Monday, July 5, 2010

Turkey 2010 - Part I - Where The Heck is Iamboatman?

So where the heck is Iamboatman?

That, it would seem, is a good question.

Some months ago me and my wife decided on taking a holiday with another couple while our kids are sleep-away camp. But what we were looking for was an inexpensive holiday; not a cheap one. A “value” holiday. So, to that end, we looked at this and then at that, but they all seemed too expensive.

Then we started looking at villas in Turkey as my wife has a true connection with the country and loves to speak and eat Turkish. (Remember just a few weeks ago when we were in Scotland at a fish & chips shop in Alness for a haggis supper and she had a conversation with the owner…in Turkish…because he was Turkish. She has a Turk magnet somewhere in her soul.

Anyway, after searching the internet we found that most decent villas in or near the normal areas were either too expensive or already booked (mostly the latter). But then I found Villa Xanthos in Islamlar, Turkey. (Where? We will get to that later.) The photos were breathtaking; the description lovely; the price perfect (£1,500 for 10 days during peak season…split between two couples). But was this too good to be true? I had great distrust because I am emailing some guy named Harry somewhere in the internet world who says he manages this property. Yeah. Sure.

So I speak to the owner, Anthony, and convince myself that Anthony is the owner and that Harry really does work for him as the property manager. And now I need to figure out how to make a deal that gives me a bit of protection while accepting a bit of risk. And Anthony is cool with it. (OK, this is really sounding too good to be true, so it must be a scam…Right?)

Now the fun begins. Where the heck is this place, Islamlar, and how do you get there without breaking the bank? Somehow I find I can get two business class seats to Dalaman, Turkey, but I must fly from Newark, New Jersey on LOT (Polish Airlines) to Warsaw, Poland and then on LOT from Warsaw to Istanbul and then Turkish Airlines from Istanbul to Dalaman…with three hour layovers between each flight…and then drive (in the middle of the night) for two hours to Islamlar.

And then I need to rent a car. I want a four door car, with comfort, automatic transmission and air conditioning in a place that is a 1.5 hour flight from Istanbul. And I find it at a great price. This is just too good to be true.

As an added bonus, I am told that Harry has to meet us at a petrol station outside of Kalkan because otherwise we will never find the place. (Oh, did I mention the villa has no address?!)

Now the adventure begins…A 9 hour flight to Warsaw with a 3 hour layover that I thought would be a disaster (thinking kielbasa, perogies and vodka on an ancient plane to a dreary airport and a lousy lounge). I was wrong. The plane was old, but business class had brand new, comfortable, seats; the food wasn’t bad and, listen to this, the flight attendants were incredibly charming and nice…like the good old days. And the airport (Chopin) is brand new, small and attractive one with a pretty nice, if not luxurious, lounge.

And then the plane to Istanbul breaks. Now what? We hear that old story that they are going to get another plane. You know the one: the one that either doesn’t arrive or takes five hours to get there. LOT comes through again and we are off on a smaller plane (an Embraer with 2-2 seating…and only six business class seats designated by only a red headrest) that was new, clean and only an hour delayed. So we arrive, clear immigration and head to the Turkish Airlines lounge, catch the end of the Germany-Argentina World Cup match and take a shuttle right to the plane (what a great idea!)

After a 45 minute delay (for no apparent reason) we take off and arrive in Dalaman, Turkey…but our luggage (AGAIN) does not. No problem. It is probably at the International Arrivals building since we cleared immigration, but our bags did not clear customs, so the very nice ground staff takes us there. As expected: No luggage.

We fill out a report. Meet our friends (and their luggage) and dreading the rental car ordeal. You know the one where the car you reserve isn’t available. But it is available and it is brand spanking new. Things are looking up.

It is now about 11PM (2PM New York time) and we have been traveling for 20 hours. And now I have to drive. In this part of Turkey they have very interesting name signs on the roads. THEY DON’T. Fortunately, I have my GPS, so I know I am on “Road” (yep, that is what it is called) for about 15 minutes…and then onto D400 (yeah, a road with a name!)...then a wrong turn, up some mountain pass with no place to turn around…but we double-back, make a u-turn on D400 and we are on a roll…in the pitch black of the rural Turkish night.

We meet up with Harry…and it is about 12:30AM. Harry is an older Austrian man who rides a motorcycle. He takes off, running a red light and we are in the “We don’t know where the hell we are, so don’t lose Harry!!!” mode. Up this little winding mountain road, then a smaller winding mountain road then (you are gunna love this) we make a left onto gravel (huh?) and then a tiny path just wide enough for the car (at least I think it is in the pitch blackness), over a couple of ‘bridges” and then up an incredibly steep slope for about 200 yards, around a bend and then…Villa Xanthos.

We have absolutely no idea where we are, but the place is beautiful and just like the photos. Having nothing to unpack we sit out by the pool and have a drink or two. At 4:30AM we decide it is time to go to bed.

I wake at 10:30AM and look out the window and just say, “Wow! This place is unbelievable. It is nicer than the photos!” On one side beautiful mountains, on the other the Mediterranean Sea in the not to distance and only one neighbor. Life is good…really good.