Tag Archives: Sarigerme

Ten Years Ago – A Street Market in Turkey

The market was about one hundred yards long and we made it to the top with only a couple of purchases but then of course we had to turn around and walk all of the way back and run the gauntlet of the stallholders for a second time.  Sally seemed to pick up the knack of bartering much easier than I did and I think we bought some tee shirts and a couple of bracelets but to be honest I can’t be absolutely sure.

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Travel Memories – All Inclusive

Sarigerme Turkey

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 a permission to enter 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 our cash before he let us proceed to passport control where they checked the rip-off visa and stamped it with an authoritative thump as though to legitimise the theft 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 face-lifts.

Towards the back I was then 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.

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 rushed to the bar for our first drink we set about the process of making ourselves at home!

Andrew with his All-Inclusive wrist band

At this point I think I was determined not to completely enjoy the ‘All Inclusive’experience because in a snooty sort of way I have come to think of myself as a traveller rather than a holidaymaker, a journeyman rather than a tourist and much to the dismay of my daughter I started straight away to find things to dislike.

First of all the apartment, which was a ground floor basement room and I always find these semi-subterranean arrangements to be rather sad and dark and exposed – I don’t like basement rooms.  It was well appointed and had all the facilities that we had been promised and I had expected but basement rooms are designed for Hobbits who live below ground level and all that we could see from our sun starved balcony were people’s sunburnt legs walking by.

I returned to reception and asked if we could possibly be moved to a room on the first or second floor but the receptionist said that that this would be quite impossible.  I told her that I had a fear of earthquakes and being buried alive but she showed no sympathy for my feigned phobia and turned away to deal with another guest.

And so I returned to the room and looked for a technical or repair issue and found it when I discovered that the balcony door wouldn’t lock and I went straight back to reception to demand a repair or a move and the receptionist promised that it would be dealt with within the next few minutes.  I told her that if it wasn’t then I would expect to be moved to a room on the first or second floor because I was nervous about security issues especially as there were young children in the room and I gave her a look which said ‘you really wouldn’t want a Madeleine moment would you?’

And so I returned to the room and we went for a walk around the gardens confident that we would shortly be moved and do you know what? By the time we got back the buggers had fixed it so I had nothing else to complain about.

Actually it broke again a couple of days later but by then I was a lot more chilled out and Sally and the girls had rearranged the room in the way that they like it – rather like Belgium after the German Panzer division had passed through on the way to France in 1940, so I really couldn’t face the prospect of packing and unpacking and I just let the matter drop.

Sarigerme Beach Turkey

In between all this whingeing we did indeed walk through gardens which were splashed with dappled sunshine like a Monet painting and where swifts and martins dipped and swerved in the warm corners and as the minutes passed my irritation began to evaporate.

There was a real danger here that I might drop my moaning mood and start to enjoy myself but then we went to the restaurant for evening meal.

I understand that dinner time at the Suntopia Tropical was once used as an initiation test for new recruits to the Soviet Army but it was discontinued because it was considered too tough even for this.  The food, it has to be said, was very good indeed but the restaurant ambiance was like Dante’s inferno!  Wooden chairs being scraped across tiled floors, cutlery being dropped on the floor, children running about and shouting, parents bawling instructions and the constant attention of the cleaning up crews who, if you weren’t careful would whip your plate away from under your nose even before you had finished.

Turkey Souvenir Shopping Bag

So, this was a mixed sort of day and at the end when the children were asleep and in bed and I was sitting on the underground balcony drinking a third or fourth gin and tonic I began to wonder what I was doing here and then the penny dropped and I had a quiet word with myself.  This might not be the sort of place that I would choose for myself but I suddenly realised that this holiday wasn’t about me – I was here to give my grandchildren a good time – it was all about them and in that moment my mood relaxed and I was at peace with myself and so I went to the bar and ordered a fifth gin and tonic!

