What a strange few months!

It’s been a long time since I posted on here – just as I was getting into the swing of blogging again and writing all about our trip to Istanbul at the beginning of the year, corona virus arrived, changed all our moods and took over our lives! It just didn’t feel right, writing on here about all the things we did in Istanbul and sharing my photos of the busy city streets from January because they made me sad, it felt like a million years ago, not two months!

Like everyone else in the country, we spent nearly 3 months in complete lockdown – instead of doing the commute for 2 hours a day, I began working from home and the longest commute I made was from the bedroom to my living room. Berkay was furloughed, and going a little more insane with each day that passed. Other than when he was in the army, this was the longest period he’d not been working since he was about 14 years old. I adapted easily to the ‘stay-at-home’ life, but Berkay really struggled. Knowing that Turkey had banned all flights from the UK really affected him, he felt trapped here and just wanted to get back there.

We had a trip planned in April. We were going to fly out the day before and then check into Jiva on my birthday for nearly two weeks. My family were going to fly out as a surprise, they had organised it all with Berkay and I had no idea. I’ve spent years conniving my dad to give Jiva a go, despite him not liking the idea of all-inclusive at all, and when he had finally decided to go, nobody was allowed to leave the country! It was a big disappointment. We also had our 4th wedding anniversary in April too.

In the middle of June, Berkay heard there was a repatriation flight to Izmir and he decided to book his seat. At the time there were still no normal flights, so it was a big risk and we weren’t sure when he’d be able to get back home to England – though I’m not sure he particularly cared! Luckily, the day he flew, somewhat-normal flights resumed from London to Istanbul, and with internal flights back in service in Turkey, he was able to book one back home for the beginning of July.  Whilst he was in Turkey he spent time with his family in Beyagac (whilst following all the corona and mask-wearing rules!), saw Boncuk dog, visited Calis & Fethiye, and he even bought an apartment in Denizli. He plans for it to just be an investment for us, and hopes to rent it out until he can sell it. Here are some photos he took on his travels:

When Berkay came back to London, he had to do the two weeks of quarantine, this time he wasn’t even allowed out of the house for a walk, so that was a struggle too! As soon as his two weeks were up, he was back at work, so now he’s back to his usual commute and daily routine – keeping him busy.  A couple of days after Berkay came back, our Turkish sister-in-law gave birth to a baby girl – our first niece! I can’t believe Berkay missed her by just a few days. I still have posts to write about their big-fat-village wedding almost two years ago, too!

As things start go back to normal-ish, we hope we are able to holiday in Turkey as planned in September, 8 days in our favourite place – Jiva, and then a chance to meet our baby niece, fingers crossed. I’m excited to go and meet up with some friends there but I know that it won’t be like ‘normal’ so I’m a bit nervous.

In the meantime, I’ll start searching through my photos and dedicating some time to writing on here again – keep your eyes peeled.

 

Hazev – Delicious Turkish food in London.

It was our 2nd wedding anniversary last week, so we went to a Turkish restaurant to celebrate.

The name of the restaurant is Hazev, a cross between the words ‘haz’ meaning ‘enjoyment’, and ‘ev’ meaning ‘home’. It’s near Canary Wharf, between South Quay and Heron Quay DLR stations, right on the waterside with outdoor and indoor seating, I bet it’s lovely to sit outside in summer!

We have eaten here once before, and was really impressed. The waiters recognised us from before and showed us to a table, right next to the window. Berkay had met me at the station after work, armed with a bunch of flowers, bless him, so they were an added table decoration!

Almost as soon as we sat down we were given complimentary bread, olives and a garlic yogurt dip which were very yummy.
 

Then came the hard part of choosing what to order! I’d been looking at the menu whilst at work, trying to decide what to chose, there are SO many options I just couldn’t narrow it down! 3 courses or 2, starter or dessert, chicken or red meat… so many delicious dishes on offer (and a very pretty menu with a whirling dervish on!).

We settled on sharing two starters, karides tava (fried king prawns with garlic dip), and borek (pastry triangles filled with spinach and feta cheese) with salad. Both were delicious but a little overpriced for what they were, I think. The prawns were around £6 and the borek £7.
  
For the main course, I had Iskender, which I’d never had before, not even in Turkey! This looked different to photos I’d seen of a traditional Iskender kebab though, they always look a bit of a sloppy mess! It consisted of a mixed grill of meats covered in tomato sauce and yogurt, on fried bread cubes and served with red cabbage.
 
