The Turkish coastal resorts along the Med have always been well loved by Brits. The appeal is that it really is paradise close at hand, with an approximate flight time of 4 hours to reach the destination and temperatures that rival the Caribbean.
The bays and beaches are spectacular, the calm seas crystal clear, close by are ancient ruins to explore, excellent restaurants, shops oozing with Turkish delight and mini mountains of spices, such as Iranian saffron, cumin and dried mint, piles of apricots, figs and pistachios, cafes serving apple tea and delicious sweet coffee as thick as mud! If fake designer clothes are your thing, then fill your bags! The quality is good and with the strong pound against the Turkish Lira you can shop until you drop.
Sadly, recent events have made our customers a little apprehensive about visiting Turkey. So, my colleague Tara and I were thrilled when we were invited to Turkey for a week several months ago. We both really wanted to go and experience this first hand and go in solidarity and support to a county that has welcomed British tourists for so many years. It was my first visit to Turkey and Tara had been over 20 times before - we were as equally excited as our trip was to be generously hosted by the pioneers of the All-Inclusive Holiday, Club Med at their luxury resort Club Med Palmiye on Turkeys most south western shore on the Turquoise Coast not far from Antalya.
Arriving in the dead of night, we awoke the next morning to find ourselves nestled between a dramatic back drop of the Taurus Mountains and forest, looking out onto on to a shimmering sea and a 800 metre stretch of beach, we were surrounded by pine groves and lemon and mandarin trees.
In essence, Club Med is French in flavour with its Gourmet Cuisine and chic European ambiance. The Club Med resorts (and there are 80 of them) are renown to have the largest sports schools in the world with state of the art facilities and equipment. This actually comes as no surprise as it was created by entrepreneur Gerald Blitz a former Belgian Water Polo Olympian. He created a resort where you can do as little or much as you wish, from relaxing all day in peace and tranquillity by the Zen pool or spending you days taking expert sports tuition from the resort G.O.’s (Gentil Organisateur – literally meaning kind organisers!) At Palmiye there is so much to choose from…you can take daily Tennis lessons on the shaded courts, fly through the air on a flying trapeze (yes! there really is a flying trapeze academy and circus school!), if water sports are your preference then learn to sail or water-ski (even water skiing free of charge). Here you can discover a new passion or skill that you never knew you had (or not!!) So there we were, two girls from Devon surrounded by enthusiastic G.O’s willing to take on the challenge of teaching us something new. Well, being raised by the sea, the ocean is in our blood so we ticked off the sailing, stand up paddle surfing and wind surfing pretty quickly and headed off through the pine trees to the archery targets!.Much to my dismay and Tara’s delight, I have to say Tara was a natural and obviously born to carry a bow and cross bow! She was soon taking on the French, Belgians and Germans who had been at for years and there was even talk of taking this up once we got back home! (Good for stress relief I am told!). Slightly perturbed that I was rubbish at this I quickly left her to it and headed for the Dance School to meet some Belgian friends that we had made the night before. The Dance School is situated in a large raised wooden gazebo style building overlooking the beach. Latino music combined with the sound of the ocean salsa and sambaing the afternoon away under the warm sun was more to my liking! Another favourite for us was the snorkelling and Club Med has a boat that takes you out daily to secluded spots along the coast, if you don’t want to snorkel you can just go along for the ride.
After a few days of activity and soaking up huge amounts of sun, I was in need of the Turkish bath experience! The resort has both a Spa and wellbeing centre and also a Turkish Bath and Sauna. Being a total Spa junkie and massage connoisseur, I have to say that ‘Igor’ did not disappoint! After an hour of soaping and scrubbing in the steam filled marble chamber on top of a heated marble slab, I felt totally cleansed and squeaky clean and I have to say it was one of the best massage that I have ever experienced.
Club Med prides itself on providing the best culinary experience, so our evenings were filled with the finest food, and entertainment and the resort offers both buffet and a la carte restaurants. There is such a perfect ambiance at night and if you dine at the buffet restaurant you can share a table with friends and G.O’s. After a few cocktails, we would make our way to the stage, set under the stars in an amphitheatre setting. Without wanting it to sound like an upmarket holiday camp (it really is not), it is the G.O’s and the Chef de Village (the General Manager) Mr Azziz that make Club Med an excellent experience. They are all so multi-talented and full of energy at night these fully qualified sports instructors turn into entertainers and put on elaborate shows and if audience participation is want you like to do when you are on holiday then there is plenty of opportunity for children and adults alike! If you want more you can dance into the small hours at the open air night club.
We had come to Club Med on a mission to get fit with all the free sporting activities, but hadn’t taken into consideration all the over indulgence! Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, so by the end of the week I thought I should change it up a gear and threw myself into the hiking experience (Tara was still totally engrossed in archery and snorkelling and had also progressed to evening table tennis!). So at the end of the day when the heat was disappearing from the sun, I joined a group of five and the Fitness Instructor and charged up the Taurus Mountains like a cross between a mountain goat and a military commando! In some parts, we scaled the rock face and in others we were clinging on to branches and tree roots to save ourselves! Be warned the terrain is not easy and there are no dirt paths to follow but the view at the top is breath-taking.
For families Club Med’s child care facilities are unique and impressive and parents can enrol their children when they choose. There are 4 different categories ranging from Baby Club Med for 4-23 month old babies where experienced babysitters lead a schedule of early learning activities, meals, rest time and outdoor games. The other categories are Petit Club Med (2-3 years), Mini Club Med (4-10 years) and Passworld (11-17 years) where there is a dedicated space full of high tech gadgets just for teens.
The day before we were due to fly home we headed into the Coastal town of Kemer for some shopping with a couple of friends in search of White clothing for the Gala Dinner. The dress code for the evening was White and there were no end of shops full of beautiful white Turkish linen in some beautiful designs. We walked the stretch of pebble beach and promenade and visited the Marina and sampled the local specialities ayran (a yoghurt drink and gozleme (pancakes). In addition to the huge variety of Turkish delight and spices on sale, the shops were jam packed with carpets local ceramics, belly dancing costumes, evil eye beads and silver jewellery, Turkish coffee pots and hubbly bubbly pipes, leather goods and of course a huge selection of fake designer gear. Haggling is the rule of the land and a good tip is to make your purchases early in the morning as the shop keepers believe there first customers on be a blessing for the new day and will oblige in striking a bargain.
Turkey always has been and still is beautiful, it is still one of the most affordable places to visit for customers seeking Summer sun. Our week there at Club Med was a fantastic blend of total relaxation and activity, we would both highly recommend Club Med for families and single travellers of all ages alike. It really does have such a diverse range of activities for all. There are 80 Club Med resorts all around the world from beach holiday to ski, so if you would like to talk to us about planning a holiday, we would love to hear from you.