Flying with Turkish Airlines…

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Up until a few weeks ago I’d only ever flown to Turkey with the usual holiday airlines, Easyjet, Thomson, Thomascook, Monarch, and once with Pegasus. I’d never flown with a slightly more higher class scheduled airline like Turkish airlines, mainly because I didn’t want to deal with the stopover at Istanbul. However, in January there were no other options unless I flew to Antalya which was far from ideal, so after much persuasion from friends who have done this same journey many times, I plucked up the courage to book my flight from London to Dalaman via Istanbul Atatürk.

I panic about the smallest of things, and having to find my way around a strange new, very busy airport was my worst nightmare. All sorts were running around my head, would I have to pick up my suitcase between airports, how long would be enough time between flights, what would happen if I missed one, what if I got lost and ended up on the wrong plane… some really irrational thoughts went through my head! I can honestly say though, even with the stopover in Istanbul, Turkish airlines are the best airline I’ve ever flown with and they were the best flights I’ve had.

The biggest bonus about Turkish Airlines is the fact you get free food and drink on board. I haven’t had meals on planes for years, I never bother because I think they’re very overpriced and not that great. But these Turkish airlines meal options were really impressive, although definitely very ‘Turkish’ so may not appeal to all tastes. Just after take off on the international flights we got given a little menu with 2 different meal options listed (but I believe there are more meal options available if you specify you require a special meal in advance when booking). The menu had a meat dish and a vegetarian dish, and you just tell the air steward your choice when they bring the food trolley out. On my flight out to Istanbul we had a choice of pasta or meatballs. I had the kofte (meatballs), served with rice and kuru fasulye (beans), patlican (aubergine), cream cheese and crackers, a bread roll, butter and a berry yogurt/mousse. This came with a choice of drinks, including alcoholic ones, but I settled for orange juice and water. Also quite excitingly, the cutlery was ‘real’ and made of metal, instead of flimsy plastic.
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Coming back from Istanbul to Gatwick, the meal wasn’t quite as nice, but still amazing considering it was included in the price. This time it was a choice of fish or pasta and I opted for the fish – grilled salmon, served with mashed potato and black lentils, along with cacik (garlic, mint and cucumber yogurt), cream cheese and crackers, a bread roll, butter and a chocolate mousse.
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On the internal/domestic flight we also got a mini-meal which I wasn’t expecting! The flight was an hour long so as soon as the cabin crew’s seat belt lights went off they grabbed the food trolley and began serving us cute food packages, designed to look like picnic baskets with little handles. On the outbound Istanbul – Dalaman flight we got given a turkey, cheese and salad sandwich, a pot of aubergine and a banana and chocolate mousse, and on the return flight we got a cheese and salad sandwich, a pot of olives, cucumber and tomato and a slice of vanilla chocolate cake.
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The cabin crew also served tea and coffee throughout the International flights, and gave us a small, well presented piece of Turkish delight just after take-off, which was a nice touch. The crew were really friendly, smiley and helpful and I liked the way the chef stood with his white hat on at the entrance to the plane welcoming everyone aboard too. Another nice touch was the way they played a bit of music when landing, it’s such a small thing and a simple concept but it really made me smile.. although not so much when I was landing back in the miserable UK!

The other main bonus when flying with Turkish Airlines is the fact each seat has a personal entertainment system built into them. Normally I just sit and entertain myself by watching a film on my iPad or listening to music and doing a puzzlebook, but I really enjoyed having the entertainment system to use. It had the most recent movies, even ones not yet on DVD such as the new James Bond movie, lots of movies of all different genres, TV programmes, music and games… great for keeping kids amused too. My favourite part was the tracker telling us how far into the flight we were, which countries we were flying over, the altitude and how far to destination we were.

