Monday 29 July 2013

Aegean blues

A gulet is a traditional masted sailing boat, similar to a schooner. They are built in the region of south-western Turkey, in Bodrum and Marmaris. 

We hired one for a day, not far from these places, at the pretty harbour in Fethiye ...

from where we sailed out into the turquoise blue Aegean

with these views

from my toes

and nothing much to do besides a lot of this ...

Could life get any better at this point?
Well yes ...

Our lovely crew of three burly sailors made sure we were fed, watered and generally pampered 

and dropped anchor in the prettiest coves

where you could dive off the boat and swim to your heart's content in the clean, cool, impossibly blue Mediterranean sea

sheer bliss

We shared a gulet with a few others for a day only - enough to seriously tempt me back for a longer time next year 

Who wants to join me for a week of leisurely island-hopping, skinny-dipping Aegean blues? 

Check it out here and tell me how you could resist.

Thursday 18 July 2013

Boats, turtles and an ancient river

The Dalyan river flows from Lake Köycegiz in south-west Turkey down to the Mediterranean sea ...

If, like me, you like knowing the bigger picture, A marks the spot - the Dalyan delta on the Anatolian coast - where it flows out into the Aegean. With Syria and Iraq, just off the map to the right, these areas were pretty much the cradle of Western civilization.

Our 21st century river pilot was the divine Captain Mehmet, who entertained us with stories about the region while ferrying us smoothly downstream. 

Mehmet trained to be a teacher but left the classroom for a boat and this life on the river - and who could blame him ...

Mehmet gave us a close-up view of these extraordinary Lycian tombs, visible only from the river, that were carved into the stony cliff face around the 4th century BC. 

The Lycians, who also developed one of the earliest democracies, apparently believed that the souls of the dead would be transported to the afterworld by winged creatures, and so built their tombs along the coast and on high cliffs. 

The largest, as you can see, is unfinished - were they interrupted by invading civilizations maybe? The Persians, Greeks and Romans all had their day here.

Not much further on is where the Dalyan river meets the sea, at Iztuzu beach, which happens to be a breeding ground for loggerhead sea turtles.

We pulled up alongside a group of colourful boats to watch and wait, while crabs were dipped into the sea as live bait to encourage these shy giant creatures to the surface ...

The Captain (below right) and his mates enticing turtles to make a showing

And voilà, they appeared - these magnificent pre-historic creatures have been around for an amazing 40 million years, which rather puts the human history of this ancient region into perspective. 

The attachments you see on the turtles' shells are tracking devices.

A crab probably qualifies as a pre-lunch amuse-bouche, considering that the largest of these creatures weigh in at 450 kg (1000 lbs).

Sadly, they are an endangered species worldwide. But here's a story with a happy outcome ...

Right here at Iztuzu beach, in the late 1980s, developers muscled in with plans to build a luxury resort on the turtles' breeding ground. Not surprising, considering its natural beauty. But conservationists raised an international storm and after a year-long battle, Prince Philip, Duke of E., stepped in (it seems he has some uses after all) and negotiated a moratorium with the prime minister of Turkey. 

The area is now a protected conservation site ... a fact that made my girls very happy indeed ...

And more treats were in store for us, as Captain M revealed his very competent cooking skills ... while we swam in the cool clean water, he grilled fresh fish (sea bream, mullet and bass all swim upstream here) on a tiny barbecue hung off the back of the boat and rustled up some amazing mezze and salads.

Photo credit: fish heads bottom right artistically photographed by Nicholas B.

Finally, chugging back up the river, we paid a visit to the communal mud-baths (this region is volcanic with natural thermal springs) that 'guarantee' to take ten years off one's age ... what can I say, I am a sucker for cheap promises. 

Not quite the spa experience I'd hoped for (think river mud and an overpowering stench of sulphur), it did at least offer some comedy. Ten years younger? I wish.

Later in the evening we took our rejuvenated selves out for dinner on this deck with a view across the river to the tombs

Beautiful Turkey.

Monday 15 July 2013

Turkish delights

Having left London on a monochrome morning in late June that looked like this ...

to find ourselves here by the time the sun (yes, the sun!) was setting over the south west of Turkey
was almost too much pleasure to bear ...

A full week of Turkish delights followed, in themes of heat, turquoise sea and intense colours 

Colours of Turkey: gardens in Dalyan, textile and ceramic arts, the Aegean sea around Fetiyeh

as our pasty-white northern selves transformed into altogether healthier and golden versions 

from swimming, cooking and eating 

in a villa surrounded by groves of pomegranate trees ... in this culture a symbol of love, fertility and prosperity, said to grow in the gardens of paradise.

I think our Turkish neighbours' adorable dog thought she might have arrived in paradise when she came over squeaking with pleasure every night to be fed, photographed, held and fussed over.

 As did we when other neighbours kindly brought us fresh hot bread every morning and delicious pastries. An added 50 tons of weight, or so it feels, is the price I've paid for my slice of Turkish paradise. But oh how worth it, especially considering the adventures that followed ...

Thursday 11 July 2013

Merci Paris

While in Paris my friend Felicity and I met up with Carol from Paris Breakfasts who lives in this city, lucky fish. Carol offered to show us some places neither of us had been to. But first she came to check out our hotel ...

Isn't this a dream city-rooftop garden?

... Bourg Tibourg, a tiny, exotic gem - so tucked away it's easily missed altogether from the outside - where Jacques Garcia's design is Gothic meets oriental meets Napoleon III, yet the atmosphere is super-friendly, homely and welcoming.

We wandered northwards through the Marais, not quite managing to avoid entering en route countless patisseries of which Carol is madame the expert and connoisseur ...

Motorcycles are the way to get around here, clearly, whether you are a chef, a chic biker girl or just passing through ...

In my fantasy Paris life I would move in right here and park my Vespa on the balcony ...

How we managed to avoid temptation at the Boulangerie Beaumarchais I don't know ...

but we were headed to lunch in the Cantine Merci - on the ground floor of Merci on the boulevard Beaumarchais, with a view to the potager ...

where the food is all fairtrade and organic. 

You don't just get to feel virtuous though ... their salads were quite possibly the most delicious I've had in my life.

Merci inhabits three light and bright floors of a former factory. It's all about creative but also responsible retailing - all its profits go to charity.

I loved the vintage red Fiat 500 at the entrance and the iconic Parisian fishtank ...

Merci Carol for Merci Paris

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Early morning in the Marais

Early birds having morning coffee while the quarter sleeps late 

Café crème hits the spot

after a Friday night that fizzed and popped into the wee hours

The bakers must have got to work as the last revellers were heading home 

Tables and chairs set out for the day

inviting one in

Encore fermé

here too

But shutters are beginning to open

Orthodox Jewish men are walking to shul ...

along medieval streets

and where the quarter meets the river a girl is dancing au bord de la Seine

(A collection of images mostly taken early on a summer Saturday morning that got me wanting to play with some retro editing effects)
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