Are you as spontaneous as I am and book a trip overseas two days before the departure? If you are anything like me and love ditching town, especially when you live in a big city like Los Angeles, then you should definitely keep reading. I was trying to coordinate a trip with some girlfriends to head overseas to Panama, but it just wasn't in the cards and it wasn't working out.

Fast forward to two days before Labor day weekend and no trip booked.  I was looking into various destinations that wouldn't be a 14 hour excursion yet also affordable. Where could I go that was only about 4-5 hours away by plane and wasn't going to cost me a new house to get there? 

Low and behold the idea of Tulum, Mexico came to mind and as my friend was visiting we began to look up some flights.  The flights I seemed to be finding on your ordinary travel sites like Expedia were pulling up flights that were 14 hours in length, with a stop over in a US city and then arriving the next day in Mexico.  I thought no way, there has to be something better than this when Tulum, Mexico is only a 5 hour non-stop direct flight.  Then my friend said have you ever tried the website skiplagged?

Ironically, another friend mentioned this new app just days before and I wasn't too sure about downloading the app, as I was a bit skeptical but finally gave in.  We began to find flights that were much more afforable, say half the price and the hours I was looking to depart and return.  Then my friend suggested why don't you check another site out just to be sure. Now, it had been quite some time since I had checked into a site other than Expedia, why I am not sure, luck of the draw. 

So turns out Travelocity ended up having a flight for half the price of the original flights we were looking up and they were non-stop flights. It was finally happening.  Within a few hours I booked a last minute trip to Tulum, Mexico and I was so excited. Just to be sure I bought the travel insurance for the flight for an additional $30.00. I didn't end up needing it but in case of lost luggage or illness (Mexico's water isn't exactly the cleanest) I thought best to take precautionary measures for the extra cash.

However, knowing that I was going to eventually find a reasonable flight I began perusing hotels and airbnb locations to find a place to stay without also breaking the bank vault. Again as luck would have it I chose to go with the airbnb location that was only, you ready for it, $25.00 per night. 

The airbnb ended up being just what I needed for a relaxing getaway to detox from city life. It was near the main street in town, yet only about 4 miles away from hotel row which consists of higher end shops and a myriad of boutique and chic hotels.

If you have ever been to Tulum, you know there is a row of hotels that are classy and a bit trendy right on the beach.  Since September is off season, rooms were going for as low as $100.00 per night upwards of $500 per night.  Seeing as I was just looking for a last minute solo travel getaway I decided to skip the sand and stay in an airbnb which proved to be perfect for what I needed and I didn't lose my wallet doing so.  As much as I would love the luxury of a more expensive hotel right on the beach I also love to explore and a bit of a challenge whilst overseas.  The airbnb ended being the perfect blend of apartment and relaxation in a safe neighborhood far enough away from the noise of the main part of the city street, yet a five minute bike ride away.

One travel advisory that I wasnt warned of was the fact that this time of year (for about the past four years) the beach was laden with seaweed. Apparently the seaweed is a project of growth over the last four years and is possibly washing up on shore due to the earth's pollution.  The beaches in Tulum, are typicallly known as sandy white beaches with turquoise waters, but my time on Tulum's beach, was nothing of the sort, disappointing but reality.  Therefore not spending even $100 a night I was glad that I chose the airbnb over the beachside villas.

The airbnd had free bikes, hammocks and a lovely refreshing pool. Not to mention the local Cristal cenote was only a ten minute bike ride away.  Cenote's are part of the must see 'touristy' places when traveling to Tulum.  I definitely recommend having dinner in the city on the main road and doing your shopping there or off the main road, as there are many wonderful boutiques.

IMG 5359

One of my favorite destinations which is about 40 minutes outside of Tulum center is COBA ( the old ancient ruins).  One place I missed seeingg was Akumal where all the turtles can be seen right on the beach. Some of my recommended restaurants include Unico, which is on the main drag. Great service and reasonable prices for the portions of food and quality of food you get. I happened to go there on a Wednesday evening and mind you the crowds are not around in the month of September so there was only one other diner in the entire establishment, so it was like having the restaurant to myself.

