Turklish travels: Seatbelts & other unsafe methods of travel

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I sometimes look at cyclists on London’s roads and think “really that’s the most dangerous way of travelling ever”

But I am wrong…

On Turkish roads you rarely see cyclists, I can see why, it would be beyond foolish.

Aside from the lax attitude towards seatbelts (the first Turkish taxi I got in laughed at me when I asked why the seatbelts were fastened back to the seats and therefore just “for show”) and car seats, the roads are really crazy.  I will forever have one car journey scored into my mind, luckily it was pre-baby but none the less there were 8 squeezed into a car (2 in the front passenger seat) and I suddenly realised we were in the middle lane.  That might not seem like a big deal but it was a 2 lane road, it’s just sometimes the Turkish approach is to try and squeeze in between the 2 cars actually in the lane…

It was one of many seemingly terrifying journeys in the 12 years I have been travelling with the Turk, winding roads, minimum speed limits, shoddy and poorly maintained elderly vehicles, I’ve seen them all.  It’s one of the things that really panics me about the Turk taking our son to Turkey by himself, usually when I’m there I am the one voice trying to instill some idea of self preservation back into the driver.

I’m no wuss, I’ve tuk tuk’d around Bangkok, I’ve seen cars with dents in their roofs in Cairo, I’ve countered giant rats in Kuala Lumpur, but there’s something about the danger in a country I am intrinsically connected with that makes it more worrying.

The car accident deaths are pretty high, I have always been paranoid about it as there were specific warnings about car travel in Turkey on the FCO website for years until recently.  There were 8,758 road fatalities last year, and that’s around 12 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, in comparison with the 3.5 in the UK it seems high, but it’s actually only slightly higher than that in the US, a place where I always feel road safe!

Cleaning guilt

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My husband does a lot of cleaning…I do not.

This is the pattern our relationship has pretty much followed, and although it drives him crazy, and sometimes he nags and nags at me to help out, which is fair enough although I maintain that we split chores pretty much equally in other ways.

Anyway the point of my tale is not our own domestic arrangements, but the peril of staying with your inlaws.  There’s no secret where the Turk gets his cleaning habits from, Mummy Turk  has been a housewife since around the age of 16 and between raising four kids spends the other hours in the day cleaning.  I’m limiting it to cleaning because I feel the Turks and me disagree on what tidying is (it’s actually putting stuff away not simply piling it all into a heap in a corner and then telling me that this is my pile to sort through…it’s definitely not tidying).

Mummy Turk cleans all the floors in their flat (on her hands and knees) every week, vacuuming is daily, windows at least once a week, curtains every month and all carpets are removable so that they can be sent to be cleaned twice a year (and after visitors).  It’s not just the family Turk, I think it’s all Turks….

Everything is ironed…everything (towels – why – it stops them being fluffy).  All white washing is bleached to ensure it stays white so that the neighbours are impressed when you hang them out of the window to dry (I’m not joking, this is the actual reason I was given).

Again I digress.  We always frequently stay with family when in Turkey and this leaves me with a dilemma, technically when we go to Turkey we are on our only ever holiday.  So, do I help with the cleaning?  Part of me feels I should – but she’d be cleaning anyway…

I guess we do cause more cleaning by the very nature of being there, but it is my HOLIDAY…

Just something I think about every so often!

What’s with the white shorts…?

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Do you remember my blog post about pre-holiday clothes shopping?

What do you mean no…?

Ok so here it is, now go away, read it and come back…

done?

Right so, white shorts, super cute!  I did worry about the practicality of these but duly packed them away ready for our trip.  I decided against putting them on in the hotel, because I quickly discovered that Jem’s desire to crawl around constantly meant that pretty much everything got grubby, and as it was his best outfit I wanted to save it.

