Sunday, 22 November 2015

Kefalonia 2015


Hello and welcome to my second summer holiday post this year. Sorry it's been a bit delayed, but I did only get back home at the end of September, so it's not too late. This one's all about my third holiday this summer to the largest of seven Ionian Islands, Kefalonia near Greece. I have done a post on this place before, as my family and I came here on holiday 2 years ago, and it was so beautiful that we decided to come back. This time was even better, as one of my best friends of 10 years came along too!
You can read my first post about this place here: http://laurajadejackson.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/summer-holiday.html

VILLA




This year we stayed in the same town as last time, Skala. We also stayed in the same villa, Villa Brio. We LOVE the location of this villa. It's literally amazing, one of the best 180 degree views of the sea you'll ever see. It's also in a great location as its only a 3 minute drive to the town of Skala and only about an hours drive from Kefalonia Airport.

SNORKELLING


As you'll know if you read my last post about this place, the snorkelling is amazing here. The villa has it's own private beach and jetty where you can jump off into the sea and it's perfect for snorkelling. The water is crystal clear and appears like magical colours of blues and greens, it's amazing! Me and my best friend Mollie went snorkelling quite a few times and we were literally surrounded by hundreds of fish. I really wish I had an underwater camera to capture what we were seeing underwater, because it was so cool.

HORSE RIDING


A passion which Mollie and I both share is horse riding and we were determined to go on a horse ride together along the beach while we were here. I'd researched it before we came and I'd found a riding stables actually in Skala which had really good reviews on tripadvisor so we thought we'd give it a go. When we got there, the man was lovely and he got our two horses for us to groom for a bit to get to know them and feel comfortable, but we then discovered that because it was the end of the summer season and he was actually taking the horses back to the winter stables the next day, he didn't have any riding hats with him.


Now, both being experienced horse riders, as I've been riding since i was four years old, and Mollie has been riding a long time and has had her own horse, we had more sense and kindly declined the offer to ride without hats. To inexperienced riders, it might seem harmless going on a holiday trek along the beach, and as the man said, "nothing bad has ever happened before etc etc", which may well be true, but it only takes a second for something to go wrong, the horse to spook at something insignificant and the rider could fall off and be seriously injured or worse, so we ruled with our heads instead of our hearts and decided to leave it. We were really disappointed as we were really looking forward to it, but oh well, I think everything happens for a reason.

BARS

Captain's Bar

One of our favourite bars to go to after dinner was Captain's Bar. Its always the busiest and liveliest bar and they do the best cocktails in town. My cocktail of choice is always usually 'sex on the beach'.



Captain's Bar has a great atmosphere, modern chart music to sing and dance along to, great cocktails, friendly and welcoming staff and I also love the way its decorated and furnished. The bar itself is literally built around a huge tree. The tree trunk makes the centre of the bar which is decorated with lots of lights, candles. fairy lights and white fabrics. The whole bar has a very boho vibe, its all decorated and lit with quirky different lights and light bulbs in glass vases and fairy lights and white draped fabrics. It looks how I want my garden to look, I love it. So it's definitely the place to be in my opinion. The only downside, is that they don't have a dance floor, as there literally isn't room for one. I think if there was a dance floor, it would be even better.





Motown/Northern Soul Bar

So I've actually forgotten the name of this bar, but its on the same street as Captain's Bar, just a bit further down. Most nights it's empty, but a few times a week they have themed music nights and when we were there it was Northern Soul night. Mollie and I were the youngest in the bar by at least 20 years if not more, probably more like 30 years.


 It was full of what we call oldies, but my parents were absolutely loving it as all the music was from their time. But I have to say even though I'd only heard of one song throughout the whole night, it was such a laugh and was one of the funniest nights out we had. Just watching everyone else made my night, everyone was in their own little world just going for it and it was so much fun! So I'd definitely recommend going to the themed music nights there.


Metaxa Beach Bar

So we went here one night, it was the night we crashed a wedding reception. We'd heard they did parties every Friday night where there was a fire show with fire dancers and fireworks on the beach and after there was a DJ playing music till 3am.


