I sit here today on my first day back at work with a little sense of sorrow. Don't worry though, it's sorrow in a good way because it stems from the fact that the big family holiday that I put my heart and soul into organising over the last six months, has come to an end. It was a holiday filled with laughter, tears, nostalgia and new memories made; everything really a holiday should be. It was also a holiday that was so desperately needed by my family after a difficult few years.
You see, in the summer of 2017 we sadly lost my father in law. He had battled bravely with illness for many years and the two prior to his passing had taken a physical and mental toll on everyone as they struggled to see someone so dearly loved so very poorly. As the family began to pick themselves up and try to move forward, we decided that a huge group holiday might help us mark a new chapter and so it began.
It never ceases to amaze me that I still get looks of surprise and negative comments when I tell people we're off to Turkey. In fact, my sister in law herself was largely apprehensive having only experienced an 8-30 style resort in her youth. However, a holiday for 11 people comes with complexities in making sure everybody is happy and so we felt that an all-inclusive was the obvious choice with such a varied group of age and requirements. We had grandparents used to the finer things in life, fussy kids, active kids and beach-loving lads to cater for. We wanted waterparks, luxury accommodation, high quality food and branded drinks and the truth is that, in my humble opinion, Turkey leads the way in Europe for this style of holiday.
Having previously stayed at both Lara Beach and Belek in Antalya, I was happy to recommend these areas as they offer a huge range of 4* and 5* hotels complete with spas, world class golf courses and unrivalled kids’ facilities. We eventually settled on The Gloria Golf Resort in Belek.
You can fly to Antalya directly from most British airports in four hours making this a great (and more budget friendly in school holidays) alternative to places like Greece and Canary Islands. It meant we arrived at the hotel at 3.30pm just in time for some evening pool fun and to sample the food and road test the cocktails. First impressions were high as we drove up the lengthy driveway fringed with some beautiful trees and vivid flowers (most hotels here are gated and have private driveways separating them from the main road - similar to Caribbean style resorts). Check in only served to confirm our expectations as we were led to the bar and offered drinks whilst the reception staff completed paperwork and admin. The fact that bottles of Coke and Corona (complete with lime) arrived, resulted in happy smiles from both the kids and the parents.
What are we doing today mum?
As already stated, we chose this resort to have everything close at hand and easily accessible which is great if you're travelling with children or anyone with mobility difficulties. Like many people we spoke to here, we adopted the "little and often" approach to the facilities meaning that after breakfast, we'd settle by the pool and let the kids play freely while the adults read (or slept off the previous night's White Russian cocktails - yes you Aunty Sarah!) Then after lunch we'd either head over to the beautiful pier on the Gloria's private stretch of beach for a spot of diving or snorkelling or give in to Uncle Matt's nagging and join him at the waterpark to have fun on the six waterslides.
The beauty of these waterparks is that, even in the summer, there aren't any queues as most people settle into their own routine and just visit for a 1-2 hour chunk of the day. Equally, as the mum of a vertically challenged 9-year-old who has been limited in some European parks, it's great that the restrictions can be waived if children are properly supervised by an adult - these are great slides but not particularly white knuckle! On top of this the kids were able to hire bikes to ride around the resort, play darts and should, they wish, go to a rather impressive and fully supervised soft play centre.
The final thing to tick off on a holiday checklist is the cuisine - this can be one of the main turn-offs of the all-inclusive concept with lukewarm food, limited choice, repetition or the chaos of a traditional buffet being amongst the complaints. Again, I'd done my research (as you'd expect) and chosen a hotel with several different restaurants and most importantly three a la carte options. This prevents boredom setting in and adds to the sense of luxury. Some properties have as many as eight!
As with everything else in the hotel, the buffet was of a high standard; everything was fresh, well presented and hot. Additionally, outside was a BBQ area where fresh meat was available to order and then brought to your table. That said it was a nice change to visit the a la cartes. Here, we could visit each a la carte once per week meaning we were only in buffet style dining every other night. Our a la cartes included an Italian, a Spanish and an Asian Inspired one. They were all fantastic, but I think the whole family are in agreement that it was the huge and fabulously cooked fillet steaks in the Italian that stole the show! I think our next family visit to The Miller and Carter might be an expensive one since this is the kids' new favourite cut of steak!
In regard to drink (which I have touched on already) I can honestly say I have never seen so many brands as at The Gloria - Bacardi, Havana Club, Jameson’s Whisky, Beefeater Gin, Corona Lager, Heineken to name but a few (I'd name more but the effects of such good quality drinks on offer means that some memories are a little hazy!) On top of this kids were spoiled with cans of branded soft drinks, Magnum and Walls Ice creams available and a min bar restocked daily with Haribo and Godiva chocolate!
I could honestly fill another two pages with what I loved about this holiday (I haven't even touched on excursions etc) and the all-inclusive properties available in Turkey. I honestly believe they represent excellent value for money and are a brilliant choice for travelling as a large group. Unfortunately, I've run out of space and I'm being nagged by the family to start planning next year's holiday but please feel free to get in touch if you'd like any more advice about travelling to Turkey!