5* Jiva Beach Resort Hotel – review

Although I love visiting Turkey, I always say that it’s not really like a holiday for us, there’s just too many people to see and things to do and we end up rushing around here there and everywhere. When we were there 3 weeks ago though, Berkay suprised me by booking us a day/night in the 5* all inclusive  Jiva Beach Resort hotel in Calis, to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.

Last October we visited Titanic Hotel in Lara Beach, Antalya, for one night and that was the first time I’d ever stayed in a 5* hotel anywhere, so I was curious to see how Jiva hotel compared.

When we arrived at the hotel, we went to check in and met a lovely lady on reception. After taking our passports and information, she looked at me and said ‘oh, you write a nice blog, that’s how I know you!’ which was surreal, it’s always weird when people recognise us! Our room wasn’t ready, but we were able to check in, use the facilities and eat lunch.
 
The lunch was an open buffet and it was amazing. When you tell people you’re staying in an all inclusive hotel, they’re always a bit worried about the food, they seem to have the idea that the same food is left out all day in the sun, and leftovers reheated and served up again for dinner, but that certainly isn’t the case here, and a lot of it was cooked in huge pans in front of us. There were tons of options just for lunch, jacket potatoes, soups, chips, meat, pizza, salad, fresh fruit, cakes, pudding.. I ended up having a very random mixture.

After lunch, we went for a walk around the hotel grounds. We used to live a 10 minute walk away from this hotel, and walked around the surrounding area almost everyday for years. We watched the progress from the outside, whilst it was being built, when it first opened in 2012 and when they extended it and added more rooms in 2014.  What really, really suprised us is how big the hotel grounds are. It’s like the tardis, bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside! Aside from nearly 400 hotel rooms, there are 5 outdoor pools, an inside pool & spa, game room, patisserie, buffet restaurant, 2 ala carte restaurants and several bars.

 
There is also a small lake which the hotel is built around. Back when it was being built we were always a bit put off because of this – it looked like stagnant, green water and we thought it would attract a lot of mosquitos, but it is a really beautiful focal point. The hotel describes this as a ‘natrual lagoon’ which they protected when building on the site. It has a lot of reeds and lily pads, as well as  fish, turtles, ducks and frogs living in it, you can hear the frogs croaking at night. There is a bridge crossing the lagoon and lots of seating areas all around, with paths lined with palm trees around the whole resort. The hotel also has it’s own section of beach, with sunbeds and umbrellas.

 
At 2pm, it was time to get our suitcases and head to our room. We had a standard pool facing room. The bed had a big ceiling fan above it which would be amazing in the height of summer. It had a chaise lounge in one corner, tv, a mirror/dressing table, mini fridge, kettle, huge mirrors, lots of wardrobe/hanging space, a safe and stunning bathroom with marble sink and shower. The shower was my favourite thing about the whole room – a ‘rain’ shower.  I could have stayed in that shower for hours, it was so powerful and so relaxing. The balcony overlooked the pool area and by spooky coincidence, had the exact same table and chairs on it as we had bought in B&Q for our balcony at home here in England just a couple of weeks before hand! How odd.
 
 
There are lots of different types of rooms at the hotel and 367 rooms in total. Attic rooms, standard rooms,swim-up rooms. The hotel has a thin, long pool outside the length of the ground floor, and some rooms have steps down into the pool from the balcony – lovely! There is also a honeymoon suite room with a hot tub inside, and a ‘presidential villa’ with its own private pool with curtain across it. I walked past it in awe, really looked amazing. I’ve since looked it up on the hotel website and it looks even better than I realised – I suspect the price is also ‘amazing’ though!!!
 
After looking around the room, we changed into our swimming gear and headed down to the pool area. We saw that the water slides were open so we went straight over to them – the water was freezing, as it was so early in the season the pools hadn’t had a chance to warm up. Despite the cold water, the slides were great fun. There was a kids pool next to the slides, an adults pool the other side of the bridge next to a jacuzzi style pool, and a main pool which  while we were there, hosted water volley ball and ‘animation’ dancers jiving to crazy frog around it every few hours…!
 
 
Underneath the pool area there are really nice toilets, lockers and showers. Handy if you have to check out of your room but still want to use the pool, or need somewhere to leave your belongings. The hotel also sells day passes, so you can pay a certain amount and get to use the facilities all day so these showers, toilets and lockers underneath are perfect for those guests too.
 
If the pool view becomes a little boring, and you fancy a change of scenery, the hotel has its own section of beach with sunbeds. We laid there for a while with a refreshing ice coffee.

