In the Footsteps of the Durrells

In the Footsteps of the Durrells

We’re off on our hols to sunny Greece. Seven heavenly days round a cool pool in Corfu. We’re flying out from Norwich’s very own international airstrip – small but perfectly formed, a doddle to get to and a doddle to get through. We’re not expecting the full Durrell-esque experience – no crumbling Venetian mansion overlooking the shimmering Ionian Sea and awash with exotic fauna for us. But we have bagged the next best thing for our bargain-bucket budget – a little place slightly off the beaten track. It might come with challenging plumbing but also boasts a set of five star reviews on Trip Advisor for its unpretentious, no-fuss comfort. We intend to do absolutely nothing but sleep, drink, read, drink, eat, drink, oh, and play Scrabble. We’ve packed a couple of torches and a keg of insect repellent. Happy days.

Make mine a double on ice and shove a brolly in it. Yamas!

Perking the Pansies

Perking the Pansies

Our hobbling tour of Bodrum was something of a boozy whirlwind and confirmed I can’t do multiple piss-ups anymore. It was season’s end with flight prices to match, but the interminable limp through Stansted was a brutalising experience when compared to our little local airport. Working to a slum-it budget, we bagged ourselves a hotel in Bodrum for eleven quid a night, breakfast included. Nothing much worked in our barrel-scraped digs but the family-run gaff was clean and convenient. This was the first time we had set foot on Turkish soil since we called time on our Anatolian adventure in 2012 and we were determined to make hay. Naturally, the wedding of the year was the main event but we also wanted to share a jar or two with some of our old muckers, so we pitched our standard on a Bodrum Beach and waited for battle to commence. The onslaught came in waves and after nine hours of friendly fire, talking ten to the dozen about everything under the moonlit sky, we staggered to the nearest taxi rank. A huge hand to all the Bodrum belles and beaus who really made our day. You know who you are.

These images are as blurred as our vision was by the end of the evening.

Of course, no trip back to Bodrum would have been complete without a reunion of the Sisterhood…

… the antidote to the VOMITing sickness that afflicts the many Shirley Valentines who wash up like driftwood on the beaches of Turkey. Many of the Sisters are reformed VOMITs who’ve been through the ringer, some more than once, but have emerged to tell the tale stronger and wiser. The Sisters stick together (like birds of a feather), because men are rubbish.

Expat Glossary

So after a day trip down memory lane along Turkey Street (more of this later), we joined the Sisterhood in Musto.

Musto was top of our list and sat in a prime location on Marina Boulevard opposite the smart shopping parade. Its handsome young owner, Mustafa the Magnificent, was second cousin to our landlady and a generous and convivial host. The eponymous Mustafa learned his trade at Sünger, his uncle’s legendary pizza parlour, a place that had been dishing up margheritas to the sailing squad since the early seventies. Unlike some of his rivals, Mustafa never resorted to pressganging people in from the street. He courted the emigrey crowd with Italian seasoning, palatable wine, affordable prices and generous yolluks. It was a formula that attracted swarms of discerning diners, even out of season.

Turkey Street

mustoMusto has expanded considerably since our last visit, though I’m pleased to say the menu and ambience remain special. Back in the day, regular meetings of the Sisterhood always kept the pansies perked, particularly during the chilly winter months when Bodrum life was as a slow as pond water. Thank you Doc, Jess and Victoria.

There was a distinct autumnal nip when we got back to Norwich and the heating went on for the first time since the spring. A day or two later, Liam departed for London on family duties so I sank into the sofa to watch an ancient episode of Midsomer Murders on ITV3 with my carcinomic ankle resting on a Swedish pouffe. I was unsettled. We thought our trip back to Bodrum would be our swansong. Now I’m not so sure. Despite challenging political times, Turkey has worked her magic all over again. Blimey.

bodrum-beach

More Postcards from Gran Canaria

More Postcards from Gran Canaria

Following last week’s delivery from the Royal Mail, here’s the second batch of postcards to land on the mat.