Berkay had the ‘havez special’ – oven cooked lamb chunks, served on grilled aubergine puree, mixed with cheese, with red cabbage, peppers and tomato salad. I tried a bit of his and it was nice, especially the smokey aubergine puree, my favourite! I think my dish had more meat than his, and I couldn’t finish it so we swapped bowls and he finished mine as well!

When our plates were cleared, we didn’t even need time to think about what to order for dessert….Berkay’s favourite, Kunefe! Kunefe is a popular, authentic Turkish dessert. It’s made from kadayıf (dried shredded dough which looks like shredded wheat) and cheese. It is covered in syrup and eaten straight out of the oven when hot, so the cheese is stringy and gooey but the pastry is crispy. It’s served with crushed pistachios and is delicious, even though it sounds like a weird mixture! Of course we had a glass of Turkish tea to accompany it.
  
Hazev serves delicious food, although it is a little more fancy and perhaps less traditional. Considering the quality of the food the prices are reasonable, although there was a story a few years ago about it selling an extra special, most expensive kebab in the world, at £900! (You can read about that and watch a video here https://www.standard.co.uk/go/london/restaurants/pricey-pitta-1000-kebab-goes-on-sale-in-london-a3215546.html )

Hazev isn’t just a restaurant – it’s like 3 separate parts, divided by floor length curtains. The restaurant is in the middle section, with a bar through to the left, and a cafe/deli on the right, which also has a little shop section selling some of our favourite Turkish treats, including sucuk, yummy!

It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in London.

Our new house!

This time last year, if you had told me that we’d be married, Berkay would have been living in the UK nearly 5 months and we’d have just bought our own place, I would have laughed in your face… In fact even 3 months ago if you’d have told me we’d be living in our own place by April I’d have thought you were crazy too…  alas, that is exactly what happened!

In the middle of March, after a stressful few weeks of dealing with solicitors, banks, and all those other ‘grown up’ things, we exchanged contracts and completed. We got the keys on 17th March and moved in within a few days, between working and Berkay having a horrible toothache! You might be wondering how on earth we managed to buy property in South East London, and so soon after Berkay had moved here, but don’t worry, we didn’t rob a bank! The answer is it’s a shared ownership property – we own a 40% share, and a housing association owns the rest. Renting a one bedroom flat around here would be around £1000 a month, but it actually works out a lot cheaper for us to have a mortgage on 40% and pay rent and service charge on the remaining 60%, so we are much better off going down this route.

I love our little flat and since we’ve moved out and have our own place, Berkay is a lot more settled. He’s settled more in this past 3 weeks than he has in the last 4.5 months. Previously, we lived with family, which we were very grateful for, but it’s just not the same as having your own place, especially as we already lived together for 3 years, so moving back home was like taking a step back for a while. It also means more space for the two of us so we’re not cramped up in one room and annoying each other 24/7!

When we lived in Turkey together we never really had anything of our own, no furniture, no personal touches, no real belongings or house decor, the longest we lived in one apartment was 2.5 years but we didn’t make it our own and it was always very clear that we were living in someone else’s house, it never felt like ours, so buying things and planning for this flat was really exciting.

 
Our flat is only one bedroom, but it’s a really good sized room, and Berkay has already mentioned to everyone he speaks to that one day he could split the room into two and make space for a nursery ( I think he knows something I don’t! ha ha). It has a bathroom with a bath, something we also never had in Turkey, along with hot water without relying on solar panels, another luxury…but the best room in the whole place is the livingroom/kitchen area. It has huge, floor length, wall to wall windows which provide stunning views across the area, although fitting the blinds to the windows was a nightmare, I have a new-found respect for people who have blinds, now I know how long they take to perfect. I absolutely love the windows and having a balcony is something I’ve always wanted too, as that reminds me of our Turkey days! The only thing that is missing is the BBQ outside! My other favourite thing in the house, and the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought, apart from the flat itself, is our corner sofa, it’s massive with plenty of space for us both to lay out end to end and not even touch each other! 😉 You may also notice I have a giant teddy in the corner, he’s over 6ft tall and bigger than me, I’m such a big kid! I guess I have to balance the grown-upness of mortgages, solicitors and bills, with my inner-child somehow!