The first Friday Mollie and I were going to give it a try but we didn't end up going in the end, so we thought don't worry, we've got next Friday, we can have a last night shebang. Unfortunately, on the last night there was a storm, so it was cancelled, so we didn't actually get to go to one of the 'parties'. However, like I said, we did crash a wedding reception one night there, and they did have a DJ playing chart music, which was good.



RESTAURANTS

The Castle Restaurant (To Kaetpo)


This is 100% my FAVOURITE restaurant on the island. It is located right next to St George's Castle, which is very famous on the island. The location of this place is beautiful. It's surrounded by flowers and greenery and of course the beautiful sunsets over the castle at dusk. If we were staying nearer, I would've eaten here everyday, but unfortunately we were about a 45 minute drive away. We still made the trip and ate here about four times throughout the holiday and I looked forward to it every time, just as much as the last time.


The restaurant is owned by a couple, the man is Italian and the woman is English. It's a family run restaurant, you see the granny popping in and out every now and then and also the children. The wife makes, cooks and prepares all the food and the husband is front of house. They are such a lovely couple and are always so friendly and welcoming. They are open till about 5-6pm, depending on if their are customers, so they are more of a lunch than dinner place. However, we went for a late lunch/early dinner a couple of times.


The food is AMAZING! They serve normal dishes, but also serve little tapas style dishes to share. One of their main ideas was to create these little sharing dishes to get people and families to share food and conversation and everything else like that and to just have a lovely, relaxed experience. Each time we went we ordered about 6-7 sharing dishes between the four of us and that was just about right for a main meal. From memory some of the things we ordered were: Greek salad, the dips (which are literally delicious by the way!), prawn balls, croquettes, cheese pies and the meatballs. Everything we ordered was delicious, but the dips especially are SO good! So if you go here, definitely order the dips, which are all homemade and come with little triangles of pitta bread.

Old Times

Now this restaurant is literally a 2 minute walk from our villa, which was very convenient, especially as it was my second favourite place to eat on the island. It's on the road out of Skala towards Poros. We ate here quite a few times too and each time, I always had the same thing which was the small grilled burgers, which are so good! The Greek salad here is also the best we had on the island, but you can share one between four people, as its huge!


All the staff are very friendly and polite and every one of us always enjoyed our meals here, which was important especially for my mum as she is vegetarian, and they did great vegetarian dishes, she loved the vegetarian mousaka. The only down side is that they didn't have Heinz tomato ketchup, which all the restaurants didnt either, but I thought as Old Times was only across the road from our villa, it was acceptable to take my own Heinz to go with my burgers haha!


Mikonos Restaurant

We ate at this restaurant quite a lot last time we came here and got to know the family members who run it, including the grandfather who we learnt sadly passed away in January, which was so sad to hear as we used to sit and talk with him every night about all his times in the navy, bless him.
This restaurant is located on the main street in Skala and is always busy every night. Some people who have been coming to Skala for 25 years every summer, always go back to this place. It's very much a family atmosphere, the staff are all great and always running round like crazy to make sure the service is always great. There's a variety of food served, they pretty much do most things, from traditional Greek dishes, to pizza, pasta, meat, fish, everything. So it's definitely worth a visit if you're staying in Skala.

ARGOSTOLI

One day we decided to go and see what the capital of the island had to offer. It wasn't as big as I expected it to be, but then I was comparing it to London or a big city like Manchester. It was definitely a lot busier than all the other places we've visited, a lot more modern and lively. We went to a bar for some drinks and we did some shopping and had a look around. There was actually lots of really nice, individual shops which I really liked and I actually found one shop in particular which I really liked called 'Ozzie'. It was like a really fashionable boutique, as soon as you walked in, all the staff were so friendly and welcoming, offering help if needed. I found quite a few things that I really liked, some black louboutin inspired heels imparticular, but they didn't have my size, or else they would have definitely been coming home with me. I did find this really nice off-the-shoulder Bardot style black top which I tried on and bought, and I got 20% off too, which is always a plus!




FISCARDO


Another day, we decided to go and visit Fiscardo, which is a picturesque and beautiful Greek harbour village on the Northern tip of Kefalonia. Fiscardo is unique and famous on the island for being the only town to remain virtually undamaged during the great earthquake of 1953, which ruined most of the historic buildings in Kefalonia. It's a very quaint little town, with a harbour, lots of boats and yachts, cute patisseries, bakeries, shops and cafes and restaurants.




