Saturday, 29 October 2016

Third visit to Icmeler

Listening to the news it's understandable that people are nervous about visiting Turkey, no-one wants to be in a troubled place, but it's a very large country and Icmeler is at it's most south west point. You only go to that part of Turkey to get to the town, it's not a through way to anywhere else.

We have been to Paris and Brussels, both much nearer to home, and we were not far from Nice this summer, no-one knows what will happen. That being said we were quite prepared not to go to Turkey should any warnings be given but we are so so glad we did - it really is a beautiful place.

This was our third visit to Sentido Sea Star hotel - the first in 2014 when the hotel was new and last year when the hotel was 100% full as it was an immediate 'must stay at' for many Icmeler visitors. Many people who had been staying in the town for years soon chose a holiday at Sea Star.

View over the pool to the dining area - our
room was second balcony down on the left
You can read about those holidays here;  2014 Icmeler the place to relax  -  2015 Beautiful Icmeler

As we travelled the same week each year we knew the flight and transfer times which made our journey quite smooth and easy - although I think the pilot on the way out was new as every turn he made he then had to compensate a little the other way, It was the same with up and down in altitude - I wasn't feeling my best for the last hour in the air !!

Landing at Dalaman it's just under two hours to Icmeler - mainly due to dropping other holiday makers off at hotels in Marmaris which is a bigger town just before Icmeler. The first part of the journey is through Dalaman passing shops, schools and beautiful mosques. After which the road passes through countryside as far as the sea at Akyaka before turning south over the mountains. The view into Marmaris is spectacular, the town being on the east side of a bay with Icmeler on the west. The bay is curved 240 degrees with mountains all around and just one sea route in and out for boats.

From the air - Icmeler is the bay around the small island in the centre of the
photo, Marmaris is where the light dots are and you can just see the sea at
Akyaka in the distance on the right - lovely to fly over on the way home.
This year we had room 421 - one of the end rooms looking straight out to sea. It has a beautiful balcony with glass panels so you can see all the pool, the promenade, the beach and the town. The room has dual aspect patio doors with the balcony wrapping round to join both, perfect as the sun goes down to move round too.

View from our sea facing balcony
Sea Star is an immaculate hotel, everywhere is clean and the staff work so hard. Our room was cleaned every day with fresh towels and a restocked complimentary minibar. The bathroom has an amazing walkin shower with rain shower head as well as the conventional hand held/wall mounted shower hear. The decor, the facilities and the shower certainly help to make it a relaxing holiday.

A welcome from our room maid
Our welcome gift

We were greeted like family by Melis and the hotel staff, it really felt like coming home. As we checked in the lounge barman served everyone with refreshing non-alcoholic cocktails and the bell boy seemed to take everyone to their rooms without anyone waiting in reception. We certainly felt looked after from the moment we arrived.

There was a welcome gift in our room with a lovely letter thanking returning guests. Turkish wine is not at all like wines we are used to, it can appear to be a little 'rough' but is quite enjoyable if chilled first.

We certainly enjoyed our welcome bottle, accompanied by nuts, and dried fruit, whilst enjoying the view from our balcony - relaxed already!

We are not really beach or pool holiday makers, I find it quite uncomfortable to lie on a sunlounger to read and being in the direct sun for long doesn't suit me either. Mehmet is an absolute star looking after the beach and the pool area; sunlounger cushions appear as soon as you arrive and he is an expert on when to put the umbrella up, very much appreciated even on our short visits to the beach. As this was our third trip to Icmeler we had no reason to do lots of sightseeing either. However our week flew by and was quite busy.

To the side of the pool is a covered area with tables and chairs, perfect for sitting in the shade reading (or sewing) whilst enjoying a morning coffee. In the afternoon this is the snack bar area where pizzas, burgers and other snacks are served. The bar is always with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks served non-stop; the mornings often flew by with lunch being served in what seemed like five minutes since breakfast.

The dining room and pool side dining area are kept so clean, the staff are always cleaning, dressing and setting the tables but as with the bell boy you don't notice, it's all done so efficiently and quietly. Breakfast is served 6 - 10 with a late breakfast after, lunch 12- 2 followed by dinner at 7 (with the snack bar open all afternoon) so it is a consistent set up and clear down - our waiter for the week was Sercan, a lovely young lad who remember everyone's preferences which for me was to enjoy a Turkish coffee after lunch and dinner.

