Holidaymaker from hell

I am exactly the kind of stereotypical British holidaymaker you could expect to find far from home staying in a luxury hotel. In fact, I’m exactly the kind of holidaymaker who’d drive you wild with irritation.

I can’t abide being ripped off. I’m suspicious of it. I’ll sniff it out and kick up a fuss when I’m certain it’s going on.

Take yesterday. Simon and I return from the pool for our now regular late afternoon cup of tea on the balcony. I’ve already asked for a “Tea and Coffee Maker” from housekeeping knowing the kettle, teabags, milk, coffee and sugar don’t need to be signed for. It’s free refreshments. Perfect.

Only there’s a problem when we get back to our room. We’ve run out of teabags. Calamity. It’s OK, I think. I’ll just ring reception for a handful of replacement teabags and some more milk.

“That’s fine sir. I’ll get that sent up to the room for you,” said the friendly lady with a slight American twang to her voice.

When the chappy arrived with a sparkling jug, two tea bags on a glass dish, a couple of biscuits and a receipt to sign I immediately got suspicious.

Eight Turkish Lira Fifty. That’s £4.25. For TWO TEA BAGS AND A SMALL JUG OF MILK?

Pity the poor room service chappy who couldn’t understand quite what I was getting worked up about. I was charming, as ever, but I was a little riled. I immediately leapt for the phone and dialled room service.

“If you didn’t want to be charged you should have asked for a tea and coffee maker, sir, ” came the effecient and (in her defence) accurate response.

“But I’ve got the kettle already, all I needed was a few tea bags and some milk. I didn’t expect to be charged 8 Lira 50 for a couple of tea bags.”

“You need to order a tea and coffee maker. But I make sure the order you’ve received is removed from your bill.”

Very helpful. Bless them all here. They do have the holidaymaker from hell to deal with.

Guests receive an apology

Post-hotel fire apology party invite, originally uploaded by Thoroughly Good.

The promise of seeing the Chief Executive of the hotel personally apologise for the inconvenience caused by an outbreak of fire in the a la carte restaurant by the nearby marina was an offer too good to refuse.

In truth, it was the offer of a cocktail or two and the thought we probably wouldn’t be required to sign for them which persuaded Simon and I should make a point of going to the poolside Chill Out area for 1900.

However, I had spectacularly failed in reading between the lines of the letter delivered to our bedroom door earlier in the morning.

This wasn’t just a cocktail. This was in fact a cocktail party, with a dress code, something which failed to register in my mind when I slipped into my now favourite pair of jeans and oh-so-cliched cowboy check shirt.

My error was pointed out by some new holiday acquaintances. Angela and Jackie – here for a further eleven days after quite a considerable stay already – hit the nail on the head. “Typical man. Doesn’t read the detail.”

The four of us chatted about the fire, us expressing regret at not being able to witness it because we’d taken off to Bodrum when the drama kicked off. (It’s not that we’re rubberneckers, but really, the damage was quite spectacular and – we understand – it was dealt with really quite swiftly).

Inevitably the question of what happened to the live lobsters swimming around in the tank inside the restaurant came up. Did they manage to save them? Who knows, we’re not sure. They could have boiled alive. Such a terrible waste, if you like your food slaughtered shortly before you consume it.

Perhaps we were laughing just a little too loud. I’m sure it was about then that Chief Executive Axel stepped forward and introduced himself. Our host for the evening cut a dashingly handsome figure in his salmon pink open collar shirt, simple navy blue blazer and full head of hair. Consequently it seemed only right to compliment him on the fantastic hotel, the marvellous service and the effecient way the fire was dealt with . All this and the al-fresco lunchtime buffet continued as normal the day after.

His was an effortless charm. No wonder. No, there was no personal apology I had been expecting – although one might argue the three glasses of red wine I guzzled constituted an indirect apology – but Axel did tell us about the gala meal scheduled for the following night. “Our chef has prepared a special menu and there’ll be dancing with a special Latin band too.” Axel accompanied this with a quite impressive and obviously natural wiggle.

This wasn’t really enough to convince us. We subsequently checked with reception about booking a table for the gala night. Unlike the cocktails, this wasn’t going to be on the house. We’re opting to eat a main course in one of the other restaurants instead.

Sunger Pizza

Sunger Pizza, originally uploaded by Thoroughly Good.

“How much is the hotel buffet?”

I could hardly believe what I heard so I got the receptionist to write down the figure before double-checking with an unsuspecting member of poolside staff.

The first figure was indeed correct. The buffet would cost £41 each.

Having spent a good hour devouring four courses at breakfast (breakfast opening hours run from 7am to midday) from what was a generously stocked buffet, the idea of us forking out £100 for an evening buffet seemed a little steep and, quite possibly a waste of money, as well.

We trundled off into nearby Bodrum instead. Simon suggested I might like to drive. I jumped at the chance.

