Eski Foça

6/19/15 0 comments

We've gone to Eski Foça (also known as Phocaea) at least 2-3 times now (see I've already lost count).  It's an easy day trip from Izmir and entirely accessible via public transportation.  The bus can be a bit crowded and it takes over an hour, but the town is very quaint and the crystal clear waters are always a joy to walk along.

The area is known for its local population of endangered Mediterranean Monk Seals.  It also is rich with history, including Homer's Siren Rocks.  Other attractions include a local castle, old windmills, boat tours, and a small public beach.

During our visits we mostly walked around the harbors, looking at all of the fish and sea urchins along the way.  One day a man had caught a starfish and let the kids look at it.  Another time some kids had pulled up a sea urchin for us to look at.  While sparse on shells, the area is great for observing natural life in the water.

The kids mostly just like going to the beach though.  Even the time we went in February, they had to get in the water, and the "only up to your knees" rule lasted about 10 seconds.





Doğal Yaşam Parkı (Wildlife Park) Izmir


We love visiting the Doğal Yaşam Parkı and have gone more times than we can count.  I feel like the animal park is one of Izmir's hidden gems.  I have been to many zoos in the US, and while they have been nice, they are often crowded.  This park is spacious, clean, and well decorated.

What keeps me going back to the park though is the amazing views of the animals.  They are frequently active and close to viewing areas.  During our visits, the lions, pumas, tigers, bears, wolves, and hyenas often come within inches of the viewing areas.  In my opinion, these up-close encounters are the best part of the park.

The park is also recognized as having the first and only elephant family in Turkey.  They are also the only Turkish zoo with a rainforest enclosure.

We went often during our first fall here, where we got to see tigers fighting and bears and hyenas walking inches away from us.  We even saw a mother zebra get tranquilized so that they could better care for the baby.  But by far our best trip there was when the wolves stopped what they were doing, looked at us, and came over to the glass to interact with us.

We took Tuğçe there when she came to visit, and it was her first time ever going to the zoo - and she loved it of course.  The petting zoo was open that day and we had some fun encounters with the goats.

We've had some great memories there, and I look forward to going back for more.








Ilica Beach, Izmir, Turkey

5/1/15 0 comments

Ever since we discovered that we would be moving to Izmir, I've had my sights set on going to Ilica.  Today being a Turkish holiday, we set out to make that happen.

We left Karşıyaka, gathered some supplies for the day, and made our way via metro to the buses in Farhetin Altay that depart for Çeşme.  I was surprised to see that these were not the normal dolmuş buses that take you to Urla and other place.  No, these were actual tourist buses, with air conditioning, comfortable seats, and water served to you on your journey.

I was further surprised by the view and the speed of the trip.  I knew the Izmir-Çeşme road was faster, but was surprised to see that it went up through the mountains.  We got to see Izmir from above for the first time, which was a real joy.  We made it to Ilica within an hour (I was thinking it would be 30min longer) but I missed our stop and ended up in Çeşme.  But immediately after hopping off the bus we found a small dolmuş that went where we needed to go.

The boys were absolutely overjoyed to make it to the beach - probably because of our unintentional detour.  We got of at Ilica Central and walked from the seaside cafes down to the beaches.  There was a large stretch of them, and from what I could tell, most were public.  The nicest ones of course were private, but still there were ample beautiful ones to sit down at free of charge.

Our first order of business, however, was finding a bathroom for Aiden and a changing room for the rest of us.  We walked until we found one, which charged 2,5TL for us all to go in.  After that, we walked back down to a place that had little seaweed (there was a bit of it the day we went, but it was avoidable).  We laid out the blankets and the kids took off for the water. 

We stayed and played for nearly 3 hours before getting changed and starting the adventure of finding our way home.  I knew the bus had to go back to Izmir - and frequently - but I wasn't sure where.  So we handled things Turkish style and asked some travel agency at the Sheraton hotel.  I was proud of myself for understanding his directions in Turkish, and set off.

We found the bus we needed, but had an hour until our departure, so we wandered back down and found a cheap place that served kofte sandwiches.  We grabbed some ice cream to complete our day before heading back and catching our bus home.

Kilyos, Istanbul

6/19/14 0 comments

 This week we finally made it to Kilyos.  I had been wanting to go for a long time, but I never quite knew how to get there on my own.  It turned out to be pretty easy, though admittedly it is a little far.  We took the 25E from Ortaköy to Sarriyer, and from there caught the 151RE up to Kilyos.  It took about two hours (including the transfer), but it was a very pretty bus ride all along the Bosphorus.

Once we got off the bus, it was a short walk to the beaches.  All along the way there were markets and shops selling beach supplies.  We got a few snacks and toys for the beach, then continued on our way.

We ended up going to a place called Nonstop Beach.  Normally it is 15TL to get in, but Tuğce negotiated with the people at the beach and got us in for free.  We got there around 9:30-10:00, and the beach was almost completely empty, but they were also still cleaning it.  There was a bit of seaweed on the beach, but we were still able to have a good time there.  The biggest problem was that there were little bugs in the shallow water.  Once you got further out into the deep water, they were not a problem, but it really made wading unpleasant.

We spent almost 6 hours there.  The boys loved the water and it was hard to separate them from it.  Before we left, I also got to go for a short walk along the beach.  I was able to check out a few of the other beaches in the area from the shore, and it looked like Solar Beach and a few others would be nice destinations for our next trip up.

All in all, it made for a bit of a long day (and we all got pretty sunburnt) but it was definitely worth the $2 bus fare to go to the beach for a day!

The Princes' Islands

5/8/13 0 comments

We've visited the Princes' Islands twice so far: once on our own, and once together with my mother-in-law.  They're a little farther away, but the ferry ride out is nice - and cheap - and they make for a nice little escape from Istanbul.

There are four main islands that the ferry stops at: Büyükada ("Big Island"), Heybeliada, Burgazada and Kınalıada.  So far, we've only visited Büyükada.  The ferry takes about 1hr 45 minutes to get there, but the views along the way are magnificent.

Dolmabache Palace and Topkapi
Galata Tower
New Mosque - Eminonu
A view of islands off in the distance and the red rocky shore of another of the main islands
View of one of the smaller islands
The old monestary

The Iskelesi on Buyukada
You arrive at the Iskelesi, which itself is an impressive building, and there are lines of restaurants and shops along the water.  It's a short walk up to the square, where the main line is for the "cabs" -  that is, horse drawn carriages.

There are no cars (except for emergency and municipal vehicles) on the islands, so you get everywhere by walking, biking, or horses.

The main square

On our first trip, we walked up to the square and grabbed a carriage to the park at the top of the hill, where the driver agreed to wait for us for an hour so that we could enjoy the park.  The ride up was picturesque, as was the view from the top.  The park itself was full of free ranging horses and there were shops and cafes nearby.  We stopped in for a small meal before continuing our tour along the island.

The ride back down at sunset was even more amazing, but because of the bumpy carriage ride, most of my pictures didn't turn out so well.  My only regret was that we didn't get to spend more time there, but we needed to make it back in time to catch a ferry back.  We ended up buying tickets on a faster, but slightly more expensive (5TL - still cheap in my book!) ferry line.  It got us home in about an hour and 20 min instead.

The view from the ferry were also incredible.  Istanbul is a beautiful city at night.  Below are some of the images from our journey back.

Davis Family Travels © 2011 | Designed by Interline Cruises, in collaboration with Interline Discounts, Travel Tips and Movie Tickets