Mad Pedro

The staff in our global holiday village are delightful, particularly Pedro, our mad barman. He services us with charm and generosity and rings his little bell every time he gets a tip. It’s like a royal wedding at Westminster Abbey when we’re around and the bigger the tip we give, the bigger the drink we get. As Pedro said to Liam:

Ah, you Engleesh with your happy hour. It’s always happy hour in Pedro’s bar!

Loose Talk

Regular readers will know I’m a dedicated eavesdropper. Here’s a small selection:

And I’ll tell you one thing for nothing. As soon as I get home, I’m back on the tramadol.

 

 We went tut Benidorm in January. It were great. We ‘ad beach to ourselves.

Oh. How come?

It were rainin’.

 

Me son’s got an apartment in Bulgaria.

Nice. Wotsit like?

Cheap but those Bulgarians…you wouldn’t trust ‘em.

 

Of course, we normally go to Goa, don’t we Jean? All-in for a tenner a day – and that includes two packs of fags and enough booze to sink the Ark Royal.

A Yumbo Cocktail

We’re just a short mince from the Yumbo Center, the largest of the many tacky shopping and entertainment centres dotted about Playa Del Ingles. As I wrote back in 2012 after our last trip…

The Yumbo Center is the throbbing epicentre of gay Canarian low-life. The Yumbo is a naff treat for all the senses, a crumbling multi-layered open air shopping and sex emporium. It started to fall apart as soon as it was built (some twenty five years ago). By day, it’s an over-sized pound shop patronised by ancient slow-lane Germans in busy shirts and socked sandals. But, at the stroke of midnight, the racks of tat are wheeled away, the garish bars throw open their doors and the entire place is transformed into a gaudy cacophonous neon-lit cess-pit of drunken debauchery.

Gran Canaria Sex Emporium

It was one of my most popular posts ever. Can’t think why. Strangely, we’ve only ventured into the Yumbo Center once so far – and then only during the day to do a bit of shopping for that must-buy momento. The venues come and go but the place never really changes – apart from the newly installed lift for the mobility-challenged. It’s true, we did stop for a daiquiri or two – for old time’s sake and to survey the footfall. Our immediate neighbours were an over-waxed Franco-German gay couple with plucked brows, precision beards and perfect pecs. They could have been separated at birth. Must be like shagging a mirror. When they weren’t fiddling with their iPhones (to check Grindr, presumably), they communicated in Globalish*. Our barman was pretty. And pretty useless. Just like every gay bar around the world.

yumbo-centre

Geordie Shore

Mercifully, the heatwave has broken. I’d started to lose the plot and I was a hair’s breath away from garrotting the leathery old early birds who always get the brollies. With plunged temperatures, Liam bundled me out of the apartmentos for an excursion to Puerto de Mogán, a marina resort on the south-west coast of the island. We went by public transport, by far the easiest way to get around. Naturally, the bus stop was like a multi-national rugby scrum. You’d think people were fleeing a war zone. Why do we Brits bother queueing?

Set on a steep-sided valley, Puerto de Mogán is built in faux Spanish colonial style and very pretty it is too. But the epithet ‘Venice of the Canaries’ is over-egging the pudding a bit. There’s just the one ‘canal’ – more of a creek really. Still, we ate tapas in a lovely marinaside restaurant followed by coffee and cake in an inviting backstreet bakery. The port’s like a mini version of Bodrum in look and feel, particularly with the dripping, multi-coloured bougainvillea. Sadly, the relaxed ambience was marred by a gang of pissed-up Geordies stalking the streets and waving empty Peroni bottles. My dad was a Geordie. He’d be spinning in his urn.

Back to Bodrum

All in all, it’s been a splendid week, with batteries, scent and cigs (for my mother) recharged. Next trip: back to Bodrum for the wedding of the year. Now that really is something to write home about.

