We first came to Side last September and stayed in a cheap and not so cheerful budget hotel, and thought we'd treat each ourselves to a smarter resting place (at four times the price)
What a disappointment. First impressions are good, with lovely staff (who speak reasonable English) and the sound of the sea nearby. But this quickly turns sour as our room - sold as "garden view" - is basically IN the maintenance, rubbish collection and glass recycling area at the back of the hotel. "Garden view" turns out to be a hedge. After a long journey we hit the sack, only to be woken at 6.30am with the bin men and what sounds like every bottle in the world noisily clattering into the dump truck.
It's a beautiful day, so we get up shortly after to go to breakfast, which is okay, but get our first impression of our fellow guests who all appear to use the same hairdresser (guys - think Pat Sharpe c.1987; girls - think Prisoner Cell Block H chic) and stylist (guys and girls - think 1990's Hip-hop, not in a good way), and all with suspiciously orange/leather skin. Appearances aside, what really strikes you is the exhibited coldness to the point of unashamed hostility. It's like a holiday is a serious business; you're not there to relax, you are First In the Queue for coffee and First In the Queue for croissants etc. Smiling is not an option, that would be a sign of weakness. It's a little dismaying.
Undaunted (well, maybe slightly daunted) we head to the beach, where most of the sunloungers have towels on them already (yes, yes, some of them are Germans but actually the Russians are the worst at this) but as it's not yet high season we can easily get a spot. Here we're in familiar territory: sunbathe, read, relax, swim, repeat. Light bite on the beach, followed by afternoon yoga with a very good teacher under the pine trees with the waves in the background. Lovely.
Dinner is like breakfast but worse. The more mulleted and orange of the guests (98% over 60, 50% Russian, 40% German, 8% Polish, 2% other) are there queueing up at 6.55 before the doors open at 7. The tsunami that erupts at 7pm is like vultures circling a carcass, there's not so much a sense of desperation to get the best food - there's masses of it - but more a sense of IF I GET MY PLATE AND FOOD AND SIT DOWN FIRST I AM MUCH CLEVERER THAN ANYBODY ELSE. At first it's mildly offensive - presumably generally civilised people (all dressed for dinner, sunburn throbbing underneath their flowery dresses and 70's shirts) elbowing you aside for the sake of a prawn - and then it just becomes funny when you realise quite how seriously they all take it. We have an average meal and head to bed. It's our holiday, after all.
The next day we go to reception and voice our unhappiness at the location of our room. There are no more rooms we're told, until the next day. We decide to give them a chance, despite only having 5 nights there, and endure another night of the rubbish/recycling apocalypse at 6.30am.
When we finally get a room upgrade the next day after kicking up another fuss, it's on the same side of the hotel but higher up and further along, so the rubbish noise is reduced to a background smashing, but still very bad for an allegedly 5 star hotel.
Plus points - the staff are great, cleaning the very tired and shabby rooms beautifully each day. The gardens are absolutely amazing with equally dedicated staff tending them. But the rooms are in DESPERATE need of renovation; air-con is feeble, doors are thin (not helping the noise situaution) and the bathroom is a disgrace with a ceiling that looks suspiciously asbestos-filled and a shower that's little more than a dribble.
So, not really a holiday as an experience... My abiding memory is of a combination of Butlins, Fawlty Towers and surreal mealtimes reminiscent of sharks circling a wounded tuna.
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- Also Known As:
- Cennet Hotel Side