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.

 

Two village weddings, some bizarre traditions and saying goodbye to the summer..

Last Wednesday we returned from our end-of-season trip to Turkey. We wouldn’t normally visit so late in the year, but we mainly went out for Berkay’s brother’s wedding. Berkay went out 5 days before me to help with wedding preparations, and then I flew out the day the wedding celebrations began (all 3 days of it)…. I missed the actual ceremony as that was earlier in the week, but was there for 2 full days of wedding parties, one in the brides village, one in the grooms. It involved some bizarre traditions, like men beating the groom, having him dress up in women’s clothes then cooking his wife an egg… Thousands of people came to the family home and the final night ended in a few tears after police were called and closed down the wedding due to several fights…… Honestly, if I didn’t have photographic evidence of all this stuff you’d all think I was making it up…

Anyway, after surviving 4 nights in the village, with the help of some ‘rescue remedy’ drops (seriously…) I breathed a huge sigh of relief when it was finally time to drive to Calis. Berkay’s brother and his new wife came with us for a few days too. We stayed in our favourite hotel, Jiva Beach Resort, which was lovely but also not without its surprises, partly because there was a loud, intimidating, narcotics anonymous convention in the hotel for a few days while we were there, with people from all over the world gathering… After a few days, that was over and during the end of our stay we were one of very few occupied rooms left…in fact, we checked out the morning the hotel closed for winter, so we had a very quiet last two days and practically had the hotel to ourselves! In amongst all that, we did the usual things, watched some beautiful sunsets, visited some old friends, made some new furry 4 legged ones and ate a lot of food! We also had some new experiences, visiting the new beautiful park in Calis/Fethiye was definitely a highlight, as well as hopping over to Sovalye Island for lunch, a first for us! Also somewhere amongst all the fun, we’re sure Berkay broke his toe.

As with everything, all good things must come to an end. Saying goodbye to our family and friends is horrible. Even saying bye to the hotel staff was hard, its funny how quickly you get into a routine of doing things and seeing people and then it’s hard to leave them all behind and go back to reality! I could never be one of those seasonal workers, making friends and knowing you’ll probably never see them again…I know they’re used to it and probably don’t really care about the people going and coming, but even for them I think it felt a bit weird right at the end of the season, there was definitely a strange atmosphere around! The hardest goodbye of all, was when we left the village and had to say bye to our Boncuk dog, she had the happiest face when we were around, and the morning we were leaving she just knew, she had the saddest face ever and she just broke my heart!

While we were out there, the clocks went back in the UK, but stayed the same out in Turkey, meaning the time difference is now 3 hours, long enough to leave us with a little jet lag on our return!

All in all, it was a good 12 days away, even if a little….very…stressful at times… It was the perfect end to the summer.

Now we’re home it’s full on CHRISTMAS mode…

 

 

Akyaka – Beautiful scenery, authentic houses & crystal clear sea..

 
Whenever we visit Turkey we end up doing the same things and going to the same places, so this year we fancied a bit of a change and did a few days exploring. After spending a day in Denizli and the village, we left in the early afternoon and drove a couple of hours to Akyaka.

The road down to Akyaka is very winding and bendy, and has a place you can pull over and take photos of the view – we stopped there when we were passing by last September and it looked really pretty so that’s what made us chose there to visit!

By the time we arrived it was late afternoon and we were really tired, hot and bothered so we found our hotel and freshened up before going out for dinner.
  
We went to the first restaurant we came across, which was more of a lokanta, selling traditional Turkish dishes which are cooked in bulk and then you can chose which you want. There were a lot of those type of small restaurants around, advertising home cooked food – Berkay chose it expecting it to be cheap, but it wasn’t really! He had Etli Nohut (beef and chickpea stew) and rice, and I had Karniyarik (aubergine stuffed with mince) and rice. We also had künefe to share for dessert, yummy!
 
After dinner we went for a walk, totally clueless about where we were actually going or where anything was! We came across a river and walked across the bridge to the other side and followed the little marina around and then walked back again. I’d heard about the boat trips down the river Azmak and when we were crossing the bridge we saw one returning so we went to ask about it and ended up on one 2 minutes later! I will write another post about that as I have lots of photos to share.
 
