Today was the first of the tours (committed and prospective) that we’ve looked into. It’s part of the package offered by the tour operator through which we booked. You get one ride into Antalya (the largest city in the region) for free, but since this is billed as a shopping tour, you have to make a couple of stops before getting into town. Plus, lunch is included. How bad could it be, right? As far as the shopping part, pretty bad.
We left our hotel at 8:15 this morning and picked up several other tour-goers – enough to fill a big coach bus. On the ride, we heard the same spiel about why shopping in Turkey rocks out so hard: raw materials are all the same price, but Turkish labor is so inexpensive that the prices here are unbeatable. We arrived at the first shopping stop at 9:45, a very large jewelry store.
My parents’ house could have fit into this place three times and it was filled with counters and cases of ugly jewelry. Krystle vs. Alexis in a fountain ugly. Dolgin’s catalog 1982 ugly. And expensive – because even though it wasn’t to my taste, it was made of real gold and gems. I’m sure the staff had to draw straws to figure out who was going to try and pry a sale out of the two idiots walking around giggling at their merchandise (that was us). The poor sales rep tried everything – watches for Cliff in the 1000€ range, silver for me, some hot chains for Cliff, gifts for moms (sorry, Moms – I don’t think you would have liked this stuff, though). Mercifully, we left after an hour.
After some more driving around to see a neat waterfall (killing about another hour), we hit the second shopping destination, a huge leather goods store. It was out in an area full of big-box stores and roughly shaped like a Costco, so I expected an outlet environment and could not have been more wrong.
Upon admittance, we were led into a small, Project Runwayesque room. They had a fashion show planned for us! In leather!! With Turkish pop music!!! In truth, this was pretty well done. The leather shown was all coats and mostly not to my taste, but there were some attractive and innovative pieces. That said, I sure as shazam wasn’t planning on buying any investment-quality leather goods. I got even more intimidated when we were led to the showrooms. This giant facility had gorgeous, upscale department store style (think Nordstrom or Selfridge’s) display areas just loaded with products – again in 4-digit prices. Cliff had expressed some interest in a new wallet and or a black belt (his are a little ratty), so we asked a nice sales agent where the accessories were. Stuffed in a plain, narrow corridor right before you get to the exit (like any museum gift shop) was an explosion of knock-off designer goods. After seeing how seriously they took the large goods, I was hoping they would have some nice quality small goods. Instead, it looked like the swanky store rented this spot to some joker from Canal St. After a short gawk at the PARDA and HUGO BOOS wallets, we took off.
At about 1:15, we went to eat (remember, we haven’t even made it into town yet). Lunch was pretty good, better than the hotel food so far. Finally, right before 3, we got to the Altstadt of Antalya. It’s a pretty, ancient harbor town in which I wouldn’t have minded spending a little more than two hours. Tomorrow’s tour doesn’t have a shopping portion. We’ll see…