Archive for July, 2011

July 29, 2011: Day seven, Jaffa, Israel

July 30, 2011

We walked to the neighboring town of Jaffa in the morning. Jaffa is an ancient city and an active port.  We didn’t stay long as it was quite hot.  We took a cab back to our hotel.  We found a great Mediterranean restaurant where we enjoyed flavorful hummus and lamb with various marinated vegetables.  There was so much food we took our leftovers back to the hotel for dinner.  We enjoyed the sunset from the hotel rooftop.

Park by the water

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July 28, 2011: Day six, Tel Aviv

July 29, 2011

Matt got up early and went for a run.  When he returned, he acknowledged that it was tough given the humidity.  We went down for our breakfast buffet and were presented with so many choices we were almost overwhelmed.  There were at least a dozen different kinds of bread, rolls and croissants.  I sampled two of the six of the home made marmalades, apple and pear, which were delicious.  They even brought me an egg white omelet served in a small skillet.  Matt was offered his choice of espresso or coffee.  The breakfast cheesecake was amazing, light, with a lemon vanilla flavor.

After breakfast we went to the community pool complex.  The complex includes an Olympic size pool with six swim lanes, a regular swimming pool, lots of shade and a kids pool full of toys to play with (Otis would have a blast).  The water was cool and salty.  We had pizza and salad for lunch.  We went to the beach in the afternoon and enjoyed the warm, clear water.

We had dinner at a restaurant called “Etnachta” (translation: “Pause”) and were told that if we ate at the bar we could save 15% so we did.  The bartender had on a t-shirt that said ‘the man’ and had an arrow pointed toward his face and ‘the legend’ with an arrow that pointed down.  After dinner we relaxed on the hotel rooftop, where we met another couple who were from Barcelona.  I wanted to experience the local scene so we went to a bar/nightclub which was fun, although it was very hot so we didn’t stay long.  People don’t go out until midnight even during the week, so I had to take a disco nap so I could make it.  On our way home I enjoyed a much deserved gelato as we’d walked from our hotel, about an hour, although we took a cab home.

Tel Aviv Beach

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July 27, 2011: Day five, travel to Tel Aviv

July 28, 2011

We slept in and had a leisurely brunch buffet at our hotel.  We checked out of our hotel at 12:00 noon and Sami took us to Tel Aviv.  The Shalom Hotel and Relax is a boutique hotel about a block from the beach.  As we arrived we were greeted with fresh cherries and an offer of water or juice.  The housekeeper acknowledged my request for foam pillows, which I thought was outstanding.  The check-in desk is an actual desk where you sit across from the attendant vs. standing at a counter.  We were told about the included happy hour, breakfast, free Wi-Fi, pool access and that our room had been upgraded.  The room has a Mezuzah on the front door, is contemporary and nautical themed.  The TV doubles as a computer.  We walked a few blocks and enjoyed salads for lunch.  We found the spotlessly clean beach and then walked back to our hotel.  By the time we got back we were both soaked with sweat.  Tel Aviv is much more humid than Jerusalem.  It was 88 degrees, but with the heat index felt like 95!  We relaxed in our hotel room to cool off.

The hotel had a delicious happy hour that included gourmet hors d’oeuvres, champagne and wine.  We strolled along the promenade, which was quite crowded and then enjoyed dinner at a hip restaurant.  Tel Aviv is a dog-friendly city and there were dogs sitting in chairs next to their owners at the restaurant.  We were both amazed that the café was so crowded at 8:00 p.m. on a Wednesday.

Happy Hour

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July 26, 2011, Day four: Masada, the Dead Sea and Jericho

July 27, 2011

We got up at 5:45 a.m. as we were meeting Sami at 7:00 a.m.for our personal tour.  We enjoyed a quick, yet sumptuous breakfast buffet at our hotel.  On the hour-long ride out to Masada, Sami pointed out sights along the way and explained the three sections that split up Israel and the Palestinian territories.  We experienced several check-points along the way.  The ‘A’ section is Palestinian territory and those who live there have Palestinian identification and passports.  Section ‘B’ is under Israeli control and the Arab’s have Israeli identification and Jordanian passports.  Section ‘C’ is under Israeli control inside the West Bank, known as settlements.  There are some Palestinian villages.  Jews and Palestinian’s live together in section C.  Palestinian’s have Palestinian identification and are not allowed to cross into section B.  Jews have Israeli identification and are not allowed to go into section A.  Where a person was born dictates citizenship.

