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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Çeşme, Turkey: Undiscovered Paradise (You Heard It Here First)

Yesterday, I arrived in Çeşme, an adorable port city in Turkey that just happened to be the closest to the island of Chios, Greece (where I was earlier this week).  My friend Sam from NYC had planned to join me for the Turkey portion of my trip, so she transferred planes through Istanbul and met me here.

We had researched that Çeşme was a cute seaside city, so had just planned on staying here a couple nights to relax before heading off to the rest of the country.

The cobblestone streets of Alacati

What It's All About:
Ummmm WHAT IS THIS MAGICAL WONDERLAND.  Çeşme is a peninsula on the west coast of Turkey that juts out into the water - we are staying in Çeşme city (which involves an adorable marina and castle), but there are a handful of other small towns on this peninsula that are all super accessible and easy to travel between.  Most of the cities on the peninsula are popular beach destinations with the locals - but the first thing I noticed was that there are not many other foreign tourists here.  We went most of the day not hearing ANYone speak a single language other than Turkish.  Not to mention, anytime someone hears us speaking English, they almost seem a little enthralled/amused/entertained by us.  Not to mention, people here are the NICEST. SO NICE.

According to a Turkish lady Sam met in NYC, Çeşme is "the Hamptons of Turkey."  Imagine the most gorgeous beaches, open-air courtyard restaurants, cobblestone streets, boutiques, and windmills with stylish Turks milling around. That's where we are.


Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Our hotel is on top of a hill, overlooks the marina, has a gorgeous terrace, and serves these amazing home-cooked dinners you can opt into, personally prepared by the host himself.  We opted in the first night, and dinner was insanely delicious.
View of the marina from our hotel terrace 
Cesme marina
Our hotel's home-cooked meal, served on the terrace
  • Today, Sam and I headed to Ilica Beach, a 5-10 minute bus ride from our hotel.  Not knowing anything about it, we simply heard it was a nice beach.  Upon arrival, imagine our surprise when it looked BASICALLY LIKE CANCUN (the ridiculous prettiness of the water, that is - without the Señor Frogs and throngs of 20-year old frat boys).  The beach was HUGE, the water was crystal clear, and the sand was ridiculously pillowy soft.  Ilica Beach's harbor is fed by natural hot springs, so the water temperature is warmer than any of the other beaches - it was seriously being in like the most gorgeous, clearest, prettiest water ever that was the perfect temperature. For $3, we got a beach lounger, a personal umbrella, and vendors personally delivering snacks.  Seriously, I could not believe how perfect this beach was. How is this not the most popular beach in the world.
I'm going to stop gushing about this beach in a hot second; but another amazing part was that the water was shallow SO FAR out - you could walk way, way out into the distance before it even started getting deep. Big plus for shorties 
A common theme on this trip is that Sam and I are amazed by everything (maybe why we're friends?). Sam is amazed at our deck chairs
We are both amazed by the beach
A vendor selling Turkish bagel-pretzels. AMAZING.
The warmest, most perfect crystal-clear waters
And then I made a baller sandcastle
  • Late afternoon, we left the beach and headed into the city of Alaçatı, another 5-10 minute drive away.  Alaçatı used to be a Greek city that was abandoned - until someone came in and made some of the dilapidated buildings into boutique hotels, and the entire city went through a total transformation/renewal. And now it is one of the most happening, quaintest seaside cities ever, and really popular with Turkish tourists. OH MY GOD was it the cutest place EVER.  I've seriously in awe of the entire city - it had a gorgeous seaside village feel to it, and tons and tons of outdoor restaurants with huge courtyards with the trendiest/funkiest/prettiest, yet totally unique decor at every single one.  There were tons of big, rambling buildings where you could see the age of the building; but totally redone with painted shutters and huge, bright fuchsia bougainvillea trees and vines growing on the sides of the walls, all lined along narrow cobblestone streets.
Insert photo overload of all the pretty cobblestone streets of Alacati


Tomato heaven


#SamTram #WangTrain


It was funny bc when Sam and I wandered the streets at 6, everything was empty. A couple hours later, the city went NUTS. Every restaurant/bar was full, and we couldn't get into most places without reservations
We had dinner at Kapari, which was recommended to us and had this insane courtyard with ruins lit up in the back
Famous windmills in Alacati

Moment of the Day:
Sam woke up this morning feeling incredibly ill.  Which means we had to get her to a doctor or a clinic stat.  Sam had read online that the pharmacies here are pretty well-stocked (and readily available) and that you can consult with the pharmacists - so with that in mind, we headed to the nearest one (seriously, these things are on every corner).

No joke, we showed up at the nearest pharmacy with a piece of paper with her symptoms written on it in Turkish (thank you, Google Translate) - and the pharmacist took one look and pulled a drug off the shelf for any and all of them. Not just like an Advil, either - like fully-stocked antibiotics and meds and things that you would 100% need a prescription for back in the States.  Anything you needed, you could get. It was wild.  Not only was every single drug available for purchase, but they were SO CHEAP.  I couldn't believe how freakishly easy it all was - we were in and out with a bag o'drugs in no time.  Healthcare in America, man. But that's another topic for another time.

DRUGS

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • A major mode of transportation is the dolmus - or tiny minibuses that truck frequently between popular locations. Ok, not only are these things adorable - but super convenient as well.  They have dolmus stations, but our experience was that you can basically flag them down from anywhere on the street.  With some of the seasoned pros, the dolmus would stop randomly on the street, pick them up, and they would step onto the bus while it was still kind of moving and the doors would swing shut. They were the best (and so cheap!). And I loved them.
  • You cannot come to Turkey and have a jewelry obsession. You are in danger of running out of arm space.
  • Numerous people told us today that they very infrequently meet Americans in this area of the country. The overwhelming majority of tourists are Turkish, with occasional Europeans floating through. It's still very much under the radar (as big hotel chains have only very, very recently begun to spring up along the coastline), so you need to COME HERE NOW. It is so weird being somewhere with no other American tourists, and where the people are so delighted/amused by us speaking English.  Everytime we try and say "Thank you" in Turkish, we always get an incredibly amused smile.  Either that, or they are masking their horror at us butchering their language with a smile.

Turkey, I love you already.

5 comments:

  1. Ahhhh my jealousy level just got upped a few more notches! Everything in Cesme looks so frickin pretty/magical!
    And that home cooked hotel meal - YUM!! I want a fried fish now...

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    Replies
    1. YOUR jealousy level!?? Did you, or did you not, see Tay a day ago!?? I can't wait to hear about it!!!

      I'll make you a fried fish! Xo

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  2. Connie!! I love reading and seeing all of things happening in your life :) Traveling is another level of learning.
    Keep posting where you are going next. I may get a chance to give you a hug somewhere in the world.
    Be safe and go wild.
    xoxo
    Aiko

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    Replies
    1. AICOOOOO!!!!! Thanks lady!!! I'm so sad I didn't get a chance to see you before you left, but YES, can we meet up somewhere in the world this year?! I can come see you anywhere!

      Love you and miss you so much! XO

      Delete
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    ReplyDelete