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Istanbul – getting there

Istanbul. Byzantium. The city on seven hills (name the other city with that nickname). Constantinople (anyone else singing the song from They Might Be Giants?). Whatever the name, it’s an amazing city. A city in a country that spans two continents that is split by one of the busiest waterways in the world. It’s also one of the cities bidding for the 2020 Olympics.


So, the travel details:
Travel to airport – car
Airline – BA
Bulkhead – no on way out, yes on way back
Travelling solo – yes on way out
How Little Man got to gate – sling
Age of Little Man – 10.5 weeks
Length of trip – 5 days
Time of year – June

One word of advice – don’t travel on the same day as your little one’s first day of jabs (vaccinations)…alone. My husband had to travel the day before for some meetings and we stayed behind to make Little Man’s first set of immunisations. We had already missed the first appointment from travelling so we couldn’t really miss them again. So…we had the jabs, and then we made our way to the airport. We travelled alone and fortunately, my husband took our suitcase with him so all I needed to take was the stroller all packed up in its case, the nappy bag and the baby. We took a car service to the airport, and fortunately Little Man slept most of the way.
We made it to the airport, checked in and got to the lounge (we lucked out with some business class tickets on our way out) and then Little Man lost it. I’m not sure if it was the heat – we had some amazing warm weather in London this summer and Heathrow’s Terminal 5 turned into a mini oven – or a side effect of the jabs, but he started getting very unhappy. I tried giving some Calpol (baby paracetamol/acetaminophen) and he wouldn’t have any of it. It was definitely one of the tougher moments as a new mum – feeling helpless as your little baby is so uncomfortable and you doing every thing you could to comfort him and it just not working.
It was finally time for the flight so we headed to the gate only to find it 20 minutes delayed. Wonderful. I had a nappy bag on my shoulder, a handbag on the other shoulder, a baby who was crying and sweating, a sling he wouldn’t be slung in and not enough hands. This wonderful woman came up to me asking if I needed a hand as she watched me strip Little Man down to his nappy as i was blowing on his back and me being me said thanks but no. She stood there anyway helping me fan him to cool him down, the only thing that was keeping him somewhat calm. She was my travel angel that day.
We finally boarded and the rest of the flight was uneventful as he pretty much fed or slept the whole rest of the time.
At the other side, we only had to wait for our stroller to turn up, which as with most oversized baggage areas took aaaaages, we managed to meet my husband on the other side with lots of cuddles for both of us.
We took a taxi to the hotel (unfortunately no car seat but the hotel wasn’t very far away), had a bit of food then all of us fell asleep and very soundly too.
Looking back, everything was really easy and even with the jabs it was an easy trip. The first time travelling on my own with Little Man and it was all in all a success. Would I do it again? Probably not very often, but I would do it again.

A few recommendations when travelling on your own:
– Use a backpack, not a shoulder bag for a nappy bag. Also, pick one big enough so you don’t need two bags. My nappy bag wasn’t big enough, so I was struggling with two bags and a baby and a sling
– If you have an umbrella type stroller you plan to use, use it as it gives you that extra set of “hands” to carry your bags as you carry your little one
– Try to get into your airline’s lounge (most airlines provide day passes). It gets you that little but of extra space for you and your little one to stretch out.
– Always, always, always try to get the bulkhead seats as you have a bit more room and if your flight is long enough, you’ll be able to get a bassinet or cot.

What else would recommend for travelling alone on a plane with a little one?

London 2012

If you didn’t pay any attention to current events this summer you probably missed two major events that happened in the UK this year: the Queen’s Jubilee and the summer of sport, otherwise known as the Olympics and Paralympics – London 2012.
We, as most others living in the UK, applied for the ticket lottery back in April 2011. I remember franticly applying as we were packing for a two week holiday to Egypt (ah…sun…beach…heat…sea…and a few pyramids) and hoping we got a couple of tickets to some events. We actually ended up being some of the very lucky ones and not only got a couple of tickets, but tickets to six events during the two week period of the Olympics. One thing, though, was we got two for each event, as Little Man was just a thought in our mind then. We got the exciting news that we got tickets in May and then we knew we just needed to wait the year and some to go. Between us getting the tickets and the summer of 2012, the news broke from LOCOG that every body (yes, individual body) needed a ticket. That meant one for Little Man too. Apparently, the issue was due to capacity requirements. Surprisingly, it wasn’t even a Health and Safety issue. What we needed to do was to get a ticket for our then unborn baby and we’d be all good. Not just any ticket to let him into the venue, but a ticket in the same class as our ticket as he had to go through the same entry way as us. But there was a catch. Everything was sold out. Completely and utterly sold out.
Around the same time, a few lobbying groups highlighted this issue to LOCOG and the media – how were they to discriminate against women and their babes in arms when the ticket we were required for our infant was going to be empty (as our babies were still too young to sit on their own)? Better yet, how could we be expected to tell the future in April 2011 that we’d have a four month old in our lives? I know some are probably thinking why would we want to bring our little baby if he wasn’t going to remember anything and if he could potentially affect the event for others around us. We wanted to bring Little Man because we didn’t want to spend all that time away from him, plus I was still breastfeeding and hadn’t introduced the bottle to him with success and we also just wanted him there with us.
Fast forward to the summer right before the Olympics started when they made the decision that babes in arms will be allowed in without a ticket. Score.
So off we went! We went to: diving, handball, boxing and weightlifting at the Olympics and athletics at the Paralympics. We took Little Man to everything and we had a blast. Everyone in the village was wonderful, the crowds were awesome and the spirit of sport was infectious.

