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A Tour of the Wallace Collection in London England

The Wallace Collection is a public museum in a stately London townhouse, filled with one of the greatest private collections of art ever bequeathed to the British nation.

The collection was amassed by five generations of one family, from circa 1760 to 1880 and is displayed in their historic former home, Hertford House. The mansion is tucked away on leafy Manchester Square in London’s west end, just behind busy Oxford Street.

Highlights of the Wallace Collection

Though the Wallace Collection is known for its superb 18th and 19th century French paintings and decorative art, the wealthy Marquesses of Hertford bought what they liked, not what they thought was fashionable. The result is something for almost everyone, from Rococo Sevres porcelain to 16thC Turkish Iznik pottery.

Medieval suits of armour, including a life-sized statue of a horse dressed for battle, are housed alongside crossbows, carved pistols and exotic jewel-encrusted daggers.

Paintings by Titian, Rembrandt and Rubens hang on the walls. The museum is also home to the famous Frans Hals painting The Laughing Cavalier.

The Marquesses of Hertford

Though the first four Marquesses of Hertford all engaged in buying fine art and decorative furnishings,the greatest collector of all was the neurotic and reclusive 4th Marquess, Richard Seymour-Conway. He spent the last thirty years of his life bidding through agents for works by the Old Masters.

Seymour-Conway willed the home and contents to his illegitimate son Sir Richard Wallace. The subsequent 1897 bequest of Sir Richard’s widow Lady Wallace was possibly the largest private gift ever left to the British nation.

Opening of the Wallace Collection to the Public

Hertford House was opened to the public on June 22, 1900. Lady Wallace stipulated that it be a closed collection, that is, nothing can be added or removed from the items donated in her will. Curators constantly work to present the collection in different lights. Galleries are updated and the museum also offers art classes and degrees and diplomas in art and design related fields.

Hertford House as Private Home & Public Museum

A tour of the Wallace Collection at Hertford House is like visiting a stately private home, which is a large part of its charm. Visitors can wander over creaky parquet floors to admire a charmingly feminine desk that was once owned by Marie Antoinette. Or you can listen to the only recorded music from the 18th century, courtesy of a 1763 musical clock attributed to Jean-Claude Duplessis, The Elder. The clock chimes 13 different tunes, one before each hour.

Everything seems so accessible, with few velvet ropes in sight. However, behind the restrained presence of the guards, high-tech protection for the Wallace Collection artifacts from both a security and conservation aspect, is hidden in the woodwork. Hertford House still acts like a private home, not a purpose-built museum, so that large numbers of visitors aren’t actively encouraged. Hence the sensation that you have discovered a hidden treasure in the heart of London.

Dining at the Museum Restaurant – The Wallace

An a la carte menu is offered in the light-filled courtyard restaurant, where a soaring atrium provides an elegant setting for lunch or dinner. Seasonal French cuisine is featured, along with a seafood bar, cheeses and pates.


The museum provides some parking for disabled patrons, (which should be booked in advance), lifts to all three floors, wheelchair-accessible washrooms, translations of English audio guides, large print text sheets, magnifying glasses and flashlights.

On certain occasions, tours are offered in British Sign Language and/or Sign Supported Language. Please refer to their website under “visiting/access” for complete information.

Visiting Hours and Admission

Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm year round, except for December 24th, 25th and 26th. Donations are recommended as admission is free.

National Trust Homes in London

Visitors to the Wallace Collection might also enjoy a tour of two other historic London homes, Fenton House and Two Willow Road. The Victoria and Albert Museum is also a top cultural destination in London.

For more information on how to enjoy any trip, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!


Visit Historic Fenton House in Hampstead Heath, London UK

Visitors to National Trust Site Fenton House in London’s Hampstead Village will be transported into the bucolic past via glorious gardens, stately architecture and the melodies of prized early keyboards.

Wander down a quiet lane, away from the cafes and boutiques on the High Street. The entrance to Fenton House, circa 1686, is through an ornate metal gate, past lines of false acacia trees. This noble red and brown brick building is fitted with tall, white double-hung windows and massive chimneys that hover over the tiled rooftop.