 
 
There are a few little references to Turkey in our house, including wedding photos all over the place, a family shot of us and our lovely dog Boncuk, some word art given to us as a wedding present by our friend, a glittery map of Turkey and of course a couple of Turkish eyes.
   
    
It still doesn’t feel real that we have our own little place and it’s so cosy and homely already, I actually think I’m going to miss it and get a bit homesick when we’re out in Turkey in a few weeks time!

If any of my readers are in the position we were in this time last year, when we were just about to get married and then be forced apart after just 3 days of married life, to go through the whole struggle of visas and all of the uncertainty, I urge you to please not give up, it will all work out, although I know the patience is hard to find. ❤

Visiting Turkey, buying a flat & Boncuk…

Berkay has been here in England almost 4 months now and he is slowly settling in. He has spent most of his time working, and working really hard. Last week he done 54 hours, more than any other member of staff in the whole restaurant, and he gets so much praise from staff and customers! All the other members of staff want him on their shift because they can stand around and relax because they know he runs around like a headless chicken making sure everything is done, even when I tell him to relax a bit and not work so hard he says he can’t and that’s just what he’s like! So much for ‘bloody foreigners’ coming over here and not working and expecting everything for free, eh?

Part of the reason he’s working so hard is that we’re in the process of buying a property! It’s only a one bedroom flat but it’s perfect for us…We went to view it back at the start of January and we are close to exchange and completion so it’s very exciting. It’s a part rent-part buy scheme which was really the only way for us to ever be able to afford to move out and get a place of our own, London house prices are ridiculous! We’re really looking forward to having our own space again and living properly as husband and wife – it doesn’t feel like we’re married most of the time! Who knew shopping for washing machines, fridges, irons, kettles, toasters and dustpans could be so much fun?! Berkay certainly enjoyed his first ever trip to Ikea a couple of weeks ago!

Something else we are saving for is a visit to Turkey at the end of April. Berkay really misses Turkey and wanted to go back to visit and I wanted to go too, partly for a holiday, partly to make sure he gets back on the plane back to England afterwards!!   Although I’d love a proper summer holiday as I haven’t really had one in 6 years, flights and accommodation are just too expensive in the height of the season, so we’ve booked 10 days in April/May instead. We got a good deal on flights, in fact the return part of the journey only cost us £18 each! The best thing about it is we arrive in Fethiye the day before our one year wedding anniversary – can you believe that it’s been almost a year already?! I think it will be really nice to be back there to celebrate and I hope we get as lucky with the unreliable early season weather as we did last year! I am looking forward to going to visit but part of me also isn’t really jumping up and down with excitement. Turkey hasn’t really held the same place in my heart as it used to for a while now, since Berkay had to do his army service I guess. I don’t know if I just told myself so often ‘It’s ok, I don’t miss Turkey’ that I started to believe it and now I can’t change my mind, or whether I just really need a break from Turkey and a visit somewhere else instead. Of course I still enjoy Turkey and it’s a beautiful country, but when we are there it’s not like a holiday at all. There’s just too much pressure to visit everyone, friends, family, our favourite places… every time we go we end up with a huge list of things to do, people to see and places to go, and end up having no actual time to just relax. I love Fethiye and Calis but I just want to go somewhere different, where we don’t know anyone or anything and can just explore or lay by a pool without putting so much pressure on ourselves to fit everything in. A part of me resents the fact that we can’t just book a cheap ryan-air flight and a week away in Spain like everyone else, because Berkay’s visa only allows him access to the UK, and although visas to Europe for him aren’t too difficult or expensive, I just can’t be bothered to go through even more visa stress and paperwork, it already takes over our lives so much! I don’t think he’d want to visit anywhere else other than Turkey anyway.

Of course, while in Turkey we will visit Berkay’s family in their village, and also Boncuk! Everyone always asks me about Boncuk and how she’s doing. She’s still living happily in the village, looked after by Berkay’s brother. He really loves her. A few days ago he was working in the village centre when his friend from the council rang him and gave him warning that the council dog catchers were going around to his side of the village and rounding up stray dogs. Obviously she’s not a stray, but they did used to always let her roam free around the farm and she’d often take herself off on walks down the road and follow Berkay’s brother to work etc. When he got the call, Berkay’s brother panicked and called his mum to get Boncuk and tie her back up…which she couldn’t manage to do, so off he ran all the way home to get her secured safely and in her kennel. Bless him, he knows how much I love her and does a good job looking after her.