Over the week we enjoyed an Italian themed dinner, a Turkish themed dinner and an A La Carte dinner. The first two were as all meals served buffet style but with additional dishes.

I love Turkish night as the tables are laid with beautiful Turkish cloths and the food includes wrapped vine leaves, kofta, baklava and Chef has a full kebab cooking on the outside grill.

The A La Carte meal was available to guests for one of their dinners per stay, we decided to enjoy ours mid way through our holiday. The A La Carte tables are set up on the opposite side of the pool to the main restaurant and is a served meal. It was a four course meal with a cold, then hot starter, a main (we both chose beef and it was superb) and dessert, all served by the lovely Sal who is a credit to the hotel.

It was 'wine tasting' on the night of our special meal, a little surprising in being just one bottle of rose for guests to try, but a very nice aperitif for our dinner.

Wine tasting
Our hot starter
Olive oil cake dessert
Icmeler is a stroll away, along a wide flat promenade past the other large prestigious hotels, although we noticed this year some had already closed for the seasons and most were also quite quiet. The restaurant, shop and boat hire chaps are so friendly, always asking if you'd like a drink or to buy but never pushy if you refuse. I do feel a little sorry for them as it must have been a tough year.

This year we wandered a little further into the town to Old Town, although I think there was still more further down the road. I just couldn't resist two new handbags and new slippers but this year we did resist buying more mosaic items, they are beautiful but we have quite a few pieces from our previous holidays.

We also took the small ferry boat to Turunc, a smaller village just round the bay. It's lovely on the little boat sailing along though the cliffs. Turunc is like a very small Icmeler but closer to the sea with variety of bars along the beach, a row of shops behind and hotels climbing up the hills, one even has it's on vernacular railway.

View from Turunc beach
Looking out to sea
The hotel has two cats, or rather the two cats have the hotel as they are in fact wild. They wander around the pool area and the outdoor dining tables, however they do not jump on the chairs or tables, and they do not enter the actual hotel. Some guests give them tip bits and if invited they will sit on the outdoor sofas for some fuss. Last year the ginger cat seemed to be my constant friend if I was outside. He even arrived the morning we left to say good bye.

We'd been outside no more than two hours before he came to us, no noise just sitting by, another warm welcome back. At night he'd find us and sit on the sofas, or if I called he'd come running. He did have a few other favourite guests and some nights chose their company. Our last night he at with us all evening, the next morning whilst enjoying a final coffee he just appeared, let me pick him up for a few minutes fuss then calmly walked away. He's a lovely creature who I hope will stay safe over the winter (he already has a few bits missing on his ears and this year had a scratch on his nose)

My hotel friend
This holiday really is our chill down before coming home for the winter. The view from our room is something I will never tire of - the way the hills roll into the sea, the sun coming up, the sky turning red reflecting the sunset behind us and in the moonlight. It is just stunning.

Even on a cloudy day the view is amazing 
Sun rise 

Thank you Sea Star for another amazing holiday - we are missing the hotel, the view and all the staff already. It certainly is a special place where time doesn't matter and we can really relax.

Another great time in Turkey 

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Dieppe and Portsmouth

Last month we had two short breaks in one. For her 80th birthday the family gave Hubby's mum a luxury hotel break in Brighton so we drove her and her partner down, before driving on to Newhaven where we caught DFDS' Seven Sisters ferry to Dieppe.

We haven't travelled this route or with this company for many years; a very good crossing on a very nice ship. As the crossing was just four hours we didn't book a cabin but spent nearly an hour watching the white cliffs disappear before enjoying fish and chips in the restaurant. Before we knew it we could see Dieppe; it is certainly a skill to get the ship in the small port and turn it round before docking.
On board the Seven Sister's with a lovely glass
of my favourite wine Sancerre. 
The Seven Sisters 

It was dark by the time we arrived in Dieppe but the sat nav easily found our hotel. We like Accor Hotels and had chosen to stay in their Ibis as not only do we like this chain but it was in walking distance of our favourite restaurant - Flunch.

Thursday morning we were up fairly early and off to Auchan. One of France's largest supermarkets we enjoy shopping for many food/wine items to bring home. But first was breakfast in one of the bar/cafe's just inside the shopping complex.

