Date: 18 September 2017
Location: a very sweaty local co-cop bus — a dolmus — Marmaris, Turkey.
When Lady Lovelylocks moved to London this May her family gave her a farewell card. When she stayed with me for a month she set it up on my tiny dining table. Because I’m nosy like that, I read it. It was full of chunks of good advice, much of which stuck with me. Today, I was reminded of one along the lines of, ‘If you’re travelling and you get stuck, remember that money can fix most things.’ It’s very true. Only recently when I got very lost in Italy — blistering sun, dodgy end of town no idea where hotel or duomo was — and my phone was dead I got unstuck by buying a battery pack and charging my phone. When I was in Canada and a snowstorm grounded my plane, I was prepared to buy a business class ticket to make sure I got on the next one and didn’t miss my connecting flight to New Zealand. When we waited an hour in the searing sun for a bus from the beach in Malta but it never came, we called a cab. When I had a late conference call but still wanted to make an evening flight to Spain, I paid to fly out of London City. Money buys you time. It buys you options.
Today I found myself have a sudden and strong urge to not take those options.
I suspect it was the package holiday thing. In Greece, especially at our sprawling resort, I saw so many people whose idea of Greece must be so narrow. They had bought packages — flights, transfers, accommodation in a palatial microcosm, all of their food, a portion of which was reassuringly British — and had no intention of straying beyond its boundaries. Why go a remote beach when you could wander down to the private one? Why venture to a Greek restaurant when the buffet had a Greek section? It was exacerbated by the remoteness of the resort. To get anywhere one needed car or to place faith in unreliable, infrequent bus or shell out for a painfully expensive taxi.
On the Saturday night we rented a car and drove to a little fishing village to have dinner at a fish restraint, Stefano’s. Lady Lovelylocks tried her first ouzo. When we got back, Paris and Lady Lovelylocks went in search of one more drink at the hotel bar. It was rock night. Maybe there’d be dancing. I’d been driving and had some emails to deal with, so I declined and curled up on the balcony with work. An hour later I got a text. Apparently they’d started the dancfloor. Apparently it was terrible but also great. Apparently an ouzo-fuelled Lady Lovelylocks had been dragging people up to dance with her. I had to see. I trekked (that resort is huge, truly) over and it was quite the sight. The girls were tearing it up with a handful of people our parents’ age on the giant marble dance floor whilst another dozen or so couples watched and an ageing rock band played a pretty good Steppenwolfe cover. Lady Lovelylocks introduced me to all of her news friends: Mark and Ann from Kent, Sheryl and Simon from Lancashire, the Roberts from Manchester. They were all delighted by this. Apparently no one ever actually danced at the hotel bar, they just watched the band. None of them had left the resort, and none of them planned to. Many of them were here for over a week. Many of them were return guests. I found all of this violently depressing. We had a fun night. (So fun, indeed, that Lady Lovelylocks, upon trying to get back into our room after 3am found that she could neither locate our room nor did she have a key of any description nor did she have any awake roommates answering their phones. The text messages between 2 and 3.30am tell quite a story.) But I felt a bit sad for the Marks and Anns and Sheryls and Simons and the Roberts.
This was exacerbated when our day trip to Lindos the next day (which LL was quite unequal to joining as she required nap time in a dark room and room service). We drove the 30km north to find ourselves faced with a classically beautiful Grecian acropolis towering above us. Below, down a steep descent, was bijoux St. Paul’s bay.
St Paul’s Bay goes onto my list of Is This For Real, Bloody Hell This Is Too Pretty To Be Real, Right? places. It’s a tiny cove, a couple of hundred meters across. The water is so salty you can’t dive down, and it’s all jewel shades: aquamarine, sapphire, citrine, diamond clear. On one side is a little restaurant — opened by a blonde Brit from Newcastle who came to Rhodes in her twenties, fell in love and never left. On the other is a white washed chapel so tiny you’d want to keep your wedding guest list to single figures. In between are about a hundred sun lounger.
I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere so thoroughly lovely. Or, I have but the list of such is as short as that hypothetical wedding guest list.
Paris and I spend the morning lazing there, alternating between Greek iced coffees and swimming in the warm water. She has another eloquent moment. ‘It’s like a warm silk bath,’ she says and I grin very slowly because I’m so relaxed but I’m also already mentally writing that down in my blog. The we slugged it back up to the car and then drove to the top of little whitewashed Lindos and down another steep descent to explore the town with its twisted streets (designed to confuse raiding pirates), bright white and blue buildings, vine-sheathed walkways and rooftop restaurants. Once fortified with a late lunch of mezze at Stefany’s we scrambled up to the acropolis we’d seen earlier to watch the sun set over the Aegean in the remains of this temple to Athena. By the time we drove home we were a bit crispy, happy, wide-eyed. ‘This is Greece’, said Paris before I cranked up Shaggy for the drive home, ‘I’m sad Lady Lovelylocks missed it’.
Lady Lovelylocks will be back. I’m more sad for the Marks and Anns and co.
All of this to explain how I come to make a snap decision — a bad one — on the ferry between Rhodes and Marmaris. No more easy way outs this trip. Starting with the 90km to Dalyan.
However, as I’m lugging my luminescent lime green rolly suitcase along the sizzling hot unpaved streets of Marmaris, sporting a pair of Gucci shades — a recent indulgence in Milan –it strikes me that this is not something you just suddenly decide to embrace in the middle of a trip and that, forgoing the luxury of a €2 cab fare from the port to the bus stop in Marmaris in the very middle of the day might not be the best way to assert my independance. In fact, a better way might be to use the sense I have and decide to pay the cab fare — if not all the way to Dalyan then at least to the bloody bus stop.
This thinking is reinforced when I find that that the kilomete walk between ferry dock and bus stop (always the most salubrious part of town, right?) turns out to be up a hill so steep there are stairs caved into the sidewalk. Then, again, when I see the alarming Keep Out sign depicting a man with a rifle. Again, when I come face to face with the real thing guarding a barbed compound. And then I’m utterly lost because the road Google maps wants me to take has been closed off and turned into a refugee camp. Then a rooster crows, a chicken literally crosses across the road ahead of me, I swear out loud and sit down for a moment. I wait a full minute. The chicken leaves. Once composed I get up and get a move on. Ideally I would have retraced my steps but I just can’t bring myself to trot past the armed guard again like the world’s most conspicuous spy. Instead I do a loop and tackle the stairs again.
On the walk I torture myself for this poor decision making by practising my Turkish under my breath. Thankfully the streets are almost deserted because no doubt I looked utterly demented: sporting a polka dot jumpsuit with a pretty peplum, Grecian sandals with pom poms, rolling my green carry-on suitcase with my handbag slapping against my hip, wearing a damn FitBit and muttering the numbers one through ten and polite greetings in Turkish with Australian accent.
And then, finally, rising out of the shimmering mirage like an oasis, I see the bus station, find a bus to Ortaca and collapse.
You know what? When you’re travelling money buys you something more specific than options. It buys you time and safety. You can perhaps have too much of these things but it is more dangerous by far to be reckless with them. The package holiday thing is just so not for me but at least I get it now. My package holiday epiphany.