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Cathedrals of the Flesh: My Search for the Perfect Bath

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  103 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
Caught up in the tide of travel and exploration, Alexia drifts further away from the life she left behind in New York City. Hoping to find a thriving local bath scene, she dips into hamams, banyas, saunas, and onsen, finding both disappointment and bliss. This work is an account of one woman's determination to follow her passion.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 1st 2004 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published 2003)
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(showing 1-30 of 242)
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Jul 02, 2008 Lena rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Oh, how I wish I'd thought up the idea to travel the world and write about various bathing cultures!

But Alexia Brue beat me to it.

I enjoyed this book because I learned a great deal about the differences and similarities between bathing traditions around the world. Brue traveled to Turkey, Greece, Russia, Finland and Japan in her quest, and along the way she reveals many interesting tidbits including how mothers in Turkey would use the public baths to scope out the nude bodies of potential daugh
Sep 15, 2015 Scribd rated it really liked it
Shelves: friday-reads
After a recent visit to a banya in San Francisco with a friend got me interested in the world of public baths, I was delighted to discover Alexia Brue’s memoir on the subject. Brue is a complete novice in the realm of pleasure-seeking. (“Pleasure was an end in itself worth pursuing. Shocking. Especially to my stick New England code of punishment and reward.” Sound familiar? Her point of view is often similar to Elizabeth Gilbert’s, although Brue’s writing is much cleaner and more straightforward ...more
Megan Dascoli
Oct 03, 2007 Megan Dascoli rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: women who adventure.
I have given out countless copies of this book to my girlfriends. I constantly recommend it. It is about travel and adventure, sensual indulgence and having passion. It makes you want to bathe.
I really like the concept of this book, but I could never get into the writing. It did make me wish I could go to Paris and take a traditional Turkish bath. That sounds lovely.
Jennifer Heise
Apr 06, 2016 Jennifer Heise rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure how to review this book, because I don't know how many people are like me, and will read this book and want to *be* it. If you are a bathing/spa-ing fiend, a real water type, you may enjoy this the way I did. If you like travel memoirs with a theme but with some odd personal adventures, you may like it. If you are the kind of person who likes coffee-table books filled with gorgeous pictures of decadent bathrooms, pools, spas (and the publishing industry suggests there are plenty of ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Rebecca rated it liked it
True rating ~ 3.5 stars. This book was incredibly new territory for me - I've never been to a public bath (hamam, banya, etc.) and didn't know much about them prior to reading this. Although sometimes a slow read, dense with information - this book inspired me to visit a public bath in the future if I can find the courage to do so alone or maybe a daring friend to join. I can only hope that one day I will make it to one (however near/far in the future). It saddens me to know that in some ways th ...more
May 23, 2015 Tony rated it it was ok
The concept had potential, but the execution was lacking. This could have been a deeply fascinating look at the nuances of how bathing cultures in Turkey, Greece, Russia, Finland, and Japan differ from each other, and what that says about the underlying differences between them (and the rest of the world), but the treatment is frustratingly shallow. The chapter on Finnish sauna, for example, is always slightly off as she is looking at it through the lens of her recent Russian banya visits, and c ...more
Nov 14, 2014 Lesley rated it liked it
I love a travelogue with a quirky quest, so this had me intrigued from the beginning. The first half of the book was brilliant, with its rich descriptions of the baths, cities and people of Turkey and Russia. After that though, the story seemed to fall away, lacking the earlier depth. The ebook could have benefited from some proof reading as the formatting was rather skewy with whole passages disconcertingly embedded within unrelated paragraphs
Aug 03, 2007 Kay rated it really liked it
A singular quest to explore bath culture in a number of countries famed for their steam baths. At first the author was simply going to research baths prior to opening her own Turkish-style bath in New York, but soon the project took on a much broader scope as she traveled from Paris to Turkey to Greece to Russia to Finland and then on to Japan.

Using baths as a lens on each culture made for surprisingly interesting reading. My one disappointment was that having spent a fair amount of time in ste
Jan 19, 2011 Angela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I genuinely enjoyed reading this book for my class on the Art of Bathing. This would never in a million years have made it to my list of books to read otherwise, but I'm glad of the chance to read something crazy and different that I wouldn't have picked out for myself. This is my second book in three months about a woman going on an extended journey to obscure corners of the world to find herself, the first being Eat Pray Love, of course. I again noted and was grateful for the way the protagoni ...more
Jul 21, 2008 Chronographia rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, travel
Despite this lying around with a bookmarker in it for over a year, it is a fairly quick read. (I happened to stop in the only place where it's difficult to pick up the narrative thread again. Because I'm talented like that.)

Alexia Brue gets the reader caught up in her enthusiasm for 'the perfect bath' and the great bathing cultures of the world that it becomes difficult to put the book down. Practical knowledge of hamams, thermæ, banyas, saunas, and onsen is fleshed out with vivid descriptions,
Angela Lewis
Travel account of the search to find the ideal baths and in view to setting up a facility. Lots of interesting adventures and nicely written.
May 31, 2007 Eszter rated it it was ok
the writing was pretty terrible, but her international journey spent exploring the traditional baths of different cultures kept me reading. jasmine! lavender! lands of mysterious deserts! steam palaces! endless cups of mint tea! perhaps she was a bit of a snot (did i mention she graduated from grinnell with a degree in classics?), but reading about turkish hamams and japanese mountain spring baths is not a bad way to relax.
Feb 25, 2010 bookinglibrarian rated it it was amazing
As a hot water aficionado, I thoroughly enjoyed Alexia Brue's journey to some of the world's baths, in the steam, sauna and pool forms. Her account is not a hot springs guide, but rather is a personal exploration of bathing traditions from their (now neglected) origins in Turkey to modern day incarnations in Russia, Finland and Japan.
Time to hit the spa!
Jan 23, 2014 Mckinley rated it it was ok
Travel meets bathing around the world - ancient: Greece, ongoing: Turkey, moderner: Russian, sparse: Finland, east: Japan.
Ok. Not sure I love this author, bathing I do love but maybe not as extremely as I thought.
Oct 30, 2009 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Author (steam)bathes in Turkey, Russia, Finland and Japan for contrast. I wasn't real keen on the Russian section, featuring her friend Marina and a host of yuppies, though the rest wasn't bad.
Jun 26, 2008 Emma rated it really liked it
Wish I'd written this book first - I loved it because her experiences reminded me of so many of my own... the Russian Banya in particular !
Mar 13, 2007 Jenne rated it it was amazing
Not so much amazing because of the writing, although the writing is good, but more because of the subject matter. Baths! they are awesome!

Mar 13, 2008 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: heidi
Just reread. Awesome. In the original sense of the word. Makes me want to skip town and find a little Turkish town to live in.
Nov 02, 2009 Emily marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I've read books about how other cultures use the toilet, so this is right up my alley!
Mar 07, 2012 Jeannine rated it it was amazing
Funny and interesting - thanks Angela for the recommendation
Sep 01, 2007 Cherie rated it really liked it
A- Very quick but good memoir about obsessions with spas
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