Go Team GB!

The biggest piece of advice? Bring ear defenders for your little one. We had them and were so thankful we did as the crowds were LOUD. There were several other babies we saw without them and when there was a noisy bit, the babies were plain uncomfortable and unhappy. Not Little Man – he was unaware when the big cheers came and went and even managed to have some really good naps during the events. The ear defenders we got were a headband style – from Earmuffs for Kids – and he didn’t even notice them. There are some that are more of an earmuff style, but some professionals say that those put too much pressure on a baby’s the skull too much. We’ve got friends who have those and their little one doesn’t had any issues with them, even at an all-weekend festival. Honestly, I think it’s a personal preference.
We also had a backpack, our stroller, our baby carrier (Beco Gemini), big muslin for feeding, all the nappy changing paraphernalia we needed and some extra water bottles for us (there were loads of fountains to fill up your bottles). Each venue had stroller parking so we would drop off the stroller and put everything else in the backpack and tote Little Man in the sling to our seats. We didn’t bring the stroller to the first event at the Excel Centre, which worked too, but we decided to give our backs a rest in the Olympic Park which is why we brought his stroller.
Also, don’t expect to be able to fully focus on everything. With a little one, you’ll need to make sure he/she’s entertained as well as catching the events. If Little Man needed changing, you couldn’t always wait until the next point…as we couldn’t one time with a massive blow-out nappy that almost required me dunking him in the sink. Almost…
I thoroughly enjoyed the Olympics and Paralympics and am so happy we took Little Man with us. We’ve used his ear defenders whenever we thought it would be loud and noisy and they’ve been brilliant. We get lots of comments on what a happy baby we have even in the loudest of situations and we look forward to taking him to even more with them.

Moscow – baby practicalities

So, with the basic travel and transportation practicalities out of the way, what about the baby practicalities? Meaning, how did we manage to keep Little Man fed, clean and happy? Well, to start, I only saw one baby changing facility in the whole city – in the train station near our hotel (Kievsky Railway Station). I didn’t check it out, but I noticed it was down a set of stairs. There goes easy access…
I initially thought American chains would have baby changing facilities – McDonalds, Dunkin’ Donuts, the two Starbucks (of the five in the city) I found – but no luck. The McDonalds by the Kremlin and Red Square did have a counter big enough for me to fit Little Man on and change him, but I couldn’t even fit the stroller through the toilet door of one of the Starbucks.
So it came to some improvisation for me instead. We’ve gotten very skilled at changing Little Man in his stroller, discreetly on a banquette in the middle of a restaurant, on the floor of a bathroom in a museum, on a park bench…anywhere. As long as you have a clean nappy, a good changing mat and some quick hands, I’m sure every parent is able to change their baby when the need arises. Interestingly, the only comment I had was in the Cosmonaut Museum, I was changing Little Man on the floor of the spacious bathroom and a women said something to me in Russian. I apologised and said, English only, and she said to me, smiling: “not the best place to change him but needs must.” I think she understood that the facilities are definitely lacking…
The other importance with babies is making sure they’re fed. Now, I am exclusively breastfeeding, so my needs are very different than parents using bottles. I don’t have to constantly be in the search for ways to sterilise bottles, refrigeration or warming devices or even clean bibs. I can just “pull ’em out” and start feeding. Travelling to an unfamiliar country, though, brings the worry of their acceptance of breastfeeding in public. We are lucky to live in an area of London where breastfeeding in public is not only supported, but sometimes very much encouraged. Most businesses have stickers in their windows saying “Breastfeeding Welcome” and mothers can be found happily feeding their children in all levels of covering up – from none at all to the very discreet mum with the oh-so-popular cover called Bébé au Lait. I sometimes use the two-layer vest top (aka tank top) over t-shirt method or a big muslin (Aden and Anais are my absolute favourite) tied in the corner and looped over me. I’ve also used scarves or cardigans to cover up too. Any way, I usually make sure that no extra skin is showing when feeding Little Man.