 Famous National Trust Garden at Fenton House

Pass under the yew arbour into the award-winning garden. The grass is precisely mowed in alternating rows and the grounds are still “enclos’d with a substantial Brick Wall,” as listed on a 1765 notice of sale for Fenton House. Only now the wall is overgrown with ivy, bay and acanthus plants. At the end of the yard, benches appear in sunken gardens fragrant with lavender and rosemary. Magnificent mauve wisteria blossoms hang over pea gravel paths that are bordered by clipped boxwood.

Varigated holly bushes, pruned into cone shapes, become extravagant Christmas trees while a centuries-old orchard still produces more than thirty varieties of English apple.

Antique Keyboards from the Benton Fletcher Collection

Step inside to find that this merchant house is as elegant as the surrounding property. And Fenton House holds a special treat – an exceptional collection of early keyboards.

In 1952 Fenton House and a fine assortment of porcelain, paintings and furniture were bequeathed by owner and avid collector Lady Katherine Binning. However, according to the National Trust, beds and dressers were excluded from the will. These were taken by her heirs. The Trust filled the gaps with antique keyboards from the 1937 bequest of Major Benton Fletcher. All of the instruments are maintained in playing order and on a recital day, the house may fill with the unique sounds of a clavichord, spinet or virginal.

Lady Katherine Binning and Fenton House

On the main floor, the Oriental Room holds Chinese porcelain from the ninth to 18th centuries and is painted a soothing celadon green. An ancient bowl brims with dried lavender from the garden. Descriptions of the items are printed on cards which may be read at leisure.

Lady Binning’s collection of blue-and-white china from the Kangxi period of 1662 to 1722 is displayed in her bedroom upstairs while the drawing room next door is appointed with Sheraton-style satinwood furniture. Caroline chintz curtains, inspired by early 18th-century draperies in the Kasteel Duivenvoorde in Holland, are edged in fluttering pink and white fabric petals.

On the third floor, former servants’ quarters are now a small gift shop. From this vantage point, on a clear day, the modern office towers of London are visible. But on a hazy day, especially with Baroque music in the background, the past is still very present at Fenton House.

Information on Fenton House and Nearby Attractions

Tickets to Fenton House are available for garden only, house and garden or joint with nearby National Trust property 2 Willow Road.

Visitors to Fenton House might also enjoy touring the wonderful works of art in the stately Hertford House Wallace Collection  also in London.

For more information on how to enjoy any trip, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!



Visiting Historic UNESCO Bath Spa UK Heritage Site


The ruins and spa at Bath are worth a day trip from London.

Historic Bath is an easy day trip from London. Visitors can tour ancient Roman ruins or indulge in a modern spa treatment. Bath is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Head out to Bath in the morning by train or bus. As the office towers and red brick houses of London gradually give way to rolling green fields lined with hedgerows and dotted with country homes, a sense of relaxation sets in.

The original Roman Baths were constructed between AD 65 and 75. Rebuilt in the 1700s, they reached the height of their popularity when Queen Anne’s regular visits to Bath made the spa fashionable amongst society’s elite. People bathed in and drank Bath’s foul smelling thermal water. Amazingly, the spring still pumps out 240,000 gallons daily.

UNESCO World Heritage Site at Bath

Visitors arriving in Bath will be charmed by curved rows of late 18th century townhouses. Elegant in their Georgian simplicity, the mellow patina of the facades contrasts sharply with the polished brass hardware and high gloss paint on the front doors. A popular door colour is oxblood red. These houses are one of the reasons Bath was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987.

The River Avon runs through the heart of town, and defines Bath almost as much as its Georgian architecture or fine Roman ruins. The Pulteney Bridge is reminiscent of Italy, not surprising since its unusual shop-lined design was based on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

Ancient Treasures at Bath

The baths are an archaeological treasure, with an excavated temple, saunas and massage rooms. A trove of antique coins, mosaics, stone carvings and a fabulous gilt-bronze head of Minerva are well displayed. The Great Bath, an enormous swimming pool, impresses with its classic eighteenth century design. You can imagine lords and ladies cavorting around the columns and in the steaming, greenish-grey water.

Thermal Spa Treatment at Bath

Today’s visitors to Bath can enjoy the best of the old and the new with The Spas Ancient and Modern package, which includes admission to the historic Roman Baths, a two-hour session at the new Thermae Bath Spa and lunch or Champagne tea in the Pump Room Restaurant.