This might sound like a lot I agree but it wasn’t the real thing and was a weak alternative to branded gin which had to be paid for in real cash because the wrist bands didn’t work for Gordons or Beefeater.  The beer was even worse – one day Sally said ‘Dad, you’ve drunk about eight pints of lager’, this, I confess was quite true but it was so weak that this massive quantity was only roughly the equivalent of a single can of Stella Artois and the only restriction on drinking any more, was not an alcohol induced coma, but the fact that I couldn’t get my trousers done up!

Have you ever been on an All Inclusive holiday?  Did you like it?

Sarigerme Turkey Suntopia Tropical

Travel Review of the Year 2013

Semana Santa Holy Week Siguenza 3

2013 has been a good year for travel and I have managed to make a total of seven overseas trips (my record is twelve in both 2007 and 2008), starting in March with a return to Spain.

Despite the ambition to visit as much of the country as possible this was the first visit to the peninsular in nearly two years since the previous trip to Extremadura in May 2011.  Our destination this time was Castilla-La Mancha and the medieval town of Sigüenza in the Province of Guadalajara halfway between Madrid and the capital city of the Autonomous Community of Aragon – Zaragoza.

One of the reasons for choosing this small town was the desire to see one of Spain’s most famous religious festivals and by all accounts Sigüenza is a very good place to see it.  The Semana Santa is one of the most important traditional events of the Spanish Catholic year; it is celebrated in the week leading up to Easter and features a procession of Pasos which are floats of lifelike wooden sculptures of individual scenes of the events of the Passion.

Turkey Postcard

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 called her back. “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!”

Burgos Cathedral

In June we returned to Spain to visit the north of the country.  We started in Asturias and its capital city of  Oviedo and then drove south through Castilla y León  and visited the provincial capitals of León, Zamora, Salamanca, Avila, Segovia, Valladolid, Palencia and Burgos and that is all of them except (and I apologise for this) Soria.  It would have been just too much of a detour as we came to the end of our travels but I have promised to go back one day and apologise for this rudeness because Soria has one of the most bizarre festivals in Spain where once a year local men demonstrate their faith and fearlessness (stupidity) by walking over red hot coals!

But I have a plan to put this right because in April 2014 we plan to return to Sigüenza and I think it may be close enough to this missing city to take a day to visit.

Girona Catalonia Post Card

In July we travelled to Catalonia in north-east Spain and fell in love with the city of Girona. It is said that Girona consistently wins a Spain country-wide poll of citizens on preferred places to live and  I had a really good feeling about the city and as we sat and sipped cool beer I thought that it might be a place that I could return to.

I used to think that it might be nice to sell up and go and live abroad but as I have got older I have abandoned the idea.  The reason for this is that I wouldn’t want to end up in a British ex-pat condominium and I imagine that living outside of this would bring its own problems.  I am English not Spanish or French and my character, behaviour and whole way of life has been created from an English heritage that, even if I wanted to, I could not lay aside and become something that I am not.

But, now I have another idea.  It always annoys me when I see a poster advertising something that happened last week, before I arrived, or will take place next week, after I have gone home, so I think I could be happy to live for a while, say twelve months, in a different country so that I could enjoy everything that takes place over the course of a year in a Spanish town or city and I would be very happy to place Girona on my short list of potential places.  Before we left we walked past a famous statue of a lion climbing a pole and there is a story that if you reach up and kiss its arse then one day you will return but there was too much spit and dribble on its butt cheeks for me to take out this particular insurance policy.

France Côte d'Opale

2013 was a special birthday year for my mum as she gregariously tipped over from her seventy-ninth year to become an octogenarian and as part of the celebrations she invited my brother Richard and me to join her and her partner Alan to visit the north east corner of France and stay at at a hotel that they especially like, the Chateaux de Tourelles in the village of Le Wast, just a short distance away from one of my favourite French towns, Boulogne-Sur-Mer.

