Every day at nap time we read Daniel Dr. Seuss’ baby-ified book “Oh Baby, Go Baby”. At first we chose this book because (1) we received it as a gift so we had it on hand, (2) it has some fun interactive stuff going on in it, and (3) it’s relatively short and easy to read. To be honest, I hadn’t thought much about the meaning behind the words in the book until one day Jesse pointed out that he really liked it because it sort of encourages a sense of adventure, travel and following dreams. It also acknowledges that there will be ups and downs on your path to where you want to go and that’s all just part of the adventure. So in that vain, it seems fitting to name this post after one of the lines from Daniel’s nap time book, as the Chanmans embark on our first overseas travel adventure with Baby Daniel.
You probably already know that there is nothing Jes and I love more than traveling. So long before Daniel came along, we promised each other that no matter what, we wouldn’t stop traveling when our family grew. We accepted that the pace and type of travel may need to adjust with the addition of Baby Daniel, but hoped that the fun and excitement wouldn’t. We were lucky that Daniel has proven to be a relatively easy going baby (save some overnight sleep issues which were just beginning to resolve themselves) who thankfully loves being carried around. And despite being 10 months already, has not yet mastered any type of crawling or walking (though he can sideways roll with the best of them!). So with that in mind, we rolled the dice and let the Aeroplan points travel website effectively choose where we would go on our trip. We had a lot of points that we figured we should use up while Daniel was still free to fly, and so we went with the best flight combination(s) we could find that maximized our travel experience. This led us to 2 Business Class tickets on Turkish Airlines to Istanbul for a night, and then on our way to Vietnam for 3 weeks. We couldn’t have been more excited.
As usual, all our best laid out plans of packing early and getting a few good nights of sleep before leaving were thwarted by life’s unexpected mishaps. My grandmother ended up in the hospital from weakness and an infection the Sunday before we left which made us consider pushing back the trip (thankfully she stabilized before we left, and we are hoping she will fully recover soon!) and Jesse’s work demands coupled with some annoying laptop technical issues resulted in additional last minute stress. To boot, I needed to back up and restore my iPhone before the trip which somehow resulted in me losing all my photos and data the day before we left! But in the end, with the help of my Mom and Iris the day of, we managed to get to the airport on time.
Our flight left at midnight, which meant we had to wake Daniel from his night sleep and drag him into the car (not his fave place) and then carry him through the airport to get onto our flight. We naively hoped he’d sleep in the carrier during our airport time but he decided it was way too exciting to sleep with all the bright lights and people in line ups around, so he remained wide eyed and awake for quite some time. On the plane itself, he was pretty happy with all the new toys around (seat belts and eye masks and Godiva chocolates) and stayed content despite his lack of sleep. Thankfully the flight attendants on the plane absolutely loved him and we’re happy to play peekaboo with him and carry him around as well. They even offered to take him home with them, which we considered for a brief moment ;) Amazingly he did eventually fall asleep while nursing (after a small meltdown from being overtired) and we managed to plop him down into the airplane bassinet (which he only barely fit into) which gave us some peace and quiet to eat dinner and take a short snooze. He slept on and off during the flight, but was mostly awake and though slightly whiny by our standards, still took it all like a champ. As we were packing up our stuff after landing, the lady sitting in the aisle next to us congratulated us on having the best behaved baby she’s ever flown with (and she qualified that she does a lot of flying for work) which we thought was pretty cool.
From the Istanbul airport we hopped on a bus to Taksim Square, which unfortunately required us to snake through some nasty rush hour traffic. Daniel was definitely reaching the end of his patience and was whining and crying until he finally passed out.
We eventually made it to our apartment in the Cihangir neighborhood after a slightly funny phone conversation with the owner who told us that someone would meet us at the “boor GHER keen” in the square to bring us to the apartment. All I could see was Jesse’s confused face and him saying “I don’t know what that means…” into the phone. Eventually with a chuckle he finally understood that we were to meet outside the Burger King in the square.
