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Posted by Tim on Dec 18, 2005
Curling Up With a Book

There is no regular bus service to and from Patara in the winter: when the time came to flee leave, we had to walk the 2km out to the main highway and try to flag down the next bus that went by. After just ten minutes of waiting on the side of the road, we were picked up by an İzmır-bound bus and taken up the coast to our next stop: Fethiye.

Fethiye is a place of stunning natural beauty. To the north and west, a dozen picturesque islands rise above the azure waters of Fethiye bay, shielding the natural harbor from the Mediterranean Sea. To the south and east, a range of craggy mountains are dotted with ancient Lycian rock-cut tombs and one massive Crusader fortress. Nearby are the magnificent beaches of Ölüdeniz and Butterfly Valley and the ghost town of Kayaköy. Like Göreme, this is a place with a lot to offer.

Unlike Göreme, though, the rest of the world has caught on to Fethiye. Familes from England in particular tend to swarm in on package holidays in the summer, when the population of the town swells dramatically. The waterfront is crowded with restaurants, and the hotels are able to charge a lot more than in other parts of Turkey.

That's in the summer, though. When the temperature starts to dip, the tourists depart, and Fethiye goes quiet. Because it is so much larger than Patara, though, it doesn't close down entirely: there are still scores of restaurants and hotels and internet cafes. It just gets quieter, more relaxed, and much, much cheaper.

We spent seventeen days there, which is actually a little ridiculous. Seventeen days in Göreme is entirely defensible because of how much there is to do there, but we didn't acutally do a whole lot in Fethiye.

True, we did hike up the mountain to photograph some of the Lycian tombs. It was a rather taxing climb, but well worth the effort both for the tombs themselves and for the outstanding view of the bay they looked out on.

These huge Ionic facades were carved directly into the face of the cliff, far above present-day Fethiye, nearly 2,400 years ago. From their lofty vantage point you can see beyond the mass of islands that crowd out Fethiye's horizon, to the distant Mediterranean Sea. Other than two adorable local children (who followed us up to see if we would take their photo and mail it to them), we were completely alone up there. It was just amazing.

So, there is that. We climbed up to have a look at the tombs.

But that only took about three hours. Which means 16 days and 21 hours are still to be accounted for.

We didn't make our way down to Ölüdeniz. We didn't hike to Kayaköy. We didn't take a four-day "blue cruise" up the Lycian coastline or a six-hour tour of the islands in the bay. All of these are meant to be spectacular, and in fact they are the reason a lot of people come to Fethiye in the first place, but we didn't do any of them.

Which, I suppose, does beg the question: what the hell were we doing the whole time? The answer, I fear, is not a tremendously exciting one.

We spent most of the time in our hotel room.

There are those, of course, who might argue that it is downright criminal to travel halfway around the world to spend two and a half weeks in your hotel room. But they have not seen the hotel room that we had.

The room we got at the Yacht Plaza Hotel is exactly the reason why visiting Fethiye in the winter is so wonderful. In high season, we could never, never have afforded it. Hell, we could barely afford it in November.

The room was huge, bright, airy, and had a very resort-style feel to it. It had a lovely little table and chairs, two dressers, two bedside tables, a huge closet, a cable TV (5 channels in English!), remote-controlled heating/AC, an electric kettle, and one of the most magnificent bathrooms we've yet had. But what really made the room was the view.

We were in a corner suite, looking out onto the bay on two sides. The massive wrap-around balcony offered 270 degrees of amazing view, from the looming mountains behind us to the island-studded bay before us. You could even see the bay while laying in bed, without even having to sit up.

We spent a lot of time getting our food to go, and bringing it back to our room to eat at the table, or out on the balcony. We bought plates, wine glasses, and candles. There was a huge collection of books available in the lobby, and after spending nine months with little to read, we indulged with extravagance: between the two of us, we read a combined twenty-six books in Fethiye! When it was warm, we'd do our reading out on the balcony, watching the yachts pass by out in the bay. If it got a little chillier, we'd sit out there anyway, but throw on our sweatshirts and brew up a pot of tea to keep ourselves warm. And when it would occasionally get too cold to sit outside, we'd retire to the toasty warmth of our suite, and read in bed snuggled under the covers.

It really was just wonderful.

We've stayed at a few places that really have come to embody perfection to us. Two that spring immediately to mind are the room we had in Punta del Diablo and the isolated little cabin we had in El Bolsón. Like both of those, Fethiye was a place that was very difficult to leave. We absolutely fell in love with our magnificent room and the quirky little harbor town around it, and saying goodbye to them was incredibly hard.

There is also another reason why we both so adore Fethiye, of course, and I suppose I was wrong earlier to claim that we didn't do anything while we were there.

Fethiye, you see, is where I proposed to Jessica. So as you can imagine, it's rather special to us.

Leaving was made all the harder by the fact that we didn't especially have to go. True, we needed to get back to Istanbul in time to take a mid-December bus to Athens. True, we first wanted to visit the city of Marmaris further up the coast, and then head north to take in the ancient ruins of Ephesus. But still, there was no immediate need to leave.

In Punta del Diablo, we left because we couldn't afford another night: we'd run out of money and there wasn't an ATM in town. We eventually left El Bolsón only because we'd made plans to meet up with our friends Paul and Caroline. But in Fethiye, we had to just decide to leave, which was excruciating.

In the end, of course, we did leave. We did make it to Marmaris and Ephesus, and then back to Istanbul. But we'll never forget Fethiye.

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December 18, 2005 at 11:15am
December 18, 2005 at 12:49pm
I don't think it's criminal, but I do think it's crazy. Of course, I've got no business calling anyone else crazy. :)
December 18, 2005 at 1:44pm
I think it's romantic.

And exactly what I would've done. I mean – what's a vacation for, if not to relax in a beautiful setting and positively *consume* as many books (and as much food and tea and wine!) as humanly possible? '-)

Hiking's for all those motivated people! I'm lazy. I'll take a book on a balcony over a hike any day.

December 18, 2005 at 10:06pm
*LOL* It seems that the old saying is true "once a book-worm always a book-worm." The really funny thing is though that I'd probably do the exact same thing… That is if I had an adorable red headed Irish lass at my side. ;)
December 19, 2005 at 5:13am
Please say you also dipped your toes in the water from the docks on warm days.Salty breeze, warm sun, no hurries or worries.
December 19, 2005 at 11:01am
I think that since you are traveling around the world, climbing mountains to ancient cities, diving to see underwater life, and floating above some of the oldest places on earth, it was only right to stay and relax! Oh and Philsie, merry Christmas I figured it would make you happy to be #1 :)!
December 19, 2005 at 12:01pm
Thanks Loofa…
Amie a.k.a. Koreen's sister
December 20, 2005 at 11:32am
I think its sounds perfect…romantic…relaxing. wonderful!
December 21, 2005 at 12:24am
i was experiencing lag on this. came back to say, it just sounds so amazing!
Carried away
December 30, 2005 at 6:41am
A little vacation from you travelling, sounds like a perfect idea. Now I'm curious what you read.

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