2017 is looking to be another good year for us.. and everything seems to be coming together, slowly but surely!

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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A few Turkish treats!

Do you ever get that feeling when you’re in a supermarket abroad and you see a British brand you know and get excited and drawn to buy it, even if its something that never usually makes it in to your shopping basket at home? No? Maybe that’s just me…

When I saw a shop selling Turkish food on a different route home from work last Friday, I went in to have a look and ended up buying a few things. I got cheetos, even though they weren’t actually Turkish ones (the shop sold a lot of foods from all sorts of places), one of my favourite chocolate bars, ezogelin soup and a packet of extra salted sunflower seeds (which I’m actually munching on right now!). That same day I also took a trip to Waitrose to buy some Baklava, I figured since it was Şeker Bayramı it would be rude not to do my part and join in with the celebrations, 50p a piece too, bargain.
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That wasn’t the only Turkish-treat-shopping spree I’ve been on recently. Earlier on this week I went on a walk around Canary Wharf during my lunch break to find a Turkish restaurant/cafe/deli that someone had recommended to me. Walking past it and seeing all the diners outside eating some of my favourite Turkish dishes and smelling all the delicious food made me want to order some for myself, but I resisted and instead just went to the deli where they had a few shelves full of goodies along with a counter full of fresh snacks and mezes. They had different teas, jams, sauces, drinks, Raki (yes!), wine, biscuits, cakes (POP KEK!), chocolate and a chiller full of ayran, cheese, yogurt, sucuk and sausages. All of it looked yummy, apart from the cans of ‘Sosis’ – Boncuk sausages! I don’t quite think I could bring myself to eat canned meat with my dog’s name on, but it really did make me smile.
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I had a lot of fun browsing, but only ended up buying a very pretty jar of tomato salça, and an equally well presented bar of olive oil soap – I admit it I’m a sucker and only bought them because they looked so good with the Turkish eyes on, in the 3 years I lived there I never once bought a bar of olive soap.
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I definitely want to go back to the deli restaurant soon for a proper meal, or maybe just to sample some of the pastries, mezes and baklava they had. It’s dangerous having this place so close to my office, I can almost hear it calling my name when I’m sat with my boring old sandwiches at lunchtime.

If anyone is in the area and wants to visit – it’s called Hazev and is directly across the wobbly bridge at Heron Quays at Canary Wharf. All the staff were speaking Turkish, and I had a chuckle when I understood what they were saying. ‘Ne Kadar?….. Bu?’ Obviously people don’t often buy the goods on the shelves as they had no idea how much to charge me for either item, oops. I think they have a new regular customer now, though!

After seeing tinned Boncuk sausages on the shelves, I had to message Berkay’s brother for a photo update on our dog, just to check… She’s as happy, cute and playful as ever! My little sausage. ❤
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New job for me, farm life for Boncuk & the army countdown continues..

I haven’t posted here for over 6 weeks now, I have a lot I want to post and write about but I just haven’t had time.

The main reason for that is that I FINALLY found a full time job! I started 3 weeks ago and I’m enjoying it. I’d been looking for work since December but had no luck, other than a few days for an agency. I had applied for hundreds of jobs and kept getting knocked back, even after going for interviews etc. Finally my luck changed and an agency put me forward for a 3 month placement for a really interesting company who are based inside Canary Wharf – I went for the interview and got the job. It was overwhelming at first, I’m not a ‘people’, so the first few days of travelling to Canary Wharf in rush hour was a bit of a shock, but not quite as overwhelming as the chaos that is lunchtime inside, and around One Canada Square and Canary Wharf. Thousands of people queuing up, buying, sitting and eating their lunch all at the same time – it was really horrible at first. I’ve found ‘my’ spot now where I sit everyday for lunch and read my book (oh, hello Mr Grey 😉 ) , and even though it’s still busy and overwhelming, the initial shock has worn off! This is the view I face everyday whilst eating my sandwich – isn’t it pretty? I work inside that middle building, on the 30 something floor – eeek. I’m actually enjoying the role and it’s such a relief to be back into a routine and earning money – the last 3 weeks have gone very quickly so keeping busy at work certainly makes the days tick by faster.
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Berkay is also being kept busy in the army. He’s finding it a lot harder than he anticipated and he can’t wait to get out and have some freedom. He’s still based in Kayseri, although there was a scary moment where he faced the prospect of being moved to a more dangerous area – thankfully he didn’t have to go. He gets a few hours off most weekends so he can go outside and speak to me on skype and he’s made two good friends there who get the same hours off as him so he wanders around the nearby shopping centres with them for hours. He says they are all the ‘oldies’ and people refer to them as such, because they’re mid twenties and most people doing their national service are a lot younger than that. I’m glad he’s made friends. He’s been in there for 5 months this week – another 7 to go, and he’s counting every single day.
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I’m still moving the marbles from my ‘days to go’ jar into my ‘days down’ one, and it’s a relief seeing nearly equal amounts in each! Berkay has a little list of days in the shape of ‘365’ that he’s ticking off one by one – bless him.

