Again, another sizable break between this blog post and my last. This is probably acceptable as long as I can keep up the motivation to at least blog every month or so. I once read what, to the best of my recollection, was a blog giving advice to writers. I seem to believe that it claimed that although some people cannot write every day, you should at least blog every day. A more realistic aim would be to at least blog sometimes. At least, when I have something to say or the desire to say something. Actually, I have more of an excuse this time. I was quite ill for a bit and then I had essays to write, but I came up with a lot of ideas of things I wanted to talk about. Hopefully, those planned blogs will appear at some point, but for now I have a more important topic to talk about.
This is, admittedly, a blog that has nothing whatsoever to do with my random word theme. But the random word is to bring inspiration, and at the moment I have my inspiration ready made. This will, in fact, be a holiday blog. Travel writing. Well, that’s a bit of a lie. I have no idea how to do travel writing. This will just be a normal blog except for this: instead of just rambling about the contents of my mind, I will be talking about stuff that happened to me while I was on holiday. A health warning at this point… I do, for once, have a lot to talk about.
This was the first time I have ever been properly abroad. That is, the first time I have been on a holiday, that wasn’t a school trip, that was longer than a couple of days, and that involved a plane. It was, additionally, the first holiday I had ever (partially) planned and paid for myself. It was, very much, a step into being a Grown Up. I was doing Adult Things like choosing holiday resorts and making decisions. I’m even more impressed with this considering that I’d previously had no idea what a holiday resort should consist of. The decision about which country we would be visiting would be reasonably straightforward; I’m vegetarian, and therefore need vegetarian food, and we were reliably informed that Turkey was the best place for vegetarian food. So Turkey it was, and more on the food to come.
We picked a hotel, and everything was booked. We had been vaguely planning it for some time, but the actual booking was only a couple of weeks before we were due to go. I worked my way through essays and the last of my degree work for the term before panicking about everything I might need to prepare. My first major panic was the fact that my ordered passport was taking its time to arrive. It did, in fact, arrive, but only after I had to smash my way through piles of paperwork and webs of red tape. Okay, in retrospect, a bit of an exaggeration. Technically, everything being so last minute, there were going to be risks. There was only one minor hiccup and, after that had been sorted out, my passport was posted speedily. Although, it had to be posted speedily to my parents rather than directly to me, requiring my mother to drive it back up to my university so that I would have it in time. And in order for me to get the wizards at the passport factory to send it anywhere, I had to walk to the nearest post office in order to send a fax. A fax. I felt like I was back in the 80s. After my first failed attempt, I was forced to call up and make sure I had the right number, and I was desperately tempted to pretend my phone was a cheap chirping communicator from a vintage sci-fi (you know the one). Still, eventually, the fax was sent, the passport was sent, and all was well.
This is the bit where I may have gone a bit mental. I do tend to get overexcited about big new things. After realising that practically nothing in my wardrobe was suitable for hot weather (all various styles of black), I set out on a mission to buy new things. This is, perhaps, one of my most stereotypically girl-like traits. I do like shopping. I like buying clothes. I like trying on clothes. I was therefore very happy to devote almost a week (and a sizable chunk of my bank account) to the solo mission of restocking my wardrobe with a summer wardrobe. This is also a first. I usually wear the same style (style is putting it a bit strongly) all year round. I wear boots and hoodies on the beach and in the snow. But I was given the impression that, for venturing outside Britain, this simply would not do. And so, shirts, and shirts, and shorts, and skirts and sarongs and, eventually, after a great deal of searching and sighing and stressing, a bikini. I’ve never liked the idea of bikinis. I still, after a week of wearing one almost every day, think it’s far too much like swimming or sitting around in your bra and pants. But apparently it’s harder than I thought to find a simple, flattering swimming costume that will FIT. Yes, there were plenty of lovely ones, but apparently designed with one woman in mind. A woman that is not me. I was too short or too tall or, in most cases, too well-chested. But I did find a bikini, the only thing that actually fit almost well, and I intend to make it last for, if not the rest of my life, as long as I bloody well can.
Equipped with a massive suitcase bought by my mother, I eventually managed to pack up everything I could possibly need. This included far more clothes than I had time to wear and four bottles of sun cream, as well as assorted toiletries and medicine just in case there was the slightest possibility that I might, maybe, need it. (My boyfriend, on the other hand, shoved some clothes in a bag at the last minute). However, somehow, despite me seeming to have seriously over packed, my bag was still a healthy amount less than the maximum. In the airport queue, there were people lugging suitcases up to twice the weight of mine. How, I cannot quite comprehend. Maybe I’m still not quite as much of a girl as I thought.
This brings us to the most important first step. The airport. I’m aware that not many people have a positive relationship with the airport, but I was in awe. So big! So clean! The floors are so smooth to push my trolley along! There’s a Pret! There’s a monorail! It was also ridiculous-past-five in the morning so maybe I was a little overexcited due to delirious lack of sleep. Not too much longer later, I was settled in my seat, on a real life plane, with a book for the flight (Perfume by Patrick Suskind, which was very very excellent) and some vegetarian cola bottle sweets. I had several preconceptions about what planes would be like. Hardly any of them were actually right. For one thing, I imagined planes to be massive. Huge shining silver ballistic creations, like space shuttles. Something that combined technological advances with comfort and luxury. Basically, I expected to be flying in a Thomas Cook branded Thunderbird 2. But in truth, it was a bit more like a flying bus. Impressive, yeah, but… not Thunderbird 2.
