Ok, so it’s been a while since I’ve been on here but, due to an unexpected change in my living arrangements, I now have a bit more time on my hands (isn’t it amazing how much time is spent picking up someone else’s underpants!).

One thing that has never and will never be on my Bucket List is diving. I’m asthmatic, I’m terrified of the thought of drowning, I can’t swim very well…so, what did I do in August? That’s right, I went diving…

My attempts at yoga in the last few years gave the opportunity to meet a young lady called Maria who, with her hubby, owns and runs a Diving Company here in Fethiye. Dolphin Diving to be exact. One day I was just walking past the dive boat and thought ‘ah bugger it, you only live once’ and found myself booking a ‘Try Dive’.

So, there I was on the day, crapping myself, nervously making conversation with the other divers, and convinced this was going to be my last day on earth.

After a beautiful journey to a small bay, and some basic instructions from Can (Maria’s rather dashing husband), I was sewn into a diving suit, strapped into the tanks and weighed down with a weight belt.

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Try Dive’s are really simple; you don’t have to learn about controlling anything except your breathing, the Dive Master holds your hand the whole time and all you have to do is flap your legs and look around.

The first dive was wonderful – so many fish, feeding the aforementioned fish, not drowning – you know, all that sort of stuff.

Second dive? Well, not quite so successful. Almost as soon as I got in the water I got water in my mask. I obediently did what Can taught me but forgot one crucial step and ended up with more water in my mask. So what did I do? Well, I did the thing any sane person would do, I panicked! But it was ok because my hero, Can, was there, calming me down, making sure I didn’t forget to breathe and before I knew it I was back on dry land (boat) relieving my journey into the deep.

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Will I do it again? I don’t know. Maybe. Possibly. Hmm, probably not. But I can at least say I’ve tried it and now go off and do something else that IS on the Bucket List.

 

Living in Turkey, you get the chance to witness belly dancing on a regular basis.

Now I can’t confess that belly dancing is very high on my list of career choices but when a friend of mine said her colleague, Lauren, was going to run a 6 week course in the art of jiggling your hips I thought, ‘hell why not?’

So, there I was, along with a handful of equally bemused ladies, standing in a gym studio, ready to show off our enviable ability to make our hips go one way whilst our shoulders go the other.

At least, that was the plan…

Unfortunately, the first hurdle I had to get over was that I didn’t have the two (sorry, three) attributes needed to be a successful belly dancer – a belly and a decent pair of boobs.

But, not to worry, I’ll give it a go.

Now, as it happens, belly dancing isn’t nearly as easy as it looks. It’s all very well being told that you need to do a figure of 8 with your hips but actually achieving something above a 6 takes a lot of concentration. In fact,  I was concentrating so much that I ended up going to sleep at night with the sound of Lauren’s voice whispering ‘figure of 8’ in my ear.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, despite the excellent teachings of Lauren who, for the record, has the perfect body for belly dancing, at the end of 6 weeks I was no nearer being a natural belly dancer than I was 6 weeks before.

However, it was a good laugh, it was actually a good form of exercise and I made some new friends. But the number 8 is now my least favourite number…

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It’s easy to tell who the teacher is!

 

I’ve recently spent an entire week with my mother in a confined space and, yes, we are still talking to each other.

Luckily this confined space had views, fresh air, cheesy cabarets, fridge magnet making classes and more food than you could possibly eat in a lifetime – yes, that’s right, we went on a cruise.

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Neither of us have been on a cruise before, or even fancied going on a cruise before, but we wanted to see the Norwegian Fjords and this, without doubt, is the best way to do it.

So, anyway, we trotted off to Tilbury (might as well start with a glamorous location huh) and boarded the MS Magellan along with approx 1,200 passengers and exactly 562 crew (133 of which were Ukrainian). We thought we’d splash out (excuse the pun) and get a cabin with a window – well, when I say ‘we’ I actually mean ‘mum’ as she paid for the whole thing – she’s a good girl.

