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Thursday, 24 October 2013


 Part of the joy of travel is the feeling of strangeness, the other worldness of another language, culture, food,  religion, and the ability to be able to look on your life in the real world and compare.  We have now been to Turkey so many times that it has become to feel like home.  True we are mostly with English speaking Turks (they are excellent linguists) and their language still eludes me except for menu Turkish and the absolute essentials, but I love their sense of humour, their optimism, their  ethic of hard work, and the feeling that everything is possible – although their optimism sometimes exceeds reality in this case….

We spent almost four weeks in Kalkan during September/October and had a wonderful time.  The sea was a little choppy for the time of year, but we still swam most days.  We found new places to go in the hills, unidentified birds,  and  tried to keep away from the more expensive restaurants for more excellently cooked local food, and re-discovered Patara.

George has just acquired a much better camera, and it has been a revelation.  Taking a photo of the bee hives above Islamlar, we were thrilled to discover when we uploaded it, that we could see the bees emerging in great detail. 

We did our usual trip to Kas and there I found a doorway painted in such a beautiful way with a sort of distressed whitewash that it has made us determined to come back in the winter and paint  all the pine in our apartment ourselves, or get painted.  I showed the photo to our friend Halit who said ‘Oh yes, our carpenter can paint like that for you, it’s a water based paint we can get over here’.  That was also music to my ears, as I expected I would have to pay for Annie Sloan paint or similar and ship it to Turkey.  I used to do distressed painting for a living, and I love the look of white distressed wood for sea facing rooms. 
We heard helicoptors one afternoon and watched three in unison fly low over the sea in front of us, scoop up a huge sling of water and fly off to the hills.  Apparently there was fire  on the scrub, but couldn't see it from where we were.  It was out within half an hour, but we were lucky to get this photo.

We had friends out there who had recently moved into their exciting five bedroomed villa which was miraculously built in just five months, and is the last word in luxury.  We, and their glamorous young, had a marvellous day out in a boat, and visited the beach known for its mud containing mineral properties which have been used for hundreds of year.  Everyone seemed to enjoy it!
Lunch on the boat is always awesome.  And endless.  And there's cake for tea......

Below are a few views around Kalkan


Saturday, 30 March 2013

Timeless Turkey, but never time enough!

March is the earliest we have ever been out in the year, and therefore we had to fly to Antalya as there were no flights to Dalaman at all. We hadn’t been to Antalya so decided to spend a night there and have a look round, hopefully see one or two archaeological sites we hadn’t seen before, and do  a bit of shopping for the apartment.

As soon as we arrived we realised we had not counted on the temperature, and I knew I had the wrong clothes for the week. We hired a car from the airport, which is only about ten minutes from the town of Antalya which was easy to find, but is HUGE. We then spent twenty minutes trying to find Kaleici, the old town, and which is inside ancient city walls. Turks are so keen to help, but (please don’t be offended Turkish friends) are not very clear in directions. I think it’s distances, they seem to have no idea, so you end up looking for a right hand turn in about 200 yards, when it’s actually a mile away. Could be their optimistic nature! Anyway two shouting matches and a ‘uey’ where we shouldn’t have, I jumped out of the car to a waiting taxi and asked him if we could follow him.  At the end of the week we realised another thing, landmarks are well signposted for a mile or two, then seem to peter out, nothing, no clues at all.  Frustrating.

We eventually found  the hotel Tuvana, which was delightful, and comprised four ottoman houses, all in the same street. Our room was above a wonderful restaurant called the Seraser.  We walked through an elegant courtyard, with a fabulous wood fire in the centre, and up stairs to our extremely comfortable room.  We had time for a little exploring of the old town before we came back to change for dinner.  George decided to stay downstairs in the courtyard for a drink round the fire, whilst I changed. There were already diners in the restaurant, which looked quite smart, so I did change and because of the temperature wrapped a new lovely scarf round me, which I had bought in Istanbul the previous September and even wore high heeled boots , which I never do in Kalkan, I descended the staircase, all eyes looking up to see who was coming down. Believe me dear readers, no-one receiving an Oscar had ever done this better. 

