Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tips for Packing Light

Today I appeared on NewsChannel 8's Let's Talk Live to provide the skinny of putting your suitcase on a diet. The clip will soon be posted.  

In the meantime, people often wonder how I can pack so light. True, I was unable to fit my gear into a carry-on for the 25-day trek from Beijing to Moscow. But I still had less baggage than my fellow passengers. And I  headed back to the USA lighter than I started (suitcase--3 pounds lighter; body-10 pounds lighter) largely because 1/4 of my suitcase was reserved outbound for gluten-free snacks.

Here's the pre-trip packing list:

3 pairs of pants

2 pairs of shorts

3 casual dresses
What do you wear to meet a bear?

1 pair of sandals

2 pairs of loafers

1 pair of heels

6 T-shirts

2 long-sleeve tops

2 sweaters

1 windbreaker

1 leather jacket

1 silk robe (not worn during trip--robes supplied on train and at hotels)

1 bathing suit (not worn)

Socks, underwear

2 pairs of comfy yoga pants

I also brought a shoebox full of hotel-sized amenities like shampoo, body wash and conditioner, most of which I didn't need. I also packed reading material, an umbrella, sunglasses, glasses, drugs and potions, a neck pillow, a butt supporter, mini-headphones, and a few notebooks....plus iPad,cameras, batteries, chargers, adaptors, credit cards, an ATM card, and my passport. All were packed in a 26" Biaggi foldable suitcase, a small backpack, and a purse.

Yes, I did break my three-pairs-of-shoes rule, largely due to a two-hour meeting in Moscow which required heels. That bothered me. But the fact that I wore through everything else, and arrived back home with a big sack of dirty clothing, proved another packing job well done.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

9 Things to Love About Chicago

Only 9 things? Well, of course, it is simply impossible to narrow down a list to 9 things. Thus, I will focus on places I was able to revisit during my recent stay in Chicago.  For more ideas. go to www.choosechicago.com.

First, though, some hot-off-the-presses (do they still have those?) news from the Windy City.

1. Virgin's first hotel is opening in Chicago in the fall. The 250-room property will be located at 203 N. Wabash, near the top of the Loop.

2. The Art Institute of Chicago will celebrate painter Rene Magritte starting  June 24. The retrospective will canvas the Belgian Surrealist's formative years.

3. The Museum of Contemporary Art will open David Bowie Is in September. The blockbuster show pays homage to the 40-year career of the pioneering singer/performance artist. Costumes, concert set designs and album art will be some of the memorabilia on display.

Now, on to my favorite things about Chicago:

Picasso at Daley Plaza
1. The iconic architecture

2. The public art

3. Lake Michigan

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte
by Georges Seurat @
The Art Institute

4. The Magnificent Mile

5. The Museum Campus and the Museum of
                                            Science and Industry

6. The Art Institute of Chicago

7. The El

8. Millennium Park: Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year

Cloud Gate, better known as The Bean

 9. Wrigley Field: Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Traveling To Turkey: Key Information

For those of you who heard my April 3 report on Turkey, here is
additional information. For those of you who didn't listen in, you have a second chance. Go to www.aroundtheworldradio.com/aarchives.jsp.
You'll find my segment 25 minutes into the April 3 program.
Or you can see the TV version and see pictures.

Here is the tip list.

First, you need to get there. I recommend Turkish Airlines, which
currently has five U.S. gateways. They are Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, New York and Houston. The latter city was just added to the roster this month. All flights land non-stop in Istanbul. Expect more announcements of U.S. hubs to come.

In case you didn't know it, Turkish Airlines flies to more countries than any airline in the world. It's part of the Star Alliance. And, because it regularly offers special deals, the airline's prices to international destinations are often the best available. So, even if you aren't going to Turkey, but are going long-haul, check them out.

Americans need a visa to enter Turkey. Don't worry--it's hassle-free. When you get to the Istanbul airport, you will be directed to a visa payment booth. There rarely are lines, and you get through quickly, as it's a simple cash transaction. That noted, be sure to bring $20 U.S. Turkish lira and credit cards are not accepted.

If you plan to visit Istanbul, check out this official website. It's packed with sightseeing suggestions, and advice on where to stay and how to get around.

If you are interested in exploring Cappadocia and points beyond (Ephesus, Pamukkale, Izmir), visit www.goturkey.com.

 If you are interested in experiencing a hammam, or a Turkish bath, here is the skinny on that cultural experience.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Naked Spas in Turkey

My German naked spa experience opened me to the pleasures of relaxing in the buff. Therefore, when the opportunity to do a naked spa in Turkey came my way, I couldn't resist. What I discovered, however, was that the Turkish hammam is a totally different experience in the altogether, so to speak.

