THE Turkish Riviera is steeped in history and myth.
Home to two of the seven wonders of the world, it is so beautiful that Mark Antony is said to have chosen the area as a wedding gift for Cleopatra.
It is also the origin of Saint Nicholas – who became the basis of the Santa Claus legend.
When we arrived in Belek on the south-west coast, just 30 km from the city of Antalya, it was as if Christmas had come too soon for my mischievous three-year-old son Alex.
Our home for the week, the Cornelia Diamond Golf Resort and Spa, was massive.
It was so big that it had its own bowling alley and award-winning golf course, plus a kids’ club that spanned two floors with a large soft play area, disco area and a Lego room that would keep Alex happy for days.
We stayed in one of the 489 “Standard” rooms, which accommodated the three of us, with Alex on a large sofa bed and a minibar stocked with snacks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
The bathroom had a walk-in shower, comfortable bathrobes and a bathtub for a relaxing soak after long days in the balmy sun.
But once Alex spotted the giant spinning waterslides from our large balcony, we knew downtime would be limited.
And his experience only got better as the days went by when the staff was totally attuned to enthusiastic little guests – from housekeeping blowing him kisses and bringing him sweets to a waiter who (after consultation with us) walked around the restaurant to get an ice cream and a lifeguard who gave him a high five every time he saw us.
The kids’ club, Cornie Kids World, was where Alex really enjoyed himself.
As well as play areas and even more energetic staff, there’s a shaded area with pedal bikes and toy cars that the youngsters can use free of charge – we’ve been there so many times that Alex learned to ride a bike for the first time.
However, not everything is geared towards children.
With eight pools, 12 bars, ten restaurants and a new Crassula Ayurvedic detox and anti-aging clinic, the resort is a delightful playground for grown-ups too.
For us, it was all about the incredible food – and we were spoiled for choice.
At breakfast one morning I counted 19 types of olives, along with eggs, seafood, salad, fruit and cheese, as well as amazing Turkish delights like sigala borek, layers of filo pastry with cheese and egg, cut into mushy squares.
We loved the menemen, a tasty mix of scrambled eggs, peppers and tomatoes, while Alex (who rarely eats fruit and veg at home) raved about the figs, plums and watermelon.
Lunch is no different, the bar serves table service, with a menu that includes wood-fired pizzas, quesadillas, and a huge salad bar with the best garlic-stuffed hummus I’ve ever eaten.
A detour to the Mediterranean à la carte restaurant Hedera is also worthwhile for dinner.
Overlooking the tranquil swimming pool, we enjoyed crispy squid and fresh local sea bass before washing down the all-inclusive wine, a (very!) drinkable Sauvignon Blanc, Kavaklidere Ancyra.
If you want to step away from the house wine, there are plenty of other liquors throughout the hotel, including the popular Aperol Spritz.
cherry on top
That was my goal every night, including our glamorous evening in the hotel’s gigantic open-air amphitheater, which hosts a different show every night with acts from all over Europe.
We were fortunate to see cast that even Simon Cowell couldn’t scowl at.
Our favorite, however, was the Cotton Club, which consisted of super fit men bouncing around on trampolines and looking like they were training for the Olympics. Alex loved it – me too!
For those fed up with overdoing it, the hotel offers a huge range of sports facilities, from tennis and squash courts to an air-conditioned gym.
Although I’d last been into step aerobics when leg warmers were all the rage, I decided to try an afternoon class overlooking the beach.
The friendly Russian teacher Viktoria enjoyed it so much that I went every day for the rest of our break and it has become one of the highlights of my holiday.
The hotel also has a golf course.
And while I know nothing about sports, I recognized the name of the man who helped design the hotel’s 27-hole championship golf course – Sir Nick Faldo – and the man behind his “David Leadbetter” Golf Academy.
This is a place where serious golfers play in a stunning environment on grass that looks like a plush carpet.
Even if you’re not a golfer, it’s hard not to appreciate how exquisite the club is, with three golf courses, a shop selling all the fancy gear you need to look your best, and a restaurant and bar with Outdoor patio where you can watch the army staff tending the weed, stunning lakes and fountains.
I went to a course, held a golf club in my hand for the first time in my life, and was ecstatic when I managed to hit a ball roughly in the right direction.
Alex was too young for a lesson, but the patient and kind teacher let him play anyway.
And that is the real beauty of this place.
Every guest feels special, whether it’s a daily high-five by the pool or a waiter remembering how you like your Aperol Spritz – the fact that you can drink as much as you like for the all-inclusive price , is just right cherry on top.
STAY/ARRIVAL: The all-inclusive package for seven nights in a standard room at Cornelia Resort costs from £596 per person, based on two adults and one child sharing a room, including return flights in March.
https://www.thesun.co.uk/travel/20466474/bargain-turkish-holiday-resort-eight-pools-12-bars/ The bargain Turkish holiday resort with eight pools and 12 bars – and all-inclusive breaks are just £86pp