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Joe's Israel Trip Report Hey guys! I finally got around to complete my Israel TR from back in January. I hope you enjoy it. There's no mileage shtick involved in this TR as I was just starting out on this game when we did this trip, so I didn't have anything to burn at that time. But hopefully that won't be the case with my future TR's.


Israel 8 Day Trip Report – A Trip of Firsts


Arrangements:


We scored tickets at the Widroe glitch @ $410 per RT EWR-TLV direct with United. I didn't even have a non forex fee CC at the time, so it was an additional $11.40 per ticket for the 2.7% forex fee bringing it to a total of $422 per ticket (still a good deal, don't you think? :P). This was the first time visiting Israel for the both of us, and being new to the game and not having points yet meant that we probably wouldn't visit Israel this winter if it wasn't for this glitch (and Dan… Thanks!).

Being that I planned on renting a car in Israel and didn't want to pay for rental insurance, I decided to get a Chase CC (don’t ask me why I didn't have one already. It’s embarrassing…) and if I was going to apply for 1, there was no reason not to get a second one. So I ended up doing a 2BM on the Freedom and SP and was instantly approved for both with a surprisingly large CL (Wanted to start with a no annual fee card that I can keep active for eternity (+ it was during the 20,000 signup bonus period) = Freedom. And the SP seemed to be my best choice for a 2'nd card, 1) I could use my Freedom points as UR. 2) No forex fee. 3) 2 PPD on travel - a category that I was about to use a lot in Israel).

I did a lot of reading during the month and a half prior to our trip, mostly online (DDF, TripAdvisor (very n00b friendly forum), WikiTravel etc.) but I also followed Dan’s suggestion in his trip notes and got myself a copy of Lonely Planet’s travel guide, which turned out to be quite helpful in helping me breakdown Israel by the regions.

I did all our hotel bookings through Booking.com. They offered free cancellation up to a day or two before the reservation at all the hotels we were booked in, and I actually paid at the hotel and not through their site, so I could use a different form of payment or other CC if I needed to.


Getting to Israel:


I don't really have much to report on the actual flying experience as we flew economy :(. It was just the typical (stinky) coach flying experience (Something like this…).

I don't think this is the usual speed for a 777...


Upon arrival, while still taxiing, I popped the Golan SIM I brought along, into my Verizon Galaxy S4 – comes unlocked out of the box - and voice/text was available right away, while I just had to change the APN settings on my phone to access the internet as well.  I used an app APN Israel that guides you through the process of changing the APN settings. Takes 2 minutes, it’s in Hebrew though.  (A relative of mine travels there frequently, so he maintains an active SIM - with the cheapest available plan – throughout the year, and when need be, he upgrades the plan to include unlimited talk, text, and data – including calls to the US. You even get to set up a US number that forwards to your Israeli one).

We had reservations with Dollar Thrifty (Done by DDF member Hocker - $206 for 8 days including mandatory liability insurance, excluding CDW which was covered by my Chase SP) and the pickup went pretty smooth (they didn't even ask for the visa letter stating that my Chase SP is providing CDW in Israel), they had a shuttle waiting for us to take us to the car rental parking lot (approx. 5 minute drive from the terminal), we got a Citroen C-Elysee which I believe is considered a quite spacious car in Israel, and off we went…

Day 1, Monday – Caesarea and Haifa:

I didn't plan a lot for this day, and boy was I glad I didn't!  As most of you here probably don’t know :P you're quite jet-lagged after flying 10-11 hours in couch. So it was great to just take it easy and not miss anything on the itinerary.

We started off driving north to Caesarea, the drive took us about an hour and we arrived at Caesarea national park around 1:00 (Or should I say 13:00…). The park is quite big and there are several parking lots available for the public, but I had read somewhere  online that there have been reports of car break-ins (Stolen luggage, etc.) and to only park across the ticket booth at the roman theatre so your car is always in someone’s sight (this may not always be an option, as there are only a few parking spots there).  Luckily, there was one available parking spot waiting for us and so we could enjoy the next few hours without the fear of being stripped in a foreign country.

We planned on visiting a couple of national parks on our visit, so we purchased the 2 weeks - unlimited national park tickets for 150 NIS PP (Turned out we should've bought the 2 weeks – 6 parks tickets for 110 NIS PP. #FirstDayAmbitions).

The park itself is as huge as it is magnificent. I’ll let you do your own homework on the history of this city - built by King Herod, but even if you're not a history buff it’s just amazing to see these majestic structures. They also have a short (10-20 minutes) film on the history of the city, which is great on recapping all of the empires that have ruled here. We spent about 2 hours walking through all the major structures while enjoying the breeze of the Mediterranean. We then returned to our car and drove to the north end of the park with the aqueduct as its main attraction (You can walk through the trail, but it’s a 20-30 minute walk), spent a couple of minutes at the aqueduct (You can usually park right in front of the aqueduct, so you can always keep an eye on your car), and then left to Haifa.

Caesarea Roman Amphitheater:


We drove approx. 30 minutes further north to Haifa.  We stopped at the Bahai gardens. Since we were there in the late afternoon we could only see part of the gardens, which wasn't that spectacular to me (there is a free guided tour of the inner gardens every day at 12:00). We then went up to the top of Mount Carmel for spectacular views of the city and the Mediterranean. Our timing was perfect as we arrived a few minutes before sundown so we could experience this amazing view, both, at day and night.

I couldn't find any mehadrin restaurants in Haifa, so we had to drive 15 minutes back south to Atlit where I found a mehadrin restaurant, Ben Ezra Hadayag. They started off with the typical Israeli salads and some spicy bread which was pretty tasty. We then had the salmon fillet off the grill (mediocre) and finally some fudge with vanilla ice cream for dessert. We also ordered a pitcher of freshly squeezed lemonade which never made its way to us. (At this point I was pretty knocked out, so I didn't care that much about the food, just wanted to get moving). We paid 150 NIS in total. Their service wasn't the fastest and the food wasn't the best, but considering there’s no other mehadrin restaurant in the area I would’ve returned for a dinner had I been in the area again. 2/5.

Finally we were en route to our final destination for the day; Akko. I figured since we were there in the winter, it’d be best if we could do the most travel possible at night so we can maximize our day hours on actual sightseeing, hence the drive to Akko.

In Akko, we were booked at the Akkotel, a boutique hotel situated within the old city walls, making it very unique. At $185 USD for the night (which ended up being $190, as they charged my CC in Shekels) it was our most expensive hotel stay throughout our visit. I wasn't blown away as I expected from the online reviews, but it was a pretty comfy experience. The hotel has 5-6 free parking spots right up front and since it’s a considerably small hotel, I would guess that there’s basically always parking available. Wi-Fi was free as well, had it only worked in my room… The hotel isn't kosher though, and since it’s built into the city walls, it doesn't have that much natural light (If that gets you going…).

Akkotel:


Our Room:


Day 2, Tuesday – Akko, Rosh Hanikra and Meron:

We checked out about 10:00 and drove 2-3 minutes into the new city, where we stopped at a supermarket and got ourselves some food for the day. Had something to eat and drove right back to the visitor center in the old city, where we purchased tickets including all Akko old city sights and Rosh Hanikra entrance fee (including the cable car) for 75 NIS PP. Their CC machine was out of order, and after wasting 5 minutes listening to the old lady selling the tickets complaining about their computers never working properly, I was happy to pay her in cash and just get going.

Entrance tickets included an audio guide that we picked up right next to the ticket booth (Have to leave an ID with them), and was very informative, getting you to understand what you're actually looking at throughout your self-guided tour. In short, we visited the crusader citadel, Templar tunnel, knight’s hall (Archaeological ruins, mostly from the crusader period), treasures in the wall (A museum built into the old city walls, not far from Akkotel) and the Turkish bath (A walk through a 200 year old bathhouse) as well as some shopping in the shuk (With all types of things being sold there, from fresh fish – and loads of them – to all kinds of clothing and souvenirs. We bought a complete nargila set including tobacco for 50 NIS, but of course it didn't work even once. You get what you pay for, I suppose). We also went to the Ramchal Synagogue, but it was closed.

