February is the wrong time of the year to visit Çeşme, a small Turkish coastal town nestled on the Mediterranean Sea.
And it’s not just because the temperature hovers near freezing (yes, my husband really brought me to a resort on the Med in the middle of winter.) The oddest part about visiting Çeşme (pronounced Chezmay) in February is that it’s a ghost town. Most shops are closed as many of the city’s residents are in-town only during the warmer months of April – October. During this season the town bustles to life with tourists sprawling the sandy beaches, sailing the aqua blue waters. And enjoying the thermal waters flowing from beneath the sea around the Yildiz Peninsula
My husband hadn’t intentionally set out to torment me by dropping me off in a resort I could only gaze wistfully at from our hotel windows – he had business in nearby Izmir, and the Sheraton Çeşme Resort and Spa seemed our best option. Left to my own demise in this deserted town while Adam worked, I decided to pamper myself and visit the spa. Being a Starwood Member and having sampled the spas before with our previous stays at Starwood properties, I was eager to try this one as it had glowing reviews and boasted of an award winning Botanical Thermal Spa.
As soon as you walk through the doors, you feel as if you entered paradise. The foyer was bathed in a golden hue, the sounds of a waterfall cascading from the ceiling, and the strumming of harps in the background. The hostess greeted me politely and informed me that my Aesthetician would be with me shortly. She also advised me of the complementary use of their natural healing thermal pool, which, she boasted, had been scientifically proven to reduce pain and inflammation, relax muscles, relieve stress and mental tension, rejuvenate and soften the skin, and heal skin wounds, yadda, yadda, yadda. The lure of a nice warm soak would have been sufficient.
Too bad I didn’t bring a bathing suit.
I’m a sucker for these types of natural therapies – truly – and was miffed to learn I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it. When the hostess learned that I would not be using the pool, her sympathy and understanding were plain.
Unable to use the pool, a friendly, rotund woman immediately ushered me through the large interior of the spa, past the magical thermal pool that I couldn’t use, upstairs and into a brightly lit room. She instructed me to put on the terry cloth robe that they provided and left the room.
I did as instructed, laid down on the padded table and waited for her to return, which she did, promptly, then by way of introduction said merely, “How much water you drink? Your face is very dry.”
“Um, obviously not enough,” I chuckled.
“Well, I would recommend a hydrating treatment.”
I’m an easy sell, especially with a nothing to do and a whole world of spa treatments to explore. I happily agreed.
She peered at my eyebrows as if I had a unibrow and asked, “Would you like your eyebrows threaded first?”
I stared at her blankly. “Threaded?”
Things I’ve never heard of aren’t quite as easy a sell.
She returned my blank look with a smile and laughed. “Yes, this is what we do in the Middle East and it’s better than waxing.”
“Sure, I’m game!” Ok, maybe I’m still an easy sell.
So I had my eyebrows threaded for the first time and was completely fascinated by the procedure. Threading, for those who don’t know, basically involves a long piece of twisted string being rolled across the surface of your skin to remove all the little unwanted hairs (you don’t see a whole lot of men being threaded.) In my opinion it was more painful than waxing, but she did an excellent job, and pleasantly there was no waxy residue.
Next she began my facial. After the cleansing, she pulled out a cylindrical tool that looked more like a laser wand and started zapping my face with it. To this very day, I have no earthly idea what it was or what it did. It sounded like a mosquito zapper.
When she was finished she grinned at the look of astonishment on my face, but instead of telling me what she was doing, said simply, “Middle Eastern treatment.”
Forty five minutes later she finished the facial and I must say she was thorough. It was an excellent facial, but I still wonder what the zapper was for.
Her part complete she led me through a maze of hallways and passed me off to a young skinny girl who was so tiny I knew she couldn’t possibly give me a decent massage.
Then small girl, who I fervently hoped was just a greeter, motioned for me to follow her into a dimly lit room. She didn’t speak much English but gestured for me to remove my clothing.
I waited for her to leave so I could undress.
She just stood there smiling at me, clearly not terribly worried about any privacy concerns I may have.
Feeling silly and slightly self- conscious, I quickly took off my clothing and laid face down on the massage table. When she proceeded to climb on top of me, I almost jumped off the table, snatched my clothes, and bolted out the door. She held me in place and with surprisingly firm hands, popped my back and proceeded to give the most amazing Shiatsu massage I had ever experienced. She kneaded, rubbed, and beat every single muscle in my body. By the end of the hour, there was not one single knot and I felt like jello.
Quite enamored by the spa and having nothing to do the following day, I decided to give it another whirl but this time for a pampered manicure and pedicure. It was advertised as a 90-minute treatment which was to have included a hand/arm and feet/calf massage.
Mine lasted a mere 45 minutes, and was crap. Not only was the pregnant girl aloof and disinterested, but she made my nails look as if they were done by a three year old. It was dreadful.
I believe I could be merrily content as a global spa reviewer, especially if they’re as fabulous as the Sheraton Çeşme. But a note to self for the future – if the famed spa pointedly omits any mention of their manicure facilities, there’s probably a reason.