It was lovely to wander round looking at the many promotions and french goods we love, especially as we were not doing a holiday food shop and trying to plan meals as we do in the summer. Our trolley had quite a variety of goods; wine (of course), beer, sirops (cordials), hand wash, toothpaste, vanilla sugar, biscuits, sweets - all the good things.

We have travelled through Dieppe in the past but never stayed to look around - in fact neither of us had realised their was a castle. We drove and parked just above it and wandered along expecting to pay to enter but to look around was free, payment was just for the museum which we didn't visit. The views were amazing, looking right across the town and watching the other DFDS ship set sail for England.

Dieppe Castle
A double drawbridge
Cannons and firing holes
Beautiful turrets
Inside the grounds
View across Dieppe
DFDS ferry sailing back to England 
After visiting the castle we moved the car into the town centre and enjoyed a lovely lunch at one of the harbourside cafes - although I wasn't impressed when the waiter tried to tell me their Sancerre was a very good pinot grigio !!!

The town itself had a couple of pedestrian streets with a mix of buildings - we found a Leffe bar which had we seen earlier would have been our lunch stop. The church in the centre made me feel quite sad - it was in such poor state of repair. Inside the once beautiful painted walls were covered in damp and beginning to crumble, as was the roof, so badly that across the nave was a large net to catch falling masonry. The carving had weathered to be unrecognisable - it will cost a lot of euros to repair and renovate this ancient building.

Leffe Bar
After enjoying an early evening drink on our hotel's patio we strolled back to the Auchan shopping cntre for dinner at Flunch. It's a well known chain restaurant where you choose your starter, dessert and any drinks at the self service area before going to the check out.

The cashier gives you a voucher for your chosen main meal and after settling at your table you take the voucher to the grill area where your meat is cooked just for you. You can then help yourself to an array of hot vegetables, chips, rice, pasta or potatoes.

To my delight is was 'moules a la volonte' which means I had a bowl of mussels and once eaten returned to the grill with my bowl of empty shells for it to be refilled ! You can do this as often as you like - some people went up three or four times. Of course you can also have as many chips or other hot veg as you like as with the other meats !

My amazing dessert at Flunch 
Friday was our return day to England - another good crossing on Seven Sisters which didn't seem like 4 hours at all. Arriving in Newhaven we drove along the coast to Brighton to meet Nick's Mum and partner before continuing our journey together to Portsmouth.

Unusually for us we stayed in a guest house as opposed to a hotel chain. The journey took quite a while due to Friday night traffic and many roundabouts on the A27. Our host was there to greet us although she doesn't live in the guest house. Our rooms were very spacious and nicely decorated.

After a little stroll round and a glass of wine at a water side pub to watch the Wright Link and Brittany Ferries sailing in and our of port we returned to the guest house to share a bottle of red wine from France. It was a very cosy lounge where we could see the ferries from the window.

Relaxing in the cosy guest house lounge 
Brittany Ferries Normandie - my favourite boat that we
sail to France on each summer - lovely to see her at night
Saturday we took Nick's mum and partner up the Spinnaker Tower - wow what a view. The had recently been on holiday to the Isle of Wight, sailing from Portsmouth so it was nice to see the island and the ferries making the crossing. I was very pleased to see one of the Wright Link ferries is called St Clare (correct spelling).
Stunning view from the Spinnaker Tower
Family photo up high
Busy port traffic 
Looking inland
The Spinnaker Tower
We had a great day around Portsmouth, taking a bus to Southsea and watching the Hovercraftgunwharf arrive from The Isle of Wight. Of course we got covered in sand when she left again. Southsea pier had the usual attraction, it would have been rude not to have an ice cream, complete with flake.

Saturday night we returned to Gunwharf Quays for dinner although I thought I was back in Dieppe as we dined in Cafe Rouge and I had mussels ! Portsmouth is a lovely place to stay, so much to see whatever your interests.

The breakfast in our guest house was lovely, a great start to Sunday as before travelling home we visited Porchester Castle. It was lovely walking along the shore in the early morning looking back across to Portsmouth.
Looking back to Portsmouth
Porchester Castle
Quite a busy few days with such variety, it was lovely to pop over to France and equally as nice to spend a few more days in our favourite UK port. Next week we're off to Turkey - winter sun, perfect!