We had a fantastic meal.  Really really good.  The highlight was the lightest plate of mixed tempura vegetables we had ever had.  I so wish I could make this, but my batter always leaves the vegetables the minute it meets the fat, and I’m left with a soggy mess of fried vegetables.  We were the last to leave the restaurant, and when we got upstairs and I took off my artfully arranged scarf, and  imagine my horror when I found I had a hair roller attached to the outside.  George laughed cruelly at me, I was furious he hadn’t noticed, it must have given the other diners a puzzle.  There we leave any comparison with the Oscars.

The next morning I found an art shop which was thrilling. I was able to buy canvasses, paints, white spirit etc. and just put them in the car.  In all the years we have been coming I have not painted en plein air, but only from photos when I get back home, because of the problem of transporting canvases, solvents etc.  
We also saw Hadrian’s gate, triple arched, and complete with chariot grooves, and went into the quiet space of Pasa Mosque. George had his shoes cleaned in the street, it took 25 minutes and complete with new leather laces cost £5. 

By the time we left Antalya after having got lost twice – no map, no satnav – time was getting on if we wanted to get to Kalkan in daylight.  The site we had planned to see, Olympos, was 17 km off the main road, so we sadly gave it a miss. The journey was still three and a half hours, and although called the coast road the sea is for the most part some way south. However, as always plenty to see. Oranges were everywhere, and we passed through the town  which is the capital of the orange growing area,  where there were two impressive sculptures of brightly coloured oranges .

We had friends joining us that evening who were coming out to finalise plans for a villa they were having built in such a beautiful location, so we only had to cosy up the apartment which had been prepared by our wonderful team from Lycian Homes who look after our apartment.   Thank goodness we had duvets, the evening was really cold.

Many of the restaurants were closed, but those that are open are of course inside.  We have discovered one or two new ones, the favourite being Ayse’s Kitchen. Turkish food at its best, and cheapest. A wonderful selection, which you just point to -mucver, (courgette fritters) lamb tagine, humous, a marvellous white bean casserole, chicken, fried potatoes, stuffed peppers, aubergines, which with a bottle of wine came to £38 for the four of us. We will be back again and again I know.

The first three days were cold and grey, but then the sun came out, and our darling Kalkan was once again washed with sun, the sea sparkled, the little streets of old Kalkan were full of dark corners and sunlight streaming onto ancient walls. Mimosa is everywhere, white oxeye daisies, wild flowers are beginning to show in nooks in the stone.  Everywhere is fresh and new. 

We hoped to see some tortoises, but apparently it’s about three weeks too early.  However, we did our normal trip to Bezirgan village and think we correctly identified a short toed eagle, just settled on a tree only yards away. Again we visited Pauline and Erol at Owlsland (www.owlsland.com) who were as usual, extremely hospitable and showed us all around, and their three wonderful guest rooms. If anyone wants a night of simplicity in marvellous surroundings, with a canopy of stars like you’ve never seen before, this is the place. Also included is the best breakfast with absolutely everything homemade, and supper cooked by ex-chef Erol.  We did, however, narrowly miss running over a tortoise on the way back to Antalya.

Other highlights were doner kebab at the Fish Market in Fethiye. We learn more each time we go, but apparently the reason why this one is renowned is that the owners come from the region of Turkey which is home to doner kebabs.  Therefore the lamb is the correct breed, fed on the correct grass, killed in the correct manner, and only the best cuts are used.  Along with the expertise it is a memorable meal, but George popped a chilli in his mouth from the accompanying delicious looking salad, and struggled for the next ten minutes. He looked extraordinary, red in the face, tipping water down, trying to swallow his food and not splutter it all over the restaurant. He won’t do that again!

Our friends are bridge players, we dabble, so we have had three evenings of competitive bridge late into the night. Amazingly we’re still talking.  We’re really bad, and just play by instinct, not rules. Last night we picked up two chickens which had been rotisseried at the local market, and had them with salad, and the most wonderful waxy potatoes, fried with rosemary.  Delicious.  Someone, somewhere was barbequing, and the smell of what could have been apple wood burning, was so strong and wonderful.

