It is that time of year: Half term coinciding with the end of the football season (and the Eurovision Song Contest) and thus the perfect opportunity for a Bagnall family holiday. Obviously the decision of where we were going was made some months ago. We wanted somewhere warm, that ruled out the UK! We wanted all-inclusive and as we were only going away for a week we wanted somewhere relatively close – but affordable. Not too much to ask you would think. You would be mistaken!
Yes, that would be true for a family of four not vacating at half term. Firstly, the profiteering (and it is profiteering from families) that is allowed to happen is outrageous, the week before and the week after half term can be a third of the price (not a third off the price, a third OF the price) and it priced us out of many of the European countries. Secondly, holiday lets are geared around families of four or less. Two parents, two children is the norm and woe betide the families that fall outside of this socially acceptable quota, thou shalt be financially penalised and forced to buy two rooms for your outsized brood.
Hence we effectively had a choice of one resort, the First Choice Holiday Village in Sarigerme, Turkey. More than we wanted to pay it was nevertheless by far the cheapest available, partly because it also had a number of rooms that slept 5, a double bed and three singles, perfect! No need to book two rooms! Turkey had never been on our radar as a destination, it is a country with a great history (which the Baguettes are too young to appreciate) however it has made the news in 2015 for negative reasons as a gateway to its neighbour to the East, Syria. However, Turkey is a big country (the 37th apparently – larger than either France or Ukraine) and Syria is a long way from Sarigerme.
The resort looked good in the glossy brochures but nevertheless it was with an air of trepidation that we begun or journey at 04:00 on a Monday morning. Although 04:00 is a ridiculous time to start a holiday I was still alert enough to avert a potential diplomatic incident. At last year’s Staines Upon Thames day, the local estate agents were giving away free ‘bags in a pouch’. Designed to sit at the bottom of a bag they can expand out to a shopping bag when one is caught short. I placed mine on my camera bag strap as it is useful as a makeshift weatherproofing during inclement weather, and hadn’t given it much thought during the past year. Only as I was packing my camera bag in the car did I realise that a purple bag with the word ISIS emblazoned on it was perhaps not the wisest of moves. ISIS have changed their name to Oasis for the same reason.
The journey to the airport was uneventful and the first experience of valet parking means we will probably pay the premium for this service in the future. This was Ezra’s first trip to foreign climes (I don’t think I am allowed to count last year’s trip to Wales!) and his first journey on a plane. Did we need to be concerned about our boy? Or for that matter our girls, who, although have been on flights before, had not travelled this way for three years. No, we did not. The iPads kept them distracted on take off and Ezra was fast asleep on the decent and landing.
There we were: in Turkey, in Asia. Yes, the Baguettes received their first stamp in their passport (and second on exit) and stepped foot, for the first time, on another continent. As you are probably aware Turkey straddles Europe and Asia however the majority of the country is in Asia and we were a considerable distance from the Bosphorus. Ezra may have taken his first flight over 6 month older than his sisters (as you may recall Amélie was a week younger than Éowyn when she took her first flight) he holds the distinction for being the youngest to leave his birth continent and receive a stamp in his passport! Interestingly although Sarigerme is on another continent the flight to Tenerife Sur was 72 miles longer than the flight to Dalaman.
We checked in and were pleasantly surprised by our room. Not much of a view but there was a balcony. The large room could be divided in two by sliding doors. The bathroom/ corridor side housed a super king bed (unfortunately with a king duvet) the wardrobes and television. The balcony side of the sliding doors housed two single beds, a second television and a blackboard. The girls chose a bed each but where was Ezra going to sleep? There was supposed to be another bed. Under Éowyn’s bed there was a full length drawer that pulled out to reveal a third single bed. However, there had also left a travel cot and although Ezra sleeps in a toddler bed at home we thought that perhaps the cot was the better option and so all three had their beds.
The resort was excellent: seven pools, three of them aimed at small children; a children’s playground with slides, swings and climbing frames. The resort backed onto the beach where all kinds of watersport activities were available. Indeed there were a number of resorts that backed onto the beach and it was only later that I found out that the name of the beach is Sarigerme and hence why the resorts and thus called. The nearby town is called Osmaniye Village and has a few shops and a couple of bars, however we never walked that far, only leaving the resort once during our stay, but more of that later.
Days at the resort followed a similar pattern: up for breakfast, back to the room to collect all we need for a day at the pool; relax by the pool, interspersed with lunch and trips to the free ice-cream booth and pancake lady; before getting ready for dinner and the evening’s festivities. When I say, ‘relax by the pool‘ that is not strictly true. As a parent it is impossible to relax by a pool when you have three small children playing near large bodies of water. It needed both of us to be alert as they would often split up and disappear in three different directions. To our great shame none of our children are strong swimmers. Therefore, although they were adorned with inflatable armbands and assorted toys, and did not play in the pools in which they could not stand up the parental guilt and fear of accidental drowning was never too far from our minds.
We quickly learned that if we wanted a sunlounger by the poolside then we would need to leave our towels and claim our land before the designated 0800 curfew set by the resort. Although we never succumbed to the tactics of others in the resort and leaving our towels at 0300, the advantage of early rising children was not lost upon the Bagnall parents and a detour on the way to early breakfasts helped us acquire the necessary positions.
