Monday, 29 September 2014

Fethiye Restaurants: Slapped Wrists For Us For Overlooking Captain's Pearl

There are so many eateries in the Fethiye area - some we probably don't even know exist - and, for many of them, they've been in our must-try-there-one-day thoughts for some time. And we do get round to these things eventually. And then there's Captain's Pearl. Now, no offence to Captain's Pearl at all here, but it's never really been in our must-try-there-one-day thoughts.

We've walked past it often, especially when friends from England are here and they're staying at Yacht Classic or V-Go's. We notice Captain's Pearl, we look up at it, we wonder what it's like inside thee days and what type of food they serve - but it's only ever been a half thought. Not enough to make one of us say, "Let's try it."

Captain's Pearl Restaurant, Fethiye, Turkey
Captain's Pearl Restaurant
And then a couple of weeks ago, we were chatting with a long-time Turkish friend about current favourite places we like to go to eat out. This friend is one of those who loves his mother's cooking and strays to a lokanta, occasionally - it's usually the same one. He's a creature of habit. So we nearly fell through the floor when he said,"Oh, I've been going to Captain's Pearl on the Karagözler. The seafood's really fresh. They don't always have everything on the menu but I order from the fridges and whatever the chef recommends."

Right, well, if he liked it, we were now proper curious. The power of word of mouth, eh? We made a decision there and then to try it - and the day after, we took ourselves off there for a late lunch...

Back in 1998...
This restaurant has changed hands on various occasions over the years, but we were feeling nostalgic as we took our table. Back in 1998, this restaurant was called Blue Sea...and it was the first ever place we walked into when we first came to Fethiye on holiday. We'd just dumped our bags in our room at the Pırlanta Hotel and come straight out to explore. Ahh, to be young and (over) excited on holiday! We'd been in Fethiye (our first visit to Turkey) a matter of minutes, eaten loads of garlic prawns, sunk a few beers...and then realised we had no money. Barry ran off to the hotel - leaving me to have my fingers massaged by two waiters - to get his wallet. We were mortified! Of course, these days, we'd just ask can we pay later - and perhaps politely decline the offer of a finger massage - but we didn't know all this at the time...

Back to 2014...
Meze Dishes & Views From Captain's Pearl, Fethiye
Meze dishes and views of Fethiye
Yes, back to the modern day...and we're now in Captain's Pearl enjoying the Fethiye marina views from our table. We browse the menu but settle on our friend's recommendation of ordering from the fridges instead. It's a cosy affair on the afternoon we're there. One waiter, one chef. The chef wants to cook us a sea bass he's just brought into the restaurant but we're not in the mood for a whole fish so the waiter sets about recommending and explaining each meze dish.

We can't function without beetroot so that's ordered first before we even start to look at anything else.

"And şakşuka. I can recommend this today. Just made."

"No thanks. We're not in the mood for şakşuka."

We order the rest of our dishes and a beer each and sit down to wait for our rather extravagant late lunch. Lightly toasted bread arrives and a bottle of water. The cold mezes arrive and then the fried calamari...and then the şakşuka.

"I want you to have some şakşuka. I really recommend it." 

Righteo, then, şakşuka it is. We plunge into the beetroot. Chunks of magenta-coloured garlic are also bobbing about in this spicy, chilli-infused vinegar. Heavenly. As is the şakşuka, for that matter. We can't argue. Definitely freshly made and the aubergine is charred with a smoky flavour. Oh, but we did order some seafood, too. Let's get to that.
Sea Bass Salad, Captain's Pearl, Fethiye
Sea bass salad
This is sea bass salad. We've just said above we didn't want seabass...but a big fat grilled sea bass (fabulous when it's what you fancy) and a meze dish are two completely different experiences. This sea bass salad is cubes of plump flesh, not just in olive oil. We could taste something else. Barry pondered maybe it had been steamed or baked in banana leaves. We should have asked the waiter...hindsight's a wonderful thing and all that. We just preferred to discuss as we sampled and nibbled and pondered. But we did ask our friend about it later.

"Oh, I always order that," he said. "Avocado."

Banana or avocado, this sea bass salad is almost sushi-like in texture, but with that light fragrant 'hint-of-something' in the aftertaste. And don't forget you've got the lightly toasted bread to plunge / dab into the olive oil one the sea bass has been devoured.
Octopus Salad, Captain's Pearl Restaurant, Fethiye
Octopus salad
Then there's the octopus salad. If you're the sort of person who lifts the lid from your burger and pulls all the gherkins off between finger and thumb with a look of disdain, well, you can see this octopus salad is not for you. If you're not that sort of person, and you love the texture of octopus along with its fresh taste-of-the-sea flavour, and you love a tangy green olive, sweet red pepper and olive oil, then you'll be as excited as we were eating this. Again, olive oil and lightly toasted bread. We didn't leave a drop.
Calamari At Captain's Pearl Restaurant, Fethiye, Turkey
Deep fried calamari
Part of me wanted to put the calamari photo before the other photos in this blog post - because the octopus salad, in particular, looks so tasty (for us). But, calamari is a favourite for me, if it's cooked right. Cook it for too long and you might as well chew through one of those bouncy balls we used throw around as kids. I love calamari and have never cooked it myself so I'm never going to lecture anyone on the optimum heat and time for deep frying it...but I still know how I like it. 

