California Trip: San Fran & Oakland

Happy Thursday! Looking forward to a wine tasting tonight with some friends. It’s almost the weekend and we’re in a celebratory mood. But first, let’s wrap up my visit to Cali. I’ve summed up our drive south and our drive north, but what about my time IN the bay? Here we go, my dears.

Unfortunately, I don’t have too many pictures of my time in the cities. We were too busy chatting and running around from place to place that I didn’t spend time lining up for decent shots. So here is a brief summary:

Berkeley: My first night there, we went to a chic dinner at Chez Panisse. Highly, highly recommend. The food was so fresh. The whole street, known as the Gourmet Ghetto, is dotted with eateries run by acclaimed chefs, so I think I need to find my way back there again real soon.

Oakland: My friend lives here so I really got to experience some of the highlights this city across the bay has to offer. It is awesome! It’s totally up & coming and not at all touristy. I recommend visiting Oakland if you are traveling to the bay area. While it’s definitely on the up and up, gentrification has its downsides (less diversity, more expensive, etc) and it will be interesting to see how that affects the environment in Oakland. All I can say is right now is a great time to go…

Oakland, CA

especially with all the trees flowering – so pretty! As for what we did, we (seriously) enjoyed chicken & waffles at none other than the Home of Chicken and Waffle, basically an Oakland landmark…

Chicken and Waffles

and it was surprisingly delicious and, not surprisingly, SUPER filling. We also walked around the quaint Jack London Square, grabbed scrumptious macarons at Miette, got foot rubs while drinking tea at the Foot Spa and Tea Bar, strolled the three mile loop around Lake Merritt (twice!)…

Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA

poked into the shops in Rockridge, ate our weight in cheese from the Sacred Wheel cheese shop and feasted at Burma Superstar for a flavorful dinner and Cock-A-Doodle for a hungover brunch. Basically, it’s the best. I loved all the places we checked out and would recommend them to all my friends.

San Francisco: Well, obviously. I love this city so much. We had done a lot of the tourist attractions the other times I visited (visiting Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Lombard Street, drinks in the Marina, shopping in Union Square and driving over the Golden Gate Bridge), so this visit was more focused on hanging out with friends. I did convince Marisa to ride the cablecar with me from Powell to Hyde and that was really fun. It passed a lot of the attractions that SF is famous for. Beyond that, we checked out Golden Gate Park, took in the views from the tower at De Young

San Francisco, CA

ate made-to-order sandwiches and teensy treats (that’s what their bitty desserts were called!) from Andronico’s, laughed and gabbed our way through a Peruvian dinner at Limon in the Mission, followed by drinks at pub-style Elixir and dance-y Beauty Bar. It was GREAT. Again, I’d go back to any of these places and gladly recommend visitors to check them out.

And finally, I don’t know what I’d do without these two…

Lake Merritt, Oakland, CAThese are friends I’m so lucky to have, especially now that we’re all living on the west coast. It was just like old times, but in a new place. Sometimes familiar faces (and a little bit of sunshine) are all you need to pull yourself together and say, “Okay, we can do this.” This is pretty much everything going on in my unsettled life right now. That’s all going to change soon.

I came back to Portland refreshed and relaxed. That’s the point of vacations, right? Thank you, California!

xxx

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A Visitor’s Guide to Amsterdam

Sometimes when visiting a new city, people like getting advice from a local. Not from TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet or even the New York Times, like everyone else. A local. That’s a badge I now wear with honor in Amsterdam. I’ve been asked many times to provide tips for visitors and I’m really happy to do so. Having lived in Amsterdam for fourteen months and hosting dozens of guests, we have done and seen a LOT. Rather than continue sending individual emails, I thought it would be smart to make one giant list, so going forward, I can just send someone this link. It was impossible to cut this down; there are so many things we love about this city. I did my best to explain everything and hopefully this will be useful to someone! So here we go, my massive list of suggestions on what to do, see, eat and drink.

