A Travellerspoint blog

November 2015

Barcelona, transatlantic cruise and Florida

Nice and relaxing travel home

sunny 27 °C

Days 52 and 53
Barcelona
We checked into the same hotel on the Ramblas that we had two years ago, Flor Parks, as we loved the location.
We didn't do too much other than a visit to the Sagrada Familia a church designed by Gaudi, and later a park that he designed.
Replenishing toiletries and needed items before the cruise and then it was time to board the ship.

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Days 54 - 69
Cruise from Barcelona to Cape Canaveral on the Norwegian spirit.

The ship held around 2,000 passengers and was an older renovated vessel. We had a balcony room on the ninth floor. There was a mixture of ages, most being 60 and older but a few young families and a couple of 30 something's as well. Most were from the UK, then USA and Canada followed by Europe. We got a great deal of just over $1,000 for the 16 days.

Overall the cruise was fine, but not the best we have been on. 16 days and not much in the way of lectures or daytime activities on sea days. We had music trivia once in a while which was fun. The evening entertainment was fantastic for the most part. Food was okay but very limited in vegetarian options and a lot of dishes were very salty.
Staff was outstanding, friendly, helpful and happy. They were from all over the world but lots from the Philippines, Serbia, Caribbean islands and India.

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Our first stop after a couple of sea days was Madeira Portugal. We had pre arranged to have a driver take us around the island which was very hilly, lush and beautiful. A stop was made to take a basket ride down the hill which was an old tradition and lots of fun.

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Our sea days were spent trying to find a lounge chair and alternating between sun and shade reading and listening to music on the top deck. The weather was hot and sunny most of the trip. A few days were a little choppy so the tiny pool was closed a number of days, but I only went in once anyhow.

One of the entertainers was a hypnotist, but she also practised hypnotherapy. Nadeen had a few workshops on pain management, weight loss and positive thinking. She met with me privately and helped me with working on healing myself which is fantastic. She also did a session with Lana. Nadeen is a very gifted talented young woman who has a huge heart and wants to help everyone. We bought her self hypnosis program and will continue to work on healing myself.

After six sea days we reach the Caribbean, visiting the island of Antigua first. This island had the most beautiful beach, white sand and turquoise warm water. We did not particularly like the island itself however, it did not have a lot of charm, in my opinion.
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Next day we hired a cab and spent it driving around St. Kitts and again visiting a beach.
St. Maarten the following day, same routine and then finally St.Thomas the U.S. Virgin Islands.
They were all nice, great to swim in the ocean and see the islands but none that I would return to.

This is me dancing with the locals again.

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Our last two days at sea were a bit rougher the closer we got to Florida, and on day 17 we arrived in Cape Canaveral for our early morning tour to NASA.

Days 70
Florida
There were around 30 of us who signed up for the tour to NASA and the Kennedy space station. On the way our guide pointed out many birds and alligators in the waterways at the side of the road. The skies opened when we arrived and walking from the bus to the ticket booth we got drenched. Inside the building is quite cool to keep the space shuttle and other items from falling to disrepair as the humidity is very high here. Being drenched and cold was a bit uncomfortable for the first part of the tour but it was all so fascinating we quickly forgot about it. Our guide was excellent and we learned a great deal about the space program and the previous launches.
We went on the space shuttle simulator, a very jarring experience. I would not want to do that too often as it really shook you up quite a bit, but fun to do once.

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The bus dropped us off at the Orlando airport and we picked up a Hyundai Santa Fe SUV for our Florida exploring. A stop at Publix, the local big grocery store and we arrived at Lana and Cheryl's condo which is right across the road from our place. They have a one bedroom which they are happy with. We are staying in Sarasota on Crescent beach for five nights.

We are staying in a studio at the Tropical Resort and we are very happy with it. A short walk down a lighted path and we arrive at a long stretch of powdery white sand beach. It is very beautiful

Day. 71 Lana and Cheryl and I walked the beach for a while. The sand feels like flour and apparently never gets hot, always cool to the touch.
There is an art fair in Sarasota this weekend so we all explored the many stalls for a couple of hours. I bought two pair of unique earrings and an art card. Some very beautiful and interesting photographs, paintings jewelry and metal and glass works

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Day. 72 Ana Maria island was explored today. Lana Cheryl and I set up our beach chairs and relaxed on the sand for a few hours while Doug drove around exploring the area. It was a bit windy so not too warm but we persevered. It was much warmer than home that is for sure.

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Day 73
Today we drove south exploring one of the long Keyes, Venice and area surrounding. Some of the land is so narrow there is waterfront on both sides of the street. Many very high end exclusive neighbourhoods. It seems all the beaches in this part of Florida are gorgeous.

Lunch in Venice and then a drive back. Doug and I went down to the beach to watch the sunset and enjoy the full moon in the clear night sky.
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Day. 74

Lana Doug and I went to the Mote Aquarium to take a boat tour with the hopes of seeing manatees and dolphins. It was too windy to see either unfortunately but we did see many birds, mangroves and interesting sights on our one and a half hour boat ride. The marine biologist on board was extremely knowledgeable.
We enjoyed a wonderful Asian fusion lunch at P.J. Changs and then went back to pack and prepare to leave.
Upon re confirming our flight I find that instead of leaving at 6:30PM we have been changed to 7:15AM!!! No notification!! So we had to change our plans and scramble to get everything in order

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Day 75
3AM wake up to leave by 4. Our flight left on time, first stop Phoenix and then a quick connection to Vancouver. We decided to keep the hotel in Vancouver for the night, even though we could have made the ferry. We went for dinner and had a great visit with Reese.