Taste Bath’s Water at the Grand Pump Room

Along with lunches and afternoon teas, the Pump Room sells a souvenir of a different kind. Visitors can buy a taste of the spa’s water. Sniff, sip and gag. The murky brew of 43 malodorous minerals is absolutely vile. But what else would you expect from ‘Bath water?’

Historic Sites in London

Visitors to the Roman Baths might also enjoy a tour of historic Fenton House or the Wallace Collection in London.

For more information on how to enjoy any trip, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!


Visiting Chateau de Cormatin in Burgundy, France

A tour of this beautiful chateau was part of a cruise we took on the Saone River in France.

The Chateau de Cormatin is a beautiful castle in South Burgundy, France. Travellers to this region should make time to tour the chateau and its elegant gardens.

The Chateau de Cormatin rests on the foundations of a French medieval fortress built in Burgundy in 1280 by Henri du Ble. Both the chateau and its spectacular gardens are open to the public and are a popular destination for canal and barge boat passengers cruising along the Saone River.

History of the du Ble Family in France

The du Ble family can trace its noble French lineage back to the year 1000. A barony was acquired through a marriage in 1560 and Antoine du Ble further enhanced the family’s prestige by strategically throwing his support behind Henri IV.

The new king brought Antoine financial and social rewards, enabling him to rebuild Cormatin. The chateau was reconstructed using the existing feudal plan. The design – square with a tower at each corner – was both a practical and security feature.

As with many other French chateaux, the ramparts were later destroyed during the reign of Louis XIV. This indicated to the King that the nobility had no plans to revolt against his authority. The chateau’s slate roof not only showed the wealth of the du Ble family, it also announced their affiliation to the French Royal Court, as this material was the choice of royal residences.

French Chateau Staircase Architecture

The stunning open well interior staircase of Chateau de Cormatin was a relatively new development in early 17th century France. The arches and vaulting transfer the weight of the stones onto the outer walls. The plain, whitewashed space is a stark contrast to the highly decorated apartments. It allows one to appreciate both the engineering and the subtle colours of the various stones.

According to experts at the Château de Cormatin, neoplatonic philosophy, which was popular at the time, “attributed metaphysical virtues to numbers and geometrical shapes.” Therefore, a staircase designed using strict a mathematical formula was seen as representative of universal order.

Chateau de Cormatin Private Apartments

17th century French nobles would have “apartments” within their homes, which would contain four rooms: the anti-chamber, the bedchamber, the privy closet and the dressing room. Each of these rooms would be furnished according to its purpose.

At this time in French history, the bedchamber was the most important room within the chateau’s apartment and served as both a private and public place according to the time of day. Noble owners would also eat and entertain in the bedchamber.

The decor is rich with colors and complex symbolism that specifically relate to the person who inhabited the room. For example, paintings of fresh cut flowers represent the good deeds that one must perform daily, otherwise, like real flowers, their benefits will fade. The blue ceiling expresses faithfulness.

Beautiful French Gardens

The gardens at the chateau are notable for their variety and include an enormous maze, clipped animal topiaries and geometrically designed vegetable plots. You should allow ample time to explore and photograph the fabulous grounds.

For more information on how to enjoy any trip, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!


Visit Monet’s Garden and House in Giverny, France

Claude Monet once said “Apart from painting and gardening, I’m not good at anything.” While I readily acknowledge his artistic skills, a trip to his house and garden 70 kilometres outside Paris may satisfy my curiosity about his green thumb.

Travelling to Giverny is easy even for someone who speaks limited French like I do.  I take an express train from Gare St.Lazare to the ancient Normandy city of Vernon and then hop on a bus for the final few kilometres.

I arrive early enough to enjoy lunch nearby before touring Monet’s house and gardens. I dine under the dappled shade of plane trees outside the Hotel Baudy, once a hangout for American and French artists in the late 1880s. I share my omelette, but not my glass of wine, with a marmalade cat that politely meows merci. It’s achingly picturesque. Even the walk to the bathrooms meanders past a rustic studio and along a path bordered with roses and daisies.

