What a busy year this has turned out to be both travel and work-wise. 2012 took me to 17 cities and seven countries; four of them completely new! I’ve continued to explore my home county of Sussex enjoying unusual festivals and the gorgeous countryside. I’ve eaten some delicious food but have to tip my hat to Italian cuisine this year which has been stunning and I’ve stayed in some wonderful and unusual hotels. Here’s what happened in 2012.
New Year in Ho Chi Minh City
We started 2012 on a high celebrating New Year Saigon style. This has to be one of the best New Years I’ve ever had and the first spent away from home. We watched the celebrations from the rooftop bar at the iconic Rex Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City before joining the crowds on the packed streets to see in 2012. A New Years Eve that I’ll never forget and Vietnam was an amazing way to start my travel year. We also spent time in Hanoi and Halong Bay but Hoi An is the place that stole a piece of my heart.
Tenerife got a lot of Travelbunny love this year with four trips to the island, three for work but the first visit of the year was with my daughter. She was working for Tui had some concessions to use up and treated me to a week in the sunshine – what a lovely daughter I have! We mainly relaxed but did head out to La Gomera for a day which is a beautiful little island and especially lovely in the springtime.
April arrived and time to pack up the car and head for Morzine in the French Alps, where we stay with friends every year, skiing in Avoriaz and the Porte du Soleil. We take all the food for the evening meals as we love to cook and after a day on the slopes there’s nothing better than spending time with friends, food and a glass or two of red next to a roaring fire.
Skiing – Avoriaz
April also saw two days in Tallinn, my first ‘new country’ of the year. This was a work trip so I didn’t see as much of the town as I’d have liked but was surprised to find it had more of a Scandinavian feel than Eastern European. Note to self: ‘Go back. Explore’.
View over Tallinn
Celebrations in April as I won round 39 of photo roulette with the theme Local Character. I went on to host round 40 with the theme ‘Street Scene’ and had a great time discovering lots of talented people, their blogs and photography.
May and another new destination for me; Paphos in Cyprus. I spent a week working with a colleague on a conference we’d organised for 300 people. Unfortunately we only got out of the hotel on one evening for a meal and I probably shouldn’t count this a new destination as I didn’t actually see any of it – and people think I’m on holiday all the time…! Another place to re-visit.
June puts in an appearance and with it a whole heap of excitement – my first trip to Italy! I can’t believe it’s taken so long to get there and I have totally fallen in love with this country, its people and that amazing Italian food. We based ourselves in Sorrento visiting the fascinating city of Pompeii and taking the famous Amalfi Coast road down to Amalfi itself. I’m heading back to Sorrento next year for some serious gelato research.
Marina Grande Sorrento
June also saw the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in all its jubiliciousness and we were lucky to celebrate without getting rained on. I also met the Queen for the first time at Royal Ascot – well she rode past in a carriage but she did wave at me!
Next up July and with it Blogville and back to Italy. I met up with fellow-blogger Kathryn from Travel with Kat and we discovered Bologna, food capital of Italy, Rimini and Ferrara together. We had a fabulous time and it was wonderful to explore with someone who quite understood the need to stop and photograph every sight, building and morsel of food that we encountered!
Neptune Fountain, Bologna
I like to spend August at home because there’s nowhere better than England in the summertime, however, summer didn’t seem to arrive this year but that was okay because we were kept busy as London hit the spotlight and we cheered on our sporting heroes. I didn’t get to the games but did see the Olympic torch both in Battle and Bexhill where Eddie Izzard held the flame aloft.
September took us to Turkey, the final ‘new country’ of the year and a holiday. We started off in Cappadocia where we stayed in a Fairy Chimney, the most unusual hotel stay ever! We then travelled by bus to Pamukkale, had beach time in Bodrum and finished off our trip in Istanbul. The highlight had to be our dawn hot air balloon trip in Cappadocia – in fact that is one of my highlights of the year. In September Easyjet awarded me ‘Blogger of the Month’. Wow what a month!
The rest of the year has been busy around work with two trips to Tenerife in November and December. This time, although I was working, I managed to get to Teide National Park for a morning which was stunning. On one of the trips we stayed at the amazing Abama Hotel, a Ritz Carlton property which was an experience in itself!
Majestic Mount Teide
This year also saw lots of awards from my fellow bloggers and I now have a ‘fit to burst’ virtual awards cabinet and a big fat grin across my face. These awards are a fabulous way to learn about other blogs and I’ve been introduced to some very talented bloggers this way from the world over. So thank you all for stopping by, liking and commenting on my travel tales, it means so much to me that you take time to do so. Remember too, if you’d like any advice or tips on any of the destinations I’ve visited just drop me a line – I’m more than happy to help out if I can.
So that was 2012 – but what of future travel? Not a lot booked at the moment but that’s how January 2012 started off so who knows where I’ll be travelling to next year, wherever it is I hope you’ll join me on the journey.
Goreme, a town of troglodytes, cave hotels and fairy chimneys was the first stop on our mini-tour of Turkey. Located in Cappadocia, Central Anatolia, it sits slap bang in the middle of the country and is home to rock-cut churches adorned with ancient Christian frescoes, underground cities and unique volcanic rock formations.