While exiting the Templar tunnels we were very close to the pier. We went over and had a local fisherman take us for a 15-20 minute boat ride (50 NIS), to see the sea walls surrounding the old city. It was a bit foggy, but we could still see Mount Carmel in the horizon.

Knights Hall:


We then drove about 30 minutes north to Rosh Hanikra. Took the cable car (claimed to be the steepest cable car ride in the world) down to the grottos, where we started off with the short history film (It shows in a pretty unique room carved into the rocks) and continued onto the pathway surrounding the grottos, which finally turns into a sea promenade with great views of the Mediterranean and the mountain rocks housing the grottos. From a nature perspective, this is one of the nicest places in Israel.

Rosh Hanikrah:


360 @ Rosh Hanikrah:


After returning to the top of the mountain rock, we watched sunset over the Mediterranean. Amazing view. We then headed to Meron to kever Rashbi. It’s about a 45 minute drive and from the curves of the road we could see that the darkness has us missing out on some amazing views.

After Maariv and some tehilim at Reb Shimon, we continued to Amuka to kever Rebbi Yonasan Ben Izziel. The roads are very curvy heading to the kever.  It was pitch dark and a quite scary drive, but DW wanted to go for a relative that is in need of a shidduch.

Our final destination for the day was Tzfas. We went straight to Mendi's restaurant (Eida supervision) for dinner. The food was okay, but nothing more than that. I don't remember exactly what we ordered, but we paid about $50 USD total.  2/5.

Finally, we headed to the Ruth Rimonim hotel where we had reservations ($110 USD). The hotel consists of two buildings and they upgraded us to a mountain view room in the – IIRC – new building. The two buildings are not connected to each other, so you need to go outside to access the other building, but they had someone take our luggage so it wasn't that big of a deal. The room was very spacious and had an awesome view of mount Meron. Overall, it was pretty good for an Israeli hotel room and my main and only issue was that it wasn't 100% clean (some minor spots).

View from our room at the Ruth Rimonim:



Day 3, Wednesday – Tzfas and the Golan Heights:


After davening, I exchanged some dollars at the Gabbai for a quite decent rate of 3.46 NIS while the official rate was 3.48 (I was told that most Gaboim will exchange at a good rate), and headed back to the hotel for a scrumptious breakfast with a huge variety of eggs, cheeses, vegetables, pastries, cereals, jams, and more. They also make you cappuccinos, hot chocolates etc. Since we’re not used to eating breakfast at hotels it was a pretty neat experience. The hotel is under the rabbanut and is not mehadrin. However, I had a chat with the mashgiach – I believe he's there every day past 8:00 – and he showed me the food that is actually under mehadrin hashgachas, which amounted to 90-95% of the food served as well as all the drinks.

This was the only day we booked a private tour guide, mainly due to the impression I got while researching our trip on the internet that Tzfas would be quite difficult to cover in a few hours on our own. It was also nice – for a change – to just follow someone else’s lead and not have to figure everything out on our own. Based on a few Trip Advisor recommendations and after some correspondence, we ended up using Arye Buznah, a native who has lived there most of his life and knows the place inside out. It turned out to be a really good choice, we had a full and fun day and his pricing was pretty fair – at least to my knowledge - at 900 NIS for the day. (You can contact Aryeh at: lilach188@gmail.com)

We started with the Jewish quarter. As we walked by the narrow streets, he taught us a lot of history on the city and stories of his childhood in the city. In 3-4 hours we went to both Ari synagogues (Ashkanazi and Sefardi), Avuhav Shul, Rebbe Yosef Karo’s house (Outside only. It has limited open hours), old cemetery, Ari's mikvah (No. I couldn’t get myself to take a dip in January…), some archaeological excavations from the old city, Safed candle factory – featuring some amazing models made out of wax, and the gallery street with quite a few artistic judaica galleries. Even though we moved pretty fast, we didn't feel like we’re missing out on anything as Aryeh gave us all the important info served on a silver platter.

Avuhav Shul:


Rebbe Yosef Karo’s house:


Ari's Mikvah:


Safed Candle Factory wax models:


Noach's Ark:




David and Goliath:


The Largest Havdalah I've ever seen... Aryeh told us it's in the Guinness Book of World Records:


(We initially planned on doing a jeep tour of the Golan, but it would've totaled approx. $400 for a 5-6 hour tour and that was more than we were prepared to spend. Though if you can get other people to join, it might be worth it as the price is per jeep and can generally accommodate up to 7 people)

We drove to the Golan and started off with Banias waterfalls (Free entry with our unlimited national park tickets). This is no big waterfall (We have been to Iguazu falls less than a year ago, so we really couldn't enjoy this as a waterfall), but it did make for a short, and quite easy hike. We then crossed the river and visited the archeological ruins of the old city of Pan that was settled by a cult over 2,000 years ago (The area name “Banias” actually derived from that cult) and Aryeh explained their weird lifestyle/religion.

Next stop was Nimrod Fortress, built about 800 years ago (Free entry with our tickets as well). It’s situated on a ridge, giving it amazing views to enjoy. The fortress is pretty large and there are some magnificent ruins to see. We then continued south to mount Bental, we didn't have much time left, so Aryeh suggested we skip the top of the mountain lookout, and rather stop at some lookout point in middle of the road surrounding the mountain. We could see Al Qunaitra, Syria, and Aryeh promised we didn't really miss anything on that top of the mountain lookout.

View from the ridge at Nimrod Fortress:


Overlooking Al Qunaitra, Syria:


We continued to Katzrin and went to the olive oil mill, an olive oil factory producing olive oil from Golan grown olives. We were supposed to have a tour of the factory, but as soon as we started the introductory video, they had a blackout and decided to close up early.

At this point it was already late in the afternoon, so we headed back to Tzfas to drop off Arye and continued to Tiberias. I filled my tank with gas for the first time in Israel and it was ridiculously expensive at around $8 a gallon (I spent about $175 USD for gas during this trip, for a total of around 1,000 KM).

We went to Mama Mia (Machzikei Hadas Belz supervision) for dinner and really liked their food. I don't remember exactly what we ordered, but I do remember that the food was very tasty and the fruit smoothies were excellent as well.  3.75/5.

We had reservations at the Leonardo. Our room was quite simple and rather big with a view of the kinneret ($125 USD). Once again a pretty average experience, but judging from the online reviews on Israeli hotels I would say that no complaints on a hotel, suggests that it’s a good hotel. It was Tu Bishvat, so they gave a complimentary fruit plate with a persimmon, some tangerines and dried fruit along with a bottle of wine (not my field, I don’t even know what kind of wine it was).


Day 4, Thursday – Tiberias and Jerusalem:


We decided to take a break on Thursday morning and just chill it out. We asked for a late checkout and we were given the room up to 12:00, so that's when we left. We took a stroll down the Yigal Alon promenade and then headed to Sherry's (Rav Aurbach supervision) for breakfast. We arrived at Cherry's about 1:15 and they didn't want to give us the breakfast special as it officially ends at 12:30, but as we were about to walk out they gave in, so breakfast special it was. The food was pretty good and for under $20 USD we had a full breakfast including drinks. 3/5.

Kinneret Water Level Meter:


We then went to the kivrei tzadikim in Tiberias; The Rambam and quite a few Tanoim very close by (Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai, Rebbi Eliezer ben Hurcanus and more), Rebbi Akiva and the Ramcha"l on the hill with great views of the kineret and Rebbi Meir Baal Haness near the Chamei Teveria.

We left for Jerusalem through the 90. Amazing landscapes.  I felt completely safe throughout the way; though I did make sure my tank is full so I wouldn't have to stop for gas.

We had booked a segway tour of the old city with ZUZU Segway in advance. It is not cheap at 220 NIS PP for 1-1/2 - 2 hours, but it was worth every penny. Our tour was scheduled for 5:00, but due to rush hour traffic we arrived almost half an hour late, parked at Mamilla mall and crossed the street to start our tour. Luckily, we were the only ones on that tour so we didn't bother anyone by arriving late and we could do it at our own pace (They can have up to 4 people per tour).