Our apartment was in a perfect location – close to all our favorite foods and areas in Istanbul. We were only staying one and a half days and we didn’t know what Daniel’s state would be like after the long flight so we didn’t plan on trying to accomplish much. We headed out for an evening stroll to grab a bite to eat at a durum joint we knew was open late. We’d been brought here the last time we were in Istanbul while on a food tour so we knew it would be good. Durum are like Turkish wraps, but the wrap is made from an incredible, crisp-on-the-outside but soft-and-chewy-on-the-inside flatbread called lavas. The lavas is rubbed with red pepper and spices and then used as a tent for the meat kebabs on the grill that will soon make its filling. Roll all of that up with parsley, onions and tomatoes and you have one yummy wrap. We took ours to go as we could tell Daniel was done for the night. We picked up some strawberries and yogurt for Daniel on the way back and then called it a night.
Daniel had a terrible night’s sleep (so we did too) but we still managed to get out the next morning to hit up our favourite breakfast place – Van Kahvalti Evi- which was conveniently only about 5 minutes away from us. The spread was as delicious as always, and Daniel enjoyed the attention he was getting from everyone walking in and out of the door. He ate his strawberries and oranges and crackers happily and even tried some of the nut spreads from our breakfast. He refused to try the eggs, as usual, despite our best efforts.
Later that day after Daniel’s morning nap Jesse said he wanted to go see the water. So we headed down through the windy brick streets of Beyoglu towards the water. It was beautiful and sunny out, which I think lifted everyone’s spirits. We also discovered pretty quickly that Turkish people – men especially – were pretty enamored with Daniel. Everywhere we went they would smile and make sucking/kissing noises at him, or funny faces to see if he would smile. Daniel loved the attention, as usual, and we appreciated the break from having to entertain him ourselves!
Once we made it down to the water, we checked out some of the fish markets and then hopped on a ferry to Kadikoy which is on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. Daniel seemed to enjoy his first ferry ride, but was still working through his jet lag as he would yo-yo between being happy and then crabby pretty quickly. Once we got to the other side, we sought out a Lahmacun joint which our favourite EatingAsia bloggers highly recommended. They describe this dish as a “wood oven-cooked flatbread with a thin shmear of spicey meat paste” – all topped with fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon. We’ve had it many times before, but this one was certainly the best. Crispy, tangy, fresh and just a little spicey. Such a tasty snack. Even Daniel enjoyed it!
On our return trip, instead of walking back to our apartment (which would have been all uphill) we took the funicular up which was much more efficient. Unfortunately on the short walk back to the apartment Daniel just couldn’t help it and fell asleep in my wrap carrier. Usually this means I’m bound to him for the duration of the nap but he ended up being so tired I actually managed to transfer him into the baby cot without waking. Amazing!
Our flight to Vietnam left late that evening so after a nap and a nice restaurant dinner of Turkish mezze where the owners just fell in love with Daniel and brought him behind the counter to the kitchen to play, we headed back on the bus to the airport.
All of us were feeling pretty exhausted at this point, so even the amazing 2-storey Turkish Airlines lounge wasn’t quite enough to make us re-energized. Still, we tried to take advantage by sampling all the crazy foods they had on offer, lounging in the leather chairs and playing in the kids room (which we only discovered near the end of our time there…which was too bad because it actually had a nap room with a crib we could have used!). Daniel eventually fell asleep in the carrier just about an hour before the flight which I thought was perfect until I looked up at the Departures board which had just listed our flight for the first time and all I could see we’re the words flashing in red saying “Last Call for Boarding”!!! This resulted in us sprinting through the terminal to our gate which was a 9 min walk away, of course with Daniel now wide awake from all the commotion. Luckily we still managed to make it on time (the last call was so early because you have to get on a bus that brings you to the plane which is parked out in the tarmac) and settled into our seats. This time around though Daniel was much more restless and so there wasn’t much rest or peaceful dining for Jesse and I. We just took turns trying to keep him happy or calm while the other scarfed down some food or got a few minutes of shut eye. Once during the flight I managed to transfer him to the bassinet which was nice, but only lasted about an hour before he tried to flip himself over and bonked his head on the tv screen above him (poor design). Long story short, the flight was pretty exhausting for all of us but in the end we made it to Vietnam and that’s all that mattered! Let the adventure begin!