Saturday, 2 May 2009

Hisarönü – Guilty Pleasure

An English resort in the hills behind Fethiye in southern Turkey. A two-mile long ‘strip’ of English pubs offering a nightly diet of karaoke and Elvis impersonators; ‘greasy spoon’ cafés serving full English breakfast; wall-to-wall premiership football on big screen TVs; Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Italian, fish ‘n’ chip, ‘everything-but-Turkish’, restaurants; English newspapers on every corner; ‘Azda’ and ‘Morison’ supermarkets to stock up on those holiday essentials like baked beans, large bags of crisps, and cans of lager! This is what awaited us when we booked a very cheap two-week hotel stay in Hisarönü in August 2008.

Not being people who have ever been big on cheap package holidays to the sun, we had never heard of Hisarönü. I realise now that it is a well-known destination for those looking for a Blackpool or a Brighton, but with guaranteed hot weather. It’s the sort of place that we have studiously avoided in the past, just because it is not what we are looking for in a holiday. We tend to choose holiday destinations which are ‘off the beaten track’ – places where we are unlikely to hear cries of, “Be quiet, Kylie”, and, “Harrison, leave your brother alone”, or, “Go get your Dad another beer, Sylvana!” Does this make us snobs? Some would think so. Do we look down on those who enjoy this sort of holiday? Not at all, but we have never thought it ‘our cup of tea’. I guess that we have always been grateful that places like Benidorm (showing my age now!), Aya Napa, and Bodrum existed, if only so that we knew where not to go on holiday! You see, I mentioned Bodrum there. In my mind, I associated Bodrum with the Brits in Turkey – planeloads of loutish youngsters descending on the resort daily in the summer months and wreaking havoc. Bodrum was in my radar – on my list of places to avoid – at least one of our nephews has been there, for goodness sake (not that any of our nephews are louts, I hasten to add!)!

Hisarönü, however, was not on my list – I’d never heard of it. I booked our Turkish-owned hotel (one of the few in town, it transpired) on-line, months in advance of our trip. I suppose that the price should have alerted me, but I was just surprised and grateful that we were able to afford to put two weeks ‘r and r’ in the middle of our month-long cultural tour around Turkey. Some comments I read on holiday forums after I had booked (‘lively pubs offering happy hours every night, for example), made me realise that perhaps this wasn’t the sort of place we would usually go to, but, by then, it was booked, so we decided that we would make the best of it, and that I would not research further.

In the end, Hisarönü provided us with a great holiday! After recovering from the initial culture shock of being bombarded with all things English during our taxi ride from the bus station along the entire length of the ‘strip’, we embraced the place and all it had to offer. Perhaps it was because we had been living in Istanbul for so long, and had been deprived of all those familiar pleasures, that we were able to enjoy it. I’m not sure why, but I know that we had a good time!

Our hotel was clean and comfortable with a lovely pool. We met some interesting people with whom we were able to converse properly in our common language. We ate in all of those traditional ‘British’ restaurants – we had Indian one night, Italian another, and Chinese twice. It was a joy after being limited to Turkish cuisine for so long. We even had fish ‘n’ chips – a real guilty pleasure! Once, we had a ‘bacon butty’, the bacon having been supplied by a thriving local butcher’s shop – there is a corner of non-pork-eating Turkey that is forever ‘Porkland’! We also enjoyed evenings in pubs, and my husband watched his first live Spurs game in well over a year. We did what many Brits do on holiday year-in, year-out, and we really enjoyed it, even if part of us felt that we shouldn’t! For us, it was the right holiday at the right time.

Would we go again?
Probably not!!

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