Monday, April 11, 2016

Exploring Highlights of Israel

I had been in Israel for just about a week. There was a lot to see, but we had been given a pretty set schedule. Fortunately, my fellow writers and I were able to convince our tour guide to go off the plan a bit and it turned out to be our best day of exploring.

I woke up at the Dan Accadia Hotel in Herzeliya to another sunny day.

The scenery here was beautiful and even though I didn’t have time to fully enjoy it, I did walk around the property a bit, taking in the views of the pool and beach.

After another delicious Israeli breakfast, we headed onto the bus and toward the desert.

We were off to the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea. Despite the fact that it is extremely hot, and the drop below sea level had our ears popping, the distance of the sun kept the rays from burning as much as you’d expect.

The drive took us through Jericho, though we only made one stop, for a pose with a camel that was much more likely to be a tourist attraction than a working animal.

Below there we could see a site you don’t see every day – goats being wrangled down the desert dunes.

We stopped the bus at Neve Midbar Beach. We had about two hours there and we all were anxious to get our swimsuits on and head down to the sea.

Since the addition of this stop was last minute, I really hadn’t done much research on the Dead Sea. I welcomed information as I walked carefully down the slippery ramp.

From our side we could see Jordan. In fact, the border between the two countries is in the middle of the sea.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the mud or the ability to float and both surprised me. It was actually a lot of fun too. 

The mud from the Dead Sea is supposed to be wonderful for your skin as it has many anti-aging properties. We figured we had nothing to lose as we spread it all over our bodies before getting in the water.

It’s true what they say about not being able to swim in this sea. The salt content makes everyone float, a strange feeling when you try to turn over.

We relaxed in the warm water as we hadn’t in a week, wishing we could stay longer.

Before heading back to the bus we made a short stop at the bar, then showered and changed. We were all so relaxed that most of us fell asleep in the bus on the way to Jerusalem.

We had no doubt when we entered Jerusalem as the view is like no other in the world, as is the history.

Jerusalem is the center of so many religions and the Old City, which we would be touring, is appropriately a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Even though it was the Sabbath, a Jewish holy day, the sites were quite crowded with tourists from all over the world.

You also couldn’t help but notice the high security and soldiers everywhere, protecting this holy land.

We started our tour on the side of the Tower of David, taking the road it’s believed Jesus took in his last week in Israel.

The Church of the Holy Sepulche, the place of the crucifixion and the grave of Jesus, was as spectacular as anything I had seen in Rome.

As we walked around the Old City, we could see the Gondan Dome on Mountain of Olives, believed to be an ancient Jewish temple.

We also visited the Room of the Last Supper, and the Room of the birth of King David, as well as the Western Wall.

It was all a bit surreal since it had been so many years since I had visited Israel and didn’t remember any details of these sites.

Before we left the Old City we did a bit of shopping in the Arab Market. I came home with some gifts, and a belly dancer costume for myself.

We headed downtown and checked into The King David hotel. Many heads of state from around the world have stayed at this hotel which I can accurately describe as royal.

Before checking in we had some wine in the executive lounge with the hotel manager.

My room was very large and well-appointed. It was clear I was in one of the world’s most luxurious hotels.

I refreshed quickly for dinner at Colony Bistro, a casual restaurant not too far away.

Dinner was delicious, starting with an Israeli Salad and an eggplant dish. We each chose our own main course, which included beef, salmon, and a black ink pasta.

I choose the gnocchi in a creamy cheese sauce and loved it.

Before we headed back to the hotel we nibbled on an assortment of desserts, including crème brulee and gelatos.

Needless to say, I quickly drifted off to sleep at the King David Hotel after a very full day of exploring Israel.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

An Unforgettable Day in Israel

Some days of travel are amazing and some are not. Then there are the ones which are a little of both. This was the case for my fifth day in Israel.

The day certainly started out right as I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast from my balcony at the Dan Acadia Hotel in Herzeliya, a suburb of Tel Aviv.

I was getting spoiled by these Israeli breakfasts, which were filled with fruit, cheese, and sweet treats.

It looked to be another beautifully sunny day and I wished I had time to check out the pool and the beach, but I had to get ready to meet the group.

We were heading for a tour of Old Jaffa. I had discovered my passport and glasses missing and thought they might have been left at the previous hotel so I asked our tour guide to have the bus make a stop at the Dan Hotel Tel Aviv.

Unfortunately, despite the urging from my fellow journalists to stay, Carmela felt they were running late to get to the Jaffa tour and wouldn’t wait for me to check at the hotel.

What was a simple errand turned into quite an ordeal.

I’ll skip all the details, but, needless to say, it was a stressful day trying to catch up with the group that finally ended with me having to take a (very expensive) cab back to Herzeliya in the late afternoon.

The experienced certainly dampened my time in Old Jaffa, but I did at least get to have an amazing apple strudel at Opel Cafe, catch some Mediterranean Sea views of Tel Aviv, and see some of the market while I was searching for the group!

While the rest of the evening certainly didn’t compare to the afternoon debacle, the schedule was a gain changed on us.

An excursion to Drummers Beach was eliminated and we headed directly for dinner at Port & Sons restaurant in Tel Aviv.

By the time we got to the restaurant, I was more than ready for a glass of wine. Porter & Sons concentrates more on a big beer selection, but they did bring me a satisfying Israeli chardonnay from Dalton Winery in Galilee.

Porter & Sons also brought out a selection of food family style.

Even though they hadn’t been informed in advance of my fish allergy, managed to come up with some wonderful dishes for me, including spaetzle, eggplant, and pasta. The desserts were also quite good.

After dinner, we headed back to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art for the Piano Festival.

We saw a popular Israeli singer, who sang a lot of her native songs.

On the way out of the festival, we heard some jazz music as locals and visitors danced around them.

We returned to the Dan Acadia Hotel in Herzeliya and I did my best to relax after the stress of the day.

It had taken a lot of convincing from myself and my fellow writers, but Carmela had agreed to take us to the Dead Sea before Jerusalem the next day so it was time to try to move past the bad experience.