the turkish bath at the ciragan palace kempinski istanbul

hammam
What’s the perfect way to relax after a long day of sightseeing? Well, when you’re in Istanbul, the answer is a Turkish bath. Unfamiliar with Turkish baths, I expected the hammam at The Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul to include a massage, followed by a series of pools in which to relax. Umm … not quite. The Turkish bath was, quite literally, a bath. Laying on a marble slab, you’re more comfortable than you might imagine and you find yourself succumbing to the surrounding heat. Using a coarse glove, a “therapist” scrubs your skin within an inch of its life, sloughing off every last bit of dirt and dead skin that may dare to reside on your body. First, she scrubbed one side and then covered me in layers and layers of soft and soapy bubbles. Flip. Repeat. She even washed my hair. I stumbled back to my room in a state of complete relaxation, not to mention, I don’t think I’ve ever been so clean in my life. It’s been a few days since my Turkish bath and my skin is still just as soft and smooth as that first day. The intense exfoliation and cleansing process is definitely good for the skin. I’d do it every week, (OK, every day) if I could! As the treatment ends, you’re wrapped in towels, dabbed with aromatic oils and handed a cup of tea or glass of water. All in all, the Turkish bath was another one of those essential local experiences you just have to try.

The spa also features an extensive menu of other treatments including Ayurvedic treatments, massages, facials, manicures and pedicures. Check out the hotel website for a full list of services and prices.

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beach bag essentials

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I hate complaining about the weather but sometimes, you just have to. It’s the first week of July and it was c-c-cold outside today. Which leaves me with no other choice but to dream about warm weather destinations. So, in my mind, I’m packing my bags and heading to the beach! Here are my beach bag essentials.

1 Sunglasses: I love my Prada sunglasses, definitely a splurge but they just look so good! And besides, you do NEED UV protection when you’re outdoors!
2 Cotton hobo bag: Available at Old Navy, this bag is perfect for the beach or for toting around town. It’s so easy to fold and pack, which is another reason I love it.
3 Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock: Sunblock is a beach essential but I love this Neutrogena sunscreen because it goes on smooth and feels dry to the touch once applied. I hate sunscreens that are hard to rub in and leave you feeling greasy.
4 iPod Touch: How did we ever live without our iPods? Full of my fave tunes and even a handful of movies (not to mention a vast assortment of games and other apps), my iPod goes where I go! Perfect for relaxing on the beach and the passing time on the plane.
5 Havaiana flip flops: Stylish. Comfortable. Inexpensive. Perfect.
6 OPI nail polish: OK, so you can’t fix up a botched nail polish job on the beach but it doesn’t hurt to have your nail polish on hand just in case!

What are your beach bag essentials?

how to: pack smart

packing-smartI know. It’s not easy to pack light. I don’t know how guys do it – well, I do know how they do it. They pack one pair of shoes, one pair of jeans, maybe a pair of shorts and two T-shirts. They don’t mind that everything doesn’t match and they have no problem leaving their products (if they even use any) at home. Oh, they just don’t understand us women. The clothes, the shoes, the hair products, the skin products, the makeup, the purses, sweaters if it’s chilly, sundresses if it’s hot … did I mention the shoes? Like I said. I know. It’s not easy to pack light.

But … I will say that I myself have learned from my BF and travel expert, how to pack smart, without having to leave all my fabulous stuff at home. It all started when he and I began planning a trip to Hawaii and Australia, with a pit stop for me in Los Angeles, that would last 16 days. Awesome! Until he called me up one night and said something about only bringing carry-on luggage. Huh? Was he planning a different trip than me? Didn’t he realize that we were going away for SIXTEEN days? I started to argue until he made the one point that was unarguable. We would, he explained, be flying on some small planes, including one puddle jumper to Fraser Island. We simply couldn’t weigh the plane down with excess luggage. Gulp. Carry-on it was.

But how? It was like the riddle of the Sphinx. I was stumped. But with the help of my ever-ingenious mom, we figured it out. The key is rolling.