I even fed on the steps of a chapel in the Kremlin…

When abroad, I definitely take more precautions and am very discreet compared to my familiar turf. I always make sure I have a few muslins with me to use as a cover up.
In Moscow, as we were waiting for our bags, my questions were answered with one visual – a woman, walking through the baggage claim area with some family members (her mother and sister, perhaps?) walking and feeding her baby at the same time. And it was very obvious she was breastfeeding from a very well-endowed breast with no motion to even consider covering up.
I don’t think breastfeeding a baby is obscene or pornographic. I think it is one of the most natural things to do. i know there are those who think it is disgusting, obscene, vulgar or any other negative adjective you can think of, but not me. If you think about it, it is one of the most natural things in the animal planet (yes, cats, dogs, lions, bears, pandas, etc all nurse their young too), so I think anyone who treats any woman negatively for it should look at a bikini or lingerie advert again and make the same comments, as I bet there is more breast showing in those than what I, or most breastfeeding women, show when feeding Little Man.
In Moscow, I had no problems feeding Little Man in public. We feed where we need to – restaurants, cafes, park benches, trains, even while walking (I mastered the walk and feed early on). Most people didn’t even bat an eye or pay us any attention while feeding, which was great.
So, I think that’s it for Moscow. Three posts later and I’ve said my bit. Next up is a recap of Little Man with us in Istanbul when he was three months old…

Moscow – travels in and around

One recommendation – wear good shoes you feel comfortable walking in. When travelling, there are a few ways to get around: bus, foot, underground/metro, taxi… The easiest and quickest (mostly) is taxi which is also the most expensive. Cheapest, of course, is walking but not all cities are foot friendly. Honestly, taking a baby in a stroller up and down the hills of San Francisco isn’t my cup of tea. But wandering around Moscow? Absolutely. (I would also point out that the safety record of driving in Moscow cabs isn’t the best either.) Especially if you are staying somewhere within the circle line of the metro walking most places is totally doable. What we would do most days was to head into the Kremlin/Red Square area with my husband, drop him off where he was meeting colleagues and then we’d pick a site take a look at it then wander home stopping in a cafe on our way back to have lunch.
Our first day in Moscow, my husband took the day off so the three of us explored Moscow. We used a DK Guide walking tour we found in the back of our guide book (we used the DK Moscow guide) and it was perfect. We saw Cathedral Christ of the Saviour, the Kremlin (lots to see just walking around and the churches/cathedrals inside are stunning), wandered through the Red Square (I never saw the pageantry happening there during the Cold War growing up, but my husband remembers it), saw Lenin’s tomb and St Basil’s Cathedral, window shopped in GUM and saw the former headquarters if the KGB. It was a great first day to see the city.
The day the three of us explored Moscow was perfect. Not only did I get to spend the day with my wonderful family, the iconic sights were breathtaking up close and personal, there were so many surprises to me with regards to the look of the city, the people, the food, and it seemed everything else. I honestly was expecting every building to look like cement blocks, the people to be gruff and the city in general to feel bleak and dank. And boy was I surprised! I’m sure visiting in September instead of January helped a bit…
On my own, I definitely walked more. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like asking for help so I don’t always like asking people to help me up and down stairs with the stroller (and despite the extremely helpful people on the metros…). So I opted to walk instead. The weather was on my side as it was easily high 60s and sunny the whole time. And walking I did – as I wrote earlier, Little Man and I would leave with my husband in the morning and take the train into the centre then we would wander back via a different route. I discovered loads of cafes to stop in that served light lunches – mostly some variation of a savoury crepe (pancake) with soft cheese and salmon or roasted vegetables or sandwiches and soup. Perfect for resting a bit, feeding Little Man and recharging my feet.
We didn’t get to many indoor sights apart from a new museum about the way of 1812 against the French and Napoleon, as it is the bicentennial of the war, and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. The 1812 Museum was fascinating. Nothing was explained in English but the artefacts of weapons and uniforms were beautiful. Very handicap accessible but they don’t allow strollers in the exhibit. Through sign language, they let us keep it by the security guards desk while we explored.
The Pushkin Museum was a whole other story with regards to accessibility. If you go, and it does have some lovely artwork, plan to go without the stroller. There are steps everywhere and no lifts. I should have brought just the sling and since I had the stroller I was limited to the ground floor, which had about 5 rooms I could go through. There were some great artwork and sculptures – lots of Dutch masters and classical figures. I then had a very unhappy baby due to teething so we ended up leaving, but I would have gone back without the stroller to see more of the museum if I had time.