Travels Marmaris Turkey Sentido Orka Resort

TURKEY RESORTS: Sentido Orka Lotus Beach Resort

*** Pre-note: As I wrote over on my Top 10 tips for choosing an All-Inclusive Resort in Turkey post, all hotels are required to abide by strict rules for reopening and hosting guests. Please visit the Sentido Orka Lotus Resort website for this information as well as up to date prices.

Located in between the city of Marmaris and the beach town of Icmeler, Sentido Orka Lotus Beach Ultra-All Inclusive Resort is the newest kid on the block. Mountains are facing the entrance of the hotel and rooms facing towards the sea; the view is enjoyable either way.  

Built in 2015, the resort has a new and modern feel. Similar to the Grand Yazici Club Turban, the hotel boast of 441 rooms throughout nine blocks. Even though it is significant, the grounds seem smaller than the 31000 m property. 

Travels Marmaris Turkey Sentido Orka Resort

While the price is more upscale than the other hotels in town, even more than the standard room at Grand Yazici Club Turban, I found the tastefully styled lobby design for the masses. Summer could mean that there are upwards of 1,500 guests. Most communal areas are high-ceiling, vast and monotonous in design with no pockets of privacy or coziness for reading a book in solitude.  The check-in counter and guest relation desks cover the entire right wall as you enter into the lobby. 

Sentido greets their guests and visitors the best with their welcome treats and drinks. We enjoyed our choice of water or lime drink and possible 10 different types of sweets, from cookies to the traditional Turkish baklava.

Travels Marmaris Turkey Sentido Orka Resort

This bright, airy hotel prides itself on being a vacation resort for the ordinary working people – quality but affordable. Nevertheless, the rooms are all similarly arrange with Sentido colors of a light teal blue and white. The accommodations vary from one bedroom standard or superior rooms, and two bedroom family-style rooms, all accompanied by a balcony but unfortunately no sitting area. There are no luxurious suites or villa type accommodations, but several rooms connect to provide more space for families.  

Rooms:

The air-conditioned accommodations are relaxing, with streamline furniture, plush bedding and calm, neutral colors, phones with data ports, glass-topped desks, tea kettles, flat-screen cable TVs, minibars, safes, modern baths with hair dryers, toiletries, and large mirrors, and balconies. Robes, slippers, and free wireless high-speed internet access are in all rooms, but family rooms benefit from a second flat-screen TV in the additional room. All arrivals receive a welcome tray with snacks and fruit for their stay. 

Cuisine:

The dining room is large, cafeteria-style with colorful, art decorations thoughtfully placed. Breakfast starts from 7:00-10: am, and lunch is from 12:30 – 2:30 and dinner from 7-9, a plentiful buffet including house-made local specialties. For dinner, guests can enjoy one la carte meal of Chinese or Italian during their week stay. Turkish is extra and reservation-only dining. 

Travels Marmaris Turkey Sentido Orka Resort
Travels Marmaris Turkey Sentido Orka Resort
Travels Marmaris Turkey Sentido Orka Resort

Family Friendly:

During the day, the kids club offers programs for ages 4 and up. The best part about a family staying here is the number of areas for kids to enjoy. The six slide water park, the small aqua park for small children, and the 650 meters of private beach. If couples or families want some privacy, for 50 Euros a day (check website for updated prices), they can rent one of the straw-roofed open-aired villas hovering above the sea.

Travels Marmaris Turkey Sentido Orka Resort
Travels Marmaris Turkey Sentido Orka Resort
Travels Marmaris Turkey Sentido Orka Resort

Entertainment:

In the evenings, guests can enjoy a mix of entertainment, from live music three times a week, beach party, and karaoke. As well, live music serenade guests at the Roof Lounge which offers a magnificent view of the bay area. The mix of wooden archways and flooring contrast with the white chairs and cushion giving it a chic, jazzy feel. The bar is open in the summer months at 7 pm-1:30 am. 

All the extras:

A complete health club, with a hair salon, gym, bio-sauna, steam room, mood showers and treatment rooms for massage, supplements the pool. Like most all-inclusive resorts, doctor, spa, fitness area, beauty center are all available at an extra cost.