I enter the museum grounds through Monet’s old studio, now transformed into a first class shop. No photography is allowed inside so I’ll stock up on postcards and books on the way out.

I catch a glimpse of the verdant gardens but choose to start my visit with the house. Like Monet’s paintings, the interior is awash in vibrant hues. One hallway is covered in antique Japanese prints. The bedroom of his wife, Alice, has leaf green walls and sky blue trim. The living room is the colour of a robin’s egg and the curvy moulding around the wood panelling is outlined in peacock blue.

I feel like I have stepped inside a ball of sunshine when I walk into the dining room. Everything, including tables, chairs and walls is painted in shades of brilliant yellow. Two enormous china cabinets, also yellow, look cartoonish with elaborate Rococo styling.  The room is accented with piles of blue and white pottery.

The kitchen next door is plastered floor to ceiling with blue and white tiles and overflows with brass and copper pots and pans.  I could live here easily.

Outside I marvel at flowers blooming in harmonized colours. Masses of roses, dahlias, sunflowers and nasturtiums glow like brilliant jewels in the September sun. Monet’s secret was to plant with an artist’s eye for how the garden would be best reproduced on canvas.

The pond is dotted with lily pads and surrounded by stately weeping willows. It holds a perfect reflection of the cloudless afternoon sky. In the past, coal burning trains used to chug by here. I pause to envision a bizarre story – that Monet asked his gardeners to brush soot from the lilies before he painted them.

I fall in love with one particular aspect of the exterior, a vivid green that appears everywhere; on the doors, shutters, benches, trellises and the Japanese bridge. It makes everything from the pink stucco on the house to the pots of red geraniums appear more vibrant.

I’m disheartened, thinking I’ll never remember this exact shade of green. But then I notice a small blister of paint peeling from the bottom of the front stairs.  I bend over to examine it more closely and voilá! The chip magically hops into my tote bag. Once home I discover it’s a near match to Benjamin Moore’s Cat’s Eye.

Two hours later, I’m almost cross-eyed from all the colours and sensory overload. I’m hoping my photographs will capture the sights my brain can no longer hold.

Back on the tour bus to the station, I have an argument with the driver who wants to see my return ticket.  It’s lost in the maze of paper and postcards in the bottom of my bag but he begrudgingly lets me ride. It’s unlikely that anyone would buy a one-way ticket anyhow.  The road to Giverny is narrow, hilly and without sidewalks.

In Vernon, I quaff a cold Kronenbourg beer while waiting for the train to Paris.  I examine my tiny sliver of paint and smile. I may never have Monet’s green thumb, but at least I’ll have his green paint.

For more information on how to enjoy any trip, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!


Paris Arrondissements One to Ten

Best Attractions & Monuments in 1st to 10th Paris Arrondissements

The best way to visit to Paris or in fact, any large city, is to learn about its different neighbourhoods. Paris is divided into 20 districts, or arrondissements and many guidebooks and most Parisians refer to them when describing or discussing an area.

From the 1st to the 20th arrondissement, these districts follow a clockwise spiral like a snail’s shell. The Seine River divides the city into the Left Bank on the south and the Right Bank on the north. Learn which one is home to haute couture or high finance, the Louvre, the Latin Quarter and the Left Bank.

1st – Louvre

The first is in the heart of Paris and includes the Musée du Louvre (Louvre Museum), the Musée des Arts Decoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts), Musée de L’Orangerie in the Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Gardens). The Palais Royale hosts France’s national theatre, the Comédie Française while Place Vendôme is one of the haunts of the wealthy with banks and lavish jewellery and designer boutiques showcasing names like Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels, Armani, Piaget and Bulgari.

2nd Arrondissement – Bourse

Just north of the first arrondissement, Bourse is the financial district, home to the Paris stock market or Bourse de Paris. The Bibliothèque Nationale is also here.

3rd – Temple

The Marais, Paris’s oldest district, was once the exclusive domain of Orthodox Jews. It is now a predominantly gay area, filled with stylish boutiques, art galleries, lively bars and fun places to eat. The National Archives, the Picasso Museum and Musée Cognaq-Jay are also in the third arrondissement.