Sights There is a lot to do in Amsterdam despite its small size. This mighty mini-city packs a punch. These are my top picks and how long you need:

  • Van Gogh Museum A sizable collection of this artist’s works, curated by his family. Doesn’t have several of his masterpieces, like Starry Night, but it does have others you’ll recognize such as The Bedroom and Sunflowers. Ton of other stuff like works of artists that influenced him, etc. 2 hours
  • Anne Frank Huis While a sobering experience, it’s something worth seeing. Read or re-read the book before the visit, it makes a much bigger impact when her story is fresh in your head. Buy ahead, the queue can easily be over an hour alone. 1 hour
  • Stedelijk Museum Newly reopened modern art museum. The building itself is an interesting hybrid of old and new architecture. 2-3 hours
  • Olde Kerk & Tower Oldest surviving building in Amsterdam, dates back to 1300-ish. Climb the tower (extra fee) for really nice city views. 1 hour
  • Canal Bus Tour I have done this three times with different guests. We like to bring beer on it and, rather than constantly hopping off, we sit there for the whole loop and then switch to the next route. Ticket is good for the entire day though. Half a day
  • Bike Rental This is the best way to see the city. While I haven’t rented a bike myself, I know having one allows you to get around quickly. (See my pros and cons on the subject) All day
  • Heineken Experience When we went, I thought it was lame. I was so not into being a tourist; I mean I live here. But maybe it is a good rainy afternoon diversion for a beer-loving tourist. It’s not exactly cheap (I think €17 a person), but a teeny beer during the tour and two beers in the bar at the end are included. 3 hours
  • Boat Rental This is the BEST thing to do on a nice, sunny day. Get your own boat, fill it with friends, food and booze and you’ll have the perfect afternoon.
  • Ajax Game Although the stadium is outside the city center, it’s worth the short metro ride if you are in town for a game day. The Dutch take football very seriously and going to a game is a unique way to experience the culture.

Markets Market culture is huge in Amsterdam and an essential experience as a visitor. From souvenirs to antiques to food to household supplies, the markets have it all.

  • De Pijp: Albert Cuyp Markt This is the market in my neighborhood so I know it best. It’s also the most famous and if you take the tram to it, you’ll hear “Albert Cuyp Market, Amsterdam Famous Street Market” over the intercom. It’s also the most diverse and some of the home furnishing stores along the way are worth peeking in. When we first moved here, we “ate our way” through the market (more than once), stopping for cheese, waffles, stroopwaffel, loempia, frites and more.
  • Jordaan: Noordermarkt (Saturdays only) We love this one. There are a ton of food stalls; you can pick up fresh pasta and organic olive oil for dinner. There’s also produce, meat, cheese, oysters (which I showed you here) and bread galore. Tons of non-edibles too. Like pretty, pretty flower bouquets.
  • Jordaan: Lindengrachtmarkt (Saturdays only) This is a long, narrow market around the corner from Noorderkerk. One of our favorite lunches is the “hot meat” stand (which I gushed about here). We have eaten there probably 15 times. Love it.
  • Old Center: Bloemenmarkt The flower market. Le sigh. Not much else to say about this one, it speaks for itself. It is always jam-packed with tourists. Bonus: The Henri Willig basement cheese shop is very, very generous with the samples. Try the herb gouda with balsamic mustard. Or young gouda with dill mustard. Do it.
  • Old Center: Waterlooplein Markt The junk antique market. You know what they say, one man’s trash is another’s treasure. There is a ton of random old stuff here that is fun to rifle through. You never know…
  • Old Center: Westergasfabriek Markt (first Sunday of the month) We only found out about this one recently, but I wish we had known it sooner! It rarely makes an appearance (once a month), so you have to go; it’s a special one. There are a lot of interesting crafts and pretty jewelry from local artists. Also, there are a ton of food cats in the back with everything from falafel to gyros to cupcakes. It’s great for lunch.

