a fabulous fall break in paris…

one of the best things about living in istanbul is that europe is basically just a skip and a hop away! and while it may be too far for just a short weekend trip, going to paris is relatively easy for us making it an ideal place to visit for fall break 🙂

although the girls have been to paris before, our previous trips basically revolved around going to eurodisney and then spending a day or two quickly touring around the city, mainly so that i would feel that we had done more than just a trip to visit mickey mouse and the princesses! but this year both asya and alara were extremely interested in visiting paris, “for real”.  they wanted to sit at cafes and drink café au laits; shop in le marais neighborhood; visit museums and even art galleries; and just get a feel for the city itself.  as you can imagine, i was thrilled to hear this and set about to plan a parisian adventure that would be grown up enough to satisfy the big girls while child-friendly enough to keep alegra occupied too!

on our previous trips we had stayed close to the champs elysees and since we really felt as though we had a clear idea of that area of town, we decided to stay in a completely different arrondissement this time around booked our rooms in a sweet little hotel in le marais area.  it turned out to be the perfect choice!  le pavillon de la reine has the feel of a small family-run hotel but is luxurious and efficient enough to satisfy even the pickiest customers.  i loved it, i got up early every morning and went down to the lobby/breakfast room that was filled with comfy couches and chairs and had a fire burning in the fireplace every morning.  it was the most relaxing and lovely way to start each day; planning our route for the day, having a cup of tea and just enjoying a bit of peace and quiet.

the le marais area itself is also lovely.  filled with cool little cafes, art galleries, boutiques and restaurants we made sure to spend at least a couple hours each day just exploring the area around the hotel.  our favorite spots there were fragments café, which had the most delicious organic coffee, gluten free treats, and alegra’s favorite cookies of the trip; café charlot, a mix between a hip café and a real french bistro with delicious smoked salmon, french onion soup, and entrecote- but also with some pretty amazing burgers; and finally le breizh creperie where all the savory crepes are made with naturally gluten-free organic buckwheat flour and they brew their own hard cider in house- delicious!

le marais was also, somewhat unexpectedly, the place where we found some of our favorite children’s shops.  the very first evening there we stumbled into an amazing bookstore called librarie comme un roman.  although most of the books were in french, the colorful children’s section had a perfect selection of books for alegra to look at and enjoy- and we were able to find some english options too in the end.  we also found bibi idea shop and loved looking at all the shelves filled with little gifts and toys and seemingly endless options of water bottles, snack boxes, and lunch bags.  finally, we popped into one of the largest bonton shops i have ever seen and were able to find alegra some wonderful holiday clothes that she desperately needed.

the next day we ventured out a bit from a neighborhood and went to the iconic shakespeare and company bookstore.  we arrived so early that it hadn’t opened yet (it was a sunday though, to be fair) so we had time to sit and chat in the café next door; which, alegra was thrilled to discover, serves “real” cinnamon buns! as ever our venture into the bookstore itself was fantastic! all three girls had forgotten the little seats and cots hidden throughout the space and the new-to-us children’s alcove was the perfect spot for erim and i to hang out with alegra while asya and alara searched for all the books on their lists.  we all emerged with big smiles and big bags of books ready for our next stop at to visit the picasso exhibit at the musee d’orsay.

 although it wasn’t actually on our list, we decided we just couldn’t miss the delicious skinny minny french fries from l’avenue restaurant, so we stopped there on our way up to visit the champs elysees and arc du triophme.  our visit coincided with armistice day, so we weren’t able to get quite as close to the famous arch as we might have liked, but just being at the champs elysees and getting to see the giant boulevard without its usual traffic and hustle and bustle was pretty amazing.  the la duree pastry shop and tea house was open despite the armistice day celebrations so we made a short stop there…teas, coffees, and a tasting of macaroons later we were on our way back to le marais to meet up with aylin and get ready for dinner.

while completely different from one another, our dinners in paris were both equally noteworthy!  on the night of our arrival we tried out an amazing italian restaurant called daroco (funny eating italian in paris, i know, but it came so highly recommended we just didn’t want to pass it up!). the restaurant itself was amazing, with super high ceilings and a huge pizza oven in the center of the space, as soon as we walked in, i knew we were in for a treat.  we had walked all the way there from our hotel too, so everyone was a bit cold and definitely hungry.  we tried some of the aged parmesan cheese and warm olives to start and then ordered a bunch of different pizzas.  vegan for aylin, margherita for the girls, and a parma ham and mozzarella delight named “parma show” for erim… sadly no gluten-free pizza at daroco but they had some of the most amazing octopus i’d ever tasted.

