Back to school

I have enjoyed the last 3 weeks more than I have enjoyed summer holidays in years. There were no fancy international adventures and no lie-ins (coz, ya know, 16-month-old) yet these past few weeks have been defined by naps, ice cream, family and sunshine. We’ve spent tons of time outdoors, had our own mini local adventures and above all, we’ve simply woken up and decided in the moment what we wanted to do with our days. I feel like we’ve finally experienced a genuinely lazy summer and I’ve loved it.

Without the expectation of a perfect vacation or the internal pressure (self-inflicted) to make the most of the long days and warm nights, summer has managed to sneak up on us in the shape of an emotion I haven’t truly felt in a long time: freedom.

I’ve got to hang out with my hubby and our little boy in the way I had so hoped we would be able to while I was on maternity leave, but circumstances during that time made it impossible. We haven’t had colleagues – however wonderful or well-meaning – dictating our time and our priorities. We’ve had a precious few weeks of family independence and it has felt fantastic.

I don’t remember the last time I approached autumn with a smidge of sadness. ‘Fall’ is still by far my favourite season but this year, my joy at its arrival is punctuated by a hint of melancholy at having to say goodbye to summer. The unburdened liberty of choosing how to spend your time – even if subject to some family limits – is the part of maternity leave I loved most and this summer has reminded me of that.

I love the feeling of ‘back to school’ and routine and am always quietly disappointed that I no longer have a genuine reason to buy all new stationery. September is a month of new beginnings every year, almost as much as January, in its own way. I hope that the conversations and rest and joy and inspiration that have been so present these last few weeks will make the next few months even more crisp and new, with the memories of glorious summer days powering us forward.

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Defining ‘grown-up’

When I was younger, I thought that being a grown-up meant:

  1. Being old (i.e. over 18)
  2. Being married
  3. Having kids
  4. Liking olives

As soon as I turned 18, I realised I was not a grown-up. As soon as I got married, I realised I was not a grown-up. I frequently tell my mother that I want to be as wonderful and beautiful as she is when I’m grown up.

Perhaps one day if and when we have kids, I may then consider myself a grown-up. I doubt I’ll ever like olives so by that definition I will be forever young. But there are two things of late that are making me seriously wonder whether I may actually be transitioning into the state of being grown-up and they are two things I would never have considered as part of my definition:

  1. Considering a holiday in Great Britain
  2. My tastebuds, every once in a while, actually preferring savoury to sweet

I had a very privileged upbringing with parents who were determined that I should see the world. We travelled a lot and we had incredible holidays that weren’t what my friends considered the norm. When my friends spent two weeks on a beach in Spain, I was travelling across South Africa and America or exploring Dubai and Saudi Arabia. I love to learn, I adore travelling and in my snobbish mind, a holiday always required water to be crossed in some form.

Yet I’m beginning to appreciate that a holiday is about refreshment, not just sunshine and new experiences. A holiday is about making memories but that isn’t dependent on foreign shores. I’m starting to consider a long weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon and even possibly a week in Cornwall. That may be because we’ve already had two weeks in Hawaii this year and I’m off to Berlin with work next week, but the fact that the thought has even crossed my mind to take annual leave, spend time somewhere in Great Britain and actually classify it as a holiday, is to me a sign that I may potentially be almost a grown-up.

The change in my tastebuds is more worrying. Forever a chocoholic, there have been occasions in the past few months where I have actually turned down chocolate and have even favoured a savoury snack (or fruit!) instead of my beloved cocoa treat. I can think of no other explanation for this concerning development than the fact that I am now a grown-up. If anyone can offer me an alternative explanation, I would gratefully hear it.

Turkey

IMGP0070aWe spent a wonderful week at the end of May in the Turkish cities of Adana and Istanbul. A good friend is teaching English out there and she gave us a fantastic introduction to the country’s culture. We tried Shalgam and Bici Bici – two Turkish delicacies I would be happy not to try again! – and spent many hours in the sunshine with friends.

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We sat through a lightning storm, paddle-boarded on a lake, pedalled a pedalo on a river, visited multiple mosques and ate an incredible number of kebabs.

We explored palaces and cobbled streets, took a boat tour and inhaled Istanbul at night.

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For those visiting this intoxicating city, I would suggest a visit to the Dolmabahce Palace and dinner at Sarnic restaurant – an old Roman cistern on the walk up to Ayasofia and the Blue Mosque. If you would like to see Topkapi Palace, be sure to see it before Dolmabahce, or it may be a disappointment after the latter.

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Istanbul is a remarkable mix of middle east and europe, old and new. Its culture changes, dependent on east or west and the less touristy areas are by far the most interesting.

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The Blue Mosque is one certainly worth seeing at night. Istanbul is quite a city. One to discover for yourself and I’d strongly encourage you to!