Southeastern Turkey – 21January to 5 February 2023

As usual, I’m writing this post a few days after we were in this region and if some of the names seem familiar, it is because this is the region that was struck by the horrendous earthquake in the early hours of Monday 6 February.  As of now the recovery process is still ongoing but it is being hampered by the weather which turned cold and snowy just before the disaster struck.

The people of this region have been some of the most friendly and hospitable people we have ever met and our thoughts go out to them all.

A food market we wandered into in Tarsus

We left the cold of Cappadocia to head back to the coast at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. Our first stop was Tarsus, the birthplace of St Paul, although we have to confess that our primary reason for visiting was the free washing machines at the municipal motorhome aire! With the washing drying we wandered into town and followed a tourist walking route which took us past most of the main historic attractions – well worth a few hours of our day.

The municipal motorhome aire at Tarsus

After Tarsus we drove around lakes close to Yumurtalik but couldn’t find a park up there so we headed to a car park near Yumurtalik Beach. As we were sitting outside the van having a coffee, we were approached by a family who were having a picnic nearby and who asked if they could look inside. No problem, we said, and after all three generations had stuck their heads through the door, we suddenly had an invite back to the grandparent’s house for coffee, so we packed up the van and followed them the 30km or so to Ceyhan. Having settled down for a cup of tea, we were then offered dinner, a shower and a bed for the night! Not wanting to offend anyone, and knowing the Turks are incredibly hospitable, we ate the delicious soup and the kibbeh but very politely turned down the bath and bed.

The family would have been in the region impacted by the earthquake and we just hope Yusuf and the rest of the family are ok.

Fantastic kibbeh

From here we drove further south along the Mediterranean, spending a couple of nights beside the beach at Arsuz, catching up on admin and housework.

The Titus Tunnel

We visited the Titus Tunnel near Samandag, a flood prevention tunnel built by the Romans in the first century and whilst there had a great homemade flatbread stuffed with cheese and spinach – that was worth the entry fee alone!

You won’t get fresher flatbread.

We reached our southernmost point a few kilometres south of here, about 12km north of the Syrian border, when the track became impassable so we turned north again towards Antakya (also known as Hatay).

The most southerly point for us on this tour.

Sadly the city carpark was unable to accommodate us so after a few twists and turns through the busy narrow streets we found a campsite out of town. This meant we missed exploring the town and all that it had to offer.

Esenbahçe Kamp Alani, near Hatay

Our bellies were looking forward to our next stop at Gaziantep, known for its baklava and other foodie treats! The town is in the centre of the pistachio growing region and given our habit of stopping occasionally for coffee, we had to try the local pistachio coffee. Well, what a revelation – we really liked it!

Who knew pistachio coffee was a thing? We both loved it.

We wandered around the old bazaar area where we had all our kitchen knives sharpened in a small workshop and had our first kebab of the day.

The Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum is definitely worth a visit. The mosaics were unearthed at the Roman site of Belkis-Zeugma and moved when the Birecik Dam flooded the area. The size and detail of the mosaics is phenomenal.

The Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum

We had taken a taxi from the campsite with another English couple, Rich and Sarah, aka tracey_van_ness on Instagram, and met up with them again later in the day for an early dinner at Kebap ve Baklava (worth a visit and don’t be put off by the queue as it moves really quickly). We don’t eat out much as a rule as we’re on a budget but we knew we’d blow that in Gaziantep! We had different kebabs so we could share and of course had to finish with a couple of pieces of pistachio baklava.

We were now beginning our journey east and spent a couple of nights near Halfeti on the banks of the Euphrates. The old town of Halfeti (Eski Halfeti) was partially submerged following the construction of the Birecik Dam. It’s now a destination for boat tours to view the Rumkale fortress on the opposite bank and the flooded village of Savas, where the minaret of the submerged mosque stands above the water.

The flooded mosque.

We had hoped to visit the famous statues at Nemrut Dagi but knew there was a good chance we wouldn’t get there and indeed, at a height of 5,500ft we found the snowbound and very much closed approach road.

