Sunday, September 23, 2018

How It Began

how did I get to go to Israel for a two week vacation?  well, my father was Israeli, and when he died, we buried him over there, on the kibbutz he grew up on.  also when that happened, my mom sort of let it be known that she would eventually want to be buried in the spot next to him.  having had some health issues of late, she decided it was time to make those plans legal and official, and as a cousin of ours invited us to her wedding this summer, it seemed the perfect time to make the trip, and get that done - before she might not be able to make the trip again.  as it was, she couldn't go alone - she'd need help.  could I go, she asked?  as long as I could bring my teen, I was ready, willing, and able, so - bon voyage!

here's an excerpt from my travel journal, that I started on the airplane:

8/18 - What a trip so far, and we haven't even left the ground!  Everything was good on my end, my insane planning and scheduling having paid off in a well-planned exit, getting us to Grandma's around 10:30pm, exhausted, where we went straight to bed.  Up early, I started a load of laundry around 5:30 or 6am, and no one else got up until around 8.  We puttered, and helped Grandma get ready, exiting to a Pouring rain-storm at noon-thirty.  After a few stops, it was "our last American burgers" at the diner for lunch, then on our way!  Still pouring, it was 40mph through flooded roadways all the way until we hit sunny skies in Jersey.  Finally arriving at Terminal C at Newark, the party split up (against my better judgement) with Grandma heading to the bathroom, my teen standing on the curb outside with our bags, and me heading to find the 'long-term parking'.  It worked out ok, though, and we managed to regroup without incident.  Then the wheelchair didn't happen.  Then tempers got short.  Then we actually strolled casually towards the gate.  I found a wheelchair, which was a godsend, because...our flight, scheduled to take off at 10:50pm was delayed - until 1:45am!  That is where we are, now...sitting in our seats on the plane, watching the boarding circus parade by.  So.  Much.  Fun.  I think my teen is totally Not digging his first air travel experience, but I think he'll fall asleep once we take off, and it'll all be good.

8/19 - Aaaand, we're back in the airport.  Have been.  For hours.  After sitting in the plane for...ever, we finally deplaned, and have been sitting in the terminal forever.  It's 6:15am.  On Sunday.  We're SUPPOSED to be boarding at 7:15am...7:45am...some time before 8am.  This is the worst bullshitty bullshit I've ever dealt with in an airport, or with a flight.  Like, Seriously.  I waited in line for an hour to get food vouchers for all three of us, and no one was hungry which was fortunate, because I couldn't manage to get any food with them.  More Big Fun.  I'm exhausted.  I've been up too long, and done all the heavy lifting, so...yay.  angry face.  REALLY Fucking Angry face.  *censored*

8/21 - what happened?  They finally let us back into the gate area (after rechecking us and our carry-ons), and we waited in line quite some time to reboard the plane.  Then we sat on the plane some more, waiting for one crew member or pilot or whatever, before finally FINALLY taking off around 9am or so.  The flight wasn't awful, with a screamy kid behind me and an obnoxious teen next to me, and I even managed to catch a few winks here and there.  It was...maybe 2am or so when we landed and deplaned, then had some more bullshit with some more lack-of-wheelchair nonsense, and THEN, there was the asshole cart driver who took my mom and my kid off to somewhere while I trudged along alone through the airport with too many bags, a walker, and a cane.  I caught up with Grandma eventually, but she had sent my unseasoned traveller son off alone into the wilds of Ben Gurion airport to find me, which made me FURIOUS, and when he got back to us (just as I was storming off to find him) I angrily demanded of them both to NOT separate the party again under any circumstances with out my say-so.  And so, we trudged angrily through the passport check, which I failed, and had to explain how my updated Israeli passport hadn't been mailed to me in time for this trip, and was probably sitting in my mailbox back home in America, in order to be granted a two-week stay, and told to go check in with immigration so that I'd be allowed to leave at the end of our trip (and I did have to promise to leave at the end of our trip).  Now comes me at the baggage claim, with all three checked bags, and me dragging Grandma and Teen Wolf around with our 4 personal bags looking for immigration (she was nice, and was maybe the easiest person to deal with thus far), and now we're up & down & around trying to find the car rental place...further nightmare.  Too long a wait, I complain, she sends me 'downstairs' to the other kiosk to 'save me some time', I FUCKING LOSE IT with not finding the place, someone at the info booth FINALLY manages to tell me where it is, and we head outside...glory!  a whiff of Israeli air!  we hike quite another ways to the booth (I had to leave poor struggling Grandma & the teen behind on a bench, promising to return with a car) where I am denied our pre-paid, reserved vehicle through some confusion about payment methods, drivers, language barriers, and exhaustion.  After giving up and power-walking back to my small party, I yell at them to get up and get moving, as I plow on ahead, in full rage-monster mode, and get us a taxi into Tel Aviv, to the hotel we were SUPPOSED to check into about 12 hrs. before.

