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Messages - DG

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1
Goods For Sale/Trade / Re: Airbnb Amex 50 off 100
« on: March 31, 2016, 01:29:36 PM »
Anyone still have?

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Pics/review?

I should have taken pics - especially of the way it was so meticulously packaged. As an example, I ordered a burger and it came with a huge burger plus sauteed onions in an aluminum tin. Then there was a warm sliced bun - individually wrapped in its own plastic. There was another container with sliced pickles and tomatoes. Two smaller containers with ketchup and mayo. And a tupperware with a fresh salad (dressing on the side.)

That was just my meal - my wife had a similar array of items with hers.

The Burger was excellent and I would highly recommend. The owner mentioned that the eventual goal is to open a sit-down place and I hope he does because even one kosher rest. in the area would make vacationing there much more enjoyable and relaxing.

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Goods For Sale/Trade / Re: Target red cards
« on: January 18, 2015, 12:36:23 PM »
Only 24 hours
2 cards for $25 4, $50 ...
1st to pay 1st to get

+1 - thanks for making this easy...

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Goods For Sale/Trade / Re: Airline Gift Cards And Vouchers Master Thread
« on: November 25, 2014, 03:58:04 PM »
Buying $300 AA GC @ 85%

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Bump

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Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: Venice Master Thread
« on: September 01, 2014, 03:47:20 PM »
Happy I went in May when there was just a single shift, sounds like a nightmare.
Why didn't you make the gallery reservation like everyone here has said to do?

I tried for the Gallery but it was apparently sold out for months before...seems like that is definitely the way to go in the summer months.

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Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: Venice Master Thread
« on: September 01, 2014, 11:22:48 AM »
Could be because I haven't read any other reports like yours.

Now re Shabbos @ Chabad.
They need a major expansion in the shul. Could not breath in there. Most of the people actually made a minyan Friday night on the street. Unless you daven in the Spanish shul (about an hour earlier) you will have to wait for the second shift, at least. We ate in the Gallery and when we finished about 11:30, there were still people waiting for the third shift.

Now, about the Chabad Shabbos Food. Totally not what I expected and a disappointment. Fish was a tuna can with tomato sauce. Soup was a quarter of a bowl and plain chicken soup. Main was a bowl of rice with two small pieces was meat and 3/8 of a chicken. Dessert was 2 tiny pieces of cake. This same amount was served for 2 or 4 people. Shabbos day: Fish was half a slice of salmon, No eggs/liver, Chulent consisted of Overnight potatos and some slivers of meat. No beans. Included a burnt taste.
Didn't bother going back for Shalas Seudos. Was told that we were smart.

I heard that the Rebizin was in America, so maybe that's why it was like that. I don't know. Everyone raves about it. I don't have a clue why.


I had been to Venice once before for Shabbos several years back - this was my experience this time:

Gam Gam provides a tremendous service to the Jewish community at large who have the desire to come from around the world to visit the truly unique city of Venice. They do not charge and feed hundreds of people every Shabbos. Conceptually it sounds amazing but logistically it understandably proves to be quite challenging.

Only Jews would go someplace, eat for free, and then complain but many of the complaints I heard were more the pleading type to simply tweak the experience to make it easier for everyone.

On to Shabbos - we arrived in Venice via train from Rome at ~3:45pm. We had no problem getting to our San Zaccaria/San Marco area hotel, got ready for shabbos and walked over to the Ghetto area a bit early in order to light candles for Shabbos. Chabad provides candles and place for women to light which is very helpful as it can be a challenge to do in hotel rooms. The lighting takes place in Gam Gam but there is no semblance of order there. I walked in and asked where to go and was pointed in the general direction of the back where the kitchen is. Shkiyah was still 25 minutes away but pandemonium would be the word to describe the scene. Women were pushing and yelling to get candles, matches were nowhere to be found, and some were even taking others candles apologizing that they had to light so everyone should step aside. I rummaged around, found two candles for my wife, and we quickly scampered away as the yelling got louder behind us.

This experience certainly foreshadowed the craziness of the upcoming Shabbos.

This brings us to davening - there is something that the world should know before traveling to Venice for Shabbos; Chabad does not get along with the local Italian community and the community doesn't get along with them (see here - http://www.jta.org/2010/06/16/news-opinion/world/in-venice-a-jewish-disconnect-between-locals-and-visitors). Their feud goes back to when Chabad arrived and it is so unfortunate that everyone does not get along. The relevance of this is because Chabad - neither on their website or typically in person - does not provide information on the Italian shul's zmanim, non-chabad kosher establishments, and minimizes the historical Jewish attractions besides small mention of the museum.

