My Turkish Bath Experience

Tip: If you want to go to one of the popular ones, be sure to book ahead!  We tried to book the morning of our desired visit (looking for a time around 7pm), but they were all booked up.  The hotel sent us to another bath – it wasn’t as nice, but the price reflected that so at least we saved some money!

First of all, a few logistics.  Men and women are in separate areas – at some of the baths, the times for women and men are actually different, so be sure to check on this before you plan!  For example, there was one that had men in the morning and evening, and women in the afternoon.  This wouldn’t have worked for us because we planned to go at the same time.  Women = naked (you don’t HAVE to be, but it’s normal) and men = naked with a towel kept around them at all times.  At least this is what we experienced at ours.

The bath we went to is called Cagaloglu Hamami.  It was open to both men and women from 8am – 10pm, and we were told by our hotel that we didn’t need reservations (it wasn’t very busy when we were there – around 6:30pm).  They offer a range of services, starting from self-service at €30 (you could also pay in TL or USD, but they did only accept cash – so we had to run to the ATM) all the way to the €110 “Sultan service” – full body scrubbing, a 15-minute dry massage, then a 15-minute foam massage (with two attendants!).  Ryan and I both chose something in between – the “exfoliating service,” which was €45 or 135 TL.  More about what that included later!

Changing room at the Turkish bath

After paying, we went our separate ways.  I was brought to a large changing room (pictured on the left – picture from the website), with separate locking rooms around the edges.  Each of the small rooms had a bed/cot, which I used to keep my clothes and purse.  We were provided with the key to our room, a towel, and wooden shoes.  I stripped down and brought only my hair tie and key with me (with my towel wrapped around and wooden shoes on!) and walked into the large marble bath room.

Upon entering, I was a bit disappointed.  There were two women wearing bathing suits, with 3 kids (maybe about 6-8 age range).  The kids were running around, splashing water, and being loud (or just being kids).  It was a bit frustrating because it was supposed to be a relaxing experience, but maybe that’s what you get when you don’t pay as much!  Luckily they didn’t stick around the whole time.

Turkish Bath

My attendant, Arzeau, told me to lay on the slab, which I did.  I put my towel down first and laid face up on top if it, and just tried to relax as best as I could.  Another woman came in a few minutes after me and did the same – laid down, waiting for her attendant to come back.  I stared at the domed ceiling, which had holes through it shaped like circles and stars, letting sunlight stream through.  The room was warm and somewhat steamy, but not as much as I expected.

About 15-20 minutes later, Arzeau came back in with a few bowls full of water and started dumping them onto my body.  I was still laying face up as she started to scrub me down.  She started at my face and worked her way down.  I was ready for it to hurt, since I had heard that the attendants are generally pretty rough with the scrubbing, but I was never uncomfortable.  Once she was done with the front, Arzeau instructed me to turn around and she scrubbed my back all the way down to the backs of my feet. The last section to scrub was done while sitting up – my armpits, arms, and sides of my torso.

Turkish Bath - ceiling

Once she was done scrubbing, Arzeau led me over to one of the sinks that surrounded the walls of the room.  She quickly rinsed me off, put my towel on the ground, and had me sit on it while she went to get the shampoo.  She came back and dumped water all over me until I was soaked, and then lathered up my hair with the shampoo, continuing down to the rest of my upper body.  Once that was done, I stood up, was rinsed off once more, and she was done! you can also check out to buy the best shampoo products.

The entire service took maybe about 15-20 minutes, but as I mentioned above, there were other, more extensive services that were available for purchase.  The length of mine was just about right (for me).  I was allowed to stay in the bath area, so I went back to the marble slab to relax for another 15 or so minutes, not wanting to take too long because I figured Ryan would be waiting for me.

When I exited, I found myself in a room with dry towels, so I grabbed one and dried off before heading back to my locker room (I kept the towel with me, since I would have been naked – which is okay since it was still females only at this point).  There were also hair dryers available, but since my hair doesn’t cooperate well without some type of conditioner, I opted to leave it wet.  Arzeau came by and handed me a plastic bag with the scrubber she had used on me (a souvenir!) and I thanked her and tipped her 30TL – she was a good attendant and was not pushy at all about being tipped, which I’ve heard can happen.

