LIKE many, I had given up on a holiday this year, as air bridges closed and tourists raced home to beat self-isolation deadlines.
But thank goodness for Turkey and beautiful Bodrum.
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The country consistently kept its Covid numbers down throughout the summer and, as others fell by the wayside, has remained a great place to holiday.
So how has it avoided the troubles of elsewhere?
It’s probably down to the government’s Safe Tourism Certification programme, which covers everything from your airport transfer and hotel to catering outlets.
It has seen staff provided with health and hygiene equipment, shift patterns have been altered and regular health checks are carried out.
And it does not feel intrusive at all. Just do your bit and wear a mask where you are meant to.
But not in the sea, obviously — and those clear, turquoise waters that wash up to the golden beaches of the Rixos Premium hotel in Bodrum were the perfect place to dive into a week of sun, fun and fantastic food alongside my son Zak.
Nestled between the Aegean Sea and the national parks, this 5H hotel is undoubtedly the most stunning, relaxing place I have been to.
Sparkling white, low-rise blocks are set in gorgeous gardens, backed by thick forests of pines.
Many rooms feature sea views but the gardens are so impressive, you definitely will not feel short-changed just sitting on a balcony and admiring them.
There is a private beach for feeling soft sand between your toes and a unique over-water beach club, complete with large, squishy loungers for catching the delicious sea breezes.
The immaculate pools included an indoor one and a large, freshwater outdoor alternative with children’s section. There is an aqua-park, too.
It’s an all-inclusive deal, with a main restaurant and two a-la-carte venues serving Italian and fish specialities. Coronavirus precautions mean masks are worn when not at your table, in all restaurants.
At the main buffet, you are served by chefs behind glass screens.
It felt safe and the food was fresh, local and very tasty, from breakfast, through beach snacks and lunch, to sunset dinners al fresco.
The drinks at the many bars were top-notch, too, from decent Turkish wines to the marvellous Efes beer.
But hard as it was to tear ourselves away from the sun-loungers, a visit to this part of the Turkish coast has to involve going down to the sea, too.
For social-distancing and luxury — at a price — charter a wooden schooner for the day.
Our trip with Blue Voyage included a stunning fresh-fish lunch complete with a host of tasty salads as the boat sailed into stunning coves and stopped off so we could snorkel in clean, clear waters.
For a less expensive option, there are plenty of trips on offer from the variety of boats moored up in Bodrum harbour.
The cobblestone streets and whitewashed houses of Bodrum’s old town are perfect for exploring by day.
Pop by the Archaeological Museum and Maritime Museum to learn about its history and heritage.
And by night, downtown is the place for buzzing bars and some fabulous al-fresco dining.
To really delve into the area’s culinary treasures, we joined Deniz Kilic, of Ibex Adventure Club, for a day-long 4×4 tour of gastronomic highlights.
It started with a fun cooking class at Foodrum Culinary Park, before it was off to Pab’s gastro pub, set on the beach, with wonderful owner Mustapha and a great selection of IPAs.
After that it was wine-tasting in a vineyard followed by an outdoor sunset picnic dinner at the top of a mountain — and an unavoidable snooze on the way back.
A little farther along the coast, the fishing port of Gumusluk is ideal for a sunset stroll.
And watching the sun dip below the horizon at the Limon Gumusluk bar eased the very last of my stress away, as I sipped an ice-cold beer.
If you want to go on a seriously upmarket night out, try a trip to Turkbuku — 13 miles from downtown Bodrum — and the restaurant at the boutique hotel Macakizi.
Think Ibiza or Nikki Beach vibes, in a relaxed, chic setting.
But wherever you go, what stands out is the friendliness of the people.
On all my trips to Turkey — whether through work or leisure — that has always been the case.
It is one of the many, many reasons to go. And go you can — because Turkey’s careful planning has made sure of it.
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