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If you're super-short on time in buzzing Istanbul (which is something that frequently happens with long layovers), we've "been there done that" so here are the things that’ll let you experience the modern side of Istanbul in a rush.
So, you’re in Istanbul and you think to yourself that you should really suck it up (and in) and go to an authentic Turkish hamam, because when in Rome…
We understand you may be feeling a bit unsure about hamam etiquette, not to mention a bit squeamish about disrobing in the wrong hamam. We’re here for you. If you want an authentic hamam experience, but appreciate five-star treatment, go to the Ayasofya Hamam (also known by the rather cumbersome name Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamami).
Spas are much a staple of L.A. life as the freeway or a juice bar. But when there are almost as many spas as Starbucks, how do you know which ones are worth it? We have a couple of suggestions.
· Blushington: This pink-and-white boutique gives off an Old Hollywood feel, and that’s precisely the idea. Here, you can get your makeup done professionally if you have a big event coming up or even sign up for a one-on-one class and learn to do it yourself. While the shop sells products from lines like Stila and Kevyn Aucoin, their signature Blushington-branded product is a makeup sponge that you’ll fall in love with.
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Heading to London this summer? Yeah, so is everyone else. This week, Jaunted's London embed, Lilit Marcus, will share some definite destinations for getting out of town and out of the crowds.
Last year, John Cleese famously announced that he liked Bath better than London. “London is no longer an English city, which is why I love Bath,” he said. “I love being down in Bath because it feels like the England that I grew up in.”
Not only does Bath feel like the town of John Cleese's fond memories, it feels like the one where Jane Austen used to live. Many of the buildings were designed during the Georgian period and have remained mostly unchanged since. If you ignore the lone Starbucks, it would even be easy to think the town hadn’t changed at all in hundreds of years. Although it’s only 90 minutes away from London via Paddington Station, it’s easy to feel like you’re in another time and place, which makes it a beautiful choice for a short trip outside the city.
You already know that hitting the bath is a must-do activity in Budapest. But which to choose?
On our recent trip, we decided to go with the Gellert baths, since a Hungarian friend had told us they were the most beautiful. Had it been summer, though, we might have chosen the Szechenyi baths; they’re bigger, and a large portion of them is outdoors. And another time, we’d also go for the newly refurbished Rudas baths, which we were told on our last day we should hit up.
Anyway, back to the Gellert. The baths are indeed beautifula gorgeous main art deco pool, and lavish thermal sections off either side of it. The main pool is just a swimming pool, and is co-ed; people mainly swim seriously or do aqua aerobics and stuff in here. At the foot of it is a small, separate thermal section. This is also co-ed.
Pizza. Fine wine. Fellini. Some of the finest things to have come out of Italy. But while you can eat and drink till you pop in homage to the glorious foodstuffs, things are a little thin on the ground if you want to do a Fellini pilgrimage. There’s the Trevi fountain, of course, to recreate La Dolce Vita, but that’s touristy; and his hometown of Rimini doesn’t really have a huge amount to offer other than beaches.
But if you travel to the south of Tuscany – to the glorious Val d’Orcia, with its rolling clay hills and snaking cypress trees – you’ll find Chianciano Terme, the spa town where Fellini used to come to take the waters, and where he set 8½.
First things first: Italian spas are not generally like UK or American spas. Go to a spa town and you’ll be confronted with foul-tasting water to swill for the good of your liver, vapor to inhale and doctors to consult. Even for the most “spa”-like treatments – mud wraps – you’re stripped naked, slapped in mud, wrapped in a blanket and then ordered into a bath of thermal water. Therapeutic it may be; classically relaxing it aint.
Chianciano used to be like this back in Fellini’s day – in fact, it was like that the first time we visited; but then about six years ago, they decided to modernize the spa, knocking out a vast block of toilets (a side effect of the water) and installing a mega-spa. There are treatment rooms on top, but what you really go for is the spa: the Terme Sensoriali, with 20 different stages of spa-dom, based around the elements.