The tour was terrific. It was the first time riding a segway for the both of us, but it's fairly easy to learn and we were ready to go after 10 minutes of training. Our guide was very helpful and the best part was that we got to see a lot of the old city without having to walk (duh. that's the point of the segway, isn't it). We rode through a lot of the Christian, Armenian and Jewish quarters and we made a couple of stops at important sites like Kever Duvid, Shaar Yafo, Churva square, etc. where our guide gave us some history etc. on the place.

Old City, Jerusalem:


We finished the tour around 7:00 and headed to Red Heifer (Rubin supervision) for dinner. The owner gave us a bit of a hard time because we didn't have a reservation, but after 10 minutes we were able to get a table. This was by far our best restaurant experience in Israel, although the service could've been better. We had the braised short ribs (69 NIS) for appetizer and reserve cut (240 NIS) for main. Both were very good. We also loved their lemonana drink, which is basically lemonade with fresh mint leaves in it. For dessert we had delicious pecan pie. 4/5.

For our stay in Jerusalem we decided on an apartment in Me'a Shearim so we can breathe the culture. At first we had reservations with Shisha management for a 1 bedroom apartment on Malchei Yisroel for $110 USD per night and we had to give a ($80) deposit, but then we  got a much better deal through a friend. His relative was willing to rent his - very nice according to standards there - 2 BR apartment with a balcony and 1.5 bathrooms, right off Me'a Shearim for $100 USD per night. So I canceled our reservation with Shisha management and lost the $80 deposit, but it was well worth it (we only paid $30 more in total, and had a MUCH larger apartment).


Day 5, Friday – Kever Rochel and Chevron:


We had reservations with Hoffman tours for the Kever Rochel and Chevron tour. Reason being, that we didn't want to go there on our own. We walked to their office in Geula where the tour departs from, and arranged payment ($52 USD PP, and they charge an extra 5% if you pay by CC.). The tour departed around 9:15 in a coach van (Sprinter) and we first stopped at the old city to drop off some people taking the old city tour (separate tour offered by them), and then continued to kever Rochel where the guide gave us about half an hour to spend on our own.

The tour continued south on the 60 towards Chevron, we entered Kiryat Arba and made our way to the Ma'aras Hamachpelah where we spent about 45 minutes, first at the stairs next to the building, where some believe is the Ramban's burial place (Mr Hoffman explained, that that's where Jews prayed for 700 years - IIRC - as the Arabs didn't allow them to enter the building), and then we entered the building and said some tehilim, etc. There was a huge tour group of Asians filling the place (taking pictures with their Samsung devices...) and we could barely move around, but we managed to get to all the important spots (Avraham and Sara, Yaakov and Leah. Yitzchak and Rivka as well as the entrance to the cave, are on the Arab side, and are only accessible 10 days out of the year).

The tour then made a quick stop for lunch at a pizza shop close by. We had a slice of pizza and a drink (it's not under mehadrin supervision, but the owner showed us that he's only using mehadrin products, and our tour guide assured us that he's researched the place and it's fine), and headed back to the van.

Next stop was kever Yishai and Rus, and the Jewish settlement in the old city of Chevron. We then continued to the Avraham Avinu synagogue where we saw some really old Sifrei Torah, one about 800 years old.

We headed back to Jerusalem and went to Machne Yehuda for some Shabbos goodies. We browsed through the market for more than an hour enjoying every minute in this lively shuk (seems like the established marketing tactic here is to scream. And whoever screams louder, has the sale...). We bought some olives and pastries, and experienced bargaining at its best as the market was about to close for Shabbos. We left less than an hour and a half before Shabbos, and the market was still fully operational. We then caught a bus back to Me'a Shearim.


Day 6, Shabbos - Jerusalem


Nothing much to report for Shabbos other than we enjoyed a relaxing Shabbos in Jerusalem. After the zman motzei we walked down to Migdal David to see the sound and light show (55 NIS PP). It was running for about 45 minutes and was basically an overview of the history of Jerusalem, where they use the tower for a projection screen. It wasn't so informative, but rather artistic.

Migdal David:


We then wandered around old city and finally headed back to Geulah for some pizza and ice cream.


Day 7, Sunday – Jerusalem:


We had a late start (after all we were on vacation...) and took the bus to the kotel where we had reservations for the tunnel tour at 11:20. The tour itself was incredible, our guide Batya had so much knowledge to share that she could probably do a week-long tour and not be done. The group was about 15—20 people, the cost was 30 NIS PP and it took about an hour and 15 minutes. We reserved it about a month in advance and we're thankful we did, because these tickets are always bought out by tour operators who then sell them either included in an old city tour or separately (With a healthy profit margin though - I found some website selling them for $57 USD PP!!).

During the tour we passed by the closest place - permitted for Jews to step on - to the KODESH HAKADUSHIM, most of the kotel that is not accessible from above ground as well as some interesting ruins from the second Temple period.

We exited on the north end of the underground western wall, which I believe is in the Islamic quarter, and made our way back to the south end of the wall (western wall plaza) through the Arab shuk. To be honest, I didn't enjoy that walk as I felt the hatred towards us more than in the other Arab areas we visited throughout our stay (to add insult to injury, we passed a sign stating:  ‘וכו נרצח פה) that might just be paranoia. Not sure.

As we started our day late, we hadn't eaten yet, so we went to the Jewish quarter where we had some sandwiches and a mocacchino at Marzipan (Rubin supervision) and we bought some pastries for the day as well (was pretty tasty but then again, it's a sandwich and you need to be real qualified to screw it up...). Wasn't the cheapest (105 NIS) but the food was good.

We then walked down to the city of David where Jerusalem started as a Jewish city (5-10 minute walk), where we had reservations for the 2:00 tour. It's a 3 hour tour which ended up lasting 2-1/2 hours and it costs 57 NIS PP.

City of David Entrance:


We had a pretty big crowd scheduled for that tour (30-35 people) and our tour guide Eitan was a bit nervous at the beginning at how he's going to control the crowd. But armed with his portable speaker and wealth of knowledge he managed to keep the groups attention all throughout the tour.

The tour itself started off with a 3D movie on the history of the city(pretty damn good one, although I would appreciate the 3D glasses being cleaned from time to time). Then we started descending into the valley while passing by some ruins (believed to be King David's palace) and finally we reached the tunnels. The first part of the tunnels is done by the tour together, and at some point you can choose to either go into the water tunnels or avoid them by exiting through a dry tunnel. This water tunnel was built by Chezekiah in order to convert the water reservoirs into the city so it wouldn't be vulnerable, and it’s still flowing water today. I really wanted to walk through it, but since the water at some points reaches quite above the knee (especially if you’re short) and in the winter it's quite cold, I couldn't get myself to go through it. Out of our group of 35 people, only 4 chose the water tunnel and they were from Canada...

Exiting the tunnels, we were in the valley a short walk from the Ma’ayan Hashiloach where the tour ended. We then continued to explore some streets of ancient Jerusalem on our own.

We then took a taxi to Mount of Olives. We started at the lookout point with incredible views of Jerusalem and had a camel ride there as well (60 NIS for the camel ride. I realize I could’ve done a better job haggling). There were lots of soldiers at that point and we were told that Joe Biden was there earlier. We then continued to some Kevurim including the Ohr Ha’chaim and Zechariah Hanavi and then to Shimon Hatzadik. Finally he dropped us off in the Jewish quarter.

View from Mount of Olives:


We had planned to eat at Papagaio, but decided on a typical Israeli dinner. We went to BBQ (Rubin supervision) in the Churva square and had a falafel, shawarma and fries (or chips…) and we were stuffed! Their food was average as was the service. It was a rather inexpensive dinner at $20-$25 for the both of us. 2.5/5.