Day 76, Friday, November 27, 2015.

Reese drove our truck to Vancouver for us so we were able to get home without any problems. A quick visit to see Doug's sister after breakfast and we arrived back in Coombs around 4PM. The weather today was cold but clear and beautiful. What a gorgeous place we live in. We were treated to a wonderful dolphin show on the ferry ride home!

What an amazing adventure we had. Every place had its own unique special charm and we loved it all.
It is however great to be home and connect with friends and family again. Thanks for coming along with us. Until next time...........

Posted by debbep 20:50 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Israel and Jordan

Tel Aviv, Jerusalem , Petra and Wadi Rum

sunny 29 °C

'. Day. 39"

A cab to the airport was such a great idea. With four of us it wasn't that much more expensive and so much less stressful. We flew on Ezejet from Paris to Tel Aviv for $224 which was a great price on this low cost airline, so wasn't sure what to expect. Check in and boarding were a breeze and the in flight staff were wonderful.
The selection of food to buy on board was better and less expensive than any other airline I have seen. We left on time and arrived 4 1/2 hours later, 1/2 hour ahead of schedule.

We and a beautiful view of the Austrian alps.

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An hour from landing we had an announcement that no one would be able to use the bathrooms after the next few minutes as we will be in Israel airspace. A security measure. Hmmm.

We have not had anyone look at our passports on any of our other landings, but Israel was different. Passport check took a long time to get through, but when I finally did reach the front the woman asked where I was going and how long I was staying, handed me back my passport, smiled and said " welcome to Israel"

We grabbed a cab to our apartment in Tel Aviv. It is quite a distance from the airport and now dark. We are staying in a very small apartment building that is closed and locked up, but the owner has sent me the code to get in.

Well it sure looks different from the pictures on the Internet. Doug and I took the apartment on the first ( second) floor and Lana and Cheryle the floor above. There are four apartments on each floor. Ours is nicer than theirs. Our has been repainted and updated somewhat. We are not happy, but we have paid in full and the owner won't be here till tomorrow.

We headed out to walk the streets around us and found an " Irish Pub" that served food. A woman whom we assumed worked there came up and helped us with the menu, recommended dishes and was raving about the food. We sat outside and enjoyed our food and her and the owner sat at the next table and we had a great time chatting to them. Billy and Abi were so much fun, we really enjoyed ourselves. She is just a regular there and good friends with Abi.

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Day 40

Moti the owner came and apologized that the unit on the top floor will not be renovated till next month. He is so sweet that we really can't get upset. And this is the least expensive place in the area. We are a block from the beach so the location is excellent.
This is our view across the street however. Old meets new.

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At 10AM the four of us made our way down the beach walk towards Jaffa, the old town. Moti warned us to stay off the bike walks as most are electric bikes and they go fast.

It is very hot. Not that I am complaining but it is around 28c. A lot of people are in the water already cooling off or suntanning in the lounge chairs.
We notice a lot of interesting modern buildings in Tel Aviv.

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There is a walking tour of old Jaffa at 11AM from the meeting place of the tower. Twenty or more people of various ages and nationalities the next two hours enjoying the tour with our guide who was originally from London. She explained the history of Israel and Tel Aviv/Jaffa with so much humour and had a picture book for those of us who are visual learners. It was very interesting and I learned a lot about the history. She was trying to be unbiased, but she is Jewish so we had to keep that in mind.

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Children go to segregated schools here, Jewish, Arab, Christians, they all have their own schools and don't interact at all. That could certainly contribute to the problems.

Jaffa is the old city and she explained a lot about the various buildings and history of the area. Jaffa is/ was predominately Arab, so the Jews built TelAviv beside it. It is know as the White City, and is a very vibrant prosperous ( expensive) city that is a party favourite. It is very accepting of everyone, so there are a lot of gay men and women who come here to vacation and enjoy the beautiful beaches, great restaurants and nightlife.

It has been described as " if New York and Miami Beach had a love child it would be Tel Aviv"

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After the tour we stopped in at a restaurant for lunch. I had a falafel and the others had a shawarma. We are learning a couple new words a day, and said thank you in Hebrew, but did not get an acknowledgment. We started to talk to the man at the next table and he said " they are Arab". Of course, we are in Jaffa. He tells us how to say thank you in Arabic (shukran phonetically), calls the staff over, we say thank you and they all smile ( maybe they laugh a little) .

This is going to be hard figuring out who is Jewish and who is Arab. Sometimes it is obvious because of their dress, but not always. We don't want to offend.
I notice if I do say thank you (toada is phonetically how you say in Hebrew), they smile, warm up and ask where we are from. They seem to really appreciate taking the time and effort to try to speak the language.

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A number of people have also thanked us for coming to Israel, in light of the current situation, violence, going on. Many other tourists have cancelled. Time will tell if we made the right decision.