Travels Marmaris Turkey Sentido Orka Resort
Travels Marmaris Turkey Sentido Orka Resort
Travels Marmaris Turkey Sentido Orka Resort

Room service runs nonstop, and the young staff is hospitable, helpful, and professional catering to guests as needed.

How to get there:

The Dalaman Airport sits 1.5-hour drive from the hotel, and the hotel arranges for transportation for a fee. While we had a car, buses to Marmaris run every 10 minutes for 3 TL that guests can catch at the entrance of the resort. For cars, free parking is available at the back of the hotel.

While Sentido is new to Marmaris, the Orka Lotus brand is not. This is the first combined brand hotel of Sentido Orka Lotus Beach Resort of their kind, working together to serve vacationers from all over the world. 

Some final and personal thoughts:

For $140- $200 a night for a standard all-inclusive stay, I felt that this hotel could have been overpriced for couples. But for families, this sounds like a deal! The water park alone is worth the cost of this hotel. Parents can enjoy their sun-bathing while watching their kids enjoy the water activities and never have to leave the hotel!

CONS

The location is just far enough outside of Marmaris that it would be a little frustrating to ‘hop into town.’ Expect a good 20-minute ride to the city center and 30-40 TL for a taxi.  For an inexpensive option, the buses can also take you as well.

High season means the hotel can get up to 1,500 guests and over 400 staff.

While the pool is a decent size, I found the largest pool to be smaller than other pools provided by resorts about the same size. However, there are several pools to choose from as well as the beachfront.

Travels Marmaris Turkey Sentido Orka Resort

PROS

This resort has the longest private beach of 650 meters which means everyone can have a little piece of the sea to themselves. 

The hotel sits on the walking/bike path built from Marmaris to Icmeler. If time, guest can enjoy a run, walk, or bike ride to either city for a few hours. 

***Disclaimer*** For my travel article, I received a tour of the hotel and grounds. Other than a complimentary lunch, I did not receive any complimentary services, upgrades, or accommodations during our time at the hotel. I did not personally stay at this hotel. All opinions are my own.

Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive

TURKEY RESORTS: Grand Yazici Club Turban

*** Pre-note: As I wrote over on my Top 10 tips for choosing an All-Inclusive Resort in Turkey post, all hotels are required to abide by strict rules for reopening and hosting guests. Please visit the Grand Yazici Club Turban website for this information.

After reviewing three all-inclusive 5-star resorts in Marmaris area, I can tell you without a doubt that my interactions with the Grand Yazici Club Turban and their staff were by far my favorite. 

Travel writing looks different in Turkey. Typical professional courtesy emails don’t always get through to the correct representative. I have considered translating my emails in Turkish (as not all ‘English’ speakers are created equal as well). Plus, Turkish hotels (unless they are a large chain), are more accessible and happier to communicate with over the phone. 

However, Club Turban had no issues responding to my emails. Jülide at guest relations was terrific, easy and quick to communicate with via email. 

Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive
Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive

On the west edge of Marmaris city starts a chain of beachfront resorts and hotels; the first hotel you will see is the Grand Yazici Club Turban. If you want the night-life of Marmaris with the privacy and luxury of a resort, this is the perfect location. 

Built in the 70s, it is the first resort in this strip of the area. Turban, the owner, asked to build on the once government protected land to host future conferences and governmental workers. Since Turban has passed away, the family business has continued under the brother and sister duo; the brother is owning the one class up Club Turban, and the sister possessing the nearby Grand Marmaris Palace. Both are only open seasonally, usually March to October. In the winter, guest can enjoy snowy wintery activities while staying in the family’s smaller 18-room hotel in Uludag.

Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive

The hotel only looks like it has been here much longer than its 30 years because the hundreds of tall pine trees scattered throughout the grounds give it an earthy, old neighborhood feel. The hotel was very strategic about building around the existing trees, even to the point where balconies and roofs created holes and corners to allow for their lean into the buildings. 

The 459 room resort provides several types of accommodations; 224 of which are villas. Whatever style room, you would like, they most likely have. 

The Main Rooms: Our room was located in the main building which two years ago was considered the adult-only section of the resort. Now open to any guest, the main building rooms range from 40 m standard rooms to the 210 m Presidential suite: standard room, one bedroom Suites, two-bedroom suites for families, all with balconies facing towards the resort and thermal pool.

Villas are available as well.

Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive

Arrival by car, we were greeted warmly in English by the gate staff, and our car was taken for parking. I am still unsure where the car was parked but there was no need to worry about it, and it is included in your cost.  After the quick check-in, we received our bracelets and information sheets with the services information and a map of the 41,000 meters grounds. The concierge, Huseyin, a 20-year employee of Grand Yazici who works at the winter hotel in Uludag and in the summers here, kindly showed us to our room. 

To our surprise, a beautiful arranged tray of fresh fruits, nuts, dried fruit and cookies accompanied with wine and whiskey were delivered to our room. For marine and executive rooms, extra included services are given such as breakfast to the room upon request, a baby buggy, and flowers upon arrival. For those living the ultra luxurious life, services such as a butler, golf car, and private pavilion are available for a fee. 

Guests have the option of 6 different pools located throughout the grounds; including a ‘relax pool’ for guests over the age of 14 years old, indoor heated pool, a thermal water pool, and a special children’s pool and slides. Otherwise, private 330-meter beach comes set up with sun loungers and umbrellas for guests every morning.

Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive
Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive

One will never go hungry here. The main restaurant serves breakfast, late breakfast (which makes me think of the hobbits and their 2nd breakfasts), lunch, dinner, and even a midnight Soup (which we never stay up late enough for).  As well, there are snack bars, coffee breaks, and early lunch and supper options for children.

Outside of the central area, guests can enjoy the pool bar, beach bar, my favorite – the Coffee Corner, and the kids favorite, the Lemon Cafe, where they can get free ice cream whenever they want.  Week-long guest receives one included al la carte meal from either the Chinese Restaurant or the Kebab House. The La Pergola Italian Restaurant, Mavi Seafood Restaurant, and the newly opened Steak House are all extra cost.

Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive
Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive

During the day, Mini Club programs run all day for ages 4 and up. Babysitters are available for younger ages at an extra cost. 

As well, entrance to the Turkish Baths, Steam room, and Fitness are included with additional services at a fee. In the evenings, guests can enjoy a mix of entertainment, from 9 PM entertainment show like magic or acrobatics, live music every night at 9:30, and on the weekends alternating Disco and “White dress” parties. Like most all-inclusive resorts, doctor, spa, fitness area, beauty center are all available at an extra cost.

Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive

Repeat guest receive priority and perks like booking for al la carte restaurants and discounts for all spa services. 

The Dalaman Airport caters to guests heading to Marmaris area and this hotel. If needed, the hotel arranges transfers to the hotel. While we had a car, there is a mini bus to Marmaris that guests can catch at the entrance of the resort every 10 minutes for 3 TL.

If you are interested in this hotel for a large conference. The Club Turban has the largest in the area fitting over a 1,000 in the main area. The large room can be split into 3 smaller rooms and customizable services are provided as needed for your conference. 

Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive

Some final and personal thoughts:

For $110 a night for a standard all-inclusive stay, I felt that this hotel is worth every penny. 

Their goal is to make the guests “holidays unforgettable and happiest time by providing high-level service.” 

CONS: 

Being a large resort means that it also comes with lots of guests. Upward of 1,800 people can be on the property in the peak of high season. Other than the crowds of meal times, the noise around the grounds is minimal. 

While the colors were neutral tones, I found the sitting room set to be dated. Out of all that, it wasn’t a deterrent from going back, which we did by the way. Being a 40-year-old hotel, that is really impressive.

Most rooms do not have a view of the sea, but for us, it wasn’t necessary. 

PROS: 

Our suite was one bedroom and one sitting room with two bathrooms. The rooms were amazingly spacious with room for our clothes and bags to be tucked away out of site.  I love being able to unpack at a hotel. Always makes it homier when you can empty your luggage. 

The AC is self-regulated, and each room comes with a ceiling fans. I LOVE BOTH of these things, and I loved that BOTH of them worked well.

The showers have on-demand hot water and excellent water pressure. This gal with thick hair loves BOTH of these things when she has to wash her hair.

Travels Marmaris Turkey Grand Yazici Hotel All-Inclusive

Because of the trees, shaded sitting areas where plentiful given us space to work and relax outside and away from the sun (which my white skin does not like). 

The size of the hotel means they can provide the best entertainment and services for their guest.  This property is fantastic for families because the hotel offers suites with a sitting area for families to enjoy together. As well, the evening activities are for both families and couples. Heads up though, not all of the entertainment starts until late May or June.