Consequently when we were going out with the family for our first Sunday at my inlaws I proudly put on his new outfit.  I remember what happens in Turkey when it comes to poo (read here if you don’t!) so I also packed a spare outfit (cue smug grin on my face).  Naturally we enter a shopping centre and just as I am checking out some serious jewellery potential purchases the Turk pulls a face…

We head off to a changing room, despite the shock that a man entering a changing room causes it was a necessary evil.  Jem detests nappy changes and lying on his back, it takes a minimum of 2 people to change a nappy if you want to avoid excrement spreadage…

Of course because of the curse of the poonami this isn’t any old poo…

…oh no…

This is a Turkish shopping centre poonami which has exploded all the way up the front (front!?) of the nappy and all over said white dungarees.

We change baby, he’s still cute, it’s fine.  As it happens I didn’t realise that my mother in law bleaches her laundry so white dungarees are returned to me stain free.

A few days later we are visiting distant family, it’s a big occasion so I decide to attempt the white shorts again.  The Turk and I negotiate a successful stinky nappy removal (no sign of poonami, well to be fair it wouldn’t be that inconvenient would it so why would it be a poonami) and feel particularly proud…

However, before we can renappy the boy something happens which hasn’t happened since Jem was tiny, he wees…

It misses the carpet…

It misses the walls…

But it doesn’t miss his white dungarees…

*sigh* cue outfit change once again.

 

I might steer clear of white dungarees in future…

 

Post-script:

I would love to show you a pic of him in the dungarees…but we don’t have one…

Breakfast…and other peanut butter related issues

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Breakfast is a regular source of argument in our house…I wonder if anyone else suffers from this…

I like a quick breakfast, get it over and done with and on to elevenses.  If I’m at home it has to be toast with butter.

The Turk however has a different approach, breakfast in Turkey is a mid-morning event which involves emptying the contents of your cupboards onto the table, lots of bread and dipping it into things.

Don’t get me wrong I’m a massive fan of a fry up or pancakes, but they’re a treat not a daily thing.  I feel frustrated at the process of preparation and sitting around the table for a lengthy breakfast on a daily basis.

The general content of our breakfast table is as follows:

Pekmez (mulberry molasses usually, it’s a Turkish thing we buy from the local store or bring back with us, or as I like to describe it: brown tasteless gunge);

Nutella (to be eaten with a spoon);
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White cheese (or other cheese if this is not available because mummy did the shopping and she buys cheddar)…(if you’re in Turkey replace “white cheese” with “five varieties of white cheese and one of stringy cheese”);

Tomatoes;

Cucumber;

Jam (minimum one variety);

Honey;

Peanut butter (three varieties, cheap smooth for the Turk; organic smooth for the boy; crunch for mummy).

This is the bare minimum and I’m sure that the Turk’s mum would freak out if she saw the lack of choice on our breakfast table.

I do wonder whether we really need 3 types of peanut butter…is this normal?  Does anyone else suffer through this?  Is it just a Turkish thing…?

 

Turklish travels: The road to Nicea…

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I thought I’d share with you a tale from our last trip to Turkey, we were visiting family in Bursa, a city about 2 hours drive from my inlaw’s home ( 3 hours in reality…) and while wedged between my MIL and a car seat (too small for the 1 year old but far too big for the car…) on the hump of a small Honda, my inlaws decided it would be a good idea to divert us off route on the way home to visit Iznik, the modern site of Nicea an ancient town.

I’m not at all interested in history, but I had vaguely heard of it, I was concerned about being “off plan” given the need to get the baby fed at 7.30pm and in bed around 9.30pm.  I am not a routine obsessive…but I do like to stay vaguely on track and I was hoping to be home by half 7 so that Jem didn’t nap in the car too close to bed time…

Anyway a turn off the main road later and the Turk advises me we have come off at the wrong road, but look at the pretty buildings and the lovely lake.  I’m not one for lakes or other types of water, but I accept the old buildings were pretty amazing:

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What I didn’t know at that time was the consequence of this offroading.  I hadn’t appreciated that my family didn’t actually want to see the historic place but literally just drive along the lake…

I hadn’t appreciated that the lake was so large it would take us around 2 hours to drive around…

I hadn’t appreciated that Jem would pick this inopportune moment (literally seconds after the above pictures) to do a gigantic poo…

Anyway shortly before 8pm I started to get tetchy, Jem needed food and waiting until we got home just wouldn’t cut it so we stopped at a roadside cafe…right next to a fairly decent looking restaurant.  The place looked horrendous, it was pretty basic, but the food was AMAZING.  Fresh lahmacun and pide (varieties of Turkish food often described as Turkish pizza…it’s not pizza, it’s different but very good) and the owner and his father chatted to us as we ate (notice how I say “us” obviously not to me but you know what I mean).