After having enough sun for the day, we went inside to check out the spa. The Turkish bath was free to use yourself, but if you want bubbles and the proper experience, you have to pay. There was a free sauna, steam room and indoor pool too. The pool looked really relaxing, with a couple of sunbeds around it, mood lights and serene music, but don’t be fooled by the appearance, it was freezing, I couldn’t even stand in it it was so cold, so I’m not really sure what the point of it was. They have the usual massages and other treatments for an added cost, but we didn’t try any of them. They also had a free gym which looked well equipped, but who wants to use the gym on holiday, right? Hah!
 
Before dinner, we rushed to get ready and catch the sunset, our favourite thing about Calis. It looked especially beautiful with the boats in the foreground. We also used the opportunity to take a photo for our first wedding anniversary. The idea is, you take a photo of you holding your wedding photo, and then next year, take a photo of you holding the photo of you holding the wedding photo, etc etc. I hope we remember to do this every year and can see how we change over the years, and later on hopefully include children in our photos too!
 

At dinner time, we realised why the hotel gym exists – it must be to work off all the extra calories that you consume during the all inclusive buffet! The food was amazing, my photos don’t even do it justice but I was too busy building a mountain of food on my plate to take better photos! All sorts of food, including whole carved roasted Chickens, pasta dishes, fish, grilled meats, meat skewers, lahmacun, pide, pizza, chips, vegetables, stews, soups, sushi, rice, fresh salad, lots of various Turkish meze and traditional dishes, and the funniest thing – a whole chicken doner grilling away in the corner! Surely Turkey is the only place in the world where you’d find a chicken doner kebab roasting in the all inclusive buffet? Hilarious, but delicious! Berkay had 3 plates full, mostly meat! I limited myself and saved myself for dessert. Baklava, pudding, mini cakes and tarts, Turkish Lokma (similiar to donuts covered in syrup) and my favourite – beautiful cakes covered in brightly coloured icing and fresh strawberry, kiwi and banana!
     
As well as lunch & dinner buffets, the hotel also has a snack bar open every afternoon, an icecream stand open for 2 hours a day, and patisserie open 24 hours, all included as part of the ‘all inclusive’ concept. Local beer, wine, raki, gin, vodka and cocktails are included, as well as soft drinks, teas, coffee etc, but imported spirits and fresh fruit juices are extra. There are also two a la Carte restaurants which need booking for an extra cost too.

 
  
After dinner we went to the amphitheater to watch the entertainment for the night – a ‘Turkish night’ – I think we picked a good day! The only time I’ve ever watched any entertainment in Turkey was the night we stayed in Titanic hotel. I don’t know how I visited and lived in Turkey for so long without coming across any evening entertainment but it’s true! There was some more weird dancing to crazy frog, and then a really good traditional Turkish dance show, with men and women dancing to various music, drums, tap dancing, swords, whirling dervish etc! It was really good and lasted for about 45minutes. Berkay loved it, his face was beaming the whole time.
 
The next morning we had to wake up early to leave and go to the village, even though we were allowed to use the hotel facilities til 2pm. We did get to enjoy a lovely breakfast though – fresh simit, tomatoes, cucumber, salad, fried egg, boiled egg, cheeses, fried potatoes, sucuk (spicy sausage).. and sweet options too – fruit, fruit pies, pastries, pancakes with syrup, waffles with chocolate sauce… Because we were only in the hotel for one day, we had to make the most of it and eat EVERYTHING. Dessert with breakfast, yummy.


The whole place is so peaceful in the morning, the sea was still, beach empty, sunbeds empty. I sat and made the most of the last few minutes of 5* luxury, knowing that in a few hours time I’d be sat 4 hours away in Berkay’s family’s village, surrounded by farm animals and haystacks. Oh what a difference a few hours and a few hundred kilometers makes!

What really surprised me was how full the hotel was. We were there the last week of April/first week of May, and everywhere else was quiet, Calis was quiet in the evenings, the restaurants along the promenade fairly empty, but this hotel very busy – we inquired about staying for another few nights the following week and were told all rooms were full, they only had the more expensive suites available. It didn’t feel cramped though and there was no fighting for sunbeds, although finding a table at dinner time took a little searching! Regardless, it’s a beautiful hotel in a brilliant location and we’ll definitely be visiting again one day. A lot of the Calis beach hotels are 3* or 4* and a little run down, never really seem to have improvements or a lick of paint, so this was something a little different.

