A welcome in the hillside in Fethiye, Turkey

Nicola Sturzaker finds peace in the hills for her and her family
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The Independent Travel

Most families spend their time together learning the art of compromise. If Child A has this, then he must share it with his sister. If that it not possible, they must take turns. Dad must forego his beer to join in, while Mum must adopt the role of adjudicator. Every mealtime, every journey is a delicate balance.

So many families look upon holidays with barely suppressed dread. Every day, the shifting sands of negotiation are visited more often than the beach as each party tries to shift its own agenda to the forefront.



So a place which does pretty much everything for everyone is a place to be treasured. That’s not to say that the Hillside Beach Club, just outside Fethiye in Turkey, is not without its sacrifices - it’ll make a bigger dint in the credit card than most Turkish package deals - but it’s just that they seem worth it.



The first impression, as you swoop round the mountains on the final leg of the hour-long drive from the airport, is easy on the eye. A tree-lined amphitheatre of a bay cradles a short series of beaches with the living accommodation semi-hidden amongst it. It looks peaceful and, strangely, a beach lined with recliners and heavy with glistening bodies, can’t quite dispel that.



It’s that mixture of seclusion and inclusion which kinds of cracks it for this place, a mixture of action and relaxation.



The secret for any family holiday is, of course, the kids. Keep them happy and there’s a fighting chance that the parents can relax enough to enjoy it too. Hillside’s answer is their kids club. Hidden away at the far end of the hotel’s outbuildings, it looks rather un-prepossessing, though reasonable enough - a kids’ pools, games and a soft play area, the usual boxes are ticked, but it looks kind of pre-loved. What makes it work brilliantly is the enthusiasm and imagination of the staff. Each day the kids came back with armfuls of necklaces, bangles, hats, and pictures, and headfuls of the pirate game, the football competition, the dressing up pageant and the show they were to put on. Those in charge knew each child by name, and won over all but the most withdrawn. It became, in truth, slightly too easy to drop them off after breakfast and pick them up at the end of the afternoon, nodding to fellow parents with the shared secret guilt that we should be spending more time with them, but, hey, they like it, we like the space ...



So with the kids entertained, the parents can either loll on the beach, including the tranquil, if slightly forbidding, Silent Beach, where children and mobiles are banned. The main beach and poolside are busier, but there’s little to trouble you once you’ve unwound. You may be called to join the exercise class in the pool, or encouraged to take in the yoga or stretching class. You may take up the offer of the tennis court (and give up after ten minutes of watching your galoot of a husband trying to get one back over the net), or the gym, the scuba-diving, or the 5-a-side football.... You get the picture, but probably not so vividly as you actually want to do any of them, and you roll over to one side to better read the doorstop of a book you’ve brought. Even at the summer’s height, most of the activities, all excellently resourced, seem under-used. The simple pleasure of a beach and a gentle sea is enough for most.



Perhaps some are recovering from the food. Not the quality, which is excellent, but the sheer overwhelming amount (possibly wastefully so). The buffet approach (this is an all-in deal, most drinks aside) can lead to plates fuller than appetites, but you don’t feel short-changed and can give yourself three, or more, courses three times a day, should you have the stomach for it. And after the evening meal, you can waddle out to the evening show. A whiff of Butlins pervades as the staff produce a different show each night of the week. Multi-national and mostly pretty charming and professional (although the one burdened with a lumpen uncertainty in all that she did turned out to be a Brit). Aimed at a family audience, with songs and Dad-jokes, the show tunes kick off the evening, which ended up in a ‘party’. Usually themed in some way, a full-moon party perhaps, they usually took the form of a chill-out night at a Eurotrash disco, with free cocktails and fireworks but that’s far from the most unpleasant thing that can happen to you on holiday and it always retained the friendly air that a resort clearly used to living off its own resources can generate, and children aching for a grown-up night were welcomed cheerfully.



But should you approach such things with too much enthusiasm, the next day can be considerably eased in one of Hillside’s two spas. One of which is centred around the Hamam (the Turkish bath, and not Hamaas as one fellow-guest insisted to a bewildered receptionist), but much the better is the Sanda Nature Spa separated off in a serene retreat in the trees above the resort. Balinese inspired massage treatments offer relaxation far and above the oily backrub that some resorts offer as therapies. It is the real, muscle de-knotting deal, and brilliantly relaxing. To the point of obsession for me. Once I’d had the first, my only thought was to book one in for the next day.



But at some point, even we had to return to our rooms. A family room of one main bedroom, one small bedroom for the small ones and a bathroom and a balcony was sparsely furnished, but as a style statement, so it was light, airy, with a view over the bay and lacked for nothing. And the little touches, flowers or gemstones on the pillow, worked very nicely.



You can leave, on the shuttle buses or ferry boats to Fethiye and beyond but those we spoke to said they wished they hadn’t, it was a reminder of package-holiday Turkey that would come soon enough on the flight home and Hillside is far too welcoming. Its a friendly place, and presents itself as a cut-above, slightly urbane - and the attitude to the all-inclusive deals reflect that. No-one here is out to squeeze the last drop out of the deal, there’s a sense that you’ll always be satisfied with what they offer, and there’d be more if you weren’t. In fact, almost everyone we spoke to was on a return trip. The ones that weren’t were hoping to re-book. It’s value, but no bargain, so the rebound factor is symptomatic of the way the place makes you unwind.



Would we come back? In a heartbeat.

Thomas Cook offers seven nights in Turkey from £475 per person staying in a standard room at the luxury Hillside Beach Club outside Fethiye on a full board basis plus flights from London Gatwick departing on 4th May 2010. For more information call 0844 412 5970 or see www.thomascook.com / www.hillsidebeachclub.com

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