since we had never visited it before we planned to spend one of our evenings in the montmartre neighborhood.  for dinner we tried a restaurant recommended rerecommended by the hotel, le coq de rico, and it surpassed all our expectations!  located in a small cozy building just a couple of blocks from the sacre coeur basilica the interior reminded me of modern farm house with a giant table to share.  the menu revolves around poultry dishes and the whole roasted chicken the girls shared with erim really did look delicious; served with a generous serving of french fries and a huge green salad it was just about the most perfect spot for us.

on our last full day in paris the weather was absolutely beautiful, and we passed a good part of our day walking from one neighborhood to the next.  we began the day at the louvre museum, cleverly beating the lines with our pre-purchased tickets. (i cannot emphasize enough the ease that comes with buying tickets in advance for museums in europe.  even at off peak times these museums have become popular enough and travel has become easy enough that it seems to me there is almost always a long line for tickets.  especially if you are travelling with children being able to skip ahead in the ticket line makes all the difference). because the louvre itself is so huge we decided to focus our time on the ancient egypt section and the mona lisa.  alegra’s class had studied the mona lisa last spring so she was particularly excited to see da vinci’s famous painting up close and in person.


even with our focused viewing plan our visit to the louvre lasted about two hours and by the time we arrived at girafe restaurant in the trocadero area we were ready to eat!  girafe restaurant overlooks the jardins du trocadero and has an almost clear line of sight to the eiffel tower, making it an ideal spot for panoramic pictures (good luck getting three hungry kids to pose though!).  crisp white tablecloths, fancy champagne glasses and stunning seafood platters meant this was one of the fancier and more grown-up meals that enjoyed on our trip and it was a great end to our three full parisian days.

after lunch, and after we decided we just had to try all of their dessert specials we were really ready to move a bit and although it was a long walk, we walked all the way to saint-germain.  being outside, enjoying the fall weather, watching the sky go from blue to pink to purple as we walked, the afternoon was calm and quiet, a needed break from the mild chaos of our previous museum and shopping days.  our saint-germain destination was none other than the quintessential parisian café; café de flore.  founded in 1880 café de flore has been a hub for artists and writers ever since it opened its doors.  just sitting at the little outdoor tables and watching people walk by is enough to inspire me, and to make me feel like i am really in paris.  the girls tried the famous chocolat chaud, erim and i enjoyed one last glass of champagne, and then we were off, back to the hotel to pack and get ready to leave the beautiful city of lights.

i can’t say that the whole trip was without it’s hiccups… the weather was wet and cold on more than one occasion, even with our pre-purchased tickets we ended up having to wait in a couple of crowded lines, some of our shopping went awry (alara ended up with two of the same sweater and the store wouldn’t take one back), asya got terrible blisters all over her feet from walking, and alegra had a couple of serious bouts with boredom.  but overall, i am a firm believer in the idea that this, travelling, experiencing, and getting through some of these less than perfect moments, is how children grow and become real global citizens.  helping my child to learn about new places, appreciate new cultures and traditions, and come to grasp that no matter what each human is a human deserving the same respect lies at the crux of my idea of child-rearing.  so, regardless of the hiccups, i have to say, paris is always a good idea and i am so grateful that living in istanbul means we were lucky enough to get to spend four magical days there this fall.

what a summer!!

i saw a backdated post about a child’s birthday on a blog that i follow and absolutely adore called somewhere slower and i thought it was one of the most tasteful, and genius, ways of dealing with the inevitable lapses in time and organization that comes with the territory of raising young children.

last summer was one of the busiest we have ever had! alara had a huge exam to mark the end of middle school, asya’s whole summer program suddenly shifted from attending riding competitions in europe to attending a summer program at georgetown university in dc, we had planned a number of family trips to the boat and to the states, alegra went to sleepaway camp for the first time, my sister had a baby…and in the midst of all this, we had birthdays and  important graduations to celebrate! and so, despite my best intentions consistent bloggin was just simply not in the cards!

so rather than trying to go back and remember exactly what was going on, i’ve decided to share a whole range of photos from our very busy and very exciting summer…each has a caption and a date in case you are wondering exactly where in the world we were at that moment or which celebration is featured in each shot. while i can’t say that i hope things aren’t this exciting next summer, i do hope that i can make a bit more time to document all our adventures a bit better next time around.

