Summer is coming soon and I love making lighter meals when the weather is warmer. I like my meals to have a nutritional value , but not being as heavy as winter stews or soups. Salad is a great way to achieve this, you can […]
Every single holiday has moments, which stay with you forever. In Istanbul, for me, it was definitely a visit to the Turkish Bath Kilic Ali Pasha Hamami, which has recently undergone a multi-million refurbishment and was brought back to its former glory.
I have experienced everything here: fantastic service, sleek design, welcoming environment and ultimate relaxation. I have enjoyed it so much, I would not hesitate going there each and every time I am back to Istanbul.
You need to book your visit in advance, so that they are ready for you and can provide relaxing environment. The minute you step in this oasis of calm, you never want to leave. Hamam is open for women in the morning 8am till 4pm, and then staff change from female to male and men can come and enjoy the bath as well from 4:30pm till 11.30pm. Children are also welcome.
I booked a session in the afternoon and immediately upon entering I was greeted by lovely Betul, who has checked my reservation and offered me a welcome drink, a refreshing sherbet.
She then explained how things work and provided the key to the dressing cabin and locker. When I came to my dressing cabin, there was already a package waiting for me with flip-flops, towel and a wrap, which you use to go to the bath.
Your washer will meet you in the first room and you can visit the bathroom if you wish. Then your washer will take you through to the main room with big marble stone and she will ask you to lie on it and get warm.
Nothing can prepare you for the sheer beauty , which you are about to experience when you lie on the marble. It is very simple, but nonetheless beautiful, you will be lying on your back and staring at the massive cupola with stars staring back at you.
Once you are warm and relaxed, the fun starts. The washer will prepare the bucket with water and loads of foam to use later, but the first part is scrubbing with a special mitt. She will scrub you so well, you would not believe how dirty you are. Excuse me, but I take the shower every day, yet I could not believe how much dirt there was! When the washer saw my puzzled expression, we laughed together. The dirt will be washed off and then the foam applied , using muslin cloth, which seem to generate more foam in the hands of the washer.
This is also combined with body massage and further cleansing, so you are left completely relaxed after this and ready for a lie down on the cushioned sofa. If like me, you don’t want to wash your hair, it is absolutely fine, they will give you a shower cap to protect your hair, but if you want your hair washed, then there are hair driers available to use when you go back to the dressing room.
I don’t know which part of the experience I enjoyed most: the washing or the relaxing afterwards. Once the washer is finished you are taken back to the main open area of the hamam, where there are cushions and low sofas, where you can linger as much as you want to. Water and Turkish tea is complimentary, but you can also order selected teas and cookies to keep you sustained. Majority of women who were there came with a friend, so they were all happily gossiping and chatting around, but it did not take away from the atmosphere, as there was enough space for everyone.
You can make the booking on Hamam website , so you know in advance what time to visit. You might say that £40.00 for a wash is a bit much, but believe me, once you are inside, the atmosphere and the service worth every penny. You would be able to experience what it was like to go in a hammam in the olden days and this is priceless. Also, as the number of visitors is limited and determined by bookings, you never feel rushed or pushed by other people, so again the price reflects the quality delivered.
If you want to take any items with you, they have a lovely shop. One is inside the hamam, where you can buy cosmetics, and the other shop, with accessories mostly, is just immediately beside the entrance to the hamam.
My visit to the Hamam was hosted by Kilic Ali Pasha Hamami, but all opinions are my own.
Hungarian National Museum was one of the places I visited, while in Budapest. It provides a great introduction to Hungarian History and the museum is manageable enough, so you don’t have a headache at the end of your visit. The museum is divided into defined […]
What is your favourite activity on Friday night? Mine are masks, bath tubs and wine! What about “going out, restaurants and socialising with friends” I hear you say. I am a parent, remember? Restaurants will have to wait for the next 18 years! I have […]
Why do you travel? I travel for sights and food. Actually, I am not sure what makes me more excited when I am going to a new place: sights or food? Probably both in equal measure!
When I went to Budapest, I signed up for a Culinary Walk with Taste Hungary, a local company which has been guiding people like me in search of good food for more than 10 years. Taste Hungary offers several tours in Budapest, but they also have country-wide food and wine tours.
We met with our guide Sara at the Central Market to start exploring. The building itself is probably the prettiest market I have ever been to: it is grand and has lots of interesting features inside and outside.
We started off with a cottage cheese snack, which Hungarian children love. To my surprise, it tasted exactly the same as a Russian snack I used to have as a child. To wake us up, Sara offered us a herbal liquor Unicum, which was quite strong and apparently used by Hungarians in medicinal purposes.
Next dish was one of my favourites: langos! Essentialy, it is fried dough, generously sprinkled with either garlic or sour cream and cheese. When you are walking the streets of Budapest, you will spot many places which sell langos, and sometimes they top it up with Nutella and God knows what else, but Sara assured us that the proper way to eat langos is just plain or topped with garlic. Nutella/marshmallow varieties were invented to please tourist tastes.
While we walking in the market, Sara talked us through the different stalls and we also managed to squeeze a tasting of different sausages and pickles. If you like sausage, my advice would be to buy it at the market , where you can try different varieties. I left sausage shopping until the airport and although it tasted ok, the sausage did not replicate the flavour we tried at the market.
After all these little tastings, it was now time for lunch and Sara took us to a simple place, which was full, so we had to stand outside at the tables. I take it as a good sign when the place is full on a weekday! Basically, this place already had a variety of cooked meats/ vegetables and you just point to what you want to eat. We tried sausages, pork, roast duck, goulash and blood sausage. After this lunch, I was full but it was not the end of the tour yet! I was hoping I could walk a little bit to the next tasting stop and more food can somehow fit in my stomach.