All those years we spent walking past it, watching it being built from the ground upwards, afternoons spent walking Boncuk past it, we never thought we’d actually stay there, and it was even better than we imagined.
 

Please note, Jiva resort did not sponsor this post, we paid for everything ourselves and they do not even know I am writing it!

Finishing the army TOMORROW!!

This past week has been quite an eventful one, which ended in me booking flights to visit Turkey in less than 2 weeks time!

Berkay started his national service on 4th February 2015, so we were expecting him to finish around that date this year, but we knew he still had 3 weeks holiday that he hadn’t used so thought he would finish a few weeks early. I’d been asking him for weeks if he knew an actual leaving date yet, but he hadn’t had any news… until last week! They told him his official date was 18th January…. so soon…. TOMORROW!!!

I think he is excited about finishing, although a little nervous too. His plan is to go back to his family’s village for a week and then head back to Fethiye. He’s already been ringing up friends and ex-bosses there trying to find work. He really has nowhere to go, as he always lived in the hotel he worked in, and stayed in the staff accommodation under the hotel in winter even when it was closed. He has no money, and no job to go back to. We’re hoping he has the opportunity to work in the same hotel again in the summer, but he still needs something until then… The problem with doing his army service so late is that because he was so much older, he had more of a life before going in, we had possessions, although not many, a chest of drawers, clothes, plates, cutlery, a mini oven, kettle, heater etc, which we have now just lost because he had nowhere to store them while away… any money he had saved (which wasn’t much) has been used and he has nothing at all, so I think it’s going to take some real adjusting for him to get back into the real world again after a year away. He also says he’s a little sad about leaving the friends he’s made in the base camp, after spending 24/7 with them they’ve got close and they probably won’t meet again because they come from all over the country, but they can all keep in touch via Facebook.

It still doesn’t seem real to me that he’s leaving the army tomorrow, and that that chapter of our lives will be finished. I was reluctant to believe it when he told me, and I still won’t entirely believe it until I get a message on Monday saying that he’s free! Plans are already in place though, so it’s 99.9% certain.. he’s booked his bus ticket to Denizli (a 13 hour journey!) for 6pm Monday evening, so it’s all becoming very real! I will be waiting for that ‘I’m out!’ message tomorrow while I’m at work.

Even more exciting, is the fact that I booked my flights out to see him later this month! There were no direct flights to Dalaman from London so I had settle for flying via Istanbul which I’m a bit nervous about. Lots of people I’ve spoken to have done this before but I’m certain I’ll get lost! Flying alone doesn’t bother me, but finding my way through an airport I’ve never been to and making it in time for my connecting flight is quite scary! I’m flying with Turkish airlines which I’m quite excited about as I’ve never flown with them before, and I hear they are very good. I got a good deal, return flights, 23kg of luggage, seat selection plus food and drink on board all included for £141. Bargain! I have just this minute booked an apartment for us in Calis, and done my travel insurance so it’s all quite exciting… I go for 10nights on 28th January, 11 more sleeps and counting..

Thank you all for putting up with my boring, repetitive ‘army’ posts for the past year, I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief that it will finally all be over!

Just ONE more day…

Turkey in the snow!

IMG_9876-0 Whilst it’s always nice seeing clear blue skies, sunshine and beaches, it is nearly December, so I thought I’d share some more festive photos of Turkey as most of us have never seen it before.

The photos aren’t recent, and believe it or not they weren’t actually taken in winter at all, but in April this year during a freak period of cold weather in Denizli! I was in Turkey for a week visiting Berkay during his army break and we had travelled from Fethiye to the Denizli province, to his small home town of Beyagac. We were there for 2 days and the night before we travelled back to Fethiye we woke up to snow! It was all over the news about how unusual such cold weather and snowfall was for April and we had to drive for 4 hours back in it through the mountains.
IMG_9875 IMG_9869-0
 IMG_9861
Seeing snow is always a bit of a novelty when you live in England, it rarely happens over here, but over in Turkey with all the mountains and high ground it’s pretty much the norm in winter. Since it’s such a rarity for me, I made Berkay stop the car so that we could build a little snowman. It may sound a dumb thing to say, but it was absolutely freezing and instead of having the cool aircon on in the rental car like we had been using a few days before in Fethiye, we had the heater on instead.