So the calamari has been left till last because it was just delightful - a light batter and perfectly cooked. No grease, no rubbery chew. We both made sure we got our fair share! 

And so that's the story of how we ended up visiting Captain's Pearl and that's the story of what we thought of the food. Would we go back? We've already said to our friend to give us a ring next time he feels the need to go and we'll be there with him. We've overlooked here for too long...

Captain's Pearl - Useful Information
  • We ordered food from the meze fridge and seafood that was recommended to us, rather than ordering from the menu. The menu has other dishes as well as seafood dishes. 
  • It's not a huge meze / seafood meze selection - but what is there is fresh and of good quality. If you just want to go somewhere to enjoy some quality seafood - whatever is there on the day - with no fuss, then this might be your place. 
  • (Summer 2014) We paid 72 TL between us (around £10 per head) for our meal, including 2 beers, the water and bread.
  • Captain's Pearl is on Karagözler 1, right next to Alesta Yacht Hotel.  
  • If you're looking for other ideas of where to eat and drink in the whole Fethiye area, you can see lots of suggestions on our Fethiye eating and drinking page. 
Saturday, 27 September 2014

Scenes From Babadağ's (Almost) Summit - Just Because It's Scenic!

Well, hasn't this turned out to be a Babadağ mini series! First of all, we wrote about why we came to be up on top of this fabulous mountain in the first place; there was a performance up there as part of the Fethiye Classical Music Festival in memory of Benyamin Sönmez. But we couldn't leave it there because the drive to the top of Babadağ was worth a blog post all on its own - photos of views that just had to be on this blog; and, of course, there were a few wobbles from friends who suddenly realised they weren't to keen on the drops from the roadside.

For most of us, it was our first time up to Babadağ, so we couldn't just stand and listen to the music (although we did do that for a while) without also taking in what was around us, too.

Zirve Cafe, Babadağ Mountain, Ölüdeniz, Turkey
A meal with a view at Zirve Cafe
Because the place where the musical performance was taking place was Zirve Cafe, very close to the summit of Babadağ. As we arrived, all the tables were set and, of course, they were all reserved. Just look at those views...The tables and the garden were soon full for the music but we were also keen to watch the paragliders taking off.

Some paragliders take off from the very summit of Babadağ and we wanted to head up there - but, by the time we decided, we would have missed the sunset if we'd set off. That can be saved for another time because we were more than happy with goings on here, a few metres below the summit.
Scenes From The Top Of Babadağ Mountain
Steep take off from Babadağ
A barbecue was available for those who wanted snacks, but we were more taken with the paragliding take off point. Wow, this is just so steep! The paraglider we watched took only a few gentle steps before his parachute was fully opened and he just glided off the edge of the mountain into the effortlessly. I tottered off down the slope and it's much steeper than it looks. A few steps down and, when I turned around, Zirve Cafe and the other spectators already looked a long way above.
Paragliding From Babadağ Mountain, Ölüdeniz, Turkey
Paragliding above Ölüdeniz
Would I ever have the bottle to do what thousands - even millions - of others have dared to do before me and walk off the edge of Babadağ, into the air and over the Mediterranean? Probably not. Barry says he's do it again with me if I decided to do it...and it does look so calming...but I know I would be far from calm! Anyway, let's put those thoughts aside and get back on the solid ground of Babadağ.
Zirve Cafe, Babadağ, Ölüdeniz
Just mooching around Babadağ
Well, we did a little bit of clambering on the side wall just to get some slightly higher views, as if we weren't already high enough. It was lovely just to watch people milling about below as the sun started to set. Paragliders were still taking off just to our right and the music continued just to our left. And there, just below us, was local motorcyclist Serkan Özdemir. We've followed his antics via his Facebook page for a while. He's been Turkey's Enduro champion from 2011-2013 and has just taken part in the Transanatolia off road race. This was a day out, we were having fun, I'd grab a photo of him later. Why not? 
Sunset from Zirve Cafe, Babadağ, Ölüdeniz, Turkey
Sunset from Zirve Cafe, Babadağ
First of all though, we joined everyone else in the clamber for catching sunset photos - a real privilege to be up here at this time of day to see this - and then we wandered off to get that photo of a famous Fethiye face. Fortunately, he's an obliging chap and was only too happy to have his photo taken...even with Barry standing and grinning by his side.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Journey To The Summit Of Babadağ - Scary Or Mesmerising? You Choose

In our last Babadağ post, we wrote about the event that took us up there; the live music performance as part of the Fethiye Classical Music Festival in memory of Benyamin Sönmez. There can't be many more perfect settings for live music than the top of the Fethiye area's highest mountain; Mediterranean scenes below, silhouetted islands and paragliders soaring across the sky from the summit. 

