The Secret of finding the Best Turkish Small Hotels

Even though we’ve spent quite a bit of time in Turkey over the last couple of years, it is only recently that I have learnt the secret of finding a fabulous small hotel there.

Last year we spent six weeks on the road touring a large part of central Turkey. From the Black Sea to Cappadocia, Gaziantep, Hatay and Konya and the southern coast we travelled, booking our accommodation at the last minute when we knew the time had come to move on.


Turkish Small Hotels

Nisanyan Evleri Hotel
This year we arrived in Turkey from the Greek Islands and headed to Sirinice, not far from Ephesus. Surprisingly I had booked a hotel here for the night… the Nisanyan Evleri.

The Secret of Finding the Best Turkish Small Hotel

The town of Sirinice

This fabulous, little hideaway hotel above the old town of Sirinice, has cottages hidden amongst the trees.  The cottages are all different but equally inviting. The pool is hidden in the trees too. You can see glimpses of it as you walk the tree lined path to your cottage. As with many of these hotels, the Turkish village breakfast will keep you going all day especially if you are about to tackle the crowds at nearby Ephesus.

Nisanyan Evleri Hotel, Sirinice

The Nisanyan Evleri Hotel in Sirinice

I suggest that you stay at least two nights…it will give you the time to take the six minute walk down into the village. Walking back up the hill takes a bit longer!!


The Tas Otel
Our next hotel was just as fabulous. Alacati is a small town that is a popular summer destination for Turks and tourists alike.

The main street of Alacati

The main street of Alacati

The Tas Otel opened in 2001 and was one of the first boutique hotels in a town that was once a Greek town. Walking into the hotel, you feel as though you are entering a private home. The seven rooms are tastefully decorated in keeping with the feel of the beautiful stone building. The hotel’s position, on the edge of the town, is easy to reach by car (follow their directions on the web site) and at the start of a lovely walk through this pretty town of bougainvillea covered stone buildings with blue trim! Don’t miss cake and tea at 5pm! They’ve even published a great little recipe book of the cakes they make. Your gift is waiting for you in your room!

Tas Otel Alacati

Tas Otel in Alacati

The Turkish Small Hotels Association

By the time we arrived in Istanbul I was wiser. Along the way, I had realised that both these hotels are members of an association of hoteliers, the Turkish Small Hotels Association.


In Istanbul we were the guests of two hotels that belong to this group.

Armada Pera Hotel.
I do love the European side of the Istanbul! It’s not because of the shopping on nearby Istiklal Caddesi or the fabulous restaurants in the area (well maybe a little!) but because you are so central to exploring so many different areas of the city.

Istiklal Caddesi, Istanbul

Istiklal Caddesi at night

The Armada Pera Hotel was in a great spot for all of this…..a three minutes walk to Istiklal Caddesi, 5 minutes to the Talabarsi market on the other side of the main street, 5 minutes to Galata Tower, 10 minutes to Taksim, a little longer to Nisantasi and 10 minutes to Cihanger.  A ten minute walk across the Galata Bridge would take you Sultanahmet where another world awaits.

As well as this you are staying in a little bit of Turkish history. The hotel was once the Parma Apartment House, built by   Paul Parma, a tailor to the sultan. Renovated in 2013, the art nouveau features have been kept and memorabilia from Parma’s life are on display through out the hotel.

But one you’re inside your room its a different story. Smartly decorated rooms, Chic and modern marble bathrooms, lovely toiletries, even a Nespresso machine….you’ll be very happy here. And, as with the other hotels we stayed at that are members of the association, the staff are so genuinely welcoming and helpful.

Armada Pera Hotel, Istanbul

The Armada Pera Hotel in Istanbul


Sirkeci Mansion Hotel
We also stayed on the other side…something I have not done for a few years now! Our hotel in Sirkeci, the Sirkeci Mansion Hotel lies between the waterfront of Eminönü and the historical sights in Sultanahmet….A fabulous position close to everything.

Gulhane Park in Istanbul

Gulhane Park in Istanbul

We wandered through the busy restaurant lined streets of Sirkeci, walked in nearby Gülhane Park and returned to the historical sights in Sultanahmet during the day and again at night. With the Gülhane tram stop only fifty metres from the hotel we popped back to Beyoglu for dinner and headed to Besiktas. From the nearby Sirkeci train station we could be exploring the markets of Kadiköy on the Asian side in no time!

