One day in January when the temperature was hovering around zero and icy rain was lashing at the windows my daughter Sally called me with a travel proposal. She had booked a holiday and the arrangements had fallen through which meant there was a spare place available that needed filling and crucially – paying for and I was being called up as first reserve.
“You will enjoy it dad, you can spend time with the grandchildren and it’s only for a week.” I gave in quickly and asked the obvious questions of where, when and how much? “May,Torquay, only £900”. Actually I thought £900 for a week in Torquay in May was rather expensive but I agreed to it all the same and the deal was done and I started to research what there might be to do with three very young children in south Devon in early summer.
A couple of weeks or so later Sally phoned me again and said that she was applying for a passport for her new son William and although I appreciate that we are from the north I wasn’t yet aware that there were visa requirements for British citizens who wanted to travel south within the United Kingdom. I telephoned her. “Why do we need a passport for William? I asked, “For the holiday, obviously”, she replied, “But we don’t need a passport for Torquay”, I smugly informed her, “Torquay? Torquay?”, she said, “who said anything about Torquay? We are going to TURKEY!”
Well, after the news had sunk in – that I would be in Asia with three young grand children I began to immediately get used to the idea and began to look forward to it, after all, I went to Bodrum last year and really enjoyed it so I was sure that this would be just as good and then in a subsequent conversation Sally dropped another bombshell – we were going to an ALL INCLUSIVE resort in Sarigerme near Dalaman.
ALL INCLUSIVE! – I have always vowed never to go ALL INCLUSIVE!
I was committed by now of course and I told myself that if I want to call myself a traveller then I have to open my mind and try everything – at least once, so I set about preparing for the experience. Normally before travelling I would carry out research by reading books, consulting maps and catching up on the history of the area but I quickly realised that in this case this was completely pointless so instead I watched a boxed set of DVDs of the comedy series Benidorm instead.
On the day of travel we booked in for an early morning flight from East Midlands Airport and by midday the pilot of the Thomson Airlines plane announced that we were beginning our descent into Dalaman. There was some turbulence and thick towering storm clouds to negotiate on the way down but as we broke through these below us was a blue sea as calm as a mountain lake with just the occasional gullet carving its way through the surf and leaving just a faint trail of disturbed vapour in its wake. A gnarled rocky landscape and grey cliffs, corrugated like cardboard were rising from the sea and a crescent of golden sand swept out into the water like a Saracen’s sword and as we dropped towards the airport we caught our first glimpse of Sarigerme baking in the sunshine below.
The plane landed and taxied to a standstill and after everyone had barged their way off the aircraft there was passport control to negotiate but before we could pass we had to acquire an entry visa which cost £10 each. They called this a visa procedure but there were no forms to complete and no checks to establish our suitability for visiting the country because this is not a formal visa in any way whatsoever but rather a crude Robin Hood tourist tax and the uniformed official might as well have held a pistol to our heads as we handed over and he added our cash to a wad of money in his hairy hands and nicotine stained fingers and then he let us proceed to passport control where they checked the rip-off visa and stamped it with an authorative thump which I interpreted rather loosely as ‘Welcome to Turkey’.
Now we had to find our transport to the Suntopia Topical Hotel and we dutifully made our way to the transport coach and it was at that point that I first realised that this would not really be my first choice type of holiday as I walked down the aisle looking for a seat past tattooed bodies, football shirts and Geordie facelifts and then was forced to settle in just in front of a family of gypsies who had no manners, no awareness of other people and were clearly exactly the sort of people that we didn’t want to find as next door neighbours at the hotel but fortunately I didn’t have to deal with his issue because after arrival and the check-in procedure we were allocated a room well away from them and after we had been branded with our All Inclusive wrist band and got our first drink we set about the process of making ourselves at home!