Four days in Istanbul…


It’s been almost a year since my last post on this blog – but thanks to a trip to Istanbul last week, I have a lot of new material and photos to post!

I’ve wanted to go to Istanbul for years, but Berkay was never really keen to go, and we didn’t really have time, anytime we go to Turkey we just go back to Fethiye, because it feels like ‘going home’.

One day in November Berkay messaged me at work and said he wanted to go to Turkey in January, so I said lets go to Istanbul and he agreed.. when I got home from work that evening we booked our flights and hotel before he had a chance to change his mind!

We flew to Sabiha Gökçen airport on 10th January and I flew back to London again on 14th – so it was a very swift but very busy four day visit! Berkay is still in Turkey now as he has gone to visit his family in the village for a few days.

Despite living in busy London ourselves,  I thought that a city as busy as Istanbul might be a bit overwhelming, especially as we had no idea where to go and where things were, or how to get around, but we found public transport in the form of trams, buses and ferries really easy and cheap and it was fun finding our way around a new place.

People kept telling me that because we landed at 5pm, we would be stuck in rush hour traffic for hours on the transfer to our hotel, but it actually only took an hour and a half which is pretty good going! The funniest thing for me was being sat in the car in traffic, seeing people stood out on the road, in between lanes,surrounded by cars, selling things like light up balloons, snacks and bottles of water – I have never seen that before, I suppose it might keep the kids quiet if they had been sat in traffic for ages though!

We stayed in the ‘Old City’ – Sultanahmet. Our hotel was basic but nice, and right next to Sultanahmet square and the Blue Mosque. We had a rooftop area where breakfast was served and the views were lovely! Berkay was surprised by how many foreign tourists were there considering it was winter. In the Sultanahmet area there were definitely more tourists than locals, and when walking past shops and restaurants everyone spoke to us in English because they didn’t expect either of us to be Turkish. One night we ate in a lokanta restaurant and even they assumed Berkay wasn’t Turkish because they asked him if he understood the language, which he thought was really weird!

I am so glad we visited in winter. It was cold, around 7oc during the day and 2oc at night, but it was mostly sunny and we only had one night of rain. I’m not sure I could cope with the heat in the city in summer and we wouldn’t have been able to do all the walking we done – we did about 50,000 steps over the first two days! It was nice being able to wrap up in our coats and hats and wander around without being too hot or sweaty!

I carefully planned every day of our trip with a list of things to see, I did a lot of research before hand, writing down places to visit and checking on the map how far away things were from each other and the best order to do things in and which routes to take – I wrote down how much museums and attractions would cost so that we had an idea of how much money we’d need with us each day too. It worked out really well because without the little plan I’d made we would have woken up each day without a clue where we were going, even Berkay reluctantly admitted that my careful planning was a good idea!

We managed to see everything on my list and more, which I was so glad about. My feet got blisters and my legs ached (why did nobody tell me how hilly Istanbul is!?!) but it was definitely worth it and the 4 days went by fairly slowly so we managed to pack so much in, and even had time for some afternoon naps. The first afternoon we were there we were laying on the bed catching up on social media when the bed started wobbling – we both blamed each other for shaking it and then realised that it was actually a earth tremor, but thankfully only a small one at 4.8 on the scale. Still, enough to remind me that whilst in Turkey you can never really fully trust the ground you walk on, and I do not miss going to bed everynight with earthquakes on my mind!

We managed to visit Galata Bridge, Galata Tower, Istiklal street, St Antoine’s church,  Taksim Square, Dolmabahçe Palace, Basilica cistern, Topkapı Palace, Aya Sofya, Eminönü, the Spice Bazaar, the Blue Mosque, Istiklal Street at night, Balat and saw famous Turkish actors filming for a tv series – Çukur, Bulgarian St Stephen’s church, a boat trip down the Bosphorus, Suleymaniye Mosque & the Grand Bazaar.

Everything was so beautiful and I took over 1000 photos – I’m excited to finally have new things to write about, so come back for new posts soon! 🙂

AUGUST PHOTO SERIES – DAY 17 – SNOWCAPPED MOUNTAINS


Although most people know Turkey for its almost-guaranteed sunshine for 6 months of the year, it’s not always hot…in winter it gets cold…VERY cold. Generally the coldest month in Fethiye is February, in my experience. I remember one winter it was around -2 degrees, with icy puddles outside. This photo was taken in January last year, on what was actually a warm day, but the evidence of winter was plain to see on the mountains in the distance – lots and lots of snow. It looks like I was in the sea, but I actually took the photo whilst on a hill off of Karataş beach, looking back towards Koca Caliş – you can see Sunset beach club and Jiva hotel in the centre of the photo. The mountains look so impressive covered in snow, but also vast and intimidating, a very prominent feature of the landscape even though they’re so far in the distance!