We arrived at Masada at 8:00 a.m. and rode the first cable car to the top.  We were glad we began our day early as it was warm, yet bearable. Masada was originally a palace; then Jews occupied it as they were being conquered by the Roman’s. Masada was the last place where about 1,000 Jews lived.  The Roman army was much larger and stronger and rather than be enslaved, the men killed themselves.  By the time we had finished touring and purchasing some souvenirs around 10:00 a.m. the day had already become significantly hotter.

We then went to a nice beach in the Dead Sea where we floated in the salty water and applied mud to ourselves, which made our skin soft.

Qumran is where they found the Dead Sea scrolls.  We took a quick tour as it was very hot.

Sami then took us to Jericho for lunch and some more sightseeing.  At 10,000 years old, Jericho is the oldest and lowest city on earth.  It has 22,000 residents; many are seasonal visitors that have second homes. We enjoyed a buffet lunch of Mediterranean fare, did some more souvenir shopping and departed for Jerusalem.  On the way out of Jericho, we saw Mt. Temptation, where Jesus fasted and the Sycamore tree where Jesus met the town tax collector, after which the man gave away half his money to the poor.  As we left Jericho around 2:00 p.m. it was a blistering 110 degrees Fahrenheit.  We were so glad the taxi had tinted windows and great air conditioning.

We enjoyed the hotel pool in the afternoon, where we were serenaded by the call for Muslim afternoon prayer from an adjacent mosque.

Wall Separating Jerusalem from West Bank

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July 25, 2011, Day three: Jerusalem

July 27, 2011

We arrived at 6:30 a.m. to the attractive and modern Ben Gurion Tel Aviv airport.  Getting through customs and collecting our luggage was quick and we were on our way to Jerusalem via taxi.  Built in the 1920’s, the American Colony hotel is a beautifully restored four-star hotel located in primarily Muslim East Jerusalem.  Since it was 8:00 a.m. our room wasn’t ready, but the front desk offered us a free breakfast and to hold our luggage until the room was ready.  Since we had just eaten on the plane, we declined, but did take the concierge up on booking us a tour of Jerusalem.

We were quickly picked up via taxi, where we met Sami, who ended up taking us to Masada, the Dead Sea and Jericho the following day.  The tour of Jerusalem via bus took us to the old city where we saw the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, David’s tomb, the Souk (shopping bazaar) and had lunch at a Kibbutz. The driver even dropped us off at the Holocaust Museum, which wasn’t part of the tour.  The tour provided a good overview, although the tour guide was a bit verbose at times.  The Holocaust Museum is very well done, but you really need three or more hours to see it and frankly between jet lag, a long day of touring, the incredible heat and that the museum was jam packed we kept our visit brief.

We returned to our hotel hot and exhausted.  A brief nap in our arctic hotel room was in order.  We were so thankful for the outstanding air conditioning in the room.  We got up and walked a relatively short distance to use the ATM, and returned hot and ready for dinner.  We dined al fresco in our hotel and made it an early night.

Tel Aviv Airport

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July 24, 2011, Day two: Travel to Jerusalem

July 27, 2011

We got up and had breakfast at our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn and then a shuttle took us to the airport.  We arrived at the airport three hours ahead of our flight anticipating a lengthy El Al security process.  When we arrived at the check-in counter a nice man asked us a few questions, but it didn’t take long and our bags were wrapped with security tape and we proceeded to the nice business class lounge.  We used Skype that has allowed us to make and receive phone calls for just 2 cents per minute where ever we have Wi-Fi.  It has been very helpful.  El Al uses the KLM/Royal Dutch air business class lounge which is very nice, significantly nicer than United Airlines.  Our flight consisted of two delicious Kosher meals and I slept for about five hours.  Matt was unable to sleep.

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July 23, 2011, Day 1: Travel to Toronto, Ontario, Canada

July 26, 2011

We had a 6:20 a.m.flight from San Diego to Chicago and the very kind Bill Dowler offered and took us to the airport.  I used miles to fly us business class on United.  It was very nice being able to skip the lines at check-in and security.  We had planned on taking the ‘L’ train from the airport to the Art Institute of Chicago, but due to the six inches of rain that fell hours earlier, the ‘L’ was closed.  We took a cab instead.  We spent time in the modern wing of the museum and enjoyed our time; Chagall’s American windows were particularly impressive.  Also of note is Merisa Merz who specializes in recycled art.  We enjoyed an Italian lunch in the airport before boarding our short flight toToronto.

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