We ate lunch at a really nice café place here, right by the harbour, next to the frozen yoghurt shop, which served lunch and cakes. I had a club sandwich which was really nice and was served with chips. We actually got caught in the rain here, as it started to rain SO hard while we were finishing lunch, so we decided to wait it out at the café, rather than get soaked in the rain and risk the windy roads driving back in this weather.





ST GEORGES CASTLE



The Castle of Saint George is located 7 km south east of Argostoli, above the village Peratata. It has a polygonal shape and covers an area of 16,000 sq. m. This Castle was originally built in the 12th century by the Byzantines but it was mostly the Venetians who gave it its present form. In fact, its external walls were built in 1504 by the Venetians. The castle is ruined today and only a few buildings survive. It was not only the time and wars that caused its damages.



This castle also suffered a lot from the earthquake that hit Kefalonia in 1956. At the time of its glory, inside the Castle, there were residences, public buildings, storehouses with food and guns, churches, hospitals, prisons, cisterns of water and generally an organized town. In fact, this Castle was the capital of Kefalonia before Argostoli was made the new capital in 1757. Close to a small square in the castle, you will also see the ruins of the Catholic Church of Saint Nicholas.


WEATHER

We had fantastic weather for 12 out of the 14 days, with sunshine and blue skies and temperatures of over 30 degrees everyday, it was glorious. However, the last 2 days there were storms, thunder, lightening, heavy rain and our electric actually went out at our villa for most of the day which was a worry once it started to go dark, but luckily it came back on just in time. Last time we came here, we came in early September and the weather was brilliant for the whole 2 weeks. This time, I think we left it abit late coming the last two weeks in September, which is why we got a few days of storms. But at least we know for next time!

This last holiday has convinced me that I want to have my wedding abroad. We saw quite a few weddings taking place while we were there, one on the beach, which was just beautiful.


Overall, I had a great holiday, I swam in the pool everyday, I went snorkelling with my best friend, got a good tan, relaxed, ate, drank, read, relaxed, had fun with my parents and Mollie and I laughed everyday. I love that <3




Thanks for reading this post,
I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about Kefalonia and my experiences on this holiday.

LauraJadeJackson
xXx

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Turkey ~ Marmaris, Antalya, Cappadocia



I've done previous posts about summer holidays, but this post in particular talks about a country with people close to my heart.....Turkey!
I have visited Turkey nine or ten times now since 2010 and each visit has been a bit of a roller coaster. They've certainly had their ups and downs, but overall the last five years have been some of the best of my life, and that's all because of the people I've met and one person in particular who I still believe, even after everything that's happened between us, is and always will be the love of my life.
 I was only 16 years old when I met him, he was 18 at the time. Now I'm 22 and he's 24, we've both grown up together, been through his national service together, been through family struggles, family deaths and births, and most important of all, we've experience so many beautiful memories together, which neither of us will ever forget.



Moving on, as I said in my recent post about finishing university, since I handed in my dissertation, I've been enjoying my summer and I've been to Turkey twice already this summer. The first time I went to Marmaris and the second visit was to a place called Side, about an hour from Antalya, and then onto Cappadocia. So I thought I'd share a few of my experiences and memories from these last two trips and recommend some things to do, places to see, hotels to stay at and restaurants to eat in. This post does talk about things and contains photos from throughout the last five years on my trips to Turkey, but if I was to tell and show you everything from the last five years, this post would literally go on forever, so it's just some highlights.

~ MARMARIS ~


So the first trip this summer was to Marmaris........
I've been here four times now. The first time I went, I thought it was ok, but after that, it gets a bit samey, and it's what I call 'tourist Turkey' rather than 'real Turkey'. But Marmaris holds a lot of fond memories for me, which always come flooding back every time I go there, and I have quite a few friends there, so it's always nice to see and catch up with them. I've stayed in a few hotels in Marmaris which are:

 - Emre Beach Hotel (2010)
- Marbella Hotel (2011)
- Golden Rock Hotel (2013)
- Marbella Hotel (2015)