4th – Hôtel de Ville

Swirling south of the Marais is the fourth arrondissement, where the Place des Vosges, a beautiful 17th century square is located. This area includes part of Ile-Saint-Louis, the island in the middle of Paris that is home to the Gothic Roman Catholic Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris. Centre Georges Pompidou is known for its unusual high-tech exterior construction and modern art exhibits.

5th Arrondissement – Panthéon or Latin Quarter

This area became known as the Latin Quarter because the ancient language was once spoken by students attending the Sorbonne University. The fifth arrondissement features cheap places to eat and sleep. Also in the neighbourhood are the Muséum Nationale d’Histoire Naturelle, (Museum of Natural History) and the Musée National de Moyen Age- Thermes de Cluny.

6th – Luxembourg – St. Germaine

Saint-Germaine-des-Près is a chic left-bank district of galleries, boutiques and cafes. The beautifully lavish Luxembourg Gardens are in this Paris arrondissement as is Musée Delacroix, situated in the artist’s former home and the French mint’s Musée de la Monnaie.

7th – Palais-Bourbon & Tour Eiffel

An elegant, moneyed Parisian neighbourhood where the Eiffel Tower and the large public park Champ de Mars can be found. Also in the seventh arrondissement is the Musée d’Orsay, a renovated railway station that boasts a fine collection of 19th and 20th century art, the best place to see the work of the Impressionists. Sculptures by August Rodin are displayed in the Musée Rodin.

8th Arrondissement – Elysée

HIgh finance and high fashion mingle in the eighth arrondissement. Traffic streams endlessly along the Champs-Elysées and around the traffic circle surrounding the Arc de Triomphe. Avenue Montaigne and Faubourg Saint-Honoré are the streets for haute couture and fine art while shops on Place de Madeleine serve up gourmet delicacies. Musée Jacquemart André hosts a superb collection of art and antiquities in a private mansion.

9th – Opéra

Besides being the home of the Paris Opera house, some of the city’s finest shopping can be found at the elegant department stores Galleries Layfayette and Printemps.

10th – Canal Saint-Martin

This eclectic neighbourhood received a boost in visitors after it appeared in the hit French movie Amelie. A fun artsy area, Canal Saint-Martin is rapidly being gentrified. Meander beside the canals that are still open, or picnic on top of the ones that have been covered. The upscale Musée des Cristalleries de Baccarat (Baccarat Crystal Museum) is in the tenth arrondissement.

This article was compiled using information from L’indispensable de Paris, an excellent Parisian map book and during numerous trips to Paris. Please note that while some of the descriptive names of the arrondissements may differ, the numbers, locations and boundaries do not.

Read the guide to  Paris Arrondissements 12 to 20.

For more information on how to enjoy any trip, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!


Paris Arrondissements Eleven to Twenty

Best Attractions & Monuments in 11th to 20th Paris Arrondissements

The best way to travel around Paris is to learn about the different arrondissements or neighbourhoods that define the city. This easy-to-use guide will help.

Most Parisians refer to an area by its arrondissement, which is also displayed in the last two numbers of the 5 digit Paris postal code. These districts follow a clockwise spiral, starting with the 1st arrondissement north of the Seine River in the heart of the city, down and around ending with the 20th on the eastern outskirts. The Seine divides the city into the Left Bank on the south and the Right Bank on the north.

11th – Bastille

Formerly a working-class neighbourhood and location of the infamous jail, Bastille is now a trendy mix of bars, clubs and art galleries. Place de Bastille, a large, open square, touches three arrondissements, the fourth, eleventh and twelfth. The private Musee Edith Piaf, founded by a group of avid fans, is on Rue Crespin du Gast.

12th – Bois de Vincennes

Home to the ultra-modern Paris Opera House, Opera Bastille, loved and loathed by Parisians. The beautifully lush park Bois de Vincennes is on the south-east border of this district.

13th – Gobelins

This is primarily a residential neighbourhood. The Bibliothèque Nationale de France (National Library of France), designed to resemble four open books, is located here on the banks of the Seine. Stroll along Avenue de Choisy for a taste of Paris’s Chinatown.

14th – Montparnasse

Paris’s only skyscraper, Tour Montparnasse, is a landmark in this mostly residential neighbourhood. The Montparnasse cemetery and Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris anchor the north west and south east corners of this district respectively.

