Happy Sunday everyone! Please forgive me for the gushy post that follows, but I’m still coming down from an amazing trip to Turkey and I can’t help but tell everyone I meet about it.
Despite my recently proclaimed love of work, this holiday was much needed. I’m lucky enough to have a husband from the Canary Islands, so we admittedly get more than our fair share of cheapo breaks in the sun. But the downside of Juan’s entire family living out there means that when we visit, there isn’t much beach time, let alone alone time – in fact, we spend a lot of our days visiting relatives. Also, living away from Juan’s family means that we always feel duty-bound to use up a good chunk of our holidays on trips ‘home’, which leaves little time for seeing the rest of the world. So this year, we decided to take 10 days out doing something different.
This was our first trip to Turkey, but we’re already making plans to return as we absolutely loved it – and it’s such a huge and historic country that we’ve hardly skimmed the surface.
First up, we spent three days in Istanbul, a city that is at once both modern and European-leaning and extremely idiosyncratic and ‘foreign’: there are sleek, efficient trams, but also hair-raising roads where taxi drivers career down the hard shoulder of motorways to queue-jump at an exit, only to stop short to buy a sesame-covered bread ring (simit) from people (sometimes kids) standing amidst the traffic selling them.
We were staying in Cihangir, the most bohemian part of the city, which is packed with stylish independent cafes and bars, all filled with an assortment of effortlessly urbane characters – it’s so cool it sometimes feels like you’ve stumbled into a lifestyle shoot or film set.
We hit up all the tourist must-sees: ducking our heads into the Blue Mosque to see the enchantingly gloomy, mosaic-covered interior; whizzing up the Galata Tower to get a dazzling 360* view of the city; weaving our way around the frenetic Grand Bazaar (which was so much friendlier and more permanent than I’d imagined – and much, much bigger); and taking a sedate boat trip down the glittering Bosphorus, as the eerie, keening sound of the muezzins’ call to prayer echoed from the mosques surrounding us.
We spent the remaining week in Alacati, which bills itself as the foodiest destination in Turkey. I was expecting to find a lot of restaurants – in fact, you can dine out at a different one every night for a month and still not cover everything on offer here – but I wasn’t prepared for it to be such an unself-consciously pretty town, or for it to feel so homely and friendly.
Alacati is, to put it succinctly, my personal heaven – anywhere that isn’t a cute cafe or beautiful restaurant is an antiques treasure-trove. The cobbled streets are all pedestrianised (apart from the odd scooter), the sky is permanently deep blue, and bougainvillea sprawls along every wall and tumbles from every balcony. Even run-of-the-mill eggs are pure white and photoshoot-ready, for goodness sake.
I don’t know about you, but now I’m travelling with a baby, hotels don’t hold the magic they used to for me – however luxurious the room, I tend to feel trapped. In Alacati, we stayed in a gorgeous stone house bursting with original features and tasteful antique trinkets – it had a sunny but shaded courtyard where we could relax while Oscar napped, a proper kitchen (with a DISHWASHER!) and my personal holiday must-have: a washing machine (I hate getting home and having to plough through all the dirty washing in damp old England…)
We mixed trips to the beach with a little of the culture that Turkey has in spades – the highlight being a visit to Ephesus, an amazingly well-preserved ancient city which was, under the Romans, the capital of Asia Minor. It’s like Pompeii, but without the lingering spectre of catastrophe and death…
And throughout it all, Oscar was a joy – he was in his element pointing out all the mopeds that zig-zag the street, and the stray cats that the locals keep well-fed and watered – plus, no one in Turkey seems able to resist a chubby toddler, and at times actual queues of both men and women formed for a cuddle, even in Istanbul. He even slept on the plane (as well as watching a LOT of Peppa Pig…).
So if you haven’t yet booked your summer holiday, or your sense of adventure has been dulled by the struggles of new parenthood, I can heartily recommend this country as an excellent way to reignite or maintain your passion for travel.
Where are you going on holiday this year? Where in the world holds special memories for you?