Holiday 2012: delightful beginnings…

It all began on Saturday last week, bright and early. We had intended to head off on Sunday originally, because it would be the second day of the big end-of-Ramazan holiday, and we’d hoped that travelling would be easier that day with less traffic and fewer people trying to take ferries, etc. However, a friend of mine and her husband, Katherine and Alper, were leaving Istanbul early on Saturday morning by car and heading to Alper’s family’s summer home near Eceabat, a small town of about 5,000 people on the eastern shore of the Gelibolu Peninsula, which was close to where Richie and I were planning to go ourselves. They invited us to come along for the ride and to stay the night in the house with them, which is what we did.

The traffic was heavy enough, and I guess the trip to Eceabat took about twice as long as it does on a quieter day. There were so many people trying to get to wherever they were going, and especially near the end of our trip, there was a huge amount of congestion around the various ferry points with people trying to get over to the Anatolian side of the Dardenelles. Cars were lined up for kilometre after kilometre, and we were really lucky we weren’t trying to cross over that day.

Instead, we stayed in a little ‘holiday neighbourhood’ just about 5 minutes walk from the Aegean Sea. The house was pretty basic in it’s amenities, but it was a fun and comfortable place to stay, with beds and couches for Liam to jump around on, a lovely garden with a canopy of grapes growing as well as plum and fig trees. We sat in the garden in the evening, enjoying the cooler air outside, and most importantly, we got to go swimming!!! It was Liam’s first time playing in the sand too, and we gave his toes a little dip in the water lapping up on the sandy shore. He wasn’t too sure about it, but he didn’t cry or fuss either. It was just gorgeous.

After our evening swim, we all headed by car to a local restaurant by the docks. We had a seafood feast while the sun went down over the sea and we could see the cars loading up on one of the ferryboats nearby. We had squid and seabass dolma, fresh salad, roasted aubergine/eggplant meze, fresh melon with beyaz peynir (feta-like white cheese), and skewers of swordfish and something which translates as ‘tongue fish’ for the main course, all washed down with some rakı, the signature Turkish anise-flavoured spirit. It was delicious. Liam entertained himself by chewing on bread, and acting a little like a wild animal, which was pretty funny.

The next morning we had a lovely Turkish breakfast prepared by Katherine and Alper, with all the usual yummy stuff, like fresh juicy tomatoes and cucumbers, cheese, olives, spicy sausages, honey and kaymak, and thick slices of village bread. Then it was time for another swim in the sea and playtime in the sand. I just find the sea so invigorating and amazing. I’ve been craving a swim in the sea for the last two years, and I still feel like I haven’t had enough of it. I love the salty taste of it, the lapping of the waves, the sound of the wind blowing over the water and rattling away in your ears, that fresh coolness that washes away all the worries and cares of everyday life. When I’m in the sea, it’s almost like there’s nothing else in the world except that deliciously cold refreshing water, and it makes me feel alive and awake all the way down to my bones. Ah, sea, how I love you…

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Holiday 2012…

Well, it’s been nearly two years since our last Turkish holiday, and, at long last, we’ve finally managed to see some new places in this country! We arrived back in Istanbul yesterday evening after a week away from home. On our travels we explored Eceabat, Çanakkale, Truva (Troy) and Bozcaada (Bozca Island)- you can see the region we visited on the map below, with three of the locations labelled.

Travelling with an almost-one-year-old baby was certainly an interesting adventure in itself, but I think as the days went on, we got the hang of it, and things got more relaxing and easier throughout the trip. Liam proved once again to be a laid-back little boy, and without him being so easy-going, this whole trip could have been quite a fiasco! But he was great the entire time and was such a fantastic traveller- what a cool kid.

I have lots of photos and experiences to share, which I’ll slowly be doing as I mull over the whole trip. I feel so happy to have had the chance to see a bit more of this fascinating country and to have escaped from the hustle and bustle of big city life for a bit. Now I feel happy to be home and refreshed by the beautiful places, the peace and quiet, the slower pace of life, a few dips in the sea, delicious food and wine, and a new perspective on things. I’m looking forward to getting it all out in writing! More to come soon…

We’re back…

Well, Liam and I arrived back in Istanbul last night after our long and amazing trip to America and Ireland. Although it was sad that the holiday was finally at an end, it was so lovely and exciting to see Richie at the airport waiting for us and it was great to have our little family reunited.

I have hundreds of photos from the last six weeks, so it’s going to take me quite some time to sort through everything and catch up on all the blogging, but I’ll do my best.

In the meantime I just want to thank everyone who took such good care of us and made us feel so loved. It was the best holiday ever and that’s all thanks to our wonderful family and friends!