What an experience!  I met Ryan at the outdoor cafe where he had already finished his coffee or tea, and had been waiting for me for 30 minutes.  His experience wasn’t quite as enjoyable as mine, and he was just ready to get a drink.

Would I recommend a turkish bath?  Yes, I think if you have the time, it’s a fun and different experience, assuming you are not too uncomfortable to be naked in front of strangers.  If we were to do it again, I would have made reservations and gone to a more upscale one, but the one we went to was fine and there were no real issues.  The bath was a nice break from a hot day of site seeing and, while it didn’t leave me without wanting a real shower later on, it did leave me feeling refreshed for the evening.

When in Rome….Where to Stay?

We’re fortunate that we don’t have a tight budget for our Italian adventure, but that doesn’t mean I want to splurge on hotels for no reason.  I’ve been particularly surprised by the higher-priced hotels in Rome — yes, there are cheaper options, but I have a specific area in mind and am looking for a certain something in the hotel we choose.

After a bit of research, we found that the Campo de Fiori/Pantheon/Piazza Navona area is the place to stay.  While we’ve found some very promising prospects, we have not found anything that makes us say “wow.”  Capturing the trade-offs with each option is key, and we will eventually make a decision.  Location is the main constraint in the search.  Since we plan to be out and about most of the time, I am less concerned with the actual room and amenities than I normally would be for a stay.

Residenza Canali

The nonrefundable rate for the lowest level room (standard double) is just under €100 per night.  However, we’re looking at either the double room with terrace or junior suite with terrace, since the price is still within our “budget.”  The nonrefundable rates for those rooms are €336 and €380, respectively (if we choose the “long stay” discount, it’s €378 and €427).

Honeymoon Suite, Residenza Canali, Rome, Italy

While the rooms aren’t anything special, the location is great: it’s located just steps away from Piazza Navona (where the annual Christmas Market will be set up!).  And since it’s not right on the square, we should be able to stay away from the crowds, if we desire.

Albergo Cesàri

Rooftop Terrace, Albergo Cesari, Rome, Italy

Again with this hotel, the location is a huge plus: it’s located off of Piazza della Rotonda on a less crowded side street.  It’s still in our preferred area.  The rooms are not upgraded and some of them are described as being “cozy and comfortable, “but the rooftop terrace is a major win, such as those at” Also, breakfast is served on the terrace, and at 6 p.m., the bar opens up.

The cost is €378/386 total (depending on the type of room – I’m not sure what the difference is, though).  There are also more expensive rooms extra room, but that’s not something we need in Rome!

So do we choose the hotel with the private terrace, or the one with the shared rooftop terrace (and bar)?  And does it matter whether or not we have a terrace if it ends up raining the entire time?  I’m still debating whether one location is superior to the other (they are fairly close – only a 9 minute walk, according to Google Maps).

We’ll give it another month or so (and keep checking to make sure there’s availability) before booking, and maybe even later if we go with Residenza Canoli and opt for the nonrefundable rate.  However, it seems we can’t go wrong with either of these hotels!

Memories from Santorini

Our 3-night stop in Santorini during our honeymoon was perfection…

…beautiful sunsets…









…breakfast with a view…

Breakfast, Ikies, Santorini, Greece










…fresh and delicious food…









…endless sea views…









…relaxing with wine…









That’s why I am so thrilled that Ryan and I are planning a return trip to the island of Santorini, Greece in Spring 2014!  I can’t wait to share details about our first trip – including what we loved and what we wish we had done.  With 3 short days, we weren’t able to cover everything on our list, so there are many activities and restaurants that we are looking forward to trying out on this next trip!  

Act Like A Local: Rent an Apartment in Paris

I was not surprised when Arthur Frommer included “renting an apartment” in his talk about travel trends.  It’s becoming easier and easier with websites dedicated to just that (many of them were mentioned in Frommer’s talk).

Renting apartments while on a trip is becoming more and more popular.  In many cases, regular hotels or B&Bs work perfectly for us, but when we were planning our September 2009 trip, Ryan and I were having a difficult time finding a place to stay in Paris.  It was a combination of the location, the price, and the feel of the hotel.

SuitcaseJournal: Act Like a Local - Rent an Apartment in Paris!

The key to our apartment was sent to use prior to our departure from the United States.

After looking through the possibilities, we stumbled upon a couple of sites on which you could rent an apartment for your stay in Paris.