The end of the road for us.

We spent three nights in Mardin but had only one day when we left the van – can’t be helped travelling in this region during the winter! We did have one glorious day when the sun came out so we could explore the old town and look across the plains to Syria.

Looking out from Mardin towards Syria
Mardin old town

Our final stop of this leg was the Mor Gabriel Monastery where we spent a couple of nights in their very snowy car park! The monastery is the oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox monastery in the world having been founded in 397AD and is located near Midyat. Although still home to practising monks and nuns it is possible to take a guided tour of the monastery.

We are there somewhere
Mor Gabriel Monastery
Mor Gabriel Monastery

The snow of the last couple of days was a gentle introduction to what was to come next!

Campsites used:

Tarsus Municipal Campsite, Tarsus: Free, including EHU and limited use of a washing machine. Small individual pitches for 10 vans and any overflow was accommodated in the car park – it’s worth arriving early to secure a pitch. The maximum stay is initially 3 nights and return visits are limited. The washing machine is under lock and key and used under the supervision of the site manager but it’s free so can’t complain! Great restaurant next door and others within short walking distance. The city of Tarsus is about 2km away, a flat, easy walk.

Esenbahçe Kamp Alani, near Hatay: tl150 p/n (£6.50) including EHU. Small, rural, riverside campsite. All grass pitches. All the usual facilities but we only stayed overnight (only because we were on our way to somewhere else) so can’t comment on them.

Gaziantep Karavan Park, Gaziantep: tl150 p/n including EHU. Free use of washing machines and DRYERS – yes, tumble dryers, although it did feel like you had to fight with local caravan owners who had bought their week’s washing from home with them! A fairly new, 24hr guarded, large, tiered site with hard standing pitches next to a lake. Reception building with a communal seating area and terrace. Pitches available for long term rent and lots of caravans seem to be long term. Taxi point just outside the front gate and it cost us tl150 to get to the centre of Gaziantep.

Mardin Karavan Camping, Mardin: tl150 p/n including EHU. A small car park run by a really friendly and helpful family – we drank lots of tea with them! A great location for access to the old town of Mardin and it has all the facilities you need, albeit it’s not a pretty site. Some noise as you are right next to a mosque and the owner’s dog barks at anything and everything passing the front gate day and night.

Other overnight stops:

Buyuk Ataturk Park, Ceyhan: Free overnight spot in the car park. A few cars around in the evening but once they had gone, it was quiet enough.

Arsuz: Free parking on grass close to the beach (no swimming allowed though at this point). Some noise from the construction site behind the parking area but quiet at night. A great place to rest for a couple of days. Short walk into town.

Siverek Picnic Area, Siverek: Free parking overlooking a dammed lake on the Euphrates. Large parking area. Toilets at the entrance. Very quiet night.

Halfeti: Free parking on a track alongside the Euphrates river. They are working on the track so some lorry noise during the day. Short walk to a few shops.

Mor Gabriel Monastery: Free parking in the outer carpark. We arrived during a snow storm and staff from the monastery came out to see if we needed anything. Great views across the countryside.



Polar Steps:


From -23C to + 27C in 24 hours!

Week one – the cold bit.

2nd February 2019

For once not a stupidly early start for our annual jaunt with the Woods as late morning we headed to Gatwick for our flight to Tromso in northern Norway. Yes, northern Norway in late February! This is our continued hunt for the Northern Lights which have so far eluded us. This trip has been planned to optimise our chances as we’ll be above the Arctic Circle for a week, so fingers crossed.

We arrived without issue, picked up the hire car (a 4×4 was in order for this trip) and headed into Tromso and our hotel for two nights, the Smarthotel which is in the city and a great location from which to walk around. Buffet breakfast was included which given the price of food was a good option.

Wall art in the hotel
Wall art in the hotel

First stop the pub and as expected it wasn’t cheap – two beers and two glasses of wine came in at around £40 so get over the shock we had another round.