But to get to this place, of course you have to somehow get to the top of the mountain. Because so many of us wanted to go - there were eleven of us - we decided to get a minibus with a driver. Only one of us - Barry - had made the journey up the mountain track before so none of us knew what to expect...although people do mention on a regular basis how scary it is.

Driving Up Babadağ Mountain, Ölüdeniz, Fethiye
Road scene from the journey up to the summit of Babadağ
It's a long, rubble track; a not too steep ascent for much of the way. Maybe we've become more 'road-hardened' over our years in Turkey because I was in the front seat with Barry, taking photos and loving the changing shapes of the forest trees. As we climbed higher, you could see the flattening of the branches and needles where the snow rests on them in winter.

"Oh my...., oh. Not sure about this. Why does he have to drive so close to the edge?"

A couple of voices from the back; one male and one female. Not all of us were taking pleasure from changing tree shapes and the scenes below. Yeah, the scenes below are a long way down; amazing scenery for us was a terrifying sight for two of our friends. Every gear change or extra rev and we could hear the intakes of breath. And, for the record, before we continue, let us just say that our driver was fantastic. It turned out that he knows this area, and this road, really well. Of course he wasn't driving too close to the edge...that's just the width of the road.
Babadağ Mountain Wildlife
En route
Higher and higher we climbed, scattering goats en route...and each dwelling we passed, our driver slowed down to greet anyone who happened to be outside. Eventually, we came to a fork in the road. Our driver didn't speak a word of English and we always surprise ourselves with how much Turkish we can actually understand when push comes to shove. We're the translators for this journey.

"The summit is a right turn here but I want to take you down this track so you can take some photos. The view is very beautiful. It'll only take 15 minutes and then we can turn back."

"Yeah, why not. Let's go."
Xanthos Valley Views From Babadağ Mountain, Turkey
Views from the shoulder of Babadağ
And after a few minutes, we arrive at the viewpoint. It's down a narrow track and there are mumblings of, "How the **** are we going to turn this minibus around to come back?" But the viewpoint is at a wide section of track. This driver knows his stuff. He takes our cameras from us and takes photos of us all - and then we just stand, taking in views of the distant valley below.
Babadağ Mountain Views, South West Turkey
Lycian valleys from Babadağ
Footpaths and winding tracks that are all virgin territory for us.

"Sidyma is just down there. And it's a bad road, but if you take your time, you can get to Kalkan and Kaş this way, to," says our driver.

Well, of course you can. We're once more in Lycian Way territory which passes between Ovacık, Kalkan and Kaş. My horrendous sense of direction means I'm only just getting my bearings around here. The big slope to our left is Mendos; the mountain which dominates the immediate Fethiye skyline along with Babadağ. It's a bit of a journey otherwise, but as the crow flies, we're also not too far away from Karaağaç Black Tree Farm and Cottages

But eventually, we press on. Up and up and up...with two of our friends choosing not to look out of the window. They were glad of the fresh air stop. Just before we get to Zirve Cafe - our destination - our driver pulls over once more. 

"There's another very beautiful here, just to the right. I'll pull over and you can get out and go over to take a photo."
Fethiye Views From Babadağ Mountain
Zooming in on Fethiye from Babadağ
Spot on again, Mr Driver. That's our town, Fethiye, down there, covering the landscape below. Şovalye Island reaching between boundaries of the bay. Çalış Beach sweeping round, stretching towards Şovalye. We can see the canal where the Çalış Water Taxi enters and exits. We're so high up here, it's almost like looking at Google maps in satellite mode. The photo above is zoomed in. 
Babadağ Views, South West Turkey
Fethiye and Ovacık from close to the summit of Babadağ
This photo is the actual view. Ovacık and Hisarönü, sitting above Fethiye but still way down below us. There's something exhilarating about being in the hills and mountains - driving or walking - and we're grateful that our driver took such pride in making sure we witnessed what he wanted us to see. 

Just to the left is the final few metres to the parking area for paragliding take off and Zirve Cafe. That's our final destination and, all of a sudden, one of our friends fears have disappeared and she's now loving it. The other one is bit grey and takes off to order himself a strong coffee... 
Saturday, 20 September 2014

Fethiye Classical Music Festival And Babadağ - Just Wow!