My favourite hotel which i've stayed in, in Marmaris has to be the Marbella Hotel. I absolutely love it and highly recommend it to anyone, it's perfect! Both times I've been, I've stayed in the same room, which is one of the biggest rooms at the front circle of the hotel which overlooks 180 degree views of the sea and beach, its beautiful! Another thing which I love, is that the front of the hotel is literally 5 steps to the beach! It's not an all-inclusive hotel, I'm not really a fan of the whole all-inclusive thing, I think it's nice to be able to go out and eat different food at different places rather than eating the same food in the hotel everyday. After all, the food is one of the best things about Turkey and it's so cheap to eat out, so you may as well take advantage of the low prices! It's also quite a small hotel compared to some of the massive all-inclusive ones which have been built in the last 5 years, but I love it!

(Front of Marbella Hotel)

(Side of Marbella Hotel)

(Pool and sea views from Marbella Hotel)

Each time I've been to Marmaris, I've found some lovely restaurants. In 2010, I found 'Faros Beach' which I loved at the time and ate there most days, sometimes twice a day. However, I went back to eat there this time round and it had gone down hill, so once was enough, I never went back, which was a shame, because in 2010 it used to be THE place to eat. The food, staff, service, and atmosphere used to be great, but not anymore!

(Faros Beach Restaurant)

Luckily, on a walk back to the hotel one night this summer, I found a new restaurant right next door to the Marbella Hotel, called 'Alibey Finedining' which is FANTASTIC! I can't recommend it enough to anyone going to Marmaris. Everything is PERFECT! The food, the staff, the service, the music, the atmosphere, the prices, everything is just great and most of all there's NO HASSLE! I ate here almost everyday, sometimes twice a day for two weeks and was never disappointed. We went to a few different restaurants during the holiday, but they were never as good as Alibey.

(Alibey Finedining Restaurant)

(Me outside Alibey Finedining)

(Me & Ferit, Manager at Alibey, he's so sweet!)


(Me singing at Alibey with the wonderful guitar player Burak)

(Me & Servet, the best waiter!)

(Me & my little Anil, he's such a cutie)

If you've been to Marmaris before, you'll know what I'm talking about when I mention being hassled. It's one of the downsides of Marmaris, and I have noticed it has become ALOT worse in the last 5 years. When I first went in 2010 it was bad enough, but now as more and more all-inclusive hotels are being built, all the bars, cafes and restaurants are fighting for customers to survive, as less people are eating out when its all included in the price they've paid for their holiday. Every single bar, restaurant and café you walk past hassles you to try and get you to come in, and I understand they are fighting to survive, especially now, but it really annoys me, especially when some of them are particularly pushy. I usually just carry on walking and ignore it, but for some people it can be very intimidating. The only times I've not been hassled is when I've been with my Turkish boyfriend at the time or Turkish friends, and then they tend to leave you alone. My advice if you're on your own though and you don't want to get involved with the hassle, is to just ignore it and carry on walking.

Things I'd recommend to do whilst in Marmaris:

Swimming with dolphins



This was one of the best experiences of my life. I've always wanted to swim with dolphins since I was little, and in the past when I've been on family holidays, we've been to the dolphin shows and there's always that time in the show where they look for a child from the audience to volunteer to swim with the dolphins and literally every time I'd always put my hand up and shout "me me me" and my family would be shouting and pointing at me to get picked, but I was never the child to be picked and I was always so sad.



Well in 2010, one of my lifelong dreams came true and it was definitely something I can tick off my bucket list. I swam with dolphins! I would highly recommend it to anyone who's always wanted to do this, its honestly one of the most amazing things I've ever done. The great thing about it was that it wasn't in a big group of people where you get like five minutes with the dolphins. There was just me, my boyfriend at the time, the dolphin trainer and the dolphins, that was it. It was a completely one-one-one, personal experience and something I will never forget. We got to spend about half an hour with the dolphins, swimming with them, playing with them, doing tricks, stroking them, it was honestly amazing.



The place that we went to was right on the beach front near to the Maris Spa & Resort hotel (i think that's what its called). There was a professional photographer taking pictures throughout the experience, so that if you didn't have anybody with you and you wanted pictures you could buy them at the end. But they also let friends and family in to watch and take pictures, my mum and friend came to watch and take pictures while we were doing it, so if you've got someone to take pictures for you, you don't need to buy any at the end. Also the dolphin trainer spoke good English, which was good, as there was a lot of instructions safety-wise and also directions for certain actions to do whilst swimming with the dolphins, so it was good to have that all in good English. I would definitely recommend it to anyone.


