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With lots of offers available, you can grab a great deal in Turkey
Lazing on the sun deck of Turkish gulet, Afroditi, just off the coast of Bodrum, I sipped an iced gin and tonic, looked out at the sparkling sapphire Aegean sea and wondered if life could get any better. These traditional, two-masted, walnut-built sailing vessels offer packages covering all inclusive, luxurious facilities. Ours was a day trip but gulets can be chartered for a day, a week or longer.
When we passed Black Island and Rabbit Island, sitting at a long table on deck, we sampled a delicious, fresh meze lunch, served by the resident cook. Turkey has been so called for centuries, simply because the pronounciation is easier for many of us, than its real name, Turkiye. Bit of a lazy excuse, really. Bodrum has something for everyone - young, not so young, families, couples - beautiful beaches, clear warm waters, history and culture, good hotels, cafes and restaurants serving traditional and Mediterranean dishes, night spots, friendly, welcoming people and warm weather.
It's as well to know that hotel star ratings may not always equate with those given by the UK. In the main resorts, English is generally spoken well and Turkish people like British visitors. The Bodrum town Mayor, Mehmet Kocadon, says Turkey wants to be and is becoming more and more westernised. Our guide, Erman, whose eyes, by the way, are the colour of burnt caramel, told me he would like a long-term English girlfriend - shame about the age gap, then. He is 33 and I'm not! Our base was the all-inclusive, La Blanche Resort five-star hotel, located in the quiet resort of Turgutreis, which is around a 45-minute drive from Bodrum. Shuttle buses take guests to the town and to other resorts and places of interest.
Rooms are spacious. My balcony overlooked the pool, some rooms have sea views, and the mini-bar is re-stocked daily with soft drinks. Staff are polite and helpful, food is varied and plentiful, there's a huge swimming pool, a children's section and a delightful, private, soft, sandy beach lapped by an azure blue lagoon. On one evening, a professional belly dancer demonstrated her moves, before inviting volunteers to have a go. My attempt to emulate the shimmies, shivers, quivers and hip drops attracted sympathetic applause for bare-faced cheek, rather than talent.
Bodrum castle links the town's two crescent-shaped bays, with a backcloth of sloping hills dotted with white-washed, blue window-framed houses, no more than two storeys high and built closely together. Hot pink and purple bouganvillea jostle for attention where they line the walls of the narrow streets which lead to the sea. Alongside the harbour and stylish marina are lots of restaurants, cafes, bars and night spots. Shopaholics satisfy their cravings here with leather goods, olive oil, carpets, jewellery, trinkets and much more - designer copy handbags, T-shirts, etc are a good buy.
Bodrum has a rich heritage, dating back 3000 years and was the home of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, 484-425BC, considered to be the founder of the study of history. The Mausoleum, named after King Mausolus, who died in 353BC, and whose wife erected a massive tomb in his honour, was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. The amphitheatre, which dates back to the 4th century BC, provides a platform for concerts and other events. Bodrum Castle, built by the Knights of St John on a rocky peninsula in 1402, features The Underwater Archaelogy Museum which houses the world's oldest known shipwreck and its treasures. The English Tower, completed in 1413 and financed by funds from England, includes a stained glass window depicting the rose of Lancaster. Above a sculpted lion, on the western facade, appears Henry IV's coat of arms.
We took an open-topped Land Rover safari trip into the mountains, negotiating rocky terrain and narrow roads. Fortunately, we didn't come across any oncoming vehicles. As we climbed ever higher, I averted my eyes from the deep gorges and valleys below, particularly, when our laid back, rock n'roll driver and Difference Outdoor tours' owner, kept only his left hand on the steering wheel as he turned to talk to us. Eventually we arrived a mosque where a silent prayer might have been opportune. Men and women are segregated when they kneel, bending forward, face down on the floor to pray in a mosque, we were told, the reason being that males might become distracted and lose concentration. We understood and didn't need further explanation. But we got it, anyway.
Old traditions flourish in Bodrum. At Saskoy Carpet Village, a group of focused female workers manipulated their shuttles and frames to weave the woollen threads in a time old fashion. These carpets are exported world wide. Apparently, the way a finished carpet fringe is knotted can indicate the status of the woman who made it, ie if she's single and searching for a partner, going through an emotional crisis, is pregnant, engaged or married. Helpful to know. Oh, that some of the English men I've encountered over the years had displayed a similar symbol of their status!
Freshly prepared Turkish and Mediterranean food is widely available. Raki is the local spirit. Make sure you dine in time to see the spectacular sunset at the Mimoza restaurant on the beach in upmarket Gumusluk. Gourd and pumpkin lantern-lit by moonlight, this is a magical place where you can feast on fresh fish. The owner of a Turkish Delights factory told us that he produces 500 kilos of these traditional sweetmeats every day. Flavours include the speciality, mandarin, plus rose, pistachio and lemon.
Bodrum is full of its own delights and, understandably, at the moment, there are plenty of great holiday deals to this resort and to other Turkish holiday venues. My local travel agent told me there are packages, including flights, for around £250 pp per week on a B&B basis and around £500 pp per week, all inclusive in a five-star hotel. Bodrum is known as The St Tropez of the Aegean - but the good thing is, you don't need a celebrity income to go there.
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