Six and a half hours drive from Panama City (with a quick overnight stopover at a hotel strangely named The Show Pony Resort, but without a show or a pony in sight, in Las Lajas), you reach Almirante, home of the taxi boat terminal and gateway to Bocas del Toro. After a heart stopping, back cracking, 500 horse powered (knew we would ﬁnd a horse somewhere) 20 minute boat ride, our kamikaze driver delivered or rather are hurled us onto, Colon Island (Isla Colón) the largest island in the Bocas del Toro province!
Bocas del Toro, an island chain on the edge of Panama’s Caribbean coast on the boarder of Costa Rica, is only accessible by the $6USD taxi boat ride, and is a backpacker and surfers paradise! Many are searching for the hedonistic life of leisurely discovering long stretches of untamed beaches, rolling waves, exotic nature and travellers camaraderie. The capital of Colon Island, Bocas Town, is fun, friendly and interesting and is the epitome of bohemian cool.
Craving a quick beach side getaway on our way through to Costa Rica, our short stay of only 2 days/3 nights was ﬁlled with scenic scooter rides through lush tropical rainforest and along miles of gravel roads leading to many glorious beaches, all whilst craning our necks, determinedly searching for the islands elusive local wildlife! All dreadlocks aside, despite our short sojourn to hippy heaven and rain being the order of the day most of the time (these forests aren’t that green for nothing), MB and I still managed, of course, to swim in crystal waters, eat great food, spy a sloth and some cheeky monkeys, watch a magical sunset and meet some interesting local folk! We could have stayed longer if the lure of conquering Costa Rica in a week hadn’t beckoned us away!
Over water stilt houses are all the go here for accommodation and we secured a beauty on the quieter side of town, thanks again to AirB&B. In walking distance from the centre and close to supermarkets, bars and restaurants, it was ideal and very comfortable and we even scored our very own private pontoon, used daily for breakfast and sundowners in the hammock by the waters edge.
4WD taxis, the ever popular ebikes and scooters are all transport options here in Bocas, but keeping to our trend, we managed to hire a large scooter from a (cough) colourful local for $40USD p/day within half an hour of us landing on the island! Priorities people! Happy and carefree now with our new set of two wheels, we did a quick reconnaissance mission of the tiny town before our ﬁrst magical sunset of night one in BDT! Watch out, we’re locals already!
Comprising of only two main dining streets, Bocas Town restaurants are lively and imaginative in keeping with the carefree and laidback lifestyle of the area and the choice is fantastic. Locating a good eating house is a cinch and choosing a very pretty, local bistro by the water, Annie’s Place, we chowed down on locally caught ﬁsh and a naughty nachos whilst watching ﬁreworks and chatting to a lovely french family! It was a perfect night after a long day of travelling.
Colon Island is huge and takes a while to cross, so a vehicle of some sort is necessary. The next morning we decided to ride to the famous Bluﬀ Beach which is accessible by a never ending paved then sand road. On this day, however, the rain had driven most people away and only some dedicated surfers or bored tourists were wandering around. Bluﬀ Beach stretches for miles and is quite a rough but beautiful surﬁng spot. A few remote hotels and restaurants are here but all appeared closed or not ‘happening’ when we rode by, the soggy weather probably keeping most people under house arrest or persuading others to venture into town. It’s quite a long way to Bluﬀ and taxis are few and far between, so make sure you arrange transport! I’m sure that, on a perfect sunny day, it would have been perfect, as all the hype suggests. You can also access the Blue Lagoon and La Piscina (natural pools) from Bluﬀ but they are over an hours walk from the far end of the main beach! Taxi boats can also take you for full or half day trips to these areas which is a much more luxurious option!
Having ticked the Bluﬀ Beach box, we now ventured inland to cross the island, riding along a wonderful and comfortable new paved road in search of Boca del Drago Beach. Once here, (another) taxi boat can whizz you around the corner to the beautiful and aptly named Starﬁsh Beach or Playa Estrella. Yes, my darling readers, there are actually STARFISH here! Whoopie! These swollen, orange red echinoderms are everywhere and the water is crystal clear, so spying one quite close to the shore is guaranteed! Starﬁsh Beach, it seems, is where all the action is and on this day it was crammed with people. Sun loungers and little makeshift restaurants with table and chairs in the sand were all open and ready for business, each one playing their own music full bore in desperate hope to lure the hungry and thirsty. The cacophony of music and sounds was not too bad as at least it provided some kind of atmosphere which was needed on a dreary day! The bashful sun ﬁnally decided to make her appearance and stayed around for the remainder of the day which brought smiles to our faces and warmth to our chilly skin.
