Ask T&L: Turkish Baths, Winter Woes
Published: May 2009
q. A friend told me she went to a Turkish bath in Paris that was better than any spa. Can you recommend one and tell me what to expect?
--J.C., Harlingen, Tex.
a. Such baths, more properly called hammams, are incredibly popular among in-the-know Parisians. Most hammams are a series of steam rooms of varying temperatures; they also offer spa services like massages and facials. Start off with a simple sweat in the sauna; next, brace yourself for blast-furnace heat in a eucalyptus-scented vapor room; finally, cool off in a room-temperature area. One of the most luxurious hammams is Les Bains du Marais, in the hip Right Bank district of the same name (3133 Rue des Blancs-Manteaux; 33-1/44-61-02-02; www.lesbainsdumarais.com). In addition to its steam rooms, Les Bains also offers a full day of beauté: you can get a new do in the salon, indulge in a manicure or pedicure, even have lunch in the restaurant. (Still in your spa robe?Pas de problème.)
Two other hammams to explore: the serene Hammam de la Mosquée de Paris (39 Rue Geoffroy-St.-Hilaire; 33-1/43-31-18-14), next to the city's largest mosque, in the Fifth Arrondissement; and the bare-bones Hammam Pacha de St.-Denis, a facility less than a half-hour north of Paris that provides more authenticity than it does creature comforts (147 Rue Gabriel-Péri, St.-Denis; 33-1/48-29-11-11). Shy first-timers beware: many hammam patrons don't cover up; bring an extra towel if you're self-conscious.
q. I was on a direct flight to San Francisco, but we made two stops along the way. What happened?
--B.R., Jacksonville, Fla.
a. Nothing, just confusion over airline lingo. "Direct" is somewhat of a misnomer; the flight does indeed take you to your destination, but it may make several stops along the way (you don't change planes, so it's still considered direct). What you're really looking for is "nonstop," a flight that goes from point A to point B with, naturally, no stops.
q. Winter is killing me! All I want is sun, sand, and a stack of books.
--M.B., Duluth, Minn.
a. A very relaxed Shax Riegler, an associate editor here at T&L, just got back from Bequia, a tiny island in the Grenadines. His report: "There isn't much to Bequia" -- that's beck-we -- "but it's definitely the place if all you want to do is lounge by the beach and catch up on your reading." Friendship Bay Hotel is a colorful, small (27 rooms) resort on secluded Friendship Bay, where mild waves and crystal-clear water make for excellent swimming and snorkeling (784/458-3222; doubles from $165). When you feel like putting down your book, take a short taxi ride into Port Elizabeth, the main town. Stroll south past St. Mary's Church, where the paved road turns into a shoreline walkway, past several cute shops and small guesthouses, and stop at Mac's for lobster pizza. Need a little more activity?The waves at Hope Bay are fantastic for bodysurfing. Or charter a boat to the Tobago Cays, a group of uninhabited islands that have what many consider to be the best beaches in the Grenadines.
q. It has always been my dream to go on an African safari, but I can't get away for more than a week at a time.
--N.D., Steamboat Springs, Colo.
a. Even if you can only squeeze a week out of your company, you can definitely see Africa. Abercrombie & Kent, which topped the Safari Outfitters list in our World's Best Awards last year, offers two quick trips. The first is a six-day tour called A Glimpse of Kenya, which whisks you to the Sweetwaters tented camp and the posh Mount Kenya Safari Club. On the trip's third day, you'll fly to Masai Mara, a huge grassy game preserve that's home to lions and giraffes, for two full days of exploring. A&K's other tour is even shorter. A Glimpse of the Crater is only four days, but you'll see the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, a long-extinct volcano in Tanzania, and plenty of big game: elephants, zebras, and the endangered black rhino. Packages starts at $1,690 (800/323-7308; ,). However, these rates do not include airfare -- you'll have to get to Nairobi yourself. Plan on at least one day each way for international travel.
E-mail your questions to AskTL@travelandleisure.com, fax them to 800/926-1748, or mail them to: Ask T&L, 1120 Avenue of the Americas, 10th floor, New York, NY 10036. We regret that questions can be answered only in the column.