When we got back from the 20 minute boat ride, the sun was close to setting so we followed the path from the river towards the main marina where the big boats were docked. Whilst walking along the promenade we came across lots of little stalls selling handmade goods and souvenirs like jewellery, painted pebbles, dream-catchers, fridge magnets etc – they were really pretty.  We also came across a ‘phone box’ in the shape of a seagull, which I just had to get a photo with, I loved its quirkiness!
 
All the wandering around we had done and we hadn’t yet found the beach… until we turned the corner and finally reached it, just in time for sunset. It was really beautiful small beach, the shallow waves lapping on the sand, the red glow on the horizon and the mountains framing the view perfectly.
 
The beach in Turkey wouldn’t be the beach without some street food vendors selling Midye (stuffed mussels) and salted corn on the cob, so we just had to get some before heading back to our room for the night.
 
The next morning we went for a early morning walk before breakfast, we went straight to the beach and saw it in all it’s glory – blue sky, palm trees, calm sea and crystal clear water. The best thing about the beach is the fact the sea is so shallow, you can walk really far out and it only be up to your knees, perfect for children paddling. The water was so clear you could see the pattern of the sand on the floor, and little fish swimming around. I wish we had a little more time to spend there, so we could have swam properly!
  
After our walk we went back to our hotel’s restaurant for breakfast (it was a separate building a few feet down the road, owned by the same people). There was a bit of an issue getting it, since the staff didn’t turn up to open it until after 10.15am, and that was only because we asked someone to ring them and wake them up! But when we finally did get it it was a nice, traditional Turkish breakfast with eggs, honey, jam, tomato, cucumber, cheeses, olives and bread.

We stayed in the Ala Butik Hotel, a small boutique hotel. It didn’t have a pool but the rooms were lovely, modern and clean and it was in a perfect location a few minutes walk away from the marina, but honestly the staff weren’t very friendly or helpful at all (even before the breakfast incident!) I don’t think either of the receptionists smiled once which made us feel more of a nuisance to them than a welcome guest!

Something we loved about Akyaka was the fact that the houses, hotels and buildings were all the same design, white buildings with carved brown wooden roofs, windows and balconies – they looked really impressive and pretty.

Unfortunately, like most places, too much tourism is having an impact on Akyaka. In the 1970’s it was a small fishing village, but it’s becoming more popular and struggling since it’s not built for so many people. Before we went, I was warned to avoid it on a Sunday, since that’s the day when a lot of Turkish people have their day off and flock to the beach for a free day out, often leaving lots of rubbish behind. We arrived on the Sunday afternoon and it was really, really busy, with cars everywhere, parked in really random places, leaving us struggling to find a spot anywhere near our hotel. The streets are fairly narrow too, with lots of the restaurants and bars having tables and chairs along the paths, leaving us no choice but to walk in the road and having to dodge cars here there and everywhere! Thankfully, by Monday the atmosphere was a lot more relaxed with a lot less people and it was much more enjoyable, so I would stick to the advice one of my blog readers gave me and definitely avoid Akyaka on a Sunday! We also noticed the restaurants and shops were more expensive there, I think they rely a lot on organised tours and day trippers for their income, so raise the prices a bit to reflect that.
 
I definitely want to visit Akyaka again as we loved it, especially Berkay, he loved it so much he looked to see how much it would cost to buy land there, unfortunately for him it was in the millions of lira! It’s definitely worth a visit, especially for the beach and the boat trip down the river, I’ll share some photos of that in my next post.

If you’re looking to visit Akyaka yourself, it’s around 2 hours drive from Fethiye, or 30 minutes from Marmaris and the Mugla city centre.

2017 – A Year in Photos – Happy New Year!

2017 was a good one for us, we bought our first home, we celebrated birthdays, our first wedding anniversary, we had holidays to Turkey, Berkay settled into his job and got a promotion and we have just enjoyed our first Christmas in our own home together. When the clock chimed at midnight, we looked back on 2017 fondly, but look forward to 2018 and what it brings!

For the last 4 years I have shared our lives on my blog, and at the end of each year, done a round up of my favourite memories of the year through photos, so here it goes, a look back over our 2017.