IMG 5345

Another great establishment to grab a bite to eat was Hermana Republica which was a bit off the beaten path, but not so hidden that you cannot find it. This particular establishment I had run into, literally while biking around the town on my beach cruiser. There were a few diners and I truly enjoyed the light entrees I ordered, which consisted of a carpaccio like dish made with fresh daily fish and a pumpkin dip, served with some fresh homemade tortilla chips. 

IMG 5338

Looking for a spot to enjoy a night on the town, then definitely try out Batey's bar.  They even serve some light snacks if you have the munchies.  Some friends I met along the way and I went to this bar whilst passing by on a Sunday night and had a great time. The drinks are fresh and they offer live music, if you catch them on a night they have live music scheduled.  I highly recommend their fresh squeezed mojiitos, which I would recommend the watermelon with fresh squeezed watermelon and all the fixings, including a piece of sugar cane to enjoy with your drink.

Seeing as Tulum, is a quick plane ride away I may just choose to go back there, but for now visiting Tulum on a budget is the way to go.  In two months Tulum, will be in their high season and bustling with travelers and tourists alike.  If you look hard enough though you can certainly find deals. 

Are you at home thinking what could I do today on this beautiful day? Are you also wondering gosh it is so hot out, what can I do to stay cool today and how can I do so without spending a lot of money. 

Let me tell you coming from someone who absoultely loves finding activities in and around Los Angeles there are plenty of activities to do that are completely free.

For starters stop feeling sorry for yourself especially if you don't have anyone to join you on an excursion and do what I do many a time, go at it alone. Go see the world alone, go travel, get out of your comfort zone and my best advice to you is just GO!

I stopped waiting around for those people to have time, money and more time for me, and just do what I do best, spend time alone.  Sure are there times that I wish I had people to join me, yes, but other times I am so 100% happy with the idea I do what I want, when I want without having to answer to anyone.

That is how I learn more about myself everyday, is doing things alone. Just yesterday I had a feeling of just doing my own thing, after being invited to a pool party and also an evening out with the girls, but instead I chose to hit the beach down south. Yes, the traffic was bad, as I took Pacific Coast highway (also known as highway 1) and hit the beach in Laguna beach. 

There is a special beach that I found that is more secluded, but clearly my idea of hitting the beach wasn't just my idea alone. The rest of Southern California had the same idea and there was barely any parking in sight. I got lucky but had to take a bit of a hike and the secret beach was a lot further and a danger walk on the side of the road, so I chose to just land at the closest beach entrance I could find. It was certalnly okay as I spent a few hours to myself, watching the surfers, tourists and small kids pick up and pile up seaweed to their hearts content. The beach is one of the most soothing and claming things to do and it is always free to partake in on.

IMG 3445

Another great thing you can do is visit a local park or a museum. Sometimes museums will have free entrance during certain times, so just check out your local paper or online information center for this information.  Hiking is another great adventure that is available in LA and the OC. One place that is fun for people watching is Runyon Canyon in Los Angeles. You might even get lucky and see an A-list celebrity or two.  Another great option if you are going south of LA and heading to Orange County, especially during the summer time is to check out all the options for art in the city.

Since 1933 Laguna beach has been home to the Festival of the Arts and is more popularly known for Pageant of the Masters. For those that are exploring around Laguna, the Pageant of the Masters is what began in 1933 with a small stage and not much excitement. Then Pearl harbor happened in the mid 1940's and the locals were worried they would not ever see a show again, but 85 years later the Pageant of the Master's is in full swing. You can get tickets for as long as $25.00 to see a spectacular show, (especially with this years theme of being all about the history of Laguna beach.  Before the show you can visit a few of the art galleries or check out the Sawdust festival which has artists creating anything from photography on metal pieces to beautiful high end jewelry, art or class. 

