When you fly in from Warsaw, the final approach to Dalaman airport is spectacular, as the plane winds its way down through the surrounding pine clad mountains. For much of it, even when the plane is low, a few hundred feet above the landscape, there is little sign of life – a network of unpaved tracks cutting through the trees (you can hardly call them roads) linking occasional clusters of abandoned-looking buildings that may or may not be houses in a small village or large farm, but there are no cars or trucks or tractors to be seen. Only in the last couple of minutes, when you’re down almost to ground level, does that change, as you cross a motorway that when we flew in on a Thursday lunchtime had little traffic, then the town outskirts and warehouses surrounding the airport perimeter, dry looking smallholdings and olive groves, and you touch down at a small and slightly down-at-heel tourist airport.
The Arrivals and Baggage halls were a short walk from our gate, through a surprisingly quick and efficient passport and visa control – a cursory glance at our passports and on-line visas, a stamp on the page and a cheerful “Welcome to Turkey” – none of the chilly and unsettling waiting in line under the suspicious gaze of gun-toting Homeland Security gorillas that welcome you to JFK and Miami and the other US airports, or bumbling inefficiency and interminable queues at Heathrow and Gatwick. By the time we reached the carousel, the first bags were emerging, barely ten minutes after the aircraft doors opened. As arrivals go these days, it was a pleasure.
Another 15 minutes and we were on the coach to Fethiye, blinking in the hot sunshine as we waited for the last few passengers and the Itaka travel rep to join us. Then we were off again, less than an hour after landing. The drive to the hotel, just over 40km, was spectacular too, passing along a windy and undulating dual carriageway through those same mountains, through tunnels and dusty towns and villages with their gold-roofed mosques and tin roofed sheds and houses, all of which had water supplies in rooftop tanks like oil barrels. Smaller properties had one tank, apartment blocks (seldom more than three or four floors) had perhaps a dozen, presumably one for each apartment. Most had solar panels next to them, presumably for heating the water. It was a far cry from suburban Ursynow.
On the road to Fethiye
Our hotel, the Jiva Beach Resort, lay at the end of a quite narrow and ill-maintained road, and was worth the trip. It’s new, no more than three years old I should think (before we left home I found an aerial photo on Google of the resort next door, taken from just offshore, and the land where the Jiva stands was then scrubland with no trace of building work. The picture dated from 2010). It’s a clean and well maintained resort-hotel, with a selection of apartments and bungalows spread around the site, some with swim-up pools at their back doors. The honeymoon suite has a larger deck and pool area, part enclosed for some privacy by thin curtains wafting in the breeze that also hide an outdoor Jacuzzi – very nice too. We had a 2 bedroom family room, immediately opposite the honeymoon suite, and both had a lovely view west across a narrow road straight to the beach and the warm blue sea of Calis bay, dotted with dozens of little islands and providing the most beautiful sunsets.
Fethiye sunset from the Jiva Beach apartment
For entertainment, these is a good sized infinity pool with a generous allowance of sun beds and umbrellas, and behind it a splash pool with a selection of slides and a smaller toddler’s pool, again with sunbeds and umbrellas. There is a decent pool bar with comfortable chairs, sofas and umbrellas, backed and surrounded by landscaped lawns and shrubs that form the venue for daily exercise sessions and darts matches. There is also an outside pool table and a table-tennis set up that host tournaments too. Further along is a small zoo (some ducks, chickens, peacocks and rabbits that seem to have the run of the place, plus a caged parrot), located behind the amphitheatre that caters for a nightly show of some kind, and close to that a building that houses the Kid’s Club. So there was plenty to keep us occupied. By the road, overlooking the beach and across from the honeymoon suite, is another larger bar, on stilts in the landscaped natural pool that runs down one side of the site, that stays open until midnight and serves a good selection of beers, cocktails and coffees as you relax in your armchair or sofa. The pool itself houses getting on for fifty big fish – no idea what sort – and a colony of turtles that all seem to congregate around the bridge that crossed the pool to provide access to one of the apartment blocks (ours, in fact). The ducks are frequent visitors too. Finally, there is a big restaurant area, partly an outside terrace, that offered a good and varied daily selection of hot and cold meals, and a sumptuous range of quite delicious sweets – our diets were blown away within a couple of hours of arriving – and, below the main building that houses the reception and restaurant area, there is a spa facility offering a range of massages and treatments.
....and into the main pool
All in all, it’s possibly the best place we’ve stayed at in our various holidays, and our all-in package (so including all flights, transfers, and all the food and local drink we could consume, for a family of four) offered exceptional value. I’m told there are no travel agents in Britain that offer it, but we met one couple from Manchester so that may not be the case – or they may have booked direct from the resort’s web-site (http://www.jivabeachresort.com/) and travelled independently. In any case, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
We were there for a very special day, not merely for a holiday: namely, my eldest son Doug’s wedding. In the event, the timing was ideal and provided the chance to take a break between finishing one project in Bermuda, and starting a new one, long term, in Amsterdam, and at the same time spend some quality time with my family. And not just Ania and the kids – my three nippers, all fine grown men now, from England were of course there with their respective partners. We had been looking forward to the trip for some time (since the invite at the end of last year, in fact) but didn’t book anything in travel terms until August. Doug had reserved accommodation for us in the same resort as everyone else – by coincidence the one right next door to the Jiva Beach – but finding flights from Warsaw was a nightmare.