January/February
In the first week of January we went to view a flat, the first one we’d ever looked at in person. A couple of weeks later, we started the process of buying it and dealing with solicitors and all that grown up stuff! We spent February slowly gathering things for our house, and spent nearly 4 hours in Ikea on one occasion, ending up with a big shopping trolley full of essentials! We really enjoyed house shopping, even Berkay loved picking out stuff and going to look at fridges, sofas and washing machines, who would have thought that could be so much fun! 🙂

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March
On March 17th, we got the keys to our flat and moved in! We loved making it our own and getting all our furniture delivered and sorted out – even my giant 6ft teddy bear moved in with us 🙂
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April
At the beginning of April, I celebrated my 25th birthday, with the help of a lovely cake from Berkay. Towards the end of the month, we visited Turkey and whilst there, celebrated our one year wedding anniversary in Jiva Beach Resort Hotel in Calis. We started off a little tradition where each year, we take a photo of us holding the photo of us the previous year, eventually we’ll be holding a photo, of a photo, of a photo, of a photo, etc etc, hard to explain but it will make sense the more we do!
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May
During our trip to Turkey, we also visited Berkay’s family in Denizli, and of course got to spend a couple of days with Boncuk, who was very happy to see us.
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June
June meant warmer weather and we enjoyed having our balcony and looking out over the view! Our favourite thing to do in Turkey was have BBQ’s so we got ourselves a small little BBQ to keep on our balcony and we enjoyed a few of those over the summer! img_5819

July
In July, we went on Berkay’s first ever English camping holiday for a few days with my mum, stepdad and their dog, Brad. I knew Berkay would love camping and the simple life and he really did. He loved sleeping in the tent, going off to get water, doing BBQ’s, walking through the fields and even the toilet/shower blocks didn’t matter to him. It reminds me a lot of village life, which he loves. He still talks about this camping trip and always says he wants to go again, so hopefully we’ll do another one soon!
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September
Apparently nothing exciting or photo-worthy happened in August, it was mainly spent looking forward to September, because in September we visited Turkey again, this time a few days in the village visiting Boncuk and Berkay’s family, and then a week at Jiva hotel in Calis, which was the best holiday we ever had! We’d never really had a ‘holiday’ like that before, and we always used to walk past Jiva Hotel when it was being built and think we’d never be able to afford to stay there, we stayed there for one night in April, but a whole week there in September, enjoying the sun, the pools, the all inclusive food/drink and entertainment was just so good! It’s now my favourite place ever.
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October/November
At the end of November, Berkay went back to Turkey, alone this time, to visit his family and spend time with his step mum as she had been quite ill with kidney problems. He was there for 10 days and made friends with the new baby cow on their farm, her name is ‘Zilli’!  This was a month ago, so I expect she’s a lot bigger than this now! Meanwhile, I was in England getting ready for Christmas, my favourite time of year, and putting up the decorations. One of my favourite decorations this year is this key, ‘First Christmas in our new home’.
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December
In December we celebrated Berkay’s birthday with a caterpillar cake and a day out at the very wet, cold, Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. We went to the circus and on a few, very expensive rides and had a great laugh – I love this photo of us on one of the rollercoasters.
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Then of course, it was Christmas day. Our first Christmas in our own home, and our first time cooking Christmas dinner! My mum, stepdad and their dog came for the day and they definitely rated our dinner 10/10, even with the improvised ‘no pig’ pig-in-blankets, made from Turkey bacon and chicken sausages so that Berkay could eat them. Berkay surprised me with a white gold diamond ring on Christmas morning, which he had bought in Fethiye whilst he was in Turkey alone a few weeks earlier, I love it!
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Last night we stayed at home for New Year, we sat on the sofa with our blankets and watched a film, then watched the fireworks on TV and from our balcony.

Who knows what 2018 brings, but I’ll be sure to document it on here. I hope we, and all my friends, family and readers have a very happy and healthy year!

(:

AUGUST PHOTO SERIES – DAY 31 – SITTING IN THE SUNSET

I can’t believe the whole month of August is over and this is the final day of the photo series! I’ve saved my best photo til last, it’s without a doubt my most favourite photo I’ve ever taken. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve shared it a million times before, I just LOVE it. This is Boncuk as a puppy, we’d had her 4 months and were just taking a late afternoon stroll one day in February, along Calis beach. I was trying to get some good sunset photos and she just sat down and posed – pure luck, it’s not easy getting a puppy to sit still! I love her little smiley face, tongue out, ears flapped over, sitting up straight. The sunset in the background, the waves rolling in and Boncuk’s little doggy paw prints in the sand. She was the cutest puppy!