One of the things I was most worried about when Berkay went in the army was Boncuk, where she’d go and how safe she’d be. Initially she stayed with our friends for the first 2 months – and when I was there in April we took her to Berkay’s family’s village instead. Berkay’s brother promised me he’d look after her, but I was still worried because although they have farm animals and care for them, a dog is different. Turkish people don’t really like dogs like we do. They have their own dog, used to guard the sheep – they don’t feed it proper food, just bread and the occasional sheep/goat hoof when slaughtering time comes around. Needless to say, when we turned up with Boncuk, her bags of food and asked Berkay’s dad to save her a bit of fish from his dinner plate so that we could get her to take her worming pill, they thought we were nuts. Thankfully, Berkay’s brother is lovely and has been looking after her nicely, sending me photo updates and answering all my ‘Boncuk nasil?’ messages! He says she loves him and jumps up him wagging her tail whenever she sees him. He even takes her for walks, which is unheard of in the village, people look at you like you’ve got two heads if you’ve got a dog on a lead but think nothing of someone walking along with a flock of sheep instead. Last week Berkay’s cousin was visiting the village and sent me some photos – I was sat on the train coming home from work when I got them and it made my whole day, Boncuk just looks so happy doesn’t she? Such a relief.
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149 days down, 219 days to go!

P.S I’m off camping this weekend, but I hope to have another post up sometime next week – I still have a lot of lovely photos of Fethiye to share. If you’re interested in more photos, join our Facebook group www.facebook.com/groups/TurkishDreams where me and 3 of my friends post daily photo challenges among other Turkey related things! (: 

Turkish Pide in London

 Last week while walking through London trying to find an office, I looked up from my phone GPS and saw a Menu outside a restaurant with some familiar words. I had to do a double take, and when I did I realised that they were Turkish. I glanced up at the restaurant name – ‘Tas Pide’ it said.
Mmm, pide – one of my favourite Turkish foods.

After I’d managed to find the office and done what I needed to do there, I headed back towards the train station. I was wrestling with myself trying to decide whether to go and have lunch in the restaurant or not. I was alone, and I’d picked up a menu list earlier so I knew that things were a little expensive. Eventually I plucked up the courage to go inside, unable to resist the temptation of a proper, Turkish lunch.

The restaurant itself was directly opposite the ‘new’ Shakespears Globe, along Bankside, a short walk away from London Bridge station. It forms part of a chain of ‘Tas’ restaurants in London, each specialising in a different area of Turkish cuisine, this one obviously pide, but it had plenty of other choices on the menu too. The inside of the restaurant was very pretty – a Turkish paradise, vines growing along the walls and across the ceiling, low tables and chairs, nazar/evil eyes hanging from the walls and an open kitchen with large, stone ovens.. It was beautiful, but being the only person dining in there alone, I was a little too nervous to take photos of the decor and risk looking silly!
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I had another look at the menu, which I had already studied outside while trying to convince myself to go in, and decided I’d have my ‘usual’ and compare it to the pide I’ve had in Fethiye so many times. Before I had even ordered, they brought over a bowl of fresh bread, a garlic dip and some olives. I’m not a fan of olives so I didn’t touch those, but the garlic dip was delicious and the bread was perfect.

