Learning lines has always been and forever will be the bane of the actor’s life. The beginning of the mysterious alchemical process of transmuting text on the page to rapture on the stage. It’s a mostly long and always highly agonising endeavour where the self-flagellatory rod and hair-shirt become the dictaphone and lime green highlighter pen, and so it was with a sense of impending gloom that I stuffed my bags full with script and stationery for my trip to southern Turkey, blighted by Mr William fucking Shakespeare and his Midsummer Night’s Dream. And, just as a bigger bollock-kicker, I had to learn two parts!
Gratifying, therefore, that as soon as my feet touched the ground at Dalaman – which, it’s worth saying, feels safer than the Serpentine on a sunny day – I was given no time to so much as press record on my voice recorder before I was swept into the D-Resort Gocek’s hammam spa by smiling and elegantly tailored staff, which felt like a three levelled ballroom of lime wash beams and marble floors where every corner and surface is designed to take one out of reality and into deep relaxation. As you might imagine, even the most irksome of tasks takes on a strangely rose-tinted luminescence after a Balinese massage and a Turkish bath, and so, having firmly decided that the lines would wait, it was time to envelop myself in all the luxury this softly ambient hotel had to offer.
Nestled in the heart of the Datca Peninsula 120 miles down the coast from Bodrum, Gocek is a sleepy and sun drenched haven that – owing to a government law that has kept it largely undeveloped commercially – retains an out-of-the-way hidden-jewel quality. Let me paint the picture a little more vividly: remember Roger Moore back-to-back with the golden gun toting Christopher Lee in The Man With The Golden Gun? The decking of white sand? The clustered cornucopian islands of lush vegetation? The emerald green sea? And a maniacal mono-browed French midget yelling instructions to kill each other? Well, sans midget, that’s the picture.
After a fresh and locally sourced lunch at The Breeze Ocean Club, it was time to hightail in style out of the marina on the hotel’s custom-made 16-metre, matte-black Sundowner motor yacht (that felt so Fleming-esque I was temporarily worried that I was accidentally going to sit on an ejector seat) for a tete-a-tete tour of the islands in search of truant sea turtles. Then with evening creeping on apace, it was time for dinner at Q-Lounge where beautiful pan-Asian interior design and local Turkish materials make you feel as though you’re eating in a beautifully ornate tree house with surely one of the finest views of any coastline on the Aegean. Beautiful orpiment and jade ceramic bowls of Bodrum-caught sea-bass ceviche, followed by a perfectly tender beef fillet and shiitake mushrooms, left me in no doubt that atonement for the sins of excessive R&R will have to be sought in the gym tomorrow!
Winding our way up the coast the next morning, we slunk into our final resting place, the quite resplendent Hotel D-Maris. I say slunk, rather swaggered, because that is the kind of arrival this extraordinary hotel demands. If, like me, more than a small part of you wanted to be Hugh Laurie in The Night Manager this spring, then making a booking at the Hotel D-Maris is quite possibly the closest you’ll get. It’s a hotel so overwhelmingly Bondian that even Blofeld would have to hold mummy’s hand going through the lobby.
By the time you reach the stunning panoramic sea view with its quilt of islands emerging through the morning haze, I defy any man to not feel two inches taller with muscles two inches broader and have an imaginary Walther PPK stuffed in his back pocket. Rightly listed among the Leading Hotels In The World, Maris boasts as many as five private beaches covered in five tonnes of imported Egyptian white sand; the five best restaurants in the peninsula; an azure blue and turquoise bay for over four thousand yacht visits a year; a newly installed Chenot Spa and gym; and, if that weren’t enough, Goran Ivanisevic’s Tennis School where guests are treated to expert coaching on a variety of both hard and clay courts.
It’s difficult to imagine, and believe me I have cudgelled my brains, a more idyllic way to spend a well-earned escape from it all, and while it has to be well earned (with rooms starting at 298.50 euro-a-night for a Mountain View room and ranging all the way through to the hotel’s 9000 euro-a-night Luxury Villa), it is undoubtedly money very well spent. As I sat on my balcony on a less than sunny afternoon, a tamer establishment would have rendered me frustrated with a recourse to line learning beckoning its ascetic little finger, but with sunset yoga stretched out for tonight, deep sea fishing (more of which later) casting off in the morning, a tennis lesson served up in the afternoon, and wake boarding waving me into next week, I didn’t know when I was going to have time to eat, let alone work.
The next morning arrived with portentous bliss, and with breakfast came the first demanding choice of the day: just what type of apple marmalade to have with my Turkish seeded rye? Then, bursting at the seams, I made my way down to the quayside by wooden panelled funicular feeling very much like Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice, sadly minus fluffy white cat, and I was filled with quixotic fantasies of ten pound sea bass and barracuda as long as the boat. Even the smell of rain in the air did nothing to dampen my spirits this morning. I was going fishing! And besides, rain favours the keen angler so they say.
As Deniz, my Sergio Leone character of a fisherman, motored us out into the bay, I began to sketch in my mind my holiday memoirs: The Young Man And The Sea – Meditations of an Angling Thespian. To make matters more exciting, the executive chef, the totally charming Ahmet Kula, had promised me at dinner the night before that should I make a catch this morning then he and I would cook the spoils together for lunch. By 8.30 my line was in the water, and, somewhat disappointingly, I had no bites by 9. Then, as I wound in my line to travel to the next bay, I found that all my bait was gone with one rather unfortunate fish remaining steadfastly attached to my final hook. ‘In this sea, Papa coming and eating’ said Deniz with a smile, and from then on things became rather more successful.
By 10am we had enough between us to feed the entire English contingent of the hotel, and so chef Ahmet and I set about preparing my catch with industry. By one o’clock we were ready: local Turkish fish fried in flour and salt, with a fragrant tomato and onion salad served with lemon and a glass of Turkish rose. In other words, total heaven!
Now, call me a terrible anti-parent, but babycolia would definitely be my ‘Sound You Hate’ answer for my imaginary turn on Inside The Actors Studio. While the joys of parenthood I hope lie (many years) ahead of me, children crying still grates on me with cranium splitting potency, especially as you’re trying to catch final halcyon holiday sunrays. So it was with immense satisfaction that when I was finally compelled to hunker down with script and assorted highlighters, I was able to do so on Maris’s Silent Beach, where silence is indeed as golden as the sand on which I was unceremoniously spread. It’s another of Maris’s features that really makes you feel as though you’re in a playground for grown-ups where the full spectrum of hedonism to meditative self-absorption is on offer both day and night.
With evening approaching with ominous rapidity and an 8pm flight to catch, it was with a heavy heart that I packed away script and assorted tanning accoutrements for departure. After a final late lunch of red prawn carpaccio and a beautiful whole grilled sea bream at Il Riccio, sister restaurant to the Michelin starred Il Riccio at the Capri Palace Hotel, I made my way back to my room for a bath with a final glimpse of the beaches and islands below. On my way out I passed the latest D-Maris innovation: a made-to-measure Italian shirtmakers, Butch, with adjoining barbershop opening next month, putting beyond all doubt the question of whether or not I would be coming back.