Next stop was an artisan chocolate shop, which produces small batches of chocolates and chocolate bars with a wonderful variety of flavours. You can choose couple of chocolates to try and also shop to your heart content. The chocolate quality was fantastic, even though I thought, that prices were on a higher side, so you have to be either a chocolate expert or love chocolate beyond the monetary value.
After chocolate, it was time to discover what a traditional grand cafe in Budapest is like. Before going to Budapest, I have seen lots of “Best Cafes to visit in Budapest” lists and New York Cafe or Cafe Gerbeaud usually top these lists. While grand and certainly beautiful, they somehow lacked the atmosphere for me, as there were no locals in sight, too many tourists and rush, rush, rush to go through as many people as possible.
Central Cafe also made it to the Best Cafe List, but this was a real gem. It was not full to the brim, it was beautiful inside and a selection of desserts was mouth watering. I can certainly stay here for a day, with cake and coffee by my side, while appreciating the view from the massive windows. We tried a selection of cakes and Sara also told us the stories associated with each of the desserts.
Last stop was at Taste Hungary cosy store, just next to the National Hungarian Museum, where we had an opportunity to try Hungarian wines. I am raising my hand and confessing I am guilty of never trying a Hungarian wine before! Have you?
If you look at a menu in any Budapest restaurant, majority of the positions will be taken by Hungarian wines. There are 22 wine-producing regions in Hungary and after 4 days of sampling various wines with my meals, I can assure you that Hungarians do not really need to rely on any other wine regions in the world.
Wines were served with yet another round of cheeses, breads and olives. We were given a quick introduction to each of the wines and my favourite was of course the Tokaj wine. We were also invited to shop after the tour was finished as there was a great variety of wines on offer and plenty of helpful advice.
Overall, I thought the tour was a great introduction to the Hungarian food and drinks, with plenty of ideas of where to eat in the following days of my trip. Our guide Sara was knowledgeable and accommodating, she was constantly serving, making portions and making sure we got the best bits. You can book Culinary Walk on Taste Hungary website, which will guarantee you the place on the day and there are quite a few tours to choose from. Now, I need a second visit to go and eat more nice food in Budapest!
My ticket for Taste Hungary Food Tour was provided at media rate, but all opinions are my own.
Budapest can be enjoyed at every season: in the summer you can appreciate balmy weather, while enjoying your coffee on numerous terraces that the city has got. In the winter you can go to the Christmas market or warm yourself in thermal spa waters. There […]
My absolute treat at the weekend is a cup of coffee, preferably with a piece of cake…. in silence. Once you become parent you start to appreciate simple things in life. You no longer need all-nighters to feel that you are a bright young thing, […]
We visited Porto in the off-season during autumn school holidays, which fell on the end of October- beginning of November in 2018. One of things I always wanted to do is to go on a river cruise in the Douro Valley, which has been placed on UNESCO World Heritage List, because wines were produced in this region for over two thousand years.
When I started looking for cruise companies, I realised that majority of them sailed only until the end of October and Rota do Douro was the only company I managed to find with sailings in November.
I have done my booking via email and paid for the trip on the day. There is a variety of cruises you can choose from and during the season the choice is much better than in winter months.
I went for Porto-Regua- Porto Upstream Cruise, which departed Porto in the morning and sailed all the way to Regua, where we had around an hour and a half before heading back to Porto by train.
Rota do Douro did a fantastic job in how the cruise was organised. All meals were served promptly, and we were informed about the activities by a helpful staff member. At the end of the trip, we were provided with train tickets and again there was a member of company’s staff on the train until Porto if any assistance was required.
When you board the boat, all the tables are set for breakfast and it is a fantastic start to the day.
I also loved that the cruise was very child friendly, you can bring the buggy on board, the kids were occupied either by food, drawing or reading at the table or looking out of the window or enjoying the fresh air on the upper deck.
Parents will also manage to have a rest, as you will not be pushing the buggy, but still seeing new places, while having a glass of wine and a delicious meal. Luca also managed to have a sleep in the afternoon on the open deck, which meant a happy child later during the day.
After breakfast the boat is going through 2 river dams, where the boat gets raised by the water to travel upstream. We had a chance to peek inside the captain’s cabin and sit on the captain’s chair! Exciting!
Also, there was a running commentary in different languages on the boat about the things that you saw on the way, so the cruise was educational and entertaining at the same time.
The view is always changing and we were either passing pretty landscapes or enjoying the sunshine on the upper deck.
Around midday the lunch is served and the food was of a very good standard and child friendly. On our cruise we had soup to start with, then followed by roast pork, potatoes and vegetables and for dessert we had chocolate mousse. The food is plentiful so you will not go hungry, in fact we were not able to finish our main course for lunch. They serve a full bottle of wine for 2 adults, which can be enjoyed in the afternoon.
After lunch the landscape is changing to beautiful wineyards and wine lodges dotted here and there. We were lucky as the sun came out and we decamped to the open upper deck to enjoy the view and the wine.
When we arrived to Regua it was a public holiday and majority of places were closed, but it is a bustling little town, where you can have coffee and a local pastry before you board the train. There are plenty of pretty buildings and small shops to have a look at, as well as couple of museums which you will probably have enough time to visit before your train departs.
Train journey back takes approximately 1.5 hours and you arrive to a gorgeous Sao Bento station, full of azulejo panels as far as an eye can see.
We absolutely loved the day on a boat and if you have enough time in Porto to go and visit Douro Valley, I certainly recommend a cruise with Rota do Douro. I would not hesitate to go back for a longer cruise, which lasts a few days allowing to enjoy all pleasures and sights of the Douro Valley.
The tickets for the river cruise were provided at media rate but all opinions are my own.