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.