15th Arrondissement – Vaugirard/Grenelle

The north-east corner of this primarily residential arrondissement is appealing close to the Eiffel tower and a pleasant walk along the Seine.

16th – Passy

A more upscale neighbourhood with a lovely river side promenade, this arrondissement hosts a super selection of vintage clothing and accessory shops on Rue de la Pompe. The Palais de Chaillot, the Trocadero, (which offers superb views of the Eiffel Tower across the Seine) and the Museum of Modern Art (located in the Palais de Tokyo) are also here. The spacious Bois de Bologne park on the western edge features glorious gardens and lakes.

17th – Monceau

The seventeenth arrondissement is an upscale bourgeois neighbourhood, with quite good shopping along Avenue des Ternes. Restaurants catering to business travellers surround the Palais des Congres and Le Meridien Etoile Hotel.

18th – Montmartre

The landmark Sacré Coeur Basilica presides over this quaint artsy/touristy neighbourhood in the north of Paris. The Place du Tertre is the bustling main square. The Espace Montmartre Salvador Dali boasts a permanent exhibition of Dali’s art while the Musée de Montmartre features works by local artists. The only remaining vineyard in Paris is also here. Down the hill at Pigalle, the Moulin Rouge is still a draw and remnants of the area’s sleazier past remain.

19th – Chaumont/Belleville

The 19th and 20th arrondissements are sometimes referred to as Belleville, perhaps as the Rue de Belleville, a good location for ethnic food and produce, separates the two areas. A neighbourhood of new immigrants and the not-so-rich.

20th – Pere Lachaise

The famous Pere Lachaise cemetery is the final resting place of luminaries like the Door’s Jim Morrison, writer Oscar Wilde and singer Edith Piaf. The statues and monuments of other not-so-famous people also make Pere Lachaise a pleasant place to meander around.

This article was compiled using information from L’indispensable de Paris, an excellent Parisian map book and during numerous trips to Paris. Please note that while some of the descriptive names of the arrondissements may differ, the numbers, locations and boundaries do not.

Read the guide to Paris Arrondissements One to Eleven.

For more information on how to enjoy any trip, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!


Jet Lag Remedy at Japanese Stone Spa

I’m always looking for ways to overcome jet lag symptoms. One of the best ways I’ve found is by visiting Ishi No Yu Stone Spa near Tokyo for ganbanyoku, a spa treatment that involves lying on a hot stone bed and sweating.

Ganbanyoku translates as “bedrock bath” or “rock bathing” and is reputed to improve circulation and skin tone as well as relieving muscle fatigue and tension. Many Japanese flight attendants believe it is an excellent way to detox after a long-haul flight. I have to agree with them.

The Ishi No Yu Stone Spa is a short walk from the Aeon Center, a shopping plaza in Narita. Most of the major hotels close to Narita International Airport, the airport that serves Tokyo, have shuttle buses to downtown Narita and nearby shopping malls.

Japanese protocol prevails as you enter the spa foyer. Courteous staff members will bow to greet visitors and request that shoes are removed and placed in a special locker. Shopping bags and parcels can also be stored here.

In the lobby, guests can be found enjoying typical Japanese beverages after their treatment. Complimentary hot or cold tea is offered and you will pay in advance for other drinks and for the spa service. Noni juice is highly recommended for detox though it has a slightly bitter taste.

Ganbanyoku Spa Instructions without Speaking Japanese

It’s not necessary to speak Japanese in order to visit the spa as there is often an English-speaking staff member available and instructions are simple to follow.

  • The attendant will offer a locker key, a stack of terry towels, a pair of cotton pyjamas, a bottle of water and a large laminated card with instruction for the stone spa written in Japanese alongside simple descriptive drawings.
  • The small towel, or face cloth is used for brow wiping when sweating, the large towel is used as a mat on the stone bed and the mid-sized towel is rolled up and used as a pillow.
  • In the powder room, a demonstration will be given on how to create a rich lather by rubbing soap through a mesh cloth. The resulting mound of foam can then be used to remove makeup.
  • Each guest is given a small bottle of water conveniently marked with the time the treatment must be finished. Three bottles should be consumed during the visit tto the stone spa bed to replenish fluids lost while sweating. Refill the bottle from a cooler in the spa’s inner lounge.