The restaurants oﬀer a basic menu and we dined on whole fried ﬁsh and homemade plantains washed down with a rather strong Piña Colada served in funky Tiki glasses, Hawaii Five O style. After a lovely day of tanning and watching the locals start to party on, we opted to walk back to the bike, along the waters edge and through coconut palms and mangroves which is pretty and peaceful, at all times keeping a keen eye out for sloths or other jungle inhabitants, none or which we found unfortunately!
Riding home to Bocas Town, we came upon the quirky Bottle Castle which is made entirely from plastic bottles found around the island and a structural reminder to all to pick up your rubbish, reduce and recycle. An animated family of monkeys ﬂying through the treetops stopped us on our way and made us and a couple of German girls on ebikes very happy to stand and watch their antics. A glorious orange sunset and dinner at El Ultimo Refugio (fabulous food and ﬂawless service) served with a side of live reggae music, topped oﬀ a wonderful ﬁrst day!
Day two had us up and rearing to go again as this was our last time to check out some more of the island. Red Frog Beach on Isla Bastimentos (another island in the chain) had been bandied about so of course we made this our mission. To access this beach, you have to take…you guessed it… a ten minute water taxi from the main dock in town. The boat delivers you to a suspicious looking, abandoned pontoon where from there, you pay $US10 to walk through a cleverly created nature path to the beachfront. Raining again, of course, we took a stroll along the beach which is again quite wild and rough and had a walk around the ﬁve star resort located on the hill and also a housing estate where expensive condominiums for the American rich and famous are being constructed.
Highlight of the day (aside from a plate of to die for Fish Tacos at lunch, but more on this later), was the discovery by me of a SLOTH (el perezoso in Spanish which means lazy)! I was so damn excited I didn’t care if it was pouring with rain and our phones got wet whilst ﬁlming, we had ﬁnally spied the namesake of Panama in all its natural glory. We were beginning to think that these long nailed, furry, alien like creatures were nothing but an urban myth! Watching it (no idea of gender sorry) slowly lope from tree to tree was such a special and magical experience that I could have gone home to Australia after that and been perfectly content.
Rain = lunch to us, even at 1145am, so after two sloth sightings ( I found another one up the road curled up in a tree and nearly stood on a snake in my gleeful state), we decided to celebrate! Having heard MB drone on and on about wanting to try tacos in Panama, we eventually sated his culinary ﬁxation with a plate or two of the best tacos I’ve ever tasted whilst sitting with our feet in the sand under a thatched roof hut, courtesy of Nachyo Momma’s Taco Bar and Bistro.
Not seeing ONE DAMN RED FROG (liars…but the candy version is still a ﬁrm favourite), we walked the length of the beach, had a frolic in the dumping waves, a snooze and then, like sloths, lazily made our way back to the abandoned dock. It was now, for some reason, alive with action with a dozen boats ready to launch at any moment, alongside a tired, bewildered looking Italian family. A chat (and a purchase of course) with the dreadlocked Artisan Jewellery Maker near our bike and another quick scoot around town to check out the airport and the famous Bocas del Toro sign, it was time to head home to our stilt house and pack for our early departure the next morning and return the bike to its languid Caribbean master.
A memorable last night dinner at BocArt Restaurant (think deep-fried wonton spring rolls), thanks to its Spanish waitress accosting us in the street thinking MB was her friend from Madrid, and giving us the best table in this welcoming, buzzing restaurant and we were totally, exhaustedly happy to fall into bed after a ﬁnal nightcap on our pontoon, listening to the lapping waves and the rhythmic tap tap of rain on its iron roof. Bocas del Toro has many islands and beaches to visit and explore and day trips galore to experience, but unfortunately, due to our tight schedule, we could only see so much. I think another three days would have been perfect, but all in all…we saw a sloth and we liked it!
The Happy Couple!
…”Always be yourself, unless you can be a Beach Bum, then always be a Beach Bum”… Anonymous
Quoting from a famous 90’s girl band, “Spice up your life’ with this simple recipe for a condiment that is both attractive, tasty and should pack a punch on your feeble tastebuds! Whether it be for personal use or as a great gift idea, this handy little bottle of spicy bliss can take you from the kitchen to the table in only a few delicate drops!