*Globalish is the cut-down version of English used by air traffic controllers, international conferences and dating apps which is totally lacking in elegance, colour, nuance or wit.

Postcards from Gran Canaria

Postcards from Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria was just what the quack ordered. We bonked, drank, slept, drank, ate, drank, swam, drank. You get the picture. We also giggled more than we’d done in ages – at ourselves and at the exhibits around us. Here are the postcards never sent.

The Barbarian Hordes

Few would describe Gran Canaria as pretty. The volcanic rock moored off the coast of Africa gets little rain and looks like an overbaked chocolate biscuit from the air. Closer up, it’s like a giant quarry on a tea break. Nevertheless, year-round sunshine, cheap booze and even cheaper fags (of both the smoking and shagging varieties) attract the northern tribes of Europe, all in desperate need of vitamin D. Our billet for the week is a welcome oasis set among the concrete with well-tended gardens, attentive staff and a refreshing salt water pool. The only fly in the sun lotion is the scarcity of parasols. This isn’t especially helpful as we’ve landed in a heatwave and are fairly keen to avoid third degree burns. Our continental cousins are notorious for reserving their sunbeds at the stroke of midnight so, to inject some fairness, our Spanish hosts stack and chain up (yes, chain up) the sunbeds overnight. Come dawn, it’s like feeding time on the Serengeti, a daily spectacle we witness from the safety of our terrace. We’ve decided not to play. Just like Brexit.

gran-canaria

Moobs and Boobs

Our fellow sun seekers are a mixed bunch – Dutch, Germans, Austrians, Irish and Brits, but almost without exception, they have one thing in common: fat. Acres of it. Europe has an obesity crisis. We eat too much and move too little (me included). And the more mature ladies do love to let it all hang down. Who says a burkini is such a bad thing? Not me. Their menfolk are no better, wobbling to the bar, moobs a-swinging. It ain’t a pretty sight. Rest assured, I only take my top off when I’m prostrate.

An exception to the pageant of lard-arses and bingo wings is an elderly German who is in remarkably good shape and wears the tightest of trunks. He swings low in an entirely different place. We call him Melonballs. His pool pal is a round, leather-skinned hausfrau with the gravelly voice of a 40 a day habit and hair like a cockatoo. Funny really. We’re sure Melonballs is the one who’s had a cock or two.

Windbags and Wankers

All over Europe there’s a certain kind of man of a certain kind of age who is loud, opinionated and stupid. It’s our misfortune to be trapped with a classic specimen, an Austrian wanker who has cornered every Brit round the pool and lectured them on the dire consequences of Brexit (for them, of course). He’s no better than that old windbag Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, whose pompous utterings nearly made me vote to leave the EU. The Austrian bore got short shrift from me. We call him Franz Ferdinand and are praying someone will shoot him. Not literally, you understand, but you get my drift.

More postcards next week…

Dirty Weekend

Dirty Weekend

What better way to celebrate our ‘salt’ wedding anniversary than a trip to the seaside for a dirty weekend? We were chauffeured to Gorleston-on-sea in decadent style by a pair of old Norwich rascals (you know who you are), necking fizz all the way in the back of their Mercedes Benz. Our luxurious room with a sea view came courtesy of my sister and the celebratory bottle of red on the Cliff Hotel terrace came courtesy of Liam.

Mother Nature, a contrary old bag round these parts, was in a bright mood for a change so we were all set for fun on the sand and frolics in the boudoir. The rest I leave to your vivid imagination.

Alas, we were four months too late to catch a performance of ‘Sindaz’ the adult panto, giving a whole new meaning to the line, ‘he’s behind you’.

SindazSo we squandered a few quid in the penny arcade instead. And what did we get for our coppers? A cuddly toy, obviously. We called him Gallstone.