We looked at many options, but whether we went through Frankfurt, or Paris, or Amsterdam or Istanbul, there was a minimum 5 hour connection between flights. We even checked the possibility of flying to Rhodes (served direct by LOT) and then catching the ferry across to Fethiye – it only takes a little over an hour. It might have been fun, but the return was again a problem, with the flight departing at 6:00 a.m., which would have meant crossing back to Rhodes the night before and staying at the airport for the night – a definite no-no. The only direct flights from Warsaw were charters, linked to package holidays, which is why we ended up going the all-inclusive route. In the event, the choice was brilliant, as the all-inclusive cost was only a little more expensive than the direct flights would have been (on any route) which made the value even better.
Of course, going this route mean having to leave the booking until the last minute to get the best price, and opened up the risk of not being able to get anything at all in the resort we needed. But fortunately, we had met somebody, the friend of a friend, a good 5 or 6 years ago at a weekend canoeing trip, who worked in the travel industry, so Ania enlisted his help. He came up with the Jiva Beach offer, and we would have taken it on cost grounds alone – but its location right next door (separated only by a narrow road) to Doug’s resort made it perfect.
The wedding made packing a little more complicated and bulky than a holiday would have been, since it included suits and smart shirts and ties and black shoes and beautiful dresses and high-heeled shoes and handbags, but we managed to cram it all into three cases – an impressive piece of work by my Beloved. We also lugged down three sets of flippers, masks and snorkels for Ania and the kids to use – they alone took up half a suitcase.
The wedding was set for the Monday evening, so we had the whole weekend to enjoy the facilities and top up the suntans to look our best, and enjoy it we did.
Our room was very comfortable and well equipped (even though the only English language TV channel I could find was BBC World News – of course!) but the kids were quite happy watching Cartoon Network in Turkish. As it happened we rarely switched the TV on – we would get up about 9, dress in swimming gear, shorts and shirts then head straight for breakfast and the pool. And there we stayed all day, until about 6, then back for a shower, dress for dinner, after which off to the bar or the Amphitheatre for the evening’s entertainment. Then bed. It was terrific.
The kids had a wonderful time. They both enjoy swimming and have been taking lessons for a while at our local pool (Kuba passed an exam back in July and has a certificate to prove he is a strong swimmer), but Ally up until recently has still needed arm-bands. All that has now changed: we couldn’t keep them out of the pools (even if we had wanted to) so by the end of it she was doing lengths quite happily, diving in, clambering out, doing it again, turning somersaults under the water – the lot. It was great so see. And of course the slides were an absolute must for them. It all gave Ania and I the perfect opportunity to just relax and enjoy the sun and various pool bar cocktails – which we did, a lot.
The kids also, after a slow shy start, got to know the girls from the entertainment team, and joined in a lot of the activities. Every lunchtime, around 2, the team would line up at each end of the pool and do a carefully choreographed dance routine, and encouraged people to join in. By the weekend, Ally and Kuba were up there dancing along with them – and very well too: they had all the moves. In the evening there was a kid’s disco at the Amphitheatre and of course they were up on stage joining in all the dancing there too. It was great to watch. The girls fell in love with the pair of them, and at the end of the stay presented Ally with a signed tee-shirt and Kuba with a picture he had painted of Lightning McQueen from Cars, suitably inscribed – wishing them all the best, how much they had enjoyed their company and looking forward to seeing them next year. They came to see us off on the coach when we left, and there more hugs and kisses.
On stage with the Girls in the Apmhitheatre
All in all, we had a quite brilliant time at the hotel, and would very definitely go there again – maybe for a couple of weeks, and hire a car to do a bit of exploring, and take some of the local excursions too – there are island cruises around the area, sea-fishing and snorkelling trips, and a day trip across to Rhodes amongst many others.
And what of the main reason for the visit – the wedding?
It was great. We were all bussed into the marina, across the bay at the far end of the resort, and boarded a pleasure boat all decked out in ribbons and flowers and so on. On the top deck, open to the warm evening air, the tables were laid out for the meal, and the bar was below in the lounge. The front deck was essentially the dancing area, with the music decks on the top with the food facilities. We sailed out into the bay and cruised around for about an hour before anchoring just off a small island for the ceremony. The boat was anchored facing west, so that the ceremony and subsequent picture sessions had the perfect backdrop of one of those beautiful sunsets. It was all in Turkish, of course, conducted by a local official and translator, and went off with barely a hitch and lots of laughter.
Kuba and Ally were the only children there, and so were the centre of attention (after the happy couple of course). They loved it, especially the dancing afterwards – a couple of hours or more of rave music (not at all to my taste, but still….) – where they joined in the whole time to the delight of everyone there. And of course they were with their big brothers and their partners the whole time, which was lovely to see. We have some fantastic pictures of them all jumping all over the place, and in Kuba’s case break dancing quite impressively (not sure where he got that from….) so captured some wonderful memories. We pulled back into the marina around 11:30, and piled into a fleet of cars and buses, then drove at high speed through the town with horns blaring and lights flashing – a Turkish wedding custom. The destination was a club in town where the party went on all night – we gave it a miss and went back to the hotel.
But it was pleasure to see Doug and Helen so happy, and I was immensely proud of all my kids, seeing them all happy and laughing together. I even managed to get a good photo of us all, the first of me with my five offspring.
A proud moment for this old man.
It made the week complete.