If you step into the waters of Fethiye bay, schools of tiny fish will flit around your legs
‘That was the weirdest thing I’ve ever done,” said my husband, flopping on a sunbed. “I was lying in a steam room while some woman in a swimsuit covered my eyes with a cold flannel and threw ice over my head.” After a traditional hamman treatment — Turkish bath — he could do little more than lift his cocktail.
We were staying at Hillside for a five-day mini-break from the British “summer”. The oven-like, 38-ish degree heat that whacks you as the plane door opens at the slick and shiny Dalaman airport was blissful.
Transfer is an easy hour by car via the medium-sized resort of Fethiye and onto Hillside, a friendly, well-run resort with 450 or so staff — roughly one for every two guests.
A golf cart ferried us up the hill to our room. There are seven blocks. Ours was quite a steep walk back to the centre of all the action but it was one of the quietest, the worst noise pollution being the singing of cicadas.
The rooms hug steep, tree-covered hills descending into a crystal clear, horseshoe-shaped bay. Most have a sea view and many, like ours, have a private terrace. For those lugging buggies or are plain lazy, there are two funiculars halfway along each side.
Hillside is a family resort and as we were on a cheeky escape without the little Prevers, it felt odd being childless. It was early July, the place heaved with Turkish families. But the clever thing is that you can escape childcare central — even if you’ve brought your own.
The kids and junior clubs ensure that your children cannot wait to leave your side every morning. For four- to seven-year-olds there are two pools, a soft-play area, sandpit and chill-out area for post-lunch naps and DVD watching. For older children, another area located close to the tennis courts and air-conditioned gym offers drinks machines, iMacs, Wii screens and PlayStation consoles.
You are then free to wander off to the adult-only beaches named Serenity and Silent where small people and mobile phones are as welcome as a thunderstorm.
A small sailing boat decorated with what looked like brightly coloured handkerchiefs shuttles guests around the headland to and from Serenity Beach, past the water sports facility where speed boats tow groups of teens out on bananas, rings and other inflatables.
At the beach we found a bar, hammocks — into which Mr P immediately hauled himself, and more immaculate sun beds. Meat and vegetable skewers are barbecued there for lunch. Meanwhile, the main dining room buffet offers more choices than an Eilat hotel breakfast.
Meat and fish are cooked to order, as are thin, crisp Turkish pizzas in a large clay oven. Hundreds of salads and an unseemly mountain of desserts turn into a huge plateful before you can say zero willpower.
We found the huge breakfast room frenetic, so opted for the chilled “late breakfast” from 10am to midday at Pasha on the Beach — the white painted bar/restaurant at one end of the bay. A scaled-down version of lunch is offered daily at the third restaurant — the Beach Bar.
By night, Pasha morphs into an adult-only à la carte restaurant with romantic tables at the water’s edge.
We ate Turkish mezze, grilled fish and chocolate souffle while watching sizeable fish darting for crumbs in the clear water next to us and large, shiny yachts bobbing in the lagoon.
Pasha has an underground nightclub reached through a discrete doorway giving those yearning for a taste of their younger, childfree days a chance to dance until 4am.
The Hillside Tribune, a daily newssheet lists activities as diverse as early morning yoga, beach volleyball, china painting and mosaics, table tennis, archery and the nightly show.
In between lounging I squeezed in a cooking lesson with Ali, one of the executive chefs. We cooked aubergine, cheese and sage ravioli together while he revealed how the resort turns out consistently delicious food on such a huge scale. It apparently takes 65 chefs and continual response to guest feedback.
Fifty per cent of guests are return visitors, some visiting each year since the resort opened 20 years ago.
Around the pool we got talking to first time visitors Natalie and Daniel Levine. Daniel was amused to be asked to make minyan by a South African for his mother’s yartzheit. Somehow he got 12 men together. “It’s a great place,” he said. “We will be back.”
As we sat sipping (happy-hour half-price) cocktails to a disco beat, watching the red ball of sun dipping into the Med, we could see why.