After lunch Doug went for a hair and beard cut. He certainly got his money's worth, it is very short. The barber and he had a great deal in common and really enjoyed talking to each other for the hour that it took.

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Day 41

Beach time today. Doug and I made our way to the wide expanse of beige coloured sand beach to spend a great part of the day. The sand is like powder, fairly clean except for a few cigarette buts, and scattered with people of all shapes sizes and ages.
A reminder of Waikiki however not as busy. Many lounge chairs and umbrellas can be hired, which we did for 30 sheckles for the entire day. This works out to less than $10 and well worth it.

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The water was wonderful, a little cool when you first went in, but lovely and flat calm. Paddle boarders kayakers and sailboats were also enjoying the water. We swam five different times during the day. .

The beach is on the major flight path to the airport and we see many commercial jets and smaller ones flying very low over us constantly in the morning. A few fighter jets as well as some helicopters overhead once in a while.
A walk around to buy groceries and then a fantastic lunch before heading back to our place to prepare for our departure to Jerusalem tomorrow.

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Day 42

A large van was ordered to pick us up at 11:30am and he was there a half hour early which was nice. It is the Shabbat today so no busses or trains are running. Every Friday at sunset until sunset on Saturday the devout Jews do not perform any type of work, so you need to plan accordingly. There are still stores and places open in TelAviv because there are a lot of Arabs here. A taxi would be more convenient than a bus anyhow and with the four of us not too bad. 450 shekels which is around $130. It is more than usual because it is the Shabbat and we asked for a large van. The journey was not overly exciting and took around 45 minutes.

We arrived in the Jewish area of Jerusalem and found the apartment building that was rented on VRBO. We have to go down one flight of stairs on the outside of the building and the one more inside. It's not the ritz that is for sure but the inside is fine. The landlady left the front door unlocked with keys on the table. A moment of panic as the second bed in one of the bedrooms is a child bed. We figured out after a while however that we could make it a regular twin bed and disaster averted as there is nothing else to rent in this price range. For the two bedroom apartment we are paying $125US a night, and for Israel that is a great price. We have a great view over Jerusalem and sitting here I feel like I am looking over Vancouver or any other large city.

We had a relaxing day just staying here, as there was no transport that we coul take from here today that we knew of and didn't mind a down day anyhow,
We brought groceries from Tel Aviv as stores are closed here today so managed to have a big salad for dinner followed by a carrot cheese dessert that Lana and Cheryle picked up in a market.

The landlady, Hanna, came at 8:30pm and does not speak any English, only French. Originally from Paris she speaks rapid fire French, I picked up a bit of it and Doug did quite well but we still needed google translate and eventually she called her daughter in law who spoke English, to make sure all was in order.
We set the clocks back an hour tonight so we get an extra hour sleep which is always a good thing.

Day 43
At 10 we caught a cab into old Jerusalem to meet up with a walking tour at 11. There were about 15 of us on the tour and it was fairy fast paced, we rushed through some areas to be sure to get to,the Temple Mount on time. Our tour guide, Naoimi, was Jewish and had a great sense of humour and so much information to share with us. She was very diplomatic and tried not to be one sided in her views. This is such a complicated place.
My personal opinion is that it is not a battle of Palestine against Israel, but more about control of who can worship where and who can't, so a religious fight. Power over religious sites. It seems so contradictory to what religion is supposed to be about.

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We started at King David's tower and saw the place where the last supper was and also where Jesus was put in jail the night before the Crucifixion.

It is quite crowded in there, a lot of Chinese tour groups as well as Christian pilgrimages and also Jewish groups.

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There are lots of Israeli soldiers everywhere, all with machine guns. When a child turns 18 they must join the military, two years for girls, three for boys, minimum. So you see lots of hormonal teenagers with machine guns. They are in groups of 4 or 5 on every corner.

Israel hasn'It had rain for six months. Until today. It was torrential at times and the streets started flooding.

We had to rush to get to the Temple Mount because it was only open to non Muslims for one hour a day. This is a site that is great controversy in Jerusalem, it was once Jewish and now Muslim and the second most important Islamic site. There is a long history about this site and now the Jews are not allowed to come and pray here.
When we arrived we had to go through a screening. You could not bring in any Christian or Jewish items, like a bible or cross for example. You had to be covered to mid calf, men too, and have your arms covered. This site has been many things in the past, originally one of King Herods palaces, abandoned for a while, other things in between and now a mosque.

Naoimi was great, giving us the history, not saying anything negative about anyone just giving the facts. A Muslim woman was listening nearby. She started yelling at Naoimi, " this is a mosque, you should not even be here! "
Naoimi was very calm and said, " I am saying everything you want me to say, why don't you listen"
The woman kept yelling and then eventually walked away.a short while later we heard a bunch of people yelling " Allah is great, Allah is great....."
I asked what was that and told some Jewish men, that she knew, were walking by, not praying just walking, but they constantly get yelled at all the time. The hate must be exhausting. So sad.

The site was interesting, we could not go inside and soon we were told we had to leave, our time was up.
Well that was interesting, and a bit uncomfortable. It was like a heavy black cloud was put around me. But I quickly shook it off.

