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Trip Report JBR - Antalya (Lara Beach) 1 to 11 February 2015

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Just returned from an enjoyable Thomas Cook AI package to the WOW Kremlin Palace at Lara Beach.

WEATHER:- At his time of year you can expect just about anything, and the mountains to the west of Antalya were covered in snow - a glorious back-drop.

We arrived late on 1 February, and it was rather brrr. Our first full day it was dank, gale force winds, intermittent rain, and the sea looked angry. So we thought that perhaps we'd made a bad decision, but it was a good way of getting to know the bar staff!

Tuesday, we awoke to blue skies, and hardly a wisp in the air. It soon warmed up, and remained shorts and t-shirt temperature until mid afternoon, when a fleece came in v.handy. That trend continued for 7 days, and it really was really v.pleasant.

Tuesday 10 February, it was all change. It rained heavily overnight Monday, and that continued all day Tuesday. That combined with strong chilly winds made another day at the bar an easy decision to make.

LARA BEACH- Our hotel was at the extreme east of a long spread out chain of beach fronted mega hotel. There is no promenade to enjoy, just a long main road about 300 yards inland of beach, which fronted all the hotels. Quite a few shops and shopping malls spread out along the road. Never ventured there as it was a long trek for us, and all the shopping places looked same-same. There's quite a lot of building work in progress at Lara Beach, and I expect that most of the gaps between the mega resorts will, in time, be filled with more mega resorts.

ANTALYA:- Antalya is beautiful. It's set in a glorious bay with mountains that you almost touch to the the west. A very big and busy working town that mixes with ease traditional Turkey with tourism. It came across as being a great place to live and to retire to as an expat.

From the Lara Beach hotel strip it's easy to reach all the pleasures of Antalya by public bus, which you can catch anywhere along the hotel strip. The bus (LC-07) takes around an hour to reach the seafront, which actually runs along along a high vertical cliff, and costs 2TL (65p). Ask the driver for Kaleici (the Old Town).

The down side of using the public buses are the bus drivers are nutters, so if you don't get a seat you need to hang on tight!

AIRPORT TRANSFER TIME:- To the Lara Beach hotels or to Antalya the transfer is very quick. Our hotel was the last drop-off, and it took less than 30 minutes.

THE WOW KREMLIN PALACE HOTEL:- Sounds horrendous, and I booked it online after sinking a bottle or so of the red stuff! But it's a really lovely hotel. As it's off-season we bagged a bargain, but of course a lot of the facilities were closed. Our room (3319) was lovely, big, king size pit, bath/shower with water pressure as good as I've ever had, free mini-bar that got topped up every morning, free safe, got the Premier League footie on the room flat-screen telly, 24 hour main bar, superb restaurant and excellent food, great indoor heated pool/jacuuzi/gym/sauna. Never had any issues with the staff, and the entertainment team (Turkish, Ukrainian, Bosnian) were great fun, intelligent interesting young people.

It was an out of season break, we got a v.good deal, the hotel was working a much reduced service which we expected and it suited us. Very few tourist guests, the hotel makes it money during January and February by hosting conferences and delegations.

Eastern European and Asian professional football teams also use the hotel [and most hotels along Lara Beach] for closed-season training in a mild climate. We quite enjoyed the novelty of being in their midst, though we weren't expecting it.

Our excellent room (3319) directly overlooked 2 full size pitches [one with floodlights] which were constantly in use for training. Footballers seem so much at ease when they've sharing one ball between two of them!

From their tracksuits I counted 15 teams using the hotel during our visit [Chinese, Uzbekistan, Serbian, Russian, Polish, Slovaks, Croatian, Armenian, Ukranian, Hungarian], which gave the hotel a bit of atmosphere and colour, as against feeling rather hollow had they not been there.

During the day the footballers were mainly out training, but at other times they were like zombies, slouched on chairs and settees in the massive hotel lobby, mesmerised by that 'little brick' that everyone seems to be attached to these days.

In the restaurant their dining manners were atrocious. The amount of food that they wasted was quite sad to see. Bad manners generally, bad table manners, and food wastage are things I hate and are typical of AI hotels irrespective of how many *stars the hotel has.

A BIG bonus is that we could use ALL the facilities of the equally impressive WOW Topkapi Hotel, which is next door (v.short stroll) via a wicket gate.

SUMMARY:- Loved it. A v.pleasant vfm winter break. Personally I wouldn't go there in the summer as it would be far too busy and noisy for my sensitive soul.

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