Day Visits to the Stone Spa

Surprisingly, many Japanese women say the sweat produced while at the stone spa is like lotion, and not sticky or smelly like regular perspiration. They suggest showering before, not after ganbanyoku.

Enter the private change room and store clothing in the locker. Shower, pull on the two-piece cotton pyjama and enter the stone spa. The entire facility is very clean and even modest women will feel comfortable during their visit.

Inside the Ganbanyoku Stone Spa

The spa room is as hot as a sauna, but without the typical dryness. Temperatures on the stone beds average 42 – 44 degrees Celsius. Classical music piped softly into the dimly lit room creates a serene, retreat-like atmosphere.

The spa beds are separated by low wooden barriers to create private cubicles. There are clocks everywhere and an hourglass timer by the bed.

  • Lie face up for five minutes and face down for another five. Leave the two larger towels on the bed and return to the inner lounge for ten minutes to fill up the water bottle. Continue to drink the required amount of water while in the lounge and after returning to the spa.

Repeat this routine three times and the treatment is complete. Many flight attendants find that the amount of sweat produced after a flight is less than normal due to the dehydration that occurs onboard an aircraft. However, this can be the best time for releasing toxins.

After Ganbanyoku

Cool off and get changed or shower again if desired. Drop the used towels and pyjamas into one of the wire baskets. Use the powder room to freshen up and then return to the spa lobby for juice or Japanese tea.

A membership card will be offered upon check-out which can be used on the next visit to the stone spa. Shoes and parcels can be retrieved and goodbyes, “Sayonara” and thank yous, “Arigato” offered.

Find a Stone Spa at Home or in Japan

According an October 27, 2006 article in Japanese Market News, there are over 2,000 stone spas in Japan. If you can’t visit the land of the rising sun, you might be able to find a stone spa closer to home, though online searches and local magazine and newspaper stories or ads.

For more information on how to enjoy any trip, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!


A Shopping Trip to the Markets of New Delhi, India

Flight attendants love to shop for bargains, and the markets of New Delhi are the best places to find them.

It’s 110 degrees in the shade, if you can find any, and I’m haggling with an immovable merchant.  As my jet lag temporarily lifts, I realize I’m arguing over 60 cents.  I hand over 150 rupees (about $4.50), grab the brightly embroidered bag and slink away.

Welcome to New Delhi, the jumping-off point to the legendary Taj Mahal. But I’ve already done my compulsory tour of Agra.  Today, I’m enjoying another of India’s exotic treasures – extreme shopping at some of the city’s fabulous markets with my flight attendant friends.

Our first stop is Janpath.  Along the alleys, stalls are bursting with cheap and fashionable clothes. We grab long cotton skirts with ruffles down the front or along the hem, for about $9.00 each.  Paired with a sleeveless embroidered top, it’s a great summer look.  Another shop catches our attention with tie-dyed mirror-work tops, an updated hippie look in vibrant hues.  There’s one in each of our favourite colours – orange, fuchsia and turquoise, and we strike a better deal for buying in bulk – $4.50 each.

It’s hot and dusty so no one wants to try anything on.  Friends gauge fit and suitability as we hold tops and skirts up for approval or occasionally squeeze items on over clothing.  This mostly open market requires #60 sunscreen and closed-toed shoes are essential, as pathways are uneven and often piled with unidentifiable debris.  My head spins as I scan the stalls, the ground and the touts pushing postcards, chess sets and palm readings.  I look like I’m auditioning for a role in the Exorcist.

Turning the corner out of Janpath, we reach the Tibetan Market and meet with a friend in Tribal Arts.  A puff of incense and cool air curls out of the tiny dim shop.  Did someone say “Open Sesame?”  It seems we’ve entered a virtual Ali Baba’s cave of beads, bangles and glitter. There is hardly enough room for four of us in front of the brimming counter. Walls are draped with faux silver necklaces strung with mock coral, turquoise and lapis. We jostle for position in front of the sole mirror clasping aqua and amber glass drop earrings.  Many items are priced from two to three dollars. A few doors down, at Satish Fine Arts, we make a refreshing purchase of bracelets that resemble slender ice cubes.

