Thursday, January 20, 2011

All-Inclusive Turkish Riviera

Many tourists who swarm to the Turkish Riviera each year—around 25 million—end up holed up in an all-inclusive 5-star hotel. There are lots of reasons for this, the first being that very few foreign tourists speak Turkish, so they’re wary of heading off the beaten path where they can’t read the menu.

And what’s wrong with an all-inclusive 5-star hotel anyway? The short answer is this: plenty. The long answer is that most tourists get all they need from these hotels (sun, food, alcohol, activities for the children), so they serve their purpose (to make me 2 kilos fatter). So why criticize a successful billion-lira industry?

“All-inclusive” means that all your food—breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snack—and all your drinks are included. But what do you actually get?

If you take a drive along the Turkish Riviera from Antalya to Alanya, you’ll see a million orange trees. There’ll be men in trucks along the motorway selling oranges. There’ll be monuments to the Great Orange. I’m sure half the villages on the Turkish Riviera are named after the orange. But will you get real orange juice for breakfast at your all-inclusive hotel? I hope you do, but we didn’t. We got orange sugar water. For REAL orange juice we would have had to pay 4 lira a glass.

I love coffee. Maybe you read my post about the Starbucks in Ubud, Bali (Indonesia). I’m a “bit” particular about my coffee in the morning. I grind my beans. Heat my cup. Let the coffee steep (steeping is so important). I use a French Press made in Denmark. It’s ceramic and will someday break (my heart). The smell of freshly ground Arabica coffee beans soothes and wakes at the same time.

Have you ever smelled Nescafé? I’ve been to their site, so yeah yeah yeah I know it’s real coffee, but it certainly doesn’t smell like real coffee. And it’s gluten-free supposedly, so I could have drunk it. I could have drunk the water out of the toilet too. All things are possible. I'm sure there are lots of Nescafé fans out there, and I don't mean to offend you. Ha.

The Turkish would marry Nescafé if they could (or maybe they’re just in love with the profit they make from drowning tourists in instant coffee). If you hate instant coffee, ask politely for coffee from the machine at the bar. There will certainly be one. I went with the waiter to the other end of the hotel and showed him the machine (with the coffee beans in the top). The next morning there was a new waiter, so I took him all the way to the other end of the hotel and showed him what I meant when I said I wanted “coffee.” And so on. I went through the same procedure every morning.

The food? I won’t dare complain about the food. The food was terrific. I love Turkish salads. Lamb: yum. Fresh fruit (you can eat all the oranges you want, but they won’t make you juice). Incidentally, if you take excursions to one of the beautiful towns along the coast, you can get a glass of freshly squeezed orange or pomegranite juice for around 1 euro ($1.35), a fourth of the price they charged at the hotel.

But complaining is much more fun. The wine? Wow, so bad. Much worse than bad. The white wine tasted like medicine; the red wine smacked of cherry juice. But you know what they say, the first sip is the worst. I managed to struggle through a few glasses each night. What? It was included.

If you’re booking an all-inclusive holiday in an enormous hotel, know what you’re getting yourself into. The hotel will cut corners. You’re in a herd, so expect to be fed accordingly. If you really want to enjoy the Turkish Riviera, rent a car and head to the stunning Taurus mountains, but of course be back at your hotel for dinner. You won't want to miss that tasty wine.

I must be off,