Four years ago I started Andys Travel Blog. The reason why? To tell the story of this crazy trip. Enjoy!
Part I: Introduction Part II: Rockets, Jerusalem, and the Kelev Part III: The Incomparable Boaz Shalgi Part IV: Sacrifice and Courage at Masada, Qumran, and the Dead Sea Part V: Between Two Caesareas First, a bit of technical difficulty. I recently purchased a pretty amazing little camera, the Fuji X10 for use on my fun little trips I take around the world (sneak preview: my next trip report is of my First Class adventure to Vietnam). I adore this camera, it’s equal parts easy to use, idiot-proof, and has protection against idiots. I consider myself a bit of a photodiot, so I went to one of the best in the business, my good friend Brian Braun (www.brianbraun.net), and asked his advice. He said without a doubt the X10 would be perfect, and it has been. with one exception. I love that I can adjust the exposure on the fly with a little dial on the camera, but on our last day in Israel, the dial found itself darkening every picture and I didn’t realize until most of the day was gone. So the pictures you see today will be artificially brightened a bit, and I learned a valuable lesson about constantly checking my settings on the camera to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Our day began on Shabbat in Jerusalem. We met up with Boaz at the appointed time, and began making our way north. Our route would first take us through Tel Aviv to a coastal town called Caesarea. It is an active archaeological… read more
Part I: Introduction Part II: Rockets, Jerusalem, and the Kelev Part III: The Incomparable Boaz Shalgi Part IV: Sacrifice and Courage at Masada, Qumran, and the Dead Sea Part V: Between Two Caesareas Our day began early as we departed Jerusalem and headed to the east along Highway 1. The scenery gradually changed from the relative lushness of the Jerusalem area into what I had pictured before the trip began, mainly: desert. As we drove, we saw various Israeli settlements that were well-fortified, because this was in the West Bank area and these were “disputed settlements” under constant threat of attack. Again, it’s hard to escape struggle in this land, the Israelis are determined to survive and prosper, yet face pressure to do both only as long as it doesn’t offend other governments that are mostly hostile to Israel anyway. The towns of Bethlehem and Jericho are located near Highway 1, but we had to bypass them. Bethlehem features the Church of the Nativity and not much else, so we skipped it due to time pressure. There’s not much to see in Jericho, as the walls came a-tumblin’ down many thousands of years ago, and it’s Muslim-controlled at this point, so our tour guide, being Israeli, would’ve faced trouble entering with us. As I mentioned earlier, our car was a royal piece of junk. The Kelev had maybe 30-40hp and the engine sounded like it was powered by two squirrels fighting each other. This bit of driving was the only easy part of the trip… read more
Part I: Introduction Part II: Rockets, Jerusalem, and the Kelev Part III: The Incomparable Boaz Shalgi Part IV: Sacrifice and Courage at Masada, Qumran, and the Dead Sea Part V: Between Two Caesareas When planning a trip, I always enjoy the ability to research not only the logistics of a trip, but getting a sense of the history of the area as well. This was a bit of a problem with Israel, because the history is so immense. There was so much to see, and so little time. Through a friend of a friend, we found Boaz Shalgi. Boaz, and his wife Magie, own a travel service called EDI Travel. My hesitation for using a guide was mainly driven by pride, but I got over that and reached out to Boaz. To my amazement, he himself was available to lead us on our journey. Usually, the president of a well-known agency would delegate this to someone else, but Boaz took time from his schedule and led us on an incredible journey. The reason I’m dedicating an entire post to Boaz is simple: he turned a good trip into an unforgettable trip. While the trip would have been beautiful and the experience memorable, the context he added to each site added significance and meaning to each step we took. He was equal parts storyteller, historian, tour guide, politician, and friend. If guiding tours is an art, Boaz Shalgi is your Rembrandt. While I do remember most of what he said, what left an impact on me… read more
Part I: Introduction Part II: Rockets, Jerusalem, and the Kelev Part III: The Incomparable Boaz Shalgi Part IV: Sacrifice and Courage at Masada, Qumran, and the Dead Sea Part V: Between Two Caesareas While preparing for our trip, we were unavoidably concerned with news reports of Hamas launching rockets into Southern Israel. The level of concern only escalated when air raid sirens were heard over Tel Aviv. Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system ably and quickly handled the threats. As our departure date approached, we were concerned, but, after advice from those on the ground in Israel, we boarded (less our mom, who decided not to make the trip) our flights to Madrid, connecting on to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv! As I said, the flights were in coach, so nothing to really write home about, but due to my status on American Airlines (Platinum, PLT for short) I was able to secure my brother and I seats in American’s new Main Cabin Extra mini-cabin on our 767. More legroom meant a surprisingly relaxing trip to Barajas airport in Madrid, where we had roughly a two hour layover in their new international terminal. From Madrid we had a quick 4.5 hour flight into Tel Aviv. Everyone always talks about Israeli airline security, and the reputation comes with merit: pretty much every interaction we had with Israeli security was professional yet extremely inquisitive, but they went ahead and allowed us into the country, even though they mocked us for coming all the way to Israel… read more
Part I: Introduction Part II: Rockets, Jerusalem, and the Kelev Part III: The Incomparable Boaz Shalgi Part IV: Sacrifice and Courage at Masada, Qumran, and the Dead Sea Part V: Between Two Caesareas They say the first step is admitting it. So, here goes: my name is Andy, and I love mistake airfares. Phew. Man, they were right, I do feel better. What are mistake airfares? Pretty simple actually. Sometimes, when airlines input airfares into their systems, they make mistakes. Could be a fat-finger mistake: last year, United accidentally entered the base airfare from SEA-PEK (Beijing) as $25.00 each way instead of $250.00 each way, which led to roundtrips from Seattle to Beijing for $470 after taxes were included. I’ve been able to take advantage of these on quite a few occasions over the past few years: DFW-Frankfurt for $340, Houston-London for $294, and DFW-Lima for $320. There are numerous others I’ve passed up, but then I saw a really big opportunity a few months ago. I was perusing some blogs and flyertalk.com and saw someone post what looked like a mistake fare on El Al Israel Airlines: Boston-Tel Aviv for $360 roundtrip! That’s about $800 cheaper than it should be. So I went into Deal Hunting mode. I looked at the fares people were finding, and most of the tickets were routed through London, Paris, or Madrid on American, then onto Tel Aviv on El Al. Since I know American also flies to those routes out of DFW, I went ahead and looked, and… read more