The seats had a bit more legroom that I normally get flying with Thomascook etc, although Easyjet are pretty good in that department too. The only one negative thing I can think of is how hot it was on board the plane. Normally when boarding I’m always a little hot and bothered, but mid-flight I’ve usually got my blanket or jacket out and like to get cosy – but all 4 of my flights with Turkish Airlines were hot and stuffy and that made it rather uncomfortable towards the end. It was so hot that at one point I was fanning myself with the ‘what do to in an emergency’ card and fellow passengers were asking them to turn down the heaters – I think it must be a Turkish thing, they’re afraid of a tiny bit of cold air, especially if its being blown out through vents like the ones above the seats on planes. It was bearable but definitely a problem, and I’ll make a note next time to wear removable layers rather than just a long sleeved top or jumper!
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The best part of all was that the stopover at Istanbul wasn’t nearly as traumatising as I thought it would be, and it also meant I got to see Istanbul, even if it was only from above it still looked beautiful! When we got off the London-Istanbul flight we exited the plane via steps which was quite exciting as I haven’t done that for years. Then we got on a transfer bus which took us from the tarmac to the arrivals section of the airport, it was well signposted for international arrivals and for those of us with non-Turkish passports. I queued up with my visa and passport and went through passport control then exited the airport and followed signs to the domestic terminal, it only took around 15mins to walk to it. I didn’t have to collect my suitcase or check in again as I already had been given my boarding pass for the 2nd flight when I checked into the first at Gatwick, so I just went through security and found my gate. I had 2 hours to wait til my flight so I found a free wifi-spot to catch up on some internet time! (Note – Starbucks and Cafe Nero use the same free wifi host and you can register and join the network for free.. I didn’t even buy a drink, just stood outside for an hour taking advantage of the connection!) Also worth noting that even though my 2nd flight landed at the domestic terminal of Dalaman, we had to board a bus to be taken to the international terminal as our luggage still had to clear customs. It led to some confusion for Berkay because despite me researching this before hand and telling him, he was parked up waiting at the domestic terminal! D’oh! The return journey was pretty much the same and just as easy – I flew from the domestic terminal so all I had to do was check in and go through security, no passport control until I landed at Istanbul and entered the international terminal. International departures at Istanbul Atatürk is HUGE, very busy and quite overwhelming. I had a 4 hour wait so again found a spot next to Cafe Nero and sat on the floor next to the escalators using the WiFi. There were a few duty free shops, as well as several designer shops like YSL and Chanel, and a lot of cafes.. I didn’t explore much but I realised how large the airport was when I went to to the toilet and it took me 10-15minutes to find my way back to where I was previously sat. There were hundreds of flights departing too so the departure board looked quite impressive! When my gate eventually popped up I made my way to it and we were taken onto another bus from there and driven to the plane where we boarded up the steps, so much more satisfying than walking through the usual covered walkways to the plane!
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All in all, my experience of Turkish airlines was a good one and I will recommend them to anyone and everyone. If you’re in two minds about whether to book with them because of the stopovers in Istanbul, don’t let it put you off, it really wasn’t that bad. When booking your connecting flight make sure you have around 2 hours in between them so that you are able to find your way through the airport and to the correct gate without getting too stressed out and rushed.The best part of all for me, is how cheap the flights were – I paid £141 return, for effectively 4 flights with 23kg of hold luggage, 8kg of hand luggage, inflight meals and drinks all included. Despite my original fears and usual dismissal of Turkish Airlines purely due to the stopover, I would have no hesitation whatsoever about booking with them again, if they worked out cheapest, and I’d probably even choose them if they were slightly more expensive that other airlines as I feel it’s worth it. The only real problem is the length of time it takes, as the stopover does obviously lengthen the journey, but if you see the whole journey as part of your holiday experience it can all be part of the fun. If they flew direct to Dalaman it would be a no brainer and I would book with them every single time. It’s easy to see why they have won awards for being the best airline in Europe for the past few years!

Ending the blog with one of Turkish Airlines’ slogans – “Smaller world, Bigger smiles” – If only, eh?
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Saying goodbye to Turkey and hello to England..