Paris Perfect has a beautiful site with a lot of information.  The company is based in Paris, which means someone will meet you at the apartment, open the door for you, show you around, provide recommendations for places to eat and things to do, and help you with anything else you need like Health & Safety services Wilmslow. However, the minimum stay is 7 nights, and we were only staying 3, so Paris Perfect was out for us. (Note: There is also an Italy Perfect and a London Perfect)

Vacation in Paris is the second website we started looking through.  We focused on the studios and one bedroom apartments, and quickly found a long list of apartments that allowed a 3 night stay (note: many required an additional cleaning fee for shorter stays) and were in neighborhoods that interested us.  This company is based in the United States, which worked well for us – I called to make a reservation and was sent a key in the mail prior to our departure.  The apartment we rented is no longer available to rent, but here are a few pictures (taken from the Vacation in Paris site – the apartment looked exactly like the pictures):

SuitcaseJournal: Act Like a Local - Rent an Apartment in Paris!

What are some of the advantages of staying in an apartment instead of a hotel?  For us, it was more of a novelty, but for a traveler staying for a longer period of time and/or with a family, an apartment can be a huge money-saver.  Many hotel rooms in Europe are made for two guests.  Adding additional guests, booking larger rooms, or booking several rooms will definitely increase the cost.  However, when booking an apartment, there are different sizes to choose from, and some are very reasonable!

For our 3 day stay, we went out to restaurants for most meals.  However, had we decided to stay for longer, it would have been tempting to cook our own meals.  Apartments are great for this!  Buy fresh ingredients at one of the local markets, use the kitchen in your apartment to prepare the food, and enjoy the results with a bottle of wine in your very own private dining area.

Of course there are so many different companies and website that offer apartment rentals.  Try vrbo, which will allow you to contact the owner directly. Staying for longer? Paristay has several apartments available if you plan on staying for over 3 months (there are also some available for weekly rentals).


Food Run-Down: Cinque Terre, Italy 2009

Cinque Terre is a hidden gem on Italy’s Ligurian coast that is a must-see.  It’s becoming more and more popular, but the pedestrian-only towns with colorful buildings is still worth a trip.  If you try one dish in Cinque Terre, try the trofie al pesto – Cinque Terre is the birthplace of pesto and this dish highlights the flavors.  The homemade trofie pasta is mixed with pesto, green beans, and potatoes and goes great with a (cheap) glass of local wine.  If your visit is longer, take advantage of the fresh seafood, caught earlier that day.

Meal: Lunch at Taverno Del Capitano (Sept. 7, 2009)

  • What we ordered:
    (1) white wine (looks like a half liter)
    (2) mixed bruschetta (they all had tomatoes, and in addition we tried: capers, mozzarella, anchovies, and pesto)
    (3) pesto pizza
    (4) pesto lasagna

Taverna Del Capitano, Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

  • Price: $$-$$$ – I don’t remember the exact prices, but somewhere in the neighborhood of €10 for the main dishes. 
  • Overall thoughts: this restaurant is situated at the edge of the harbor, so it was a perfect spot to take in Vernazza on our first afternoon.  Our waiter was very friendly and was encouraging me to practice my Italian (or my Spanish, if I felt more comfortable), which was a great was to be welcomed to the city.  It was here that I really fell in love with bruschetta – the tomatoes were fresh, juicy, and full of flavor, and I loved their creative pairings with other local foods. 

Meal: Happy Hour at Ananasso Bar in Vernazza (Sept. 7-9, 2009)

  • What we ordered:
    (1) bellini
    (2) prosecco
    (3) white wine
    (4) snacks (various – they were free)

Ananasso Bar, Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

  • Price: $ – reasonably-priced drinks with a 5-star view.
  • Overall thoughts: one of my favorite spots from Cinque Terre – I still dream about this place!  We reflected on our day while enjoying a drink and watching the sun set into the water.  An added bonus was the snacks, which kept us from satisfied between lunch and dinner. 