The resort, as these places often do, had other facilities to add to its repertoire including a Turkish hamam. While looking through the treatments on offer the owner talked us into a family experience of steam rooms, exfoliation, bubble massage, chocolate face mask and massage for the adults and steam room, bubble massage and chocolate face mask for the children.
The first stage was to relax in the sauna. Only myself and Éowyn took advantage of this section, then it was on to the exfoliation. Myself and Lucinda lay on a large marble slab (the göbek taşı – the navel stone) under a traditional style dome, while the Baguettes watched from the sidelines. Now when I say exfoliation, it was closer to sandpapering I don’t think there was much dead skin left on my body by the time he had finished. Then it was time for the bubble massage. The Baguettes were allowed to come and lie next to us as we were covered in bubbles. I would have thought that the kids would have liked this but I think they were so out of their comfort zone, that only Éowyn allowed them to cover her in bubbles, while Amélie let them cover her legs and Ezra just lay still on the göbek taşı holding my hand, with a handful of bubbles on his legs.
After the bubbles were rinsed off it was time for the chocolate face mask. Now considering all three of them usually have a Nutella facemask at breakfast each morning only Éowyn indulged in the face mask, along with her parents. Then it was time for the massage. Lucinda and I had our massages separately, and when I say massage, it could only not be described as torture because we were paying for it and we could have walked out at any time. I was pummelled, stretched, kneaded and at one point, mounted by a large Turkish man who kept asking, ‘Good?‘ It was far from good at the time, and indeed for a couple of days later but once the bruising (joking) had subsided I could definitely feel the benefits.
With such facilities and only at the resort for 6 days (since the first day is taken up by travelling) we felt no great need to leave the resort. However, a colleague mentioned that when he went to the same region of Turkey that he visited the Rock Tombs of Dalyan followed by a turtle sanctuary. That sounded like a nice easy day out and since Ezra is currently fascinated by tortoises it seemed like a perfect day out.
So at 0800 we boarded the coach for our little sojourn to Dalyan (‘Fishing Weir’ in Turkish). The journey down the Dalyan river was excellent, we saw the Lycian rock tombs (which date to 400 b.c.), dancing dragonflies and Caspian turtles basking in the sun. the Dalyan river was reminiscent of the reed-filled rivers in the ‘African Queen’ and indeed there is a rumour that the ‘African Queen’ was indeed filmed in Dalyan. Unfortunately, it is but a myth the African Queen is famous for being shot on location in Uganda and the Congo (and down the road at Shepperton Studios).
After the river trip it was back on the coach and off to Iztuzu beach and the turtle sanctuary. The Turtle Sanctuary certainly do a good job and save many endangered Loggerhead Turtles, however one feels that they are missed a trick. It wasn’t particularly well laid out (basically a large gazebo with some rather large buckets, each containing a sizeable Loggerhead turtle) and considering they rely on donations there could have been more to encourage one to part with one’s lira.
Nevertheless, Ezra enjoyed seeing his tortoises (as he insisted they were called) and the couple of hours on Iztuzu beach were fantastic. A beautiful sandy beach with a nice shallow, warm sea it was definitely worth the trip outside the resort.
One of the other services that the resort offered was a photography service and since it was our first foreign family holiday and a family of five and because we rarely get a portrait of all of us we decided to book a session. This was a perfect excuse for me to try another of the resort’s facilities and have my first cut-throat razor shave from a Turkish barber. When I say ‘shave’ it was another complete beauty treatment. After the cut-throat razor shave, there was the face mask, and the head and shoulder massage, the nasal hair trim and finally burning of one’s tragus (and the tragus on the tragus) – ear hair for those of you that don’t know (or if you speak Greek why the hell I am burning my goat!).
Freshly shaved it was time to get dressed and head for the photoshoot. The photography session lasted 15 minutes but in that time there were 77 reasonable photos and at least 23 really good ones, so we decided to use some of the holiday money that we had to purchase an album as a memento. Unfortunately, although the girls really enjoyed dressing up and pretending to be models, Ezra was not playing ball and refused to cooperate. Nevertheless there are still a number of nice candid shots of the boy!
The remainder of the holiday was relaxing by the pool. Éowyn bored of the pools and spent the last day listening to music and playing with her electronic games. Amélie on the other hand made friends with a pair of sisters Alex and Amber. On the last day Amélie got herself upset because she wasn’t going to see her friends again so before we left we went to say goodbye. Amélie asked them where they lived so that we could visit. Somerset was the reply, number 3 with the orange gate. So Amélie has said that we have to visit them and has put this address into her memory: number 3, Somerset and look for the Orange gate. Not sure that the satnav will be able to resolve this address.
After a long journey back we landed at a cold and windy Gatwick airport. The 12°C temperatures were a far cry from the 32°C we left Dalaman airport. Didn’t the UK read the calendar: it’s June! Again the valet parking proved its worth after a trip around the M25 we were home and back in our own beds. The first Bagnall family trip outside of Europe was over and normality was calling.
The girls returned to school the next day and were obviously asked about their holidays. Amélie informed her teachers that there were lots of Blue Monsters that chase your family. I think I must have been relaxing by the pool when that happened, and please do not let that put you off Turkey!
Apologies for the epic (indeed, this maybe the longest post) and your reward is a selection of photos, if the 24 below has whet your appetite then there are over 450 holiday snaps on our Flickr pages (click here).
Peace and love