After the most glorious autumn, with only two days of rain in two months and virtually wall-to-wall blue sky, it was time to leave paradise on the Med – Kalkan, Turkey – and return to cold, wet and windy Britain. This had been an historic visit as, after a mere 8 ½ years, we had managed to get Turkish bureaucracy to cough up the title deeds to our property along with the all important Living Permission. Of course this didn’t come without loads of pain and even more loads of cash, but now, excuse the pun, the deed was done.
The day started perfectly. Mehmet, our highly reliable property manager, arrived at about 7.30, checked we had no problems and then set about watering the potted plants using water from the pool. We did our own last checks – had we put everything away that wasn’t coming to London and had we packed everything that was coming to London. Then right on time, at 8.15, Ramazan our driver appeared. We were delighted as he is the safest driver we know and journeys with him at the wheel always go smoothly. About 1 hour 40 minutes later we pulled into the Dalaman Airport Domestic Terminal.
We were the only people going through security so that was very painless and on arriving at the check-in area we were directed to an empty desk. Cases were weighed and tagged – 20kg each allowance, boarding cards were issued and within a couple of minutes we were waiting in a queue of one to go through landside to airside security. Would the day continue so smoothly? Do read on.
Dalaman Airport has a reputation for serving mediocre quality over-priced food and drink. Braced for a raid on the wallet, we went into a waitress service café. The order was simple, one Nescafe with milk and a Turkish Çay – local black tea. And the bill, a grand total of 12TL (about £3.50) – not in the least bit extortionate for an airport facility anywhere.
The queue for boarding was as chaotic as any in Turkey but, if you’ve been in one before, you know to stand your ground. Turkish Airlines has a generous seating policy even in economy. The pitch (legroom) is good and the seats are wide. All very comfortable. And the food was excellent. There was a chicken salad roll, a small bowl of kidney beans and olive oil, and some “homemade” almond cake. All washed down with very acceptable coffee.
The landing at Istanbul was textbook. No bouncing, no frantic braking, just a smooth landing and a gentle slowdown. Was that because we had a safe and steady female pilot and not a macho male? Apart from being bussed from the plane to the terminal and the incomprehensible signage in the arrival hall, we were soon joining the queue for passport and visa checks. Although there were a lot of people in the queue, it moved at walking pace and before long we were at a desk.
There was a little worry in our minds over the validity of our visas. When entering Turkey two months previously we had joined the queue for new visas even though our old visas still had about 10 days validity. Technically it meant we had two visas operating in parallel – not necessarily legal. Our fears were unfounded. The visas were stamped, passports scanned and it was through to airside security where there was a massive queue of three.
Ahead of us was a longish stopover, 5 hours, but help was at hand. A number of the Turkish banks have lounges for their cardholders. In our case it was the HSBC Premier lounge, a perfect facility for the weary traveller with a few hours to kill. There are comfortable, leather seats, a well stocked self-service food and drink bar – complete with draft Efes – and wifi. So we settled down with our Kindles and time passed remarkably quickly.
As on arrival, we were bussed out to the London bound plane. The bus stopped beside the front steps and as the doors opened the name of the plane was clearly visible on the side of the cockpit. It was Batman!!! What a safe pair of hands. Nothing could go wrong now. And once on board and the movie came on it was none other than “Superman – Man of Steel”. Were we lucky or were we lucky. This was going to be safest journey ever.
Once again we had comfortable seats in economy, row 8, so near to the front. There was even more legroom and, with a hint of things to come, one member of the cabin crew was dressed as a chef in a neat white suit with a large, floppy white hat. Yes, the food was top class. For starters there was humus and spicy chopped tomatoes with a fresh roll followed by chicken with real flavour, cheesy polenta and sautéed mixed vegetables cooked to perfection. Then there was a chocolate nougat mousse and cheese and biscuits. And all accompanied by water, a good quality Turkish red wine and coffee. The whole meal passed every test set for airline catering with flying colours. And I nearly forgot the packets of fresh hazelnuts passed round at the end.
Then the captain announced that we were going to be landing 15 minutes early. This journey seemed to be charmed. Maybe Superman was pushing from behind. Unlike the landing at Istanbul, this time we had a male pilot who landed the plane with a thump, applied full braking power and slid off the runway at the first opportunity. The plane went directly to a gate almost inside the terminal building and within a few minutes we were in the empty immigration hall. There was a 5 minute wait in the baggage reclaim – everything else had gone almost too fast – but even that provided time to visit the facilities.
Our taxi driver Sam, was waiting for us in the arrivals hall and very quickly we were out on the motorway heading in towards London. As we entered our flat in Richmond it was exactly one hour since touchdown.
This was definitely the most trouble free journey we have made for a long time. Apart from the Turkish rugby scrums to get onto the planes, there were no queues anywhere. Turkish Airlines and HSBC get full marks for comfort and efficiency. And as for Batman and Superman, we are now true believers in their supernatural powers.
Turkish Airlines name their planes after Turkish places. Batman is a small city and capital of Batman Province in far eastern Turkey. It is not far from the borders of Syria and Iraq and close to the River Tigris. We passed through the province but not the city on a grand tour of far eastern Anatolia a few years ago so the name was familiar.