A Travellerspoint blog

March 2010

Mizpe Ramon

When we were discussing what to do today, Mirit and Shai were throwing around ideas, all of which sounded good to me. And then they said "Mizpe Ramon." My aunt had just been there a month before, and she absolutely loved it, so I jumped at the chance to go there myself. Of course, before we could take off, we had to stuff ourselves with food. We went to Shai's parents' house and had an Iraqi-style breakfast. This meant that potatoes and eggs had been in a pot on a hot plate over night and were very well cooked. We mashed them together, threw in some salad, and loaded up a pita half with that mixture, eggplant, matbucha (some tomato sauce that was great), and mango mustard. Not only was it fun, but it was also delicious. Eventually, we headed out to Mizpe Ramon. We passed a lot of desert on the way, but it was pretty green due to the recent rains. The riverbeds that we passed over were dried up, though. We passed clumps of trees planted by the various funds that plant trees in Israel. We passed illegal bedouin settlements with no water or electricity. We even passed some random statues. They were just sitting there, in the middle of the desert, with nothing else around them, no context or anything. They amused me. My first view of Mizpe Ramon was from a scenic outlook spot. Check out the pictures because no thousand words I have can describe the view. We then went down into the crater and checked out the rocks. Down there were rocks of various colors. We saw black, orange and tan, but also blue, pink, and purple. I didn't think rocks came in those colors unless the were like quartz or semi-precious stones. We also got a good close-up view of the desert flowers and plants, which were both pretty and abundant. The most surprising thing was the sea shells littered all over the place. It was so hot and dry that every time we touched the guard rope on the path, we would shock ourselves. It was a little hard to imagine this place under water. I'm wondering if those didn't belong to some sort of land snail instead. Either way, the were cool to see. After we hiked around the crater a bit, we went to Ben Gurion's grave site. It's a simple area, but, like the Baha'i gardens, people had decorated it with plants. Apparently, Ben Gurion's dream had been a green Negev, so it was quite fitting that he was buried overlooking the desert and surrounded by greenery. From where we were, we could see a whole family of ibex playing around, right in the middle of the day and right nearby. I was excited to be that close to nature. We headed back through the old part of Be'er Sheva and I noticed that all around town were various statues of vegetables. Nobody really knew what they were all about, but I found it interesting to pass an intersection full of tomatoes, a walkway ended by chile peppers, or any of the other statues. We hung out again for a while- I even got to see my first ever episode of American Idol, which was a little ironic. Again, we had a big family dinner with tons of food, this time at Mirit' dad's house. Again, the food was great, the company was great, and I had a good time. This seems to be a recurring theme for the trip. Alas, it was time to go to the airport and leave. I most certainly was not ready to leave the country. Even in the car to the airport, I was calculating in my head how soon I could come back.

view from overlook

view from overlook


sea shell

sea shell


colors of Mizpe Ramon

colors of Mizpe Ramon


walkway to Ben Gurion's gravesite

walkway to Ben Gurion's gravesite


desert view from Ben Gurion's gravesite

desert view from Ben Gurion's gravesite


Ibex

Ibex

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Arts and Shabbat

Friday mornings in Tel Aviv, there's this market where artisans gather to sell their wares. We walked through the market, admiring the art. Even if you're not into shopping, like me, it's still worth going to. Treat it as an art museum and just gawk at the items for sale. There are a wide variety of artists and arts. We saw one guy glassblowing with a hand torch right on the street. Another guy had made art out of utensils. There were plenty of stained glass items, carved items, painted items, and pottery. Inbal and Allison got matching hair barrettes that looked like leaves dipped in bronze. Mirit and I got matching pomegranate napkin holders, which I'm pretty glad I got. In addition to visual arts, there were several street musicians. For a while, I stood by a girl playing the violin and she was actually really good. When everybody was done at the market, we walked towards the beach. I was a little jealous of all the people playing in the sand and water, but I didn't have my swimsuit and we didn't have time. Instead, we grabbed lunch at some place named for a very famous dairy-producing kibbutz. The food there was very rich, but delicious. I had an eggplant lasagna, but it was almost more coated in cream than white lasagna in the US. It was absolutely delicious though. Allison got a typical Israeli breakfast food- shakshuka. From what I tasted of hers, it was pretty good. I will most certainly be looking up the recipe on the internet and trying to figure out how to make it. We wandered around the city for our last moments there, but eventually we had to say good bye. Mirit and I had to catch the bus to Be'er Sheva. The bus ride was pleasant. We passed through more greenery than I expected and had a great conversation. When we got there, I got to see Mirit's place and meet her puppy, Marley. For a while, we (Mirit, Shai, Marley and I) hung out, which was nice. After, we headed over to Shai's parents' house for shabbat dinner. My cousins had been feeding us tons of food all week- every meal was a smorgasbord. Shai's parents picked right up on that track. They had salads, cauliflower, pickled veggies, other veggies, patties, pockets, and I hardly remember what else. If everybody eats like we had been eating on the trip every day, I have no idea how the whole country isn't full of 500 pound people. There was just so much food. We retired before it got too late, because we had a big day ahead of us.