To my great excitement we were joined by a heard of sheep, Jem was completely non-plussed but I chased after them in my new shoes although they were a little quick for me…I was unprepared for this:

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I thought you might like to see my new shoes…although I accept it’s not really the point of the story

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As we were leaving the mother of the owner joined us, a rather full on lady who begged us to stay for tea and asked to hold the baby…

…I didn’t want her to hold the baby…

…apparently I was being ridiculous so she had a squeeze, and didn’t seem to want to let go.  I had visions of child abduction and scare stories from my childhood, I was convinced that such a display of pleasure at playing with the baby must be contrived and with an ulterior motive.

To my utter amazement Jem hugged her, he really took to her.  He never hugs me so I was utterly fuming shocked!  It was the first time he asked to go back to someone when I took him away, I really couldn’t believe it!  I had completely misjudged the situation, as we walked away she chased us and gave Jem TL5 which we tried to pass back to her in horror, but she wouldn’t hear anything of it.  Ok so it’s not much money in the UK (under £2), but they looked like they had very little, to put it in perspective we had paid TL20 (including tip) to feed 5 people a light supper.  The generosity was overwhelming, I have saved it for Jem to spend on treats when he is a bit older.

The remainder of the journey was tortuous, it was up and down a mountain, in the dark, through tiny winding roads chasing the light of the city ahead of us,  Naturally as soon as we got back in the car this happened:

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On the up side one major argument and 2 stops later we arrived home to this wonderful surprise from my lovely sister in law:

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Poonami and adventures with water

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It is strange that prior to having a child it wouldn’t have occurred to me to speak to complete strangers about toilet habits, but that’s all changed…well in respect of the boy in any event.  The big saga of poo started at around 5 months when we took Jem to Turkey for 3 weeks (brave you say?…yes, I know!)  For some reason the boy decided that poo was no longer necessary, I was still exclusively bf at this point, so it was a bit strange, as bf mothers will know that breast milk can lead to rather a lot of poo.  Despite being freezing cold the entire time we were there (no I didn’t take a coat for either of us, but I did take a selection of t-shirts, vests and shorts…it’s Turkey, it’s supposed to be hot) we thought it might be dehydration so decided to try and feed him water.  Jem has never really taken to a bottle after a bout of bottle refusal at around 3 months so we resorted to warm water from a turkish tea glass, which worked pretty well in terms of drinking but had no effect on getting things moving.  Despite my intention not to start weaning until we returned to the UK I resorted to fresh figs.  These went down a treat…but still no movement.

Anyway naturally what I should have done was simply take him to an inconvenient location, literally seconds after sitting down to my kofte in a restaurant in a busy shopping centre the poonami arrived.  I’m not going to lie, it was not my finest moment.  The whole situation ended with me throwing his entire outfit in the bin, using up a whole bag of wet wipes as I frantically cleaned poo from legs, back and hands, and screaming for the Turk to come and help me out in the ladies room…

You’d think that this would teach me a lesson, but no…in the entire 3 weeks Jem only emptied himself 3 times while we were away…all 3 times we were in the same blooming shopping centre…

 

Post-script:

We recently returned to Turkey for another three weeks.  Jem only had one poonami.  It was in a shopping centre #motherhoodfail

Turklish travels: Ephesus, one of the seven wonders

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I’m not going to lie, I have little interest in history.