After our first night at sea and a hearty breakfast we docked in Amsterdam and spent a very brief few hours tootling down the canals admiring the architecture and city life and marvelling at the fact that you can buy Cannabis stater kits at the flower market. I had to stop mum from buying one which now makes me wonder what on earth she gets up to when she’s on her own.

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We got back, had lunch, walked around the ship, had dinner, went to see the onboard cabaret, had some chocolate then went to bed and woke up on what was going to prove to be the longest day EVER…

It was the first of two days at sea. Now I can certainly see the appeal of a cruise for a lot of people but today was never ending for us. With neither of us wanting to participate in the aforementioned fridge magnet making class, with us both being a little too quiet and self conscious to take part in the quizzes and with mum not being able to read for more than 10 minutes without her eyes aching, we were left with little else to do. Luckily I had booked a spa treatment for myself and, of course, we had 3 meals to look forward to but the only other option open to us was to sleep so that’s what we did (we’ve both had a lot of practice after all).

Anyway, it all seemed worth it when we woke up the next morning in Norway and to possibly the most stunning scenery I’ve ever witnessed. My eyes actually hurt looking at it. We looked at the scenery from the boat, we looked at the scenery from a coach, we looked at the scenery on foot and we looked at the scenery from a train – which ever way you looked at it, it was beyond beautiful.

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After 3 days of starring wide eyed at mountains, lakes and waterfalls, we reached Bergen – a lovely city within walking distance of the port and a delight to walk around. But of course, our first trip was up to the top of a mountain to…you guessed it…look at the scenery.

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All too soon the holiday was over – apart from one more DAY AT SEA…oh dear god.

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But we made it, and after getting off the ship, catching a train to London, meeting a friend for lunch, catching a train to Gatwick, catching a plane to Turkey and getting a lift from the airport, I finally made it back to my own personal paradise In Fethiye.

And you know what, no matter how stunning or beautiful a place might be, there really is no place like home…

Hello all.

Sorry, it’s been a while. I promise you haven’t missed much.

But now I’ve got something to tell you – I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before but I’ve recently started volunteering at the local cat shelter (Kedi Evi). Myself and a number of other dedicated volunteers do one or two shifts a week and spend a good four hours scooping up crap (there’s no polite way of putting it, sorry!). We must have over 60 cats there now so that’s a lot of crap!

Kitten season has just finished and we’ve been overwhelmed by the number that have turned up on our doorstep but, unfortunately, if we don’t take them then who knows where they will end up!

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We’ve also got a couple who have been with us so long that they’ve become mascots of the Kedi Evi with Mr G (below) being the daddy of all cats.

Mr GAnd, yes, we’ve also had the old cat up a tree scenario but that meant firemen so you didn’t hear any complaints from me – until they turned up that is and I realised that I might get tall and dark but handsome obviously had a day off!

firemenAnyway, I’ve gone off theme a bit so where was I?

Ah yes, well, last November my beloved Munch passed away, aged 17, leaving a gaping 4 legged hole in my life.

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But all that changed when, one day back in May, I turned up at the Kedi Evi and found a gorgeous, almost new, bundle of fluff that had been abandoned outside the gate. I took one look into those big, sad eyes and knew there was a good chance that hole was just about to be filled.

There was only one aspect of this plan that I hadn’t bargained for….this cute, soppy eyed bundle of fluff was a puppy, a 10 week old puppy to be exact.

A DOG! Bloody hell, I don’t want a dog. I’ve never wanted a dog. I’ve still got one very old, very grumpy cat who will not now, not ever, accept a dog into the household.

But I picked this puppy up and it put a paw on each of my shoulders and buried it’s face in my neck and that was it, I was smitten, I was in love. I called Ronnie and asked “Can we keep it just for a few days until it finds a forever home?” (yeah right). He said ok, as long as it really was just for a few days.

Well, luckily for me, the puppy’s charm didn’t just work on me and it was love at first sight for Ronnie. It’s taken Scooby a little longer and there have been a few claws in nose incidents but we’re getting there.

Day 1 and she’s already pinched Scooby’s bed:

11048728_10153230424425141_7998993234083172172_n“He’s behind me isn’t he?”