One of my absolute favorite artists that showcases at the festival and makes the best and classiest bottle stoppers for wine or any sort of decorative bottle, is Alex Fritz glass. I also love all the jewelry that is available, from lower end affordable prices to the classy pieces that might break the bank, so if that is not for your budget, then stick with the more afforable art. Do note that the Pageant of the Master's begins the first week of July and ends the first weekend in September, typically Labor day weekend for any of you out of towners.  I personally just saw the show last night and was truly impressed at this years ensemble, so it is a must see, if you have never been, it is something you must experience at least once in your lifetime.

 

It's been a few weeks since my return from Istanbul, Turkey and I thought even though I have already written two articles about this amazing land I thought it would be fit to report on the Turkish baths that I had a chance to visit. One of my friends close Turkish friends, whose family has a well known established retail business was able to give us some advice whilst in the center of town, as I was really eager to go visit a Turkish bath.

 

IMG 1999

So, he walked us over to one of the oldest Turkish baths in Istanbul.  Turkish baths are not something that the locals go do, like the way Americans visit day spas, but it definitely is an experience that I recommend to anyone traveling to Turkey. Here I list some tips as to the best time to visit the baths and which Turkish bath we visited.

A traditional Turkish bath is the best one to visit.  The bath that I visited while in Turkey is called The Cemberlitas Bath.  The Bath is situated on the Divanyolu, facing the Vezir Hani side of the Hooped Column of Constantine.  In 992 AH (1584 AD) the royal architect Sinan built the bath which has been commissioned by Nurbanu Sultan, wife to Sultan Selim the second, and mother to Sultan Murad the third.   They did this in order to create an income stream fro the Valide-i Atif charity mosque complex.

The bath faces the Koprulu Mehmed Pasa Mosque, school and mausoleum.  It stands next to the Vezir Han, the old Darul-funun College, which is close to the Koprulu Library.

The bath opens its doors every morning at six o'clock and stays open until midnight to serve its clients, both male and female, which are separated in different quarters.  When walking into one of the oldest Turkish baths in Turkey you are greeted by the reception who reviews the prices and packages with you, and you can choose upon arrival.  You will certainly notice the history of present and past as you enter the building and you almost feel like you rewind to an era from over 100 years prior.

 

Once you select the service you prefer, you will be handed a drawstring bag with your washing mitt.  The attendants who will attend to you while you lay on the stone welcome you into the cool area and guide you to the changing room where you will have a locker to lock up and store your things. You take the key with you to the bath and can place it inside the small bag they provide you with.  Once you change and put on your robe, you will choose a pair of flip flops to walk to the hot turkish bathing area. You will enter the large room, which is a hot room, similar to that of the warmth of a hot yoga studio. This is where you will lay down on the central stone.  This central room includes others of the same sex, so know this is not a private room all to yourself, so ensure this is something that you will feel okay doing from a comfort level.

This room is where you will unwind and relax your body, and get prepared to be scrubbed down with the mit provided upon your entrance earlier.  A masseur (for the men) and a masseuse (for the women) will arrive to your chosen spot about twenty minutes after you laying on the warm stone. This is when your pores will open and you can have complete relaxation until your turn comes to be scrubbed down.  A good scrub by one of the attendants is followed by a loofah like soap massage, which lasts about five-ten minutes.  This scrub down is of course done in the nude and will certainly refresh your skin.  If you haven't purchased additional services, like that of a massage, manicure, pedicure, you will go into the next room to rinse off and towel off.

As I chose a manicure I had a longer session and my friend chose an invogorating massage so our services lasted a bit longer than the hot stone room.  Any additional services are your choice should you so choose to spend additional funds, and all services are very reasonable.  This Turkish bath is very clean and safe to store your belongings. It can be found near the center nearby the Grand Bazaar market.