continued from part 2
May 22 Thursday
We checked out of our B&B & and headed to Jerusalem today. We left the hotel around 9:30 & stopped at the small Korazim national park. There was a group of school kids doing some site excavating & one of the park workers told us the kids had found a really old coin there the other day. Cool! If you are not in the area, I wouldn’t go out of my way to see this park but it was nice - there was a recreation of a very intricate carved stone pillar there. We were to see the original from the site later in the Israel Museum. We again had free admission with our national park pass. We went down the uncrowded east side of the Sea of Galilee.
It took us around 1.5 hours to drive to get to Beit She’an national park. We got lost as we didn’t have the GPS on to conserve the battery so we unfortunately arrived at noon during the heat of the time. However the good part was that the school groups had left & there were few people at the site. We absolutely loved this park which had outstanding Roman ruins- far better than Caesarea in my opinion. If you are into Roman ruins, I would highly encourage you to come here. Walking at a slow pace & walking up all the steps to the top of the Tel, took us around 2-2.5 hours stopping to take lots of photos. Walking up the Tel is not as intimidating as it looks.
We left around 3pm to drive to Jerusalem down Rt. 90. Even though this road goes through the Palestinian West Bank territory, the road is controlled by the Israeli’s & the rental agency assured us there was no problem driving through here. It took around 2 hours to drive to Jerusalem- we had no problems driving there until we got off Rt. 1 onto local streets.
The GPS directed us to make a left turn at one point so we did, I didn’t see any ‘no left turn’ sign. But, a cop stopped us & told us to pull over at the bus stop so we did. He started speaking to us in Hebrew which we don’t understand. But after realizing we were American tourists, he switched to perfect English and asked for Larry’s license & I showed him the GPS which said make a left turn. He told us he had been a cop in the US before he came to Israel & when we told him we had just arrived in Jerusalem, he said he didn’t want to give us a bad impression by giving us a ticket after just arriving. Apparently we were not supposed to make a left turn although we didn’t see any signs that said not to. It was a bit stressful trying to actually find the hotel which was on a small street. I got out of the car & asked another hotel where it was & they were helpful after I called the hotel & they spoke to them. It was a new hotel & had only been open a few weeks. Luckily it wasn’t far from where we were. The hotel was called the Eyal & I will do a separate review on TA about it. We were lucky to get a free parking spot in their garage but the garage can only hold around 15 cars maximum.
We went out to dinner at Spaghettim for some pasta as the restaurant was only about a 5 minute walk from the hotel. I had seen a wine store so wanted to stop on our way back. Lucky for us they had a free wine tasting & invited us in to sample some. We got to speak to some locals who told us about life in Jerusalem which was very educational. We were really glad we stopped by! We came home late & didn’t get to bed till 11pm which is late for us.
May 23 Friday
We woke up late this morning around 8am & after showers & breakfast didn’t leave the hotel till around 10am. We had to get our bearings & find the Old City which was a 15 minute walk to the Jaffa gate from our hotel. We stopped at the excellent Israeli tourist information office (please note it’s the second tourist office & not the first which charges for brochures & wants to push expensive tours) I tried to get tickets to the Tower of David light show. Unfortunately due to the Sabbath there is no show & with the Pope’s upcoming visit the only show available was 10 or 11pm Saturday night. Since we are going to Masada all day on Saturday we thought it would be too late & we would be too tired to see it. So we can’t go. But we will do it on our next trip definitely.
We walked around a bit & then wanted to take the free Sandman’s tours at noon. We did not like the tour at all & would not recommend it. See my TA review for more but basically we wish we had just explored ourselves. We gave him a tip but not the outrageous 50 Shekels per person he “suggested”. If he had been really good maybe we would have given more. There was so many people they split us into 2 groups but we still had over 30 people with each group. Our guide was just OK, had a really soft voice & was hard to hear & didn’t carry a sign, umbrella or something tall so we could find him as we walked around in all the normal crowds.
We came back to the hotel & looked through our guidebooks to make reservations for dinner since this was Shabbat. Note: it is imperative to have dinner reservations on Shabbat as most of the restaurants are closed for dinner Friday night. My suggestion would be to go earlier rather than later as it gets more crowded at the night goes on. I made 7pm dinner reservation at the Focaccia restaurant as recommended by Fodor’s book & it was a very good choice. See my restaurant review.
We went down to the Western Wall which Larry really wanted to see since he is Jewish. We arrived at 4:40pm & stayed till around 6:30pm when we had to leave for our dinner reservations. It’s a 15 minute walk from our hotel to the Jaffa gate & another 15 minute downhill walk to the Wall. To get into the Western Wall area, you need to go through a metal detector & take everything out of your pockets so be aware of that but it was really no problem. Living in DC we are used to the daily security in most of our buildings.
The Wall was fantastic & I would highly encourage you to go on Friday to see many more people praying at the start of Shabbat. We wish we could have stayed till sundown but had a dinner reservation so had to go at 6:30. Larry said it was fantastic & even for me being a Christian, I saw the reverence to it.
Note: do not wear shorts or have sleeveless or very short sleeve tops at the Wall as I saw them giving cover-up’s (don’t know if there was a charge for this) to ladies to wear. I always kept a long sleeved shirt in my backpack but had no problems at all. I watched a lot of the people in prayer & enjoyed seeing it. It was awe inspiring.
We then walked to our dinner reservations at the Focaccia bar & thankfully they gave us the outside porch table which I would highly recommend as it’s much quieter. Note: the restaurant had a lot of families with kids & was very noisy. If we had not had reservations, it would have been a very long wait as the restaurant was full. We also noted after we finished at 8:30 there was a huge line of people waiting.
We went back to the room where Larry did his nightly download of all the photos from that day. We have a point & shoot camera & video camera for me & Larry has a Nikon SLR digital with 2 good lenses. I would highly recommend downloading the photos every night so you don’t lose them & it frees up the memory card. Also you know the photos are protected as Larry backs them up to a small portable USB hard drive also.
It was interesting to watch the streets as the City closes down for Shabbat. One minute it is noisy with sounds of people, kids playing, music, the light train & the next all is quiet & I felt I was walking in a deserted City. I would strongly recommend you experience this. For me, it reminded me of NYC in the days after 9/11 when there were no planes & the streets were much quieter than they normally are.
continues in part 4