Day 8, Monday – Dead Sea Area:


We left our apartment about 9:30 and drove via the 1 and then 90 (Which I BTW loved!  With all the curves and scenic views it felt like driving on a desert track of a computer racing game…) towards the Dead Sea. First stop was at Qumran, the caves where they found the Dead Sea scrolls (On display at the Israel museum. We did not make it there though :( ). It’s a national park, so entrance was free with our unlimited tickets. We watched a short film about the history of the place, had a quick look around (not much to see IMHO as you can’t enter the caves, so you're pretty much left with some more archaeological ruins that we saw all over Israel) and enjoyed the 25-30 degree temperature difference from Jerusalem.

90 South towards the Dead Sea:


Qumran Caves (not accessible):


360 @ Qumran:


We then drove further south on the 90 for about half an hour to Ein Gedi (Also a national park = free entrance with unlimited tickets) where there are several lovely hikes to choose from. We went with the easy route that most people use, called Nachal (Wadi) David. It’s a 1-2 hour hike (Depending on how picture obsessed you are…) with gorgeous views and nice waterfalls. There's also an old Shul there (also a national park) that we didn't get to visit as we had other plans.

Ein Gedi:






We continued down the 90 to Masada. Masada is also a national park, but the cable car ride up and down the mountain is not included in the unlimited tickets so we paid approx $25 for 2 round trip tickets (I don’t remember the exact price in NIS). We started with the museum full of artifacts of this amazing place. They gave us an audio guide that automatically plays the recording when you walk into an exhibit, so there's no need to run around and look for those digits. We then took the cable car up the mountain (we initially planned on taking the snake path up and coming down with the electric car, but by the time we got there they wouldn't allow us to use the snake path as they don't want people being stuck there when they're closing. In the winter this can be quite early - IIRC after 2PM they wouldn't let you use the snake path walking up). You're supposed to get an audio guide at the information center on top of the mountain, that explains all the different ruins and sites. But the Israeli there wasn't in his best mood and so he decided that it's too late and that we couldn't get one. Thankfully, the maps of the mountain - you get with admission - have plenty of information and follow the same (or very similar) track as the audio guides, so we didn't really miss anything besides having to read it off the map.

360 @ Masada:


Dead sea was our next stop. We went to the separate men/woman beach just a few short minutes drive south of Ein Bokek. There's no mud there, but the floating was an interesting experience.

We started driving south again with the hopes of getting a look at "Lot's Wife", but since I couldn't find a lot of info online and it started getting dark, we just turned around and headed back to Jerusalem.

It was our anniversary and we went to Entrecote (Rubin supervision) for dinner. I was quite disappointed. I somehow got the impression on the internet that this is a upscale restaurant on par with let's say Red Heifer. But that is not the case. The food isn't bad, but it's nowhere near Red Heifer. Service was Israeli style. Our waiter didn’t speak English and had to go get someone every time we needed something more than a simple menu choice. At $100 USD it wasn’t cheap either. All in all it wasn’t bad, we just overestimated it. 3/5.


Day 9, Tuesday – TLV-EWR:


We left for the airport around 7:30 in the morning, filled up with gas on the way and returned the car to Thrifty. They tried screwing me over some scratch on the passenger door you had to use a magnifying glass to see. They wanted like $150 for it and I just didn't budge until the guy said "okay never mind". They then shuttled us to the terminal.

I davened Shachris in the Shul after security, got ourselves breakfast at Aroma Espresso Bar (IIRC, Chasam Sofer supervision). They're quite expensive, but it was worth getting fresh food right before boarding.

We landed in EWR smack in the middle of a heavy snow storm. Everything was moving slower than slow. We had to wait for a gate more than an hour on the tarmac. Then an hour for customs and immigration (I know, I know. Should've made Global Entry). Then a 3 hour drive home (a usual 1 hour drive). I guess it was just NY's way of saying hello...

At the end of the day, we spent a lovely week in Israel and really enjoyed our first visit there. And all for just under $4,000 everything included.

Thanks for reading. And I hope people will find it helpful in planning future trips, as the motivation for writing this came from the lack of Israel trip reports here (you'd figure a place like Israel would have the most reports on a forum like this, where most requests in this thread is for tickets NYC-TLV...). If you have any questions ask away.

June 22, 2014, 08:31:35 PM
1
Re: Share a tip and enter a raffle for 250,000 AAdvantage miles Enjoy the tax bill :P
At least Chase/United pay cash with their grand prize.

August 30, 2016, 03:40:02 PM
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Re: Sawatdee Khap! Shauly's trip to Chaing Mai Great TR! Looking forward to the next installment.
June 04, 2017, 07:31:25 PM
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Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison Although this trip was not 'technically' a RTW trip or a honeymoon (as we have been on several 'honeymoon' trips before and after this trip) the title seemed fitting. Like most people a trip to the Maldives or Bora Bora was always high on my bucket list. Having recently getting married and with the sale that was going on, I thought what better excuse to make a trip to the Maldives! When beginning to plan I noticed that most of the TR’s I read were lacking some information either intentionally or not. Therefore, I will try to make this TR as transparent and detailed filled as I can! I will try to include prices for everything I remember as well as any information I uncovered from my countless pages of reading. Thank you to all those who contributed, whether I read your TR or not it really does help others a when planning.

I apologize in advance if I make any grammar mistakes, input any unreliable or false information, bad photos or anything else that might offend you. No intentions to do any of the above but if it happens SORRY!

Breakdown of Costs:

Flights:
LAX-JFK = $572 ($286 each paid for with B6 Travel Credit)
JFK-AUH w/ Cai RT = 208k MR (104k ANA each) + $205 YQ               
CAI-MLE = 50,066 UR 
MLE-SR MLE= 64k Arrival + points + $735
MLE-SIN= 37k UR (18.5k SIN each) +$100 YQ
SIN-DPS=15k (7.5k SIN each) +$50 YQ
DPS-USM= 25k (12.5k SIN each) +$40 YQ
USM-URT-DMK= $138 ($69 each)
BKK-HKT=$104 ($52 each)
HKT-CNX= $228 ($114 each)
CNX-BKK= 26k UR (13k each)
BKK-AUH= 36,000 AA (18k each) +$50 YQ
JFK-LAX= $408( $204 each paid in AA travel credit)

Hotels:
Le Meridian Egypt: 3k spg
SR MLE: 234k spg (5 nights @ 46.8k)
Andaz Singapore: Free Night Cert
GH Bali: 36k (3 nights @ 12k) - 20k (for complaining)= 16k
Conrad Koh Samui: 190k (2 nights @ 95k)  (Received Be My Guest Cert for complaint)
Bangkok Thong Ta Resort Suvarnabhumi: $22
Le Meridian Chiang Mai: 24k (3 nights @ 8k)
Hyatt Regency Dubai: 8k
Park Hyatt Dubai: Free Night Cert

Breakdown by Currency:

TOTAL UR: 177,066
TOTAL AA: 36,000
TOTAL MR: 208,000
TOTAL SPG: 261,000
TOTAL HILTON: 190,000
TOTAL Arrival +: 64,000
TOTAL CASH: 1,672 (Most of which were paid with CSR/Ritz travel credits and Arrival + points)
VOUCHERS/CREDITS USED: 2 Hyatt Free nights (50k Hyatt), AA GC ($408), B6 Credit ($572)...

TOTAL POINTS/MILES USED: 936,066

FLIGHT ROUTE:



TRIP PLANNING:

For those that just want a summary of what and how I booked and not the super detailed trip report that will follow, here you go:

   
I happened to book 5 nights at the SR MLE in May of 2017, around the time when all the bloggers were writing about the reduced price for the SR MLE. Since I was able to cancel until December I thought why not just hold the dates just incase. So for 234,000 SPG points I booked the 5 nights in the Maldives. I was busy at the time planning my Summer trip and pushed off the idea of planning the MLE trip.
   
It was only till about late October - Mid November that I started getting realistic about making a trip out of this booking. I seriously thought of just cancelling the 5 nights but after speaking to several people about how amazing their trip was I had to at least try to plan a trip. So I started reading and slowly kept on adding a list of possible stops to this trip to the other side of the globe. My thought process was more or less if I am already flying all the way out there I might as well make the most of it.

We used travel credit from price matching our flights as well as family members flights and other credits we got from complaints to book LAX-JFK for $286 each.
 
