It’s a rare thing to be slightly downbeat about leaving London for the delights of the Turkish Riviera, but such there I was. That rarest of things, the British Summer, had elbowed its way through the showers to say hello for a few days in May, sparking a flashmob of deep vees, frisbees, barbecues and playsuits on London Fields, running on a cocktail of Red Stripe and canned G&Ts. Grim. Nonetheless, the forecast for Marmaris looked sketchy, and sure enough when we stepped out of the airport, drizzle started rattling the windowsill until we pitched up to the hotel late at night. Best to have a glass of wine, hit the hay and forget all about it.
Fortunately, when the sunrise nudges me awake the next day, everything is marvellous. I’ve woken up perpendicular in the bed, but still a good distance from either side of it. This room is uncluttered and sleek but luxuriously appointed – I have a couple of sofas, a couple of TVs, a few wardrobes, a bath big enough for a football team and a private walled balcony. Below is an outdoor pool pushing 40 metres; there’s an indoor heated pool I can spy through a skylight that’s 25 metres too. They’re both a great deal more inviting than the fleshy, frothing mess that is London Fields lido on a hot day – you lose, Hackney!
This is D-Resort Grand Azur, one of the chain’s lavish outposts stretching throughout Turkey and Croatia. This hotel is fresh from a recent renovation of each of its 324 rooms, part of an overhaul that also added the highly photogenic Steak & Bar restaurant on the fifth floor. Marmaris is splendid – clean, quiet, safe, flanked by handsome yachts, and a treat for the feline enthusiast (such as your correspondent). It’s distressing to hear that several hotels here have closed after alarmist media outlets in key jurisdictions (the UK and Germany in particular) casually suggested a risky environment for tourists, which seems absolutely ludicrous when you’re here. The most dangerous moment in the entire trip was when I realised the cocktails we’d ordered were BOGOF, and that yes, both these potent long island ice teas were for me. Thankfully I managed to leave the aptly named Bar Street before things got too raucous (the raucousness potential is massive, if that’s what you’re looking for) and retire to my balcony with an Efes and the sound of the sea.
Not so relaxed earlier that day, however. The gargantuan space on the lower ground floor of the hotel used to be a nightclub; the smart hoteliers turned it into the biggest spa in Marmaris. It sits on the lower ground floor, a generous selection of saunas, steam rooms, relaxation areas and the aforementioned 25m pool. There’s also a gargantuan, superbly equipped gym upstairs, complete with a pilates room and a swim studio. I have something much tougher in store though, and I prepare myself physically (in the sauna) and mentally (much more important) for the Hammam.
If I’d known what this actually involved I might have been a little less blasé, but hindsight is 20/20 and I’ve recovered by now. An ordeal shared is an ordeal halved, so my partner in pain and renewal and I lie down on the hot marble slab in the middle of the room. It reminds me of the kind of ornate sacrificial chamber in which the best Buffy episodes culminated. Except I’m not tied down. Peeping through my half-closed eyes, I see two bikini-clad women enter and disappear out of sight. They fill bowls with hot water and throw them all over us. It’s like any other Thursday so far. But then comes the scrubbing: coarse gloves violently exfoliating my every corner. No pain, no gain. A bubbly foam comes next, massaged thoroughly into front and back; then more hot water. We stand up for the finale: cold water, and plenty of it, top to bottom – this was probably what prompted the squeals we heard from the lucky hammamees that went before us. Traumatic though it is, I feel absolutely marvellous afterward, and ready for the massage that comes after a short breath-catching break. The massage is every bit as tough as I want it to be – a desk-bound lifestyle leads to some pretty intractable shoulder knots – and a dip in the pool afterwards completes my journey from tense, hunched little Englander to smooth, serene Mediterranean.
The food at D-Resort Grand Azur is terrific generally – I love a fresh-cooked omelette of a morning – but it’s worth highlighting the Steak & Bar restaurant in particular, which occupies a good portion of the fifth floor and has the best sunset views on the property. For the carnivore, there’s no better option than sinking into a cocktail and then demolishing one of the bewildering array of steaks on offer. The meat comes from Istanbul and was accompanied by a pleasant red from Doluca, making wine in Anatolia for almost 90 years. Vegetarians needn’t worry though – there’s more than enough meat-free Mediterranean fare to keep any glutton happy.
Being on such a glorious, deep-blue coastline almost obliges us to spend a day on a yacht, so we do our duty and board the MedSea ES Canada, 30 metres of polished bliss, manned by MedSea owners Eileen and Captain Cengiz. Spending an entire day flitting from a sun deck to a glass of rosé to a dip in the sea, then to a stupendous feast of meats and mezze, followed by more rosé, is a serene way to wile away your life. I tried to savour every moment as we glided quietly around the shimmering bays, past İçmeler and Turunç. I tried, but the rosé did distract me from time to time and the savouring was replaced by an unintended snooze. But perhaps that’s the point. Why fight it? Marmaris is made to relax you, and the D-Resort crew are extremely good at it.
Monarch, the scheduled leisure airline, operates flights to Dalaman from Birmingham, London Gatwick, Leeds Bradford, Manchester and London Luton airports, with fares, including taxes, starting from £99 one way (£153 return). For further information or to book Monarch flights, Monarch Holidays or Monarch Hotels, please visit www.monarch.co.uk.