The hotel was a delight to return to every afternoon. Our room had the biggest bed you have ever seen, the bathroom was modern and small thoughtful touches were everywhere…welcoming letters from the owner, small bowls of turkish delight, complimentary afternoon tea, a fabulous breakfast buffet and again, brilliant staff. If you upgrade to a deluxe room, a large balcony overlooking Gulhane Park awaits you.


Sirkeci Mansion

Sirkeci Mansion Hotel in Istanbul

But the other reason we’ll be returning to Sirkeci Mansions is to take one of the free tours they they offer their guests. I’m going to make sure I stay on a Monday to take the culinary walk through Sirkeci and the cooking class in the evening. I’ll definitely be there on a Wednesday to join the guide on a trip to the Fatih market and I may even stay till Saturday so I can learn the secrets of the old trades and the wholesale businesses behind the Grand Bazaar. This means I’ll be there for Thursdays wine tasting!


The secret of finding the Best Turkish Small Hotels.

These tours are part of the vision of Faruk Boyaci, the owner of Sirkeci Mansions, to introduce guests to the the area in which they are staying and to promote Sirkeci, an area of which he is incredibly proud.

Faruk started the Turkish Small Hotels association for exactly these reasons. He realised that more and more tourists want to experience the lifestyle around them and enjoy the cultural traditions of the people amongst whom they are staying.

Turkish hospitality is renown. The turkish people are probably the most friendly you will meet. Turkish food is addictive and their culture fascinating. We all want to experience this when we visit Turkey.

The group started with a few hoteliers who thought as Faruk did….owners who have a vision not only for their hotel but for their town and area in which they live. People like Ms. Zeynep Öziş, the owner of the Tas Otel who is also the vice president of the group. Since the day her hotel opened in Alacati she has promoted the town and helped make it the place it is today…a town you should not miss!

Today the 250 members of the Turkish Small Hotels Association are in twenty nine towns across Turkey…and the number is growing but as Faruk explained to me, only those that have the same philosophy will be admitted.


How to Book a Turkish Small Hotel

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The hotels are easy to book. Just open the Turkish Small Hotels web site Turkish Small Hotels and fill in the dates and the town you are planning to visit. Don’t forget to hit the translate button to read about the hotel in English.

Turkey is a fascinating country and I can’t wait to return and explore more of the country. Turkish Small hotels will only make it easier!


How do you look for your accommodation in Turkey? 


Discloser: Whilst my stay in Istanbul was complimentary, we paid the full price for our stays in Alacati and Sirinice.



Other articles you may enjoy:
An Introduction to Istanbul for the First Time Visitor
Your Guide to Istanbul:What to do
Breakfast in Istanbul
Highlights of our Turkey Road Trip


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Exploring Venice by Boat

Walking the back streets of Venice is one way to see the sights but only by exploring Venice by boat can you truly appreciate the magic of this city.

It had a been a few years since we were last here so when Walks of Italy offered to show us their Venice from the comfort of a spacious motor boat, we graciously accepted.

We’d walked the Riva degli Schiavoni quite a few times during the days prior to the tour but the minute we were on the water, the whole feeling changed. The Doge’s Palace is, for me, one of the most beautiful buildings in a town full of magnificent buildings. To see it from a distance with the Bridge of Sighs adjoining it, was a new experience.

Exploring Venice by Boat

The Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs


Exploring Venice by Boat

Leaving St Mark’s Square


After a few minutes crossing the water, it was time to explore the narrow canals that criss cross through the island.

Exploring Venice by Boat


Exploring Venice by Boat

One of the overgrown private gardens we saw.


Having a guide makes Venice comes to life. Isabelle told us about private homes we passed, pointed out wonderful private gardens, old historic churches and little anecdotes about everyday life.

Exploring Venice by Boat

Our Walks of Italy Guide showing us the sights of Venice by boat


Exploring Venice by Boat

There’s still buildings in need of restoration!


The tide was quite high on the day of our tour. More than once we had to duck down as low as possible as we passed under a bridge. When the tide is particularly high, the route of the tour needs to be changed as it’s impossible to pass under some of the bridges.

