Monday, September 27, 2010

Gideon's family visits Turkey

This summer I took my family to Turkey.

This wasn’t my first trip there- I’d been with my wife four times previously, but it was the first with the kids - my two boys of 5 and 9 and my daughter of 13.

Many people don’t really know what to expect from Turkey - just the sound of it is highly exotic - it resonates with the echos of the Ottoman Empire and much more ancient empires before it - it is a meeting place between East and West, a place where cultures clash and of course, a Muslim country. But is it modern or backwards? First world or third world? Are the people friendly or not? And what about the food?

The answer is that Turkey is exotic - but it is also modern and well developed and even in the middle of nowhere one feels safe and comfortable. The people are incredibly friendly, and the food is one of the great cuisines of the world.

Turkey has always been one of my favourite countries - It was even better with the family. To see any country through kids’ eyes is literally an eye opener - and a completely different experience from travel without kids -everything takes on new meaning, one’s perspective changes and you get to visit places you would never have gone to otherwise. A trip becomes less of a pure sightseeing tour and more of an immersion in the country and it’s culture - kids want to see things that interest kids - sure, some of the big sights, but also the playgrounds, the ice cream parlors, the parks, the markets, and sometimes the more off -beat places and sights.

Together we explored Istanbul, one of the great cities of the world, and then we journeyed through the almost unknown Black Sea region - the last great frontier of Turkey. It was awesome -first touring the great imperial city and seeing the remains of past civilizations and then visiting the smaller towns and villages and experiencing the magic of the Black Sea coast. Best of all, kids act as the perfect ice breaker with the locals, and we met so many people through our kids that we would never have net otherwise. Experiencing cultural differences with kids is fascinating too - they loved visiting mosques, and they really enjoyed exploring the new tastes of a culinary repetoire they had never come across before.

Turkey proved to be the perfect family vacation - adventurous, but with the right mix of first world amenities and comfort as well. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Turkey to any family, well traveled or not, looking for a great cultural experience without suffering any discomforts. Follow my blog at

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Eating and traveling in Turkey

One of the great highlights of Turkey is the food. And Turkish food is perfect for families traveling with kids.

Turkish food must rank as one of the great cuisines of the world – but it is not necessary to eat expensively nor exotically either. The most simple food is also some of the most delicious food - lentil soup (for breakfast!!), rice and beans, Turkish meatballs (kofte), salads. The fruit and the olives are simply outstanding, eat as you go sandwiches are commonplace (the whole world knows about doner kebap), and unusual sometimes – one of our favourites is Balik Ekmek – Fish Sandwich, a great Istanbul tradition. Pide (Turkish Pizza) is available everywhere and is cheap. The meat and fish are good, and the vegetables (whether cooked or raw) are simply outstanding. You don’t need to eat spicy food at all, though you’ll often find a pepper or two served with the food. The bread is great as well (so long as its fresh from the bakery).

And then we get to dessert! For the sweet tooth, Turkey is like heaven on earth. The range of Baklava is incredible – we have never eaten better baklava anywhere in the world. And the ice cream is great – for some reason, Turkey has excellent ice cream – from the sticky Maras Dondurma to the regular ice cream parlors, they are simply wonderful.

Bottom line – one can eat like a king and pay like a king in Turkey if you want, but since most families travel on a budget, one can eat simply as well, and they’ll be some of the

Colombia (again) and South Africa

Once again, the New York Times Travel section featured Colombia on Sunday 9/19/2010. This has become quite common lately. The feature was focused on Santa Marta, which is a great tourist hotspot, thanks to its excellent location. It is situated on the Caribbean,not far from Cartagena and Tayrona National Park, arguably the two biggest 'must see's' on a Colombian trip. Colombia is not yet a popular tourist destination in the way Costa Rica, or even Guatemala is (and in South America, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina and Chile) but as long as the country remains stable it will become a major tourist destination. It offers so much - beautiful beaches, fabulous, spirited, throbbing cities, South American flair and fashion, and gracious, friendly hosts. Definitely a place to go, now, before it is properly and rightfully 'discovered'.Here's the link to Sunday's article

We just returned from a family trip to South Africa.The country was definitely at its best as the host for the 2010 World Cup and everyone involved did a terrific job.There's no doubt in my mind that South Africa is a premiere destination : it really offers anything and everything a traveler could want - great infrastructure and roads (perfect for a self drive holiday), good accommodations, great food, friendly people, incredible natural attractions, top class wildlife/safari, Cape Town, consistently ranked in the top 10 cities in the world, wonderful coastline and beaches, and a fascinating mix of cultures, African and European. It cries out to be visited. We had the most wonderful trip - it's a country you cannot help but love.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Quivertree Destination survey

Thanks to everyone who has participated in our destination survey.It has been most interesting to see where you want us to take you next ! Based on the voting so far, it looks like these will be our upcoming Quivertree family destinations :
Spain & Portugal

Gideon just returned from a trip to Turkey. He has spent quite a lot of time there and his family just loves it ! Although I've only been there twice for very short periods, my wife, Liora, travelled in Turkey extensively before we met and loved it too. It has a great mix of culture, food, history, archeology and much of it child friendly. And it has the most gracious, welcoming hosts. We have long felt we would be adding this incredible country to our destinations and your survey responses just bear that out !

While Thailand is quite touristy, it can be travelled in many different ways. Sometimes it's not so bad being 'touristy' as the infrastructure, food and accommodations are of a certain standard that we would desire for our families.My family visited Thailand in 2007. I'll confess that I really wanted to go to the Thai beaches, but our kids chose culture over sunning and swimming. We spent a memorable night at Elephant nature park, a refuge for damaged or abused elephants, and it was one the highlights of our entire 3 month trip. Check it out at

I was last in Portugal in 2007. I have never understood why portugal is so underestimated. Possibly it's just overshadowed by france and spain, 2 giants of the European tourist circuit. I found portugal to be beautiful, with everything you could ask for in a travel destination - food, beaches, castles, ruins, good roads (mostly)and the chance almost everywhere to get off the beaten track. Our goal is to offer trips to both Portugal and spain, concentrating in part on staying in Posadas (castles or historic buildings of Portugal)or Paradores/Pazos of Spain.

I'm so excited to be adding these destinations as each offers so much in terms of family travel, but mostly the opportunity for a rich, thrilling, bonding family experience.