Meal: Dinner at Trattoria Gianni Franzi (Sept. 7, 2009)

  • What we ordered:
    (1) anchovies cooked in lemon sauce
    (2) trofie al pesto (homemade Ligurian pasta with pesto)
    (3) spaghetti ai muscoli (spaghetti with mussels)
    (4) a bottle of the house white wine
    (5) local cheese (to finish the meal)

Trattoria Gianni Franzi, Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

  • Price: again, I don’t remember and I didn’t write anything down.  I don’t think anything was too outrageous throughout Cinque Terre.  Probably a $$-$$$ price range.
  • Overall Thoughts: This meal was perfect as our first dinner.  We tried it all – anchovies, trofie al pesto, seafood pasta, wine from the region, and local cheeses.  The pesto was amazing – more Parmesan cheese than I typically taste, which was a huge plus for me.  I also loved the additions of potatoes and green beans, and of course the trofie pasta itself – once mixed up, the trofie is left with a thick coat of pesto.  This is the dish to try while in the Cinque Terre!

Meal: Lunch at Dau Tinola in Corniglia, Cinque Terre, Italy (Sept. 8, 2009)

  • What we ordered:
    (1) Prosciutto e melone – €11
    (2) Spaghetti ai frutti di mare – €11.50
    (3) Trenette al pesto – €11.50
    (4) Cinque Terre “La Polenza” vino (a bottle) – €17.50

Dau Tinola, Corniglia, Cinque Terre, Italy

  • Price: $$-$$$
  • Overall thoughts: probably the worst meal in Cinque Terre, but it could have been because our experience wasn’t that great (as opposed to the food).  I will say that the trofie suits the pesto sauce better than spaghetti/linguini.  The seafood pasta was still fantastic and included a larger variety of seafood than normal.  

Meal: Dinner at Gambero Rosso (Sept. 8, 2009)

  • What we ordered:
    (1) insalata caprese – €15
    (2) tegame di Vernazza (anchovies baked with potatoes and tomatoes) – €12
    (3) mussles cooked with wine and parsley – €12
    (4) vino della casa (1 liter) – €12
    (5) dessert (not sure what it was, but there is a picture below!)

Gambero Rosso, Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

  • Price: $$-$$$ – this is getting boring, but it’s another very reasonably-priced dinner in Vernazza!
  • Overall thoughts: another restaurant underneath the umbrellas.  It seems you can’t go wrong with the restaurants around the harbor in Vernazza!  Ryan tried the fresh anchovies which are another local specialty to try while visiting (much different than the salty canned anchovies, although those are great, too!).  The crowds at the restaurant were lively, and we had fun people-watching while we enjoyed the meal. 

Meal: Lunch at Trattoria La Scogliera in Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy (Sept. 9, 2009)

  • What we ordered:
    (1) linguini alle vongole veraci (fresh clams) – €7.80
    (2) ravioli al pesto Genovese – €7.80
    (3) formaggi misti (mixed cheese plate) – €6
    (4) Cinque Terre D.O.C. wine – €15

Trattoria La Scogliera, Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

  • Price: $$
  • Overall thoughts: Luckily this restaurant stayed open a bit later than others in the area (we didn’t make it to Manarola until a little before 2:00pm).  I stuck with one of my favorites: seafood pasta in a white wine sauce, which was an ideal lunch (light and fresh!).  Ryan wanted another round of pesto pasta, this time in the form of ravioli, which was very tasty (I still like the trofie pasta the best).  The outdoor seating allowed us to watch the busy walkway as people made their way down toward the marina. 

Meal: Dinner at La Torre (Sept. 9, 2009)

  • What we ordered:
    (1) spaghetti scoglio (“reef spaghetti” – served with crustaceans & red sauce) – €11
    (2) pesto lasagna – €10
    (3) two glasses of white wine – €5 each

Dinner Day 3, Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

  • Price: $$
  • Overall thoughts: this is a great option if you want to sneak away from the main square in Vernazza.  It’s a bit of a climb, but the result is an intimate restaurant with outdoor seating.  I would suggest going for lunch or an earlier dinner to enjoy the views of the town and sea below.  The food was consistent with our other meals in Cinque Terre – fresh, reasonably-priced, and delicious local specialties (pesto and seafood). 

Cinque Terre, and especially Vernazza, is on the top of my recommendation list for Italy. The pedestrian-only towns, the friendly locals, the carefree tourists, the sparkling sea, and the fresh and delicious food are just a few reasons to make a stop here on your trip.  Don’t forget to try many of the local specialties – trofie al pesto, fresh seafood (including anchovies!), and local wine.  I can’t wait to visit again for another taste of the Ligurian cuisine!