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A lunch stop at an Arab resteraunt and Naiomi is very well received and gets along well with everyone ther. It seems it is only a few really who have so much hate for the other. Most seem to get along, to me anyhow.
Assorted sides of hummus tahini salads and falafel were served which was quite good. Naoimi sat with our small group and we talked about many things.

Lunch was neat the via Delarosa, the path that Jesus took when he carried the cross to his crucifixion. There are 14 stations in all. It would have looked similar to,what we saw today, shops on either side of the walkway to the hill.

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Our last stop was the church of the Holy Sepulchre which has an Ethiopian church, Greek Orthodox and Catholic Church inside. It is built on the place where Jesus' was. Crucified and also where his tomb is. It was quite crowded inside. We saw the slab where his body was wrapped before being placed in the tomb.

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The tour was over and so we walked back to the Jaffa Gate with Naoimi and then tried to catch a cab back. The first two looked at the address and said no, not sure why, and then the third said his meter was broken and said he would charge 150 sheckles, three times more than we paid to get here. We got out of the cab and decided to take the train ( above ground subway) back.

I was so bagged it was all I could do to drag myself up the hill, but finally got there. Buying a subway ticket was very confusing for us, mostly in Hebrew, but a lovely young man helped us and we got on the train.
Can't seem to get used to having guys with machine guns beside me on the train. But nice to feel protected.

Tonight we went for dinner with some people that Doug met in Norway ( that seems like so long ago). A wonderful open conversation about life in Israel, and Jerusalem in particular. We really enjoyed our evening with them.

Day 44. Bethlehem

I found a guide that was recommended and he picked us up in his van at 9 AM. Sam was a very gentile and lovely man with so much information. He grew up in Bethlehem but now lives in Jerusalem and is a Christian.
Our first stop was King Herads Palace built in 25BC. He had 9 wife's and over 90 children. He reminded me of Donald Trump. He was very egotistical and everything he built, and there was a lot, was over the top.
He had many palaces, but this was where he was buried. When he died he left strick orders as to how his funeral should be. He even had a few Jews killed so that more people would be crying at his funeral.
He decided when he died to take it with him and was buried with a lot of his jewels.

There were a lot of workman around doing more restoration. Only a handful of other tourists which was great. It amazed us that Sam would pick up pieces of pottery from thousands of years ago and said we could take it with us. There was so much and no rules not to take anything like most sites do.

Sam wanted to visit his mom in Bethlehem so he set us up with another guide to take us the the church of the nativity. We arrived a bit late so rushed inside and then to the lower floor to see where Jesus was born. It closed at noon for a few hours.

The guard said, " no you are too late" in Arabic to our new guide. I looked around the corner and took a peak inside, looked at the guard, our guide was asking again nicely and the guard said, " ok, just for a minute"
We had a short time but saw where Jesus was born and also the manger spot. We then went upstairs again and watched a church procession that led people downstairs to see what we just saw, but instead of 40 people cramming into the room there were only the 5 of us when we were there

The church below, church of the nativity, used to have huge doors but they kept having to make them smaller and smaller because people would ride their camels and horses inside.

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It is mandatory in Bethlehem to visit a store before leaving and our new guide just happened to own one " prince of peace". It was a Christian store with lots of unique things in it. We each bought some jewelry, the Jerusalem cross, Cheryl a necklace and Lana and I had them a make us earrings. I am not religious but liked this unusual design and it will remind me of our trip here.

In the street are many vendors selling pomegranate juice and falafels etc. we watched one fellow making them with a special falafel scoop and the owner gave Lana and I each one to try, no charge and came with a huge smile. So gracious.

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We found a bank that dispensed Jordanian Dinar for tomorrow and then made our way to lunch ant a resteraunt that Sam had preordered a typical meal at. It used to be a very popular and busy resteraunt but now not many go there because the Israeli soldiers are often on the roof with machine guns.
Across the street is Rachel's Tomb, the wife of Jacob and considered sacred to Jews Christians and Muslims. Now there is a huge wall around it and the Muslims are not allowed to visit, only Jews and Christians. It says you can visit but only in a bullet proof bus. Our guide did not even suggest going.
Yet here we are having lunch across the street. It was delicious, lots of small dishes to start followed by a main course.

We heard some bangs going on, it didn't sound like it was very far away. Sam said that school was out and the kids go and throw rocks at the Israeli soldiers. The soldiers then throw tear gas canisters at them. We heard a number of them in the hour we were there.
It was quiet now, so safe to go according to Sam. We found evidence of burning garbage and lots of rocks in the street . We were coughing and felt a bit of burning in our eyes just driving through the area. All the kids had gone home now though.
What a way to live.

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Our last stop was another church. I was ready to collapse at this point it was such a long day. We didn't stay long and then started our drive home.

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Day 45. Jordan

Our taxi picks us up on time at 639am to take us downtown to meet up with our tour to Jordan. There are only 9 of us on this three day adventure and our tour mates include Helen and Graham from the UK who are about our age. Graham has been here a few times before taking church groups but this is the first time for the rest of us .
Will is around mid 40 something, travelling alone from Orlando Florida and friends Dianne and Roxanne who are mid 50 ish from New York City.

