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Frost + Ocean, Wickaninnish Beach, Ucluelet

Frost + Ocean, Wickaninnish Beach, Ucluelet

When I was growing up in Bombay, India, I don’t think I ever imagined that i would ever live in a small, remote, surf town on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Though  i am often not there – it is a place where we have a home and there are many days when I wonder if there will ever be a bridge between this place; of which my father said, “there are as many trees, as there are people (in Bombay)” and that place, the city where i grew up.  His words sum up so much of the contrast for me, the rural vs. the urban, the natural vs. the denatured, the simple vs. the sophisticated. Yet what draws us back to Bombay year after year is my family and somehow it makes up for so much of what we leave behind.

This year, we were invited to teach at a new Yoga Festival, Zambhala, in Goa, India. Instead of flying directly there, we added on a few stops.  Our goals: to help ease the  jet lag that becomes a little more acute when you travel across continents with a child – and also to make the transition across the world a little smoother.

Perhaps in moving through the trajectory of the simple living on the coast, where the air was frosty and pure and one of our son’s favourite activity is to play with the sea anemones that litter tide pools; toward cities that each turned busier, louder and a little more grimy, we would be prepared for the chaos and intensity of India.

Did the plan work?  I am not sure.  My eyes are brimming with images and experiences that i am still digesting – slowly – but maybe I am more present and really here – mind and body and spirit, all taking it in.  Here are some vignettes from our travels.

Our first stop was London, England, where we stayed in a loft-like apartment in Notting Hill, rode on many big red buses with our wide-eyed toddler, ate some delicious food – Daylesford in Notting Hill with all its organic goodness was a find, so was The Taqueria - ideal with a little one – even though it is tiny they had high-chairs and a yummy and healthy little people’s menu.

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Food for Life: the NAAM of London in Covent Garden

One morning we strolled Hyde Park to the Serpentine under golden winter sunlight and even watched the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace – we figured it was important (for our toddler’s sake) to at least take in a few of the sights he knows from his “This is London” book!

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Changing of the Guard, Buckingham Palace

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Trees, Hyde Park, London

The journey also included a little bit of research. We checked out The Life Centre in islington, where my husband will be teaching a workshop in January and dropped into an inspiring flow class at Tri Yoga, in Primrose Hill  with the lovely Mimi Kuo Deemer. Our toddler napped for the duration of the entire class – no doubt lulled to sleep by the sweet yoga vibes – and my husband and I even got to practice yoga together. :-)

I love the bustling, vibrancy of London, where in a span of 5 minutes I often heard not 3 but 5 languages. It was a treat also to reconnect with old friends and students and we shared many laughs that not even the city’s winter darkness could dampen.  

Karakoy, Istanbul

Karakoy, Istanbul

Stop 2 was Istanbul, Turkey, where E. taught a workshop at Cihangir Yoga, just north of the city, where a good friend and amazing teacher Chris Chavez runs his teacher trainings.  Istanbul, situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, has long captured my imagination and I was so excited to get there.  We landed in a city colder than I had imagined Turkey could ever be – even though I’ve read Orhan Pamuk.  And so, snow-dusted at dusk, we drove by the Bosphorous toward the docklands of Karakoy to our little hotel, The Portus House.

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The glorious domes of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque shone in the distance, lit by golden lights and I felt that sense of being somewhere else, somewhere different and unmapped in my inner world.

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Turkish tea: the ubiquitous drink everywhere.

We ate dinner at a local kebab house – kebabs seem to be one of the mainstays of turkish food – but happily, the Turks also love their lentils and the  lentil soup I I tasted was delicate and so so delicious.  We managed to feed our little one before he passed out, weary from the travel and soon followed him to bed.  In the morning, my son and I took a taxi – waving a piece of paper in front of the driver’s face with the address of our destination – Cihangir Yoga – printed on it – and faith – that somehow without being able to communicate except through gesture – that we would get there.  E had already gotten out earlier in the morning to teach the class.  Eventually we did – toward the end of the yoga workshop – and connected with a group of blissed out yogis.

lunch served with love at Cihangir Yoga, Istanbul

lunch served with love at Cihangir Yoga, Istanbul

The studio was a happy surprise.  Located adjacent to a suburban-esque mall, it was hidden behind a row of hedges and greenery.  There was a yoga yurt, heated in this cool winter by a stove, and a beautiful main practice room, whose floor was an orange-y, speckled marble, warm to the touch.  A large OM, laser cut from iron, shone on the wall – it was a serene and heart-filled space to be in.  We ate lunch next door, at the Cihangir Yoga cafe, a meal of yet another sublime lentil soup, some vegetables and bulgur in a pilaf and a fresh green salad with green olive oil and Turkish Coffee to end.  It was so good and I was so full.  I think all I had done in Turkey until then was sleep and eat!  It was time to walk.

We took the metro with two teachers from the studio towards the city’s downtown – they were kind enough to help us navigate!  We emerged at Taksim Square, an informal gathering place for the city’s young and the site of furious protests earlier in the year, when citizens of Istanbul demonstrated (peacefully) to prevent the razing of a park to fulfil the government’s development plans.  The park, thankfully, is still there and thriving in a city with not too many green spaces – if it wasn’t perched on the edge of the sea and the bosphorous, the city would feel closed in.  The square is at a height, atop a small hill and the walk down toward our hotel while long, through maze-like streets was mostly downhill and lined with a slew of vintage shops, bakeries and cafes, each one more enticing than its neighbour.

We stopped for a glass of fresh pressed orange juice for the princely sum of $3 for 2 cups of juice and the vendor, an old man, patted our son’s head and smiled his broad, toothy smile.

Hammam, Istanbul

Hammam, Istanbul

The streets toward our hotel held more surprises, a beautiful restored hammam that we tested out the next day, the city’s most well-known baklava shop – and a tucked away boutique run by architects that had some beautiful turkish textiles, pottery and printed scarves.  They also happened to be serving mulled wine on the occasion of a little holiday soiree and the mood was festive and loud.

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Dinner at Ciya with Chris + Ozlem

From the European side of the city to the Asian edge, we took a local ferry boat later that night and ate dinner with Chris and his lovely Turkish wife Ozlem, who is from Istanbul, at a traditional eatery called Ciya Sofrasi, where a medley of yet more unusual flavours hit our tastebuds.  I didn’t have the nostalgic epiphany that this writer from the New Yorker had there (probably since i am not Turkish!) – but I can tell you that the food there was both simple yet delicious and definitely worth a visit.

We had one more day left to explore the sights and then off we flew to India.

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I will write more about India soon and Goa and the yoga festival we taught at.  In the meantime, enjoy the pictures and here is a green smoothie that I conjured up for Christmas day.  My motto, never leave home without your superfoods!  Whether you are close to home or far, I hope that you are enjoying some well deserved time to cherish your loved ones over the holidays.  

In the meanwhile, NAMASTE + PEACE.

Insiya .

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Holiday Green Smoothie:

1 frozen banana
3/4 cup frozen mango
1 cup home-made almond milk (or a substitute)
1/2 vanilla bean scraped
1/2 cup shredded spinach
3/4 cup water or a mixture of ice and water
1 1/2 tsp spirulina
1 tsp maca (gelatinized)

Blend until smooth. Serve with goji berries on the top for some holiday cheer. Revitalizing, energising and detoxifying. Our toddler loved it, he even asked for seconds.

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