so there is a recap of all the celebrating…. and now for a quick round up of our travels…

a short trip to amsterdam

the summer of 2017 was a learning experience for all of us. previous summers had been completely planned out affairs, down to the last weekend, with perhaps the only exception being changes in our route on the boat due to bad weather.  to be fair 2017 started out exactly the same way; the girls were all signed up for summer camps in asheville and brevard, we had mapped out what we would do the week before camp started- three days in new york and five days in asheville, our return dates were set and so was erim’s annual boys’ boat trip in august. then asya decided, on a whim, to try out for the dressage team at her riding club.

prior to her try-out asya had only briefly learned a couple of basics about dressage; it was required for her to obtain a pony licensing; and we had purchased a great jumping horse- undercover mojito.  but something clicked with asya and undercover and tanya, the dressage instructor and before we knew it asya had shifted from show jumping to dressage and was on her way to qualifying for the junior balkan and european championships! as thrilled as we were with this news, it basically meant that our whole summer planning got thrown out the window…

to say that erim and i were a little stressed about how we were going to make this whole thing work would be a serious understatement- i can’t even begin to count the hours that we spent trying to come up with the best way to juggle asya’s new schedule; a full week in zagreb at the beginning of july, a month of training in welde belgium throughout july and august, and finally, another full week in roosendaal for the european junior dressage championships; with the rest of our summer plans.  and of course, we wanted to be there for as many of these events as we possibly could! i mean, how often does one’s child get to compete in the european championships??

in the end, there was a lot of coming and going, children flying on their own with grandparents and team members, and to be honest, a lot of growth- both for the girls in terms of gaining some independence, and learning about accommodating loved ones, and for erim and me as we came to understand a bit better that the girls were, in fact, growing up and that over the next couple of years the chances of our plans going awry were greater than things continuing as expected!

one unexpected outcome of changing all our plans was that we were able to spend four days in the netherlands on our way to drop asya off at her training stables.  i hadn’t been to amsterdam since i was a child and erim had only been for work over the past couple of years, so it was a pretty exciting change from our usual nyc- avl plans.

and, even more unexpectedly, we loved amsterdam! i do realize that i shouldn’t be that surprised that it was a lovely city to visit, but for some reason none of us thought we would enjoy our time there as much as we did… here is our trip in a nutshell…


we stayed at the waldorf astoria hotel it was beautiful and comfortable, and the service was amazing.  the hotel building is located in a series of 17th century canal palaces and overlooks the “gentleman’s canal”.  it was within easy walking distance to tons of sights and museums and we were lucky enough with the weather that we could just walk out to front door and be on our way every morning.

other options that we looked at and would have also enjoyed were:

the amstel amsterdam hotel– a larger historical building located on the main amstel river, it has an amazing winter garden style restaurant that overlooks the river itself.

the conservatorium hotel– this ultra-chic, modern hotel is located in what used to be the sweelink music conservatory.  it’s location in the center of the museumplein is ideal for art lovers, and it is close to the main shopping area of p.c. hoofstraat too.  but having seen it up close i would say it is better for a bit older children, asya and alara now as high schoolers would have been thrilled to stay there- two years ago they might have found it a bit too modern.

to do:

oh, there is just so much to do in amsterdam! as soon as we arrived i realized we were only going to get to scratch the surface, and i can’t wait to go back, but even in a short amount of time we did get to hit the highlights…


the van gogh museuman entire museum devoted to van gogh. it was beautiful, and very child-friendly. they even had scavenger hunts for the girls to do, a genius addition that i really think every museum should have.

the rijksmuseum a museum of dutch art through the ages, i especially enjoyed getting to see the works by rembrandt and the vermeer.  the girls were pretty much “museumed out” by that time though!

the stedelijkmuseum this was the coolest building, it had huge doors and windows and we loved just getting to go in! the museum itself focuses on modern art and design; when we were there we were able to visit the jean dubuffet exhibition which the girls recognized and enjoyed.

the national maritime museum we all loved this completely family friendly museum! the displays introduce maritime life in general, but also more specifically teaches visitors about how the netherlands was able to become the maritime world power that it was.  two super fun features were a “life on board” game room where children learn about life on board a ship and get a certificate, and exact copy of the famous 18th century dutch trading vessel the east indiaman.  we got to go down into the hold, pretend to steer the ship with its giant wheel, and see where captains and sailors slept (you can even climb into one of the sailor’s hammocks!) visiting this museum was definitely a highlight of the trip.

