Sunday, June 2, 2013

Israel Travel Log--Day 3: Early Morning, Jerusalem

The little clock on the bottom of my computer says 3:56 AM.  It is only this late as I write you because I laid in bed for at least nearly an hour refusing to accept the fate that jet lag had dealt me.  Alas, I am its victim, and my first full day of events in Israel starts in about a three hour hole.

When last we spoke (wrote? typed? read?), I was in the United Club awaiting the departure of our flight.  In the interim, we flew, landed, checked-in, dined/discussed, walked about and slept.  Which brings me to now.

Let's start with the flight.  As I preened the other day, the good folks at AIEF sprung for Business Class, which on this particular 777 is "business/first" combined.  I can't even begin to tell you how sublime it was.  Not only because it was wonderful, but because I slept for nearly eight of the ten hours of the flight.  Having earlier in the evening had a petite filet, the gourmet dinner waiting for me pretty much went to waste.  There were three presumably wonderful entree choices available, but I asked only for the shrimp cocktail and a glass of water.  These consumed and removed by the helpful flight attendant, less than an hour into the flight I reclined my seat/bed to its full, flat position.  I awoke to the sound of a breakfast-like meal being served and the plane heading southeast over Greece.  I cannot begin to tell you how happy I was--bagging nearly eight hours of sleep and waking in time for a meal.  That friends, is good fortune.  So I had a cuppa joe, a little omelet and fruit, and prepared myself for landing.

Flying into Israel, one could be convinced that the topography was actually Southern California.  Heavily built up, areas of desert populated with great expanses of green for as far as the eye can see.  This is a bustling, busy, on the move country.  Things get done here, and it stands in stark contrast to the condition of many of its neighbors.  We landed at the beautiful Tel Aviv airport and cleared customs without much trouble.  Although the young man who interrogated me seemed put off that I didn't have my boarding pass with me. Nor did he appear to accept the explanation that in my view, the boarding pass had served its purpose already.

About half of our group checked a bag, half did what I did and stuffed everything into a carry on.   I thought it would be cool to have shipped five or six empty steamer trunks so that as we stood around baggage claim I could make a big ruckus over my baggage train like some Hollywood star, just to get things off on a good foot with the others.  We collected ourselves up into our little think-tanky band and got on the bus for the ride to Jerusalem.

We have a "tour-guide" for our bus travel, a guy of about fifty with a heavy New York accent.  He is wonderfully educated (MA at UVA, natch), friendly and chatty, qualities I respect in a guide.  Born and raised in Manhattan, he emigrated to Israel twenty five years ago or so.  I am going to enjoy his role in this week.

We made a little loop around the newer parts of Jerusalem en route to our hotel, stopping at a scenic overlook to gaze upon the Old City in the distance.  This really is a beautiful place.  The Old City is quite a small part of modern Jerusalem, sprawling over several hills and through many neighborhoods of various ethnicity and faith.  I am not including photos out of a bit of a logistics problem.  I have a digital camera, but no way to get the trons into the computer.  I have a cellphone with camera, but no way to charge it--having left the charger at home because I figured I wouldn't need the cellphone.  So you'll just have to use your ample imaginations when I describe things to you.

Our hotel is a nice one, modern, with free wifi (I am getting militant about paying for wifi--I realize I sound like a high-tech welfare queen, but the better the hotel in the US, the more likely you are to have to pay for wifi. Ridiculous.).  We had only a short time between arriving and having to gather for our first discussion and dinner--both of which turned out to be enjoyable.  We met with a wonderfully sociable Israeli newspaper editor who helped frame the major issues and challenges facing modern Israel.  Poor fellow had a tough time finding the opportunity to take bites at his feast, as the policy wonks surrounding him at the table had a stream of questions for him (yes, including me.  I embrace my inner wonk).  Afterward, we went for a stroll around the neighboring part of Jerusalem before calling it a night.  Our hosts told us that they do that (the evening stroll) to extend the day a bit further, as they found that if guests went right to sleep after the first event, they wound up waking up at 0200.  Well, they were right.  The hour long walk bought me another hour.

Some observations?  First, I love Nescafe.  I should have written about this last summer when Tom and I traveled to South Africa--but I didn't.  I love the way much of the world continues to take its coffee through little instant packs of Nescafe.  Do you remember when Nescafe was popular in the US?  I do.  Instant coffee used to be EVERYWHERE.  But we've become coffee snobs, what with our single serving Keurig command centers dutifully producing a perfectly brewed cup of Free-Range Cobra Black Fair Trade Coffee within seconds of replacing the spent cartridge therein.  The rest of the world is still tough--pouring a little hot water into a mug with the brown shards of instant magic on the bottom.  And the taste?  Wonderful.  I grabbed a cup before dinner as our group was assembling last night--at a table provided (I soon came to find out) for another group at the hotel and their meeting.  Seeing the bounty (of Nescafe) on the table, I sidled over and poured myself a cup.  No problem.  Though I apparently started a trend, as others in my group tried the same thing and were shooed away, as the much sought after Nescafe was NOT FOR US.

Next, pushing two separate beds with separate bed linens together does not make a larger bed. It makes for a larger floor covering, but you can only sleep in one small bed at a time.  Love this hotel, but I am sleeping in a twin bed, for all intents and purposes.

(Just poured Nescafe #2--sublime.  Smells like heaven)

What's up with "shower gel"?  Who actually uses it, and why would one choose it over a bar of soap?  I took a quick pre-dinner shower last night and was disappointed to only find shower gel. How inefficient it is. This morning, I espied a bar of soap that I had overlooked last night, so I'll be saved from the indignity of trying to spread a liquid rapidly dissipating through my fingers over my estimable girth.  Speaking of girth, I will eat, drink, and be merry this week, for when I return to Easton, it is time to get serious.  No, really.  Serious.

Ok, that's all for now.  Perhaps a little later at the end of a long day.

1 comment:

Mudge said...

Tell me Google doesn't have their tentacles into the whole of our communications. The ad at the bottom of your post today? "Nescafe Tasters Choice--Big on flavor, not on price." And wanting free WiFi at hotels doesn't make you a high tech welfare queen unless you expect taxpayers to pay for it. So high-tech queen maybe but not welfare. Seriously, thanks for the post from Israel. Looking forward to the policy discussions.

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