Sunday 21 December 2014

Turkish Delight

Recent headlines about Turkey have worried tourists, but Ian Mallon found peace and tranquility in a family-friendly resort

Published 09/06/2013 | 05:00

Gold City enjoys great views of Alanya city resort from its hilltop position.
On-site waterpark is a major draw for families

It's a bit unfortunate for the Turkish Tourist Board that the world is watching as the country slips towards a Turkish Spring. Instead, it should be concentrating on getting across the message about one of the great, underrated holiday destinations in the world; not just a favourite of the drink-'til-you-drop budget brigade.

Events which sparked violent demonstrations across this once uniquely western Muslim country unfolded almost the minute I left. Turkey began by rolling out strict new restrictions on alcohol consumption, which were introduced at the end of my time there, but for which my gluttonous palate and I can take no responsibility.

Turkey is a now a place of transition, where the ultra-conservative ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is doing its very best to turn it into a strict Islamist state, from its place as a secular country which, up until recently, wanted to be a member of the EU.

We can only hope that Turkey won't become another Egypt or Syria – nor that the disturbances have any impact on the tourists who travel in great numbers to this place of beauty, home to quality holiday destinations.

And it is certainly one of the world's great places to visit, so much so that, even in the gilded world of the occasional travel writer, this was one destination that I couldn't turn down when the call came.

When Thomas Cook asked me to visit Turkey's famed Gold City resort complex, with a Middle Eastern promise of five-star luxury and service, how could I refuse?

The name itself is gloriously sybaritic. Images of Turkish delights dripping in liquid gold dance before your eyes. This, I decided, would be a palace of decadence, where fine wines and cocktails would be presented by belly-dancing nymphettes, while scythe- brandishing man-servants served up freshly slaughtered beasts.

This would be the perfect place to break my Turkey duck amid a treat of all inclusivity and luxury.

And while tensions were growing on the streets, my fellow guests were a world away, high on a hilltop overlooking the Med.

Like the opulent Atlantis super-resort in Dubai, Gold City provides everything the enthusiastic resort dweller so desires all on the one site, albeit on a smaller scale.

And what a site it is, from its setting on the foothills of the Taurus mountain range, towering majestically over the resort city of Alanya on the Turkish Riviera, which is straddled by the easternmost waters of the Mediterranean.

My family arrived at night, when you can see Gold City glittering for miles from its lofty perch.

Once inside, you are greeted by one of the great reception areas, bedecked in marble and hardwood, with 16 stories towering up through the centre of the floor and down below for a further three stories, finished with a mammoth chandelier that hangs from the roof, hundreds of feet above.

Our family suite was equally fabulous, with two spacious bedrooms on either side of a large living room and reception area.

You may already gather that this is not a boutique hotel – this is a lavish and highly intoxicating experience.

We arrived after a four-hour flight and a two-hour bus ride, at a time when the children were so famished they began eyeing each other up as a food source. So what better arrival than going straight to the buffet, a gastronomic spectacle of local cuisine with the most terrific dessert display I have ever laid eyes on.

We were all-inclusive, so this is where we grazed at least three times a day for the week – but just in case you get peckish, there is also afternoon tea, snacking between meals in the poolside kitchen area and even a midnight feast.

On top of that, there is an unlimited supply of wines, cocktails and beers at any time of the day – we were not affected by the new laws which would affect Turks in normality.

The real advantage for parents is how much is on offer for the children: poolside entertainment, shows and all sorts of other delights. It transpires that the phrases 'five-star' and 'family-friendly' are not mutually exclusive. Better still was the on-site waterpark, not 100 yards from the reception area. We spent many exhilarating hours on the Tornado, the Boomerang and all the other rides designed to have the heart leaping out of your chest. Quite the hangover cure, as I discovered.

There is no creeping conservatism in Gold City, and while Turkey is in a period of change, the rule of law at this resort is that all the good things in life are king.

Getting and staying there

Thomas Cook Ireland offers weekly direct flights to Antalya from Dublin between May and October, departing Sundays.

Seven nights at the five-star Gold City Hotel & Villa Complex in Mahmutlar, near Alanya, is available from €2,277 for a family of four on an all- inclusive basis, including unlimited access to the new Aquapark.

To book, call Thomas Cook Ireland in Dublin on 01-514 0328, log on to thomascook.ie or visit your local travel agent.

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