After looking at several options it seemed most feasible to make AUH the hub and use ANA to book the roundtrip from JFK-AUH.  I planned to book side by side Etihad Apartment suites for our longest flights and EY was showing availability for 149k MR—> ANA eacH. So I transferred hoping to book. But, when it came too booking ANA was not able too see availability :(. So we booked just Business class. Since these RT flights offer a free stopover, I chose Egypt. Mostly because other places were either to far, not interesting enough, or we had to little time to explore that destination.

We then used 50k Merrill points for two flights from CAI-MLE. But, for reasons you’ll read later we actually ended up using 50k UR.

MLE-SIN (Singapore) costed us 18.5 UR—> SIN plus $50 YQ each (CSR credit).

I then waitlisted a bunch of SIN-DPS (Bali) flights on SIN. A couple weeks before departure they cleared up and I booked it for 7,500 UR—> SIN and like $25 YQ each (CSR credit).
   
It was pretty hard finding a DPS-USM (Koh Samui, Thailand) flight for our dates but we finally found the option to book DPS-USM with a stopover in SIN. How it would work is we would fly DPS-SIN on Singapore airlines and then SIN-USM on silk air. It cost 12.5 UR—> SIN and $20 in taxes each (CSR credit). This flight had us getting into Singapore at like 1:30 AM and the next flight to Koh Samui was only leaving at 8:30 am. I chose this flight because I wanted to get into Koh Samui and enjoy the Conrad the most I could for the short time we were there (2 nights). So we went into one of the PP lounges and slept there.

For the next flights, besides AUH-JFK, I booked them all days before travel as I started to get really busy the weeks before the trip and even during the trip. It was really hard to find flights from USM to anywhere else in Thailand that didn’t leave early morning. And, like I said I wanted to enjoy my time at the Conrad KS. I looked at every option to literally every airport in Thailand and even other routings out of Thailand and back in but could not find anything. And for the flights I did find they either had no availability or only 1 seat available, or were ridiculously expensive. Thinking I struck gold, I booked a flight from USM to BKK on Expedia only to see after paying that it was for dates 3 months out! This was because when I translated google flights to Expedia, it inverted the month and day with the google translation. I immediately called in and with enough HUCA they refunded me. They claimed that these flights were non refundable because flight was within a week and these carriers don’t offer 24 hour refund. I escalated to manager and they gave me a “one time exception” refund. So, with all other options exhausted we ended up taking a ferry from USM-DonSak Pier for $9 each. And then transportation to URT, other known as Surat Thani Airport in Thailand, for $8 each. I then took a flight from URT-DMK for $52 each person (CSR credit) on Air Asia.

We spent like less then 12 hours in Bangkok, pretty much just in the markets as my wife wanted some purses and stuff and we got a massage. Stayed at a $20 hotel found on Orbitz since we were only in the room for like 2 hours and it offered a shuttle to the airport. Our flight was at 6:20 am. We flew from BKK-HKT for $52 each person (CSR credit) on Bangkok Airways.
   
We arrived in Phuket at 7:45am and went to do the Phi Phi Island tour. Came back to airport at around 6:30 for our 7:20 flight to Chiang Mai. We flew AirAsia HKT-CNX, booked a day or two before, for $114 each (CSR/Ritz Credit) and arrived at 9:15pm Thursday night.
   
Stayed in CNX for 3 nights before heading back to BKK for a flight to AUH. We flew Thai Airways CNX-BKK from 3:20pm-4:35pm for 13k UR or $98 each.

With a unforeseen SUPER tight connection it was only by a matter of pure YMMV that I made it to the next flight: BKK-AUH 6:05pm-10:05pm. We flew business for this route as it was a longer flight at around 7 hours and I had been driving my wife crazy with all the intra Thailand flights. It was also a great price! Since I have so many AA points it was easy to spend 40k miles, each, for biz class. With the Citi 10% bonus it ended up being 36k and $25 in taxes each (CSR/Ritz Credit).

After taking forever in customs in AUH for reasons that I never found out (I was like the only one in line and the man left with my passport for like 30 minutes somewhere) and going through a whole ordeal with the rental car we got to Dubai and spent 2 nights there before returning for our flight back to AUH-JFK with Etihad to complete our RT. We left at 10:15 and arrived in JFK at 3:50.

Purposely giving us like a 5 hour layover, our flight from JFK-LAX with AA for $204 each, booked with AA gift cards, courtesy of plat and biz plat travel credit, was from 9:15-1:06am. We did this so we could land, see some friends & family briefly and finally eat  freshly made food!

So all in all we took about 16 flights and a ferry ride over a 3 week 2 day period. We spent approx. 60-66 hours in flights and visited about 3 Continents, 7 Countries, 8 States/Cities, and 11 Islands.

Detailed Trip Report in the works. Have written some of it, but adding pictures on DDF is relatively new to me and seemingly time consuming. Will be posting Egypt TR in the coming days as soon as I finish figuring out the pics.

June 11, 2018, 06:09:35 PM
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A Week in Colorado When we started planning for our summer vacation (DW has 2 specific weeks off in the summer) back in December, we booked a Europe vacation. But Covid came along and changed our summer plans. Being positive about US states at that point we rebooked for Hawaii and hoped for the best. Even as Covid started getting around more, Hawaii gov had us assured he will reopen Aug 1st, with a Covid pre-test requirement. Late July the Gov canceled the reopening plan, so we were left scrambling for a new itinerary.
After hearing so many ppl headed to Colorado, we decided we will book our trip and again hope for the best. Turns out, it was the smartest decision we made.

After Looking into hotels, we decided to stay in Vail for its close proximity to minyan and activities for the first 5 days, then relocate to Denver for the remainder of the trip so we can enjoy Colorado Springs.

Grand Hyatt Vail has a residence area with the amenities of the hotel, plus a few additional perks such as free parking,  private pool, and fitness area. We chose to go with that instead of the regular hotel as it has a complete kitchen and beautiful eating area. The kitchen was a big deal for us as we were going to prepare and eat all our meals in the room, as well as the Shabbos meals.

Paying cash is not my first choice, however base room in the residence area is 40K and I was getting a better return cashing out via chase pay yourself back and using cash to book . In addition, I was going to be receiving the Hyatt promo of x3 as a WOH elite (explorist) card member gets 20 Points per $1.

Here is the breakdown: 4 points per dollar for using the World of Hyatt card, 5 base points per night plus the x3 promotion which brings it to 15, and additional point for being Explorist, which totals 20.

We finalized on the Platinum Liftside, after speaking to customer service and learning that Liftside is the newest and closest to hotel. We took a 2 bedroom and paid $392 a night plus tax and fees.

 Food prep was a big deal as we needed meals for a full week. Every day when cooking supper, we added 2 portions, divided it nicely into container, sealed the container with saran wrap and froze it. We had bought 2 polar bear bags and used it to fly with all our food. We also went to Izzy’s and bought some ribs and brisket had it vacuum packed as well as bought some milchig stuff.

I booked United flights one way using 25K AC. The return wasn’t available on Aeroplan or United Savor award so I used Amex Platinum Biz and booked through the AmEx portal with the 35% return. It came out to 54K, plus I got back 2400 each as it’s a revenue ticket.
I specifically choose flights that have lie flat J seats, as many flights from NYC to Denver only have reclined seats, and worked my schedule accordingly. Our flight was 4:00 pm so we arrived to Newark at 2:30. The airport was mostly empty besides for some fellow Jewish brothers ;D

None of the lounges I have access to were open, so I bought 2 United passes on DDF for $10 each. The lounge was clean, nice, and mostly empty. They had some packaged snacks, and drinks. I was able to wrap up some work by the comfortable workstations. All in all it was worth it to buy the passes.



The flight was pretty good. It was practically empty, so boarding was fast. The seat was a bit narrow for business but very comfortable. Service was amazing. We got a sealed box with a bunch of snacks right after takeoff and another small packet shortly before landing. While we did have to wear masks the entire flight, it wasn’t an issue for us.

