If one of the attractions of travelling is seeing the world through other people's eyes, then a holiday with a toddler in tow is like one of those two-for-one offers at the supermarket because you get their take on things thrown in for free. Starting with with the pre-holiday build up. I purposefully kept it pretty short for Louis because he's still struggling with the concept of time. (He's trying: it's amazing how many things we're going to do "tomorrow". Or what we did "last morning".) I left it until a week to go before I revealed we were going away but I should have waited a bit longer. Somehow I'd forgotten that even an afternoon stretches away like an eternity for a toddler; Louis nearly died of anticipation during those seven looooooooooong days. But somehow he made it to Sunday. (And I made it to our 6am easyJet flight, although in retrospect: what was I thinking?)
Istanbul through a toddler's eyes looks like one big playpark. If Louis wasn't marvelling at the tram that ran the length of the main Istiklal shopping street or the ferries that ply the Bosphorus, he was having fun careering down one of the city's many steep cobbled streets or snacking on the corn on the cobs that are hawked everywhere. "Acorns" he called them. Other excitements included the men fishing off the Galeta Bridge that bisects the Golden Horn. I don't know which he enjoyed more: watching the silver sardines jerking around in the buckets or seeing them being reeled up from the sea from his fish sandwich pitstop vantage spot underneath the bridge itself.
Another Louis Istanbul moment was his impromptu trip to a haman. Our hotel had given his parents a free pass to the city's oldest (and most tourist-friendly) hamam to make up for the drilling that destroyed our day one nap hopes. We had intended to visit the hamam in rotation, for a spot of serious steaming and a massage, Turkish-style. But the lady on the door insisted that Louis come too, claiming a nearly two-year-old could cope with the heat. So, not wanting to deprive him of the chance for a splash about I thought we should give it a go. Needless to say he adored it, even if my massage wasn't very relaxing. Then again, that's hardly the point of one of those abrasive Turkish body sandings. I only wish I could have snapped him wrapped in his little modesty cloth, filling his silver bowl with cold water from one of the cooling off taps. It's an image that will stay in my head forever.
Then there were the playgrounds themselves. We found two of what must rank as some of the world's best situated swing-parks, right on the shore of the Bosphoros. The first was in the nick of time. Given how down on taking toddlers to Istanbul our guidebook was, warning only that the pavements were hopeless for buggies and decent parks a serious schlep out of the centre, we'd long since despaired of finding anywhere better for Louis to play than the square in between the Aya Sophia and Blue Mosque. But there, like a mirage in the desert, mere minutes after Louis declared, "I think we'd better find some swings now", loomed a picture-postcard perfect set of swings, see-saw and climbing frame. The other, even better, playground was in Bebek, the now achingly-chic northern district where DJ was born many moons ago and which fittingly means "baby" in Turkish.
If nothing else, our four nights in Istanbul were the perfect reminder that just because something or somewhere might not initially seem designed for a toddler, that's probably a greater reason either to do it, or go there, than not.