It is a travel truth universally acknowledged that ouzo tastes better in Greece and raki tastes better in Turkey; that execrable movies are more palatable at 38,000 feet, and that even Norah Jones and Julio Iglesias sound coolly seductive when played against the backdrop of a gently lapping, lapis-blue Aegean. These thoughts drift lazily through my mind while beside me, on Macakizi’s famed pontoon deck, Mr Smith snores gently in the mid-morning heat.
‘Matcha-kuzza, Matcha-kuzza’ intoned the taxi drivers at Bodrum airport the previous evening, when Mr Smith and I flew in from Paris. Turkish words, apparently, are rarely pronounced as they appear. Just a little weary from our flight across Europe, we saw a balmy, fiery dusk turn to starry night as we cut north across the peninsula to the village of Turkbuku and tanned, bikini-clad Macakizi, whose name translates as Queen of Spades. Deposited at the unceremonious entrance, with only cicadas, ink-black night and our luggage for company, Mr Smith and I wondered momentarily if we had arrived at the right place. Was this really the self-proclaimed jewel in Bodrum’s crown? Then from the shadows, Ninja-like, sprang a pair of lithe, handsome, T-shirted young Turks who grabbed our bags and, wordlessly, propelled us towards reception. The Smiths had arrived.
I’m used to processing interiors in a split second and ‘beach house’ is the caption my mind selects on entering our suite. White-on-white-on-white. Cool white in places, shabby white in others. The whites are tonal, though something tells me they weren’t always. Pure white is a decor that requires regular, meticulous upkeep. The room is comfortable and functional, but it’s not glamorous. ‘Acqua de Parma toiletries in the bathroom!’ shouts Mr Smith in approval. Or is it relief at finding a hint of luxury in our ensuite? But a white room should never be judged by night. It’s not until the spectacular dawn that our room is revealed as a mere foil to the million-dollar, bougainvillea-framed view of the Aegean.
Travellers’ folklore surrounds Macakizi. Mention it at a cocktail party in Sydney, London or Paris and it elicits affection. Originally founded in the 1970s as a bohemian pensione by Ayla Emirolu (who still imperiously treads the Macakizi boardwalk), the present-day resort was established in 2000 by Ayla’s son, Sahir Erozan. Like a harbourside village, Macakizi creeps gently and haphazardly down the cliff-face to the shore, where the magnificent wooden decks stretch out into the Aegean. On the descent there’s a breakfast and lounge level with a shaded pool; a gym; tented Thai massage pavilions; restaurant level, bar level and then the decks. In summer, those fabled decks are a glamorous magnet for wealthy Istanbullus, global celebrities and middle-European aristocrats. The contessa baking herself on the deck is reputedly one of Germany’s richest women. The coach of the Turkish national soccer team (in Turkey, we’re told, there is God, and then there’s the national soccer coach) lives next door. Turkey’s most famous architect lives above. Movie stars, models, fashion designers and socialites tread these boards all summer long, many in heels. But in late September, with the crowds gone, Mr Smith and I can barely imagine the 320 lounge-beds that covered the decks just a few weeks earlier, the Villebrequin, Pucci and D&G. For just a few glorious days, this glamorous fiefdom feels almost like ours.
Mr Smith and I are foodies. We may not like the term but that’s we are. And whatever the wine version of that term is – Mr Smith baulks at ‘winies’ – we’re that too. And it’s fair to say the Macakizi day revolves around food. A generous breakfast buffet offers irresistible breads and Turkish pastries baked onsite, deep bowls of yoghurt, fresh walnuts, dried fruits, apples and plump peaches and figs. There’s fragrant olive oil and four types of crumbly, glistening feta with tomatoes and cucumbers that taste nostalgically of themselves. At midday, Macakizi tradition dictates that a ship’s bell and a burst of carnival-style samba summon torpid guests to a lunchtime spread of seared chicken, poached salmon, kofte, salads, marinated vegetables, tzatziki, tiramisu and baklava.
In the evening, chef Aret Sahakyan’s more formal dinner menu demands candlelight and table linen for a mix of Turkish and Mediterranean dishes. Daniel, the charming and informed sommelier, points Mr Smith and me in the direction of some fine Turkish chardonnays to match the octopus salad and saganaki prawns. And the heavenly bread from the wood-fired ovens that softly whispers ‘gym, cardio, treadmill…’
General manager and marvellous host Andrew Jacobs (serendipitously a fellow Australian and ex-pat Sydneysider) explains to Mr Smith and me how the resort’s music menu works too. Light classical in the morning to soothe hangovers (Mr Smith relates enthusiastically to this), moving to something laid-back and relaxing before segueing to the evening’s DJ-spun Euro beats. Norah Jones notwithstanding, the Macakizi soundtrack is chilled and gentle. My Shazam app is working hard and ‘Besame Mucho’ has never sounded so damn sexy.
In centuries past, scholars debated the existence of Utopia and Eldorado. Likewise, in recent years I have queried the existence of a Café del Mar world where Monocle Mediterraneo is read and warm, languid days spin glamorously and rhythmically towards an eternal cocktailhour. But since Macakizi, I’m a believer. I know where that world lies.