Eats While you’re here, be sure to try the following Dutch snacks: Cheese (!!), raw herring (with pickles and onions), bitterballen (deep-fried meat paste), frites (with mayo, don’t be a wuss), poffertjes (mini-pancakes) and stroopwaffel (waffle sandwich glued together with caramel). Regarding dining: Dutch food itself is rather boring and plain, IMO. It’s a lot of meat and potatoes. It took us awhile to discover the full scope of the dining scene in Amsterdam. Once we did, we realized there is no shortage of excellent restaurants. I can’t narrow this down, sorry. Grouped by neighborhood.

  • De Pijp: Bazar [North African/Turkish] This is our favorite place for both its crazy fun ambiance and good food. We have been here with almost every guest. Favorite dishes include Irfan & Abdul starters, Tavuk Sis (chicken skewers), Adana Yogurtlu (lamb) and the couscous with fish. You can’t go wrong. Portions are enormous so come hungry.
  • De Pijp: De Duvel [International] Our other favorite. I love this cozy spot for the tuna melt at lunch, but dinner is great too. It’s the perfect neighborhood cafe.
  • De Pijp: Spang Makandra [Surinamese] Cheap, delicious and cash only. Try the sampler platters to taste much of the menu on one plate. Have a ginger beer as well. Also, I heard Anthony Bourdain approved.
  • De Pijp: Simpel [International] Modern and like the name implies, simple, food. Really good for a quiet date.
  • De Pijp: White Elephant [Thai] Our favorite Thai place in the city. The combination appetizer is so, so good and I love their Tom Ka Kai.
  • De Pijp: Suvi [Sushi/Vietnamese] My go-to sushi place. I ordered from here about once a week. It’s really fresh.
  • De Pijp: Mamouche [North African/French] Pricier, but worth it. Love the mirrored walls and candlelight. Great date night.
  • De Pijp: Taj Mahal [Indian] It looks like a cheap take out place from the street, but give it a chance. This place lacks in charisma, but the food is really good. I love the presentation; everything comes in little silver pots with candles to keep it warm.
  • De Pijp: The Butcher [Burgers] Closest thing to American burgers we have tried. And they are good. Really good. My fave is the truffle burger cause I’m fancy like that.
  • Canal Belt South: Pata Negra [Spanish] Our favorite tapas place in the city. Want to feel like you are really in Spain? Cram yourself into this dark, loud, graffiti-ed hole in the wall and you will. Sangria goes down a little too easy.
  • Canal Belt South: Tempo Doeloe [Indonesian] Very pricey, so watch yourself. This bill adds up quick if you let the server order for you. Food was incredibly delicious. Interior is a bit dated, but still worth a visit.
  • Canal Belt South: Pont Acari [Italian] Scenic spot on a quiet, pretty canal. I believe the owner and staff are really Italian, so they get it.
  • Canal Belt South: Lion Noir [International] Fancy food just south of old center, one street over from the Bloemenmarkt. Trendy, posh decor and delicious food. Not sure if the menu rotates, but try the Earl Grey ice cream dessert. Heavenly.
  • Jordaan: Balthazar’s Keuken [International] Another all-around favorite. Limiting your choices to either meat or fish, a €30 prix fixe gets you a 3-course, amazing meal. The best food in the city, IMO. House wine is surprisingly good too.
  • Jordaan: Mazzo [Italian] Great sandwiches and pizzas, but pass on the soggy pastas. We like it for lunch. Good place for a morning coffee or afternoon beer too.
  • Jordaan: Cafe Winkel [Dessert] Go here for the apple tart. Wait in the enormous queue that wraps around the block. I’m telling you right now: It’s worth it.
  • Canal Belt West: Envy [International] Best oysters I’ve had in Amsterdam. Small plate menu is inventive and the decor is swanky.
  • Canal Belt West: De Belhamel [French] If you want to impress someone, you go here. It’s the epitome of Amsterdam romance, as it sits on the intersection of two very pretty canals. Food is lick-your-plate delicious, but don’t do that. This place is classy.
  • Old Center: Cafe de Jaren [International] An easy, classic choice. The bright, airy cafe is great to have beers with friends as we’ve often done, or full meals like spaghetti and meatballs and game pie. I like the waterfront patio in back.
  • Old Center: Nevy [Seafood] Another great spot for a date, right on the Ij. Lots of creative fish dishes on the menu and everything is delicious.