11112217_10153259983150141_4028450535096947750_nAll that’s left for me to say (whilst I wince and rub the tooth marks on my arm, leg, other arm, head etc, etc, etc) is “thank you for choosing me Cookie, there is absolutely no doubt you’ve changed my life for the better.”

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Hang on…..what’s that rumbling I can hear in the background? I think it might be Munch turning in her grave…

Yep, that’s right, I’m a penguin….or at least I was for a majority of the first week of December.

As you may know, I do voluntary work for the 3C’s Children’s Charity in Calis and I obviously had a weak moment when they said ‘Hey Sian, fancy dressing up as a penguin for the Christmas fair?’. My first reaction should have been ‘What? Not on your nelly. I don’t even like Christmas.’ but instead it came out sounding something like ‘Yeah, sure, I’d love to and I think I’ll call myself Percy.’

But it wasn’t just dressing up on the day was it? Oh no, before I knew it I found myself embroiled in a strict fitness regime.

I tried to persuade the bosses that penguins are meant to be cute and a tad chubby but apparantly I needed to be in peak physical condition to jump on and off vehicles, chase stray children and generally act bouncy for 3 hours outside Santa’s grotto.

Before I knew it I was doing all sorts…

Yoga:

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Working out at the gym:

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Going to exercise classes:

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Not to mention helping decorate Christmas trees with my colleagues:

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Photo shoots with the same colleagues:

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And flirting with the Zabita (local council law enforcers):

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Now, that jumping on and off vehicles thing I mentioned before – well that involved joining Santa and the rest of his helpers the day before the Christmas fair and driving around Fethiye and Calis much to the amusement (bemusement?) of the locals, advertising the fair and Santa’s grotto – this was going to be the biggest Christmas Fair ever with over 230 stalls, musical entertainment and local bars & restaurants opening so it was definitely worth promoting.

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I’m glad to report that on the day of the fair everything went swimmingly. Myself and the Fairy Godmother stood guard at the gates to Santa’s grotto and attempted to restrain over 160 excited children. Although, to be honest, we had a harder time restraining adults who wanted to rush to the front of the grotto to take photos of their little darlings with Santa.

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All in all it was a good day. Stall holders made money, the charity made money, bar owners made money, children went home smiling and I went home a few pounds lighter thanks to Percy.

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Recently the legendary Glen Campbell released his final track ‘I’m Not Gonna Miss You’ where he talks about his battle with  Alzheimer’s. My mother’s love of ‘our Glen’ meant that I grew up with an appreciation of country music which led, in turn, to my own passion for the genre.

So, it should come as no surprise that a visit to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville was no 83 on my Bucket List and, of course, I couldn’t go without my mum.

We stayed at the Gaylord Opryland Resort which, as you’d expect with any hotel with the name ‘land’ in it, was like Disney on speed. The ruddy place was enormous although I did feel a sense of being let down at the lack of Gay Lords prancing around but hey ho.

P1030920Anyway, during our stay we had a night planned at the Grand Ole Opry. For those of you who don’t know, the Opry stages a live radio show showcasing the music of old (very old!) and new country singers. Ma and I, along with a number of the other travellers within our tour group headed off to the Opry and waited with bated breath to see what acts we would be introduced to. It was whilst waiting that I started making conversation with an English couple who were on our tour only to discover that the lady didn’t like tattoos (of which I have 5) or Americans (erm…).

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Luckily I was saved from pointing out the obvious by the start of the show, and what a show it was.

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There was a gent on the mic who read out the ads in between acts, 2 hosts and about 20 acts. Quite a few of the acts were old timers who surprised me by not only living through their sets but by how much energy they put into them. Considering how much I groan just when I’m getting off the sofa nowadays, I can definitely say they put me to shame.

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There were of course some younger acts too including one of the cast of the TV series ‘Nashville’ and a rather pleasant looking chap called Chuck Wicks that had my mum considering trading in Tim McGraw for a younger version.

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All in all it was a cracking night and it turned out it was also one of the last times that George Hamilton IV would play live as he passed away just last month.

And if that doesn’t make you feel a little weepy then check out Glen’s last single…

Every so often I like to write a little post about someone who has done the same as me – given up everything they’ve ever known and moved to a new country for a new beginning.

