Where to stay: Club Marvy, Izmir, Turkey
London life is all too often synonymous with claustrophobia: we live in flats that aren’t quite big enough to house our belongings; we hold our breath to fit inside cramped Tube carriages; and we hustle our way to the front of the queue to secure a place at crowded restaurants and bars. So after muscling my way through Gatwick airport onto a busy plane, the first thing that strikes me on arrival at Club Marvy is, quite simply, how much space there is. I am ushered in to an enormous reception area with soaring ceilings before heading out, welcome cocktail in hand, to an expansive terraced area that looks out over seemingly endless waters beneath a clear sky.
That sense of limitless freedom extends throughout my stay, reaching its peak when I find the courage to dip my toes into the Aegean Sea down on the hotel’s secluded private beach. The water temperature in September isn’t exactly balmy, but a brisk swim around the scenic bay is an invigorating way to start the day. When the sun is out, it’s not difficult to while away a whole morning moving between the beach and the two pools – one suitable for families and one reserved for adults, the latter yielding panoramic views from its elevated position. If the weather isn’t in your favour, you can instead expend some energy at the Mar Fitness Gym, which runs free classes for guests that include everything from zumba to sunset yoga. Not included but very much worth the extra outlay are the Mar Spa treatments: I opt for a rejuvenating Turkish bath followed by a full-body massage using deliciously fragranced oils.
All that swimming leaves me with a ferocious appetite, and fortunately, I couldn’t be in a better place to satisfy it. Club Marvy’s rates are on a full-board basis, so all food and most drinks are included – a concept that would bring out the ‘kid in a candy shop’ in even the most restrained of diners. Served buffet-style, breakfast comprises a glorious assortment of colourful fresh fruits, yoghurt, homebaked loaves and pastries, pancakes and omelettes cooked to order, all served with the obligatory cup of strong, bitter Turkish coffee. The buffet option is also available for lunch and dinner, with a constantly changing menu of local and international dishes that run the gamut from grilled meats to okra stew, not to mention an array of sweet treats such as baklava.
When the temptation of an all-you-can-eat offering becomes too much, book a table at one of the à la carte restaurants at the resort: choose from wholesome Italian cooking at Bliss, hearty steaks and burgers at Boa, mezze at Iskele Meyhane and – our favourite – traditional Turkish cuisine at Degirmen, which is set within a converted windmill and serves produce grown at the nearby Yerlim Organic Farm. (The hotel can even arrange trips out to the farm, which has its own grocery, shop and restaurant, as well as a fascinating museum exploring the history of olive oil.)
There’s frankly very little reason to leave the resort, which offers more than enough activities to keep visitors of any age busy (children and the young-at-heart will particularly enjoy the aqua park, with its 12 water slides), but for those looking for a more cultural experience, there are sightseeing opportunities within easy driving distance. The closest town, Kuşadası, has a lovely seafront promenade and is connected via a causeway to a walled Byzantine castle on Pigeon Island, while just a little further away is the Unesco World Heritage Site of Ephesus, with its wonderfully preserved classical ruins.
Club Marvy’s name comes, apparently, from the English word “marvellous” – an apt description of a destination that has no shortage of marvels to behold. Just make sure you stay long enough to experience them all…
Club Marvy, Izmir, Turkey. Rooms from £146 a night based on two sharing on a full-board basis.
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