After two flights, the first on a plane amusingly named "BATMAN" (yes, of course I checked out the pilot---what do I look like? How dumb would that have been if the Dark Knight was the one flying us and we didn't notice?) and two more turkey sandwiches, we were met in Izmir and driven down the coast along the Aegean Sea, past groves upon groves of olives and past villages, up a winding road, then a gravel and dirt road, and finally our destination, 2 of the cottages at Nisanyan House.
Built and run by "Turkey's most feared hotel critic," who one acquaintance of ours referred to as a bastard, though I think he meant it in an admiring sort of way. Here's the man. (below) He seems a fiercely intellectual but welcoming sort of fellow. And his place...oh, his place...
Nevzat, our friend and travel agent, had given Nisanyan House his highest recommendation, particularly for the breakfasts, and we were looking forward to it. Described as a "luxury farm," none of us quite had a clear idea of exactly what that meant.
What it meant was:
Tucked away at the top of a valley were these rustic (in a good way) cottages of stone and wood, looking as though they were a hundred years old, with white curtains blowing in the breeze, little beds and minimal, charming furnishings. To get to them you had to enter a gate, meander a ways though an extensive and well-planned garden of, among other things, lillies and lavender and rosemary, peach and olive and almond trees, alive with frogs and dragonflies thanks to the water features, overlooking scenes like this one:
a place to explore, to relax, to dream.
Gorgeous, freshly cooked breakfasts every morning on the veranda, with the sound of donkeys braying and the nonstop singing of birds,
and friends to be made. Not only did Thomas and Bethy figure out that the two ladies in the kitchen house would welcome them at any time, give them treats (a favorite was strawberries liberally dusted with powdered sugar) between meals and keep them readily supplied with little cups of apple tea,
but they also found the hutch of ducklings
wandered a trickling stream lined with white birches, a real novelty for desert children, chased chickens, chased and caught what must have been the world's slowest frogs. (Frogs that I had to go threaten once because their amorous and constant croaking was awfully persistant. They shut up right away and gave us a good long time without their chorus, thankfully.)
We all befrended this tiny, black-and-white and heavily pregnant cat Bethy named 'Snowy Night'.
Here you see Thomas communing with the sweet feline on the veranda, which was a blissful place to relax on cushions, reading a book, play a game of chess or backgammon, write, talk, or not talk. It was all good.
More often than not, if we were there long enough, lovely edibles would magically make an appearance to further our enjoyment.
That veranda, with the view, where you could lazily watch someone walking the steep trails across the way with a dog, or driving a tractor, or donkeys swishing their tails far away, was also an excellent place to enjoy this in the evenings:
This being Raki.
Raki is an anise-flavored alcohol, the Turkish version of Ouzo. You're supposed to add water to either of these alcoholic spirits to drink them, turning the clear liquid swirly and then opaquely white. Believe it or not, this reaction has a name, the Ouzo Effect. (If you don't believe me, feel free to Google it.)
We, however, drink it straight, not knowing any better at first, and then enjoying the macho-esque factor of doing so, and the admiration garnered from the locals for it. Within three days of being in Turkey I'd bought Mike a T-shirt that says, unabashedly,
'RAKI IS THE ANSWER
I forget the question'
He enjoyed wearing it quite a bit, not unlike supporting your favorite sports team.
Good, straighforward fun, and an effective way to counteract all that amazing clean country air.
So, glass of Raki, handknitted wrap, stars overhead going on forever, those were some lovely nights.
The layout of our cottage was two rooms, with an open porch between where the children would leave their found treasures...oranges right off the tree and pinecones were big with Bethy and Thomas.
Also between the two rooms was a hammam bathroom, which in this case translated into a domed room with marble open shower in the center, greenery outside windows.
Staying at Nisanyan was all the good things I associate with camping...and none of the bad. Colleen and Pat's cottage was as charming as ours, and there was a white marble swimming pool in another quiet nook in the hillside that the kids braved despite its cold spring water. The throughtful, whimsical details really made for an amazing stay. I took so many photographs it's not funny.
Best of all, this gem is in a perfect location to set out from for day trips, which is exactly what we did for the next week.
But more on that next time...