Peripatetic journalist and Mum-on-the-run, Jess Baldwin, broadens her pursuit to uncover the world’s finest homes for hire, venturing abroad this week. Here, in her ‘home from home’ feature, she sails away to the Turkish Riviera…
I met my first love in Turkey. Or, so I thought. I was a spotty know-it-all teen with brace-clad teeth and a Norfolk twang. He was kind-eyed hotel barman, called Attila. Our relationship consisted of a fortnight’s child labour behind the hotel bar, fuelled by a misguided infatuation and mistranslated compliments. Back on British soil a loyal procession of airmail dutifully landed, followed by a handful of teary and extortionately expensive international phone calls. Surprisingly, my mother didn’t approve…. Particularly as she had to order an overpriced piña colada in order to see me on the holiday she had paid for.
Almost twenty years on and I was heading back to the Turkish Riviera. This time, with straighter teeth, more wrinkles than spots and a toddler-in-tow. Tired from teething a tantrums, I had no intentions of slaving away on this trip (or falling in love!). In fact, I didn’t intend on lifting a finger. Not to clean, not to cook and certainly not to mix a piña flipping colada. No, it wasn’t romance needed this time around, it was utter rest and relaxation: enter the Lighthouse Lofts.
Overlooking a calm bay on Kaş’ peaceful peninsula, Villa Ayışığı is one of two luxury standalone properties created by Turan Doyuran, the affable owner of the nearby Deniz Feneri Lighthouse Hotel. With floor-to-ceiling sea-facing glass walls, entering the spacious modern villa is reminiscent of boarding an ocean liner’s bow-perched penthouse, with endless uninterrupted views of the Med dominating every room. The minimalist white-on-white interior is home to a heady mix of gleaming marble, cedar and copious amounts of glass. The techy pad places everything you could possibly require at the touch of a button; from fresh ice and free-flowing mineral water to electric blinds and sun canopies.
But it isn’t just the setting and design which are on point here. Marrying the best services of a hotel with the comfort, space and privacy of a villa, Lighthouse Lofts are ideal for villa virgins (you know the ones, deep down they know they’ve outgrown hotel rooms, but they can’t quite bring themselves to sacrifice the breakfast buffet and concierge in favour of ‘self-catering’).
With a dedicated villa PA, a daily cleaner, morning bread deliveries, a well-stocked kitchen and 3-floors of uninterrupted sea views and silence, this could just be the villa to break them in, in style. Guests also have full use of the Deniz Feneri Lighthouse Hotel, reached in 2-minutes… via your complementary hire car. Admit it, you don’t get that with a junior suite, do you?
Having demolished the welcome meze, we cracked open the complimentary wine as we toasted the week ahead; tomb-scattered mountains, turquoise waters and ancient Lycian settlements…Of course, all good adventures start on a full stomach and the breakfast spread at Deniz Feneri Lighthouse Hotel certainly delivers, with just baked bread, fresh fruits, cooked-to-order omelettes and a tempting range of cold cuts and Turkish cheese. Each morning we indulged in a local fruit salad of diced apples, chopped walnuts, honey and cinnamon, quietly watching the sun creep into the bay as linen-clad Brits wafted towards their tables, briefly exchanging beach tips and general merriment, before settling down to savour the view.
5-minute’s away, the historic town of Kaş, boasts a busy harbour and an attractive tangle of atmospheric lantern-lit backstreets, where dark corners play home to trendy bars and bougainvillea-shrouded doorways give way to candle-lit restaurants and sweet Greek Ottoman buildings. It’s like visiting a living museum. Whilst sniffing out an artisan coffee we discovered the King’s Tomb – the grandest of the town’s 4th-century BC Lycian sarcophaguses, which crowns one of its prettiest (and steepest) streets, nicknamed Slippery Street. An hour later, we casually stumbled upon a dramatic Lycian amphitheatre – now a popular spot for watching the town’s famous sunsets.
The mountains behind Kaşare also scattered with ancient hanging tombs, many of which are visible from town and illuminated at night.
Kaş’ ancient streets remain wonderfully independent, with fragrant spice stores touting giddying displays of Turkish delight and sweet boutiques selling colourful peshtemals, jewellery and hand-painted pottery. However, what surprised us most was the town’s thriving culinary scene, with hundreds of characterful eateries hiding beneath vine garlands and down easily-missed alleys. From street sellers serving up aromatic falafel and freshly caught mussels to budget cafes dolling out traditional meze and seafront bars with cabanas overlooking the Med.
The bohemian crowd which flock to laidback Kaş have also brought with them a wave of modern healthy eating joints – vegan Oburus Momus’ convivial setting became a favourite haunt for guilt-free lunches (they do superb eggplant croquettes). We dined like kings for £3pp at low-key café, Kasim and found ourselves sniffing out the local ocakbaşı with the determination of hungry bloodhounds. Lunch became even cheaper when we cottoned on to the fact that the best table in town… was back at Villa Ayışığı – so we began finding delicious takeaways, to enjoy in silence, dolphin spotting from our terrace.
Afternoon coffees were enjoyed at the water’s edge, reached via endless steps, taking us from our pool to our private waterfront, via a tunnel of shrubs, fig and lime trees. Watching the sun hit the bay I realised labelling this the ‘Turquoise’ Coast, is frankly underplaying it. It’s like calling Stephen Fry… bright, or Trump…Marmite. The colours are immense, shifting from the cyan shallows to the distant jewel shimmy of sapphire – via every tone imaginable. Up close, even the razor-sharp rocks which hug the bay are a fascinating to watch; the ashen sun parched peaks giving way to jet black, with every pull of the tide revealing the silken purple which lurks beneath.
Admittedly, Kaş isn’t blessed with the coast’s best beaches (frankly this is a blessing, keeping the chain hotels and big package tours at bay), but we became rather fond of the local pebbly cove. For a more Instagram-worthy shot, Kaputaş Beach is a scenic 25-minute drive away and 15-minutes beyond that is famous Patara. Sprawling 11-miles, it is Turkey’s longest beach – and it’s popular with the local Loggerhead turtles. It also boasts the world-famous ruins of a Lycian town, including a 5,000-seat theatre and a Byzantine basilica.
Evenings were spent back in town, soaking up the thrum of the main square before retreating to L’apéro: a French restaurant illuminated by a sweet lantern-lit tree and guarded by a dozy dalmatian. Nearby, Bay Riza’s rooftop terrace offers a peaceful spot from which to watch the sun leak in to the bloodied evening sky as the smell of steak wafts up from the kitchen. Next door, Ikbal restaurant cooks up a Friday lamb special: an enormous shoulder of slow-cooked lamb, baked in a terracotta pot – probably the nearest we got to a true Ottoman feast.
On our last day, we drove up into the mountains, to get a little perspective. Along the way we discovered yet more of the region’s famed ruins; a burnt-out fire suggesting that this was another piece of history claimed by locals seeking a sundowner. Taking in the verdant peninsula from afar; its lush peaks, crystal clear waters and empty beaches, I realised it had happened again. I’d fallen in love, with Kaş. This time, I knew my mother would approve.
Turkey specialist Fairlight Jones offers seven nights at the Lighthouse Lofts in Kas from £865pp based on 4 sharing, including return flights to Dalaman, transfers, seven days’ car hire, a welcome hamper and breakfast basket. For more information call 020 3875 0351 or visit fairlightjones.com.