Affirmation: Antalya


Sunday 13th December

We arrived in Antalya and then proceeded to travel out of it for another hour before we arrived at the hotel. There was quite a big gap between when we arrived and dinner so I tried with little success to nap. The dinner was really disappointing and the hot food (whilst cooked) was luke-warm at best and at least one of the desserts was slightly frozen. Whilst it didn’t particularly bother me, there were loads of cats running around the room and they waited outside the sliding doors for their opportunity to run inside.

Marcus went up to the room and Alex and I sought to find something to do but by 8pm we accepted there was literally nothing for us to do. I had a shower and got in to bed which was in the same room as Marcus but divided by a sliding door so my section resembled a peasants quarters. Marcus then decided to build a barricade because we realised that the balcony wouldn’t lock.

Monday 14th December
After I woke up from a bad nights sleep I knew not to get my hopes up for breakfast after the dinner from the night before. My low expectations were still not met and I couldn’t even have jam or nutella on toast and got charged for orange juice even though I along with others thought it was free. The setting of the hotel was nice and before leaving I got a photo of the sea and the mountains.

We arrived in the main square and from the clock tower walked through the Bazaar to the harbour. Marcus showed a bit to much interest in one of the shops and told the owner he would come back later. We both made the same comment at the same time “we can’t go back that way”. Although it wasn’t quite 9am the sun was starting to shine through and when we reached the harbour the water sparkled.

The views were lovely and we could see the snow capped mountains in the background. There were a lot of boat tours and it seemed most used a pirate theme, or rather specifically Pirates of the Caribbean, even using moulded character faces as the boats figurehead. After leaving the harbour we stumbled across a very pretty square in what was probably a very wealthy area before continuing to the tower.

Unfortunately on the way Marcus got talking to another shop keeper who seemed, as Volkan had predicted learnt every street name in London. Volkan had also warned they would talk to us for a long time and for a while it looked like we would never leave though mercifully we were able to make our excuses and to leave. This time we really would not be returning down that street. We finally reached the tower which was slightly underwhelming up close, looking more spectacular from a distance.

With time to spare we went to Yenigüm a traditional Turkish delight shop. I didn’t used to like the texture of the Turkish delight sold in the UK but this was amazing and out of this world with so many different varieties. Such was my love for the pomegranate flavour and chocolate with coconut I left with a small box and the treats for work sorted.

We boarded the bus and continued to the jewellery shop where the salesman showed us some rare diamonds worth more than the house in Southall I’d looked at. Many were also more than the deposit I have saved for. He tried his best to convince us diamonds were a better investment than money but all I left with was some Turkish coffee for Steph and Jess.

After lunch we went to a leather shop where some very pretty girls and a no doubt handsome man put on a fashion show. I’ve been to a lot of these stops on various tours and I’ve always resisted buying anything however I finally broke. I tried on a leather jacket, which I took an instant liking to and with the help of Volkan managed to get more than 75% off. I’ve always wanted a nice leather jacket and this one will be a nice memory of the holiday.

We arrived at the hotel which at the entrance looked quite spectacular. After dropping off the bags Alex and I tried to explore the Japanese swimming pool and Spa area however it was such a maze I got lost on the way and opened a door to a room which resembled a building site. The pool was closed and the steam room cold and whilst the Sauna was working we both decided to return to our rooms.

Marcus and I counted down the minutes to dinner and were amongst the first people there. It was arguably the best buffet I’ve had, or certainly the biggest in terms of choice and we both shamelessly stuffed ourselves. After dinner we went to the Sultan Lounge for some live music but eventually realised it had been cancelled due to being out of season.

Alex had joined us so we went in search for the “real Ferrari F1 car” (in the words of Marcus) and walked a very long way for something which ended up being a large lifesize plastic toy. It was a very creepy feeling room resembling a closed theme park which was made worse when a creepy man we hadn’t seen jumped out and said “would you like to play?” Despite still being early we cut our losses and went to bed.

Tuesday 15th December
I woke up early and spent quite a bit of time mindlessly looking at articles on the internet and really struggled to get out of bed when my alarm eventually went off. By the time I went down for breakfast I was running marginally late which was a shame because the breakfast, like the dinner had an amazing choice.

Our main activity for the day was to visit the ruins at Aspendos and after passing through the city gate we stopped to photograph the remains of the cities aqueduct system something I hadn’t seen before. Next we arrived at the site Aspendos is perhaps now most famous for. I had already been impressed with a lot of the ruins we’d seen on the trip but stepping in to the perfectly preserved theatre built during the reign of Marcus Aurelius in 161AD (and restored in the 1930s) was a real treat.

We had a group photo and then when we had free time I climbed to the very top level and looked down on the 15,000 capacity auditorium. I explored every corner and Kevin kindly told me about the stone which had the Roman text confirming when it was built. Ironically as I took the photos of the theatre I was deleting old pictures of the theatre at Pompeii from earlier in the year and I was really able to compare the two. True it’s not as grand as the Coliseum in Rome but it is more complete and seeing a show there must be incredibly atmospheric.