I’ve enjoyed looking back over my old photos this past month and sharing them, showing you all the beauty of Turkey in it’s many forms! I think this photo sums up everything I love most about Turkey personally, Calis beach, sunsets, the sea and our beautiful Boncuk dog.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the photo posts too, thanks to everyone for liking, sharing and commenting over the last month!

AUGUST PHOTO SERIES – DAY 30 – FETHIYE HARBOUR


I think Fethiye is overlooked by a lot of tourists, with some people not straying further than the Tuesday market, but it has so much more to offer. The harbour area is so pretty, especially early in the morning when it’s quiet, the only people around are those getting the boats ready for a day trip around the islands or going out fishing. I love the green hills in the distance, the masts of the boats and the calm water the boats bob up and down on. If you’re lucky, you might even see a turtle or two popping his head up for food!

AUGUST PHOTO SERIES – DAY 28 – Yesil Vadi, Yuvarlakçay


Around 1.5 hours away from Fethiye, near Koycegiz, there is a place called Yuvarlakçay. It has several little restaurants in the forest area that go by the name of ‘Yesil Vadi’ – I’m sure there is only one original one… I’m not exactly sure which one we went to, but we walked into three and this was the one we liked best! The best part about it is the swings hanging from the huge, shady trees. As you swing, you soar a few meters above the freezing cold flowing river below. I’m a big kid and love swings so this was very relaxing and the shade a welcome relief from the hot sun! On this particular day we had a go on two different swings, it was all going well until my foot slipped down the bank when trying to stop the swing and I fell in the freezing cold water, witnessed by a Turkish family and Berkay, who was stood on the bank laughing his head off at me! I was also laughing, even though it was highly embarrassing, and got out and tried to walk away pretending like nothing had happened, although my soaking wet, dripping denim shorts said otherwise…

7 years together today!

Berkay & I have been together 7 years today! It feels like a lifetime, as we’ve been together basically my whole adult life, since I was 18!

I’ve written about how we met and our ‘cheesy love story’ before, so I won’t bore you all with that again, but you can click HERE to read it, if you’re curious!

From ‘holiday romance’ and ‘long distance’ love, to 3 years living in Turkey together, 12 months of the army service apart, to getting married last year and being separated just 4 days later, to applying for his visa last October, and him joining me here in the UK last November, and now buying a flat and settling in to that together, it’s been a busy 7 years full of adventure, happiness, sad airport goodbyes, visa stress and plenty of sad & happy tears. I expect the future holds more of the same, although hopefully more of the happy!

Here are some ‘Danni & Berkay through the years’ photos – I think it’s clear we don’t age well, 7 years, about 7 stone extra weight between us, 70% less hair on Berkay’s head… but still cute together, right? The first photo was taken 9/7/2010, the last photo just last week 3/7/2017.



Whenever we’re back in Turkey, we like to go back and visit the hotel we met in. If my Dad had never chosen this hotel for me and my friend to stay in, we would never have met each other! Back in May the hotel was all closed up for winter still, but we jumped over the fence and wandered around anyway, don’t worry, Berkay is still close to the boss, having worked there 10 years, we weren’t just trespassing! The hotel has not changed at all in 7 years, apart from maybe a fresh lick of paint outside and freshly grouted pool tiles, but everything else remains the same, including a lot of the staff, minus Berkay now of course. Even the famous rose bush Berkay used to pick the roses off for me and place on my sun lounger those days 7 years ago, is still there growing strong.

 
Whilst looking back at some old photos I’d taken during that holiday back in July 2010, I smiled at the innocent snaps I’d taken of places and things that would later be such important places in our lives. Not only the photos of the hotel we met in, or of the promenade along Calis we’d spend so many years walking along, the beach we’d spend so many evenings enjoying the sunset on, but also this one. This is a photo of the apartment we stayed in for 10 days when we got married last year, I’d just taken a photo of it during that week long holiday in 2010 not knowing or ever imagining in my wildest dreams that we’d be staying in one of those sea-view apartments on the left during our wedding week, taking photos on the balcony with my little bridesmaid sister, or where my dad first saw me in my wedding dress and cried, or where we’d spend our first night as husband as wife. It sounds silly really, but just seeing the photo really made me smile. Especially as my Dad actually booked that apartment for us last year, and one for him & family attending the wedding too, by accident, thinking it was a different apartment block further along the beach – it seems like fate, always meant to be! 🙂

We won’t be celebrating today, since Berkay has been at work since 12.45 until 23.30 tonight and won’t be home til 1am, ever the hard worker! But we are off together tomorrow so plan to do something silly together, like go and watch the new Despicable Me movie at the cinema. I was telling my friend this and she looked me like I was mental ‘what, you’re going to go and see that kids film at the cinema with your husband and not take a kid with you?’ – ‘yep’ – ‘oh, bet it was hard getting him to agree to that!’ – ‘nope, he loves it too, we’re like big kids’ – ‘ahh, I see, a match made in heaven then’
Exactly, my friend, Exactly!