the anne frank museum for me, probably the most important museum in amsterdam, we were lucky to get tickets as our trip was so last minute.  i was worried that alegra (age 7) would be scared by the museum, but there are plenty of warnings about sensitive materials and the wording and language was such as we could share as much, or as little detail as we wanted with her.  erim, asya and alara got a lot out of visiting; erim did not know the details of the story prior to our visit, and asya and alara had both read the diary of anne frank for school that year.  visiting the anne frank museum has been something i have longed to do, and i was so glad to get to share the experience with the girls.

around town:

 a river cruiseas we left the anne frank house a renovated dutch saloon boat pulled up to edge of the canal and asked if we were the eksioglu family.  we had spent the morning trying to arrange a river cruise and when this beautiful historical boat pulled up i simply couldn’t believe my eyes! as in venice, i would say that the way to really see amsterdam is from the water, and after the sobering experience of the anne frank house a river cruise with refreshments and snacks was just about perfect.  our captain was also the owner of the boat, the farahilde, and had a wealth of knowledge about dutch history.  we all got to sit back, relax, see the beautiful canal side houses, and in the end, we arrived back at the hotel rested and ready to enjoy the rest of our day!

the flower market-an amsterdam classic.  we all loved the colors and took tons of pictures, and it was hard to not be able to buy armloads of flowers to take home with us! the whole area around the flower market was also lovely, little boutiques, coffee shops, ice cream stores and a delicious pancake house.  we spent a whole afternoon exploring the area, it was the perfect way to spend our first day!

renting bicycles and taking a tour of the city would have also been a lot of fun; we didn’t end up having the time to do that unfortunately- and alegra had not yet fully learned how to ride a two-wheeler bike so i was reluctant to risk someone getting hurt… next time we will do this for sure though!


 our first day in amsterdam was basically a half day and we spent it exploring the flower market area and tasting a whole range of new foods and drinks.  we had a quick lunch of sandwiches and salads at van rijn café; located just a couple minutes from both the hotel and the flower market in the center of the rembrantplein it was the perfect easy way to start our trip.  we decided to wait for dessert until we had found our bearings a bit more and it was a good thing! we visited the happy pig pancake shop for delicious dutch pancakes, and then discovered ijscuypie ice cream and just couldn’t resist stopping for one more treat.  along the way we not one but three coffee shops to see which one we liked the best! dam good coffee is right next to the royal palace (which had unfortunately closed by the time we arrived) and has lovely outdoor seating perfect for people watching.  screaming beans, which is possibly one of the best names i have heard for a coffee shop, is on a lovely little street and has great coffees and little snacks.  our favorite was the coffee company, it has a perfect little bench right outside the front door and all the coffees come with little hearts made out of foam.  the girls’ hot chocolates had little hearts too and they loved it.

another wonderful culinary activity to do in amsterdam is cheese tasting.  we didn’t think the girls would enjoy it very much so decided not to do a full cheese tasting course, but we did wander in and out of a number of cheese shops and taste what they had on offer that day.  amsterdam cheese company was conveniently located two blocks away from our hotel, so i was able to pop in pretty much every day on our way back to the hotel in the afternoons!

for dinner we tried a whole range of restaurants.  because we had flown in on an early flight, the first day we were all a bit tired and wanted something easy.  casa di david was the perfect choice.  a typical italian restaurant with great pizzas, pasta and risotto, it is located on the same canal as the waldorf astoria.  the food was lovely, the service was great, and it was the perfect super easy choice for our first night.

the next day we decided to be a bit more adventurous and went to place the harbour club amsterdam.  located right on the water it was a huge building that clearly became a night club later on in the evening.  the girls loved the graffiti like decoration inside the restaurant and alegra had a great time checking out the sushi station and circular bars.  (we obviously didn’t stay long enough to see the nightclub side of things).

two other restaurants that had been recommended to us were momo and enoteca.  but on our third night we were so full from our snacks on the boat ride that we decided to just have a drink and a light bite at the hotel’s bar, the vault.  the vault, located inside an actual old bank safe, was so cool that we didn’t mind missing the chance to go out.  the menu is made up a deck of fake bills with each cocktail’s origin corresponding to a style of drink.  for example, the rupee bill orders a cocktail with ginger and pineapple while the baht bill has coconut and lemongrass flavors.  we all loved trying to guess the origin of the currencies and the ingredients that might go with each one.

 whether it was because the trip itself was totally unexpected, or because we knew we wouldn’t be seeing each other for a while after the trip, overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in amsterdam.   the city itself is truly lovely… it is easy to walk nearly everywhere, the museums are engaging and educational, the food we ate was delicious and appealed to both erim and i as adults while being perfect for children as well and visiting in the summer with a bit milder weather was definitely a plus too.  as i have said there are still so many more things to see and do in amsterdam and i know we will all be happy to go back again the first chance we get.

simply magical


Our annual family ski trip is generally a whirlwind experience. Children, parents, instructors, friends… it seems there are people everywhere I look.  Always someone to greet and almost always something needing to be managed; lost gloves, painful shoes, thin layers, dirty socks!