To America and back…

Well, it’s been a week since I returned from my holiday in Indiana. It was such a great trip, I hated to see it come to an end. It was so so so relaxing, I got to spend lots of time with family, did tons of talking and eating and sleeping and hanging out. It was especially nice to be there before my brother Aaron and his wife Leslie moved out to California. They’ll be out there for at least six months, while he finishes some of his navy schooling, but he could be there longer, so I’m glad I got the chance to see him before all of that. I spent lots of time with my mom, which included shopping for baby clothes, which was especially fun. It was just great to have so much time to catch up. And I had a decent bit of time with my other brother and sisters too, and dad of course. I also managed to eat sausage or bacon pretty much every day. I didn’t even purposely set out to do that; it just happened, but I loved every bite of it! Now it’s back to a pork-free existence until we’re in Ireland in June. Which is probably better for my health, but whatever. It tasted good while it lasted.

So, the travelling itself was pretty painless, considering each trip took around 20-24 hours in total. But the jet lag returning to Istanbul was the worst I’ve had yet! After a few days I wasn’t too bad, but still… I was so sleepy! I was lucky that I came back to a public holiday I had forgotten about, so I got extra sleep and it was really nice to spend that extra time with Richie after our two weeks apart. I missed him loads and, although it’s always hard to come back from a great holiday, it’s been so lovely to be back in our normal routines together.

While I was in America, I got a few pregnancy/birth related books and I’ve been enjoying reading them. One great thing I read, which I think has made an obvious improvement in how I feel, is that I need to be eating far more protein than I previously was. I didn’t realize just how much I needed! I was having so many headaches, and I’ve still had a couple in the last few weeks, but after starting to eat more protein-rich foods, I’ve had far fewer. I don’t know if that’s directly connected, but eating the right food, in small, frequent portions seems to be doing me some good anyway. So, now it’s lots of milk, yogurt and eggs, as well as some peanut butter and more meat, making up the bulk of my diet. I’ve been eating porridge/oatmeal, with fresh fruit and lots of milk and that’s been so delicious and nutritious too. I just feel really happy knowing I’m eating stuff that’s good for me and baby.

This evening I’m having some fun washing all the baby clothes my mom and I picked out. She was such a great help. It was funny, but I realized as we were shopping that I’m totally clueless. Shopping for baby clothes sounded like a no-brainer, but when we were there looking at everything, I had no idea what and how much I needed of anything! I’m glad she was there! So, everything is now washed and currently drying out on the line. Then I’ll be able to put them all away nicely until they’re needed. It’s so fun to look at them all and imagine that in 4 months we’ll have a little baby to put in them! I’m so excited about it! And my belly is finally popping out, and I seriously need to buy some more maternity clothes! I have a couple of tops, but what I desperately need are trousers or skirts or whatever. Everything I have is just too tight! I’ve also been feeling the baby move more, and this morning it was starting to feel more like kicks than that sort of gurgley feeling it was to begin with. It’s so reassuring to feel him moving and have that happy reminder that he’s in there!

Well, guess that’s all for now. My next big things to accomplish are getting some maternity clothes ASAP (hopefully tomorrow) and making an appointment to meet my possible doula. I can’t wait to meet her and talk about everything! It’ll be exciting and a great relief to get that sorted out. More updates soon!

Longing for an open road…

‘Living simply isn’t necessarily that it’s simple; it’s that you strive for understanding what sacred is and what values are.’

Maybe it’s because when I was a kid and my dad was in the Navy, we moved a lot and this involved packing ourselves (and multiple cats, dogs and rabbits) into a station wagon and driving hundreds of miles. Or maybe it’s because I’m a wandering gypsy at heart. Or because I love the freedom of travel and the elusive, tempting nature of unknown destinations, the promise of adventure offered by horizons. Whatever the reason, I love road trips, the idea of road trips, stories about road trips and films about road trips.

I find there’s something so pure and amazing about the idea of throwing a few possessions into a car, loading up a few snacks and some great tapes or CDs, and hitting the road. Watch the fields flash past, listen to the wind roaring through those open windows, and just feel foot loose and fancy free for even just a few hours. Longer if possible. Or maybe forever! Amazing.

Anyway, I’ve gotten all itchy-footed watching this trailer for the documentary 23 Feet, about a community of people who have given up the ‘creature comforts’ of modern society to live in vans and buses, pursuing their life passions and love of nature. This is simple living done big style! I’m not sure when the film will be released or how I’ll get my mits on it, but I am dying for more! Check it out.

Here’s a cool article about the project too: 23 Feet: only the Necessities- Living Fully by Living Simply

Our Irish Christmas: in a rather large nutshell…

Well, after my very long break from blogging, I think it’s time I at least attempted to write something about our amazing Christmas holiday. At long last, we made our (very brief) return to Ireland. We’d been looking forward to the trip for MONTHS, and it was just as good as we’d hoped. It was great to slip back into our old lives for a couple of weeks and enjoy some great times with family and friends, catch up with everyone and enjoy the feeling of being home. Everyone really made our holiday superfantastic!

Actually, we were lucky to get to Ireland at all! As most of you probably know, there was crazy, cold, snowy weather all around Europe and then in the US too, but things in Ireland seemed okay before we departed. We arrived in Dublin without any problems or delays, but about four hours after our flight landed, the airport closed because of the snow! It was the coldest weather I’ve yet experienced in Ireland, and for days and days it just kept snowing. Now, it wasn’t really all that much by North American standards, but all the same, it was a decent bit of snow and, apart from last year apparently, not a very common occurrence in Ireland. It was certainly festive though! Tons of big fluffy snowflakes falling and falling and falling. It definitely helped make it feel extra Christmassy.