 

Village life – Beyagac, Denizli.

Village life in Turkey is totally different to city life or tourist resort life – there’s nothing quite like it and it’s like marmite, you either love it or you hate it!

Berkay’s family live in Beyağaç, a town in Denizli province, 2 hours away from Denizli city centre. It takes around 3.5 hours by car from Fethiye, and is a fairly straightforward drive.  It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere – surrounded by fields, mountains and forest. Most of the people who live in the village own their own fields and grow their own crops, tobacco plants, or keep farm animals. The views from the family home across the hillside are stunning.
  
Berkay’s family live in a small bungalow house up on a hill, a few minutes drive from the town centre. Their house has a lounge, kitchen, 2 bedrooms, wet room/toilet and outdoor toilet. Three people live in the house at the moment, Berkay’s Dad, Stepmum and half brother.
I’m going to be honest, I really struggle to cope when visiting, the lifestyle just isn’t for me. They just do things so differently. One example I can’t get my head around, is the sleeping situation. They do have one bed, but they mostly sleep on cushions on the floor, in one room together, and there’s no real night-time routine, they just go to bed in the clothes they’ve been in all day, wake up in the morning, put the cushion away and carry on the next day in the same clothes, just like taking a giant nap. I also have no idea where they keep their clothes as nobody seems to own wardrobes, or have any real personal space. The village is very traditional too, with the men going out to work, and spending the evenings playing okey or tavla while the women stay at home, cook and look after the children – I guess like the UK 60 years ago. Women and men seem to be separated a alot, too, with definite ‘no go’ areas for women, which isn’t easy when I try to follow Berkay everywhere, as I can’t understand ‘ village turkish’ to talk to anyone else – the dialect is so different.
  
 
Behind the house, they have sheds built for the animals. They have a lot of sheep, goats, cows, chickens, a guard dog, and of course our dog Boncuk!  They use the animals for their eggs and milk. Berkay’s dad wakes up very early everyday to milk the cows – they even make their own yogurt, butter and cheese from it. They do use their own animals for meat, but only on special occasions, as they get more money for selling the livestock.
 
 
 
The family house is very simple, but it has everything they need, including a soba (wood burner) for heating in winter, cooker, washing machine and the slightly more suprising dishwasher and very nice Samsung fridge. From looking at the house, you would think they don’t have much money, a very simple lifestyle, bare minimum things. But this isn’t the case, they do have money, they just invest it in a lot of land, animals and business. Berkay’s father owns a animal feed business, supplying and delivering hundreds of bags of food and hay to houses every week, which as you can imagine in a farming community is a good business to own. I asked Berkay why they don’t improve their house rather than buy more land, as with the money they have they could really have a totally different lifestyle, but he said that things like that aren’t really important to the people in this village, they have what they need. Although I will never understand their lifestyle, I guess it’s something to admire – how they don’t place importance on such material things! Berkay has inherited that attitude to material things, too. I have to force him to buy clothes, as he’d be happy with 2 tshirts and a pair of jeans to last him years!

One thing you can definitely say, is that the Turkish people are very hospitable! The number of blankets Berkay’s stepmum has in the cupboard really made me smile – she has two cupboards piled up with spare cushions and duvets, so that guests can sleep – very prepared, she must’ve had about 30 different ones! They also will keep feeding you until you’re full enough to burst, and don’t take no for an answer. If you turn down a cup of Turkish tea, you can guarantee that you’ll get one anyway.
 
Dinner time is a little different in the village, instead of being seated around a dining room table on chairs, they eat every meal on the floor around a special ‘table’cloth. People joining them for dinner don’t have their own plates, but instead share from various sized metal dishes, each with a different food inside.  Everyone has their own fork and spoon, but they don’t use knives, which sometimes proves troublesome when it comes to larger pieces! Everyone also drinks from the same water glass. The good thing about eating this way is you can eat as much or as little food as you want, without the pressure of wanting to empty your plate so as not to offend. I do like sitting on the floor to eat, but it does give you terrible pins and needles after a while! I suspect if someone has a cold the sharing thing isn’t so pleasant.

