Friday, July 1, 2011

Bodrum and the Beach

Bodrum, Turkey is a site of exquisite Mediterranean beauty and loaded with significant history. Few Americans have ever heard of the place yet it is a popular enough destination for Europeans, only 4.5 hours flight from London. Europeans seem more willing to explore and enjoy out of the way destinations, even ones in the United States whereas Americans seem interested only in marquee destinations.




Want proof? When Americans think of a European vacation the vast majority automatically rattle off the usual big-splash suspects of London, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam and Munich, the big city tours. When Greece and Spain come in to the conversation those destinations remain limited to Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, Barcelona, the Madrid region and possibly Ibiza/Mallorca. That's it. Their entire "foreign" experience summed up in to one or two destinations and whatever is within a day's drive or an hour's flight or sail from there. Oh how there is so much more!


For the sake of it just Google "British Holiday Companies" and see the endless list that pops up. Well established names like Thomson, Thomas Cook, Monarch and Direct Holidays. Pick any of their websites and just browse the destinations each one offers, many in competition with at least two or three other outfits and some including their own in-house air transportation. Thomson Holidays, for example, is affiliated with Thomsonfly, billed as the third largest airline in the United Kingdom.


A charter airline owned by a vacation company the third largest in the country? And where do they fly? Between the two sister companies there are listed seven destinations in Egypt alone, six in South Africa and 22 of the Greek Islands. Thomas Cook lists the entire country of Brazil as a destination but specifies 12 unique options in Bulgaria. Bulgaria? Not to be chintzy, Thomas Cook offers over 30 destinations in the United States, from Aspen to Cincinnati and Charleston to Portland.


The Europeans live in the big cities we want to visit so it makes sense they want to go someplace else, especially when we come to town! Spain IS Florida to most Brits, so long as it has an airport, some kind of accommodation to choose from and predictably bright and sunny weather with beaches and surf to enjoy they're all over it, from Sitges to Malaga, Alicante and back. Americans go to Egypt for the pyramids; the Europeans have already been so they hideaway by the sea at Sharm El-Sheikh, again soaking up the sun before heading north to home and the gloom of winter.


But back to Bodrum. Right by the Mediterranean, Bodrum offers a 13,000 seat amphitheater, a huge crusader era Castle of the Knights of St. John and the remnants of the Great Mausoleum, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. All that plus sun and sand, too? Hell, few American vacation companies would even offer something this exotic and out of the way. American Express' website couldn't even spell B-o-d-r-u-m! The question is, how to get there on the cheap from this side of the Atlantic?


The airport code is "BJV" and airfare alone through Travelocity from Chicago for travel on July 1st and back on the 15th started at $2,111 round trip on Turkish Airlines with one 2.5 hour stopover in Istanbul. Expensive but far easier to get to than previously thought. To assuage any third-world visions of what this region of Turkey must be like, the airport is only 20 miles north of town, it opened a new international terminal in 2000, boasts a 9,500 ft. concrete runway and is served by some 40 different airlines!


By comparison, using the same days of travel, a roundtrip ticket from Chicago to London started at $878 on American Airlines. Searching Monarch Holidays from the UK, a seven-night Bodrum package including air leaving on July 3rd and returning to London on the 11th produced five pages of options ranging from $365 at the budget Delta Hotel to $1,750 per person at the top end Kempinski Barbaros Bay pictured above. That includes flights on Monarch Air, the house airline in operation since 1960 and offering Boeing and Airbus equipment to over 100 destinations worldwide, plus the hotel. Uh, and did you also notice the four extra days in London, too? Those hotel nights are not included but at the low end hotel choice the savings is still an amazing $868 over the Turkish Airlines fare alone.


Gotta go.

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