Now I need to know…

Have you stayed at this resort before?

What did you think?

What is your favorite or not favorite part of staying here?

***Disclaimer*** For my travel article, I received a tour of the hotel and grounds. I also received a discounted stay with a complimentary upgrade to a suite in the main building.  As well, we enjoy an Al la carte dinner with the guest relations personnel, Jülide, at the Chinese Restaurant. However, regardless, all opinions are my own.

CatieFunkTravelsChristmasCard

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Funny how a digital Christmas card can be just as delayed to get to you as the real ones. 😉 In fact, you probably wonder what the excuse would be when I don’t actually have to order, address, nor stamp them! BUT we were traveling, and then we didn’t have internet for a few days… then it was Christmas. Yada, yada, yada… do I have any sympathy from you yet?

Anyways, Christmas cards are one of my favorite things. If I don’t get to see you or talk to you often, it’s the one time of year I can send a card and let you know I do care. Thanks to modern technology, free labels from Shutterfly, a Groupon for Zazzle, the cash app, and a very helpful sister, we are still able to uphold that tradition from afar! And I am already thinking next year how we can add our Turkey friends to the tradition and deliver a special set of cards just to them.

Part of our cards is having a small little update on the back side of the card. Unfortunately, I usually have to keep it very short due to space. But here I can embellish a little more, and I hope you enjoy!

Without further ado:

Izmir, Turkey, has been our home for more than a year now and are so thankful to report no repairs needed this year! Finally settled in our home, I, Catie, have even gone through a few ‘cluttered’ drawers and piles (so was stuff others had left or given us) and rid them of unnecessary stuff. I am trying to keep our home somewhat minimal with only the necessary items and decor. When it becomes no longer useful, it is given away or thrown out. But for the most part, our space is comfortable, light, and spacious.

Turkey itself has had an interesting year and continued to renew its state of emergency. There has also been a series of earthquakes over the last year, and that is entirely new for both of us. Lira was down (which is great for us) and is now slowing returning. However, we are thankful for normal lives and new two year visas.

Our church is a huge support to us here, and we have enjoyed serving there (yep! It’s in Turkish!). As well, we have wonderfully welcoming neighbors and a mix of foreign and Turkey friends. It is interesting to learn that misunderstandings happen in both Turkish and English (because words even in English don’t always have the same meaning!). God has been faithful to continually supply new friendships, a cozy home, support, and love every step of the way.

Our friends have been amazing. We attended our first Turkish wedding, learned about a (new-to-us) holiday, and attended the first-ever Izmir Chocolate Festival. As well, we made sure to celebrate our holidays with them as well!

Catie FunkTravels Izmir Turkey Urkmez

So how are we personally?

I am studying language and conquering the grammar and vocabulary little by little. Moving from full-time to no-time work had its struggles, but this fall I feel like I have found my stride. I have loved writing about our experiences with travel, living in Izmir, and expat lives. Photo editing is a beast, but have always loved photography, I am finally learning and enjoying to edit photos. In June, I decided to finally take the leap to pursue a new what I hope to be, a part-time career in travel writing. Needless to say, it has been a year of learning!

Jason continues to learn Turkish and has completed all lessons in the Duolingo App. Part of him language learning inspired him to make an app called Foreign Numbers! He is still working with his U.S. clients via his software consulting business, Tough Space. As well he has taken on a few extra projects here and there. He somehow makes it through more podcasts and books than I can in 3 years! We are thankful his work allows for remote work and flexibility.

We both had some health stuff come up this year (getting old sucks), but thankfully great health care here means we took care of it all without any complications!

2017CatieFunkTravels Inle Lake Myanmar

2017 was our year of travel. Being nearby to lots of interesting places, we decided to take advantage of the easy travel while we can. We started our year in Prague and are ending it with our travels to Germany. In Turkey, we covered Cappadocia in the snow, the popular beach town of Bodrum during the offseason, the hot Adana in cooler months, an annual trip to Ephesus, and the last minute surprise of exploring Antalya. Izmir and the surrounding areas are bursting with places to explore, and even though we don’t own a car, we ventured out to some nearby cities called Urla, Alaçatı, and Pammukale.