The humble Chilli Oil should be a staple in any cooks kitchen. Popular on the tables of pizzerias around Europe, or found on the shelves of exotic delicatessens, this aromatic and viscous potion can be generously glugged onto nearly any meal or used as a delicious and piquant alternative to plain olive oil.
I have made many bottles of this and given them away to a select few as gifts of homemade love and of course have a huge bottle of my own which stands proudly on my tiny kitchen bench! Use a little or a lot and keep topping her up and adding more herbs and chillies throughout the year and this precious addition to your pantry will never let you down!
1 x pretty clear bottle (any size) that you have recycled or have lying around. One with a screw top or glass stopper is ideal or ﬁnd a cork that ﬁts snugly (I’ve used an old Aperol bottle).
2 x long sprigs of rosemary
4 /5 x small hot red chillies(or more depending how spicy you want it)
3 x large chillies- any colour
2 x whole garlic cloves – skin on or oﬀ or a mixture
6 whole black peppercorns
2 x star anise
2 x dry bay leaves
Olive oil of any type
Bundle of string or ribbon to decorate bottle
WHAT TO DO WITH IT ALL
First start by splitting the most of the small chillies in half, leaving the top of the stalk intact, so as to release the heat from the seeds into the oil. Leave about two whole ones for ‘interior bottle presentation’.
Split one large chilli and leave the others whole.
Simply grab your beautiful bottle and put in all the dry ingredients – except of course the string and ribbon unless you’re into things like that!
Fill the bottle with the olive oil, replace the lid or cork and give it a few gentle shakes to mix all the ﬂavours and release the chilli seeds.
When all combined to your satisfaction and you can visually see some chilli seeds ﬂoating in the mix, grab your ribbon or string and tightly wind around the neck of the bottle for that rustic ‘just found at the local market in Naples’ look.
Et Voila! It’s as simple as that and takes less than 5 minutes to create! Dribble generously over pizza, risotto, pasta or bruschetta. Why not use it as a base for that perfect paella or frittata or just sprinkle a little on some roast potatoes – the ideas are endless! Go crazy and enjoy your new found fragrant friend and be excited as you relish the new tastes this beautiful amber liquid can produce!
**Bestow upon friends as a dinner party gift or make little bottles for everyone at Christmas and I’m positive that you will bring a smile to someone and make their day! Nothing says love more than a thoughtful, homemade ‘gift that keeps on giving!’
… “He who controls the spice controls the universe “… Frank Herbert
Hooray for Byron Bay! This quintessential Australian beach on the southeastern coast of New South Wales is all that and more if you are after a laid back but luscious lifestyle combined with a bohemian vibe. With her chilled out locals and an exotic array of international backpackers and wanderlust seekers, this tiny piece of beach heaven draws you into her soul and is only a 2 hour drive from Brisbane or an easy 1 hour drive from her high rise glitzy neighbour, the Gold Coast.
Cute and quaint with colonial style buildings, shops, pubs, restaurants and bars and of course a golden beach which stretches to beyond where the eye can see, this famous spot well known to celebrities from around the globe and a bucket list highlight for many tourists, is just ‘up the road’ really from my home town and I’m one helluva lucky girl to be able to trek there at any time of the year!
Whether it’s a day trip, weekend vacay or ‘staycay’ or a long, much needed holiday that you’re after, this naturally beautiful little slice of Australia has much to offer. Nut brown bodied nordic folk, surfers and dreadlocked dudes and dudettes roam freely and happily down the main streets or are scattered, lounging lazily like sun drenched lizards on the grassy dunes or the white squeaky beach sand. Everyone is smiling and relaxed and there is a distinct and genuine ‘happy and spiritual’ feel to the area and a real sense of community here, which is lovely. Even the shopkeepers are there to please you and have a chat and no one feels rushed or pressured. No wonder this is a haven for yogis, wealthy retirees and Europeans with working visas all hankering after the ultimate cool hood! I would live there too if I had half the chance… who wouldn’t?
Accommodation is easily found for all types of holidays, be it hotels, hostels, apartments or homes but be warned, prices can be quite eye watering at peak times of the year of course. Why not go all wicked and wild and hire a camper van to park near the beach or even rent a cabin in one of the many caravan and camping sites! Next time for us maybe, but this visit saw MB and I staying two glorious nights at the iconic and centrally located Beach Hotel (beachhotel.com.au) in the ❤ of Byron Bay. With a balcony overlooking the glorious main beach, a small in ground rock pool and a huge, comfortable room, we were not disappointed. The pub attached to the hotel is famous in its own right and offers fabulous and casual meals and drinks available day and night all delivered with upbeat and friendly service and a view to die for! What more could one desire?