I tend to only be able to last in museums for one exhibit at a time, and our past visits to historical sites tend to lead to grumpiness and boredom.  As we were driving around Turkey earlier this year we decided to drive to see Ephesus, which was pretty exciting as we don’t tend to go and “see” things when we are in Turkey.

Ephesus (or Efes in Turkish, you know, like the beer 🙂 ) was an ancient Greek city pretty close to Izmir, but the site had actually had previous historical importance too.  Anyway it was a large city during Roman times too and was thought to be the third largest Roman city.  It is most famous for having a temple (the Temple of Artemis) which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, however unfortunately this has since been destroyed through time, political instability and earthquakes.  It was one of the locations of the seven churches of Asia which are (apparently) mentioned in the Book of Revelation so it’s a pretty big deal!

It was perfect weather for our first proper day out with the boy (sunny but not too hot) and although I was a bit dubious about taking our pre-loved Freecycle buggy with it’s missing wheel that we’re too stingy to replace around an ancient monument we headed out.

The ticket price was reasonable (TL30, approximately £10 each adult – no charge for the baby), we also paid around TL8 for parking.  We had read on the internet that the charges would be much higher with separate charges for entering different parts of the site so we were expecting to be ripped off but had decided that this was a one off thing that we would be foolish to miss given we were passing by so we were pleasantly surprised, I don’t know if it was just because we went out of season or whether we were just misinformed by the internet.  Anyway we gave the museum, pony rides and tours a miss and wandered around ourselves.

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Wikipedia tells me:

Ephesus contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. Only an estimated 15% has been excavated.  The ruins that are visible give some idea of the city’s original splendor, and the names associated with the ruins are evocative of its former life. The theater dominates the view down Harbor Street, which leads to the silted-up harbor.

It was pretty strange to see this amazing walkway which would have led to a harbour, having driven through the mountains to reach it with no sign of water!

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It is the site of a theatre which is HUGE apparently has around a 24,000 seating capacity and is the largest known theatre of the ancient world.  It was quite awe inspiring and even had buggy (possibly not original…) access!  There were three or more entrances to explore, of course not all ideal with a baby but it was pretty awe inspiring even having visited the Colloseum in Rome.

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We followed the path along to the Library of Celsus, I am used to historical things not being particularly well identified or explained in Turkey, but there was good signage throughout (not too much info though – I like that!).

The facade of the library has been carefully reconstructed from the original and apparently was built to face East so that the light would illuminate it for reading.  Jem had rather lost interest by this point so we took the opportunity to ruin his clothes stretch his legs.

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We next  wandered through one of the former Agoras where we saw a tourist giving a cat some water (adorable) and a section of the site set aside for those with visual impairments, which was a great idea…although I’m not convinced it was that great:

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There are other things on site:

Basilica of St John;

Temple of Artemis (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world although only one column remains – we may have seen this…we may not…we’re not sure!);

The Odean (a small theatre);

The Temple of Hadrian;

Ephesus Archaeological Museum;

The Temple of the Sebastoi;

The Tomb of Pollio.

I am not sure what we saw and what we didn’t, but there was a lot of stuff and if you’re interested in the history I would really recommend going with a guide.  For us we did what we could manage and didn’t try and worry too much, just took in the views.  There were plenty of paved areas but it is an ancient ruin so not the smoothest of rides, but I’ve seen much worse.  Of course the advantage of bumps with buggies is sleep!  As the boy was in the land of nod we walked over to the Church of Mary (Meryem Kilisesi) which is an important religious site close to what would have been the Harbour.  Once we got up to the church we had to carry the buggy up and down some steps and the pushing got a little more difficult, but we managed as we wanted to see it (even if Jem didn’t!):

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After this we decided to call it quits and headed back to the car and had our packed lunch.  We introduced Jem to some of the horses in the car park and trundled off to Izmir.  We did pass this amazing plant on our way back to the car – any ideas what it is?  There were loads they are really large!

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Does your baby lead weaning…?