An 18 passenger van takes us west to the border with Jordan that we will cross at. We pass by many groves of dates and lots of green houses. This is the Jordan valley and a very fertile area where a lot of the produce for the country is grown. Cucumbers, tomatoes, corn squash and eggplant are seen in huge plots. Bougainville and orange trees are seen as well.

There used to be a lot of banana trees but the soldiers cut them down years ago so that they could scout out the horizon better. They decided on dates instead of bananas when they replanted.
That reminds me that I need to buy some dates. Yum.

Homes made from tin and cloth are seen now, and rolling hills of sand and rock. Goats, camels, lots of different palm trees line the highway.
The Jordan river is very low here because they dammed it up near Galilee but it meant that the river has less water in it now.

Electric fences line the road the closer we get to Jordan. There are also land mines in the ground to keep people from Jordan and afar from coming into Israel illegally. Israeli soldiers patrol the roads looking for footprints in the sand between the fence and road. If they see footprints then the helicopters and more soldiers come out to find them.

There is not a similar thing from Israel to Jordan because more want to come to Israel to see family who are originally from there.
Our driver lives in Palestine and every morning it takes him two hours to get through the check point to come to work every morning. He always gets hassled every day and he is just trying to come to work.

Closer to boarder we notice more grasses that are a beautiful golden colour. We are now driving on road that twists and turns through the small mountains.

Our first checkpoint in Israel is reached and we must each pay $30USD and then get back on the bus. We show our passports twice here.

We had two more checkpoints to show our passports in Israel.

Jordan passport and security is reached and we leave our Israeli bus and walk through security. . Ramdom searching is done and as usual Doug is singled out again and they take over half hour more with him. He packed binoculars and they wanted to be sure they were not night vision ones.

One more passport check In Jordan and we are here!
A Jordanian bus is boarded, the same size, and Said is our driver.
Our guide is Ayman. Pronounced Iman and he is a lovely young man of 28 from Amman. He always has a huge and sincere smile on his face. His mom is Christian and dad is Muslim, so on Fridays he would go to the mosque with his dad and church with his mom on Sunday. Now he says he is spiritual not any one religion. His mom is a chef for king Husain.

As we leaved the border and travel though town I notice a lot of garbage ,that evil plastic lines the sides of the roads.
Population explosion in the past few years with all the refugees and people coming from neighbouring countries Jordan has one of the biggest refugee camps, located in the north, with over 80,000 people from Syria. They have been there so many years it is like its own city now with streets and people getting married and having babies and setting up shops. Most of them have a pretty good life there according to him.

Hilly terrain with olive trees are seen now and people come and sit to relax under the trees and have picnics. It is illegal to cut down a tree in Jordan, all the wood needs to be imported. Only 8./. green space in Jordan and they want to change that.

Jordan has a lot of excavations going on as there have been continuous inhabitants here since the Stone Age.
A number is tents are seen both for people and animals. A tribe called Bedouins live in goat hair brown tents, while the gypsies live in less expensive coloured tents

Some facts: Bedouins are not poor, many are wealthy. Some have nice houses but still have tents in their yards because that is their culture.
2500 year old olive trees are growing near Jerash, our first stop. They produce the best olive oil.
School is free and mandatory. University, if you want to continue your education, is not expensive

More than 40./ of population works for government which is why Jordan is safe. Everyone who works for the government gets free healthcare and good benefits so there are not much opposition the the government because it is most people's livelihood and they are treated well. Most people in Jordan are Muslim, with a few Christians.

Tree of Jordan is oak tree
Winter time in Jordan can see as much as 120 cm of snow to over a meter at times. Climate change is seeing hotter summers and colder winters for them.

We arrived at the ancient ruins of Jerash. This is the best preserved Roman site in the world but it is not a UNESCO site because in order to be designated UNESO there can be no inhabitants. As a lot of Jerash is still buried and there are many homes built overtop the government decided it will not make these people move, so it is governed by the government.

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Greeks started building it and the Romans finished it from 63 BC to 320 AD, then in the 3Rd century it became Byzantine with the Christians. In the 7 th century came the Muslims. It was used to control the trade route for the Romans.

It is so well preserved because it was buried for years under seven meters of dirt from a massive earthquake in the 8 th century. There is still only 30 percent that is visible.
It has only been uncovered since the early 20th century, so still very new.
It was one of the best we have ever seen, it was amazing and hardly any people there for such a fantastic site.

We are very hungry and treated to a fantastic meal in a very nice restaurant before we
drive through the capital of Amman and then a stop at the Citadel which offered amazing views over the city. The population has just exploded in recent years, this is the older part of,the city but still only 90 years old. It is the most dense city we have ever seen, remaining us a bit of La Paz in Bolivia

As we drive through Amman we come to the newer area, very upscale, high end stores, and the Embassy's from around the world and their compounds.

It was now a four hour drive to our camp. I decided to take the back bench seat that was vacant so I could lay down to sleep. Jordan has speed bumps every mile, so our driver goes at 90K the slams on the brakes to go over the speed bumps. This was constant the entire way. I ended up been thrown onto the floor of the bus more than once during the trip and never got any sleep, but i did get some rest.

