Our Turkish Delight
Since Covid has taken over most of 2020’s plans, I thought I would go back and blog some past trips I’ve taken. I have been lucky enough to get to Australia, New Zealand and Crete within all of this mayhem, but I also had a lot of holidays and plans cancelled or re-arranged. Hopefully, I will make it over to Belgium before the end of the year to see my boyfriend but until then and the exciting plans I have lined up for next year, it’s time to reminisce.
In April 2018 me and my boyfriend went to Turkey for the first time, I’d had a lot of friends visiting the country, as well as my parents and only heard good things, plus it was cheap. At the time, my boyfriend was still studying in University to become a Chiropractor, which he completed this year with amazing grade’s, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.
So, we wanted a little break, just the two of us, somewhere new to explore and reasonable. Tjay left it to me, he knows I love anything to do with travel, looking, booking, writing so whatever I suggested he just said yes. I debated between Greece, Turkey and Croatia for quite a while but eventually the deal I got for Turkey outweighed the rest.
I found flights with Easyjet from London Gatwick for £100 return including a suitcase, so travelling down to London was just an added part of the adventure. We took a train to the capital and had a little wander round London before we headed to our hotel, we stayed at the Premier Inn at Gatwick airport.
The day we spent in London was hot, we were at the beginning of an early heatwave and it was 32 degrees in mid-april, so we decided sitting along The Thames with a fresh bottle of wine, was our best bet. Around 3pm, we hopped on the Gatwick express (which I prebooked) to get us to our hotel at the airport. Our flight wasn’t until 12pm the next day, so we had a lovely relaxing evening. After tea out at a pub, a few glasses of red later, we had a movie night and got some rest before travelling the next day.
The thing I love most about Gatwick airport is that there is a Wetherspoons. Once you’re through security, the time flies from checking in to boarding, sat having a few cheeky gins in Spoons’.
I picked Kusadasi as our location to stay, after a few friends had recommended the area to me. We had around an hour and a half transfer from the airport to the hotel, we stayed at ‘The CLC Kusadasi Golf and Spa Resort’. We booked, one week all inclusive, in a Duplex Superior Suite and only had to fork out £300 each. It was such a mega deal for such a gorgeous, spotless hotel, that we couldn’t turn it down.
Perched upon a scenic hillside area of national parkland, the 5-star hotel boasts stunning, romantic, panoramic views as well as 12 dazzling pools, a private beach club with a free shuttle bus and even a mini aqua park. The award-winning complex offers 6 bars, including a snack bar as well as a buffet style restaurant and a ‘A La Carte’ restaurant up on the golf course.
We arrived around 11pm in the evening and when we checked in, after being greeted by smiley, friendly faces, were told they’d open up the buffet for us as we must be hungry after our journey, which I thought was a nice little touch. We went down and grabbed some bread and olives but just couldn’t wait to see our room…well our suite.
We did not anticipate the sheer size of this place, it took us the whole week to locate all the pools, the bars however, we were better at finding. There were even little golf buggies to take people to their rooms, we decided to walk as it didn’t look too far on the map, but probably took us around 10 minutes to get to our pool and building. We were on the 2nd floor and had a pool view which we knew, but nothing prepared us for our gorgeous suite when we opened the door, we ran around like little kids screaming with excitement at how gorgeous it was, forgetting it was midnight and some of our neighbours were probably not best pleased.
We had two nice sized bedrooms, one with two single beds and an en-suite, equipped with a shower. We then walked through into an incredible dining area, with a wooden table and 8 chairs, I guess just in case we had the neighbours round for a meal. We had a fully equipped kitchen with a fridge, dishwasher and all the utensils to make a full Sunday lunch.. fair to say we didn’t use anything from the kitchen other than the fridge and wine glasses. We had a beautiful living area, comfy sofas, flatscreen tv and then the master suite, with double sliding doors that opened onto our enormous balcony, again with a table and chairs big enough for a family Christmas and a bathroom that had a shower, bath and even a bidet. It was safe to say we were happy. We had been left a big basket of fruit and a bottle of red wine, so we cracked it open and sat out on our king size balcony.