Upon landing I went to pick up my rental from Silvercar, using the 2-day free promo Again, everything went smoothly.

We then made a short stop in Walmart to pick up some essentials such as water, that we did not shlep along.

We checked in at the hotel front desk, who directed us to our condo. Nice big rooms, hot tub in bathroom, spacious kitchen and living room and a nice sized wraparound balcony with mountain views.








DAY ONE-WEDNESDAY

We started the day with a hike up to St Marie Glacier
The hike is free however parking is $5. It was a pretty difficult hike which was made easier with our hiking sticks. The view up top is worth it. A big, beautiful lake with mountains and a glacier. If you have the time you can continue the hike all the way up to the glacier where we saw people skiing. Nature at its finest!





We then headed to Lake Dillan
where we had reservations for a 2-hour 20ft pontoon rental. The staff at the rental were super nice and friendly and did a good job explaining all the safety features. It was a lot of fun. We stopped the boat mid-lake and enjoyed our lunch with breathtaking views. One part of the mountain was smoky with an orange haze due to all the fires around. The lake was mild in the beginning but turned choppy later, so we returned the boat 20 minutes early. Cost $170 after tax





We then returned to the hotel and spent the rest of the evening exploring the resort grounds and enjoying all the outdoor terraces, with their beautiful mountain views. When we wanted to head back, we took a shuttle back to our condo. The complimentary shuttle operates 12 hours a day and takes people back and forth from the residence area to the hotel. We didn’t use it much as our section was pretty close to the hotel, but for when we needed it, it was an amazing amenity.



DAY 2-THURSDAY

After breakfast we rented bikes from the on-ground bike rental Venture Sports
They are approximately $30 per person for half day, helmets included. We took a biking trail along the beautiful Gore Creak which stretches from the hotel property until the village. We bought some souvenirs in the village and continued biking. They were great bikes and we had a great time. When we returned the bikes, we told them we had some issues with the gears on one of the bikes, as they weren’t shifting properly, and he gave us a full refund for that bike.



For the afternoon we had an ATV tour scheduled, see my post below.

I had an ATV tour booked for today at 2:00 with Nova Guides. I waited outside at the designated time of pickup and they never showed. Half hour later I call them they said "oh sorry we have a wedding, we don't have any tours going out today. I can give you a refund"  To say I am mad is an understatement I planned my entire day around this reservation, and I even have a confirmation email from them! I get it, a party is more profitable, but at least have the decency to cancel.

As our ATV tour was out the window, we sat outside and enjoyed the nature. The beautiful creek that runs along the property had some nice sized rocks we sat on and chilled.

DAY 3-FRIDAY

As our ATV tour was cancelled on Thursday, we rebooked with a different company Above & Beyond 4x4 Guides for Friday morning. They were very friendly, provided helmets, goggles, bandanna masks, water, and snacks. We drove through the mountains and got to see some amazing views. The tour took about 2 and half hours. We got great value for our money and were quite happy our tour was cancelled the day before as we really enjoyed this one. Cost $290 after tax





After that we headed to Spa Anjali for an Erev Shabbos massage. The atmosphere and ambience were amazing. We couldn’t do a couple’s massage due to Covid, so we each did a massage in a separate room. After the massage we felt totally rejuvenated. Booked on Groupon after a promo for $158 plus tax and gratuity another $60

Arriving back in Vail, we decided to try the Gondola.It was $44 per person for a full day pass. Since we got there at 3:30, we didn’t really have much time as the last ride down is 4:30. The views up top are nice  but were hazy due to the fires in the area. Unless you are biking down or will use the Gondola ride a few times, (as we saw a couple of bikers do) IMO it’s not worth the price.





DAY 4-SHABBOS

Shabbos was beautiful as we had many scenic places to sit and relax on the resort grounds. We ended up having exactly 10 men for minyan, so I didn’t have to walk to Chabad (25 minute walk).

DAY 5-SUNDAY

Sunday morning, we checked out and headed out to Rocky Mountains. The views along the drive are amazing. Somewhere along the way we spotted a moose, who managed to get the traffic to stop and stare for a few minutes. It was nice to see wildlife in their natural habitat, instead of behind cages.








After Rocky Mountains, we went to Eastside Kosher Deli and bought some snacks and drinks. I bought a roll of sushi and it was delicious.
We checked into the Hyatt House airport hotel, where I got upgraded to a mountain view room as I am an Explorist. Unfortunately, due to the fires and smoke we couldn’t see much mountain.


DAY 6-MONDAY

We started the day off early, with a 10:30 Cave of the Winds Discovery Tour.
We got to see some interesting cave formations and learnt a little about the history of the cave. We had a great tour guide who took a picture of us on my cell phone at the spot where they take pictures of you, so we shouldn’t have to pay for their picture. We walked through one dark tunnel but most of the tour was lighted, so we got to enjoy the interesting sights one sees in caves. Cost $23 per adult






After the cave tour, we headed to Pikes Peak.The sights you see on that drive are incomparable. Its beautiful. It was quite scary at spots, DW refused to look down, but if you don’t look you miss a lot. It is a 2-lane drive, so it wasn’t as difficult as other drives. Officially you are supposed to take a shuttle from the 16-mile marker until the summit, however they let us through. The views up top are breathtaking. There was a lot of construction going on, yet most of the views were unblocked. Cost $15 per adult






After descending the magnificent Pikes Peak, we headed to the Garden of Gods.It was extremely hot, so we just drove the park and took in the views from our car. The rocks are magnificent.





We returned the car and had a contactless return. All we had to do was leave the keys in car and drive the car up to the marked spot.
We headed back to our hotel to make an early night as our flight is at 8am. We had an awesome time in CO!



August 24, 2020, 11:17:13 PM
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The Adirondacks, by PBaruch (October 2020) Not long after returning from our crazy summer road trip (https://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=119570.0), the big city blues set in.  For whatever the reason, we are usually happiest on the road and trail.  Also, NYC is quite depressing and miserable these days.  After going through the mail, paying the bills, and sleeping for about a week straight, the itch started up again.  With chol hamoed Succos falling out optimally this year, we decided to drive upstate to the Adirondack region.  Our plan was to visit Ausable Chasm, do some hiking in the Adirondacks, and visit a few historic sites.  A friend and his family joined us, although we only ended up visiting Ausable Chasm together. 

We decided to stay at the Fairfield Inn in Plattsburgh, New York, near the Canadian border.  This hotel was the closest Marriott branded property that I was able to find near Ausable Chasm, was relatively new, and a bargain at only 17.5k Marriott points per night.  My only complaints related to the lousy shower water pressure and shower head, and the cheap bath towels.  We called the hotel ahead of our visit to inquire if the pool was open, and were told that only one person/family was permitted to use the pool at any given time.  During our stay, we reserved a time slot and had the entire pool and hot tub to ourselves for several hours. We could have had more pool time as the hotel was relatively empty, but were too busy with other activities.  Information about this hotel can be found here:

https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/pbgfi-fairfield-inn-and-suites-plattsburgh/

Part 1 - Ausable Chasm

I visited Ausable Chasm years ago when I was single, but DW and the kids had never been there.  Having fond memories of my last trip there, it was a worthwhile visit to return with the family.   Information about Ausable Chasm can be found here:

https://www.ausablechasm.com/

We visited Ausable Chasm during the last week it was open, and it is now closed for the winter.  There are many different activities at the Chasm, but pretty much all were closed due to the pandemic.  We booked a "Riverwalk" guided tour and purchased "Basic Admission" tickets for entry to the trails.

 Ausable Chasm, NY (DSC_9443) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Ausable Chasm, NY (DSC_9388) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Walking through the gorge:

Ausable Chasm, NY by P Bryan, on Flickr

Traversing a rope bridge:

Ausable Chasm, New York by P Bryan, on Flickr

Friends in the woods:

Ausable Chasm, NY (DSC_9418) by P Bryan, on Flickr

We spent half a day at the Chasm and all had a good time.  If you are in the general vicinity, it is a worthwhile visit.  However, it may not be suitable to visit with very young children.