Talking to our sons back home, we know England is freezing, our village is white with snow, yet here we are planning a morning reading, sunbathing, and walking round getting some views for my first painting  out here. I know I won’t be able to achieve the light I want, and it will be frustrating. I’m hoping to get some photos of children, who are so beautiful, with their large dark eyes.  I do urge you to think about Turkey out of the summer season.  The Mediterranean climate is delightful, and to miss a few weeks of our dreadful winter has been a real boost.
On the way back to Antalya we did manage to drive to Olympos, and I'm so glad we did.  Also glad that we visited in the early season.  Judging from the dozens of guest houses, tree houses, camping sites, restaurants etc. it will be teeming with people in the summer.  As it was, in perfect sun we drove down the blissful valley of cedar, and spruce, wildflowers everywhere, wild iris, tall daisies, euphorbia, blossom.  The car park was deserted, but there were a few backpackers, apart from that we were virtually alone. 
I'm not going to give you a history lesson, but Olympos was one of the six most important cities in the Lycian area, and coins from 2nd  century B.C.  It has been twice used by pirates, and although there is not quite so much to see as some of the bigger sites, the extreme natural beauty of the site, which is built on both sides of a wide creek, and ends at the most beautiful site, made it one of the most beautiful I have seen.  After our visit we stopped on the way back up the hill, and had spinach and potato pancakes, pancakes with lemon and sugar, and huge glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice.  An exquisite experience. 
As always it's over for another few months.  I miss it already.  England is cold and grey. 
See you soon Turkey. 

Tuesday, 5 February 2013


We occasionally see British people behaving strangely in Kalkan, and thought you may like to know a few essential facts about Turkish people so that you don’t hurt their feelings, and give them a bad impression of their guests.

The first thing you will notice is how incredibly friendly everyone is.  Really helpful, attentive,  keen to show you the way or explain things.  Their English is mostly good, and everyone seems to know a few English words.  Try and learn a few Turkish words, even just Merhaba – hello, means you are trying to fit into their world, and you will get a big smile and a replying Merhaba. 

As you walk along in the evening – maybe trying to find a restaurant you think you will like, there will be someone outside each restaurant, hoping you are going to visit them.  They may speak to you, asking you to look at their menu.  Don’t just stare straight ahead, they won’t hound you.  Just say that you have already booked elsewhere, or have eaten in your hotel already, or that you will look at the menu and maybe come back another time.  But if you don’t intend to, then don’t promise.  Porky pies are no better in Turkey than they are at home!

Shopping is a marvellous experience.  Hard haggling is frowned upon, but you can ask with a smile if they will take something off.  Most will - if it isn’t enough, say so.  They probably won’t want to lose your custom, but obviously still want to make a profit. 
Turkish waiters really enjoy their job, which we are not always used to at home, to say the least.  They will look after you, and make a fuss of you, and take pride in what they serve you with.  If you have a gripe, you don’t have to make a big fuss, they will meet you halfway all the time.  You will be amazed at the quality of the food and presentation in general.  Try different things, again the waiters will help you with your choices, and  remember that you are often given quite generous portions of complimentary appetisers which can fill you up.

The loos in all restaurants in Kalkan are squeaky clean, and European, so no worries about that.  You hardly ever hear of anyone getting a tummy bug, hygiene is excellent. The sea is amazingly clean and pure.  I have NEVER seen anything on the beach or floating in the water I would not want to see.  Swimming in the sea is one of the best things about Kalkan for me, warm, clean, calm, turquoise and clear.  

The markets are fun, they are a bit more pushy than shops, but they all have such a great sense of humour -  talk back but keep walking, with a smile.  They’re only trying to make a living, and the prices are really good anyway.  I still find their mimicry of us saying 'Just 'avin a look' very funny. They expect you to bargain, but do remember they have to make a living.  Spices, leather belts, bowls, Turkish delight, all excellent gifts to take home.  And if you’re self catering, fruit and vegetables are beyond anything you have ever experienced.  Also at the market treat yourself to crepes, or flat bread cooked in front of you, then filled with cheese and spinach. 

In our part of Turkey, and particularly in Kalkan, you won’t see stag parties (although occasionally  groups of girls on hen holidays), or people getting raucously  drunk.  Although there are a fewcafes which serve English breakfast, there aren’t the long strips of restaurants offering little else.  Try Turkish style breakfasts, much more suited to their climate, and amazing.  Most offer Turkish food with English menus, which is cheap, delicious and healthy.  Pizzas are available – slightly different, but moreish.  The food is one of our delights on holiday, and I buy ingredients and cookery books every time I go out. 
Don't cram things into your case you can buy on holiday.  I don't think there is anything now you can't get there.
Just enjoy one of the best places you'll ever go to.