Not cheap, even by London prices
Not cheap, even by London prices

Dinner was a local pizza restaurant, Casa Inferno, at which we thankfully got discount through the hotel. Quirky place though.

3rd February

A day to explore Tromso. It was cold….no not just cold, it was bloody freezing especially when we crossed the fjord to take the Fjellheisen cable car from where at the top there are great views over Tromso town and the surrounding area.

It was a little cold
It was a little cold

Given the constantly changing light we ended up spending most of the day up there with a few visits to the cafe for a much needed warming hot chocolate or hot wine. Given the location the sunset was early but stunning.

June dancing in the SunSet
June dancing in the SunSet

A slightly more traditional dinner tonight at Kaia with Bob tucking into a reindeer burger (no real difference to venison) before heading back to the hotel to pack as the next day we were heading to Bo in the Vesteralen Islands.

4th February

Not being sure of the road conditions and with driving time being estimated at 5-6 hours plus a supermarket stop and maybe one or two photo stops on the way, it was a reasonably early start.

Everywhere you looked was beautiful
Everywhere you looked was beautiful

Lunch was hot dogs from a petrol station – like our previous trip to Iceland, we found a few petrol stations that also cook fresh food. Nothing spectacular but good enough to top up an empty stomach!

We’d booked a property in the southern Vesterlan Islands via AirBnB and yet again we were not disappointed. A great location with windows on all side of the property overlooking fjords and despite there being a substantial amount of snow around the house was warm and cosy.

Our AirBnB
Our AirBnB

5th– 7th February

A few days exploring the region with Bob in his element driving through anything Mother Nature could throw at us! It’s a beautiful area and maybe even more so covered in snow and with the light making it almost impossible to take a bad photograph.

Stunning snowscape
Stunning snowscape

On our way back from Andenes there were times we thought we weren’t going to get back to the house as each time we turned a corner in the road the weather changed and at times closed in to very limited visibility. Obviously the locals are used to lots of snow and every house seemed to have a snow plough or blower and even the remote round the house was on was cleared a couple of times every day. What we didn’t expect was the snow plough coming up our drive and the man clearing the front porch – an extra touch from the house owners.

8th February

Today was our last day before heading back to Tromso so we decided to stay around the house and use the hot tub – it was a wood fired one so once lit we couldn’t leave. The instructions were to fill the tub the night before which we did so the first thing that had to be done was to remove the layer of ice that had formed overnight! It was then six hours of refilling the log burner and waiting for the water to come up to a decent temperature.

Hot tubbing it in the cold
Hot tubbing it in the cold

After a quick run through the snow in swimming costumes and walking boots, it was into the tub with a G & T (fresh ice of course) to watch the sun set. Amazingly the water even got too hot at one point!

9th February

The drive back to Tromso for our evening flight back to Gatwick was uneventful although there were many stops to take more photos as the light had changed from the previous journeys! And it was the coldest day we experienced with the external car temperature heading down until it reached -23°C!

-23 degrees C
-23 degrees C

Northern Lights

Although it’s not something you can guarantee we really hoped that this time the Lights would come out to play for us and we weren’t disappointed as the displays got stronger as the week went on. We had all downloaded various apps to help spot the Lights but they really didn’t help too much as despite the forecasts not being that good we still got some strong displays.

Top tip for taking photos of the Lights – use a tripod or even better, a GoPro on a tripod but don’t forget just watch and enjoy them.

All in all an amazing week away – Norway is stunning. The only downside was the cost once we were there but we knew it would be expensive before booking so were well prepared!

A few more photos

[wpanchor id=”Barbados”]Week 2 – the not so cold bit!

Previously it had been June that travelled for business but out of the blue Bob had the opportunity to go to Barbados (yes Barbados in the Caribbean) to help deliver some training for Princes Trust International. And with June having been made redundant a few weeks earlier there was no way she was going to sit at home and miss out!