A short time later, my pide arrived. It looked and smelt amazing. If you don’t know what pide is, it’s a sort of Turkish pizza, with thin, crispy dough moulded into a slight bowl shape, topped with pretty much anything you want. They had a lot of topping options on the menu and although I was tempted by the patlicanli (aubergine) one, I went for the kiymali one – mincemeat, onion, tomato, pepper and parsley. There was an option to have an egg on top too, which sounds vile to me, so needless to say I had it without. It was served with a bowl of crunchy pickled red cabbage. It was delicious. A medium sized portion, perfectly crunchy on the top but soft at the base, lots of fresh toppings and not greasy at all. Of course it’s not quite the same as eating in Fethiye, but you have to work with what you’ve got, right?
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I was tempted to have baklava for desert, but decided it was too expensive and I was too full to justify a whole portion to myself anyway. That’s the downside to the restaurant… the prices. Perhaps it’s just because I begrudge paying £8.40 for something that I know I can get for less than £1.50 in Fethiye, but the prices were very high for what the food actually was. I took a couple of photos of the menu leaflet to give you an idea (click the photos to enlarge them and make them more readable).
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The starters were particularly expensive, and although they sounded yummy, I’d never pay that much for them. The main dishes of pide ranged from £8.10-£9.95 and the other main courses varied in price from around £9 to £14. I don’t know the size of the other portions so can’t comment on value for money, but I do know that for what those dishes are, it’s a lot of money. I’m certain that Berkay would go into shock if I told him I’d paid the equivalent of 31 tl for one pide – I don’t think he’s ever paid more than 5 tl!

All that being said, I was definitely glad I’d decided to try the restaurant because it really cheered me up after a rubbish day and I’d go back again for a special occasion, I just have to convince my family that Turkish food isn’t evil first! They rarely stray away from a chicken schnitzel or a steak while in Turkey!

Have you tried pide? Have you, or will you be paying this restaurant a visit next time you’re in London? Let me know.

300,000 views & a thank you giveaway..

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I recently hit 300,000 views on my blog, a massive milestone and something I can’t really comprehend! 300,000 times someone has clicked onto my website to read what I have to say!

I have made great friendships through sharing my experiences on here, and can’t count the number of times I’ve received emails or messages from readers telling me they can relate to certain aspects of my ‘story’ or providing advice and reassuring me that everything will work out in the end. It’s a great support network and whether you read my blog because you can relate, because you’re just curious about the topics I discuss and story I share, or to just see some photos of the places we all know and love, I’m grateful for everyone who clicks onto http://www.livingtheturkishdream.com and interacts with me.

As a teeny, tiny thanks, I’m doing a giveaway. The prizes aren’t anything too exciting, just small token thank you’s.

There are 3 main prizes, to signify each 100,000 views. Since the majority of people who read my blog presumably have an interest in Turkey, all the prizes are Turkish/holiday themed.

The first prize is these 3 necklaces with a Turkish ‘evil eye’ or ‘nazar boncuğu’ theme – one is a small gemstone, the other is a Hamsa (also known as the Hand of Fatima) which is thought to provide protection from the evil eye, and the third in the shape of an eye with the famous blue bead in the middle, also thought to protect the holder from evil. These are really dainty and cute and a definite reminder of good old Turkey, you can’t go anywhere without seeing the nazar there, people hang them in houses, lay them into pavements, pin them on their children’s clothes, on cars… everywhere.  I love these necklaces so much I think I’ll have to go and buy some for myself!
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The 2nd prize is another with a nazar theme, one of the many blue glass stones, you can never have too many of these in your house! A pair of sparkly earrings with a nazar design, and a bracelet to match.
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The 3rd prize is one of the below, the winner can chose which they prefer and I’ll make it to suit them. Either a mounted, glittery map of Turkey, with small gems stuck onto whichever resorts or cities of the country that mean something to you. Mine has a heart over Fethiye, since that is my favourite place in the world. Perhaps you had a special holiday in a particular area, perhaps Istanbul holds your heart or you have a long distance relationship with someone in another part of the country? It’s a good piece to display on the wall and a constant reminder of Turkey and just where those special memories were made.
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The other choice is a mounted, personalised word cloud, it will be totally unique to you with family names, hotel names or words that remind you of your holidays. Shapes, colours, words and fonts can all be edited to suit you and the things that are important to you. Another lovely piece to display on the wall and remind you of your holidays.
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There will also be 5 photo key rings sent out as mini-prizes.