View from our room
Byron’s Main Beach is long and wide and finding your own patch of sand is never a question. No squashing together like sardines here! The tourists must be gob smacked at all the space! The ocean is surf and hard waves so watch out if you’re not a swimmer. Saying this however, red suited supermodel/ Baywatch babe lifesavers are on hand till late afternoon everyday so you are always in ultra safe, strong Australian hands. Just be sure to ‘stay between the flags’ at all times! Tallow Beach, Belongil Beach, Clarkes Beach and Wategos Beach are the other popular swimming and surfing spots. Post card perfect and picturesque, they are all just a leisurely stroll from each other. None are crowded and all are the epitome of unblemished nature at her finest.
View from Cape Byron
Apart from soaking up the sun’s rays and perfecting your golden tan, there are many things to do here in this little area. Take the famous Byron Bay Lighthouse for example. Said to be Australia’s most powerful and built in 1901, this striking white structure is set on a rocky point in Cape Byron, which is the most easterly point of Australia and just up from sexy Wategos Beach. With breathtaking views of Cape Byron and the bay, spectacular sunsets and also a top spot for whale and dolphin watching when in season, this is the best stop for that ultimate photo! The walk there from the town centre is just over 4 kms round trip following the Cape Byron WalkingTrack and is a great excuse to move your body and feel slightly healthy all whilst discovering the National Park and other places like Fishermans Lookout along the way.
For more of an adrenaline rush or just a bit of adventure, try a guided Kayak Tour around the Cape or if you’re brave enough, enrol in a Surf lesson …I wasn’t! (No need to see a half drowned rat being pulled form the waves by muscular Aussie lifesavers …tempting as it may sound… with a surfboard wrapped around her head! ) No… I would rather locate my internal Zen by indulging in a bit of calm and peaceful Yoga, or fossicking amongst the funky shops downtown! Awesome little original boutiques and shops are everywhere in Byron Bay and it would be just rude not to buy even just one tiny treasure from the smorgasbord of stores that are around every corner! Beach babe bliss!
Now for food, the choices here are endless. No matter your palette preference or budget, there is everything from fine dining – think Rae’s @ Watego Bay to ‘late night walk of shame’ kebab shops, even operated by authentic Turkish people! Who knew! MB and I dined at the very new Bang Bang modern Thai restaurant on night one. It was fabulous. Chic and groovy all at once with a rockin’ French Dj, the food was spicy and on pointe and worth the wait ( as it was busy), with great service and an electric atmosphere to match. Night two had us savouring the delights of The Balcony, a well respected balcony bistro that has been there forever and the roast shoulder of local lamb was a treat! For a night cap, head across the road and upstairs to The Loft, a new kid on the block in Byron which makes the best Espresso Martinis in town. For more of a grunge/local feel, try out the Great Northern Hotel in the main street for a beer and a boogie or relax beachside at the Bay Hotel. There are so many fantastic eating houses around and this is just the tip of the iceberg, but we could not sample them all unfortunately!
Delicious local Lamb Shoulder
Day trips around Byron are a fab idea too as there are many wonderful, quaint little towns to explore on a rainy or sunny day! Bangalow, a small Australian, colonial inland village renowned for its famous organic pork (do yourself a culinary favour whilst you’re there and buy some); Ballina, the original old town; Brunswick Heads – the laid back beach town/ little sister of Byron Bay; the ultra hippy, rainbow coloured harem pant hubs of Nimbin and Mullumbimby and Lismore, Lennox Head and Yamba are all just a wonderful scenic drive away, either along the winding coastal road or inland past lush green, cow filled pastures.
Quirky Brunswick Heads
Before you sadly depart this mini heaven on earth, check out some of the local markets! Thursday in Byron Bay offers the small 8-11am Local Farmers Market (near the railway) and is perfect for fruit and vegetables, cheese and of course pork and lamb. Bangalow Farmers Market is every Saturday, Mullumbimby is on Friday’s and the Byron Flea Markets ( just imagine what undiscovered delights you could find here) are held every second Saturday of the month, just to name a few!