They let us in - extend our stay, even - and just as soon as we hit the room, I shower and put on clean clothes, Grandma does the same, and we head back down (with dirty, unchanged teen) for Israeli buffet breakfast.  ...Deep...Sigh...then we (Grandma & I) leave the young man to nap (he's done in) while we stroll the few blocks towards the sea, and the car rental place, then drive back to the hotel where she toddles up to pack, grab the teen, check out (against my better judgement, but I had to sit idling in the double-parked car for a half an hour or more while she accomplished those tasks), and beat it out of the City with much stress & screaming (things were left behind)...

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Poor Gourmet

if there's one thing I totally don't have down, it's food.  I do my best in the kitchen, and have made some lovely things from time to time, but that is Not the norm, and I make up for my lack of food planning and preparing skills by being charming in other ways.  if you read along, you may have caught my recent posts about doing the Whole30 challenge, for what that was worth, and it was worth enough for me to start paying much closer attention to what I eat, and how it affects me.  also if you've been reading along, you may have noticed that I recently spent two weeks in Israel, where I ate an array of tasty foods in a number of venues!  for starters, knowing I was going away, I just served up whatever needed using up in the fridge before we left, so we ate a bunch of sandwiches from the deli, and pizza.  I had a burger before I left my house, knowing I wouldn't get a 'good American cheeseburger' overseas, then ended up getting just one more the next day at my mom's, because she had the same plan!

there's nothing good to say about Newark or the airline (United) at all, in terms of food (and other matters), so I'm just going to skip ahead to the first real Israeli meal we had, which was the breakfast buffet at the Artplus in Tel Aviv.  it was small, but everything I would expect from an Israeli buffet:  scrambled eggs, shakshuka, hard boils, greens, hummus, tchina, pastry, cereal, juices, salads, bread, coffee, tea.  everything was delicious but my hard boiled egg - the yolk was too green for me, and it affected the taste of the white.  we hit the road pretty quickly, only stopping for some ice cream and drinks for a snack/lunch before continuing on to the kibbutz we would be staying at for the next few days, where we were met with Israeli salad, and challah rolls.

our friends on the kibbutz had the best eggs!  fresh and delicious, with bright yellow yolks and creamy whites.  they were perfect hard boiled, scrambled, or as a thin, Israeli omelette.  there were plates of Israeli salad at every meal (tomato, cucumber, lettuce), cheeses, leben with oil, home-made challah rolls, olives, mango, watermelon...there was schnitzel - chicken pounded thin, breaded and fried to a golden crisp.  there were figs from the trees.  there was lunch out at the nearest roadside diner, an Arab place where we all had kebob, either beef or chicken, as well as the standard salad/hummus/tchina/pita spread (yay!  finally!), including Matbucha (the teen's first new love on this trip), pickles, olives, and some sort of coconut flan for dessert with the sweetest pink syrup I have ever tasted (along with the standard baklava, and other delights).