Even more fun is traveling with friends! Our biggest trip last summer included traveling SouthEast Asia for a month. With our friends Eric and Ashley (you may remember them from sailing and Prague), we toured the countries of Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Ironically enough, we travel to Bangkok via Romania, where we met up with our other friends Kathryn and Brian and were able to meet their kiddos for the first time!

Since we were already heading to Asia, we decided to combine this travel with our trip back to the states to visit our families in both Louisiana and Iowa. Starting in New Orleans allowed us to not only meet up with friends along the way but also meet one of Jason’s clients in person for the first time as well! The coolest part of our travels was that we can now say we have literally flown around the world!

FunkTravels Eski Foca

We are hoping that next year will mark a few more countries off our list: Iceland, UK, Ireland, Norway, and the Greek Islands(there are some just off the coast of Turkey) just to name a few. Mostly just dreams, but we drop one country for meeting up with friends in other ones in a heartbeat! Then there are always a few surprise trips that come our way instead! Jason will continue his work, and I have a new side project that I am slowly developing to be used in Turkey. We both are still studying Turkish. Our first scheduled trip for next year is to Dubai for Jason and me to run our first race together, a 10k!

While we continue to miss family, we have found a rhythm of communication, and that makes it a lot easier. Our nieces and nephews are learning that Turkey is another country and Turkish is another language. They always impress us with their smarts, new vocabulary, and just general cuteness. 2017 was the first year we have not gained a new niece or nephew, but we do have a new nephew on the way in 2018!

201708 CatieFunk Birthday

And then there are some random things we miss; we always try to find good ‘American’ Chinese and (Tex)Mexican food wherever we travel. Most of the time it is a complete letdown, but our time in the states and Germany provide fixes to our craving every six months. Good pork is hard to come by and super expensive. I miss the freedom of owning a car, the freedom of spontaneity that comes with it, the ease of ordering packages from Amazon,and convenience of being able to find what I want when I want and not having to think several seasons ahead (Thanksgiving decor bought in August while in the states and cupcake decorations bought for Valentines Day while in Germany in December).

But we love the conveniences of restaurant (and grocery from what I hear) delivery. And if we need to buy groceries, we have three within a 200-meter radius! We eat the best eggplant dishes, and the sea view, while I run, is something that would definitely make you jealous. We are literally living on top of the ancient city of Smryna. Even though it takes a little planning, flights to pop in and out of Europe are cheaper than flying from our home state of Iowa to my roots of Louisiana. Not to mention, Jason and I can travel to Istanbul and back for under $50 each.

As we live in Turkey, travel, work, and learn Turkish, I have learned that we just can’t do it all. I want to save AND travel. I want to live in the states AND overseas. I want to work on every project AND only do one! Jason thankfully continues to love and encourage me (as well as keep me grounded)! As I already knew but still have trouble implementing, slow living is the best way to live, and slow travel is the best way to travel. Thankfully we live a lifestyle that allows that, and I hope I can just do a better job of appreciating it.

Special thanks to though of you who follow along on our journey!

I can’t wait to share more with you this year!

 

Jason & Catie

 

PS. – If you have extra Christmas cards, we would LOVE to have you send them our way! We LOVE getting mail. Plus, if you mail from the states, it’s just 3 stamps, stick it in the mailbox, and BOOM, it’s at our place!

P.P.S. – If you don’t already, we have a monthly newsletter that goes out every other podcast! Sign up here!

 

2016CatieFunkTravelsChristmasMarketsEurope Strasbourg France

TRAVEL: 5 Ws for Exploring the European Christmas Markets – Your Questions Answered

European Christmas makes my heart happy, and I am sure everyone else who has ever experienced them before. (Exception for those who don’t like cold weather at all).  Last year we spent our Christmas holidays in Germany and took a little European Christmas Markets tour through Switzerland and France as well. We are no strangers to the ways of market exploration.

2016CatieFunkTravelsChristmasMarketsEurope Germany

So, here are the 5 Ws, the Who, What, When, Where and Why, of exploring the European Christmas Market.

Who should go to the markets?

If you love all things wintery and Christmas (or love a good spiced hot wine), then the markets are for you! Of course, the locals get the most of out their town’s Christmas Market, but because the Christmas markets and villages are all slightly different in how they decorate, visitors find their way to visit a few different markets in other cities and countries if possible!