So when my friend, Sue, invited me to lunch I figured it was as good a time as any to have a chat with her about how she ended up here in Fethiye after spending most of her life in Alberta, Canada.

SueThe first thing I learnt about her is that when she invites you to lunch you say yes – and make sure you wear lose fitting clothes. There’s me strolling down to meet her at her home, expecting a sandwich, maybe some ice cream if I’m lucky but, blimey, how wrong I was. There on the table was a chef prepared meal including salad, a chicken thingy with mushrooms and cheese (not sure that’s the technical name for it but hey ho) and some chips in honour of my British upbringing.

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Anyway, after stuffing myself and getting away with gently suggesting I take a doggy bag home with me, we began the interview and this is what I found out…

Sue originally discovered Fethiye after being on holiday in Marmaris in September 2012, where a friend suggested a gulet trip that departed from Fethiye. She admits to being a bit reluctant but ended up falling in love with not only the area but the boating lifestyle. Soon afterwards she started looking at ways she could orchestrate a move here and how she could make a living legally.

Like most of us, myself included, it was a bit of a pipe dream but then tragedy struck and her house in Alberta completely burnt down on Christmas Day of 2012. Not only did Sue lose everything she owned, she also lost some of her beloved pets.

As if this wasn’t enough to persuade her it was time for a change, a few weeks later she suffered a series of detached retinas and lost a significant amount of vision in both eyes so couldn’t continue her Project Management career that she’d worked so hard to establish.

Now, at this point, I think a lot of us would have said ‘oh **** it’, settled down with a large bottle of vodka and locked ourselves away from the world.

Well, not our Sue, she saw this as the opportunity she had been waiting for – after all, aside from family and friends, what was there now to keep her in Canada – no home, no job, no pets, no nothing.

Of course, we can’t forget the issue of her not now being able to see particularly well. Before coming to Fethiye she had to have extensive operations that involved something like fluid being removed from her eyes and replaced with Freon gas (must admit I cringed and stopped listening at this point!), and a dreadfully long recovery which included many, many months of “face down” bed rest, starring at the carpet of the hotel where she had stayed since the house fire.

The upside of this was that it gave her time to consider her options – it was either that or watch Jeremy Kyle – and she came up with the idea of buying a gulet, living on it and offering week long cruises around the gorgeous coast of Turkey.

Swiftly moving on to January 2014 and we now find Sue the proud owner of the Neşko gulet thanks to a travel agent in Istanbul and his contacts who helped her find the boat. It wasn’t in great condition mind you. So with the help of some great Turkish friends she renovated the entire vessel, installed new bathrooms, air con, seating – you name it, it was replaced. The same friend introduced her to Kamil, who is now her Chef and she also employed a Captain, Master Sailor and a Cadette and on April 1st 2014 the gulet hit the water for the first time. It didn’t sink, which I think is always a good thing for a boat and they took their first paying passengers in May this year.

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The most popular cruise route, and Sue’s favourite, is the Blue Cruise from Fethiye to Kekova, where her guests have seen turtles, dolphins and colourful fish as well as some stunning scenery.

Of course she doesn’t quite know what she’ll be doing in the future but for now, sailing on the open seas and sharing this wonderful country with visitors from all over the world is enough to keep her smiling. And, let’s face it, when you think that a mere 17 months previously her whole life was a smouldering pile of ash, I reckon the girl’s done good.

If you’d like to know more about Sue’s gulet cruises you can visit her website or Facebook page.

Me? Well I’m hoping she’ll get so much business from this blog that I’ll get a free trip but, in the meantime, I’ll settle for another one of those chicken thingy’s…

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I’ve just returned from a 10 day trip to Edinburgh in Scotland, well Musselburgh to be exact, where I got to meet 972 members of my partner’s family. Well, that’s what it felt like anyway – they were bloody everywhere. He’d promised me that I’d only meet them in small groups so when, on our first day, I met 23 of them at a birthday party, I knew that our understanding of ‘small groups’ was a bit different.