Bus @ the Farmers Markets
The ultimate time of the day in Byron Bay is early morning. What could possibly beat a croissant and a coffee on the beach made with a wink and a warm smile by a local laid back, blond bronzed barista, whilst watching the soft morning waves roll in and feeling the suns light rays stroke your back. Diving into the cold surf and feeling the salt dry on your skin is the best wake up call you can get and I honestly hope that, one day, YOU will get to experience this moment too. It is one of life’s simple pleasures and that in my mind is called Perfection.
…”May every sunrise hold more promise and every sunset hold more peace”… Anon
After deciding to spend 10 days in August visiting some of the unique towns along Turkey’s very own riviera, The Turquoise Coast, MB and I were in for some struggles! A combination of factors including a lot of driving, accommodation issues and packed towns and beaches made this journey a ‘challenge’ in some respect, but overall gave us some funny stories, great times and a chance to encounter some amazing scenery and history that this magnificent stretch of coastline had to offer! And of course a very long blog for you!
Since it was to be our last stint in Turkey together, we decided to go out with a bang and join the masses in the decent upon these colourful seaside towns. Being the most popular time to go for the majority of Turkish folk as it was their annual summer holiday time and also their national religious holiday period of Bayram we had been warned that this would be a rather ‘busy time’ in all areas! Adding to this, however, was the summer silly season for about two thirds of Britain and what with the Turkish Lira at an all time low and the popularity of Turkey as a holiday destination in general, we were not expecting just how many people there were at every turn! Word of warning… I suggest maybe not to go during this time if you hate crowds or the English as neither can be
escaped at any turn!
We took a quick 45 minute flight from Istanbul to Izmir as we had decided to hire a car from Izmir airport and drive along the coast starting in Çeseme and retuning the car and flying out of Antalya back to Istanbul. Having only booked accommodation for Çeseme and deciding to ‘wing it’ (as usual) for the remainder of the journey, also deciding on which towns to visit along the way, we maybe didn’t plan the best course of action here, but nonetheless and in true travellers form, we made the utmost of our time and managed to sleep in some rather ‘interesting’ places (Bodrum hotel room had fluorescent lime green walls and bars on the windows) along the way! Touching base on only four of the main places of attraction, we unfortunately had to miss out on many of the wondrous areas along this coast but will definitely return again to explore these and maybe re-visit some of the other towns at a more leisurely pace in the future!
Çeseme (pronounced chez-mah meaning fountain),was our first port of call. She is a very pretty, tiny resort town popular with locals, on the Aegean sea and only an hours drive from Izmir airport. We booked a lovely room at the Kaplan Butik Hotel, a small affair run by a very hospitable and kind husband and wife team. Perfectly clean and quiet and with individual balconies overlooking a small marina and local seafood restaurants (we visited the same restaurant, Vantuz, twice as it was right in front of our room and we could reserve the best table with the waiter whilst enjoying our aperitif). Situated about a ten minute scooter ride from the city centre, it was a pleasure to escape the hustle and bustle of holiday makers at the end of an activity packed day and just relax whilst watching the breathtaking sunsets from our little balcony of bliss!
View from our balcony
There are some great beaches in Çeseme and we managed to visit the most popular ones during our time. Altinkum Beach aka Golden Plaji is loved for its golden stretch of sand and clear cool water. A free public beach (near a camping site that was, unfortunately, overrun with rubbish) is available for you to plonk your sarong down or a numerous variety of ‘pay for the day’ private Beach Clubs are there for the wild at heart. These charge for entry and parking, a sun lounge and an umbrella and a free drink. Packed with families and the cool crowd, they are not bad for a day, but party hour time starts at 430pm most afternoons and dance music is blared from the enormous speakers situated around the ‘club’. We tried Copacabana which was ok. Very low key and not a rave at sunset!
The longest and most popular stretch of beach is Iica Beach( Plali ) and is home to a large variety of five star hotels and resorts and is the closest beach to the upmarket neighbouring town of Alaçati. Similar to Chewang Beach in Koh Samui (refer to ‘Best beaches in Koh Samui’ blog), it is packed to the rafters with sun loungers, umbrellas and people and not really our scene. Small pockets of pebbles and sand are overcrowded with sun worshippers of all ages with burnt or tanned flesh, all squashed together like sardines! The water here was not that great either, having lots of rocks and coral to gingerly walk over in the attempt to reach water that was no deeper than your knees. Not a big fan of this style of precarious swimming activity, we only visited here once and didn’t go back. We did see a guy though who was the spitting image of George Michael (maybe an impersonator) so that was worth it! Thermal springs and mud baths are also an attraction here, but we gave those a swerve too due to the hordes of humans. Give it a try when it’s a quieter season and maybe it is lovely. We just couldn’t stand the over crowdedness and brashness of it all.