After getting up at ouch o’clock, two flights and a dusty bus drive later, we were more than happy to arrive at our Cappadocia hotel, The Kelebek Special Cave Hotel (kelebek means butterfly in Turkish). We’d booked late but managed to bag three nights in this gorgeous boutique cave hotel; we’d have to change rooms after the first night, but this wasn’t a problem; in fact it turned out to be a bonus. Hassan welcomed us and, as we checked-in, he dropped into the conversation that we’d been upgraded to a fairy chimney for the first night. Result! But wait, the website said the two fairy chimney rooms had shared bathroom facilities – this would be a major problem for Mr Jones. There was no need for concern, though, we’d been upgraded to the Presidential Fairy Chimney suite, the mother of all Fairy Chimneys. With en suite. Excited? Me? You bet!
View over Goreme
What is a Fairy Chimney?
You’re probably wondering by now what a fairy chimney is, so here goes with the topography. Cappadocia and the area around it is made up of valleys, canyons and large areas of volcanic rock. Over time the soft lava covering, known as tuff, has been eroded by strong winds, weather and flood-waters to create bizarrely shaped peaks known as fairy chimneys. These come in various shapes; cone, pointy, capped, pinnacled and in some cases remarkably phallic. The rock is soft, like pumice stone, and has been hollowed out for centuries to form these unusual dwellings.
Fairy Chimney Hotel Room
The door on the right leads to our room, which was originally the wine-press – somewhat proper we thought! The Fairy Chimney was much more spacious inside than we’d imagined; it housed a seated fireplace area, balcony, en suite, entrance area and bedroom. I just loved the quirkiness of it all.
Our bed for the night
There were some lovely decorative touches to the room; locally made Turkish rugs and artefacts, a pair of traditional leather boots hanging on the wall and hand-carved wooden furniture. We were absolutely delighted with our unexpected stay in a Fairy Chimney – and the reason for our upgrade? The previous occupants didn’t like that there was no television in the room…
I can’t recommend The Kelebek Special Cave Hotel enough, the hotel itself is totally charming with a lovely restaurant and bar offering stunning views over Goreme town which is about 5 minutes walk away. There are 31 rooms including cave rooms, arch rooms, suites and fairy chimneys and prices vary per night and include breakfast. There is a small outdoor pool with sunbeds, a quiet garden and Turkish bath with various treatments available. The service at the Kelebek was excellent, food superb and attention to detail second to none. The staff was incredibly helpful recommending which tours would make sure we got the most from our visit. Staying at The Kelebek was one of the highlights of our trip to Turkey and is a Goreme cave hotel that I’d definitely recommend.
There are many types of accommodation available in Goreme from boutique cave hotels, rooms and backpacker hostels; something to suit every budget. The bus station in the centre of town provides extensive transport links to many areas of Turkey and Kayseri airport is just over an hour’s drive from the town. Many accommodations offer a free one-way airport transfer with the purchase of tours and balloon flights. Although Goreme is a small town there is no shortage of restaurants, cafes and bars and we ate some excellent food during our visit. More posts to come covering our stay in Goreme include our dawn balloon flight, exploring Derinkuyu underground city and the perfect Turkish breakfast.
September saw us set off for a two week tour of Turkey, a new destination for me, and one I knew little about. The more research I did the more I realised how much there is to this fascinating country. We had just two weeks and wanted to combine sightseeing, relaxation and city exploration all the while photographing and eating our way around the country. Two weeks gave us time to just scratch the surface. Here’s the itinerary for our tour of Turkey.
After flying into Istanbul we took a flight to Kayseri in the centre of the country. We then transferred to Goreme in a region called Cappadocia in central Anatolia and stayed three nights here, the first in a ‘Fairy Chimney’ in the most charming boutique cave hotel in Goreme. We explored the underground cave town of Derinkuyu, hiked through some incredible volcanic rock formations, had the most perfect breakfast of my life and took a dawn hot air balloon flight with around 80 other balloons. A memory I’ll always treasure.
Rose Valley, Cappadocia
The next leg of our tour of Turkey took us from Goreme to Pamukkale in Denizli. It was a pretty gruesome 8.5 hour drive by night bus but worth every bone crunching, sleep-deprived minute to see Pamukkale’s incredible Cotton Castle. The white terraces are formed from calcium carbonate which eventually hardens and forms travertine pools. People have bathed here for thousands of years.
Nearby is the archaeological town of Hierapolis with amphitheatre, necropolis, monumental gates and ancient ruins. We had one night in Pamukkale in a lovely little family run hotel. Our room that looked like a set from a 70s porn film – not that I would know! The gigantic four-poster bed swathed in burgundy sequinned drapes and bedspread needs to be seen to be believed!
From Pamukkale we travelled down to the coast to Bodrum – another bus journey but this time only 4.5 hours and in daylight which meant we could take in some of Turkey’s scenery en-route. We had five nights in Bodrum and a chance to kick back and relax. We spent our time wandering the town searching out little bars and cafes, a day on a boat and a day in the hospital. Best laid plans…
Turkish eyes – watching your back
From Bodrum we flew back to where we arrived; Istanbul was the destination for our last two nights. A lot was crammed into two days. We explored The Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, the curiously creepy Basilica Cistern, and took a boat trip on the Bosphorus. A morning spent at Topkapi Palace wasn’t nearly long enough and the hectic Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar were an assault on the senses. We dived into some delicious sweet treats while exploring Istanbul’s sweet side and enjoyed general wanderings and explorations.
Sultan Ahmed (Blue Mosque), Istanbul
Our Tour of Turkey
Here’s our route for our mini tour of Turkey. Straight lines are flights, wiggly lines are road routes.
Are you planning a trip to Turkey? If you have any questions or need any tips drop me a line. I’m happy to help where I can.