Exploring Venice by Boat


Exploring Venice by Boat


Venice’s wonderful setting, it’s unique canals and historic buildings has seen it listed as an UNESCO world heritage sight. The exterior of buildings cannot be altered in any way.  This was explained to us as we passed the Hospital SS.Giovanni e Paolo in Castello. This building was originally the Scuola Grande di San Marco. In 1819 it became an Austrian military hospital and now it is the main hospital in Venice. Not that you would know this from the outside. There are no signs allowed on the exterior. The only sign that it was a hospital was the ambulance moored down the side of the canal.

Exploring Venice by Boat



Exploring Venice by Boat


Next door in the Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo, stands the church of the same name where many of the Doges of Venice are buried.

One place that I must come back to and visit.

Exploring Venice by Boat

Basilica del Santi Giovanni e Paolo

Exploring Venice by Boat

Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo



We crossed the Grand Canal and headed through to the Dorsoduro area of Venice. Historic buildings that we had passed on the vaporetto now had a name and a history.

Exploring Venice by Boat

Musee di Storia Naturale


Exploring Venice by Boat

The subject of many of William Turner’s paintings: Chiesa de San Stae


And the magnificent Rialto Bridge that crosses to the famous Rialto Markets

Exploring Venice by Boat



Being the week after the George Clooney wedding, the Aman Hotel was of interest to us all!

Exploring Venice by Boat

The Aman Hotel


We then disappeared up another side canal and stopped in front of one of the last remaining gondola repair shops or squero as they are called. There was once over 10,000 gondolas in Venice but now the number is down to about 400. In a town of stone buildings, this wooden structure that dates back to the 17th century, is a rarity.  This is one of the reasons I love taking tours….you are shown places that you may never have found.

Exploring Venice by Boat



Exploring Venice by Boat


It was then back onto the Grand Canal and time to head to our last stop of the day…..

Exploring Venice by Boat

The Grand Canal with the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute in the background


Exploring Venice by Boat

Palazzo Barbarigo. Whilst built in the 16th century the glass mosaics were added in 1886 by the owners who owned a glass factory in Murano.


Exploring Venice by Boat

Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute



San Giorgio Maggiore Island

This island at the tip of the island of Giudecca island was originally home to a monastery that was built in 982. In 1856 the existing church, The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore was built to plans designed by Palladio. Today the island is the headquarters of the Cini Foundation Arts Centre. It also has one of the best views of Venice from the top of the bell tower!


Exploring Venice by Boat


At the time we were in Venice, the Architectural Biennale was taking place.  This installation, The Sky over Nine Columns, by Heinz Mack had pride of place in front of the church.  Nine columns, seven and a half meters high and covered in gold mosaics stood on stark contrast to Palladio’s architecture.

“As a manifestation of the human being standing upright, the column is the earliest element in the history of architecture and forms a direct relation between earth and sky. The golden mosaic consisting of over 800,000 tesserae is an example of the long tradition of local craftsmanship, representing Venice’s early cultural relations between Orient and Occident.” *

* Reference: The Cini Foundation


Exploring Venice by Boat

The juxtaposition of old and new



The Sky over Nine Columns

‘The Sky over Nine Columns’ by Heinz Mack


Maybe it was the grey day but there was hardly anyone here….A surprise considering the magnificent views that were to be had from the top of the bell tower. Thankfully there was a lift to the top…..

Exploring Venice by Boat

Looking towards the Cipriani Hotel and Giudecca Island


Exploring Venice by Boat

The maze in the gardens of the Monastery


Exploring Venice by Boat

The view towards St Marks Square and the Doge’s Palace



Exploring Venice by Boat

View from the Bell Tower of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore


I’m a great believer of wandering around a city and getting lost. Venice is the perfect place for this but Venice is famous for it’s canals and exploring these by boat adds another dimension to the uniqueness of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Thank you Walks of Italy for showing us Venice by boat.



Our tour was the Venice Boat Tour: Grand Canal and San Giorgio Maggiore Island Tower Climb.

Walks of Italy have many other tours available in Venice that include a walking tour and gondola ride,  different visits to St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace, a fabulous Food Tour and Chiccheti Tasting and private tours to Murano and Burano. All the information and pricing is on their web site: Walks of Italy-Venice

Walks of Italy also have tours in Rome, Florence, Pompei, Tuscany and Siena, Umbria, Milan and Puglia.


Disclaimer: Our tour was complimentary.