Oludeniz in the winter sun…

Everyone knows that Turkey in summer is beautiful, but not everyone has the experience of visiting in the winter months and appreciating it’s beauty in a slightly different way!

It’s hard to believe that it was almost a year ago that Berkay & I were reunited after his army service. At the end of January 2016 I boarded a plane and went to Fethiye, fully prepared for cold January weather.

Obviously I’d lived there for 3 years and 3 winters so I was fully prepared with jeans, jumpers, jackets and warm things.. however, apart from two very rainy days and some cold nights, the weather was suprisingly warm.
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We went to Oludeniz one day to do some fishing, and it was really warm, around 23oc, definitely unusually warm for that time of year in my experience!

Normally, I don’t like Oludeniz at all. I’ve said this before and usually get shocked reactions, but I think it’s really disappointing. Oludeniz looks absolutely beautiful from above but once you’re on ground level its not as impressive, especially the lagoon. I find the water murky, and the rows and rows of sunbeds packed on to the beach really puts me off. However, on this occasion it really was beautiful. We almost had the beach to ourselves, with just a few other people fishing and a couple of ladies actually in bikinis sunbathing! The sea had its usual stunning turquoise colour and it looked so natural without the many sunbeds occupying the beach.
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I wasn’t really prepared for the beach and had jeans on. If anyone told me I’d be stood on the beach with my feet in the water in January I would have laughed at them, but it was lovely. We went to the furthest left hand side of the beach where Berkay set up his fishing rod while I kept snapping photos of the scenery. Unfortunately, he didn’t catch much – just a puffer fish and a tiny fish!

We took a bottle of coke and some popcorn with us and sat in a little natural opening in the rocks which made for a good seat. It was lovely to sit and watch the waves roll in and enjoy the peace.
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Don’t be fooled by the lovely warm sunshine of this particular day though, winter in this part of Turkey is usually cold. January and February are the coldest months with snow pretty low down the mountains. This year in particular I have seen many people saying how cold it is. Honestly I do not miss those winters, Turkish houses are not made for cold temperatures, with their cold tiled floors, draughty doors and windows, damp rooms and no heating. When we lived there we didn’t even have running hot water in winter because we relied on the solar panels to heat it up – I remember many a cold January day having to warm up water on the gas in a saucepan and taking it into the bathroom with a jug and bucket to have the best ‘shower’ I could – I’m an expert at that now!

People always ask me how Berkay is settling in in the UK and coping with the cold weather, the answer is he is fairly used to it! When he was doing his army service in Kayseri it was -25oc !!!

It’s certainly a difference experience visiting Fethiye in winter but still lovely – it just depends if you have luck on your side and get a clear sunny day, or a wet, rainy, stormy one – but then again, even their storms are impressive with the huge cracks of thunder and lightening flashing like a disco in the sky.

I love the atmosphere in winter with everyone relaxing ahead of the imminent arrival of the summer season and the chaos and hard work that comes with it – what better way to spend a sunny January day than on the beach fishing for dinner!
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Turkey Day 1 – The desire for familiarity, Sunsets and BBQ’s.

img_6240 I’ve been back from Turkey a month already, but haven’t yet posted any photos from my trip, so I’m going to do a little mini-series about the 9 days I spent there in January/February, starting now with Day 1!

It’s always weird when I go back to Turkey, especially this time as it had been so long since I last visited. There is always that desire to go and visit all my favourite places immediately, to check that they’re still the same and to reassure me that while our lives are full of uncertainty and obstacles, we have our own ‘happy’ places where things have stayed the same, the beautiful scenery, the promised daily sunrise and sunset, the friends we hadn’t seen for nearly a year… It’s an almost overwhelming urge for familiarity.

This time was no different. After landing late evening the previous night, when I woke up in the apartment the next day I was ready to go and see ‘my’ Fethiye. After a quick breakfast, we headed to the Friday famer’s market to stock up on fruit and vegetables for the apartment for the week, trundling through the market with bags full of fresh produce, eyes stinging from the smoke blowing around the stalls, arms aching from carrying the bags, but the welcome familiarity of the sights and smells.. just like old times. Then to the bank, the exchange office to change some currency, and the old age question of tost or döner for lunch… We settled for the tost.

