My first visit to the Rhone Valley, France, was filled with great wine, delicious food and wandering the streets of old cities just to see what was around the next corner. The way the light illuminated one street, while creating deep shadows on the next narrow lane meant that I was constantly lifting my camera to try and capture the scene. Driving next to vineyard after vineyard it was clear to see why the Rhone Valley has such a name for itself in the wine industry and the history of wine making.
Wandering the streets of Spain, feels like stepping back to a time when life was simpler and community was stronger. Town squares were a meeting place for all major events, entrance ways were grand, and people took the time to sit in the street and have conversations with their neighbors or enjoy a coffee or glass of wine.
Instagram worthy photos are impossible not to capture if you are willing to wake up early and watch the sunrise in Cappadocia, as hundreds of hot air balloons fill the sky every morning. With it's consistent winds, stunning scenery and large selection of reputable companies to choose from, Cappadocia is a balloon lover's dream. Hiking up to the top of "Lover's Hill" right in the center of Göreme to take in this phenomenon, I truly did feel like I had entered a scene from a fairy tale.
Cappadocia is one of Turkey's most popular tourist destinations and for good reason! Ancient cave homes from the Bronze Age, and palaces are still visible carved into rocks. Tall "fairy chimneys", or rock pinnacles formed from volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, and shaped from erosion reach up to the sky. Walking through this semi-arid landscape, I was reminded of the National Parks of Utah, but with an added sense of wonder of the people who at one point carved their homes into the high up rocks for defense and shelter. With hot sunny days, and cool nights, Cappadocia is a place of wonder that can be explored by people of all ability depending on how far off the beaten path you want to wander. Being a tourist destination there are also plenty of unique hotels, artisan shops, and fantastic restaurants to spend time when you aren't hiking through the valleys, or visiting the open air museums.
The warm sun beats down as we paddle our double kayak across the glassy Mediterranean Sea to the island of Kekova. The now uninhabited island houses the remains of Simena, and ancient Lycian sea-side trading city. On shore pieces of homes, tombs, an early church and a staircase down into the water are still visible after a series of earthquakes destroyed the city in the 2nd Century causing it to sink beneath the water. Kayaking over the turquoise clear water, large pillars from the city long ago pass by beneath the boat of this now specialty protected area of Turkey's past.
Bright blue and aqua water, fresh seafood and a laid back vibe makes the Turquoise Coast a peaceful place to kick back for a few days. Basing ourselves is the seaside town of Kaş, we took a few days to just relax, wander the quaint town, sip an Efes beer on the beach and enjoy wine on the rooftop as the sun went down over the Mediterranean Sea. Once we were feeling rested and ready to explore again we jumped on board a ferry headed to the Greek island Kastellorizo also known as Meis one of Greece's smallest and most distant islands visible from the Turkish coast. The highlight of this island was taking a small boat to Galazio Spilaio (Blue Cave), where once inside the sun rays coming in from the mouth of the cave, reflect off the water and illuminate the stalactites a bright blue color making it feel as if we had entered a scene from the movie Avatar. While so close to Turkey, Kastellorizo, feels like you have entered another country with it's brightly colored buildings, cobble stone streets and uniquely Greek wine. We spent the afternoon sipping wine on the rocks, diving off rocks, wandering through an old castle and enjoying grilled octopus, fresh fish and of course more wine at one of the local restaurants. Taking the ferry back late afternoon to our peaceful room in Kas at The Hideway Hotel, and returning to our rooftop terrace to watch the sun go down as we looked back across the sea to the island we had just spent the day on in Greece.
Once a port town and main center for trade, Ephesus located in Selçuk Turkey, is now an important archeological site with a rich and complex history. Ruled over the years by a succession of Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, the city once was home to 300,000 people in the second century AD. Home to the nearby Temple of Artemis, declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient world, and rumored to be where The Virgin Mary spent the last years of her life, Ephesus draws people from all over the world to marvel at what remains of this ancient city. Walking the main street, I could imagine a life so different from mine in a time long ago.