You should expect there to be one main market area with wooden houses set up just for the month of December. If visiting a larger city, several smaller markets will be set up around popular neighborhoods. The markets will have a festive atmosphere and music, lots of visitors walking around and enjoying the food and wine, and several shops to buy goodies and souvenirs.

What ….

…. should you eat?

The food is one of the best parts of Christmas markets. Try one of the many flavors of sausages and pastries. Most importantly sample the mulled wine or Gulwhein. When you order your first wine at the markets, a deposit is made for the ceramic mugs. When another mug of wine is ordered, the last mug is exchanged for a new one, and you pay only for the refill. When you are ready to leave, return the mug to any vendor that sells wine, and they will refund your deposit.

2016CatieFunkTravelsChristmasMarketsEurope Germany

2016CatieFunkTravelsChristmasMarketsEurope Prague

 

… should you buy?

Every year each market has the new custom made mugs used for serving hot drinks. Instead of returning your mug for its 2 euro deposit, start a small collection of Christmas market mugs! If you are lucky, you can find mugs from previous years. Other than food, we found a small delicate wooden ornament with a detailed snowy village as a tiny, easy to pack souvenir.

 

2016CatieFunkTravelsChristmasMarketsEurope Germany

… else should you do?

Our sole purpose of these visits was to see different Christmas markets in Europe. It made deciding what to do and how to spend our time easy. However, every city has their historical museums, churches, and other touristy activities if you tire of wine and food. Take time to explore outside the Christmas atmosphere to learn more about the culture and city.

… should you bring?

Cash! Most markets work off of Euros, and it is interchangeable in most EU countries. In Germany, they much prefer to take cash and don’t always offer a payment option for cards!

Dress warmly. The temps can be chilling around that time of year even if the sun is out in full force. Make sure to check the temperatures and dress warmly. We were so thankful that friends of ours brought little hand warmers to share with us!

When should you go?

Most markets start the first week of advent, and some as early as November 26. Perhaps they are trying to catch some of the Americans on their Thanksgiving breaks, but you will never see me complaining about that! Some markets end before Christmas day while other take a break on the 24th -26th and reopen again for New Year travelers. Each town has a website for the markets giving more details about when they start and finish.  

Otherwise, go early in the day to avoid the afternoon and evening crowds! It gets very busy!

2016CatieFunkTravelsChristmasMarketsEurope Basel Switzerland

Where should you stay?

Hotels in the town center come with a high price. Consider using a private rental such as Airbnb instead. The rental usually comes with all you need and often a kitchen for those who enjoy cooking and coffee in the morning.

Everyone has their own favorite Christmas Markets, and you will have no issues finding scores of suggestions about what markets to visit. Our first markets took us to Basel in Switzerland (listen here), Strasbourg in France (listen here), and several in Germany (listen here).

 

Now it’s your turn: 

Have you been to the Christmas Markets? If so, which ones?

What did you love about them?

What suggestions would you add?

 

Like it? Pin it!

 

FunkTravels-5-tips-for-exploring-the-European-Christmas-Markets
Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir Pies

HOLIDAYS: How do expats celebrate Thanksgiving abroad? Glad you asked!

Thanksgiving celebrations in another country are NOT for the FAINT OF HEART. After celebrating 5 Thanksgiving in a foreign country, I have learned to be resourceful!

Last Thanksgiving we totally escaped up to Istanbul and celebrated with American friends. Don’t worry, I was not excluded from my share of the cooking, or eating, for that matter. In fact, I may have done MORE cooking because we were staying with the host of the Thanksgiving dinner.

This year, however, we decided to brave the holiday ourselves. Not alone though. We invited 30 of our friends and neighbors into our little apartment to celebrate the day with us!  Instead of the traditional Thursday celebrations, we waited until Friday night hoping it would be easier for guests to come.

This is what our actual Thanksgiving day dinner looked like… eating out and watching a movie at the nearby mall.

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

And unlike almost all events in my life, I actually started early with the planning, menus, recipes, and activities for kids. I was very impressed with myself, and if you know me well, you would be too.

Turkey and all the stuffings: 

While the list looks ambitious, (and it was) we did NOT cook all that was on this list. ‘A’ was to assign out, the boxes were some I were to do… but of course, nothing happened like that. Almost everyone did bring something, but the Americans were the only ones I assigned a traditional Thanksgiving item too.