Drinks There are pubs on every corner where you can get Dutch & Belgian beers like Heineken or La Chouffe. Flinck, Groene Vlinder and Chocolate Bar, since they were a 2 minute walk from our place. Here are others we found worth the extra time:

  • De Pijp: Cafe de Pijp (Cafe/Bar) Hip, large bar and cafe in our ‘hood. We liked the classic music and mid-century modern interior.
  • De Pijp: Barça (Cafe/Bar) Right on Heinekenplein, this is a great place for a drink in the summer when they have the huge patio seating area. Good sangria and mixed drinks.
  • Canal Belt South: Njoy (Cocktail bar) A narrow two-level cocktail lounge with incredible drinks and loud music. Try the spicy thai chili Blazing Mule or the refreshing Grape Dreamer Collins.
  • Canal Belt South: Suzy Wong (Cocktail bar) Great for a girls night. Or date. Or anything. It’s cool. Mojitos are a dangerous €5 on Wednesdays.
  • Canal Belt South: Bar Moustache (Cafe/Bar) Quirky bar on lively Utrechtsestraat with photographs of people in, you guessed it, all variations of facial hair. Great for drinks or dinner. I love the window seats.
  • Canal Belt West: Vyne (Wine bar) This is a classy wine bar on the beautiful Prinsengracht. I love their wine flights and the sexy decor. Yeah I said it. The sommeliers are friendly and knowledgeable too.
  • Museum Quarter: Momo (Cocktail bar) This is about as pretentious as Amsterdam gets, where many people go to see and be seen. Don’t turn to the dark side and become a stiff, but do go there for the surprisingly good cocktail menu and seriously delish snacks (like crispy duck). It’s also a posh restaurant.
  • Museum Quarter: Tunes (Cocktail bar) I like this lounge for the dark, moody interior and the lengthy cocktail menu, but it does get packed on weekends. It’s inside the newly renovated Conservatorium Hotel.

Shops The shopping here in Amsterdam pales in comparison to cities like London, Paris and Stockholm. But it does have some great shops that are worth seeking out, other than heavy hitters Zara, H&M and Mango. The 9 Straatjes, in whole, are just fun to cruise through to poke into all the little unique boutiques. Here is my short list:

  • De Pijp: Streetclothes (women’s streetwear)
  • De Pijp: Cottoncake (women’s streetwear)
  • De Pijp: Raak (women’s streetwear)
  • Utrechtsestraat: Labels (women’s streetwear) *also in the 9 Straatjes
  • Utrechtsestraat: Bendorff (men’s streetwear) *also in the 9 Straatjes
  • Utrechtsestraat: Rams (home decor)
  • Old Center: Maison de Bonneterie (department store)
  • Old Center: Bijenkorf (department store)
  • 9 Straatjes: Denham (men’s & women’s streetwear)
  • 9 Straatjes: Leifde (loungewear & home decor)
  • Throughout city: Hema (Target-like for you Americans)

And finally some random advice:

  • You do not have to tip in the Netherlands, but servers now expect it from tourists. A few euro is enough, even for a dinner. 10% max for truly great service.
  • Avoid taxis. They are very expensive and the city is too small to warrant them.
  • Watch out for bicyclists.
  • Always carry an umbrella.
  • Don’t freak out when you smell marijuana or see a red light (yes, they exist outside of the district).