I love the different colours and patterns of the rugs they put on the floor, although it does baffle me why they don’t just buy the same kind. Underneath all these rugs and mats they have wooden floor, but it’s kept covered all winter and summer. I love the different patterns but it would drive someone with OCD crazy for sure.
  
The first day we were in the village, Berkay’s brother asked him to help deliver some hay, as part of the family business. I decided to go with him. Off we went in a big, rickety, dusty truck, to the huge barn where they keep the hay. Berkay and his brother filled up the truck with bales while I sat around the corner wondering what on earth I was doing. 24 hours before this moment, I had been sat in a 5* all inclusive hotel, and now I was sat in a pile of hay, covered in dust and surrounded by the smell of animal poo. What a difference a day  makes! Certainly a tale of two halves, two totally different lifestyles and two totally different sets of people.


Later that evening , having recovered from the inital shock of village life which always hits me like a ton of bricks (or hay bales?), I wandered around the family farm and took a moment to appreciate the scenery. It is beautiful. I love this photo I took of the sun going down, greenhouse to the left, sheep shed to the right, pile of fire wood in the foreground, and bird soaring in the background. 

Dinner time provided entertainment in the form of Boncuk. We all sat outside on the patio to enjoy chicken cooked on the fire, with a special guest peeping her head over the wall behind Berkay’s dad, hoping for some leftovers! Can you spot her? She looked so funny, every now and then her little head would just pop up, until someone threw her a piece. Adorable.
 
The next morning, me and Berkay decided to go for a mini-adventure to a view point across Beyağaç. As we were getting in the car, Boncuk jumped in and joined us, so we took her too.  Everytime we visit the village we come up to this point as it provides lovely panoramic views.  This time there was a new addition to the view – 3 old, falling apart arm chairs. Interesting. I guess fly tipping is a universal problem! It did make a good photo though.
  
Berkay drove along to the next village, Yeniçeşme , to show me the  house he was born in, I took a photo of the building, which is now falling apart but still inhabited, I love the fact you can see Boncuk in the wing mirror! Berkay kept pointing out places he used to go with his friends as a child, fields he used to work in, and things his Grandad built like the village water source. Berkay always speaks highly of his grandparents, they raised him as a baby as his mother and dad abandoned him when he was only 28 days old, he’s still not seen his mother since and knows nothing about her, and although he is on speaking terms with his dad, he definitely had a stronger bond with his grandparents, who have both now passed away, he showed me the cemetery they’re both in too.
 
Back at the family home,  I had a walk around finding interesting things to photograph – you’re never far away from something with a story behind it! These red peppers are picked when they’re in season, and hung out to dry out in the summer, then they’re used in stews and other dishes when not normally readily available. Aside from their main purpose, I think they make great decorations!
 
After dinner, despite being stuffed, plates of walnuts, biscuits, popcorn and tea were bought out.  The funniest thing was Berkay’s stepmum breaking the biscuit in half and dipping it into her glass of cay, its the equivalent of dipping a rich tea in a mug of PG tips, I’d never seen a Turkish person do that before so I giggled to myself – seems like us Brits have a rival for our tea and biscuits!

That night, we visited Berkay’s brother’s girlfriend and her family about an hour away. Upon telling her of my love of baggy village pants, they went to their stash, ironed a pair and gave them to me in a bag as a gift, along with a pair of crocheted slippers they had made – it took so many attempts to find a pair that would fit me, I felt like Cinderella! Another fine example of their hospitality.

The following morning, we said goodbye to the family, and Boncuk, and got ready for the drive to Denizli city centre. The photo below is of us with Berkay’s brother just before we said bye – my eyes were red and blotchy after bawling my eyes out saying bye to Boncuk 10 minutes before hand. I’ve deliberately left her out of this post and will do a whole new post about her, she’s so cute she deserves her own one!
 
Village life in Beyağaç is so different than anything I’m used to. It’s way beyond my comprehension, but it is interesting and always provides me with plenty of funny stories! I could never live there myself, but after the initial shock, it’s not too hard to settle in to the way of life, become a bit more comfortable and embrace it – however, it is always a bit of a relief to leave again at the end of the visit, even with blurry eyes from teary goodbyes.

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!