Now, mind you, when going to these naked spas, I am simply doing my duty as your diligent travel reporter. The Turkish hammam, after all, is a cultural and historic experience. Taking a public bath is a Turkish tradition dating back more than 1000 years. So, if you want to soak up the history, you must do as the Romans did. And the Greeks. And the Ottomans. Because they all bathed here.

Going to a hammam can be somewhat intimidating for a first-timer, especially one not well-versed in the Turkish language. Here's a blow-by-blow.

Step #1: Find a hammam. Please do not make the mistake of knocking on someone's door and asking them if you can take a Turkish bath.

Step #2: Tell the hammam attendant the services you desire. You can select from a DIY bath; a bath with an attendant; or a bath with an attendant plus a massage. I opted for the latter.

Step #3: You will be given a little packet that contains a locker key, a loofah mitt, and a pair of panties. Undress, put on the panties, and cover yourself with the tiny dish towel (peshtamel) provided.

Step #4: Go to the bath area. At the Cemberlitas Hammam, this area was a large octagonal room, with a similarly-shaped marbled slab in the middle. Flop yourself down upon the gobektasi (literally, belly stone) as the warm air opens the pores. After a 15-minute light steam, a bikini-clad, slightly out-of-shape spa attendant (a natir) comes over and throws cool water over you. Next, she lathers you up, and, if you are lucky, she scrubs you silly (sadly, my natir was not a scrubber). Then, she throws warm water over you, shampoos you, and exfoliates you with the aforementioned little loofah mitt. After that, you are free to stay on the slab, or you can wander into one of the side alcoves equipped with a kuna, a marble basin with water taps. There, you can fill a tas (bowl) with water and pour it on yourself. Or you can opt to linger in the hot tub, which, at Cemberlitas, was rather tepid. The cost for the process, sans massage, was a mere $15 (plus tip). If you go to a non-touristy hammam, you'll likely find more authenticity for a lower price.
After the bath and massage
Turkish hammams are generally not co-ed, so the naked spa nature of things is not all that titillating, However, I can report that men do have a slightly different experience than women do. The male attendants, called tollaks, are likely to be burly and hairy. And when they scrub you down, they scour you (according to my sources). Apparently, the massage some provide can border on the sadistic, which, frankly, sounds better to me than the lukewarm treatment I received. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Images of Istanbul

Whirling dervishes, Turkish coffee, historic mosques, hand-woven carpets, a cruise on the Bosphorus--that's life in Istanbul.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Turkish Rorschach Test

What do you see in the following images? Please comment below.
All were taken in the Cappadocia region of Turkey.

I see a camel.

I see a little family.
I see me.

Hmmm and Me.

Hmmm Again.

Two Gents A'Walkin'.

A Grand Lady with a Tiny Head.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Alternative Uses for Everyday Products

Ever find yourself on the road and desperately in need of shoe polish or eye makeup remover or a tourniquet? Don’t worry--you don’t have to run out and buy anything. Just look in your packed luggage.

Let’s start in the oral area. Toothpaste isn’t just for brushing, anymore. Ever use a hotel iron only to find it has left awful stains on your wrinkled white pants? Next time, clean the gunk off the iron with toothpaste. Apply paste to a cool iron, wipe thoroughly, and voila, no more mess. Shoes scuffed? Same deal.

Next, let's examine our dental floss. Yes, we can use it to pick crumbs from between our teeth. But it can also serve as a line for hanging wet clothing; as a temporary shoelace: or it can be used to secure luggage zippers in place. Or say you check into a hotel with a drippy faucet, and no fix is in sight.Tie a long piece of floss around the spout and let it hang down into the basin. The dripping water will slide along the floss, eliminating the loud plunk, plunk that may keep you awake at night.

Hair conditioner has multiple uses aside from keeping your tresses smooth and untangled. And since most hotels stock it as an amenity, you don’t even have to pack it to get its benefits. You can use conditioner to:
1. Remove eye makeup
2. Soften makeup brushes
3. Loosen sticky zippers (apply lotion to tracks of the zipper)
Don’t worry, guys, I am getting to you, too…
4. Shave and
5. Remove a stuck ring from your finger. However, gentlemen, note I do not condone this if you are merely removing a stuck wedding ring in the effort to appear single while traveling.
Tampons not only function for their original usage, but can have life-saving applications as well. Obviously, guys will have to go out pre-trip to buy tampons. No bloody way? Listen up. Outdoorsy types swear by the feminine hygiene product as a multi-use lifesaver. Among the first-aid benefits:

1. Unroll the tampon and inside you’ll find an ultra-absorbent material perfect for an improvised dressing for a manly wound.
2. If you are in the middle of the woods and suffering from dehydration, the tampon can serve as an emergency water filter. It may not clear out all the bugs and whistles, but in a pinch, a tampon filter could allow you to drink enough pure-enough water to save your life.
3. And yes, in case you get your nose broken in a manly fight, tampons are perfect for stopping up the blood flow.