There you have it. My top picks for Amsterdam. Please, I urge you, pass this along to travelers headed this way. I hope they find it helpful and enjoy this incredible city as much as we have! One last tip: Make sure to go for an evening stroll along the canals…

If you have other faves, please share with a comment!

xxx

P.S.  Check out my guide for living in Amsterdam.

Rosemary Lemonade

One of my favorite summer drinks was this rosemary lemonade. Since we don’t have Country Time (and maybe that’s a good thing), I decided to give it a whirl and make this fancier, adult version. Surprisingly easy. I made it for friends that visited and they were all impressed, so I knew I had a winner.

1. Create simple syrup. Combine 1 cup sugar with a 1 cup of water. Heat over a medium low flame until sugar is completely dissolved.

2. Add sprigs of fresh rosemary and chill overnight.

3. Strain the liquid to remove the rosemary. Pour into glasses, filling about 1/3 of the glass. Fill another third with vodka (or water) and the final third with tonic. Add fresh rosemary and lemon slices as garnish. Enjoy!

Chicken Noodle Soup

I’ve been really sick since Thursday. No idea why and just trying to rest so I don’t aggravate my throat more than it already is. Haven’t lost my appetite though. And (Thank heavens), haven’t lost my sense of taste. In my opinion, that is one of the very worse effects of a bad cold. Enough about that. This afternoon, Jaro made (I know, Jaro again! He’s been a busy chef this week.) Vietnamese chicken soup that I made way back here. But since he knows I don’t mind mixing flavors, (especially when garbage day is tomorrow and we want to use up everything we can), we also had prosciutto, arugula and, wait for it, raspberry jam on a baguette. I had seen something similar with fig jam on Pinterest recently, so figured this was a close enough substitute. You might think it’s crazy, but don’t knock it til you try it! So delicious. And that’s not my messed up, cold-ridden taste buds talking- Jaro gave it a thumbs up too.

So yeah, Jaro has basically been Iron Chef these days. I love that man.

And I’m getting used to the sound of him sharpening our knives every night…

xxx

Chorizo & Egg

Chorizo & egg is a traditional breakfast dish in many Mexican homes. My grandma would make it for us all the time when we were growing up. It was always one of my favorite meals. Still is. Jaro and I continue to share this spicy breakfast with our families and many, many friends. (Just ask anyone who spent the night with us back in Chicago). We make it “taco style” since I love my corn tortillas. We used to have them all. the. time. when we lived in Chicago because the chorizo and tortillas were always fresh. As you might expect, corn tortillas are hard to come by in Amsterdam. Maybe because we’re 4000 miles away? Luckily for me, Jaro has been rather ambitious in the kitchen lately… He made (!) homemade chorizo and homemade white corn tortillas. Check it out, they tasted amazing!

Chorizo recipe here and corn tortilla recipe here. Mix the chorizo with egg, throw some tomato and avocado on top, and give it a squirt of Cholula sauce. Just don’t get it in your eye. Trust me.

xxx

Tacos with homemade (blue!) tortillas

The other night, we needed something super simple to make for dinner and when that’s the case I always turn to my roots. My Mexican roots. Taco night it is. I had bought (bleh) flour tortillas just in case, but Jaro had the crazy notion recently to MAKE corn tortillas at home. He found a recipe that made it seem so easy. Yeah right. Anyway, we found the corn flour and he spun his magic. I think they turned out all right…

 

A little thick, a little rough and a little… blue. But they were good. We’ll He’ll be trying it again. Corn tortilla recipe here.

xxx

Homemade Trofie with Pesto

As promised, I’m going to get back into sharing some of the divine foodstuffs we create. And I have to tell you guys, we reached a new level in our kitchen today:

We were so inspired from the countless plates of trofie with pesto that we had in Cinque Terre, that we… that’s right, we made our own pasta. From scratch. For the first time. Ever. According to the recipe website, the only place you can get trofie is the Liguria region unless you make it yourself. So – We went from this:

To this:

Yeah, yeah. We decided to pull out the nice china and even had some champagne to celebrate this occasion. And why not? It looks good right?

