Posted by: Stephanie Nawyn | June 20, 2010

A Day at the Beach

It’s after 11pm and I cannot believe I am still awake. As dedicated as I am to all my readers, I would have gone to bed long ago, except I am waiting for my husband to arrive at his parents so we can Skype. It is not only Father’s Day, it is our wedding anniversary, and I feel so badly that we have not spoken yet today.

So, today was another great day. After our late night out in Kadikoy and the A-MAZ-ING dinner at Ciya Sofrasi (which I took picture of, it was so delightfully beautiful), Henry and I slept in this morning. There was some debate about how to spend the day, but we settled on our original plan to go to the Prince Islands. I really wanted to go to the beach while we were here, and while Banu’s and Murat’s preferred location (Bodrum, on the Aegean coast) was too far to travel to during this trip, Banu did take me to Buyukada (the Big Island), which is just southeast of Istanbul in the Marmara Sea. We caught the 1:30 ferry from Kadikoy, and managed to get a seat despite it being a Sunday, and therefore crowded.

Some of the beaches on the island are public, others are private. Murat’s aunt recommended a particular beach that was private. From the port you can either walk, take a horse drawn carriage (they don’t allow gas-powered cars on the island), or take a boat. Since we were going to a private beach, the beach owners provided a free boat ride from the port. After purchasing snacks, we got on the boat shuttle and after 10 minutes arrived at the beach. There really wasn’t much of a beach as I am used to thinking of it. There was no sand, but rather constructed platforms covered with astroturf, where the owners would set up large cushions or beach chairs and umbrellas for you. You entered the water off the platforms from ladders, although in one place they had piled up sand so that it was a more gradual incline into the water (better for the smaller kids).

We bought arm floaties for the kids for 10 lira a piece, put our swim suits on, and jumped in. I had bought a new swim suit back in the States for this occasion, and while I don’t like to brag, I looked pretty good in it. I didn’t look so good that I am willing to post pictures of myself in it, but it was a really nice swimsuit – just trust me on this. Now, Henry is very cautious in the water. He doesn’t like to put his face under water, but he had been showing me how well he could hold his breath, so I told him to hold his breath and then I dipped him under the water with me. As you can imagine, that went over like a lead balloon. But he was emboldened by Zeynep’s fearlessness, and he even let me swim with him out to a floating platform where they had a slide, although my the time we got out there he changed his mind about going down. But he did enjoy watching me go down the slide, and he showed some bravery going into deeper water, at least every now and then.

We stayed in the water for probably close to two hours, then showered and changed in order to catch the boat back to the port to have an early dinner. As we were pulling away from the beach, the sky behind us darkened. We could see where it was raining on the other side of the island. But the beach was so close to the port, surely we would make it back before the rain hit us. Just as we were pulling into the port, the wind started to blow hard. As we got off the boat, it started to blow really, really hard. Suddenly I was surrounded by swirling sand, and people were shrieking and running in all directions. Henry and Zeynep had fallen asleep on the boat so Banu and I were carrying them, but there was so much sand in my eyes that I couldn’t open them, so I couldn’t see where Banu was anymore. Henry was awake by this time, and I told him to keep his eyes closed as I stumbled forward, bumping into people and hoping that one of them was Banu. After several minutes of this I thought I might need to put Henry down and just take out my contacts, when Banu come over and grabbed my elbow. She led me under a tent by the water where the restaurant was just as huge rain drops started to fall. And then the sky opened up. It was crazy; tables that had not been moved inside yet were tipping over, plates were breaking in the streets, tents were blowing over. I saw a potted begonia that had been blown into the sea. It was stunning to see the storm move over the island, obscuring the city skyline. I took a couple pictures, but none of them captured the drama. And it was so, so wonderful to witness of this from the protection of a restaurant with thoroughly rinsed eyes.

Dinner was great – I didn’t enjoy it as much as Ciya, but in some ways it was more special because it was indicative of Istanbul cuisine. We had local fish and seafood, salads with local ingredients (although the sea beans came from Bodrum), and I washed it all down with raki (an anise-flavored liquer somewhat similar to grappa). I also got to try the honeydew here, which my friend Dina raved about – “the honeydew tastes like honey!” she told me. And yes, it was sweet and delicious. We ate it with a wonderful salty cheese that complimented the melon and the raki nicely.

I’d tell you more, but Rich just came online and I really, really need to talk with him today. Tomorrow is likely Chora (one of the oldest churches in Istanbul) and then shopping around Kadikoy.

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