Monday, August 15, 2011

Turkey Part 1 - Istanbul

We started off our trip on Sunday, July 31st. What better way to start off our 8th year of marriage than by exploring a new country together as a family? We were packed, the dogs were at their "resort," the catsitter was all set, and we were off to Lisbon to begin our trip. Amelia was super excited to be travelling again (despite the initial, very understandable confusion about the fact that we probably would not see any actual turkeys in Turkey), and she recited each step of our plan with increasing exhilaration and volume (drop off the car, check-in and get our tickets, go through security, find our gate, get on the airplane, put on our seatbelts, start to move, go REALLY fast, GO UP IN THE SKY!!).

Our first flight was a quick hop to Madrid, and so far everything had gone exactly as planned, but then the turbulence struck, and struck, and struck again. I watched my exuberant little girl go from boisterous and thrilled to silent and green. Then we heard someone a few rows behind us throw-up, and then it was our turn. We had been saying it was OK if she needed to throw-up, we had the bag at the ready, but when the time came, she silently just opened her mouth and let it all out on the floor (though not without hitting both herself and me first). Thankfully she missed the iPad and all of our carry-ons beneath her seat, and I'm pretty sure she missed the feet of the person behind her (though it was close). We seemed to have packed every possible extra piece of clothing except an extra shirt for her, so our skinny almost three year old was sporting a bit of belly in her 1 year old brothers t-shirt for the rest of the trip. Luckily the first leg of the trip was the worst part of the whole two weeks, and everything else just got better and better. After a few hours in Madrid (and some time in the airport's great children's play area) Amelia remained enthusiastic and boarded the plane for an uneventful flight to Istanbul.
As we made our way from the Istanbul airport into town, the road followed a long park that stretched along the sea. We started to notice shadowy figures all along the park. As we got closer to the city we saw more and more and realized it was hundreds of people picnicking in the park, after midnight on a Sunday night. There were large families with children running everywhere and couples dining romantically. We thought at first it was the city's way of escaping the midsummer heat, but then we realized that the following morning was the start of Ramadan and everyone was feasting late into the night in the park before the fasting began in the morning. It was a beautiful way to enter a beautiful city.

We spent the next three days exploring Sultanahmet (the old part of the city), cruising the Bosporus, becoming totally overwhelmed in the Grand Bazaar, and eating some scrumptious food. We learned fast that Turkey is even more of a baby culture than Portugal, and while we love it in Portugal, it was a bit over the top in Turkey, to the extent that we could barely walk down the street with Tristan and Amelia without stopping every two feet as someone tousled their hair, pinched their cheeks, and asked them questions.

As an example, one day as Dan stayed with Tristan during an afternoon nap, Amelia and I decided to lose ourselves in the city. We wandered aimlessly and stopped to watch fountains and street dogs, she danced at the performance of a band, and before we set off back to our hotel we stopped for ice cream and sat outside the cafe on a bench to eat it. The group of young men working at the cafe were instantly smitten with the blond-haired little girl with ice cream on her nose. They all came out and handed her bags of gourmet chocolates and truffles from the shop in attempts to get her only to tell them her name (she demurely refused). At each restaurant the owner or waiter was always ready to whisk Tristan up at the slightest sign of boredom, and I don't think either of our children has ever had so much attention from so many people. They seemed to both revel in it and be overwhelmed by it at the same time.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Istanbul, and Dan and I for the first time in our travels together made a real effort to slow down and decide not to see everything. This was necessitated by the need to listen to our children's schedules, and it enabled us to take in the things we wanted to at times and at other times we were able to savor the feel of the city at its playgrounds and while sipping lemonade in a park while socializing with the local street animals (which were Amelia's favorite sites).

For now I think I have overstepped my allotted computer time and both children are awake and ready to go do something more interesting. Look for more tales from our travels in the next few days, and I will get pictures up on Picasa soon as well (I hope).

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