Clearly, we are no food photographers (might be a worthy class to look into?), so I’m sorry if this doesn’t appear as mouth-watering as it was. Trust me, it was delicious. We even made the pesto from scratch and (unnecessarily) added shrimp to get some, you know, protein or whatever shrimp provide. Super straight forward but exhausting recipe here.

More soon. Much more.

xxx

Turkishly Delighted

Sorry for the long delay, folks! Been busy hosting and planning more trips, which I’m excited to share with you in upcoming posts!

A few weeks ago (can’t believe how fast time is flying), Jaro and I enjoyed a nice long weekend in Istanbul. Coming off the backend of our multi-week family trip in Ukraine (more on that here and here), it was the perfect retreat for us to reconnect. We arrived in the evening on a Thursday, and were relieved to immediately remove our jackets. Finally, some less depressing warm weather! We were met by our gracious host (from our Housetrip booking) at the bus stop, who led us to our cute apartment in the Beyoglu neighborhood, near Galata Tower. In fact, we had a view of it from our terrace, see:

A sliver of Galata Tower

So pretty! After wandering the streets of our temporary ‘hood for a while, we landed on dinner at our host’s suggestion, Güney Restaurant, near Galata. Um, have you ever had Turkish ravioli? Or pitta with herbs and cheese? I hadn’t either before this trip and had NO idea what I was missing. Now I wish it could be in my life every single day. With a side of yogurt dip. Let’s just say, this was my face after trying it:

The look of satisfaction

Friday, we got after it. Checked out all the major sites in Old City – Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque. Paid for entry into each attraction, so worth it.

Jaro inside Hagia Sophia

Me inside the Blue Mosque

But here’s a freebie – The tulip gardens in the area around the Palace were absolutely incredible! They were all perfectly in bloom and just gorgeous. Did you know that tulips originated from Turkey before they were exported to the Netherlands? Fun fact for ya. Anyway, I’ll add some more scenic pics separately after the post. I was blown away by the magnitude of these structures. Truly awe-inspiring. Throw in plenty of sunshine, friendly people, good food and you have yourself a day. That night we headed back to Galata Tower, climbed it, dominated it, and felt that earned us beers and a gluttonous dinner on Nevizade, one of the craziest restaurant streets I have ever seen. It’s a hectic, chaotic combination of the food carts in Marrakech, with the repetitiveness of Barcelona and the harassment of Brussels. It was insane. But awesome. We found a great place (read: a great host that didn’t try to harass me) and enjoyed dinner on the sidewalk.

Saturday was “let’s be adults and make a big purchase while we are here” day. We always get things for our home when we travel so we have decor from all over the place, but this was a big deal. We shoved our bodies through the sardine-can-like Grand Bazaar and bought a carpet rug. That’s right, a Turkish… rug. Doesn’t have quite the same ring as Turkish carpet, but it’ll do. The difference between the two is that carpets are knotted and rugs are woven. And while also cheaper, I honestly preferred the rug anyway because I felt it was more youthful and modern. All the carpets looked like they were for old people too traditional for my taste. We ended up with this great piece that we both love and it is getting trampled laying nicely in our office area. I still don’t like the process of haggling with these salesmen though. I always end up feeling guilt-tripped into buying something and that our offer is humiliating to them. I’d like to know how many mid-twenty-somethings walk in there and plunk down hundreds of Euro for a carpet rug. I’ll guess NOT MANY, so back off while we consider if this investment is worthwhile!!! He was even a little … mean about it. I felt Istanbullied! Oh God, okay, I’m done. I just can’t get enough of the bad puns, what can I say.