Netanya...what to say about Netanya?  we had a rough time there, and it wasn't the experience I wanted it to be.  we had dinner of a sort, eventually...the last pizza from under the heat lamps, hummus and pita from grocery store packages, a bottle of inexpensive red wine, and some ice pops.  breakfast wasn't much better, being pastry from the local gas station, in which I didn't take part.  lunch, when we finally got to it, was Caesar salad, and some hummus/pita/tchina.  then we headed down to Jerusalem where we checked in for a few days, and ate mainly at the hotel.

the hotel buffets were brilliant - like the one I described of the Artplus earlier, but much bigger.  the one at the Crowne Plaza was fantastic, with a coffee bar, breakfast bars, meat and veggie options in a wide variety, a salad bar, cheese bar, bread bar, drink options, and desserts aplenty!  I was feeling pretty good with my food choices so far, and being on vacation, I did choose to go a little wild, but the vast amounts of items on display made me take a step back, and make even more conscious choices than I had already been.  also, having the opportunity to see what my mom and son were choosing to eat gave me the ability to compare and contrast the fuel we were putting into our bodies, and how we performed throughout the day, energetically.

I basically stuck to protein and greens, with a bit of cheese and bread at each meal.  when things fell apart, and we turned to store-bought pizza, packaged chips and snacks, never mind the alcohol, moods and relations suffered.  a big bowl of greens always helps to get back on track (even those drowning sadly in dressing), and had me circling the salad bar at every meal.  on the street it was felafel, lemonade, baglach with za'atar, seltzer, chips (fries), schwarma, and Caesar salad.  we had a sort-of fancy meal at the Israel had been a busy day, and though we didn't do much, the little we did involved a great deal of effort, and left us tired, so when we got to the museum, we got my mom a wheel chair, and pulled her up to a table in the fancier of the two cafes there were to choose between.  she ordered a glass of the house wine, and we took our time over a well-prepared meal before heading out to explore the grounds and exhibits.

out to dinner on the mall with a friend was more Caesar salad and cups of ice cream, followed by a casual Israeli breakfast prepared by the same friend, and we were off to Masada in the desert, where we had more felafel and schwarma!  after a dip in the Dead Sea, it was pizza for dinner, and another amazing hotel buffet breakfast to sustain us through a morning on the beach, and the ride back to Jerusalem where we lunched at the Elvis American Diner on our way to Tel Aviv.  as per the norm, the hotel in Tel Aviv had a life-sustaining breakfast buffet, but for two nights, we ordered in tacos, and had the one schwarma lunch that we walked to and from, dragging my poor mom along because she needed to eat, too.

then we had the last leg of our trip at another fancy hotel, with breakfast buffets, and room service, because we were just too done in to get dressed to a level to feel presentable enough for the restaurant after a few days on the beach.  then up and out - from breakfast buffet, to the airport, with airline food generally a non-mentionable, we found ourselves back in the States, having pizza delivered for dinner, and diner breakfasts of eggs, bacon, toast, home fries, and one chicken Caesar salad for a certain growing teenager.  back home to frozen pizza.  grocery run, and a protein salad, then more pizza, ice cream, and nachos.  then that sick feeling I get when I've overdone it, but much milder.  manageable.  I put on about 6 pounds while I was eating hummus and pita like a fetishist, but there's no way in hell I wasn't going to enjoy that food while I was in the Middle-East!

when I got home, I made a batch of mayo to mix with the batch of ketchup I made so I could have the Russian dressing I grew up with on my protein salad yesterday (was it yesterday?  I'm still not sure what day it is) - mayo/ketchup/red wine vinegar.  I bought some fresh greens (basil, parsley) for the chicken salad I thought I'd make (there was a pouch of schwarma-flavored 'instant marinade' we were fooled into buying at the store), so maybe there could be pesto?  and I want to make at least one 'decent meal' this week, by which I mean 'a proper dinner'.  if I can only stay awake long enough to cook it...

I must remember to eat.  I must remember to cook.

