I had always had images of package holiday resorts as being something like Channel 4s cringe inducing 'Secret Life of Holiday resorts' where loud tourists get sunburnt and drunk by the pool, Argie with each other in public, urinate in the pool and hog the sun loungers at 4am all the while loudly dressed and loudly mannered holiday reps are running around trying desperately to convince everyone that they were having a great time with their stale activities that require everyone to sing along to a selection of annoying songs. I was always one who wanted to create unique holiday memories and to experience something new about the place I was holidaying in. So when the idea of a TUI package holiday was mooted I was not excitedly running for the door with bags packed. However, I am, it seems not beyond being proven wrong.
Picking a resort
Firstly my idea of a holiday has slightly shifted now that we have two kids under 4 years of age. They are not yet ready to don hiking boots, snorkels or safety harnesses. And the idea of a 10 hour flight with them is both unfair to them as well as the 200 other passengers who would have no escape if the teething became painful or the restlessness became too confining.
I guessed that my partner Siobhan felt the same and that is how we came to browse through the many options for a package holiday from TUI that would allow us to get some quality time where the kids would have fun from the minute they woke up until their exhausted head hit the pillow in the evening and where us adventurous adults could get some rest and relaxation whilst experiencing something akin to culture, cuisine and new adventures.
TUI Blue Tropical
We had never been to Turkey before and the resort of TUI Blue Tropical screamed out from the pages of the brochure. A sprawling 4 star resort situated on an unspoilt beach of the Mediterranean. Even though this was September and we were facing into colder shorter days the average temp during the day allowed for glorious sun tans and warm seas to swim in. The centre piece of the resort was a huge pool with a 4 story slide at its core that had every adult recapturing a little of their sense of childhood as they pretended they were up there for the sake of comforting nervous children. Surrounding this main pool were restaurants, ice cream shops, juice bars and adult bars that were open all day.
The level of activity was infectious. We spent our 1st day jumping in and out of the pool with the kids and desperately starting our tanning with poolside service ferrying drinks and snacks to us all afternoon. As an all inclusive resort this was an amazing element that meant you weren’t secretly adding up how much you were spending when you’re supposed to be holidaying. Playgrounds, all weather football and tennis courts, games rooms, snooker and all were well kept without a hint of overuse to be seen anywhere.
Eventually we opted for the more relaxed setting of the beach, but there were many other little oasis of child and toddler friendly pools dotted all around the complex. In fact there was something for everyone.
We even put our 3 yr old Erin into the play school one day. She loved the experience and even got a tour of the fabulous organic fruit and vegetable garden that helps supply the hotel restaurants.
We took the opportunity of having one less child to watch to indulge in the world famous Turkish hammam which was easily one of the most amazing spa treatments i have ever had.
Another of my initial concerns with package holidays is that the quality of the food would be basic at best. Once they have you they have you. However, it might be the additional marketing of peoples insistence in Instagramming their every meal but the selection and quality literally amazed me. The resorts Executive Chef was very smartly presented as he patrolled the buffets on constant quality control paying no heed to the customers his gaze firmly fixed on what was coming out of the kitchens. In fact our 1st night there was the Turkish night and afterwards we questioned whether we would actually need to venture outside the resort for our passion, food.
However the next night we did just that and wandered into the local town of Sarigerme. I say town but it really consisted of one main street that was very well kept and lit but which seemed to be built purely for the tourist trade. There were about 5 restaurants and the remaining units seemed entirely taken up with fake designer everything!
Culture and adventure
As we browsed we came across the office of Panda tours on the main street and saw advertised a 12 Island day long cruise as well as various other activities such as jeep safaris and a day excursion by boat to a secret beach full of turtles as well as the famous dalyan mud baths frequented by the celebrity set such as Dustin Hoffman and Kurt Russell for their famous anti oxidant properties. When we made enquires a big bear of a man with a friendly smile introduced himself as Daddy Panda. He was such a happy character that we signed up for both trips immediately.
The 1st was the turtle beach and mud baths day out. We climbed onto our boat with about 12 other adventurers en route to turtle beach. There were beers and other drinks and snacks available on our riverboat and our 1st stop was at a crab farm where you could look at the various crab habitats and then eat one of them! Next stop was a 2 hour stop at turtle beach which is not only a perfect beach with a modern tiki cafe but it is also a turtle sanctuary where we got to watch turtles the size of beach towels swimming around lazily as we swam between them. It really was quite magical. We also saw the amazing sight of the Dalyan tombs that look like something out of Indiana Jones carved into the cliff face looking down on the river as we sailed past en route to the mud baths and swigging a cold beer. All I could think was “how the hell did they make those, even today they would be an architectural feat”
The 12 Island cruise was the only other day we spent away from the resort that had everything. This was a day long BBQ on the boat kind of adventure. We spent the day diving into crystal clear water and generally chill-laxing as we soaked up the sun and downed a few more cold beers. It was a perfect day. We even met a couple from the UK who looked in their late 30s who told us they were parents of 10!! I have never been so at a loss for words and full of admiration. My partner and I vowed to never complain about being tired again. A vow that lasted approx 48 hours after we got back home!