I’m not sure exactly where we were, but it was a very remote area of Denizli, hardly any villages or houses, although we did drive past a snow-covered mosque and a couple of villagers. For the most part, we had the whole lanes to ourselves and the views were postcard picture perfect. Only two days previously we had driven through the same route and it was completely clear, so there had been quite a lot of snowfall overnight.
IMG_9877-0 IMG_9878-0IMG_9866 IMG_9870
Driving through all the pine trees covered in snow, and with the wind blowing all the snow off their branches and making little mini-blizzards was so pretty, it was very Christmassy, which felt weird to say considering it was Spring. Some of the pictures I took were so festive I thought about having them printed for Christmas cards this year, nobody would ever guess it was Turkey in April! 
IMG_9865
It was quite surreal driving through the snow for half of our journey and then as we got a few hours closer to Fethiye the white snow clouds turned into clear blue skies, and snow covered fields turned into warm green ones instead. The only trace of snow was on Fethiye’s Mount Babadag which had also had a fresh covering of the white stuff the previous night.

I just love seeing snowy Turkey pictures, although its usually snow capped mountains from down below that I see. If you are ever in Fethiye in very early spring, you’ll see for yourself how magical the snowy mountains in the distance look, and the stark contrast in the temperature and weather between the different seasons which really surprises some people.

The country is definitely a thing of natural beauty, whatever the season.IMG_9874  IMG_9872

Celebrating Kurban Bayram in Calis…

This weekend marked the start Kurban Bayram, a 4 day religious holiday here in Turkey. 

Kurban Bayram is the festival of the sacrifice, where millions of people sacrifice an animal to commemorate the Islamic prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God. Animals such as cows, goats and most often, sheep, are sacrificed. Once sacrificed, the meat is shared out, some is given to the poor, some is kept for the family, and some is given to other relatives, friends and neighbours.  Of course Kurban Bayram/Eid isn’t just celebrated in Turkey, it is celebrated by Muslims all over the world. In the UK the holiday is known as Ed-al-Adha.

While lots of people have time off from work for the holiday period, most people working in tourism will not have any time off at all, making it difficult for them to travel back to their families to celebrate, as they often live hundreds of miles away. Berkay is one of those people who works throughout the holiday and it is actually one of the busiest times at the hotel, so this weekend really just felt like any other!

We have no family at all here, they all live 4-5 hours away, so there was no chance to visit them. Instead, our old landlord invited us to go to their house for a BBQ. We used to live in the apartment above them so it was so weird being back there and seeing it all again. I used to love that old house, although walking back there yesterday made me realise how inconvenient it was, you can see that it is in the middle of lots of fields, there are sheep, goats, cows and chickens in the gardens and it was very much like a farm. From looking at the photo, you’d find it hard to believe that the tourist resort of Calis is just a 15 minute walk away.
IMG_9889
We arrived at 11 o clock and missed the sacrificing of the goat, which I was thankful for. I stood on our balcony and watched the sacrifice 2 years ago, and although it was peaceful and the animal didn’t suffer for long, it was upsetting. We live in a day and age where we are truely spoilt, and are able to buy meat all cleaned up and neatly packaged in the supermarket, we see it as an item, and don’t consider that it was once an animal trotting around a field somewhere… I have nothing whatsoever against the sacrificing, I would be a hypocrite if I did as I enjoy meat far too much to be a vegetarian, however, sometimes ignorance is bliss. The good part is that none of the animal goes to waste, they use the skin and wool, and every edible part, including the tongue and brain (yuck). I suspect that a lot of the population of Turkey will be eating sheep, or goat, for breakfast lunch and dinner for the next few days!

While we were sat in the garden waiting for the BBQ to heat up, lots of people came to greet us with an ‘iyi bayramlar’ and a handshake, or when greeting people significantly older than ourselves, it’s our job to take their hand, gently kiss it then raise it to touch our foreheads as a sign of respect, something I still struggle to remember to do! Traditional bayram ‘seker’ or sweets were also handed out to us.
IMG_9955 IMG_9953
Once the BBQ was warmed up, a massive bowl of VERY fresh goat meat was plonked in front of us ready to be cooked. A wonderful spread of salad, aubergine salad, yaprak dolma (vine leaves stuffed with meat, rice and herbs), bread and of course lots of fresh meat,  was laid out. Other neighbours, friends and relatives of these people came over and everyone shared the food. It was absolutely delicious. I really wonder why people don’t eat goat more often!
IMG_9886 IMG_9887
IMG_9888 IMG_9954
We stayed for around 3 hours then headed back home, Berkay went to sleep for the rest of the day, then straight to work at 8pm in the evening, no rest for the wicked!  Whilst out walking Boncuk, I saw these two sheep in  a garden near our house, I know their fate isn’t good, I was half tempted to go and rescue them! Instead I settled for patting them on the head. They’ll be somebody’s dinner tomorrow probably…
IMG_9952
Although people may criticise ‘resort life’ as not being a true Turkish lifestyle, during holidays like this alot of people go back to their roots and participate in these old customs, at least this my experience here in Fethiye. I love taking part in their customs and traditions during days like this, I think I was more excited about it than Berkay was honestly!