On Sunday I packed up my life into a suitcase once again, boarded the plane alone and arrived back in the UK, this time for longer.

I’d been putting it off for weeks, but a month ago I booked my flight and tried to make the most of everyday I had left there in Turkey. Each day was marred by the constant thought of ‘this is the last time I’ll do this’ or ‘this is the last time I’ll eat this’, ‘this is the last time I’ll go here’. Those thoughts filled my head and everything just felt different, I could no longer enjoy my time there, once I’d booked my flight the countdown began and it was awful.

While everyone else was excitedly opening their advent calendars and counting down the days til Christmas, I was wishing time to go slower, hoping that by some miracle the 14th December would never arrive. Inevitably it did, of course.

Berkay had been able to get the day off work so we could spend the day together, we done a lot of our favourite things, had a lovely Turkish breakfast outside on the balcony, played backgammon with a cup of coffee, walked Boncuk along the seafront and had a gorgeous BBQ outside. The hours ticked by and once I was all packed and ready we went to the beach to watch one ‘last’ sunset. (See what I mean? Always ‘lasts’ on my mind!) It reached 5.30 pm, I took my case and walked out of my front door for the ‘last’ time (again…). “Bye house”.

We went and waited in the hotel garden for Berkay’s friend to arrive, he was taking us to the airport in his car. I played with Boncuk and explained to her what was going on, although of course she’s clueless and is probably still waiting for me to go back and play ball with her and wondering where I am now. We saw our friends car drive around the corner and then it hit me, it was time to go.

Berkay took my suitcase to the car and I sat on the steps cuddling Boncuk, telling her to be good and that I’d see her again soon. I gave her a little treat and she ran off with it, bouncing around all happy and none-the-wiser. She was so happy with her little treat that when I climbed over the fence and walked away she didn’t even come to say bye. She usually stands with her paws up on the fence, crying or howling as we walk away, but not this time. At least one of us wasn’t!

A 45 minute minute car journey later and we were in Dalaman. Our friend hadn’t had dinner so we stopped at a Çiğ köfte place to kill some time and eat and then carried on to the airport.

My flight was the only one flying out that evening so the airport wasn’t very busy but the queues to check in were very long as the flight was one of the last ones direct from Dalaman before Christmas and it was full of expats flying back to the UK for the holidays. We queued for around an hour, but I didn’t mind as that meant delaying the ‘goodbye’ further. Eventually the inevitable happened, I got to the front of the queue and after trying to reduce the weight of my case from 25kg down to just 20, I was all checked in and ready to go.

After a tearful goodbye and a cuddle, I walked through security and passport control where they stamped my passport with an exit date stamp, that was it, the point of no return. I looked back and waved at Berkay and he blew me a kiss, cheesy! Then that was that, I walked around the corner and found my gate, which was full of people already waiting. I spotted a Facebook friend who had previously told me she was on the same flight with her husband and daughter, she too has a Turkish husband and has faced the same teary goodbyes. I went over to her and she asked if I was ok and gave me a big hug, at which point I burst into tears. Poor woman! Still, I felt better after that and I didn’t have to wait very long until we started boarding the plane. The plane was full of young children and before take off there were alot of screaming babies, they looked exactly how I felt on the inside!

On take off I said ‘bye Turkey, bye Berkay, bye Boncuk’ and had one last look out of the window, I even gave a little wave.

Before I knew it, the plane was landing back in Gatwick. “Welcome home” the pilot said. Not really home for me though. I got through passport control quickly and retrieved my baggage. I saw my friend again and apologised for crying on her, “it’s ok I know how it feels” she said, which was reassuring.  Then I walked out through the doors and saw my mum and dad waiting for me with more hugs, along with a cheddar cheese and HP sauce sandwich and packets of pickled onion monster munch, yum!