I’ve spent all my money and we’ve only visited one market.  Bank machines are scarce and credit cards aren’t widely accepted. Even a large bill sends a runner scurrying for change.  Fortunately, my friends are still flush, and their cry of “I still have some cash,” rallies us on.

We’re on a mission, and head to another popular market, Sarojini.  It has mainly household goods but it holds other treasures.  We discover a shop with earrings for only 30 cents a pair.  And they are gorgeous – mostly drop style “silver” with glass beads and imitation stones.   As if the $1.20 earrings at the Tibetan Market weren’t cheap enough, we descend like locusts and scoop up ten to twenty pairs each, including all the cobalt blue and aqua ones in sight.  I snag a chic pair with a black pea-sized bead wrapped in wire, dangling from a slim silver matchstick.

We bypass stalls packed with napkins, tablecloths and cushion covers in favour of an air-conditioned shoe store. By the time we leave, we have each bought at least one pair of shoes, ranging from elegant black sandals to beaded ballet slippers. At $20 – $30 apiece, compared to $90 -$120 at home, this could be the deal of the day.

In the evening, we reward ourselves with a cocktail at the stately Imperial Hotel. Glasses and bracelets clink in the cool serenity of the Atrium lounge as we toast our shopping savvy.   When the bill arrives, we finally get a chance to use our credit cards.  One large gin and tonic is a jaw-dropping $32.00.  Welcome to the other side of New Delhi.

For more information on how to enjoy any trip, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!


Seven Secret Travel Gems of Venice

I love Venice, but hate the crowds, so after three or four visits, I discovered some special things to see and do. You can still visit the main attractions, or not, but when you need a break, consider the following hidden gems of Venice.

Spectacular Secret Sanctuary

The most glorious sanctuary in Venice is Santa Maria Assunta ai Gesuiti.  Most of the interior surfaces of this Baroque Jesuit church are covered in an intricately carved pattern of green and white marble. This stunning feat of craftsmanship will make you overlook the Tintoretto and Titian paintings on the walls. Risk a trip to Hell by snapping a forbidden photo then drop a few euros in the collection box to assuage your guilt.

Magnificent Basilica in Murano

Dodge the aggressive shop keepers and head straight for Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato.  This church may be older than San Marco though its elaborate mosaic floors have been spared the damage caused by constant visitors and the heaving high waters of St. Marks Square.  The odd opening hours may also have something to do with its wonderful state of preservation.

Shop for a Venetian Lamp in the Cannareigo District

On Strada Nuova,  buy a lantern with glass the pale pink of Venetian street lights. The selection is fabulous and don’t worry about getting it home. You’ll leave the shop carrying what looks like a wasp’s nest on steroids.  Your lamp will be swathed in enough bubble wrap to be sent by catapult and still arrive intact.

Laid-back Culture at Peggy’s House

Browse through rooms of Abstraction, Futurism and Cubism in The Peggy Guggenheim Collection. It’s like first aid for modern art lovers suffering from an overdose of Baroque and Renaissance talent.  This one storey palazzo looks like a modest bungalow amidst its splendid multi-storied neighbours along the Grand Canal.

Champagne Italian Style

Live the high life, or at least appear to by quaffing copious quantities of Prosecco, the Italian version of champagne. It’s dry and crisp, and the bubbles are so festive. For another treat, order the house wine when dining out.  More often than not it’s delicious and budget-friendly.

Spritz Like a Local

If you really want to look like a local, sit by the canal and order a glass of “spritz,” a popular cocktail made with prosecco or still white wine, a dash of soda water and an apertivo, either Aperol (orange-flavoured, less alcohol) or Campari (more bitter, more alcohol.) Your bartender will ask if you want Aperol or Campari, so be prepared. Your drink may come served in a low-ball glass, with a slice of lemon and an olive on a stick, and a dish of potato chips. Totally addictive and the perfect combination for an hour or so of people-watching.

Far From the Madding Crowds

St. Mark’s Square and The Grand Canal aren’t the only shows in town.  Skip the tourist hoards and join the locals on the promenade Zattere al Ponte Lungo facing the Giudecca Canal.  Order a Venetian Spritz (see above) at a quay-side café or meander off the beaten path and enjoy the dreamlike beauty in the maze of smaller canals.

For more travel secrets, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!