The next morning I woke to the light of the sun just poking through the curtains, I opened the sliding doors and let the warm air enter the room, that holiday smell engulfed me and I couldn’t help but smile, a whole week exploring a new country with my T. We don’t do too bad considering were in a long distance relationship, when Tjay was at Uni he lived in Bournemouth for years so I would drive down at least once a month, if not twice, and stay with him or he would take the train to come visit me. Even now with him living in Belgium, it is so easy to grab a cheap Ryanair flight to Brussels for 30 euros return. But there is nothing like knowing we have quality time together, neither of us having to pop out to work, or do a food shop, just pure ‘us’ time and I always treasure it.
The view when I stepped out onto the balcony was even better than I had imagined the night before, seeing it in full light now, it was spectacular. The pool directly below us, with another to our right and in the distance the beautiful outline of the mountains of the national park.
At the time of our Visit, Turkey was having issues with Syria and although it did not affect us at all, as we were so far away from the areas of the country that were involved, I think it put a lot of people off. It was all over the news for the weeks leading up, it didn’t worry me personally, but I can see for other people it may have made them nervous to travel to Turkey.
You could tell, our hotel was probably around 1/5 full and the people of Kusadasi seemed very grateful for tourism, some a bit pushier, seeming almost actually desperate.
It just meant for us that the pools were quiet and serene, there was no queue for the bar and we got to know the staff a lot better. The first day, after breakfast, we had a little walk around our resort, I say little it took a few hours to explore it all. The gorgeous pools and the amazing golf course, we don’t play golf ourselves but could appreciate what a magnificent course it was.
Our hotel itself being situated up in the hills was a little bit out of the way, you couldn’t just walk out of the front gates and explore you had to take a shuttle or a bus if you wanted to head to the town or the beach. Luckily, the hotel provided a service of a free shuttle bus to the beach every day, on the hour and then 3 times a week, they had a shuttle into Kusadasi town. We decided on our first evening we would make the most of it and grab the shuttle into town for dinner. We put our names down for the 6pm shuttle going and the 11pm returning. Unfortunately, due to the low number of tourists in the hotel we were the only people booked onto the shuttle that evening and so they decided not to run it. The guy who came to tell us the news, I think could clearly see the disappointment on our faces when he said it wouldn’t be possible that night. We had dressed up hoping to find dinner at a local restaurant and to just have an explore. We were just about to turn around when the kind man who worked at the hotel and had just finished his shift, offered to drive us himself, down to the town. We were quite shocked at his kind gesture, we were not going to accept as we didn’t want him to go out of his way, when he said he was heading down to Kusadasi anyway, as that’s where he lived.
It was around a 15 min drive into the centre, he gave us a few tips and struck up a nice conversation of where we were from and what our plans were during our trip. When he come to pick us up he gave us his phone number and told us to give him a call when we were ready and he would drive us back up. We insisted he didn’t need to and if he could give us a number of a local taxi company, we would be happy to just grab a cab, yet he promised it would be his pleasure. It was such a kind thing to do, we were quite overwhelmed.
We had a walk along the front, it was quite busy, but with locals, red and white native flags lined the roads and there was a low hum of chatter and traffic passing us by. The sun began to set, and we wandered through the harbour, reading and discussing menus as we went. I was initially a bit apprehensive about visiting Turkey in April as I’m a sucker for the sun and boiling hot weather, and as I’d read, in April its only just starting to heat up and can be cool in the evenings, I was pleasantly surprised.
We picked a restaurant and it was still warm enough to sit outside, the owner had already tried to grab us as we had wandered past earlier just checking out the menu, we wanted somewhere traditional, in a nice location, where we could try some local cuisine.