To enter, all you have to do is comment on this blog post – it has to be on here directly (scroll down and click leave comment). I’ll choose the winners at random using a random number/name generator.   Winners will be chosen after 8pm on Sunday 15th March and will be announced on here via a new post. I know there are people who read my blog from all over the world, but the giveaway will only be open to UK & Ireland residents due to postage costs overseas.

A little disclaimer, I paid for these prizes with my own money, they were not given to me. There is no fee to enter and winners will be chosen entirely at random, it is not a competition, just a lucky draw.

Thank you all so much once again, and good luck.

Settling in?

So, I’ve been here in Turkey for 5 weeks now, where on earth has the time gone?

It’s been a while since I done a personal thoughts & feelings post, I’ve been focusing more on writing about days out and things to do and see. When I started this blog it was just going to be something personal, a kind of diary to look back on, but as time has gone on, more and more people read and as grateful as I am for the nearly 160,000 views I have, I’m less comfortable with sharing now, you can’t trust anyone on the internet and writing posts sharing personal thoughts and feelings gives people a lot of information to judge you on.

I do want to be as honest and as real as possible though. That being said, I thought it was time to do a post about how I’ve settled back into life here in Turkey and what I’m missing about England.

The first night I was here alone as Berkay had to work, and it hit me that I’d be spending a lot of my time alone again, I started to question whether I’d done the right thing and that maybe the grass is always greener on the other side… I also didn’t feel as ‘safe’ in this house, it’s much more central than our old one and there are more people around, it’s not as private.

The first few weeks I was here, I didn’t want to be in the house much, I was always bugging Berkay so we could go out and do something, walking, swimming, pointless trips to Fethiye… I think I wanted to spend as little time as possible in our house so that I didn’t get attached again, if it feels like home it’ll be harder to leave…

Well after being here 5 weeks I’m well and truly settled, our house DOES feel like home, there’s nothing I like more than sitting on the balcony with Berkay after dinner and just playing backgammon or watching a film. It’s just like the old days. I feel totally safe in our house and love it here. It took some getting used to living in a basic house again, no bath, no walk in shower, just a wet room with a tap and shower on the wall that makes the entire room and toilet seat soaking wet after each use! Not being able to flush the toilet paper took some getting use to again too!

I honestly do not miss England. I miss my family sometimes obviously, but I speak to my mum and grandparents everyday on Facetime without fail. I miss my little sister the most because we’re so close, no matter my mood she always cheers me up – I’ve been facetiming with Dad and seeing her, she always says ‘are you coming home yet Dan’ or mentions something about me coming back so I think she misses me too (:

I thought I might miss English food, a nice roast dinner, Cadbury’s chocolate, Monster Munch, ham sandwiches but I don’t really – although I am now drooling at the thought of all of the aforementioned! I love a lot of Turkish food so it doesn’t bother me much – perhaps the only thing I do miss is being able to chuck a ready made jar of sauce on the pasta or get some easy to cook, ready flavored Birdseye chicken out of the freezer. Everything has to be made from scratch – not much frozen food exists here!

I do not miss work at all, but I do miss having structure to my days. Anyone who knows me knows I have to have plans, I have to know what I’m doing and at what time, I’m not very spontaneous!

I’ve fallen into the habit of adapting to Berkay’s work/sleep pattern again. He works from 8pm – 9am everyday and sleeps either during the morning or the afternoon. I’ve started following that and not sleeping all night which is really bad – I’m still awake the same amount of time as anyone else, just all night instead of all day, which sometimes is a blessing as I don’t feel the unbearable heat. I’m still reliant on Berkay most of the time, when I lived here before I never went out without him. This time I walk the dog on my own and walk along Calis seafront a couple of times a week when he’s gone to work and just sit on the beach alone and watch the sunset. I love that.

All in all, I’ve settled back in and am still determined to make the most of every minute here. On Tuesday 8th Berkay and I have been together for 4 years. That’s really crazy, it seems like just yesterday we met, but then again sometimes it feels like we’ve been together so much longer, we’re like an old married couple, yet we’re not old and we’re not married. (;

I cannot believe it’s July already, how scary. More than half way through the year and I only have a few more months in Turkey… it’s not going to be any easier leaving this time than the last.
I’ll leave you with a few photos of the beautiful sunsets I witnessed in Calis last week. ❤

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