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Well weaning got off to a difficult start in our house, you may have read a previous post about the poo issues we had when away in Turkey, after several attempts at the Dr to fix this the only suggestions we stuck with were to try and get Jem to drink water.  Jem doesn’t drink water.  He only drinks breast milk.  I tried to reason with him, it didn’t work.  Anyway despite having read a friends BLW book from start to finish it became obvious that the only way to force him to ingest some extra fluids was to mix various foods with water in a puree and spoon feed him.

At the time I started weaning we were still squashed into our carpeted loft room with all our belongings.  Our beautiful new wooden highchair was given pride of place next to the sofa and we began the process.

Jem didn’t take to spoon feeding.  He did take to throwing his spoon and it’s contents on the floor and then rubbing any leftover puree into the crevices (of which there are many) on his highchair.  Not impressed.

Poo or no poo I decided that puree was not the way forward for us, and I reverted to large chunks of food, perhaps way beyond what was meant by BLW.  I was always told that BLW was far messier than puree, but when your baby is a food monster, like mine, it’s actually far easier.  From 6 months Jem has managed to devour whole pears, skin, seeds and all in a matter of seconds.  I treated it as somewhat of a party piece as people couldn’t believe it of such a tiny baby.

For the first couple of months he ate everything he could get his hands on (yes, including cat food, shoes and elastic bands…) and only after this he became more choosy.  Green vegetables are strictly off the menu at the moment, and whilst I of course want him to have a wide range of healthy food I don’t think that this is the age to have the argument (“food is for fun…” and all that jazz).  I keep trying, and Jem steadfastly gives me a look as he dispatches the offending green item over the side of the highchair.

To this day he has a voracious appetite, no one may eat within his sight unless he has a ready supply of ricecakes/bread/cheese/grapes or blueberries, but woe betide the person who attempts to give him broccoli…

On a recent trip to Turkey he discovered the joys of eating fruit from trees…that’s interesting when you walk through the park now!

 

If you would like to read some great posts about BLW please do check out the Red Head Baby Led blog which features some great guest posts on this topic.

Turklish travels: Icmeler at the Fortuna Beach Hotel

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We’ve recently had such a great holiday I wanted to let you know about it, we don’t often go on beach holidays and this is our first since our honeymoon in Cuba.  Although we were visiting family in Turkey we found the cheapest way of getting there and having some holiday time was to book a package from the UK, with First Choice, and simply not come home!  I’ll tell you more about what we did after our holiday in a few future posts (don’t want to overexcite you by doing it all at once!)

The hotel

We didn’t pay a great deal for our hotel and flights as we were out of season, and we decided to go all inclusive as we figured this would be the easiest option with a baby.  We stayed in Icmelar at the Fortuna Beach Hotel.  What I didn’t appreciate at the time was that this was over 2 hours from the airport, and we landed at around midnight…I was not particularly happy!  The 4 hour flight had been ok (although my grand plans of Jem sleeping did not pan out) but we were well equipped for entertainment, snacks and water.  The water was all drunk and this led to a leaky nappy all over my lap and the Baby Bjorn so a 2 hour coach journey did not put me in the best of moods.  However we were met at this antisocial hour with a drink, an offer of soup and a cot already set up in our room.  This was a smaller hotel than we would normally stay in, but I was impressed with the condition of the room, clean, well maintained and with a cute balcony.

We had specifically asked for a quiet room and we had no issues on this front, noise does tend to echo around the central foyer which I suspect would affect all rooms, but it was a quiet place and the other guests were considerate.

We woke up on our first day to dull grey weather which soon transformed into rain by the afternoon, but we did manage to sit outside for breakfast and our first beer [on a side note they had Efes on tap – virtually unheard of in the UK but my absolute favourite lager]!  We taught Jem to “cheers” and met a lovely couple to chat to.

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To be honest the weather didn’t really matter, although I was desperate for some serious tan time I hadn’t quite appreciated the fact that every time Jem was released from the pushchair or highchair he would head straight for the pool…not exactly relaxing for daddy who was in charge of the recovery missions!

