From time to time, I’m sure that it dawns on most of us that we take the wonders of the internet for granted. Whether you want to pay a bill, watch a movie, check out bus timetables in Ontario, find a recipe for chicken cacciatore or read a blog like this – all of these things and many others besides are possible from the cosy surroundings of your own work-station or laptop or cellphone.
This is something that today’s young hipsters very much take in their stride, but I am old enough to remember how it was back in the days when buying anything ‘mail order’ was a bit of an adventure, requiring faith, luck and a good deal of time. For that chicken recipe, you either had it in a cookbook or you rang a friend. Failing that, there was the local library, when it opened. As for watching movies, you either waited for it to come round on TV or you got yourself off to the local flea-pit.
Another area where the internet has had a massive impact is in travel. Booking flights and hotels is now ludicrously simple as long as you possess a major credit or debit card and know when and where you want to go. For independent travellers, I’m sure it is now possible to put together a comprehensive round-the-world itinerary without breaking sweat. It’s all laid out before you like a giant smørgåsbord of possibilities, so all that’s really required is the time you spend checking timetables plus a measure of agreement among the participants – and that’s where it can get difficult.
I think that this eternal truth came home to me with considerable force about 2:15 one morning as I stared at the screen and pondered the monstrous carbon footprint involved in flying 3 people from Izmir to Antalya via Istanbul then out to the UK just a few hours later. The alternative was a rail and coach journey of up to 8 hours from Izmir via Denizli. Better karma but a day arguably ’wasted’. Decisions, decisions…..
In the end , what I was left with was a tightly-structured circular tour of Western Turkey that would take in Cappadocia and Istanbul and Ephesus within a fortnight’s span. It met the Partner’s timescales and took in those hotspots the Princess wanted to visit. It took account of the current uproar on the Turkish rail network with Istanbul essentially inaccessible from the Asian side, except by bus or plane. It allocated enough time in Cappadocia to visit the major sites and it finished on the Aegean coast near Izmir, allowing a day-trip to the Ephesus site and a day on the beach at Altinkum or near Kusadasi. It also flew in and out of Birmingham. It was a thing of beauty and it positively gleamed with bureaucratic efficiency. The only fly in the ointment came in the final 2 days where opting for a cheap but ethically dubious flight back to Antalya via Istanbul would have bought us an extra day on the beach.
Somewhere in the deepest recesses of my brain, the Travel Gnomes mopped their brows after several hours of frantic activity. Difficulties had been overcome, obstacles had been surmounted, alternatives had been identified. The decision on how to get from Izmir back to Antalya could wait until the following day. I fired off emails with the Itinerary attached to Partner & Princess and went to bed.
“What about here?”
To say that I was disappointed with their response would be a major understatement. Far from being thrilled by the fact that I had located really cheap flights from Kayseri to Istanbul and an interesting-looking hydrofoil & train package from Istanbul to Izmir, their lack of enthusiasm was almost palapable. Words were spoken. Lines were drawn in the sand. Fuelled by the outraged Travel Gnomes in my head, I basically went into a 24 hour sulk and resolved never to try to organise a family holiday again. Turkey was plucked and my elegant itinerary sent off to the Recycle Bin.
Of course, old habits die hard and 48 hours later I was back at the keyboard looking for something far simpler. By this point, there had been some more reasoned discussions; the Princess backed out completely – she has already been to Israel this summer, so is probably wiser in spending her time trying to find a job than swanning off with her parents. The Partner wanted to go in August rather than September as originally planned. After some discussion we settled on either Venice or Lisbon for a week and after 15 minutes on lastminute.com, I had found a decent package with tolerable flights and what looked like a good hotel in the Chiado district of Lisbon. Compared to the Turkish expedition, this Lisbon trip was like falling off a log and I could now see that whilst my Turkish Delight might have been impressively organised, there was no time for it to be a holiday at all. Just because it can be done doesn’t mean that it should be…….
Even so, there’s no holding those Gnomes; a few days later as we landed in Lisbon, they were busy reminding me that I had finally made it to Portugal, the only country in mainland Western Europe that I had never visited before.