Leaving the theatre I had about 45 minutes to explore the rest of the area and turned my feet on to ultimate speed. I made the 20 minute up hill walk to the Basilica in under 10 minutes, passing the remains of the stadium in the process. The Basilica area was deserted and after taking in the atmosphere decided to walk for a further 10 reaching the start of the aqueduct system. On the way down I accidentally took a short cut and so powered to the top of the ‘theatre hill’ so that I could look down on the theatre which was particularly spine tingling. I jogged back down and made it to the coach with just enough time to buy the group souvenir photo.

I thought I may have been a bit tired of ruined but Aspendos had been so good it had left me on a bit of a high and the inner wannabe photographer/archeologist/history buff had been truly satisfied as we continued to lunch. After my late breakfast I wasn’t hungry so as soon as it appeared everyone was done I left to walk across the reconstructed Roman bridge. The bridge was an unusual shape and gave pretty views of the surrounding mountains.

We made our way back to the hotel where we had nearly half a days free time. Alex, Deborah and I went to explore the beach whilst Marcus relaxed in the room. The beach didn’t look that appealing though I imagine it must be popular in the summer so instead Alex and I made another attempt at having a swim or using the steam room. The water in the heated indoor pool was not the 28 degrees as claimed and as with the day before the steam room was not producing steam. The Hamman room bad activity so we went in but after about 5 minutes we were told to turn off the hot taps and that it was closed.

I returned to the room to have a shower to warm up and shortly after Marcus said he was at the outdoor pool outside our room. I stepped on to the balcony, waved but couldn’t see him. He then realised he wasn’t outside our room. He made his way back and together we then walked around the hotel grounds for well over an hour because it was such a big site though we didn’t even touch the actual golf course. On our epic journey we were attacked by sprinklers and made it to the beach just in time to catch the end of the beautiful sunset.

We briefly listened to some of the live music in the hotel reception before going back to the room to freshen up before our final dinner. As with the night before there was a huge selection including some particularly pretty and tasty desserts. After eating Alex, Marcus and I saw a very cute cross eyed cat we’d seen the day before and then found an outdoor ping pong table. There were no lights so the person not playing held up a mobile phone and more shots were missed than hit.

We returned to the Sultan Lounge for 9.30pm to see the Acrobatic display but as with the night before it all seemed closed and the bar staff seemed a bit dodgy so we went to reception. We’d seen 3 outdoor pool tables and asked if they could turn on the lights and after first denying they had any the staff then said they were broken. By now we were quite bored. The hotel which from the outside looked so grand was an empty shell and it felt a bit like when the Wizard of Oz is unveiled. We went on another walk through the hotel and after eventually finding ourselves in the creepy closed arcade room from the night before decided to go back to our rooms.

Wednesday 16th December
This time it was my turn to get out of bed with little trouble and after having a shower packed my bag for the last time of the year. I left Marcus in bed as I went down to breakfast and whilst I initially felt hungry and knew there would be no lunch lost my appetite on entering the room. The food looked and smelt fine but I knew I had over indulged though I couldn’t resist a helping of the pancakes. I returned to the room and on the way passed Marcus in the corridor. He told me he’d been hiding in the room waiting to jump out on me though I’d been longer than he expected so he’d given up.

We boarded the bus and just as we were about to leave for the airport a member of the group realised she’d lost her phone and case which included all her bank cards. There were varying reactions from the rest of the group because none of us knew what was going on except Vulkan and as I was at the back it was Chinese whispers at best. When I realised the cards and phone (which had all her selfie stick pictures) I felt quite sympathetic. It could have happened to any of us and it must be up there with disasters that can happen on the way to the airport. At the same time we were probably all feeling anxious about getting to airport and were experiencing the classic end of holiday feeling. Sad it was over but glad to no longer be confined to a coach and suitcase.

As it was Vulkan was notified the items were found at the hotel just as we reached the airport but we had unfortunately had to sacrifice a photo stop of more ruins and a fine example of an old Roman stadium. I was also feeling anxious because I had to declare my coat at customs before boarding and had somehow found myself right at the back of the check in line for our flight despite most of our coach being a coach load of people in front of me. As it was I did still have time to sort everything and I slept most of the flight.

Some of the people on the tour were quite elderly and aspects of the trip had been quite strenuous for them but they showed resilience to keep going and I don’t think anyone missed any of the main sites. Whilst Marcus and I naturally stuck to Alex as she was in our age group (even though Marcus insisted I was still ‘grandad’) and her mum Deborah we had spoken to and enjoyed the company of everyone on the coach. We had all been in Turkey for the same reason and I think we all made the most of our time there because we were all young at heart, making the most of life. Despite all the troubles in the area which had caused me minor concern, Turkey had been a fantastic experience and appeared a friendly, economically stable country.

I remember when, before I started travelling I briefly worked with someone who went to a different country each month. They were about the age I am now so at the start of the year I’d set out to do something similar and to explore Europe. I didn’t manage it though came very close but I will never take for granted what I did experience this year especially reaching the Ancient cities of Rome, Athens and Istanbul (Constantinople). I doubt I’ll ever have a year of travel quite like 2015 but I’m already looking forward to whatever new adventures may come my way in 2016 and like many of those on the coach I hope I am still exploring the world in my later years once I have fulfilled any parenting responsibilities (when the time comes).

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