Markets


The first time I went to some markets near Marmaris was in 2013 and I went to Iclemer markets, which was really good. It was a huge market, with lots of tents selling all kinds of goods, from clothes, shoes, bags, accessories, jewellery, food, fruit, vegetables, spices, literally everything and anything, you could spend hours there looking at everything. Last time I got lots of really great bargains and really good stuff, so this time when I came back to Marmaris, I wanted to go again because I really enjoyed it. However, apparently it had to close, because all the shop owners in Marmaris were complaining that everyone was going to the markets to buy everything and not going to the shops in Marmaris. So this time I had to find another market. I asked around and heard there was a market in Turunc, which is about 12 miles south of Marmaris. I heard there were boats trips that could take you there, so my mum and I booked a boat trip to Turunc to go to the markets. Turunc is a former fishing village, and has been populated since ancient times as the sea offers a variety of precious resources.



Despite the region's fast development in recent years, the natural beauty Turunc has been preserved. As a resort, the village has won the Blue Flag award in recognition of its clean beach and water quality. The size of Turunc is about 1 km (0.62 mi), taking half an hour to walk from one side to the other. The waterfront features restaurants, bazaars and bars. The town was quite small, but nice. However, when we got to the actual markets, we were a bit disappointed, as compared to the Iclemer markets, they were tiny, and you could look round everything in half an hour. There wasn't as much variety, there were lots of stalls selling the same thing, and there just wasn't as much to look at or buy. It was an ok trip and for someone who hadn't been to the Iclemer markets, they would probably think the Turunc market was good. I say bring back the Iclemer markets!

Boat Trips


Like I said, my mum and I booked a boat trip to take us to the Turunc markets. We'd never booked a boat trip in Marmaris before, and on the whole it was ok. The views from the boat were beautiful and it didn't take too long, only about 30 minutes there and 30 minutes back.


Shopping


Ok, so every girl loves shopping and I think it's always great to go shopping in different countries to get a feel for the culture and what that country has to offer. One thing you'll know if you've been to Turkey before, is that there is A LOT of fake stuff sold in most of the shops. Fake clothes, shoes, bags, jewellery, anything you can think of. Another important point to make about these kinds of shops is that there are different 'grades' of fake goods. Most of the shops in Marmaris sell the lowest grade fakes, which are the cheap imitations that look instantly fake, to anyone who knows what the real items look like. However, there are a small minority of shops which sell some of the higher grade fakes, obviously they are more expensive, you can't get a bag for £10 in these shops like you can with the lower grade fakes, but it depends what you're looking for.
Aside from all the fake stuff being sold, you can find some cultural and typically Turkish items in Marmaris if you want to do that sort of shopping. There's a big shopping bazaar in the centre of Marmaris opposite the Ataturk statue, where you can find all kinds of shops selling traditional/cultural Turkish goods along with the all the fakes etc.

 ~ ANTALYA ~


I've stayed in Side, Antalya about five times, at two different apartment complex's. One called 'Oasis Apartments' and the other called 'Tropicana Apartments' both are part of the 'Kaya Homes' apartment complex's which are lovely 5* apartments varying in size and number of bedrooms and bathrooms etc. Most of the apartments are actually privately owned and either rented out or actually lived in permanently or just for a few months of the year. So there is usually a mix of families who actually own the apartments and also tourists who are renting them. I would recommend the Tropicana Apartments over the Oasis Apartments, just because I prefer that complex. It's nicer in my opinion, it's got bigger outdoor and indoor pools, lots of sunbeds, a big outdoor seating area near the pool, pool café with free wifi and lots of drinks and snacks, a gym, and it's near to local shops if you need bits and bobs.