We are staying in a Bedouin camp, small tent buildings with a communal dining room and separate men's and woman's toilets and showers.

Went to bed right away. Inside the tent is two single beds and a small side table. There is a zippered window about 10x10 big. I like a lot more fresh air and it smells bad in here. There has been a lot of rain and everything is still damp and hasn't had a chance to dry out.
The bedding was dry though.
I am so tired however I slept like a baby.

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Day 46 , Petra

From the entrance gate we walked for a while past some carvings and extraordinary rock formations. The colours are more evident as it has rained recently. The park is only 10 minutes from our camp and it is 9am, so not too many tourists yet. Ayman says that tourism has been down so much in the past few months because people are afraid to come here now, just because it is the Middle East. Twenty two hotels in Petra had to close down recently, so over 1,000 people have lost their jobs. This is the most tourists he has seen in a long time so he is very happy.

The weather is perfect. Rain was in the forecast but now changed to just sun and cloud. Two weeks ago it was 49C here, and two days ago so much rain it was flooding. We are so luck, today will only be low 20s.

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A walk for about a mile through the gorge shows us irrigation ditches and tunnels that were Mae by both the Nabatean and and then later the Romans. The colts of the rock formations are beautiful shades of pinks and corals and ivory.

Ayman told us to turn and look at the mountain behind us to see something. We are saying
" what, where are we looking? I don't see it"
Then he says : " just kidding guys, turn around"
There before though the gorge is the treasury. What a sight!

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These buildings were carved into the sandstone by the Nabateans. They are not homes but tombs. They would spend their entire live carving their own tombs. The home they lived in were all destroyed.

We spent a bit of time there but we were coming back this way so pressed on. Ayman pointed out many more tombs and carvings along the way.
This is now a UNESCO heritage site, but you have to kick everyone out from their homes to have a site be declared s Unesco site, there were still a number of Bedouins living here at the time. The agreement was that they be built houses nearby, and given jobs. Each family received a donkey and gets a portion of the entrance fee, which by the way is a hefty 70 dinar per person which adds up to over $100 ( still cheaper than most concert prices).

The Bedouin work in the site offering camel, mule, donkey, horse and horse cart rides for tourists.
All the men look like Johnny Depp from pirates of the Caribbean. The Bedouins keep to their own tribe so they all look alike. There are not many women working here, as true Bedouins do not want the women to work outside the home, but the ones who are here have their children helping them at small stalls selling jewelry and other items

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A stop at one stall was to show how they use kohl on their eyes, and when a volunteer was asked for I was more than happy to oblige.
Johnny Depp sat me the the chair and applied a natural kohl from Jordan to the inside of my eyes. This has a dual purpose, to enhance and make your eyes more beautiful, but also cleans any dirt and dust from the eyes. Being in the desert it is a great way to keep your eyes clear. Lana went next and we both bought a bottle to take home. We will see how it works. It is supposed to last a couple of days between applications.

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At the top of a number of stairs we found another interesting tomb, but also this desert policeman who graciously allowed me to take his picture and one with me as well. We have found everyone so friendly and just lovely people.

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Hiking up and down hills and stairs to visit other sites until we come to our lunch stop in a Bedouin restaurant. Another meal of hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers and pita and then this part of the guided tour is over. Ayman is hiking up to the monastery, a ruin at the top of 800 stairs and whom ever wants to join him is welcome. The group splits in half, Cheryl went with them but went up on a donkey. Coming down is better on foot as it is quite steep and scary on the donkey.

The rest of us, Lana, Doug, Roxanne and Dianne made our way slowly back the two something kilometres to the treasury. Roxanne said she always wanted to ride a camel so we convinced her that she had to do it.

A few minutes later a fellow asked Lana and I and we decided to take the camel to the treasury. These were tall lean camels and the saddle, made from blankets, had a horn built on the back and the front. I had a heck of a time swinging my leg over that back horn. Riding a camel is fun for about 10 minutes really. There are no stirrups so it's always a challenge what to do with your legs.

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The great thing about this tour was that unlike others where you were only here for 4 hours, we had the entire day. We just sat and looked at the treasury, people watched and took pictures for the next couple of hours.

I was trying to get a video of me dancing in front of the ruins but it was difficult with people walking in front of Lana all the time who was filming. Another young Bedouin man, Soloman, came and directed traffic, telling people to please move so Lana could film. Then he took us around the corner to a great place to take some pictures and film me dancing. Another young Bedouin man joined me for the last part of the dance. They were a lot of fun. I bought a bracelet from him although he never pressured me at all. We chatted for a bit. His wife is going to university to be an engineer and they live in the town nearby.

He went on his way and we went back to our bench to marvel at the site some more. Soloman came back and put a small silver bracelet on my arm and said " this is a gift for you" he said that I reminded him of his mother and we seemed to have a connection. It was so sweet.

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The rest of the gang showed up from their hike and we started back through the gorge to the parking lot. I was pretty bagged at this point so when a man came and asked if I want to ride a horse back I said yes. It was a slow ride, he led the horse like a pony ride, but a nice one. A few of the young men were ridding gorgeous high spirited Arabian horses, but they were for their own use . Doug walked back with Ayman.