I can’t tell you how strange it is to be back here. The moment I walked into my room again it just hit me, but it was like nothing at all had changed. My calendar is still stuck on the page of June, the month I left. Everything is the same here, yet different. It really does feel like I’ve never been away, like the past 6 months were all just a dream, like I wasn’t really there. I have to keep looking at photos of our house to remind myself that it wasn’t all a dream.

It upsets me that I’ll probably never step foot in my house again, a week ago I was there, sleeping next to Berkay, waking up next to him, eating breakfast together on the balcony, making dinner in the kitchen, watching films in the living room… now all traces of us are removed from that house, and someone else is living there.

Berkay is now living under the hotel (which is still closed for the winter) in a concrete room which is used for staff accomodation during the summer. Boncuk is staying there with him for now and will go somewhere else once he’s in the army, we’ll get her back again once he’s finished in February 2016, which seems like a lifetime away.

Forget about the arrival of 2015 in 2 weeks time, roll on 2016 when we can finally settle and live together without the worry of these goodbyes again, that’s what I say!

See you soon, Fethiye. ❤

Back in Turkey!

So, I’ve been back in Turkey for 3 days now and still haven’t had a chance to post about it yet!

I got up at 6am on Monday morning, finished packing last minute things, said my goodbye’s and got in the car with Dad and Mum who took me to the airport. My flight was at 11.20am, and we arrived at the airport around 3 hours before. There was a huge queue of people waiting to check in, but I finally got to the check-in desk and waved my suitcase off down the baggage ramp, I was worried it was going to be too heavy and over my 20kg allowance, but luckily it was bang on 20kg, good judgment eh? (:

We went up the escalators to departures and that’s where I had to leave Mum and Dad and go through security. After faffing around having to unpack my entire hand luggage so they could scan my laptop, and take my shoes off, I eventually made it through and came out the other side where I looked back and saw Mum and Dad still waving at me ❤ Later on I realised she’d written a Facebook status about that moment : “Took Dan to airport this morning with her Dad…. waved her off (once again) as she heads back to Turkey & Berkay…..all smiles, I can see her smiley face as she waved to us at departures…..priceless….Love you BIG as the Sky” – sweet. (:
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After getting through the maze that is Gatwick South’s duty free shop leading to the main departure hall,  I had a look around, sat down and started to get excited. It took ages for the gate information to pop up on the screen, so I was getting rather impatient! Once the number showed up and I took the long walk to the departure gate, it all became rather real as I could see my plane outside the window, eeeek!
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We didn’t have to wait very long after that, almost as soon as I got to the gate people began boarding. I was in row 14 so I was the second from last lot of passengers to board. I flew with Pegasus (for the first time!) so when I stepped on the plane all I could see were Turkish signs, and hear the stewards speaking Turkish amongst themselves. “Welcome” one air steward said to everyone else boarding, then he turned to me and said “hosgeldin!” (that’s Turkish for Welcome) – he must’ve thought I was Turkish, so that made me smile. I found my seat, sat down, got comfortable with my blanket out and my cow slippers on, and waited for take off.
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We took off 40 minutes late, but the flight was only due to be 3hours and 30 minutes (instead of around 4) due to tail wind so I didn’t mind! One thing I really loved about Pegasus was the fact they had little tv screens on board showing exactly where we were in the air, the altitude, which countries we were flying over and how long left until arrival at our destination.
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After a bumpy end to the flight which meant having our seat belts fastened for 40 minutes – we landed safe and sound at Dalaman. I went through passport control, who didn’t even look at my evisa (honestly, I’ve never been through immigration so quick!) and went downstairs to locate my baggage.. Around the carousel it came, and off I went to find my transfer bus.  I wish Berkay was there to meet me but it would have been to expensive to hire or borrow a friends car as the petrol is just so expensive out here. Instead I booked the transfer bus which only cost me £8. It was ready waiting for me when I arrived and only took 45minutes to get to Calis. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I realised we were getting close. Around 7pm, the driver turned off down the road Berkay’s hotel is and stopped outside, where Berkay was waiting with Boncuk for me. Off I hopped and they both gave me a welcome hug!
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After saying Hello to them both, we put Boncuk back in her kennel and headed off to my new house, which I was excited and nervous to see. I like the house, it’s in a much more convenient location than the last one, although that one will always be more special to me as it was my first house away from England. I’ll do a post about my new house in the next few days if anyone is interested to see it! (:

We quickly got the internet set up and eventually managed to get it working so that I could Facetime family and let them known I’d arrived. By the time all this was done it was around 8pm and Berkay had arranged to go into work an hour later than usual at 9pm – we had no food in the house at all, so decided to go out to a restaurant along the sea front for something to eat instead. We went to Letoon hotel, which I knew had a new rooftop restaurant which looked really good. The view from there was lovely. It was cold though. The weather has been so weird since I’ve been here, wet, cloudy and windy. Honestly it was warmer in England the day before I left! Crazy.
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We ate our dinner in record time, and got back home just after 9pm. Berkay made sure I got home OK then went straight out to work. Might as well get used to those long working hours alone again!

I was tired but didn’t want to go to bed, so spent a couple of hours unpacking everything. The house has definitely been Danni-ed now. Nail varnish bottles now surround the bedroom mirror and my two favourite bears sit on the bed. (:
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After all that travelling and packing, I went to bed around 2am, and knew I had to be up early ready to go to Fethiye market. A post about that will follow tomorrow! ❤

It’s good to be home, but it will take some getting used to again!

Passport arrived, flight is booked!…

After spending 40 minutes on hold to the passport office in Durham last week, at 04.30 Sunday morning I got an email from them saying my passport had been approved and sent for printing on 23rd May and that I should receive it in 4-5 working days.

At 1pm on Tuesday I heard a knock at the door, opened it and could have kissed the man! My passport had arrived! When I saw the red, shiny passport in my hand I realised it was all getting rather real!
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I was starting to get worried, having left my job last week I won’t get anymore money after pay day on Friday so I was hoping I’d get my passport back and be able to go as soon as possible. I’ve earned my money, saved my money, and would rather spend it there where I’m happiest.

All along I planned to book my flight for 2nd June, but held off booking as I didn’t want to risk my passport not coming in time. It’s a good job I held off as last night when I finally did book it, it ended up being “£12 cheaper.  It cost me £95, baggage included, and is with Pegasus, I’ve never flown with them before but Berkay has and says they were better than flythomascook and easyjet.
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So that’s it, as of this Monday, 11am, I’ll be on that plane to Turkey (fingers crossed there’s no delays!) I’ll arrive at Dalaman at 17.30, be in Calis by 19:00 ish, and reunited with Berkay and Boncuk, well, temporarily for a few minutes until he goes to work at 8pm! Better get used to that again, an hour is always better than nothing 🙂

I’m not really organised at all, I’ve got most of the stuff I need, but haven’t started packing my case yet and I’m at my mums house for a few days. I’ll be back at dad’s on Saturday and will have just Saturday evening and Sunday to get packed and organised! I done some last minute shopping yesterday and got a hand luggage bag which is all ready to fill up, and my step mum got me a little wheely trolley bag to take to the markets out there and fill with our fruit and veg, which I thought was really sweet!
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I’m really going to miss my little sister the most, we’re so close – we spent the whole day Tuesday having a pajama day watching Disney princess films, she’s always using someone else’s iPhone/iPad/iPod so I’ll be able to facetime her, no doubt she’ll be helping me by looking after all my bears and things in my bedroom while I’m away, haha!

Berkay has arranged for internet to be put in, so I should be connected within a few days and I’ll  be able to keep you all updated on my blog – I’ll try my hardest to go back to posting everyday.

Thanks all for continuing to read, I’m just off to pay for and print my evisa and see what the fuss is all about!  (Edit: DONE and it was a piece of cake!)
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4 more sleeps and counting 🙂

xxx