How To Club Meditate

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The Dial ’07 Summer Holidays, Club Meditation — Part 1 of 3.

After 5 times at a Club Med, I think we are now officially veteran ‘Gentils Membres’ (guests). Yes, admitting that we (2 adults, 2 kids) enjoy Club Med comes with all sorts of stigmas, but that suits us fine. Here is the yin & yang recipe we have found that works for us: Take 2 weeks off (minimum). Go to exotic (read: ‘new’) location. Spend first week at Club Med for sports, rest and resourcing. Then spend the following week visiting the real country in a rental car.

Following on the success of our ’06 Spring holidays in Brazil using that very formula (Club Med Las Pedras then a visit to Rio*), these last two weeks, we went to Turkey. The first week was spent at the 4-trident Club Med Palmiye, near Antalya, on the southern coast. The second week we visited the magical Cappadocia region in central Turkey.

In Part 1 of the Dial Summer Holidays journal, there are four things I feel like addressing regarding our experience at Club Med Palmiye.

(1) Club Med** is, in general, a great way to change your horizons and meet different personalities, families and cultures. But, for the timid, the good news is that your openness to meeting people is basically the limit to the opportunities; although having alternative languages is a big plus. Also, you need to choose carefully which Club Med and at what part of the year you go. If not, you can find yourself in one or other ghetto, more or less diversified, more or less foreign.

(2) The daily rhythm of a Club Med is yours to manage. From ‘fa niente’ to ‘burn out.’ Of course, if you don’t take advantage of the facilities and activities, you can feel that you didn’t maximize your “all inclusive” package. We are, for example, unfailing fans of the after-dinner spectacle (entertaining and diverse, usually GO-only shows). Observing other families and interfacing with other people stimulates and provokes comparisons. Lounging around and meditating on your own state of affairs (life, family, work…) is a primary pastime. On this trip, out of the blocks [almost before, in fact, it was on the plane to Anatalya], we met a family from Angers with a matching set of kids. What we revel in is new encounters and textural, meaty conversations. This is what I like to call Club Meditating. This visit to Palmiye we had our most stimulating chats with two GOs. Francois, the barman, is also a Biologist doing his dissertation on the effects of the climate on corals. And, discussing with Younes, the young cost controller, we branched out solving some of the world’s problems.

3) Notwithstanding the generally great service (and the valiant, omnipresent Chef de Village, Vincenzo) at Palmiye, I was taken for a ride not once, but twice. First, at the tennis courts, by Ali, a Russo/English speaking Turk, and then at the reception, by, Bertrand, a young man from southern France. The common denominator was straight out lying. Not just once, but repetitively. The fascinating thing was that, to be doubly sure I had understood correctly their statement, I would make them repeat their lie, either in another language (Russian with Ali) or simply in French.*** It is curious to consider how a company (or at least “CM Village”) culture can breed this style of treating a customer. [Note to reader: please comment!].

Secondly, it is fascinating to observe how the human being (regardless of culture) reacts when backed into a corner. Both individuals just dumbly repeated, word for word, my re-statement of the “facts” as they had been presented to me. Fortunately, in both cases, we avoided a diplomatic incident. It left me thinking, however, that either I have an imprint on my forehead asking me to be taken for a ride or that Club Med favors the “système D” (aka devious manoeuvrings). I am left hoping it is the latter. But, that’s not a compelling conclusion for Club Medon’tlikesuchbehavior.

4) Finally, I must confess that the upgrading of the Club Med bedroom facilities (and of the standard of a 4 trident in general) was a big plus (compared to our prior experiences). Nicer and bigger beds, bigger rooms, and [small] flat screen TV were notable features. The air conditioning, which may also be part of the upgrade generally speaking, was a lifesaver considering the 40-50C degree weather we experienced for 6 out of the 7 days at Palmiye. It softened what could have been a wicked experience.

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*Thanks go to An for her wonderful hospitality along with the charming Leonardo.

**Other than a couple of Turkish copies (a 3* Hotel Olbios near Mersin and 5* Utopia World in Alanya about which I will discuss in part 2), we have never tried a comparably priced competitive product to Club Med, so we could say broadly all similar types of ‘all inclusive’ destination packages. But I suspect CM develops a superior personnel.

***Despite an entirely blank reservation sheet for the tennis courts, Ali (speaking in Russian) refused to give me the shaded, centre court on the pretext it was reserved for kids’ Mini Club. I switched to English to confirm what he said. As he was re-explaining this to me, in English, he turned to two other approaching [French] customers. Speaking no French, Ali stumbled, so I offered to translate from French into Russian. They merely asked for the same court I had been looking to reserve. Then, to my surprise, he gave it to them. I was offered another court, which I accepted but not without letting off a little steam.
In the case of Bertrand, regarding our departure from the resort, he explained to me that we would not be able to take a bus (to the airport) as all the [four] buses leaving in the late afternoon were totally full. After confirming this statement to me and later to my wife, en noir et blanc, several times with a careless and nasty attitude, we took another approach in the name of a charming GO Adriaan and got us four places on a half empty bus.

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