Anyway, spent that evening taking a sunset cruise up the Bosporus. So lovely! Sunset is the best lighting for landscape photography. I was going nuts. Afterward, we had our small world encounter. I met up with my bestie’s roommate from college who was also traveling through the city that same weekend! The powers of facebook and social media, scary sometimes when they allow these chance rendezvous to happen. SO wonderful to see a familiar, beautiful face. We ended up hanging out in Beyoglu, on Istiklal for a bit and then back over to Nevizade and rounded out the night at Galata Tower again, where we sat on newspapers and talked, drank beers and listened to music until 2am. So fun.

Sunday, Jaro and I headed over to the Asian side of the city by ferry. After experiencing a fancy spa-like hamam in Morocco, I was bound and determined to try an authentic Turkish bath. We heard from friends that the ones on the Asian side were the real deal, less geared toward the tourist. Sign me up! We ended up at hamam Aziziye. Don’t be fooled by the English text. NO ONE in that place spoke English. And I was the most comfortable with being uncomfortable that I’ve ever been. First of all, Jaro and I went in the separate male/female entrances (a guess based on a man walking out of one of them), this was no ‘couples retreat’. Once I was inside, it looked like a locker room, complete with half naked Turkish women whispering over tea. They were all incredibly gracious to me, I felt like they were just happy to see someone new in there trying it out! Those situations can be intimidating, but this one definitely wasn’t. I just made sure to keep smiling. Once I was undressed (sorry if this is TMI), one of the women led me through a door that opened into a magnificent sauna bathhouse. I was in! Beautiful marble floors and benches, along with tiled walls and domed ceilings greeted me! What a space! I couldn’t believe it based on the outside of the building, which just looks like any storefront. I stood there just staring and the woman waited patiently while I marveled. She then demonstrated the “bathhouse” process of sitting and pouring bowls of water on yourself. Seriously, not too shabby. Then she left me in there to enjoy and relax. Unbelievably, I was the only person in the place. I soaked it up, quite literally. I slowly realized I didn’t request the scrub down or massage I had seen on the website. So I padded over to the door, opened it, had 24 eyes staring back at me and I made a scrubbing motion on my arm to explain I wanted that done. With a flick of the wrist, a woman told me to go back inside. Like a chastised child, I obliged.

A few minutes later (or 15..), a women came in and instructed for me to lay on the marble slab in the center of the room. I obeyed, laid face down, and proceeded to get scrubbed. And when I say scrubbed, I mean, scrubbed. Seeing all the dead skin rolling up on my arm was strangely satisfying. A swift slap to my butt and I knew I was supposed to roll over. That process was followed with a healthy splashing of cold water (so invigorating!) and a quick, rough massage with the best smelling eucalyptus oil I have ever sniffed. And a shampoo! I was really, really, really clean. Squeaky clean. But also soft from all that oil.

After a little more lounging, I guessed it had been an hour and headed out to meet Jaro. He had the same silly grin as I did as we approached each other. So, did I sell you on it? If not, let’s talk again. It was that awesome. Best 20 Euro I ever spent. That’s right, that hour of bliss was 20 Euro. I guess it’s not for everyone, you have to be totally comfortable wearing your birthday suit in front of others, and I suppose some germaphobes could worry about hygiene. …Over it! Here we are having lunch afterwards, smiling like goofs:

J+J and a Goblin

After some shopping (Turkish bathrobes!) and strolling, we headed back to European side. That night, we not-embarrassingly-at-all went back to Guney. Listen, you guys, I NEVER repeat a restaurant when I travel. It was just that good and super close to our apartment.

And that was that. We headed out on Monday morning back to Kiev. I surprised myself with how much I loved visiting this city. Beautiful scenery, great food, (mostly) friendly city, interesting history…. the list goes on. Istanbul’s got it all. It’s this crazy juxtaposition of old and new, rich and poor, happy and sad, bullies and friends. But that all makes the world go round, right? I can’t wait to go back. I leave you with this:

Turkish ravioli

xxx