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This evening we sat around the campfire talking and the after dinner had a long conversation about politics and religion in the Middle East.

It seems apparent to me that everyone I talk to, Arab Christians , Arab Muslims, Jews, Israeli Christians, they all want the same thing. Just to get along and stop fighting.
Graham is a minister from the Church of England and Ayman is Christian and Muslim raised so it was a very interesting and completely non confrontational discussion that went on for a couple of hours.

Day 47, Wadi Rum

Another early start has us on the road at 730am for our two hour ride to the desert. Two small pickup trucks are waiting for us and we climb onto benches in the back and head to the open sand. This is a national park and there are many Bedouin camps inside. Groups and independent travellers come to tour like us in trucks for the day, on foot, horseback and camel. Some spend a few days in the dessert either in small tents or Bedouin camps.

Unlike other deserts there are more than just sand dunes, but many mountains with years of erosion have formed interesting shapes

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The Nabateans have also lived here in the past and we see some carvings in the rocks. This was the trade route for caravans from Saudi Arabia many years ago.
We are very close to Saudi Arabia.

At one sand dune Ayman invited us to run up in bare feet to the top. I made it about half way, it very hard work, two steps up, three back. Going down was fun.

Our driver Said joined us today and ran to the top effortlessly. He is retiring in two years so I put him a bit older than me. Ayman said he never comes on the wadi rum tours, usually just waits in the bus, but he really likes our group a lot and wanted to join us. He has so much fun today and we all really like him a lot too.

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'Little bridge' was our next stop and it was a challenging climb to the top of the rocks. You then went across a narrow rock forming the bridge to the other side, but half way I got a terrible attack of vertigo and could not go further. I crawled on hands and knees back to the other side.

The view was magnificent and everyone danced with me on the rock for my next video of 'dancing around the world' . We decide to call our group 'YALLA' which means let's go in Arabic, something the Ayman said to us all the time

Lawrence of Arabia was filmed here and he actually lived here so we saw the remains of his home. There was a small shop there and we were offered tea which was delicious. Sage, cinnamon and cardamom, and we bought two bags to bring home. Hopefully we get them across the border. We also bought some musk bars which are like a perfume as well as two scarves. I think they were happy as most of us bought something

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Lunch was at another Bedouin camp of hummus, pita, yogurt, tomato and cucumbers with a plate of rice and chicken as well.

Jordan is the fourth largest exporter of phosphate in the world. They also rely on exports of fruits and vegetables with tourism being the fourth largest income for the country, at least it was in the past.

On the way back to Israel, to a different border crossing, we pass many weddings. Friday and Saturday are non work days so Thursday is a popular wedding day. The groom will drive to pick up the bride, with his entire tribe, and they will form a convoy to the wedding with car lights flashing. There is a camera man in front, standing up in the sun roof, filming the procession behind him. When we passed them we all danced in the bus and the camera man was pleasantly surprised to film us.

The next procession we passed had a bunch of people in school busses who were dancing and we danced in our bus too and they all thought that was great. Dancing creates such happiness and a world wide bond that everyone can relate too.

A few years ago IKEA came to Jordan, which was quite something for them. Ayman says that there are often family outings there to look around at all the western furniture , have an ice cream and then leave.

We descended to the Dead Sea, which is 400 feet below sea level. Ayman suggested that if anyone has empty water bottles to watch them as we descend and we see them gradually deflate and collapse.

Ayman takes us the the Jordanian border, he does or paperwork for us. He first brings a police officer on board the bus
We said our goodbyes to Ayman and then Said drove us to the Israel boarder, where we then said goodbye to him.
We danced as he drove away and he was dancing too. Such a sweet man

Five passport checkpoints to get into Israel and then we board another bus who takes us to Jerusalem, a 45 minute drive.
A cab 'home' to our Jerusalem apartment .

Day 48. Jerusalem

Slow relaxing morning today which was much needed. It is Friday, the Shabbat, so we decide to go to the market before it closed at 3pm. We walked up the street about 10 minutes to the light rail and got off right at the market. Half was outdoor stalls on a pedestrian street but there were all these small alleys with stores and stalls that seemed to go on for ever.

Shabbat starts at either 3 or 5 on Friday, I have heard both, so the transit stops at 3 with the last train going back at 2:25pm. It is getting more and more crowded, Orthodox Jews stocking up on groceries for the Shabbat as they can't shop until after 6pm on Saturday now.

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The one picture is of a sesame seed grinder that makes tahini.
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A few groceries were bought and we wait for the train. It is not coming and a young man come over and says the train will not be running west, we need to walk to the bus station about a mile from here. Loaded down with heavy bags of groceries that really wasn't too appealing.

We read later that a few stops east of where we were a tourist was stabbed on the train by a Palestinian youth who was then shot and killed. A little too close for comfort. The tourist is okay, these kids usually don't ever actually kill anyone, I don't think they really even know what they are doing. They , in my opinion, are suicide stabbers, as they know they will be shot. It is heartbreaking.

We grabbed a cab and headed back home for the night

Day 49. Dead Sea
Sam was hired again to drive us south to Masada and the Dead Sea for the day. Masada was an hour and a half drive and it was so crowded. Being Shabbat I guess everyone decide to come here because a lot of places on Jerusalem would be closed.