I love sitting at this little toastie place and watching the world go by, the kids skateboarding in the park, workers rushing around the town, people paying bills.. the hustle and bustle of everyday life for the locals. It’s one of the best spots for people watching, that’s for sure! The added bonus is that the toasties are amazing, definitely the most popular in Fethiye! I had cheese and tomato (I think that’s the English girl in me..) while Berkay had the slightly more traditional karışık tost, cheese, sucuk (spicy sausage) and chilli flakes. The price was perfect for our budget too .. 10.50tltl for two toasties and two drinks (less than £2.60)!
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After lunch we headed up to ‘Aşıklar Tepesi’ – lovers hill, which overlooks Fethiye bay. I love parking the car up, sitting on one of the benches and just admiring the beautiful view – it’s a good view all year around, but especially on clear winter days when the skies are blue and the mountains in the distance are covered in snow, it makes it look rather dramatic.
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Another thing that always looks better in winter is the Calis Beach sunset. Although also rather spectauclar in summer, in winter the sun sets right on the horizon rather than behind the mountains,making it even more impressive.Watching the sunset from this beach was definitely something I knew I had to witness again on my first day back in the country for 9 months, so after a quick google search for the daily sunset time to make sure I wouldn’t miss it, we headed back to Calis and waited. 
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The sun set around 17.30 that day, and it didn’t disappoint! Although I love taking sunset photos, and have thousands (literally..) of shots of the exact same thing on my iPhone, iPad and camera, none of them really capture the moment well enough. The sun reflecting off the water, the boat sailing in the distance and that brief moment where the sun is perfectly aligned on the horizon and you don’t want to blink because if you do you’ll miss that last split second of the red glowing sphere before it disappears until morning… sunsets are really just something you have to see in person!
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Apart from Berkay, Boncuk and the sunsets, the other thing I really miss about Turkey is the BBQ’s, so it made sense than on my first day back, that was our dinner of choice! BBQ’s are so much a part of our life there that now whenever I see (or smell..) one, the first thing I associate it with is Turkey! They don’t care what season it is, how cold it is or how wet it is, it’s always BBQ weather, even if that means sitting outside on the balcony wearing layers and freezing! There’s something so satisfying about preparing it, cooking it and having a good old chat while it’s grilling away, then sitting down to eat it straight off the coals. Mmm. We love BBQ’s so much that we had 4 in the 9 days I spent there. In fact, I’ve just this minute booked an apartment for us to stay in when I go back to Calis next week, we toyed with the idea of staying in a hotel as we haven’t done that for years, but the number one thing that swayed our decision was the fact we’d have no BBQ facilities, nowhere to store meat, no plates or cutlery etc in a hotel! Turkey just isn’t Turkey without a BBQ.

After washing up (that’s the downside to eating in…) we met our friends for a chat and a coffee at Erasta, and then headed off to our other friends house for Çay and baby cuddles. I’ve shared photos of their twins before, when I first met them in 2014, and even back in 2013 when I posted about our meal with the family celebrating the news that she was pregnant! Now, fast forward to 2016 and the twins are nearly 2.. not only that, but they have another baby who is 9 months old! Realising that our best Turkish friends had ‘grown’ a small human in the amount of time I’d been away from the country made me think about just how long I’d been away..
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December countdown..

It’s the 5th of December already, as my advent calendar reminded me this morning, which means only 11 more sleeps until Berkay is here! (:

Still cant quite believe that its December already, or that I have been back for 10 weeks. Its crazy!

I’m still at my job, and have found another temporary job at an office, as of next week I’ll be doing 2 jobs working up to 12 hours a day, going to be bloody hard! Both jobs are temporary until January. The most frustrating part is that any money I earn won’t count for anything towards helping Berkay get his visa to live here, I have to be earning £18,600 a year for 6 months for that, feel like I’m stuck and not getting anywhere fast, but it could be worse…

Berkay has been looking for work since the beginning of November, and has been getting pretty desperate as he had to buy new food for Boncuk, luckily he found a job and started yesterday, working 15+ hours a day, starting at lunchtime and finishing after 4am. All that work and all those hours for just 25tl a day, the equivalent to £7.50 a day. Ridiculous. 😦 It’s mad to think we ever survived on that.

Boncuk is settled in nicely and enjoying her home in the hotel with Berkay, she’ll miss him when he comes here for a few weeks, but our good friend is looking after her so I know she’s going to be well looked after (:

Hopefully I’ll be back with another post again soon, just finding it hard to think of things to write, and struggling to find time to write them.

Happy Christmas shopping everyone 😉