Each year, for the last three years, Fethiye has played host to a classical music festival in memory of young cellist, Benyamin Sönmez. Benyamin Sönmez was an up and coming master of the cello, winner of various awards and visitor to many countries where he was invited to play at various prestigious festivals. In 2011, at the age of 28, Benyamin Sönmez suffered from a heart attack which took his life and, after a funeral service at the Hacettepe University Conservatory (where he studied the cello), he was laid to rest in Fethiye. 

So, what better tribute to pay to such a talent than to hold a classical music festival in his memory? The first time we attended one of the events was the sunset cello recital at Çalış Beach in 2012. If I'm honest, I went along to take some photos. It was a quartet of cellists...really not my thing (Barry's a bit of classical music fan, but not me)...and then they started to play. Woooow, tears to the eyes, just beautiful. 

Heading Up Babadağ Mountain, Fethiye
The road to the top of Babadağ
So now, in 2014, we're at the point where we say at the beginning of the year, "Hope the classical music festival is on." And it is on, as I type. We went to the opening sunset cello recital at Benyamin Sönmez Parkı in Fethiye and then we read there would be something happening at Zirve Restaurant close to the top of Babadağ, too. Hmmm, sunset at the top of the Fethiye area's highest music...possibly paragliders taking off...yeah, let's go! 

But we've got lots of friends here at the moment, so realistically (we thought), the chances of us making that part of the festival were pretty slim. We sat at Cafe Pazar on Thursday night and mentioned in a throwaway comment that we'd thought about going, expecting everyone to not really take much notice. But no...

"Oh wow, we're up for that."

Before we knew it, all 11 of us were 'up for that,' and we'd priced up - and booked - a minibus and driver for 3:30 the day after. And, at 3:30 the day after, we all set off up the road and track towards the summit of Babadağ. We'll tell you about the journey in our next post because we had a fantastic driver who knows the area well so we did 'photo stops' at scenic points...that's for a photo post.
Paraglider, Summit Of Babadağ Mountain, Fethiye, Turkey
A paraglider prepares for take off
Barry's seen all this before because he's done the paragliding from the summit of Babadağ - but, for me, this was all a first. We're just below the summit here, at Zirve Restaurant and another take off point. It's WOW! views, straight away. Hills silhouetted against each other, resting on the sea below. We can see Gemiler Adası (St. Nicholas Island) and Kayaköy; Ölüdeniz and all the way across to Göcek. It's almost like being in a plane, except we're on a cobbled take off point for paragliders.

But we're here for the music. Once we've torn ourselves away from the views and the paragliders and the size of the take off area (am I actually pondering whether I could contemplate paragliding - it all looks so easy from here), we make our way through the restaurant and to the garden area where the performance will take place. It's already busy and, of course, all the tables are reserved. Dinner and jazz, at the top of a mountain - always going to be a winner for lots of people. 
Live Jazz Music, Zirve Cafe, Babadağ, Ölüdeniz
It was a good crowd!
We wondered how busy it was going to be - and we got our answer. Not a spare seat or table to be had, but we were all fine stood up at the back, admiring the views and taking in the atmosphere. 
Jazz Quartet On Babadağ Mountain, Ölüdeniz, Fethiye
The jazz quintet were a quartet
I'm definitely more of a fan of the cellos and the orchestras we've seen as part of the Benyamin Sönmez Fethiye Classical Music Festival than I am of jazz; but who cares when you're close to the summit of a mountain with views over the Mediterranean, paragliders drifting silently below, the gentle sound of saxophone radiating the atmosphere? It's one of those pinch-yourself moments. One night we're half-mentioning we might go to the top of a mountain for music and the night after, here we are! 

And you can get a rough idea of the mood from this video. All very chilled and tranquil and the band continues to play as the sun started to set. At this point, we really felt we also had to appreciate the sunset from the top of Babadağ so we sloped away to take all in; music still playing in the distance...
Views From The Top Of Babadağ Mountain, Ölüdeniz, Fethiye, Turkey
Sunset views from Babadağ
These are the moments where you can sit, ponder, take all in, feel a bit excited when you spot a landmark you recognise, be comforted in the familiarity of landmarks you recognise straight away...and just generally remind yourself (as if we need to) how beautiful this little corner of the world really is... 
  • We also made a video of the cello recital in Fethiye at Benyamin Sönmez Parkı a couple of evenings earlier. Everything was classical until I set my camera to the video setting... If you like Michael Jackson's, 'Smooth Criminal' (or if you're just curious), give the cello version a listen by clicking this link for day 1 of the Fethiye Classical Music Festival.
  • If you would like to know more about Benyamin Sönmez, you can read this short biography on Wikipedia.
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