Since there was still some daylight left, we decided to venture into Vermont, a short distance away over a bridge, so little one could add to his list of visited states.  We passed by a sign for Alburgh Dunes State Park and decided to visit.  Apparently, there are dunes somewhere, but we couldn't find them.  We did find a playground and beach and little one had lots of fun at the playground:

Alburgh Dunes State Park, VT, USA (DSC_9446) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Alburgh Dunes State Park, VT, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

The beach - must be a pretty nice place in summer:

Alburgh Dunes State Park, VT, USA (DSC_9449) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Part 2 - Catamount Mountain Hike in Adirondack State Park

Wanting to get out and hike in the Adirondacks, I researched various trails near Plattsburgh, and discovered Catamount Mountain.  Based upon a description of the trail, it looked like we probably couldn't complete it with the entire family but I thought we might be able to do most of it.  Wishful thinking. 

I used a few resources to research hiking trails.  One good resource is the Alltrails website:

https://www.alltrails.com/

Another good resource is a book called 50 Hikes in the Adirondack Mountains, which provides very thorough information.  This book can be purchased here:

https://www.amazon.com/Hikes-Adirondack-Mountains-1st-Explorers/dp/1682683036/ref=sr_1_2?crid=2EDX3K7N1TQ1U&dchild=1&keywords=50+hikes+in+the+adirondack+mountains&qid=1603249025&sprefix=50+hikes+in+the+ad%2Caps%2C144&sr=8-2

We looked up the weather forecast before leaving and saw that it called for rain on the second day of our trip (not counting the first day spent driving up to Plattsburgh).  We kept checking the weather forecast which didn't change and ultimately the prediction was for 100% chance of rain.
 
Weather Forecast, Plattsburgh, NY by P Bryan, on Flickr

However, the morning was supposed to be clear, giving us a few hours for some hiking.  DW roused us out of the hotel for an early start and we were off.  My friend's family, however, didn't get an early start and couldn't join us for the hike.

Catamount Mountain, New York (DSC_9460) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Parking at the trailhead:

Catamount Mountain, NY (DSC_9463) by P Bryan, on Flickr

The trail register:

Catamount Mountain, NY (DSC_9466) by P Bryan, on Flickr

And we were off:

Catamount Mountain, NY (DSC_9469) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Catamount Mountain, NY (DSC_9475) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Catamount Mountain, NY (DSC_9477) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Beautiful fall colors:

Catamount Mountain, NY (DSC_9480) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Trail marker on a tree - makes it kind of hard to get lost:

Catamount Mountain, NY (DSC_9504) by P Bryan, on Flickr

After about an hour on the trail, 2/3 kids started to kvetch and it began to rain, so it was time to turn around and head back.  The remainder of the day was a complete wash out, but we took the opportunity to drive around and explore the Lake Placid area.

Part 3- The Long Way Home

Not wanting to waste the final day of our trip with simply driving home, we decided to stop off at various spots along the way back to NYC.  Our first stop of the day was Fort Crown Point, where you can see the ruins of a British fort built in 1759.  Information about Fort Crown Point can be found here:

https://parks.ny.gov/historic-sites/34/details.aspx

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Crown_Point

There was no charge to enter the site.  We mostly had the entire fort ruins to ourselves, and were able to wander around undisturbed.

Fort Crown Point, NY, USA (DSC_9512) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Fort Crown Point, NY, USA (DSC_9521) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Fort Crown Point, NY, USA (DSC_9532) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Fort Crown Point, NY, USA (DSC_9545) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Fort Crown Point, NY, USA (DSC_9548) by P Bryan, on Flickr

A short distance away is Fort Ticonderoga, another 18th century fort.  Information about Fort Ticonderoga can be found here:

https://www.fortticonderoga.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Ticonderoga

Road to the fort:

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA (DSC_9551) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Like Fort Crown Point, Fort Ticonderoga was also built in the 18th century and was the site of many battles.  It's interesting to think about how so many fought and died over these installations that are now tourist attractions. 

We paid the admission fee and first went to the corn maze.

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA (DSC_9553) by P Bryan, on Flickr

So many choices - which way to go?

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Yes, there was still corn on the stalks:

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA (DSC_9555) by P Bryan, on Flickr

An then we were off to the actual fort. 

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA (DSC_9587) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA (DSC_9571) by P Bryan, on Flickr

We are in חשוב company:

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA (DSC_9576) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Looking for redcoats:

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA (DSC_9566) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Cannons at the fort:

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA (DSC_9563) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA (DSC_9568) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA (DSC_9572) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA (DSC_9575) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Staring down into the barrel of a cannon:

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA (DSC_9581) by P Bryan, on Flickr

We found redcoats, but don't worry - they were friendly:

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA (DSC_9584) by P Bryan, on Flickr

We saw a shoemaker making shoes the old-fashioned way.  The shoemaker said it took him 40 hours to make one pair of shoes, and if he sold a pair, he would charge $800 USD:

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA (DSC_9577) by P Bryan, on Flickr

And we visited the tailor:

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA (DSC_9583) by P Bryan, on Flickr

We were too late for lunch:

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA (DSC_9580) by P Bryan, on Flickr

Crumbling walls after more than 200 years:

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA (DSC_9582) by P Bryan, on Flickr

We saw a demonstration where the soldiers shot one of the old-time cannons.  If you look closely to the left of the soldier wearing the blue jacket you will see a cannonball in midair:

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA (Cannon Demonstration) by P Bryan, on Flickr

A short drive from the fort was Mount Defiance.  View of the fort from the top:

Fort Ticonderoga, NY, USA (DSC_9588) by P Bryan, on Flickr

After Mount Defiance, we drove to Lake George where we visited the Adirondack Indoor Gun Range, information about which can be found here:

https://www.adirondackgunrange.com/

Adirondack Gun Range, NY, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

So many choices:

Adirondack Gun Range, NY, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

We rented two semi-automatic assault rifles - a SIG and a Tavor and bought two boxes of ammunition.  For some reason, the Tavor didn't like the ammunition we were using so we had to swap it out for another SIG.

The older kids had a blast and said it was their favorite part of the trip:

Adirondack Gun Range, NY, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Adirondack Gun Range, NY, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

Middle kid was the best shot of the group:

Adirondack Gun Range, NY, USA by P Bryan, on Flickr

After the gun range, we made our way home, arriving late at night.  Along the way we stopped at a rest stop for an impromptu meal using our butane camp stove.  Little one was so hungry that he ended up eating one burger and two hot dogs. 

Part 4 - Parting Thoughts

I was on the fence about posting this trip report, but ultimately decided that someone would probably enjoy it (hopefully I am right) and find the information useful.  As with almost everything else this year, this isn't one of our typical trips.

Thanks for reading and we hope that you enjoyed this trip report.

October 25, 2020, 09:32:36 PM
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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison Been a long time since I updated this so Im just going to upload what I can without overthinking it and add more in the following days!

Since our hotel, The Le Meridian, was right by the Pyramids, it was a short drive to get there. I davened on our balcony with the Pyramids in view and shortly after went downstairs to meet our tour guide and driver.





Driving up to the Giza Pyramid Complex, the height of the pyramids as you get closer is really just breathtaking.








Some pictures for scale:







We first went into the main and largest of the 3 pyramids. It belonged to Pharaoh Khufu and it was a really cool experience to go through. I believe it cost around $10 USD a person to enter the Pyramid and since it was an extra I don’t recall the tour guide covering that. We were able to walk (pretty much had to crouch the whole way up because the king wanted those who enter to be bowing in respect throughout or something like that) through the pyramid to be able to see where the sarcophagus was kept/found.











After exiting that pyramid we then walked by the other pyramids





And then took a camel ride by a viewpoint that shows the pyramids from a distance.








Our teenage camel walker guide thought this would make a great picture.






After that we briefly headed to see the sphinx which was really amazing to see.







 It’s at this point my driver happens to divulge that he has a Wi-Fi hotspot device and it is included in the tour package! You can imagine just how happy as well as confused that they didn’t mention this earlier. Regardless, I started making phone calls during our hour drive to the Museum of Antiquities.