First, I place my shoes around the perimeter inside the suitcase. Small shoes like flip-flops can easily fit into pockets. That leaves what looks like not-a-whole-heck-of-a-lot-of-room for anything else. Before you start packing your clothing, survey everything you’re planning to take and cut it down by half. OK, maybe by one-third. Then start rolling. Clothing rolled into tight cylinder-like shapes can be lined up in rows tightly against one other and you’ll be surprised just how much fits. Depending on what you’re packing, you may even be able to do another row on top. If you’re heading to a warm-weather destination, this is much easier as summer clothes are so much smaller and lighter than those in our winter wardrobes. But the principle still applies. Packing this way, I can still fit two pairs of jeans along with shorts, skirts, dresses, tops, shoes and accessories.

But what’s the big advantage to traveling light? Well, there are lots of pros. First of all, you don’t have to get to the airport quite so early if you’re not checking a bag. You won’t have to worry about it getting lost in transit (it’s a real pain, trust me!). You don’t have to waste time at the baggage carousel once you’ve landed. It’s safe and secure with you at all times and it gives you added flexibility. Say you want to change flights for some reason (maybe there’s an earlier flight or your flight is significantly delayed); having your luggage on your person means you can make quick decisions and change your travel plans … on the fly.

There are lots of other packing tricks like socks inside shoes. What are your packing tricks? Leave a comment and share! But remember ladies, you don’t have to bring everything but the bathroom sink! It took me a while to feel comfortable traveling without my hairdryer (even still the thought stresses me out), but for the most part, all hotels have hairdryers. They’ve got shampoo, conditioner, soap – so leave that stuff at home. I know you’re partial to your own products. But what would you rather have – your own shampoo or your cute strappy sandals? That’s what I thought.

ahava: delights from the dead sea

ahavaI was just recently in Israel (I wrote about it if you missed it; check it out here) and unfortunately, I was so sick the day we visited the Dead Sea, that I missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime. Swimming, or floating, rather, in the Dead Sea was one of the exciting things I was looking forward to doing but when you’re sick, you’re sick! Instead, I spent the afternoon virtually passed out at a picnic table in the shade, about a five-minute walk from the sea. I just couldn’t do it.

Not only is the Dead Sea known for the fact that it’s the lowest point on earth (422 metres below sea level) and for the fact that you can’t sink in its waters (even if you’re a terrible swimmer, like me!) but the sea is believed to have major healing properties due to the mineral content of the water. Ahava is an Israeli cosmetics company that makes facial, body and skin care products using natural Dead Sea ingredients that restore skin’s health and moisture balance. Sounds good, right? The products are available in many stores but if you’re interested in trying them out, check out Bath & Body Works. The Body Delights Travel Sampler comes in airline-approved travel sizes and features a mud exfoliator, a mineral hand cream, a mineral foot cream, a purifying mud mask, mineral body lotion, a mineral shower gel, a flower mirror key chain and a white mesh lipstick case. For $12.50, how could you go wrong? Visit bathandbodyworks.com for more information.

crabtree & evelyn’s 60-second fix manicure set for hands

After some careful consideration, I think it’s safe to make the following statement: I’m a germaphobe. And I think I have an increasingly severe condition. I can’t help it. Especially when I travel, I am constantly washing my hands, dousing them with Purell or using anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down everything from my seatbelt on the plane to the remote control in my hotel room. (Incidentally, remote controls are rumoured to be one of the dirtiest items in a hotel room, along with the drinking glasses you often find in the bathroom. Yuck!) Anyhow, the result of all this compulsive hand washing is that my hands are left dry and raw. Sometimes they actually hurt because of the frequency with which I wash them. I try to carry hand lotion with me at all times but even so, it doesn’t always do the trick. The solution? I’ve finally found it! Crabtree & Evelyn’s 60-Second Fix Manicure Set for Hands is incredible! Literally, in 60 seconds, my hands felt soft (honestly, like velvet!), soothed and restored. First, you exfoliate gently, then moisturize your hands with the lotion. The intensive shea butter and seaweed formula must be just the right combination because the results are wonderful, especially if you suffer from chronically dry hands like me. Available in a mini size, perfect for meeting airline regulations regarding liquids. Try it. You’ll like it.

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