glass blower

glass blower


Tel Aviv beach

Tel Aviv beach


pomegranate napkin holder

pomegranate napkin holder

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Haifa

The next morning, we got up at about 8, had a nice Israeli breakfast, and headed north to Haifa for the day. I love Israeli breakfasts. It's so much more substantial than the standard American sugarbread breakfast of cereal, french toast, or pancakes. We took the train up to Haifa. The train wasn't really different from any other train anywhere else. I enjoyed the very green scenery, and before I knew it, we were there. Our first stop was the Baha'i gardens, which I was very excited about as I had heard from everybody (including a friend who did at least a year of volunteering there) that they were gorgeous. The only problem was, I didn't know when I got dressed in the morning that they won't let you in unless your shoulders and knees are covered. Allison had mentioned that when we met at the train station when she saw my shorts, but there really wasn't anything I could do about it at that point. We thought that maybe I could just wear my sweatshirt around my waist and be ok, but the guy at the entrance said that was no good. I didn't really have anything else on me, so we went to the car to scout something out. All we found was a pink flowered picnic blanket. Problem solved! I now had a wrap skirt. The entrance folks had quite a debate about my skirt and ultimately made me untuck my shirt so that it looked even more like a skirt. Ok. Whatever. As long as they let me in, I didn't care how they made me wear it. It was hot, and the blanket was even hotter, but it was so worth it. As we took our tour of the gardens, the guide explained how the Bab (the first prophet of the Baha'is) was buried in the building at the bottom and the entire garden area was built as a decoration for his tomb. The stone is all Israeli limestone, but some of it was sent to Europe to get laser carved so that it looks like marble and is absolutely gorgeous. Not only is the decoration beautiful, but it is good for the planet as well. The plants are plants that don't require a lot of water, and some of the grass is "hanging" on a mesh and not actually absorbing ground water. Outside of the symmetrical center is a natural area where trees can grow, and then a thick area where the trees that were originally in the middle were moved to. They're not allowed to hurt animals in the gardens, and after 5, the gardens are closed to people and the animals come out to play. As the guide walked us through the gardens, explaining both the gardens themselves and the Baha'i religion, it reminded me of all of all of the reasons I love the Baha'i set of beliefs. By the time we got to the bottom, I was hot and gross from the skirt, but not quite ready to leave the majesty of that place. We had to get going though. We grabbed a lunch of various salads and mezzes that was quite good and then moved on to a monastery dedicated to Elijah.The monastery had a great view of the countryside. We could see for miles, even through the hazy sky. It also had a pretty cool cactus garden. After that, we headed to our cousins' home, out in the countryside. The neighborhood had a great view and a ton of trees. Their house was a gorgeous home- spacious without being ostentation. They had an adorable garden and a lemon tree. My youngest cousin went out to get a lemon off the tree for the salad at dinner. You can't get any fresher than that! Dinner itself was delicious as well- I had the best quiche I've ever had. Sadly, the day had to end and we went back to Tel Aviv.

Baha'i gardens

Baha'i gardens


Cacti at monastery

Cacti at monastery


View from monastery

View from monastery


Baha'i gardens

Baha'i gardens

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

The Wedding

We slept well back in the hospitality of our family. Most of the day was spent doing pretty chill activities and hanging out. At one point, we went to the Rotem store. I would have loved to get some of the bright cut outs there, but I have no wall space, and can't bring myself to spend that kind of money on something not entirely useful. If they had sold bookends in that style though... We got dressed for the wedding and headed to Ronit farm, the wedding location. It was gorgeous. Keren says that it is the prettiest place to have a wedding in all of Israel, and I believe her. The trees were lit beautifully; the lake was lit beautifully; the interior space was decorated beautifully; it was amazing. The wedding itself was pretty awesome too. There were certainly differences between this wedding and most US weddings, but in general, I thought the way Keren and Erez were doing things was better. For example, they were out mingling with the guests before the ceremony, not tucked away somewhere, missing their own party. The music was good, in my opinion. Once it came on, I danced every song, except the first and last which were just for the couple. I was reminded of the time when my friends used to go clubbing all the time, and I have no idea why we don't anymore. (I've decided that's where my friends are taking me for my birthday this year. So LRs, the only way you get a joint party is if you want to go clubbing. Sorry.) I'm almost sad to report that Erez was dancing more than Keren. I had so much fun at the party, and we even had fun on the drive home. We got there at 3 am, and I was still energized and ready to go have more fun because of the adrenaline rush of the party or maybe just because I have such great cousins. Anybody who wasn't there really missed out.

(Pictures will be up soon)

Ronit Farm

Ronit Farm


Banquet room

Banquet room

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Back to the cousins

We woke up in the morning to a room and entire hallway that smelled of shisha. It didn't matter though, we were leaving. We took a cab back to the airport, and got our last views of Cairo, including many of the very pretty mosques. Even though for the past few days she had only eaten food she brought from the states and drank double-sealed water (the water there not only has the regular plastic lid with the break off ring, but a clear plastic over that), I think my sister was sick. She was also amazed that I wasn't sick, even after eating koshari. We spent the day traveling and finally got back to Tel Aviv and the family. My recommendations for anybody looking to go to Egypt: travel with somebody who has the same adventure level as you and discuss it ahead of time. I think we both had less fun on the trip that we otherwise could have because we were not on the same page as each other and didn't do a good job of communicating that ahead of when the decisions actually needed to be made.

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)