Italian Website: http://www.kosherinvenice.com/
Chabad Website: http://www.jewishvenice.org/

The negative ramifications of this feud are far reaching. One aspect is the monopoly type power that Chabad wields over competing kosher establishments. The last time I was in Venice there were other kosher choices for food - good choices in fact. I ate a restaurant called Le Balthazar (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187870-d1841097-Reviews-Le_Balthazar-Venice_Veneto.html) which is now closed. It was a most delightful experience, was in the ghetto right across from the Yeshiva, and garnered high praise (see e.g. http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/13433736-post5.html) as compared to Gam Gam.

Le Balthazar is no longer open and several kosher hotels have opened and closed. A large part of this is Chabad's unwillingness to publicize other options. If it were a business, I would understand but it isn't; ask them and they will tell you they are merely there to provide place and a Shabbos environment for the traveling jew etc. and to spread yiddishkeit. Closing off other options are the actions that speak louder than words and contribute towards the opposite effect.

This rant is necessary to provide a backdrop to the next part of Shabbos. Davening was in the Yeshiva. To illustrate the size of the Yeshiva, I would humbly estimate that an American fire inspector invited to estimate the capacity of said Yeshiva would probably allow for ~30-40 men and ~20 women and even that would be pushing it. The number of estimated (might be a little high) people in Venice for Shabbos the week I was there was said to be around 600-800!

Mincha began (I believe) at around 8 and the shul filled up while people continued to arrive. After Mincha, someone announced that Kabalas Shabbos would be around 9pm and the second shift would begin at 10pm following Maariv (apparently the first shift began at 830 - not sure where they davened). Unsure of what was going on and with no room to move, scores of men and women gathered in the ghetto courtyard and someone started a minyan. Before long almost all the tourists were davening outside at the minyan approximately 15 men remained inside and waited for the second minyan. My understanding is that most people were confused and figured that they can begin eating as soon as they finish eating. Davening in the courtyard was beautiful (despite someone who lived in an apartment above the courtyard blaring music to try and drown out the singing of kabalas shabbos) - the weather was perfect and there is ample room for all. There was dancing and singing and davening finished at ~9-915.

As soon as the breakaway minyan ended, a chabad bochur stood up and announced that despite the fact that everyone had completed davening, the first shift would not be done until 10pm and everyone should kindly wait in the ghetto courtyard as opposed to congregating near gam-gam. He made the point that it wouldn't speed things up and is not fair to those in the first shift. Despite the announcement, within five minutes, the courtyard was empty, and everyone was waiting by gam gam. At approximately 945 a bochur announced that the line is irrelevant because they don't do seating based on the line - whatever that is supposed to mean. That and the lack of clarity as to whether there was going to be room or food for everyone lead to a literal mob-like scene.

There are chabad bochurim who come from various yeshivos to spend the summer in Venice and help out. They were helpful for the most part but you could tell some were exasperated and could not help themselves from getting aggravated. Asking how many shifts there were yielded the response that there can be up to four - 830, 10, 1130 and 1! No one - with the exception of some bochurim who were enjoying the chaos and drinking - wants to eat a Friday night seuda at 1am.

At 955pm a crazy game of musical chairs ensued. We won and made the second shift but there was at least a full third shift and possibly a fourth. We sat next to a non-religous couple who mentioned that they were not planning on coming back the following day as they would not resort to fighting for food like vultures when they can go elsewhere and have a respectable (albeit non-kosher) meal. We assured them that many people only come for Friday night (this is true - the combination of non-religious people who come for the experience and families that have their own food lead to Shabbos day being a lot less crazy) and they indeed came back the next morning.

I can not and will not complain about the food. It was fine and it was free. My advice would be to fill up on bread in case you don't like the main courses but I did like them and was full. We ate alongside the canal and enjoyed spending our meal in the company of others from all over the world. The meal is served efficiently and moves along at a comfortable pace. They have Zemiros with a quick dance as well as a Shtikl Torah from one of the bachurim. I thought it was very clever that he spoke generally about the concept of the Shiva D'nechemta Haftoras - a speech that he no doubt repeated each week (since they go for seven weeks) and at each meal. Pretty sure he had it down pat...

It was a bit disconcerting that there were many people standing around waiting for us to finish eating. When we were done, one girl about to start her meal at the third shift, said loudly something like "I can't believe we had to wait all the way till 1130pm to eat since we weren't old and didn't have any young children." All the people around us undoubtedly felt comfortable because we did not fall into either category either yet we had all managed to snag a second shift seat.

We made it back to our hotel and passed out. We were appalled at the animalistic behavior that we no doubt had become a part of in order to get seated. As we walked back with several other couples, we were all convinced that there has to be a better way.

Shabbos morning there are two minyanim - Italian shul and Chabad. The first shift begins 1130/12ish and the second one is at 1pm. We were not in a particular rush and didn't even go to GamGam before 1245 since we had no desire to see all the fighting again. We were again lucky to be seated for the second shift - inside this time - although there was a third shift and people were waiting there until 215ish when we were done. The food Shabbos morning was a bit rougher - the cholent seems parve and they sprinkle some coldcuts on the top for the Bassar component and the fish is limited. Again, filling up on Challah is the wise move and I am not really going to complain.

