Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New year, new look

Same old haircut though!

New year, new look. Well, it was probably about time. Not sure I like it though. I know the white on black font was never very popular but I liked it, which is why I kept it for so long. But, well, bwb is getting on a bit now; at least, its protagonist is. Can you believe he's two? Post to follow.... 

But for now, let me know whether you like the look. Or indeed like the blog. Bwb has had a bit of a hiatus of late, and to be honest, with the exception of Sophie I hadn't thought anyone had noticed. Or cared. But then one loyal friend did email me with a request. That said, she's not loyal enough to comment! Talking of comments, please do. I love them. Honestly. And I'll comment back and everything. I promise. 

But back to the new look. Blogger promised it would be so easy, but I feel let down by the result. And I'd really like a swanky header. No clue how to do one though. Heavens, I can't even upload a twitterpic. But seriously. Do let me know what you think. Please? 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Chai baby

It's the little things that make a holiday. 

- Like those two men sending two cups of Turkish tea over to DJ and I while we were grabbing a little respite from the Istanbul hubbub in the courtyard of a mosque while Louis napped.

- Or Louis declaring that "Louis come swimming too" after I told him I fancied climbing down the steps from the pontoon into a very wavy sea for a swim. And coming with me. And loving it. 

- Or even our ill-advised late evening ferry over to the Asian side, which resulted in the best Turkish food we've had plus two lovely pedestrianised streets to wander through that deserve to feature in my future best buggy pushing spots in the world travel guide. 

- Not forgetting Louis dancing in the street to a busking band - and drawing nearly as big a crowd as the singers. 

- And our impromptu late-afternoon Ergo walk through the ruins of Olympos, or the "falling down houses on the beach" as Louis called them. And, more importantly, chancing on a little Anatolian shack serving yummy pancakes just as it became impossible to ignore a little voice insisting "Louis is hungry". (At 6pm. It was fair enough.) 

- Plus the tractor we spotted "resting" on the grass by the runway from our window seat on our flight to Antalya. 

- Then Louis declaring he was "floating all by myself" in the swimming pool when I finally persuaded him to try on his armbands. 

- And more dancing: this time on the beach en famille after dinner with Norman Jay DJing in the background. And those half 11 bedtimes that meant we were getting the same amount of sleep as Louis. Plus a lie-in until, oh, at least 7am and sometimes 8am. 

- And lastly two hours of pure heaven: getting Louis to nap in his buggy under the shade on the beach while I devoured Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna (before it won the Orange prize for fiction award I might add).

But mostly it was that cup of tea. And the second one they sent over after Louis woke up. 

Turkish toddler

Bosphorus boats
Turkish "acorn"
Bosphorus see-saw

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.