The sea is blue, the sky is clear, the weather is hot.
I’m in heaven.
Well, actually I’m in Turkey.
I’ve chosen a holiday online based on three criteria – likelihood of good weather, not too exorbitant price, and proximity of hotel to a beach.
It has not disappointed and I am allowing all stress, strife and complaint to fall away from me.
Yes, I notice a few things that could be improved, but since the basics are perfectly acceptable or better than expected, I shall let all quibbles pass.
Not so Mr Tourist.
He is British, he is loud, he is angry.
We first notice him at reception, the day after our arrival.
He is attempting to complain about the poor food offering we were provided with the previous night.
“It was a piece of dry bread and some tomatoes – I don’t call that much of a meal, after a day of travelling!”
The receptionist explains (in halting but reasonable English) that for late arrivals the chef leaves some snacks out on the counter; the kitchen cannot stay open past midnight, waiting on every delayed flight.
“Snacks? It was tomatoes and goats cheese!”
And, she believes, anchovies and pate and cucumber and olives and bread and some cakes and some fruit.
“I can’t feed my kids anchovies! There wasn’t even one piece of meat!”
She apologises; perhaps he would like to go along to the main restaurant now, where he will find all manner of foods available for most of the hours of the day (but not the night).
“And it was swarming with flies – disgusting!”
This is true. They could have covered the dishes up. But it is a hot country. Flies come with the territory.
“Well I’m not happy with my kids having to go to bed hungry, I have to tell you.”
Why can’t he let it go? I’m embarrassed. It was a very late arrival, around 1am – he could have bought his children some sandwiches on the journey or some chips at the airport. Why not forget it now and wait and see what the food offering turns out to be like for the bulk of the holiday? (Perfectly good, in my opinion.)
“Just so you know, I’m going to make a complaint,” he advises the poor girl, who is maybe quite used to goats cheese and anchovies herself and doesn’t understand the problem. “It was not a very good welcome!”
Eventually, his complaints stop. Well, that’s a good half hour of his holiday he’s wasted, when he could have been chilling out by the pool.
Unfortunately it’s not the last time we encounter Mr Tourist. We overhear him pontificating later about his previous holiday. “Well, when we arrived we found they’d given us a room on the ground floor, with the so-called-balcony right on a pathway. Well that was just not acceptable, so we asked them to move us straight away and got a much better room on the second floor.”
I don’t think I’ve ever arrived at any hotel or resort and asked to be moved because of some not-quite-perfect feature of the room. Probably missing a trick.
He goes on to explain that they are not happy that the room they’ve been allocated this time has the children’s room closest to the door. “So if someone broke in through the door, they would get to the kids without having to come through our room first.”
All the rooms on the complex have the same layout. Doubtless if it was the other way around the complaint would be that someone could come in through the balcony or window.
Maybe he and his wife should sleep in the children’s beds then, and give up the big double room to their little ones.
A couple of days later (and looking a fair bit redder with sunburn) he engages us in conversation. We say that we’re generally happy with the hotel – we love the big pools, we love the proximity to the sea.
He has another go at the food in the restaurant, saying it’s not up to standard, not suitable for British guests. He and his wife have already had to go out twice by taxi to find a better standard of restaurant (this on an all-inclusive holiday).
I concede, there are some things on the buffet that are a bit unusual – lots of pickled vegetables and strange types of curd cheese. But to my mind, there are so many other things available – chicken, kebabs, burgers, curries, fish, rice, pasta, chips, potatoes, vegetables, salads, not to mention amazing Turkish cakes and deserts – that I think you’d have to be very fussy indeed not to find something you could tolerate for the few days of your holiday. But I guess there must be lots of very fussy eaters, because Mr Tourist is not the only person we overhear complaining about the food.
The curries are too spicy. (Presumably not for Turkish tastes.)
You have to queue up too long for ice cream. (Choose something else then.)
It’s always the same stuff at the beach bar. (It’s only one of many options.)
The fish is horrible, it has too many bones in. (Yes, fish do tend to have lots of bones!)
You can’t get a proper cup of tea. (It’s not England! Wait till you get home!)
The kids are missing having bacon for breakfast. (It’s a Muslim country, for heaven’s sake!)
What can I say? I didn’t see it like that. I thought the restaurant was okay.
Another time I see Mr Tourist again with his wife and another couple, and he seems a little the worse for drink. He’s criticising the entertainment (whilst watching it). The dancing isn’t good enough, the singing isn’t good enough. It’s too repetitive, the comedian’s jokes aren’t funny, the magician is hopeless.
I reflect that this is one hotel of many in a not particularly famous resort in a not particularly well-developed country. What on earth does he expect?
Perversely, he also has a rant about the vases of lillies that decorate the hotel’s public spaces, as they are giving him hayfever. (“He’s having a go at the flowers, now!”)
I notice his long suffering wife roll her eyes at some of his comments, and catch her subtly trying to apologise to their companions for his cruder outbursts.
It’s a lesson though, not to always be finding fault, but just to enjoy what there is to enjoy. See the glass (of potential holiday experience) as half full and not half empty.
As for us…
We enjoy some wonderful excursions. We wander around ruins (posing comically as ancient statues on crumbled pillars). We sit in charming waterfront cafes, we take a boat ride to another beach.
The weather is hot and the sea is blue.
Not blue enough for some people though.