Something like ten-million British travellers arrive in Calais each year and then without looking left or right, or stopping for even a moment head for the motorways and the long drive south and in doing so they miss the treat of visiting this Anglo-neglected part of France.

Normally I have a preference for travelling by sea and always enjoy the short, weather-unpredictable, ferry crossing but they like the Eurotunnel shuttle so on this occasion we took the thirty-minute subterranean route rather than risk the choppy seas of the English Channel and the mad rush to the car deck upon docking.  It was busy at the terminal and on the following day the service set a new record for numbers of vehicles at almost sixteen-thousand. I had been through the tunnel before on Eurostar but never on the vehicle carrying train so this was a new experience for me and overall I have to say that although it is quick and convenient I think I prefer the boats and the rugby scrum.

Puglia Map

Every September since 2004 our late Summer travelling has been to the Greek Islands and it hadn’t really occurred to me that that we would break that habit and that 2013 would be the tenth year in a row, after all there are roughly one thousand four hundred of them and I have only been to about twenty-five so there are still a lot left to visit.

We were persuaded to make a change to our normal September routine when the Ryanair website offered return flights to Bari in Southern Italy for the bargain price of only £70 each (no hold luggage, no priority boarding, no pre-booked seats obviously) so we snapped them up and started to plot our way around the Italian Region of Puglia one of the least visited by tourists and most traditional areas of the country.  We have travelled to Italy several times but mostly to the north and certainly never to this part of the boot.

Iceland Postcard

For our final travels of 2013 we went north in October in search of the Northern Lights! This was a second visit to Iceland and the first since the financial crash of 2008 so there were some significant changes – mostly financial.  Six years previously I had found the country horrendously expensive but immediately after the crash the krona lost fifty percent of its value against the euro and even taking into account six years of relatively high inflation, which even now remains high at over 5%, I was rather hoping for cheaper prices this time and I was not disappointed because I estimate that the tourist cost of living was only about 65% of the costs of 2007.

We did enjoy Iceland, we had a nice hotel, found an excellent restaurant (Harry’s Bar), drove the Golden Circle and on the final night got to see the Northern Lights just as we had given up all hope of seeing the spectacular light show.  I am tempted now to return to Iceland, maybe in June and experience the midnight sun but this time I would miss Reykjavik because I have been there twice now and seen all that there is to see but I think I would hire a car and circumnavigate the island, that would be about one thousand, five hundred kilometres but I am guessing that this would be a wonderful experience.

So now thoughts turn to 2014 and the current plan  is to visit Poland (Wroclaw) in January, Sigüenza in Spain in April, possibly Ireland in June and then a holiday with my family to celebrate my sixtieth birthday in Corfu in August but obviously I hope to slip a few more holidays in between these main events!

Turkey – Culture, Food and Markets

Sarigerme Turkey Sunday Market

The main issue that I have with all inclusive hotels or any holiday village complex style hotels is that they are all so similar and although this one was in Turkey it could just as well have been in Spain or Mexico or Bali.  A lot of people staying here would go home at the end of the week and tell their friends that they had been to Turkey, which was true, but then again no it wasn’t because in a place like this it is impossible to appreciate or understand the culture of the country.

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Turkey – Swimming Pools, Beaches, Ice Cream and Meal Times

Suntopia Tropical

Having come to terms with being in an ‘All Inclusive’ holiday resort on the next day I set to be positive about the experience.  The hotel, I have to say was exceptionally good, the rooms were large and well furnished, the public areas were spotlessly clean, the food was quite exceptional, the staff were wonderful and the service was fast and efficient.

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Turkey – Shock, Complaints,Tattoos and Resignation

Sarigerme Turkey

At this point I think I was determined not to completely enjoy the ‘All Inclusive’experience because in a snooty sort of way I have come to think of myself as a traveller rather than a holidaymaker or a tourist and much to the dismay of my daughter I started straight away to find things to dislike.

Read the full story…

Turkey – Preparation and Arrival

Turkey Postcard

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.

Read the full story…