Other articles you may enjoy:
The Sicilian Town of Noto|
Early Morning in Rome
5 Places to Visit in Turin
Milan’s Magnificent Duomo



I have linked up with Sunday Traveller where you can enjoy more tales from around the world.

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London’s Remembrance Day Poppies

At 11am on the 11th November 1918 World War 1 officially ended.

Since then, this day that was originally known as Armistice Day and later as Remembrance Day, remembers those that lost their lives for their countries. Parades and wreath laying ceremonies take place with most of the country stopping at 11am for one or two minute’s silence depending on where you are.

This year marks the centenary of the start of World War One.

London has chosen to commemorate this day by covering the lawn in the moat around the Tower of London with 888,246 ceramic red poppies that each represent a British death in World War 1. Over the summer, the poppies have been added one by one by volunteers with the last poppy to be planted on the 11th November.

Called ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ this fabulous art installation is the work of British artist Paul Cummins and set designer Tom Piper. It is one of the most moving memorials I have seen since the visiting the 9/11 Memorial in New York.


London's Remembrance Day Poppies


London's Remembrance Day Poppies


London's Remembrance Day Poppies


As you can imagine, the display has been incredibly popular. Tower Hill tube station was closed because of the congestion on the day we visited and the paths were packed as we walked from nearby Monument station. Even so, everyone politely took their turn at the railings and we were able to see this wonderful sight from a few different vantage points.


London's Remembrance Day Poppies


It’s hard to see in the shadows but on this side, poppies flow from one of the windows in the Tower.

London's Remembrance Day Poppies


London's Remembrance Day Poppies


And from the Thames River side, a cascade of red poppies comes over the bridge to the Tower…

London's Remembrance Day Poppies


London's Remembrance Day Poppies

The poppies have all been sold and the installation was due to be dismantled after November 11th but it has just been announced that the display will remain for an extra fortnight before two parts of the installation will go on tour before finally finding a permanent home in the Imperial War Museums in London and Manchester. If you’re lucky enough to be in London and haven’t seen this, it really is one display not to be missed!


Were you able to see the poppies? Did you find it a moving display?



You may also enjoy:
Anzac Day at Villers- Bretoneux
Albany’s ANZAC Centenary


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Albany’s ANZAC Centenary

On November 1st, 1914 the first convoy of ships departed from Albany in Western Australia taking over 30,000 troops and 7477 horses from Australia and New Zealand…the ANZACs… to the battlefields of World War One. After training in Egypt, most headed to Gallipoli.

In the convoy were 26 Australian transport ships and ten New Zealand transport ships escorted by three warships. The second convoy that left on December 31st, 1914 was smaller and unescorted comprising of fifteen Australian ships and three new Zealand ships.

For many, Albany was their last glimpse of Australia and the people of Albany commemorate this day. This year, being the one hundredth anniversary, huge celebrations are planned that will lead into next years Anzac Day Centenary.

A dawn service taking place on November 1st at Albany’s ANZAC Peace Park overlooking King George Sound where the ships were moored will remember those who left on this day and those who did not return.


ANZAC Park-17


The Anzac Peace Park at Mount Clarence was commemorated in 2010 in readiness for the anniversary.

The large reliefs at the entrance to the park reminded me of similar drives we made last year as we toured Australia’s War Memorials in the Somme Valley in France after the Anzac Day Dawn Service at Villers-Bretonneux.



The Avenue of Honour then takes you further into the park. The trees lining the drive have plaques beneath them in memory of soldiers lost in later wars.

ANZAC Park-2


You then need to take the steps to the top of Mt Clarence where the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial stands. If you are unable to manage the steps, you can be dropped at the top of a side road near the memorial but there is no parking here.

ANZAC Park-3


As you climb the steps, take time to read the words on the plaques that are dotted along the way that tell of life on the ships and at war.

ANZAC Park-16


ANZAC Park-13

These particular excerpts were written by AB ‘Banjo’ Patterson, one of Australia’s most famous poets and songwriters who wrote the man from Snowy River and Waltzing Matilda. He was on the first convoy as a journalist, continuing on to London after the troops disembarked in Egypt.

He wrote:

Then there is a stir in the stern, a gliding, oily rush of water, which tells us that the screw is turning at last.

