When you’ve got four young sons, holidays can be a challenge. But Camp Bestival creators Rob Da Bank and wife Josie find beautiful beaches, family-friendly fun – and a chance to hit the dance floor – at Lux Bodrum on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast
Every time we go on holiday, the comments I’m going to be met with at the airport. ‘Four boys, you say?’ ‘Are you insane?’… ‘Oh, your poor wife,’ ‘God, your house must be messy’ and every other cliché under the sun. All of these have been thrown at Mrs da Bank and me in the two years since our beautiful fourth boy bounced into the world. Previous to that it was sympathy for having three boys!
Part of the reason it was so refreshing to move from London to the Isle of Wight was that we got away from the endless tiger mums (and dads) who appeared to think that, unless you had the perfect match of a boy and a girl, there was something wrong with you, and until that imbalance was corrected you weren’t living your best life. For some reason, an awful lot of people on our fair isle seem to have three boys or four girls – even five boys or girls isn’t uncommon – so we feel right at home!
Let’s get some things straight – not all boys automatically love rugby and mud, wee all around the toilet seat and break things, in just the same way that not all girls like Barbie dolls, spend an hour brushing their hair every morning and wear pink. And however much we were expecting that clichéd formula to be true, we have four extremely different boys who are into a huge spectrum of hobbies and tastes, from hip hop to fashion, football to sailing and cuddly toys. It doesn’t matter to us whether they’ve got a willy or a womb!
Now that I’ve got that out of my system, I can start worrying about the actual flight. When we’re about plan a family holiday, I have terrible flashbacks to locking myself in the toilet for the best part of 11 hours on a flight to Bangkok with Merlin (now a very balanced and reasonable 10-year-old), literally praying to God for him to stop crying… Or I recall Arlo (now an extremely helpful 12-year-old) having a complete temper tantrum at Heathrow and screaming for 20 minutes, with the result that he accidentally cleared a useful path for us direct to the front of the long queue for the X-ray machine.
Anyway, I digress. We’re here to talk Turkey and the new Lux resort, a mere 2,720km from London and a nifty four-hour flight to Bodrum on Turkey’s southwest Aegean coast.
The airport is a gleaming hub just 25 minutes from Lux. We are picked up at the airport by one of the hotel’s drivers and soon turn off the busy dual carriageway and wind our way up a hill until we spot our uber-modern destination, perched overlooking the sea. Past a smiling security guard and into the huge-windowed vista of the reception, where the Lux coffee bar sits, with smiling barista and trendy-looking bar. Lux Bodrum turns out to be not so much a conventional hotel but a swish series of separate villas banking up a sloping hill. Curving around a meticulously manicured crescent of sand, all the properties have a sea view, with some distant islands and a handful of huge fish farms breaking up the ocean vistas.
There’s a running joke running between me, Josie and our manager about how we once managed to change hotels four times in one night in New York in the 1990s. So it’s no surprise that the villa we’re originally given, with a slightly unkempt garden and a building site next door, isn’t up to scratch due to the newness of the resort at the time of our visit. To the manager’s credit, 10 minutes later we’re being shown into a much more presentable villa, with its own pool.
Set over two floors, the rooms are bright and glassy, and the kids immediately set about poaching the best bedrooms and making cosy bases. Two-year-old Elijah does his best to dive into the pool repeatedly and then starts throwing stones in and generally causing baby-related mayhem.
We’ve arrived in Turkey at a funny time – it’s two weeks before the general election and a week before the Turkish school holidays, so the resort has the air of being slightly out of season. This has its plus points – no queues for anything, the golf carts used to move around the complex’s very steep, hilly roads turn up immediately, and there’s no need to get up at 6am to bag a sun lounger or find a spot on the gym’s cross trainer. The downside is there’s little atmosphere and a slightly eerie ghost-town feel for the first few days. But when we hit the weekend, mostly Turkish – guests arrive and suddenly the hotel has a sociable swing in its step.
Down on the beautiful sandy beach, the boys get busy riding giant inflatable swans and paddleboards, and taking full advantage of a massive water slide and climbing pyramid, before leaping off the top into the crystalline water. As the sea breeze builds up each day, we’re grateful for the floating barrier that encloses our bay and stops the rising waves crashing on to the beach. Despite the out-of-season feel, we are able to rent jet skis. And the huge double-bed cabanas make any trip to our beach a comfy one, with plenty of shade for frazzled kids. (On our last day, with an hour to go before we’re supposed to be at the airport, I suddenly decide the kids need to go parasailing, and we have a fantastic whizz around the sea.)
Back up at the room as night falls, the excellent WiFi soothes sleepy kids with iPads, before we head down to the Lux Beach Rouge beach club and restaurant. Turkey is one of those countries where waiters take very good care of their small charges; children are doted on and tired kids entertained relentlessly, while adults enjoy their own space and time.
As a new dawn breaks, breakfast is served in the slightly more formal but still casual restaurant with an excellent buffet spread, boasting a fine plaited cheese that the kids seem intent on making extinct in Turkey, as the ever-smiling chefs whip up omelettes and sublime national dishes.
Our favourite part of the holiday is jumping on the staff bus for the 40-minute bumpy ride into Bodrum, dropping off waiters, chefs and chambermaids at villages on the way, before arriving at Bodrum’s bustling bus station and heading to the fake-goods market. In fact, every other shop in Bodrum seems to be a gleaming, polished mecca of counterfeit Gucci, Versace, Valentino and – to Arlo’s delight – Supreme, Bathing Ape and Nike knock-offs. Apparently, in what is the second biggest fake market outside China, there’s a two-tier system. You can stroll around the ground floor for your common-or-garden very good fakes, which are indistinguishable from the real thing. But with a bit of probing, Mrs da Bank discovers the upper echelons. With a nod and a wink from a suave Turkish fellow, we are whisked up to the uber-luxury-goods floor, where you can buy handbags worth thousands or snakeskin loafers for a fraction of their usual cost. Naturally, we decline, but it is good sport seeing how many times we get invited upstairs.
Back at base on our last night, it’s time for Dad da Bank to hit the decks. Having DJed at Lux in the Maldives one New Year’s Eve, I’d been asked if I’d do a stint at Beach Rouge. Taking over from their excellent resident DJ, I’ve soon got the small but perfectly formed dance floor rocking, and I can see the potential of having your own onsite nightclub, which is very much part of the Lux formula. As the staff and guests rave into the early hours, we know we’ve found somewhere we’ll return to if we ever get the chance, and have our fill of Turkey once more.
Special shout out to Göksel and Ibrahim and all the amazing staff who looked after us, and hope to be back one day!
Destinology offers a family break at LUX* Bodrum from £4,689 per family of four (two children under 12) in two deluxe seafront rooms, including bed and breakfast, return flights with easyJet and private luxury airport transfers.
May to October