (tour guides do that for you,) but I have to say that the view from the top of Carfax Tower was great. Pictures don’t do it justive, so if you get the chance you should make that climb. The ticket is £2 and I think it’s worth it.

Dreaming Spires from Carfax tower
Once we climbed down, I hopped on to the Oxford tour bus (I even began covering for myself by explaining to the driver that I do indeed live in Oxford. I’ve never enjoyed looking like a tourist…) and headed off towards Magdalen Bridge and the Botanical Gardens. Now, if you ever want the contempt of the locals, be sure to ask very noisily how to find the Magdalen bridge (pronouncing the G) when in a crowd. It’s pronounced with a silent ‘G’, and it is the one way to spot a newbie in Oxford.

Magdalen Bridge
After a walk around the Botanical Gardens (OK, it’s not anywhere near as good as the other botanical gardens dotted around the country, but you can go punting on the river that runs through the gardens), we headed out to find a place to grab a coffee and perhaps some food. However, the best coffee places are in Cornmarket Street (right next to Carfax Tower) so we decided to continue on with the tour and have a break at the end. As we wound our way around the colleges, (seeing the college where the Harry Potter films were shot was the highlight for a certain member of the group), we suddenly realised that we were driving past the Malmaison, an old prison made into a swanky hotel and restaurant. If you ever stay in Oxford, the Malmaison is perfect, a funky and quirky Gekko Spot. The food in the restaurant is also fantastic. They have a wide range of drinks and a very busy bar in the evening, and superb hotel rooms to crash after a long night. Definitely a worthy stay.


Gekko’s favourite Oxford hotels

The hip hotel: Malmaison Oxford
An old prison you wouldn’t mind being locked up in. The hottest hotel in Oxford.

The luxury hotel: Le Manoir
Home to Raymond Blanc’s two Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Manoir is the country retreat of your dreams just a couple of miles outside Oxford.

The no frills city centre hotel: Old Bank Hotel
The first new hotel in Oxford city centre for 135 years. Unfussy but classy.

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