But this year on our last day of skiing, our guides planned for us to ski down to a restaurant to which we’d never been. The final portion of the journey included a short (and admittedly very easy) off-piste section that was breathtaking in its beauty.

As we approached the woods, we skied through what must have been a small meadow in springtime. The combination of sun, wind and cold weather of the week had caused the upper layers of powder snow to crystallize so that it seemed we could touch and count each individual snowflake.  Once we had our fill of playing with the “snowflakes”, we entered single-file into a forest of pine trees.

The awesome beauty and silence that surrounded us is hard to describe.  After the hecticness of the week, and perhaps due to the fact that we knew that the next day we’d be catapulted back into the familiar chaos (and less comfortable political realities) of Istanbul, even the children were reluctant to speak as we glided among the trees. Instead, we travelled quietly, each alone, but also together, until we reached the end of the path.

Although each of us loves something different about our yearly week in Alps; for Erim it is the fresh air, for Asya it is being able to be with her friends nearly twenty-four hours a day, for Alara it’s the respite from the daily requirements of scheduling and school, for Alegra it’s getting to have nutella crepes for breakfast every day, for me it’s getting to be in the mountains and immersed in nature; thinking back on that day we all agreed that our final quiet journey through the pine trees was simply magical.

colors and cultures


In January, I was lucky enough to get to visit the annual Domotex floor covering trade fair in Hannover, Germany. Taking a break from Istanbul for a few days did me a world of good, having the opportunity to lose myself in the hustle and bustle of the carpet world was a real treat, and getting a real glimpse into the business world of my father and sister was hugely educational and inspiring.

Although the merchants and customers came from all over the world, the majority of the merchants we visited were from Iran. Turkish rugs are, clearly, easier for us to access here in Turkey, so my father focused mainly on purchasing the Iranian carpets, Gabbehs, Sultanabads, Herizes, and Samarkands; he felt would be popular among customers in the United States. As one might expect, a significant amount of posturing, negotiating, and bargaining was par for the course over the three days we were there!

Despite the cacophany of voices and the constant movement of fair, the time we spent looking at each carpet provided me a moment of quiet that was almost meditative.  As the colors and patterns moved before my eyes, I began to think a great deal about the cultures from which these beautiful pieces of art have emerged. In particular, the way in which a traditional art form, with a very functional purpose, has managed to form cultural connections between the cultures and nations producing the carpets, such as Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and of course, Turkey, and those who have traditionally appreciated the beauty and workmanship these carepts represent, such as the U.S., Great Britian, Germany, and France (among many others).

The personal connections that I was able to make with the rug merchants we visited varied. Some were Iranians who had travelled to Germany only for the fair. Their family connections in Iran, and their ethnic backgrounds meant that while they spoke little English, they did, in fact, speak Turkish! Although at times I had trouble understanding some of the older Turkish words that have been lost from our daily vocabulary, my father was able to complete his negotiations and purchases without any trouble.  Other Iranian families had been living in Germany for years and spoke German and English fluently. One family in particular reminded us so much of our own family that I felt as though I had known them for years! Like us they had all spent their lives going back and forth between two countries and two cultures, in their case Germany and Iran, as their parents built their now booming carpet business. With them I was able to bond not just over the beauty of the carpets, but also over stories about our children, spouses, and struggles and success balancing our two cultures.

Balancing these two cultures has, for me, at times been a real challenge.  There are parts of each that I would never want to live without, and parts of each that I would be very happy to get rid of entirely. In addition, having lived a somewhat itinerant life as a child, it is certain that the current stability and routine of my life is something I sought out, however also something that often frustrates me. On the whole, as I was reminded in Germany, the vibrancy of this cultural combination, mirrored in the vibrant colors of the carpets that have always been such an integral part of my life, is something that has enriched my world and something that I would never want to lose.