Now is seen a very pretty evolution as the the leader draws out past the lighthouse and turns sharply to the west, rising to the lift of the open sea, and as each big vessel clears the gateway of the harbour she, too, swings round to dip her head into the waves with a sort of enjoyment at being once more on the trail.

Suddenly, we too realise that we are underway. So silently does the anchor come in, so smoothly do the turbine engines work, that only the sailors on board know that we are moving, till the rocky headlands begin to glide past us and we pass the waiting shops of our own fleet.

It is the most wonderful sight that an Australian ever saw.”


Albany Collage.jpg

The first of these excerpts was written by Albert Facey, the author of one of Australia’s most famous books, A Fortunate Life, who fought in Gallipoli.


We climbed the steps in silence…the words we had read along the way still echoed in our minds until we reached the memorial.

ANZAC Park Statue


The Desert Mounted Corps Memorial is of an Australian mounted soldier helping a New Zealand soldier who’s horse has been wounded. This is a copy of the statue that once stood at Port Said which was damaged in the Suez Crisis of 1956. The salvaged masonary was bought back to be incorporated in the this reconstruction.


ANZAC Park-7


ANZAC Park-5


ANZAC Park Statue-2


Wander higher to the Padre White Outlook and you will be rewarded with fabulous views over Albany and King George Sound. Padre Arthur Ernest White was an army chaplain who fought with the 44th battalion AIF and conducted the first ever dawn service which took place here on Anzac Day, April 25th 1923 and the placing of a wreath in the waters of King George Sound, a tradition that continues today. This lookout is dedicated to him.


Statue from behind


View from padre Lookout


As you descend the stairs from the Padre White Lookout, you will notice a lone pine tree on the left…the Lone Pine Memorial

ANZAC Park-6

This pine tree was planted in 1974 at the 50 year celebrations of the departure of the troops.
When the troops landed at Gallipoli, they saw a lone pine tree on the hill. It was also the scene of a major attack where 2000 Australians were killed. Two soldiers bought back some of the pine cones from the tree and from these six trees were grown.


View from padre Lookout-2


Nearby, on Mount Adelaide stands The National Anzac Centre which will be opened on November 1st. It was still undergoing a few finishing touches when we were there but it certainly looks to be a magnificent building with glorious views over the Atatürk Channel and King George Sound.

Also here is the Princes Royal Fortress Military Museum, a collection of old restored buildings housing memorabilia from the 19th Light Horse Regiment

Down on the foreshore, The Pier of Remembrance is to be found near the Albany Entertainment Centre. On the handrail of this boardwalk are the names of the troop ships and their escorts that left on the both convoys.


This will be an exciting time to be in Albany. Commemorations for the Anzac Day Centenary take place from October 31st to November 2nd. They will include a Royal Australian Navy Sunset Ceremony, the Commemorative Service, the opening of the National Anzac Centre, a Troop March, a symbolic departure of naval ships from the Royal Austrlian Navy and the New Zealand navy, and a Naval Ship Open Day.


 The ships arrived in ones, twos and three, till at last the fleet was gathered. There they swung at anchor for five clear days while water and coal were taken in by the vessels that required them. Each day there was a report that we were about to sail on the following day, but day after day passed and no move was made by any of the ships. At last on Saturday , October 31, word passed round in the mysterious way in which word does pass round at sea that the transports would be leaving the next morning.
All hands turned in the serene hope that this at last was the real signal to move.”



Will you be Albany to celebrate this day?


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Anzac Day at Villers-Bretonneaux


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Sunday Snap: Red Peppers in Gaziantep

Winter’s coming to Turkey and it’s time to make sure you have enough dried vegetables for the cold winter’s months ahead.
Housewives have been busy stringing red peppers, eggplant, zucchinis and okra and hanging them up to dry in the sun.

Red Peppers in Gaziantep

You can also buy them in the markets. Demand is high at this time of the year and this shop we saw in Gaziantep three weeks ago sold mostly dried peppers with a few dried eggplant and dried zucchini for sale as well.

The dried vegetables will then be used to make dolma. They will be rehydrated and stuffed with a delicious rice or bulgar and meat filling. Of course you don’t have to use meat, you can always make a vegetarian version.

It’s definitely one of Turkey’s best known dishes and easy to make!


Other articles you may enjoy:
Frifotos: Tasty Turkey
Istanbul for the First Time Visitor
The Best Ice Cream  in Turkey







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