We spent a few days in Dublin catching up with friends before heading to Tipperary to stay with Richie’s family. We stayed with Diarmuid and Andrea, and we also got to spend quite a bit of time with friends from Kafka, the restaurant where I used to work. It was so great to catch up with Anthony and Ivano, Paolo, Shannon and Debs, Zeila, Joe and later Sheena who was over from London. The only bad thing was that on our second night in Dublin, I came down with a terrible cold/flu, the worst I’ve had in years and years! I got a fever, cold, cough, etc. and was a bit out of it for a couple of days. But once we got to Tipperary I just collapsed at Richie’s parents’ house and had lots of rest and relaxation to help me recover.

So, we spent about a week in Tipp, catching up with Richie’s family, eating loads, staying toasty warm by the fire, and just completely relaxing. It was a lovely Christmas and I’m just so happy we got to have a family Christmas this year! Diarmuid and Andrea drove over from Clare and stayed one of the nights we were in Tipp, so we got some extra time with them.

After a week in Templemore, we headed back to Dublin to meet some more friends; Phil and Anouk, who were over from Germany for Christmas, and James and Eddie. We met for pints and had a lovely evening catching up with everyone! The next day we did a bit of shopping in town, getting some of the things we miss when we’re in Turkey, using some Christmas gift vouchers and that sort of thing. We had a quiet New Years Eve in the flat, just Richie and myself, watching a film and drinking some delicious ales. Nice tasting beer/ale/stout is definitely something we miss in Istanbul, so it was a nice treat!

Then we met Diarmuid and Andrea the next night when they returned from Clare, and after that met the Kafka crew for drinks in our old local in Rathmines. We had a bit of a lock-in and stayed for a sneaky drink after closing time, which was a great way to end our last night in Dublin. In the morning we had breakfast with Andrea and Diarmuid before heading off to the airport.

Travel was no problem, and we got home safe and sound. It was a bit surreal to be returning to Istanbul, leaving one place that feels like home and returning to another place that now feels a bit like home as well. So, thanks to everyone we met and stayed with, for making our Christmas amazing, for all the fantastic hospitality and for great chats and hugs and fun. Richie and I were talking about how amazing it is to have such good and caring family and friends to come home to, and we can’t wait to see everyone again!

More photos will be coming soon!

Last day in Cappadocia: churches, canyons and underground cities…

Well, here are the photos from our last, action-packed day in Cappadocia. We decided to go on a tour, because many of the sites around the area would have been pretty much impossible to reach without a car. It’s not something we usually do, but it was definitely worth it in this case. We started out at a beautiful spot with amazing panoramic view over the region and one of Cappadocia’s impressive volcanoes looming in the distance. The guide explained about the whole volcanic geography thing, which was interesting.

Then we headed for one of Cappadocia’s apparently hundreds of underground ‘cities’. The underground city idea originated with the Hittites, some of the first people to live here. Their underground constructions were usually just one or two levels below the ground. However, later people expanded these settlements and the one we visited was eight storeys deep! We visited storage rooms, a meeting hall, cuneiform church, kitchen, wine-pressing room, living rooms and even a stable while wandering around twisty defensive tunnels designed to confuse intruders and make it very difficult for them to actually attack these underground fortresses. These places were useful in times of war or when enemies were raiding the area. The people normally lived in above-ground villages, but retreated into these underground ones only in times of need. Unfortunately, it was pretty impossible to take a decent photo down there, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

After that, we headed to lunch in a cheap and cheerful sort of place near a small river in a forested canyon. This canyon was once full of cave houses and many churches. We also saw pigeon coves carved into the canyon walls at one point. People decorated these alcoves with red painted designs to attract the pigeons, who provided the people with droppings later used as fertilizer. Our guide said people only came to collect the fertilizer once a year, so as not to frighten away the pigeons. The shells of pigeon eggs were also used to make the frescos painted on all the churches stick better. I’m not sure if they were used to make a base-layer under the paintings or if the egg shell was mixed right into the paint.

We took a nice walk through the canyon and enjoyed the fantastic weather. It was warm, the sun was shining, and I loved hearing the sound of the stream as we walked along. We stopped at one of the churches and had a look inside, and then we hiked up a load of stairs to get out of the canyon so we could head off to visit a former mountain monastery, which was also pretty cool although much of it has fallen off in big chunks and been worn away by the elements over the years.

So, it was a beautiful last day, and we ended our trip with a delicious dinner and some wine. We had a local speciality, which is a vegetable and lamb stew slow-cooked in a small clay jar for five hours. The restaurant itself was great as well. It was snug and warm with an old iron stove in the middle of the room for heating, and we took off our shoes and sat on the floor, traditional style, on big, fluffy, comfortable cushions at a low table in our own little nook. I wanted to live there. It was so comfortable! And I had some of the nicest wine I’ve tasted in a long time. Sigh. It was amazing. I’d definitely love to go to Cappadocia again.