My ideas might have been fed by another, related belief; people have always told me that when on a plane, you barely notice that you’re flying. Because it’s so smooth and magic and… technological. I assume that people tell me this in an attempt to reassure me that flying isn’t terrifying, or in response to their own assumptions of what flying should be. Perhaps that a plane should be driven by a bloke in Biggles goggles swerving all over the place. But I wasn’t scared of flying and was, in fact, delighted to find out that flying felt… like flying. The roar of the engines! The whoosh noise when it accelerates! Saying “Chewie, prepare for light speed!” in my mind just as it takes off! Adding appropriate lines from David Bowie when zooming through the sky! The middle bit, sitting around and doing nothing, that was a bit boring, especially since I only got a window seat on the return journey (that was quite fun). But the jolty, slightly dangerous feeling rocking as the plane goes through a turbulent bit, that was fun. Again, it was just a bit like being on a bus, only with generally better surfacing than roads and a more three dimensional route.
We got to the airport in Turkey, which was slightly less shiny and futuristic but much more pretty; there was a gorgeous round water feature surrounded by marble statues as we walked through. After collecting our cases, we wandered out through the front door into beautiful sunshine. The car park was surrounded with palm trees. Into a minibus, and on the way to the hotel. I was overawed with the onslaught of new and exciting things. But the traffic lights, they are orange! We are on a different side of the road! The houses are so pretty! Look, the name of the local beer is the same as our local takeaway! More palm trees! Admittedly, this is probably a mood that continued over the week. I get the same thing when I go to Wales, on a much smaller scale. It says Araf on the roads! There are flags with dragons on them everywhere! I mean, I even got it the first time I went to London and saw the red buses and the Underground. Going to new places seems to turn me into a child. Oh, and then we got to the hotel.
I am sure I have already made it quite obvious that I am not used to holidays. The swankiest hotel I had stayed in up until now was a Premier Inn, which definitely beats the Ibis and French hotels on the grounds of class largely due to its lack of those itchy brown blanket things I refuse to sleep with. This hotel was a five star resort. I was in shock from the moment I walked into the entrance. I had to stay composed while a man TOOK OUR BAGS to the room for us. Let’s start with the room. It had a balcony. A balcony. And a mini bar which we, later in the week, discovered was actually free with our package. I could quite happily have lived in that room. And the rest of the hotel was gorgeous. One of my favourite features was the free alcohol. And the free food. The food was lovely. It was a buffet service where I could just wander around and get as much of whatever food I could possibly want. And I happened to want quite a lot. There was one point where we could have eaten four meals a day with second helping at each and be perfectly happy. It was glorious. From living in university, I’ve become used to nice food being seen as an expensive, and rare, luxury. This is also because I don’t have any of the skills to cook a meal. I can be relied on to cock up recipes that a five year old could follow. But here, here was ready cooked food everywhere that I didn’t have to pay for. There was, indeed, a decent vegetarian selection as well. I could have lived on salad (seriously, that’s a luxury; I can’t afford good salad at uni). Instead, I was able to live on salad and other things, including these lovely pastry parcels of salty cheese and herbs. And on the handful of times we managed to get to breakfast, I sampled a delicious local varient on scrambled egg called menemen (the eggs are scrambled with onions and tomatoes and I believe some kind of pepper).
Most of the holiday was spent hanging around the hotel, either sunbathing at the beach, swimming in the pool, or using the spa facilities that we were allowed to use for free (basically varients on sitting in a really really hot room for a while). There was a lot of walking around and sitting about in the sun, too. I had, as previously mentioned, brought a lot of sun cream. Four bottles: three of different degrees of strength and one after sun (I’m not completely paranoid. They were on offer.) As I’d never been on a proper holiday with, you know, sun, I was warned by most that I would probably burn, a lot. I have red hair and very pale skin and apparently that means I should fry like I’d been dropped in boiling oil. But I didn’t burn, or tan, or anything. In fact, when I returned home, there was no visible sign that I’d been in a hot country at all. At least I took loads of pictures to prove it.
Outside the hotel, we did a bit of the tourist thing as well, walking around local towns and visiting some stunning historical ruins. This is the bit I should probably be focusing on, the holiday and travel bit, but I really don’t think I’m that kind of writer. Besides, there’s no point advertising it to somebody who doesn’t exist, and I doubt anybody is actually reading this. It was a beautiful area and people should definitely visit it. Feel free to ask questions. But now, onto a more important point. The local animals.
I quite like animals. Animals are cool. One of the first things I noticed walking around the streets of a town nearby the hotel was that there were animals everywhere. It was brilliant. Cats wandered the streets, and the Roman ruins. There were so many of them, in fact, that there were signs up everywhere warning visitors not to feed the cats, as though they were seagulls or pigeons. I also got to ride a camel, which was (expensive but) brilliant. Wandering the Turkish countryside spotting tortoises, butterflies and (what I assume were) locusts was so surreal, fascinating, and beautiful. It was the nature more than anything else that reminded me that I was in another country. Palm trees and orange trees lining roads with a canopy of cloudless blue above.
We stayed in Turkey for a week; my first real holiday. I think I want to go again. Not necessarily to the same place, but to somewhere. Being able to do what I wanted, when I wanted, in a place I didn’t know where it was always sunny and there was good food and booze around… it probably isn’t healthy in the long term but very very nice in the short term. And maybe my next blog will be in some way interesting for somebody who isn’t me. Stay classy, imaginary internet readers.