Bayram continues until and including Tuesday, with banks, schools and government offices opening again on Wednesday. We won’t be doing anything else to celebrate, but tomorrow we are borrowing a friend’s car for the day and going for another BBQ, we have a fridge full of goat ribs given to us by Berkay’s friend, so it would be rude not to really, wouldn’t it?

Click HERE to read how Berkay celebrated bayram last year, although be warned that it does contain photos of animals during the sacrificing process that may upset some people.

Calis from the hillside!

Two days ago we went for a long walk up to the furthest point of Calış beach and back again.
blog
We walked from our house all the way to Koca Çalış and up a hill at the far end of the beach – the views were lovely and I saw Calış/Fethiye from a whole new angle!

The walk from our house to the end of the beach was around 2.6  km, so we walked over 5 km together – not easy in the 40oc heat! We waited til 6pm to leave because we’d melt into a puddle on the floor otherwise. I’d never been so far into Koca Çalış before, the furthest we’d really been was Sunset Beach Club/Surf Cafe. I definitely wouldn’t want to live there as it’s too far from anything else. We came across some pretty multi-coloured holiday apartments though which looked lovely, it’d certainly be more peaceful there!
IMG_6926 IMG_6924 IMG_6938 IMG_6943
We took Boncuk too, we love taking her on long walks. The downside to taking her with us is that a lot of stray dogs approached us. At one point we walked past a restaurant with a dog roaming loose and it spotted Boncuk and started growling and barking at her, setting off a chorus of at least 4 other dogs – it’s quite scary, although most of the animals are harmless, you never know (we had a bad experience when she was a puppy, and I’ve been bitten by a street dog myself which meant I had to have rabies injections – not fun!) Having so many dogs roaming free is something that puts me off walking her on my own most of the time and we always have to plan our routes so as to avoid places where we know there are a lot of strays.

The Koca Çalış end of the beach appeared to be very popular with local people – there were lots of people swimming and having BBQ picnics which smelt amazing! When we reached the end of the beach we found a track leading up the hill and decided to climb it. It wasn’t too steep or difficult to climb, although there were a lot of sharp thorns and bushes which scratched our legs quite badly, but the view at the top was worth it. We let Boncuk off her lead while climbing up the hill and she loved it.
IMG_6945 IMG_6940IMG_6939 IMG_6933
The sun was just starting to go down as it was around 7.30 by this time, so it was fairly cool (by cool I mean around 35oc!!) but we were dripping with sweat from the walk – we tried to take a ‘selfie’ together with the view in the background but we just looked ridiculous!
IMG_6932 IMG_6930
IMG_6927 IMG_6928
I think it would be lovely to come and sit up there with a drink and a snack to watch the sunset, or even to just sit down and watch the stars at night – quite romantic! Berkay was also eyeing it up as a potential fishing spot!
IMG_6934 IMG_6936
We couldn’t stay and admire the view for too long as Berkay had to get back for work, but it was nice to see Calış from an alternative view point,  and lovely views across to the mountains too. Such beautiful scenery.

Fethiye’s new look – multi-coloured umbrellas!

IMG_2181 IMG_2178
Fethiye has been having a makeover recently, it’s seen lots of changes in the past few years and just continues to look better and better…

I’d seen photos on my friend’s Facebook of some pretty looking umbrellas hanging up in one of the back alleys in Fethiye and wanted to have a look for myself so the last time me and Berkay were in Fethiye I made sure I went in that direction!
IMG_2183 IMG_2182
I wasn’t disappointed – it’s such a simple idea but with such pretty results. I know I’m not the only one to stop and take photos as it’s really eye catching – you can’t miss the huge multi-coloured umbrellas above you!  It really reminds me of those multi-coloured steps the residents painted in Istanbul last year to cheer the place up.

I’m not entirely sure what the aim of these umbrellas were – but it certainly brightens the place up and provides some much needed shade for passers by too, creating some interesting shadows on the floor.
IMG_2165 IMG_2170   IMG_2176 IMG_2179 IMG_2173 IMG_2174
The umbrellas can be seen on the back street behind LC Waikiki etc in Fethiye town centre if you want to check it out 🙂