January 31, 2012

Dancing in Tel Aviv

Doesn't this look like fun? I was mesmerized by the dancers at a place along the beach in Tel Aviv.

Day One in Israel

It's my second day back from Israel and here's the benefit of jet lag: when you wake up at 3:00 a.m. you can go through your pictures and write about your trip on your blog.
Israel wasn't on my travel radar until a few years ago, there were other places that called to me more, like France, Italy, Spain... Years ago I traveled to Greece with my friend Barbara, which also wasn't a place I'd pined to visit but Barb wanted to go and I'm always game to travel, and it turned out to be one of the best trips of my life. It taught me not to pre-judge, that all travel is exciting, adventurous, and life-enhancing. Anyway, suddenly I had a penchant to go to Israel, did some research, made some reservations, and off I went on January 19, 2012, about 5 or 6 hours before Chicago got dumped with 7 or 8 or 112 inches of snow. Aw, too bad I missed that.
I went with smarTours, a company that's been in business for years and was recommended by friends of a friend. Check them out - for my first trip I found it an amazing travel value - very nice hotels, an excellent guide, transfers and everything else were taken care of efficiently and...the price includes airfare. I don't know how they do it but I'm not going to be the one to tell them they should charge more.
Tel Aviv Airport
I have to say tho, and if you do any research on them you'll read this same comment, their customer service is less than spectacular, but not to worry, they've got this travel thing down - it all works. So...Chicago to New York on Jet Blue, then New York to Istanbul, Istanbul to Tel Aviv on Turkish Air. Ever heard of them? Me either but they're great. A chef greets you when you get on the plane - cool! Okay, it's not Emeril Lagasse but the food was great. Well, it's airplane food, but really, it was good.
Tel Aviv Airport
They have a funny little video with all the emergency instructions. At one point they tell you if there's an emergency "loosen your tie and collar..." and they show a guy in a white shirt and rep tie doing just that. Really? Would you bother to loosen your tie if there was an emergency? Would there even be anyone on the plane wearing a tie? Don't think so.
My room
we arrived in Tel Aviv on Friday afternoon after 8 or 9 or 100 hours in the air. It felt longer (even tho most of the middle seats on the longest flight were empty - a big bonus). There were 15 of us in the group, we were met by our guide, Arie, and driven to the Dan Panorama Hotel, on the beach in Tel Aviv. Great location, nice hotel. By now it's around 3 or 4 in the afternoon and Shabbot is about to begin. We get a little orientation and then we're on our own for the evening. A few people went together in search of something to eat - not an easy task on Shabbot but Arie told us some places that would be open. I went off on my own, wandering the streets behind the hotel, and I found a cute little wine bar where I had a couple glasses of Turkish wine (very stingy pours) and a carpaccio appetizer that was delicious. Had a nice chat with the cute bartender (law student) and then went back to the hotel to drop into bed like a rock.
View from my room

Stay tuned for Day 2.

January 17, 2012

Remember When...

Remember when you used to be able to open a medicine bottle without an owner's manual, or take a hair dryer out of a box by pulling out one little end-flap?
Jeez, there are obstacles everywhere we turn. Why do they make things so difficult? Not to mention all that industrial-strength plastic that's flooding our landfills.
Check out the packaging for Walgreen's brand face cream. Can you say overkill? I'm not going to eat it. I just want these wrinkles to disappear. What danger could be lurking if they simply screwed on the lid and plopped it on the shelf? Why do I need the jaws of life to get through all that heat-sealed plastic?
This packaging craze goes back to the Tylenol poisonings in the 80s, when someone laced the over-the-counter drug with potassium cyanide and seven people died. Okay, I get that we needed to make sure drugs weren't accessible and tamper-able, but face cream?
I bought a combination hair dryer/curling iron the other day (a whole 'nother subject) and it took twenty-three minutes to get to it. Is that necessary?
Okay, I'll jump down off my soapbox now and get back to trying to figure out how to get my new Kindle Fire (so excited!) out of that damn box. They should provide instructions in four languages just for the packaging.

January 3, 2012

10 Worst Movies of 2011

Okay, here's my list of the ten worst movies for 2011, in reverse order. I love great movies but I have to say it's a lot more fun writing about the bad ones.
You can read the reviews by putting the title in the search box, up at the very top left of my blog, or in the column on the right (scroll down a bit).

10. My Week With Marilyn
9. The Beaver
8. War Horse
7. Higher Ground
6. No Strings Attached
5. Young Adult
4. Melancholia
3. Tree of Life
2. Potiche
And the number one worst movie of the year:
1. Jack and Jill.
Okay, I have to come clean...I didn't actually see Jack and Jill, just the trailer, but I'm quite sure it's a horrendous movie. And since this is my list and I only reviewed nine bad movies last year (even tho I'm sure I saw more bad ones than that), I've decided to lift the requirement of actually having seen the film to put it on this list.
So sue me.

January 1, 2012

10 Best Movies of 2011

Here's my list of the top ten movies for 2011, in reverse order. You can read the individual reviews by putting the title in the search box, up at the very top left of my blog, or in the column on the right (scroll down a bit).

10. My Afternoons With Marguerite
9. Cedar Rapids
8. Beginners
7. The Help
6. Super 8
5. Bridesmaids

4. Source Code
3. Moneyball
2. Win Win
And (drum roll, please), my pick for the best movie of 2011:
1. Martha Marcy May Marlene
Stay tuned for my '10 Worst' list.