9th February

Having arrived back from snowy Norway around 10.30 pm and needing to be back at Gatwick around 8 am the following morning, we spent the night at a nearby hotel with just enough time to grab a few hours sleep and switch the bags over – out with the thermals and in with the beachwear!

10th February

Breakfast care of the BA Lounge followed by an eight hour flight and although flying economy we got the emergency exit seats so plenty of legroom and entertainment as we watched people trying to open the toilet door which, believe us, is more fun than it sounds!

And it was 27°C on arrival – a temperature swing of 50°C in 24 hours.

Hotel for a couple of nights was the Blue Horizon at Rockley Beach, a well located small hotel sadly let down by the quality of its food.

11th – 14th February

With Bob now working, June was left in a strange situation – absolutely nothing to do! A few walks along the beach were called for and the occasional dip in the pool ensured the days passed without any boredom, along with, for once, reading all her magazines and a couple of books.

Pool side

All along this part of the coast are beach bars and restaurants so we were spoilt for choice on where to go for cocktails and seafood.

Due to some confusion when the original booking was made, and due to the England cricket team being in town to play a test match, we had to move hotels to the Palm Gardens Hotel, Worthing Beach, but luckily it was only a few minutes away. After one night in the hotel annex, our second room was fine and also had a small self-contained kitchen so we could at least store some food and drink and not rely on restaurants for all our meals.

We were in walking distance of the St Lawrence Gap, a great area for restaurants so visited there a couple of nights.


15th-17th February

We had decided to stay on when the training course finished it seemed a shame to come all this way and not see some of the island. The extra days made the flights considerably cheaper as well as we would be staying over the weekend. Beach holidays are not our normal type of holiday so we signed up for a couple of day trips to see as much as possible.

Trip 1 was the Natural Wonders of Barbados tour and the first stop was Harrison’s Cave, a complex of limestone caves and tunnels in the centre of the island. A special train takes you underground for a fascinating trip to view the caverns and pools awash with stalactites and stalagmites.

Lets go Caving

From there it was on to Hunte’s Gardens, a stunning tropical garden set inside a collapsed cavern. Small paths take you from one area to another and there are lots of hidden chairs from where you can just sit and take in the beautiful plants. A few quirky statues and ornaments along the way too!

We had lunch (included in the tour price) at Chill ‘n Breeze on the east coast of the island where the beaches are pounded by the Atlantic and a short stop at Bathsheba Beach to get a little closer to the waves. In contrast to the calm Caribbean Sea, this part of the island is popular with surfers.

Our last stop was the Barbados Wildlife Reserve home to peacocks, iguanas, tortoises, red brocket deer, a couple of Patagonian maras (look like a bit like a rabbit) and the Barbados green monkey. Our arrival coincided with feeding time and the monkeys, which are free to come and go as they please, came in from all sides to feast on the buckets of fruit and vegetables!

Showing off

The tour bought us back along the more genteel west coast where all the large (and expensive!) resorts are located plus a few golf courses and the home of probably one of most famous locals, Rihanna.

That night we jumped on a local bus to Oistins, the place to be on a Friday night in Barbados. Every week there’s an outdoor fish BBQ with dozens of stalls trying to attract your attention and such a great atmosphere. Later in the evening there’s live music but we didn’t stay for that.


No visit to the Caribbean is complete without a boat trip so the next day we joined a catamaran cruise for some snorkelling and general lazing around on the water! We opted for Elegance Catamaran Cruises rather than one of the larger boats and the dozen or so passengers were well looked after by the crew.

The first part of the day saw us heading the south west part of the island for some snorkelling above shipwrecks and with turtles.

Once the “active” part of the day was done, the bar opened as we sailed along the west coast past the big hotels and celebrity houses with the attentive crew ensuring that our glasses were never empty. A delicious lunch was again included and served on board as we sat off-shore in a small bay.


It’s not normally our choice to sit around doing nothing and be waited on but just sometimes it has to be done!

We spent our final morning soaking up the sun as there was going to be too much of that when we got home. It was then an overnight flight back with poor Bob having to head straight into the office on Monday morning!

A few more photos