Walked back to our hotel and took a nap. Came back for Mincha. Shalosh Seudos is served at the Yeshiva. Again, small and difficult to fit many people. Not a lot of women and certainly not much to eat. The Italian shul has shalosh seudos in another building that they own which is on the way from the Chabad Yeshiva to GamGam in a nondescript door.  I followed some people walking in and I found out later that people who came later were unable to get in. Once the door closes, its closed. The building has a nice-sized courtyard behind it and a social hall/rec room type building in their backyard where they have shalosh seudos. They serve pasta which is fine and the Rav speaks in hebrew. The actual reason I went there is because they daven maariv 10 or 15 minutes earlier than Chabad does. Davening was in the courtyard and was packed with Americans who I hadn't seen all Shabbos who had presumably eaten in the Gallery or in their hotel rooms and who had davened with the Italians all Shabbos.

Walked back to my hotel and took the Vaporetto back with my wife. In the Chabad yeshiva is the candle/wine/Bsamim that they used which I was able to use to make Havdala.

We ordered and waited an hour or so for our pizza from Gam Gam Milky but the pizza was good and there was plenty of people to socialize with. We took the Alilaguna to the airport the next morning from San Zaccaria to Marco Polo airport which was straightforward and relatively inexpensive.

I think that Gam Gam should require reservations and assign shift numbers before Shabbos like Breslov does in Uman Rosh Hashana (at least according to my understanding). If I knew that my Friday night Seuda was going to be at 1130pm I would have been fine with it and planned accordingly. However, we were basically told that whoever sits down fastest gets to eat first. Which is ridiculous.

Alternatively, if Chabad got along with the current Italian community, perhaps they would be able to make shabbos meals in the Ghetto courtyard that could comfortably fit everyone in one sitting.

Another point - if Chabad were to get along, perhaps everyone would be able to join together for davening in the beautiful Italian shul that is in the ghetto.

I don't know the internal politics so it might not be entirely fair to fault Chabad - it could be the Italian community isn't willing to get involved however they were there first and as such the burden lies on Chabad to make Shalom with the matzav.

tldr - Chabad provides a wonderful service for free but many would be willing to pay if they became more organized which they should have been able to do over the course of the twenty years (or more) that they have been there. Know what you are getting into - during the summer months it is often quite chaotic!


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Goods For Sale/Trade / Re: Airline Gift Cards And Vouchers Master Thread
« on: August 07, 2014, 12:10:59 PM »
Buying $450 AA GC @.85

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Goods For Sale/Trade / Re: Hyatt Awards And Upgrades Master Thread
« on: August 07, 2014, 12:07:30 PM »
$400 for both?
Which part of each did you not understand? :P
On a side note he's probably not following this thread so he doesn't realize that they go for about $225-$275 each.
Sold mine for way more than that. Only thing is since chase/hyatt discontinued them a while back his probably expire in a month (not counting any extensions from hyatt)

Selling them for $400 each OBO - Hyatt no longer gives out free suite nights and I have extensions so they don't expire for a bit.

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Goods For Sale/Trade / Re: Hyatt Awards And Upgrades Master Thread
« on: August 06, 2014, 02:45:22 PM »
Selling 2 free suite nights from Sign-up (not upgrades - free nights) - $400 each

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Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: London Master Thread
« on: August 03, 2014, 09:31:17 PM »
Are you sure that price is not per person? 38 pounds does not seem correct

I provided the link where I obtained the quote - 38 pounds from and 31 pounds back...

area is w1

eta: http://www.exclusiveairports.com/   

Uber is also ~37 pounds in each direction.

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Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: London Master Thread
« on: August 03, 2014, 05:01:52 PM »
On Heathrow Express' site, you can buy a RT for 2 people for 50GBP. Not sure if you're going with someone, but that was a great deal for us. We took a cab for 5GBP from Paddington to our hotel but it was only a 5 minute drive.

So that would be a total of 60 pounds for two people roundtrip and a mini-cab in both directions would be 68 pounds door to door...

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Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: London Master Thread
« on: August 03, 2014, 03:39:26 PM »
(I read this entire thread and it was quite helpful)

In terms of transportation to/from the airport to a hotel in central london - I understand that economically the best is the tube but it is 75-90 minutes. The express train costs 21 pounds per person each way but only takes 15 minutes and drops you off at paddington station. That means that if your hotel is not walking distance, you would still have to take the tube which can be another 25 minutes and a bit more money. Is it worthwhile to get a mni-cab ( http://www.exclusiveairports.com/) which costs 38 pounds to town and 31 pounds back if travelling with two people? I arrive Sunday at noon and depart Tuesday early AM (7am departure). The question is whether the convenience of being transported with luggage directly to/from hotel is worth the few minutes that one would save by taking the express + tube?
 




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