He sat us at a lovely table in the outdoor area, looking up into the town in my view, and looking down towards the sea from Tjays side. The only thing was we were opposite a couple of shops, the tradesmen found us the perfect candidates to try and sell their stuff. I know its common in Turkey for them to shout you and you barter until you come to an agreement, I was just trying to enjoy a lovely meal with my boyfriend and didn’t appreciate handbags and shoes being shoved in my face. We told them ‘No thank you’ time and time again, but they just didn’t let up.
We ordered some cocktails, two bottles of red wine, a Turkish Mezze to start and a kebab with chips and rice for mains. The food was nice and after enjoying our wine and a few hours of chat, sure enough our friend from the hotel was there to drive us back up, even though he lived in Kusadasi and would have to come back down again.
The next morning, we chose one of our many pools to have a chill around and thought we’d jump the shuttle to our own private beach in the afternoon. The shuttle bus to the beach took around 20 minutes, winding down the hills to reach the coast. Down on the beach there was a snack area and bar, part of the all-inclusive.
You could grab the likes of burgers, salad, chicken, chips and GOZLEME! During this trip Me and Tjay became addicted to the stuff, they would prepare it fresh every day, at the beach and at the snack bar back at the hotel. Gozleme is a traditional savoury Turkish flatbread and pastry dish, the dough is made from flour, salt and water and is then rolled thin, filled with various ingredients such as a variety of meats, spicy potato or cheese and spinach and then it is sealed and cooked over a griddle. It became our daily afternoon snack; we couldn’t resist the stuff.
The bar had everything, so we would usually get a cold white wine and relax on the sunbeds that belonged to our beach club. We went to our beach on a number of occasions and it was always pleasant, nice to be able to grab a drink as and when you want while on the beach, the view was gorgeous as we could see the Greek island of Samos just in front and the water was clear and lovely for a cool off. Slightly littered as some of our swims we found some floating rubbish and even a condom but that aside it was a perfect location for an afternoon chill in the sun.
Our second night we decided to book into the ‘A la Carte’ restaurant, you were allowed one visit per week booked at the hotel. So we got dressed up and headed out, reception sent a car to drive us to the golf club, where the restaurant was situated, we could have walked but it was quite warm and I didn’t fancy getting all hot and bothered before a nice meal.
The car took less than 5 minutes to take us there and we picked the most perfect time, right as the sun was setting, the view was out of this world. The green of the rolling fields below, touching the blue outline of the mountains, next to the clear reflection of the water, all being tied together by the pinks and oranges in the sky, it was like a majestic painting! Before we were seated, we went out onto the balcony to take in the incredible view.
You had to pay for drinks at the ‘A La Carte’ restaurant but considering we were getting a delicious 3 course meal in with our all-inclusive deal, we were more than happy to buy a bottle of wine. We loved the food and the ambience so much that the next day we went to reception to tell them how exceptional the experience was and if we were allowed too, we would like to eat there again but we would pay. The manager seemed so happy to hear that we enjoyed it so much and so booked us in for a second visit during our week stay, for free.
We spent a few chilled days relaxing around our stunning hotel, swimming, going down the water slides, having lunch and wine with a view of the mountains, just purely chilling out and being together.
While we were in a new country, we planned a trip to the wonder that is Pamukkale. Pamukkale is a town known for the mineral rich, thermal waters, flowing down white travertine terraces on a nearby hillside. It neighbours Hierapolis, an ancient Roman spa city founded around 190 B.C. Ruins there include a well preserved theatre. We booked the tour and then were told the little detail that we would be picked up at 6am the next morning. So, with after our alarm went off at 5am, showered and ready, a comfy minibus pulled up and let us onboard. They drove down into Kusadasi and stopped, the driver and tour guide got out, had a smoke and began to eat some croissants at a little café on the side of the road, Me and T were sat in the bus thinking we could have had an extra half an hour in bed.
After their little pitstop we picked up around 3 other couples from different hotels in the area and finally began our journey to Pamukkale. 3 hours and one pitstop later, we had finally made it. It was magnificent, we were first greeted by a glowing turquoise pool, surrounded by a cotton white wall, it looked like snow from afar, which was a strange concept considering the air temperature. It was stunning and this was just an insight of what was to come.