We watched a short 15 minute video,which explained the history of this very important sight for the Jews

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King Herod. Once again built this palace on top of a flat mountain to use as a place to escape to in case of trouble. He had two of his wife's here and they each had their own palace. Herod never actually ever came here.
It was later taken over by the Zealots, Jewish fighters. The Romans came and spent three months trying to conquer them and take over the palace. The zealots put up a good fight but they were very outnumbered and knew that the next day the Romans would be inside.

A decision was made that rather than become slaves to the Romans they had a mass suicide. The Romans arrived the next day to find that all the booty had been burned and all the potential slaves dead. The Romans were very pissed.

We took at cable car to,the top, there is a hiking trail but we took the easy route. It was very hot up there, we looked around a while and Sam explained a lot of the history to us.

We had packed our own lunch and went to the cafeteria to eat it before setting off to the Dead Sea. We saw some Ibek on the way.

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Sam took us to a ' Spa' to go into the sea rather than the public beach. It is so strange to float in the Dead Sea. It is so incredibly salty that is is impossible not to float. I had a hard time to put my feet back on the ground. I would finally stand up and then felt like one of those bobbers, my feet would come up again and I am back floating again. So weird. The water is quite warm but the bottom is squishy with mud. We have water shoes on because the mineral content is so high it can cut your feet.

The mud is apparently very beneficial, claims to fix all problems so we covered ourselves with this. Sam took my camera and we danced for my movie covered in the mud. There were a group of Americans who were cheering and clapping as we danced. It was fun.
Getting the mud off is a a challenge, it is quite sticky.

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We got back at 5 , I had a short rest and Sam arranged a cab to pick us up at 6 to go the old Jerusalem to tower of David to see a light show.
It was quite well done, lights and a story projected on the castle walls with music . It told the story of Jerusalem's history over the years
We caught the train back.

Day 50

Laundry and Internet this morning. At 1:30P the train took us back to Old Jerusalem where we went to the top of the Tower of David to get the view and some pictures of the old city. Another warm pleasant day.

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I went off on my own for a few hours and walked through the alleys lined with shops to find the Western Wall.

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A security check before going in and a woman came and told me that I needed to cover my front as my shirt had a v neck.

Men prayed on one side and women on the other. I took some pictures and then ran into Lana Cheryle and Doug so hung out with them again, I had had enough alone time by then.

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There are a lot more police out today. I saw these ' kids' walking through the market with tshirts , shorts and machine guns

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We talked to one group who were in there late 20s I suspect. Lana wanted to take his picture and he let us both take it. We joked around with him for a bit, then saw him again later with s few more police. Some young girls were giving them lollipops. We had to take another picture.

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Doug had heard of this great restaurant, ' the Eucalyptus' . It was a little pricy but very good food and nice to go out for dinner. Israel is very expensive, right up there with Norway.

On the walk back to the train we cut through this very modern upscale mall with all the stores we recognize. I went into a pharmacy to pick up a couple of things and find that the are ' life' brands and the bag looks like shoppers drug mart logo in Hebrew.

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Day. 51. Our last day in Israel.

Doug, Lana and I caught a cab to the Israel Museum. Cheryle stayed back to catch up on things. Doug went off on his own and Lana and I checked out the huge model of old Jerusalem when the Temple Mount was still King Herod's palace.
We watched a film which told the story of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and then another film with a reenactment of the people who wrote them. A lot of the scrolls are here in the museum.

We spent quite a bit of time looking at the scrolls and reading all the information about them. We still are not completely clear on it all, but fascinating just the same.
Before we knew it we had to meet up with Doug and decided to stay and have a wonderful Israeli lunch at the museum. This is a beautiful modern building and we only saw a small portion of it.

Packing and cleaning and then early to bed, 9PM, to wake for our 3:30AM taxi to the airport.

My impressions of Israel, and these are only my opinions and observations are :

It is a very complex situation here in Israel. Unfortunately for us the conflicts started again just before we arrived as it had been quiet for a while.

The people here would quite often come up and talk to us if we were on the train or in a restaurant or somewhere. They were always very friendly, appreciative that we still came under the circumstances and were interested in talking with us. Quite a few very very knowledgable about Canada which surprised us.

In my humble opinion a lot of the problems come from the disagreement about real estate. Who can live where and who controls which religious site. The Christian Muslim and Jewish religions all have so many similarities, but enough differences to cause a lot of fighting and problems. Mostly between the Jews and Muslims.

I am hopeful that the next generation may find a way to work things out. They need leaders who are willing to have peace too however.

I am glad I came, I learned so much about the history here and different religions. It was amazing to walk in the footsteps of those who lived here thousand of years ago. I am not a religious person but do believe that Jesus and all the disciples did live here and it was fascinating to see these places.

This was a huge education for me, but I am still no where close to understanding the Palestine/ Israel conflict at all but a little wiser than I was before.

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I did enjoy it but once was enough for me.

So now it is off to Barcelona for two nights then our 16 day cruise though the Caribbean and then Florida. I will have internet once in a while on the ship so would love to hear from you.

Posted by debbep 04:29 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

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