I was being a twat of course. Twenty four hours in holiday mode and I’d forgotten that driving anywhere outside the UK means sitting on the wrong side of the car, getting used to using the controls with my right hand instead of my left and negotiating scarily conditioned roads. By the time I’d got to the centre of nearby civilisation – the ‘Turkish St Tropez’ according to the handbook – and parked the car in the packed-to-bursting car park, I was a nervous wreck. Thank God I had a packet of Amber Leaf in my back pocket and sufficient skins to subdue my increased heart-rate.

We plumped for “Sunger Pizza” in the Marina. It was recommended by the blokey in the burnt orange shirt on Concierge that evening. “I remember this place,” squealed Simon, “it was recommended on Trip Advisor.”

My cynicism always assumes that most if not all Trip Advisor recommendations are written by those who actually work at the estbalishments. Not so at Sunger’s Pizza where the staff are so busy running around looking after the customers spilling onto the pavement, I doubt they’ve seen a computer in months let alone logged on to the internet.

The food was appealing and we were hungry hence we ended up ordering three starters from the menu, a chicken parmigaeano and a lamb shish. We’d peaked just at the point we’d completed our meal. Our timing is impeccable.

We did look like a couple of lemons when we first arrived, it has to be said. Whilst the staff do understand English, I don’t think they necessarily knew what to do with a couple of blokes slightly overdressed for the ocassion unsure what the etiquette was when it came to claiming a table. One very pushy lady and her family jumped what I thought the queue was. I glared at her in my usual style, but it seems this was somewhat lost on her.

Still, no matter. The atmosphere – once we got used to it – was convivial and we ate at half the price of the hotel rate. Sunger Pizza on the sea front in downtown Bodrum comes heartily recommended.

The only fly in the ointment was the drama we missed back at the hotel …

The Road to Bodrum

The journey to our hotel – by which I mean the 250 kilometres from Izmir Airport to the Kempinski Hotel just outside of Bodrum – is a demanding one best tackled in daylight.

In our eagerness to get cracking with our fourteen days of sun and relaxation we opted to drive at night.

The journey took three hours and was quite a scary experience.

Should you be considering making the same journey you may way wish to take into consideration the many hazards facing the car driver and his or her passenger in eastern Turkey.

1. Motorways are signed in green, not blue.

2. There are vast stretches of road described as being dual carriageway which push the definition a little far.

3. On some parts of that dual carriageway there isn’t a definite sense of exactly where the road ends and the pavement begins. This perhaps explains why some other road users make arbitrary decisions when selecting places to stop and park up.

4. Some pedestrians have similar difficulty determining where the pavement ends and the roads begin, in addition to not understanding the safety advantages inherent in using a zebra crossing.

5. Dog owners in the region seem to adopt a laissez-faire attitude to looking after their pets, letting them roam free – often in the road.

6. Most roads are not lit.

7. Most roads have little or no road markings.

8. Where there are road markings , local drivers tend to take a cavalier approach to lane discipline thus making overtaking a risky business.

9. Contraflows tend not to be signposted. Reduced lane provision is uaully indicated by use of an apologetically positioned series of oil drums (with reflective stripes, if you’re lucky) every 50 metres or so. This assuming the oil drums haven’t already been knocked out of the way by a nervous tourist driving a hire car.

10. Strangely, no driver should ever be worried about running out of petrol. With a petrol station on both sides of the road nearly every five minutes drivers can be confident of only having to walk a maximum of five minutes in the worst case scenario and be guaranteed a competitive price when they fill up.

Fourteen days ahead

Twelve days ahead, originally uploaded by Thoroughly Good.

I couldn’t quite (and still can’t) get my head around the fact that for the first time in years me and significant other Simon are holidaying for fourteen days this year.

It’s normally a week and it’s normally over in a flash. This time the impending annual holiday is stretching out ahead of us. What will it be like? Will we get bored? Will we actually read all the magazines and books we’ve bought each other? Will we listen to all the stuff we’ve recorded off the radio? Will we think we’ve made a mistake to stay for an additional week in a week’s time?

Somehow I doubt it. We’ve done our usual thing of booking ourselves into one of those oh-so-not-very-glamorous airport hotels and ended up marvelling at the attentive staff and their failsafe ability to make administrative errors to our advantage.

The night before the flight is always the overture to the main event. It’s always terribly important that the overture doesn’t eclipse the main event. I’m banking on the promise of an infinity pool, canoeing, a private beach and a daily high of 30C to make our hotel on the outskirts of Bodrum make the Crowne Plaza in Crawley a distant memory coming Monday morning.

Tonight’s evening meal was an even greater joy as a result, second only to our eyebrows rising as we tried to figure out exactly what “creamy herd mash” really was.

As far as the rest of our meal was concerned, I am happy to confirm that my meal of ceasar salad followed by king prawns in teryaki sauce rounded off by a lemon tart (with more apple than actual lemon) did fill a rather empty hole. The staff were hugely attentive too and if I was to use this evening to arbitrarily decide which country should win next year’s Eurovision it would be Spain.

Our waitress this evening did at least seem Spanish and was utterly adorable.