January 31, 2012

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.


Evelyn said...

Love your copy & pics Maybe in your future travel columnist. Evelyn

Anonymous said...

Trying again to leave a comment, don't think the first one took!!

Thanks so much for sharing your pictures and discriptions of each day. Great blog, as was the trip!!

The picture on day three that you didn't know was Mary's home where she learned she was going to conceive baby Jesus.
Joyce Jones