We walked up a hill, listening to the interesting facts from our tour guide and then he gave us a few hours to explore for ourselves. There was so much to see, I was so excited. I get quite travel sick in cars and buses and so taking a 3-hour drive at 6am, I was starting to wonder why had we done this? But arriving in this indescribable place it was all so worth it! We headed straight for the white clouds of pools on the hillside, you had to walk through one to get to another.
We took our shoes off and stepped into the white, shallow pools, it was actually quite slimy under your feet and squelched through your toes, I reached in and it was like a white mud in the bottom of the pools. Some parts felt like another world or planet all together, with a view behind of the Turkish mountains, I felt like we were above it all, floating on clouds.
Afterwards we headed into the ancient ruins of Hierapolis, we climbed to the top of the theatre and sat to take in the surroundings. A group of people began to clap, and the echo of the sound was amazing, such a surreal experience. After the exploring we were taken to a nearby hotel where in the back, they had natural hot springs and mud that you could rub on your skin, the hotel actually provided us with lunch as part of our tour which was a nice surprise as it was lovely. Our whole group ordered soft drinks or water but Me and Tjay being us and in the holiday mode went straight in for the wine. Safe to say were knackered by the time we made it back to our hotel that evening, but it was so worth it and one of my best memories from our time in Turkey.
Another day we decided to grab a Taxi and head to a beautiful place that we had heard about, that wasn’t too far away. ‘Dilek National Park’ in Guzelcamli had been advertised in a couple of tour leaflets we had seen but we wanted to experience it ourselves. Our taxi driver dropped us just at the gates to the park and we arranged with him to come back around 4pm, some 6 hours later, to pick us up. We did not anticipate what a huge place this was, the map made the beaches look walkable. The first beach we came too was lovely but nothing spectacular. We wanted the white sand, blue sea and green hills that we had seen on the pictures and so after just half an hour, decided to walk round to the next cove.
There was one other couple on the beach so it was nice and quiet, but we packed up our towels and bag and began to walk around to the next beach. Around 5 minutes into our hike up the hill a taxi pulled up beside us … “Where are you going?” He shouted at us through his window, we told him only to the next cove and we continued to walk, but he persisted “you can’t just walk through these roads!”.
Me and Tjay actually laughed both thinking to ourselves, he’s just trying to make some extra money. He then, pleading with us said “I’m serious, the wild pigs, its mating season, they can become very vicious, please get in the car, I will drive you, no charge.”
We hadn’t even realised there was wild pigs in this park, it was proven to us later that day, when a family of them ran across the beach. So we got in, he was such a lovely man, Chatted to us all the way round to the next beach and if I’m honest it was quite a way, I was glad we hadn’t had to walk it in the midday sun. After about 5 minutes in the car, he stopped at the top of the hill, at a little viewing point and insisted we jump out so he could take our photo. Once he dropped us at the beach, he asked what time we’d like to stay until and he promised he would drive us back to the entrance in time to meet our first taxi driver. The second beach was stunning with white stone pebbles, on a backdrop of green cascading trees and the sea was just crystal clear. We had a lovely day, we swam, walked from one end to the other and came across a little wooden picnic table half submerged into the water and so we sat, put on our speaker and played cards.
It was a perfect day, other than when I got stung by a wasp, Tjay was swimming and I was screaming, I had been telling him all day that the wasps were attracted to my colourful swimsuit and he’d laughed at my comment. He came running out of the sea to see what had happened, only to find a wasp half hanging out of the palm of my hand.
As we headed back to meet the taxi driver, we found him swimming in the sea, free and happy and as soon as he saw us he came running and drove us back, he said it was so lovely to meet a young, nice couple and thanked us for visiting Turkey and giving the country a chance. We tried to give him some money for his kind gesture, all he asked was that we recommended his service on TripAdvisor.
All in all, we had such a lovely time in Turkey, we had the perfect mix of relaxation and adventure, as well as quality time together which to me is the most important.