For those of you who love wind-surfing, there is a special beach dedicated just to you and this activity! Diamond Beach or Pirlanta Plaji is great for kite and wind surfing or just lazing around. Not overly crowded, it was a nice change from the usual style.
We went all out posh one day and treated ourselves to a VIP style of experience at the Paparazzi Beach Club. Situated on the quieter side of Çeseme and not far from our hotel, it has a fantastic restaurant with great service and a huge wooden pontoon that stretches into the perfect turquoise water. We were fortunate enough to get two sun loungers here and spent the day diving off the pontoons edge into the clear sea which was overrun with tiny fish. With no sand or pebbles, rocks or coral, it was a lovely change to our usual routine of plonking down on the ground and no beach bags full of sand to sprinkle all over your hotel room floor when you got home!
Us at Paparazzi
The town centre is lovely and full of authentic little Turkish bistros and winding, skinny streets to meander through and of course a multitude of shops and stores offering everything from blow up beach toys to knock off designer handbags and clothes. It is worthwhile indulging in a few hours here just poking around whilst licking a creamy, local gelato and buying some knick knacks that catch your eye. Along the water front is a fantastic marina area with million dollar powerboats and yachts to drool over, a long promenade to stroll along with restaurants and bars of all varieties and also some ‘reasonably priced’ high end boutiques in which to splurge and spend your Lira!
Take an hour out of your beach schedule to explore the famous Çeseme Castle and Fort which dominates the skyline. At only 8TL (AUD $2) per entry, it is a bargain and well worth the climb to the top just for the 360 degree panoramic views of Çeseme alone! Built in 1508, it has undergone some renovations of course, but now houses a large museum dedicated to the story of the Naval War between the Russians and the Ottomans displaying many rare artefacts including coins, pottery and maps.
If you are fortunate to have the time, take the 20/30 minute ferry ride (there are two per day) from the Port to the nearby Greek Island of Chios. MB and I didn’t get the chance to do this but next time definitely! Instead, we walked up the steep roads to get a glimpse of real life around the interesting back streets of the town, taking in the architecture of the ottoman houses from a bygone era and also the newly renovated, original Caravanserai (roadside inn) next to the castle which is now a five star boutique hotel!
Overall, Çeseme was a fabulous little place with so much to do and see! We were only there for two days/ three nights, but we crammed a lot it in as usual! I highly recommend a visit here if you love tranquility, fun, good food and a bit of history!
Street in Alaçati
Alaçati (pronounced alachater) is a breathtakingly quaint, blue and white grecian-style upmarket town about 25 minutes drive inland from Çeseme. Renowned for its ancient stone houses which have now been converted into luxurious boutique hotels, an expensive shopping precinct, narrow cobblestone streets and numerous windmills, it is a MUST to visit when in this beautiful area!
Deciding on a whim to stay here only one night so as to get a real feel for the place and a good look around, we miraculously found a room in a small B&B called Elā Otel opposite the ancient graveyard (it was very quiet) near the main street entering the centre! Score! Blue and white with fuchsia bougainvillea cascading from our intimate little balcony, it was both simple and central if not a tad overpriced, but that’s high season and demand for you!
Our B@B in Alaçati
Trust me, Alaçati is so damn pretty it’s ridiculous! With photo opportunities at every turn, it is an instagramers paradise! Originally settled by the Greeks in the 17th century, the vast number of Aegean style bistros and bars pay homage to the history of this blue and white tinted tiny town. Being a popular tourist spot for people from all over the globe, locals and celebrities it was indeed extremely busy the day/night we were there. The small streets were overflowing with people from late afternoon till the wee hours of the morning and the atmosphere was both electric and overwhelming all at once!