Jason was responsible for the turkey and gravy. I made a veggie tray and cheese tray for appetizers. My main course dishes were sweet potato casserole, corn casserole, and roasted veggies (which just collected juice from the turkey while it cooked).

We spent our weekly ‘Turkish’ cooking class prepping for the Thanksgiving party instead. I could not have made it through that week without my helpers that day! They cut up veggies, boiled sweet potatoes, made pie filling, and a list of other things I can’t remember right now. I had great ambitions to make green bean casserole, but unless you have those handy french onions or just a lot of time to fry your own… it just didn’t make the cut!

Our hardest prep work went into making the pie crusts. Yes, we made them from SCRATCH because Y’ALL, we can not get ready made pie crust here. It is just NOT A THING and it has yet to reach here. If you have ever made homemade pie crust, every stinking recipe calls for shortening, and well, yet again, it is not here in Turkey. Yet, somehow our brave American friends ordered a massive box of it from the local METRO (think SAM’S Club or COSCO) and they shared some with us!

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

Going to the store looks a little different here… I usually only buy what I can carry. If I know I am going to the weekly market or will buy a lot, then I bring my handy Pazar arabası or market car (no, I did not forget the ‘t’. The actual translation is ‘car.’)

Later that evening, I had a sweet friend take me to METRO to pick up our special ordered turkey. The people of METRO are my heros! I had given up on a whole turkey after asking several big stores, but METRO came through with a special order for us last minute. In Turkey, the stores do not start getting them in until the end of December to be used for New Year celebrations.

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

Our kilos of shortening: I stored the stuff on the left for later, and the right we used for the pie crust.

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

P.S. – It also makes great turkey pot pie crust with leftover turkey!

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

Pre-cooked! I never got an after picture! While we make our own pureed pumpkin, an Australian friend of ours picked up 2 canned of Libby’s canned pumpkin on a recent trip to Ireland for her American friends living in Turkey! Crazy, huh?

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

Jason did an AMAZING job with the turkey! I was so impressed. Everyone raved about the gravy he made from the turkey broth.

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

Having a 68 cm wide fridge means we had to be very creative with our storage!

 

Decor

Because of all the prep work, the day of our Thanksgiving party was actually calm and somewhat relaxed. I mixed up a few casseroles and my neighbors cooked them for me since our oven had the turkey cooking.  Jason and I worked together to rearrange our furniture and prepare a kid area in one of the back rooms.

I love decorating for the seasons, and thanks to the internet and a printer, I already had prints hung up for the season.  And thanks to $10 and a Dollar Tree in America, I decided to get plates, napkins, tablecloths, and a few other fallish items. The Dollar Store is one of the things I miss most here!

To seat 30 people, we had to be a little creative with our seating arrangement. And while it wasn’t ideal, everybody was great sports about it!

 

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

Thanks LB for letting me borrow the banner!

Guests

Our guests were amazing. With over 7 different countries and a mix of English and Turkish, I was a little anxious to see how it would turn out. Our friends were warm and open to one another and I was very thankful to see conversation flowing freely between groups of people.

Due to the amount of food (people are so generous), we had 2 rounds of eating just like any good Thanksgiving. After Jason made a short speech and prayed over the food, I explained how it works (buffet style complete with Thanksgiving decor paper plates). Everyone enjoyed the first round of ‘savory’ foods and then we pulled out the sweets!

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

Finished turkey. We also had some extra turkey breast cooked for extra meat.

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

 

 

Overall, our first time hosting Thanksgiving was a huge success. Yes, it was work, but we LOVED sharing this experience with our friends. Thanks to all our friends who came and made this a special time we will ALWAYS remember!

For a verbal account of our Thanksgiving party, listen into Episode042!

Episode042: When you host your first adult Thanksgiving

 

Your turn!

How was your Thanksgiving?

How do you celebrate?

If you are an expat, what do you like to make? What is easy or difficult to find in your country?

 

Here are a couple a pics from the day after!

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

I spent some time on my winter cross-stitch with tv and coffee. Yes, that would be leftover pie on the table.

Not pictured: me in my jammies

Expat Thanksgiving Turkey Izmir

Leftover dishes that need to be returned! Poor Woody has a tendency to get left behind.