It's also only about a 10 minute walk from a great restaurant called Kosem which is on the big roundabout opposite the lovely cake and dessert shop/cafe.  Each time I've been to Side, I've eaten at Kosem A LOT sometimes daily. It's handy because it's about a 10 minute walk from the apartments, the food is great and the prices are very reasonable. I found whenever I ate in the centre of Side, the prices were double or triple what they were at Kosem and the food definitely wasn't as good. Plus because I've been so many times now the staff are like old friends which is lovely. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but trust me you won't regret going and eating there, the food is great, and the head waiter speaks excellent English.


 Things I'd recommend to do whilst in Side:

Temple of Apollo



If you go to Side, you've got to visit the Temple of Apollo, it's so beautiful, and it obviously has it's cultural history as well. It's Side's most famous and most photographed landmark, and it is 2000 years old. The temple is dedicated to Apollo, Greek God of light, art and beauty and was apparently given as a token of Anthony's love for Cleopatra.





It's nice to visit during the day so you can see the amazing sea views and see all the detail within the ruin itself. However, I think the best time of day to go to here is at dusk, so you can watch the sun setting over the Temple and the sea, it's so beautiful.



Roman Amphitheatre



A visit to the amphitheatre is also a must in my opinion. It dates from the 2nd century and is constructed as a huge semi-circle which would have seated around 15,000 people. The first time I went to visit it, there was a musical festival happening in Side, and there was lots of different musical events on throughout the week at different locations in Side, some at the beach, some at the Temple of Apollo, some at the amphitheatre etc. So I went to listen to the world famous Viennese Orchestra, along with some world famous opera singers, and it sounded absolutely INCREDIBLE in the amphitheatre.



The acoustics of the music and the singers was amazing and it was a once in a lifetime thing to see and hear. Also all the events at this week long festival were free, which made it even better. However, you can go and visit the amphitheatre any day, not just when events are on, but if you get the chance to go when a  musical event is taking place, I'd definitely recommend going.

Manavgat Waterfalls


Manavgat waterfalls is one of my favourite places to go whenever I've been to Side. It's about 3km north of Manavgat town, which is a short journey from Side on a Dolmus bus. It's so beautiful and peaceful. I could literally go and just sit there for hours, watching the waterfall and listening to the water, it's so calming. I've been here twice now. The first time, it was quite busy with lots of people, both tourists and Turkish families, but this time when I went it was a lot quieter, with a lot less people, which made it even more calming and relaxing. There's also a few cafe's and shops where you can buy trinkets and other things to take home with you. Also the first time I went, there was one café which was literally in water. All the tables and chairs were in water and your feet were in water up to your ankles, which was a fun and different and something I've never experienced before. However, this time when I went, it was gone, which was a shame, because I thought it was really unique.


~ CAPPADOCIA ~


So during my second trip to Turkey, after spending a week in Side, Antalya, I got a flight to Kayseri airport and stayed in Kayseri with some friends of mine for a few days and then went to Nigde, to stay with some other friends. During my stay in Nigde, I went to visit Urgup and Goreme, two of the main towns in Cappadocia. This is the second time I have visited these truly beautiful and magical places. I've really never visited anywhere in the world like it.



Cappadocia is a popular tourist destination, as it has many areas with unique geological, historic and cultural features. Touristic Cappadocia includes four cities: Nevsehir, Kayseri, Aksaray and Nigde.
The most important towns and destinations in Cappadocia are Urgup, Goreme, Ihlara Valley, Selime, Guzelyurt, Uchisar, Avanos and Zelve. There are many underground cities, historic mansions and cave houses for tourists to visit and stay. Cappadocia is full of otherworldly natural sites and is most famous for it's 'fairy chimneys', tall, cone-shaped clustered rock formations. We went to see the famous 'fairy chimneys' one day and they are so unique are magical. They look like something from Harry Potter. If you're ever in Cappadocia, you have to go and see them for yourself. It's such a beautiful place and somewhere definitely not to be missed.




 Hot-air ballooning is very popular in Cappadocia and is available to do in Goreme. Both times I've been, I've really wanted to do a hot-air balloon ride, but I haven't had enough time there to do it. However, it is on my bucket list to do, so hopefully one day, i'll get the chance to go back and tick a hot-air balloon ride over Cappadocia off my bucket list.



So, that about sums up my experiences and recommendations in Marmaris, Antalya and Cappadocia.
Thank you for looking at this post and I hope you've enjoyed reading it.

LauraJadeJackson
xXx