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There were plenty of refreshments and we spent time in the lobby and lounge area either with hot chocolate tea or coffee but mainly beer.  It was perfect as Jem really just wanted to explore so he crawled around, the other guests were great with him, but nothing compared to the brilliance of the staff who without exception would stop to greet him whenever they walked past!  Some guests did panic when they saw him near steps (because he just won’t use ramps) but luckily he could easily get up and down the couple of stairs on each level.

The weather did pick up throughout the week and we got a few days outside and Jem tried out the pool, which was impeccably clean if rather cool!

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There were plenty of sun beds for the number of guests there and outside seating for meals.  The bar was outside and snacks were all close at hand.  All the eating and drinking made Jem quite tired!

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There were plenty of opportunities for exploring, up to the market, nearby shops, along the seafront past other hotels, the path towards Marmaris, and of course the beach.

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I must confess I don’t really like the sea or beaches so the Turk did most of that when we did go down there, I much preferred the poolside at the hotel, but it was ok.  There was an area just for our hotel, someone on hand to help with sunbeds and as beaches/sea go it seemed just grand.

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The real bonus of this holiday was the food, we expected there would be something for us to eat because the Turk and I will eat anything, pretty much, within reason…and we thought there would be something for Jem who will eat any meat, but it far exceeded our expectations.  I was almost dreading breakfast as I like a full English but knew it was unlikely, Jem has toast with Turkish cheese on at home so I figured he would be fine!  Actually the choice at breakfast was splendid and different every day we were there.  We tried allsorts, but I think the omelets might have been his favourite.  The same went for lunch and dinner, great food, all tasty, and the best bit was the selection of meze at each meal and the fantastic fresh salads.  I like salad and I usually complain when I’m away because they tend to be a bit wilted and unimaginative, but not here, it really was a great selection.  If I had to criticise anything about the hotel it would perhaps be the lack of hot vegetarian food, it didn’t bother us but my mum is a veggie so it’s something I do tend to look out for.

The other thing that I would like to mention is the staff, what a team.  Without exception every staff member was exceptional.  I often complain when in Turkey that I get completely ignored as everyone talks to the Turk, but that wasn’t the case here.  The staff were helpful, friendly, competent and extremely hard working, they really each took care to ensure that we got good service and enjoyed our time.  They were the best team I have experienced in a hotel and I simply can’t name names because they were all so good and it wouldn’t be fair (…although Jem did have his favourites!)

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I always say that I would never go back to the same place twice…but we’ve already looked at prices to go back later this year, it really was very good.

The flight

Well the flights were never going to be great with an active 1 year old, we flew to Turkey with Thomson, having navigated online check in and been unable to print boarding cards due to a computer glitch at their end I was rather dubious.  However I was mistaken, the flight arrived on time despite leaving late, the staff were good and Jem was fairly well behaved.  The only slight issue came as we were trying to board, we were doing a last minute nappy change at the gate when they called for all passengers with children to board first.  I’m not certain I like this as it means even longer stuck on the plane so we were one of the last families to go forward, and when we did we then had a 15 minute wait in the tunnel waiting for the plane to open.  I appreciate this isn’t long but when you’re carrying a restless child and thought you were going to get straight on so closed the buggy it’s rather irritating!

The other thing I found unusual but was clearly just a sign that I’ve not been on a package holiday for a long time, was that staff from the airline didn’t join us on the bus (which was FREEZING – take a blanket!) but actually it didn’t matter.

The in hotel staff from First Choice were brilliant, we needed to cancel our return flight so had more interaction than we would usually and we were there while our original rep Alison was handing over to her replacement Joe.  They were both fantastic and lovely and quite willing to chat which we really liked, particularly as we hadn’t gone on any excursions or even attended the welcome meeting.

Our return flight was with Pegasus, a Turkish budget airline who are pretty much our only option for flying to and from family now Easyjet have stopped their route to Istanbul.  The price is similar to Easyjet, as are the flight times.  Again no complaints, the staff were friendly enough, the inflight food was comparable price to other budget airlines (we take our own snacks…) and although Jem was particularly energetic on the flight we had no complaints about the airline.