Ever been ear-candled? Is that even a verb? The quick and dirty way to explain the practice of ear candling is to say that you lay on your side, a plate/tray thing is placed over your ear, and a hole in it allows a special waxed muslin candle to rest in your ear. The candle is lit and it smolders, creating a mild suction designed to clean your ear canal of residual earwax and other gross-ew-ew stuff. Whether or not it actually works and is safe is constantly being debated, but we decided to give it a go on our recent trip to Costa Rica.
You see, the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica has quite the impressive spa, with a large spa service menu to match. It was there, under "Alternative Treatments," that we saw it: ear candling for frequent flyers. Bingo.
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Deep breaths. It's Friday. The day after today is Saturday. Are you traveling this weekend? That's awesome. Are you doing something more local? Equally awesome, because you're out there doing, discovering, deciding to be anything but stagnant.
Let's have a moment, hmm? Recently we found ourselves sitting in knee-high, naturally heated water at the Rio Negro hot springs in Costa Rica's Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park. Above us was a swinging rope bridge we had crossed to reach this spot. Below us, the rushing crystal clear waters of the Rio Negro, and all around a saturation of green. Ahh nature.
That is a happy place, the type you sometimes come across in the world and which you attempt to burn into your memory to mentally escape from future stressful situation far, far away.
Happening upon a hungry Coati wasn't our only interesting animal sighting on our recent trip to Mexico's Riviera Maya. We also spotted a school of fish, only they weren't in the oceanthey were in aquariums inside the Spa at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya. These fishies aren't there for decoration, either; they're there to nibble the dead skin off your feet in what's become something of a spa trend borrowed from Asia.
Ahhh! That was our reaction, too, but you see the "fish pedicure" is quite common in other parts of the world.
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A Barbie-tini in the Barbie Cafe
Last year, a Barbie Flagship store complete with Barbie Cafe, Barbie Boutique and Barbie Chocolate Bar opened in Huaihai Road in the Fashion District, but it's only recently that we've discovered that the two-storied, 35,000-square-foot place also contains a Barbie Spa. Order a Barbie-tini and a Barbie body scrub, and let's just hope that neither contains contains bits o' Barbie.
The cows have come home: Virgin Atlantic's clubhouse at London's Gatwick Airport will be closed until the end of November for renovation, including adding a brand new Cowshed Spa for its passengers.
"Cowshed Spa" sounds like an oxymoron, like that other British invention Shabby Chic, but the premium spa brand was named for the original purpose of the building that houses its first location, at the Babington Hotel in Somerset county. (There are no cows there now.) Its six locations in England include one in the London Heathrow clubhouse, where passengers can get treatments like hot stone facials and full-body salt scrubs. Cowshed is also the official spa of the SoHo House in , or so we hear because we can't get in.
If touring a castle in Ireland just isn't enough and leaves you wanting more, then why not sleep in a castle? it's the easiest way to live out your fantasy of being a royal, and you're in luck because there are plenty regal Irish castles that have been turned into luxury hotels.
One of the best castles-turned-hotels is the Dromoland Castle in Co Claire, just a few minutes from Shannon, making it easily accessible via the Shannon International Airport. It's also an excellent home base for visiting tourist traps in western Ireland, like the Cliffs of Moher and of course the Blarney Stone.
Do you have money to throw around yet? Because we've been in this recession for a fair bit, and hopefully people have been more frugal, luxury tour providers like Abercrombie & Kent are betting on people wanting to spend whatever savings they've scrounged. Because of this, you can now take advantage of slashed prices on trips like a 17-day excursion into India, which is now only $9,625. They're right that selling that same trip right now for its original price of $13,000 is a tough push, but $9.625 is too close to five figures for us yet.
Closer to home, the city of Myrtle Beach has already declared that the recession is over because a poll is up in showing "interest" in it as a vacation destination, even though bookings are down. And after a spa industry group reported that spa trips were up 18 percent last year, spas everywhere promoted themselves as a staycation with an edge. Keep in mind that some of these trips easily hit the four figures, and we're still not convinced that spa vacations or A+K tours are the best decision to make, even at the end of a recession.
· Abercrombie & Kent offers ‘Christmas in July’ sale to spur holiday travel [LA Times]
· Myrtle Beach area travel desires rising [The Sun News]
· U.S. spas seem recession-proof, says industry group [Reuters]
[Image: Abercrombie & Kent]