Anyway, I survived the clan gathering (just) and, with Ronnie and his son, proceeded to explore the delights of Edinburgh and it’s deep, and sometimes dark, history. But the event I was looking forward to the most, probably one of the most famous traditions in Scotland, and an evening where I could openly ogle men’s legs, was the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

The show started off with a marriage proposal – don’t panic, it wasn’t us – which was gleefully accepted and kicked the evening off on a high note.

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Then, after the compere welcomed visitors from all over the world, the festivities began with a, if I’m honest, rather lacklustre performance from the Maltese contingent. Luckily they’d started with the worst and the show just got better and better with performances from many different countries.

I saw Scottish men in skirts, Maori warriors in skirts, Zulu warriors in skirts…ohhh and some Marines…there may even have been some other guys in trousers too but I don’t remember them (ahem).

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P1040212 P1040190It was completely different to what I’d been expecting. I’d steeled myself to spend 90 minutes listening to bagpipes, which I think we can agree, isn’t always the most restful listening experience in the world, but instead we were subjected to sights and sounds from all over the world. And, not only that, I became mesmerised with Edinburgh Castle itself which changed appearance every few minutes. In fact, if I’m honest, I probably spent more time looking at the Castle than I did at the performers.

Here’s just some of the ‘faces’ of the Castle:

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Finally the night came to an end with a haunting performance from a loan piper standing on the walls of the Castle and then we all filtered out, in a very British manner, feeling like we’d shared a very momentus occasion. The only person who obviously didn’t feel that way was the geezer shouting out of his window down the street, complaining about the noise. Ha! Well that’ll teach you to stay in a hostel on the Royal Mile during the Edinburgh Festival you dipweed.

Anyway, to finish, here’s a little snippet of the grand finale. Don’t judge me, I’m no Steven Spielberg…

 

Back in May myself and my loved one booked tickets to go and see those grand old rockers Aerosmith, in Istanbul. We were particularly excited as we’d seen that Slash had joined them on a few previous dates and figured that would be a sight to behold. Mind you, I’ve never liked being in the company of people who have more luxuriant hair than I do so I might have had to deal with some jealousy issues.

But, not only would we get the chance to witness pensioners exhibiting more athleticism than I could ever hope to achieve, I’d also get the chance to tick off no. 41 on my Bucket List – visit Istanbul.

So off we toddled to Dalaman airport; a quick hop on and off the plane, an even quicker apology to a guy for making him move seats and then realising he was already in the right one, a short bus journey and voila, there we were in the hustle and bustle of Istanbul. We checked into our perfectly situated boutique hotel, where I temporarily felt guilty for interrupting the receptionist as she tried to arrange her social life by text – but the guilt stopped when it was clear that we weren’t going to interrupt her at all and we could damn well wait until she was finished before she took any notice of us. Luckily the room more than made up for her lack of social skills so we dropped off our bags and, after the obligatory check of all the draws and the toiletries on offer, went for a walk. It turned out to be a fairly long walk as we turned left when we should have turned right and both of us were far too stubborn to admit that maybe, just maybe we weren’t going in the direction we planned.

Anyway, after a few hours of strolling (both in the wrong and right direction) we returned to the hotel and put on our glad rags ready to rock and roll the night away. We wandered down to the stadium and were surprised at how quiet it was. Had we got the wrong night? Had we got the wrong time? Had we got the wrong city? Well, no, unfortunately it wasn’t something as simple as that. We found out that the gig had been cancelled due to the tragic and horrifying accident suffered by the miners in Soma, Turkey. Well we couldn’t very well argue with that could we? And indeed we didn’t.

So, with thoughts of their families, friends and the miners themselves we went and sat in a cafe by the Bosphorus and passed the time relaxing while thanking the stars for our blessed lives, before returning to the hotel where we noticed the receptionist had finished her shift – hopefully she’d wisely chosen to pop out and get a personality transplant!

Next morning we woke up bright and early and set about becoming crazed tourists until it was time for our flight home. But first we had a very exciting appointment to keep. As luck would have it, all the Board Directors from my old company were attending a Board Meeting (or maybe a bored meeting!) in Istanbul. After a few emails the previous week it was arranged that myself & Ronnie would meet up with two of the big cheeses I used to work for. It was great to catch up with them, for them to meet Ronnie, and for me to finally say out loud that I thought one of my other old bosses was a bit of a knob.