I did make the chicken schwarma, which was, as we knew it would be, a joke.  the food alone is reason enough to move to Israel...but that's another subject for a post about how I want to 'live differently', that I'm turning 50, and it's time for something new.  I need to make some moves.  why not a different language in the old country?  it's not like I can't come back - or even go somewhere else from there!

egg for breakfast, schwarma chicken salad for lunch, pita/oil/za'atar, too.  can we talk about the pita?  the pita we buy in the bakery section at the local store?  it's horrible, no?  I don't even know what to say...and the schwarma, with that chemical-spice-taste that's not 'spice' per se, but chemical burn in a pouch.  it's not even a flavor, it's just...burn.

and ice cream, and more ice cream.  with whipped cream, as well (of course).  and chicken parm from the pizza place (we miss the schnitzel).  but then there was more protein salad, and apples and honey for the holiday.  and chocolate.  ugh...

the fact that's it's chilly and grey out is kind of bullshit, too, actually...after sunny summer beach weather, I'm about done with the cold and rainy, even though it's a relief to the NYers, because they've had hazy, hot, and humid misery while we were enjoying the gorgeous Mediterranean.  also, I bought summery salad foods at the store, and now I want chili, which I don't have the ingredients for!  GAHH!!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Down South, and Back to Center

my son and I are cat-people, and some of my stories of overseas travel involve cats.  Israel was no exception, and he quickly learned the Hebrew word for cat (chatool) and would call them out when he saw them.  at Masada, I let him and his grandmother off at the entrance while I went to park the car, and in the parking lot, I ran across these cute kitties, and snapped off a shot to show my son when I got up to where he was.

now my darlings - I have been up Masada a few times.  the first when I was 8, hale and hearty to climb a desert mountain in the pre-dawn.  and again when I was fifteen, the day before my foot got messed up in an evening brawl with a hotel window.  then in the days after my brother's wedding, of which I wrote about several years back, and reposted recently (but here it is again:  Remembrance).  this time, with my mom on a cane, and me not in the best shape of my life, I shamefacedly took the...*gasp* cable the top of Masada.  it's not the experience I wanted for my son, but without my dad there to lead the early morning expedition, I felt ill-prepared as a substitute.  turns out the Snake Path was closed due to high winds, so I can use that as my excuse...

too bad this terrace was locked - it would have been cool to have a pic of my boy where I have a pic of my parents.

nice tub

Herod and his bathing obsession

where they found the 'lots'

and the cable car:

my dad was in my head the whole time we were up there.

we spent that night (and the next morning) at, and in, the Dead Sea:

at the gas station shop

across from the station

my pixelated kid floating halfway to Jordan

innovative design water fountain

on our way back North, we stopped for a quick lunch at the Elvis American Diner, just outside of Jerusalem:

before arriving in Tel Aviv.

there was some fun graffiti in the parking garage:

some random shots from around the city:

gorgeous flowers everywhere

nice find

funny, to those of us, who...well, if you get it, there it is  😊

someone discovered schwarma is more than the punchline to a joke in an Avengers movie...

...and they have this cool electric hand tool to cut it, now!

day city

city beach

night city

some random shots I felt like sharing:

roadside foliage, bursting with color

does the one on the right look suspicious to you?

the rare and elusive teen 'What Bird'

I hope you enjoyed sharing our vacation, we enjoyed taking it!

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Journey Continued...

Netanya, second home:

crappy night shot

morning panorama

sunrise over the city

the next day, more Roman ruins.  Caesarea - where we spent more time disrespecting boundaries to get our feet in the Mediterranean than we did interacting with the history:

"look Mom, I touched it!"

one of Herod's many swimming pools

I found the pentagon-shaped canal interesting

after which, we headed to Jerusalem!

from the Mount of Olives

looking towards the Mount of Olives

Garden of Gethsemane on the other side of that church

Tomb of Absalom

Yay!  one of my favorite places - just inside the Jaffa Gate

some sub-par pics of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:


Stone of Anointing

the mosaic behind the Stone depicting its use

the Aedicule - the tomb itself

Golgotha - the site of the Crucifixion

Chapel of St. Helena mosaic

ancient graffiti worship

in the shuk

all the things I want!

the Kotel:


the Wall

the Israel museum:

we found ourselves observed by these strange alien creatures...

...they appeared at random, out in public

Dead Sea scroll


fun with texture

a good exhibit

my son caught one!

'Iron Trees' by Ai Weiwei

model of the second temple

in the hotel restaurant:

 there ended the first week - stay tuned for the second half of the adventure, beginning with Masada and the Dead Sea!