Gallstone

Jihadi Janes

Death

With the remorseless horror in the Middle East being played out on our screens every day at 6pm, it’s hard to make sense of the senseless. The baffling case of the school girls who have allegedly travelled to Syria to become brides of ISIS only adds to my bewilderment. Sometimes, it takes humour to wade through the treacle – the British funny bone is a cultural characteristic forged by wartime adversity and a healthy disrespect for the respectable. Cue a recent Facebook exchange with a Bodrum Belle of my acquaintance.

“Hello, Jack, now where’s this new book of yours? Got myself a little girlie spa holiday booked to get away from frozen Bodrum. I need something to read so get printing. Bodrum is seriously cold this winter. Roll on spring. Me and a few gals are off to Egypt, and very cheap it is too, all 5 star inclusive tackiness. Why so cheap? Because the British Government says it’s unsafe and advises not to go. Well that doesn’t hold these gals down. If we do get taken as Jihadi brides, at least we can say we’re used to the heat.”

“Hello, love. The book’s with the designer. It’s not just thrown together, you know. Make sure you pack some sheets – just in case you need to wrap yourself in polycotton for the wedding. You’ll forgive me if I turn down the invitation to your nuptials…”

Catch of the Day

Gumusluk2

My tuppence-worth contribution to Roving Jay’s latest travel book, The Gümüslük Travel Guide, the first of an in-depth series about the Bodrum Peninsula from a lady in the know:

One sultry autumn afternoon, Liam and I rode the dolly to Gümüslük, a pretty picture-postcard village set among the ruins of the ancient Carian city of Myndos. This was a well-trodden excursion for us, a frequent and welcome distraction from bustling Bodrum Town. As a protected archaeological site, Gümüslük had mercifully been saved from the rampant over-development that afflicted much of Bodrum Peninsula.

As we bussed along the meandering heat-cracked road, I imagined how different the scenery must have been before the mad march of little white boxes up hill and down dale. Stunning, I was sure. Nevertheless, the hinterland surrounding Gümüslük still managed to impress; snapshot glimpses of pine-smothered hills and Tiffany blue waters cast a beguiling spell. We arrived at the small otogar perched above the village and meandered down the hill to the rows of craft stalls peddling multi-coloured knick-knacks, eclectic artwork and small pieces of fine silverware. Liam liked to potter, umming and ahhing at each stall and chatting to the hawkers. Sometimes he even bought a trinket or two. Just ahead of us, the glassy harbour gleamed beyond the quay and drew us to the water’s edge. The sheltered anchorage has been a sailors’ safe haven for millennia. This is where Julius Caesar’s chief assassins, Brutus and Cassius, moored their galleys during the ensuing punch-up with Mark Antony, something that even gets a mention in the famous Shakespearian tragedy.

Gumsuluk Travel Guide1A late lunch was on the menu. We’d long since learned to avoid the overpriced identikit fish restaurants with their press-ganging waiters reeling in the catch of the day. As emigreys on a fixed income, we left the fishy eateries that lined the bay to unsuspecting tourists and well-heeled Istanbulers who equated price with quality. Our destination was our favourite low-cost lokanta, a ramshackle kind of place with mismatched furniture and wipe-down table cloths. Dalgiç Restaurant was set off the main drag and served our favourite fast food – freshly prepared gözleme – delicious savoury rolled pastries laced with a tasty selection of meat, cheese or vegetable fillings. Our effervescent patron attended to our needs out front while his pantaloon’d missus rolled, chopped and griddled out back. The flat-bread feast was washed down with a ripe bottle of red, a cut above the ancient Myndoan plonk that was reputably mixed with sea water and caused unending flatulence. Sated, replenished and wine-mellowed, we wandered down to the headland and waded across the partially sunken causeway (submerged by a long forgotten earthquake) to Rabbit Island. Here, as was our tradition, we tumbled over antique stones*, bunny spotted and settled down on a grassy ledge to witness one of the most sublime sunsets the Aegean has on offer.

*Sadly for visitors,  Rabbit Island is off limits to waders due to renewed archaeological interest. Don’t let this put you off. The sunsets are gorgeous from every angle in Gümüslük.