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After filling ourselves up with croissants, eggs, fruit and various other goodies we said our farewells and jumped on a tram to Sultanahmet, then got off it 5 minutes later when it terminated early due to tramline works. We strolled (struggled) up the hill to where many tourist attractions are gathered within a very walkable area. We meandered round the Blue Mosque (not as blue as I was expecting), took out a second mortgage to get tickets to wander round the Hagia Sofia, then took out a third mortgage to have a couple of glasses of cay (tea) at an eye watering price of 5.5tl each (they are 1tl where I live).

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But the most exciting venue for me was the Basilica Cistern, an underground water cistern that was built, erm, a long time ago, to provide water to the city in case of siege. It’s eeriness and pure beauty was a sight to behold and even the arrival of a class of Turkish school children did nothing to take away from the aura of the place.

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And then, of course, I had to drag poor Ronnie to the Grand Bazaar, a place no female who considers herself a woman would miss out on. I’ve never seen so many shops in my entire life! If we’d been travelling with more than just hand luggage I would have spent a fortune but luckily that probably saved me from having to find space in my apartment for a load of stuff I probably, ok definitely, don’t need.

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After a quick jaunt around the bazaar (got lost again), it was then time to head back to the airport and return to our little piece of paradise in the sun.

Istanbul is a great city to visit, I would highly recommend it to anyone that thrives on hustle & bustle, or anyone that likes to pick up a quick bargain, or anyone who likes to wander around without knowing where they are going and I’ll definitely be visiting again but this time I guess I’d better pack a map!

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My sister is what I would call an accomplished horse-woman, which in my eyes is anyone who can get on a horse and not immediately fall off the other side.

In May she came to visit, along with her boyfriend, and was keen to do some horse riding in the local area. Now, as she is my little sister by 12 years I obviously have a responsibility to look after her, spoil her and make sure she gets all she desires so off I toodled down to the local tour company and before I knew it I’d arranged for four of us (that’s 1 accomplished rider and 3 idiots) to ride around the hills and valleys of Kayakoy whilst also ticking off number 56 on my Bucket List.

Now Turkey isn’t known for it’s health and safety so it wasn’t a great surprise to learn that riding helmets were optional and that there weren’t any questions beyond ‘have you ridden a horse before’. The first half of the 3 hour trek was very sedate and luckily enough the horses were trained so well that you couldn’t get them to veer away from the set path which was damn good seeing as the aforementioned set path, in a lot of areas, was just a foot wide track with a plunge down the mountain awaiting you on the left.

We then had a 20 minute break in a lovely little cafe in Kayakoy discussing our experiences so far, at which point my other half admitted that he had spent some of the trek with his arms wrapped round the neck of his horse – something I’d had the misfortune not to see.

Anyway, the second half of the trek was due to begin and we were given the option of staying with the sedate group or going with the more experienced group. Obviously, being the idiots that we are, we volunteered for the more experienced group.

I was given another horse this time, a faster horse, which I was assured was equally as obedient as the last horse. So I mounted quite confidentially only to discover, to my horror, that, yes, the horse was obedient but this unfortunately meant that it followed, nose to arse, the lead horse which galloped ahead to make sure the path was clear.

Now I’ve been informed that my horse only actually galloped for a few strides but you trying telling that to a first time rider. As far as I am concerned the ruddy thing galloped for miles, along winding paths, in between foliage, even jumping over a fallen tree at one point and, apparantly from the back I looked like an expert horse-woman, but from the front it was a different story – panic across the face, white knuckles, blisters from holding on too tight – GET ME OFF THIS BLOODY HORSE…

But I survived, I loved it, it was great value for money at only £15 for a half day and, most importantly, I got a picture of me on the horse, on a plate –  you couldn’t ask much more than that could you?

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Now, please excuse me while I hobble inside to find the biggest, softest cushion to sit on while my backside recovers…

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