First I called the Merril travel number, to which they tell me they can’t do anything and I would have to wait for a supervisor to arrive in 4 hours. I HUCA’d a couple times (sometimes by choice and sometimes because the phone call dropped :/). Then I tried Emirates and they also could not change anything. I didn’t really expect for either of them to change it but I guess I was hoping for a miracle. Which in a way I guess happened when I found out that my fare booked with Merril happened to be fully refundable fare. [Something I noticed with all the flights I booked was that when I booked it through a portal like chase or Merril the fare is usually refundable by default. Not sure if that is well known or not but definitely something to keep in mind!].

Unfortunately I had already checked in earlier that day meaning they could not refund my flight. BUT, a quick phone call to Emirates had them remove my checkin in. But, of course their systems were down as I called in. They asked me to call back again in and hour and so I did. They were finally able to remove my check in status.

While driving it's hard not to notice how poor some of the infrastructure of Cairo was. The buildings were just missing floors and there were stray dirty looking dogs throughout.





Regardless, what the city has to offer in terms of history is unmatched and I would love to return to see different parts of Egypt.



After breezing through the Museum of Antiquities in about 45 minutes (an activity that the guide had planned 2:30 hours for) we decided to end our stay in Cairo early and go to the airport to sort things out. The Museum was amazing and there was so much material that they simply had no room to store anymore artifacts. Therefore, there were some left outside surrounding the building. Since the museum can no longer house any more artifacts they have seized excavations until they finish building their new museum. Which has been years in the making. As I am writing this TR in 2020 I still don't think its finished.

There were truly brilliant things to see here. Some of the notable few are (bear in mind that in some of the areas of the museum one is not allowed to take pictures and therefore there are pictures that might be of worse quality. Also, feel free to skip these pictures if it doesn't interest you as I couldn't narrow down which are notable and am just uploading a bunch ;D):
















































Mummified Humans & Animals:

















On the way to the airport I toyed around with several flight options which had either had me meeting my wife in AUH for our connection or just meeting in MLE as well as countless other flight routes of which I cannot recall. I wish it would have been as simple to just rebook her on the same flight but that EK flight was completely booked and they could/would not open up any seats. I waited to cancel my flight on the slight chance that perhaps someone at the Emirates counter would be able to help me. Since the Airport had no wifi I asked my tour guide to wait outside while I use the hotspot device inside. She kindly waited outside for a little over an hour while I sorted everything out. Of course, Emirates couldn’t help me and so I was left with not many options. I called Merril and cancelled my flight. I wasn’t ever going to actually send my wife alone on these flights so we found a suitable EY flight that leaves 7 hours later then planned.

This ruined my plan to try to get to MLE as early as possible to take advantage of my time at the St. Regis Maldives. It was really a shame because I have yet to fly on EK and was looking forward to it. Our flight didn’t ticket immediately through the chase portal and so I called chase and asked them to expedite the ticketing process. I made friends with the counter agent and got his WhatsApp number so he could contact me when our flight gets ticketed while we walked to the nearby Le Meridian hotel that is connected to the airport.

I can’t even count the amount of times we went through the whole baggage check process with all our luggages throughout our stay in Egypt. Whether it was to go in our out of the airport or in and out of the hotel it was a massive pain in the a** . For the next 7 hours we relaxed on the couches at the LM and my wife slept while I planned the rest of our trip details and made phone calls on their free guest Wi-FI. Although we got some weird glances from the staff, surprisingly, no one kicked us out. We then walked with all our bags uphill back to the airport (PITA) and went through baggage check to enter the check in area for the third time. One of the baggage helpers took our bags forcefully from us and loaded it on to the security belt (something I could have easily done) and then demanded payment for it. I gave him $1. It was also pretty clear throughout the whole trip that you could literally bribe anyone. This was later confirmed by our tour guide who encouraged us to do so if we wanted something to go our way.
The rude airport employee who’s job it was to look at the screen scanning the luggages decided to put our food luggage aside to inspect, despite having gone through this specific scanner several times with no issues that day, he asked us to open the bag. We tried to explain that we are kosher and this was our food for our trip the next 3 weeks but he seemed to not care at all. He then took one of my wrapped meals and opened it and stuck his fingers in there asked us to close it back up and let us go.  ::)

Once passing security, the EY employee we dealt with earlier was no longer there, and as the airport had no Wi-Fi I could not reach out through whatsapp, but to our surprise he informed the employee checking us in to just give us free checked bags (which were substantially over weight) and also assigned us seats with extra legroom. I tried to give him some money for his kindness but he would not accept. We walked quite a bit to our gate and bribed some cafe employee who was closing up for the Wi-Fi code. After about an hour we started boarding the plane and took off to AUH! (This woman was putting great use to her Hijab).














We landed during a beautiful Sunrise and as we were flying in Y we were meant to wait in this crazy long line. But, it was clear no one was checking so we just said we were flying in J and got through in a matter of minutes (we continued to do this for the next two times we came through AUH and got the idea from when we flew in flying Biz no one checked our ticket to verify anything). The employees supposed to be watching the luggage scanner didn’t seem to care and were just chatting with other employees.





After a 4.5 hour flight we were FINALLY in the Maldives!

That concludes our EGYPT part of the trip!


October 27, 2020, 03:11:24 PM
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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison MALDIVES:

We landed at around 2:00pm and were shuttled from the plane to this small indoors arrivals area where we got our bags and cleared customs.



It was only a short walk to get outside where you have a strip of shops and seaplane operators. Someone from the St. Regis held out a card with our names and checked in our luggages onto Trans Maldivian Airways. While they did that they let us stay in the SR van (forgot to request the Bentley!), which had A/C and WiFi. But we walked around for a couple minutes.











The airport is surrounded by a beautiful blue ocean and is entirely an island of its own. The actual city of Male is like a 3 minute boat ride away. We were joined by another couple, who also booked on points, and drove like 15-30 mins to the SR lounge.










We had to wait a couple hours for other guests to arrive until we could all take the seaplane. The lounge was really nice and they offered an iPad Menu with a bunch of non kosher stuff. We just ordered some drinks and some kosher yogurt (could have been like Chobani or something, don’t remember) and ate some snacks we packed. As soon as I arrived I asked if we could get the Bentley on our way to the seaplane transfer and when we were to return in 6 days. I was also able to shower in their nice bathroom.

We took the Bentley to the seaplane and since we had a head start, because the others were behind us in the van, we were able to chose our seats on the seaplane. We decided we would sit on the right side on the way there and sit on the left on the way back.








Can’t say the the flight itself was amazing, with a barefoot pilot, heated (no A/C), and a choppy flight. But the views were out of this world amazing. Seeing hundreds of islands, hotels, beautiful reefs, and sandbanks all surrounded by this gorgeous blue water was a great tease for what was to come at the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort.













Timelapse video of takeoff and some islands from the window


Upon landing we were welcomed by a row of butlers and workers who took our luggage and sat us down with coconuts.



We were then introduced to our butlers. After reading reviews on DDF, FT, and TA as well as speaking to some people on DDF who visited it seemed Nasyb was one of the top choices. Therefore, we emailed a couple weeks beforehand requesting Nasyb as a butler as well as some other options if Nasyb was not available. Nasyb was really nice and was well versed with the whole kosher and shabbat situation among other things! He then drove us around to give us a tour of the island before taking us to our room.

We were staying in Villa 544 (circled below).




Pictures of the room and resort coming next!

October 27, 2020, 04:00:13 PM
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Re: DDF RV Photo DO
I never thought of it as social media, so even if it really is, it has broken my Geder.
It's not.
The ills of social media are where you can wind up and what you will see, despite not even trying to see it.
Besides, forums like these were around long before social media was a phrase.

November 15, 2020, 07:39:20 PM
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Costco Super Specials Master Thread A thread for Costco super specials is long overdue. Of course you can just skim through the monthly specials, but some deals really deserves being posted here.

Please post what you find. And for the purpose of not cluttering this thread, please post only what you believe to be useful and a real grab. 

November 24, 2020, 03:28:26 PM
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