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Trip Report Tedgale Turkey Trip Report: Istanbul and the Aegean in Springtime

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This has the potential to be a very long report.

We were in Turkey for only 12 nights -- 5 in Istanbul and 7 along the Aegean coast, between Izmir and Fethiya. But we saw a LOT in that time and have so many observations and recommendations to record!

I'll start with the tombstone information and supplement it with a chronological account.
We booked flights KLM Ottawa-Toronto-Amsterdam-Istanbul and return Istanbul-Amsterdam (2 night layover)-Toronto-Ottawa. We took advantage of one of KLM's frequent 4 day sales in December. It offered 4 or 5 destinations for deeply discounted prices. We could have flown Ottawa-Istanbul return for $790, w/ a free stopover in Amsterdam.

They also offered Business Class seats for an amazing $2000 return, so we decided to take advantage of that rare opportunity.

The week we were to fly, we got notice that the Toronto flight had been cancelled and that we would be put on a later flight -- one that would entail a long layover in Amsterdam and a horribly late arrival in Istanbul. We were able to re-book to fly out of Montreal instead -- one of the few advantages of living in Ottawa is its position between the 2 main departure cities in eastern Canada.

This allowed us to compare Business Class on the two routings. The Toronto inbound flight used a larger and newer plane, with fancier seating than the Montreal flight offered. Clearly an inducement to fly via Toronto next time.

Both flights were trouble-free and bang on time.

KLM, in my experience, offers the most comfortable seating in economy and the nicest service on flights to western Europe -- and often the best prices, especially if you get one of their frequent seat sales. Even if I want to fly to France, I do my search on the KLM website because they seem to offer more flexibility in routings than the website of their parent company, Air France.

Service on all our flights was remarkably good, particularly on the AMS-Toronto leg.

I had a personal recommendation from a friend for a hotel in the Sirkeci district of Istanbul. Apart from that, I used Tripadvisor to identify likely hotels, then did some other brief checking via Fodors and other travel sites. It was not hard to find places to stay. The fact it was off-season meant there were some very good rates and lots of availability -- at one lovely hotel, we were the only guests!

Here is where we stayed:
1. Nights of April 12-16, departing Tuesday April 17:
Faros Hotel Sirkeci (90 Euros/ night including breakfast and city taxes)

Hudavendigar Caddesi No 5,
Sirkeci / Istanbul / Turkey
Tel : +90 212 514 98 28
Fax : +90 212 514 98 27

2. Nights of April 17, 18, departing Thursday April 19:
Hotel Bella (70 Euros/ night including breakfast)

Hotel Bella Ataturk Mah.
St. John Street No: 7
Selcuk, Izmir 35209/ TURKEY
Tel: 0090 232 892 3944
Fax: 0090 232 892 0344

3. Night of April 19:
Baga Boutique Hotel (60 Euros/ night including breakfast -- a fantastic deal)

Baga Butik Otel
Gümrük Sokak No: 3
Akyaka Beldesi,
Tel: 0252 243 45 50
Fax:0252 243 45 58

4. Nights of April 20, 21, departing Sunday April 22:
Efe Hotel (69 Euros/ night including breakfast)

Efe Hotel Göcek
Cumhuriyet Mahallesi Likya Caddesi No:1
Göcek - Fethiye, MUGLA, TURKEY
Tel: + 90 252 645 26 46 Pbx
Fax: + 90 252 645 12 36

5. Night of April 22, departing April 23:
Ayapam Boutique Hotel (70 Euros per night including breakfast and dinner!)

Ayapam Boutique Hotel
Kale Mah. Bahce Sok. No: 2 / 1,
Pamukkale 20280, TURKEY
Tel: 0258 272 22 03/04
Fax: 0258 272 22 05

Night of April 23, departing April 24:
Club Caravanserail (70 Euros including breakfast)

Club Caravanserail/ Okuz Mehmet Pasa Kervansayi
Atatürk Bulvarı No : 2
09400 Kusadasi Turkey
Tel : +90 256 614 4115
Fax: +90 256 614 2423

Of these, the simplest was the Hotel Bella, in Selcuk. I found its "Ottoman" decor a bit frumpy. But the owner and staff were very engaging, the location has charm (you are opposite the Basilica ruins, dating to the 6th C AD) and the food they serve is plain but good.

We chose Selcuk, as many have, for its proximity to Ephesus, a major destination on this trip. If I were to visit Ephesus again, I might stay in or near Kusadasi -- far more touristy but only 30 minutes from Ephesus and far livelier than Selcuk.

The site of the Akyaka hotel, the Baga Boutique hotel, is superb -- a hidden cove with excellent facilities for enjoynig the outdoors. Some reviewers have complained of the proximity of a small commercial harbour. We saw no boat traffic the day we were there.

The Efe Hotel is not on the waterfront but it has a spacious garden and a terrific pool. The garden is a little dull and a bit weedy, unlike the immaculately groomed grounds of the Baga. But this is a tiny quibble.

The Ayapam Hotel is a good deal, since it includes half-board. Reviewers have commented that the construction is a bit flimsy and it will not wear well. That's a very fair point -- it's already starting to look a bit barked-up. But it is very central to Pamukkale and you can walk to the cliffs, if you wish.

The Club Caravanserail is an historic caravansary (1618) built by order of a Pasha who wanted to develop the town that today is large, bustling Kusadasi. The stone building is most impressive -- crenellated stone walls, huge interior courtyard, grand arched balcony running around the entire upper floor. Rooms are spartan and furnished in "Ottoman" style. The heavy wooden furniture has seen long service. But bathrooms are good, meals are very good and the service is charming.

I was delighted to find the manager studied at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and his daughter is currently enrolled at St Mary's University in Halifax.

Since a picture is worth 1000 words, I am attaching a link to an album of photos. Though primarily about food (I'll describe our meals and the restaurants we patronized, later in this report) it records all the hotels named above:

I'll pause now and return with a summary of our high-points -- in Istabul and along the Aegean coast

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