We had a good look around on the afternoon of our arrival and walked to the famous windmills for a photo and also to check out the view of the flat surroundings of this area. If in need of a slice of Turkish retail therapy, the shopping here is fantastic! If you are particularly lusting after some designer sunglasses, this is the place for you as there are a ridiculous number of Optical stores here (for some reason) all offering state of the art and top of the range styles at exorbitant prices! Worth it though for an enviable pair of European shades! Petite stalls and chic boutiques are everywhere selling anything your heart desires and the jewellery is amazing. I picked up some lovely little bracelets featuring the traditional Blue-Eye and Hand of Fatima symbols and a flamboyant coloured kaftan and MB went crazy in a local designer mens store where everything was 80 percent off! Kah-ching! Antique and second hand furniture and design shops are popular here too with Indian, Arabic and art-deco pieces on offer and I could have gone door and chair crazy if our budget and suitcase space had allowed us!
A delicious meze and seafood dinner in one of the little restaurants on the street and a nightcap in a small intimate bar near our Otel rounded out our fleeting visit. Mornings are very quiet here in Alaçati and is the best time, I think, to find your way around and sit for a quiet espresso or çay in one of the little cafés and observe your surroundings.
Street in Alaçati
All in all, Alaçati is both beautiful and homely and worth the trip even if it’s for only a day or a night. You never know, you might even spot a celebrity wandering down the street as it is said that many of the huge houses in the surrounding area are owned by some of the most rich and famous in the world!
Typical houses in Bodrum
Now beautiful Bodrum is a very different story as we only managed to stay here one day and two nights and even THAT was a miracle! Having booked a lovely place on AirB&B two days before (get a load of us being organised) we left Çeseme early for the 4 hour drive or so to Bodrum. Stopping along the highway at a huge local lakeside restaurant, we decided to give our owner of the AirB&B a quick call to tell him our estimated arrival time. Lucky we did, as we were then informed that indeed we DID NOT HAVE A BOOKING for our three night stay but he had reserved it for September instead as his place was not available now! Even though we had paid and reserved and had a booking reference number, it was not to be as there had been some communication breakdown along the way. Now we were stranded! No hotel or booking and two hours away from the busiest place in Turkey AND on a Saturday night! Lord help us! I spent the next two hours in the car frantically trying to find a room… anywhere …even for just one night! Not to be…. EVERYTHING and I mean everything was either booked or was so damn expensive for one night (think no less than AUD$1000 on some sites) that it was ridiculous. Also it became apparent that most hotels were ‘inclusive’ package deal style, which meant that all meals and beverages were included in the price! We found this very odd, as why would you want to spend all your time at the hotel when there was a beautiful town to explore with lovely restaurants etc of its own! We gleaned that a lot of British people used this system for a ‘one stop shop’ budget style of accommodation for holidays. Not for us though I’m sorry! So…what did we do I hear you ask?
Well basically we just had to get into Bodrum itself and stop at any hotels we could find along the streets and ask if they had rooms. The traffic upon arrival into here was bedlam and bumper to bumper and this proved to be an extremely trying time for both of us! Two hours later after arriving in Bodrum and driving up down and around the city centre we finally found a funny little hotel (aptly called the Second Best Hotel, with the green walls and bars ) on the side of the road which had a room for two nights! Not that great a deal and ugly as well, we leapt upon this chance like we had scored a suite at the Ritz! By 8pm that night…only 10 hours after leaving Çeseme, did we plonk our weary bodies down in our ‘cell’ – shower, change and head out into the balmy night!
Bodrum, or ancient Halicarnassus is in the Mülga province. It is a very unusual, pretty place renowned for its Arabic/grecian style of architecture. Houses are usually white or cream, some with blue accents and square in shape and with flat roofs. Stunning to look at, you could be excused for thinking you were in Santorini or somewhere in the Middle East! I loved them! At one stage, MB and I came across a deserted suburb full of these wonderful little houses all left to go to ruin! Such a shame as they had such potential for renovation and promise for a new life.
Gümbet, the main town centre is probably not everyones desired ‘cup of çai’ (pronounced chai) as it is packed to the rafters with tourists, shops, traffic, kebab stores and general hustle and bustle on a regular day. The main bus terminal is also situated here alongside the main taxi rank! Think chaos and you are getting the feel of it I’m sure! It’s ok of course for a look around and a spot of shopping or a quick coffee/kebab but it is better to head down to the water and stroll the very long promenade crammed with restaurants and bars all eagerly vying for your patronage or take a walk out to visit the Castle protruding into the sea. At night, the beach here transforms into a wide, twinkling dining area with Nargile (Turkish water pipe) cafés for you to relax and puff away to your hearts content. This is an extremely popular pastime for both locals and..