Club Mark Warner Review - Sarah Bridge
When a friend recommended I should go on a Mark Warner holiday, I was somewhat surprised. ‘Mark Warner, isn’t that for families?’ I said.
I was currently single, with no kids, and the idea of going on holiday where it was just wall-to-wall families didn’t sound like my kind of thing.
‘No, not at all’, insisted my friend. ‘They have weeks where it’s adults only. Someone I know went on one and said it was great fun.’
A quick call to the booking office and I found out that my friend was – almost – right. While Mark Warner is nowadays known for its family-friendly holidays with a strong emphasis on activities such as watersports and tennis, it does have three weeks a year outside the school holidays which are designated as ‘adult-friendly’. While there would still be families, couples and groups of friends holidaying, those travelling on their own didn’t have to pay a single supplement and were promised reps who would make sure no-one was left out.
A very early flight on Saturday morning from Gatwick was made bearable with coffee and the thought that while my fellow passengers were complete strangers, hopefully we’d know each other a lot better on the way back. The coach ride from Bodrum to the Sea Garden resort took about an hour, and soon we were all checked in and checking out the resort.
Never having been on a resort holiday in my life, I had no idea what to expect, but found the setting to be beautiful, with winding flower-lined paths from the bedrooms down to the beach and the open-air restaurant where we would have breakfast and lunch every day. My room was vast – an enormous bed, impressive bathroom and my own balcony – but with the briefest of unpackings I set off to find my fellow singletons. I straightaway ran into the couple I had sat next to on the plane who turned out to be two friends from work who were travelling and together we enjoyed several drinks in a ‘mini Bodrum’ – an open air collection of bars and cafes overlooking the tennis courts, where it looked as if the evening entertainment would took place. The novelty of saying ‘I’ll get the next round’ when it was all-inclusive was a great start to the holiday, and indeed at the end of the week more than one person would be heard moaning that life would be very difficult without that all-inclusive wrist-band!
Dinner each night was a well-stocked buffet with a vast choice of salads, pasta dishes, fish and grilled meat including kebabs and chicken wings, and the wine flowed making conversation with complete strangers much easier. For those travelling alone or with friends as part of the adults-friendly package there were huge communal eating tables which meant you didn’t have to worry about sitting alone or with just a book for company – you could just turn up and say hello to whoever you found yourself sitting next to. After dinner people would wander up to mini-Bodrum and continue chatting and drinking in the warm evening air, before either continuing on in the resort nightclub or calling it a night. There were other restaurants but they were booked up well in advance – those in the know made their reservations while checking in to the hotel – and one night a week mini-Bodrum turned into a massive Turkish market where traditional foods were served amid a background of bands playing and belly-dancers entertaining the diners, even encouraging some willing volunteers to join in.
Breakfast was served down by the sea each morning, and then people would settle down to a hard day’s sunbathing or slightly more strenuous sporting activity, or head to the spa for some serious pampering. Within a day I had made some good friends so I never felt on my own – although there were plenty of places to retreat to if I just fancied my own company – and all throughout the week I was meeting up with new people who were either travelling alone or with a friend or a parent or sibling. Several people even paired off during the week and generally there was a nice feeling among our group that everyone was there to meet new people and make new friends rather than sticking to one little clique. Many people were return visitors, and one couple in my tennis lesson had even met on the same resort four years ago and now returned as a married couple.
I settled into a very pleasant routine of a pre-breakfast swim, some tennis, sunbathing and then cocktails on the beach at sunset, and there was also social tennis every afternoon if I felt the need to work off some of the desserts at lunch. Some people took the opportunities to venture outside the resort: others just talked about it and then went back to their sun loungers – and by the end of the week everyone felt extremely at home and relaxed. The plane on the way back was full of people chatting, sharing photos and swapped email address.
Back in England one year on, I’m still in touch with lots of the people I met out there, we have met up for drinks in London and even a trip to the races, and many are planning to come again. You don’t have to be single or even travelling alone to go on one of the adult-friendly weeks but if you are, it seemed to me to strike the perfect balance between allowing you to do your own thing, while at the same time providing lots of new friends of all different ages and backgrounds which with to enjoy your holiday. Roll on the next trip!
Sarah Bridge travelled to Bodrum, Turkey with Mark Warner last year. She has just written a book, including her experiences in Turkey, called First Catch Your Husband: Adventures on the Dating Front Line, available from Amazon.co.uk for £7.99