Topic Wiki

Still in progress... 3.5 weeks done, 2.5 to go!

As per a great suggestion from Joe, here are the links to each city's TR:
Israel: Part 1
Israel: Part 2 (very short)
Israel: Part 3 - Eilat
Israel: Part 4 - Ein Gedi/Dead Sea
Madrid
(Pics from Israel and Madrid)
Barcelona
Seville
Gibraltar
Rome
Florence
Pisa
Venice
Switzerland

Trip planning thread: http://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=37776.0
There you can find all the info about how I booked what. May take some searching in there.
« Last edited by @Yehuda on October 29, 2015, 05:06:09 PM »

Author Topic: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report  (Read 76832 times)

Offline joey123

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #80 on: June 29, 2014, 08:27:30 AM »
We are waiting here for more updates... ;)

Don't put pressure on the dude; let him enjoy his vacation DDF free!
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Offline sruly101

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #81 on: June 29, 2014, 08:29:10 AM »
Don't put pressure on the dude; let him enjoy his vacation DDF free!
+1, just giving advice if he is looking to do something when his wife is asleep ;) :D ;D

Offline joey123

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #82 on: June 29, 2014, 08:29:51 AM »
+1, just giving advice if he is looking to do something when his wife is asleep ;) :D ;D

 :)
To the nOObs out there, feel free to PM with q's. #AlwaysTakesTheHighRoad #LovesHashTags

Offline moish

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #83 on: June 29, 2014, 08:52:26 AM »
Not a fare comparison. Have someone else drive you
no difference if im driving or being driven

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #84 on: June 29, 2014, 11:40:19 AM »
I work on TRs while on planes or when she's asleep but in Israel with being sick, I couldn't do any writing and then it's just been a game of catch up. Slowly finishing up the rest of Israel. I know, I know, it's Europe you guys really want to see, but we'll get there iy"h.

Offline joey123

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #85 on: June 29, 2014, 12:07:09 PM »
I work on TRs while on planes or when she's asleep but in Israel with being sick, I couldn't do any writing and then it's just been a game of catch up. Slowly finishing up the rest of Israel. I know, I know, it's Europe you guys really want to see, but we'll get there iy"h.

Feel better! I hope you are totally back to yourself, so you can enjoy.
To the nOObs out there, feel free to PM with q's. #AlwaysTakesTheHighRoad #LovesHashTags

Offline penina

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #86 on: July 02, 2014, 10:32:07 AM »
Feel better! I hope you are totally back to yourself, so you can enjoy.

+1

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #87 on: July 03, 2014, 02:29:39 AM »
Thursday, the first day we were finally feeling good and thank G-d because it rocked, and it would’ve been a real shame to be sick today.
Because we were unsure whether we would go to Ein Gedi, we did not pre-book a car rental. But after the wedding, we decided to go, so my brother booked a car for $30 from Thrifty (I believe). He picked it up Thursday morning (and had a really tough time. They wanted to see his Israeli Visa which luckily he had with him and they made him wait a long time. Plus, the car wasn’t clean when he got it. Instead of cleaning it while he was in the office, they waited till he came out at which point he said just give it to me as is.) Waze helped us get there although as we experienced in Israe - and since then in Spain - Waze did not feel as accurate outside America but that definitely could be because we are not used to the signs in foreign countries. We got off at the exit for Ein Gedi (about a 1.5 hour drive IIRC) but overshot the parking lot as there’s no sign as you go by. We ended up on a dirt road with some Ibex, so we got some great pics and then turned around till we found where we needed to go. Parking is free and cost of admission is 29 NIS pp. There is 1 straight path to follow, which requires being in shape a bit but not too much. As you climb, you pass by several waterfalls (that are all really just offshoots of one waterfall at the top). There were so few people on the hike, so we stopped by several of the falls to go in the water. It’s not really deep enough to swim around, but it is nice to cool off in the water. Once you get about 45-60 minutes up the mountain, there are 2 options: circle down to the beginning or continue onto the second path which leads higher up the mountain. From the map, it looked like there were no more falls up the second path and they told us at the entrance that it takes another 3-4 hours for the longer hike, so we went back down. We decided to skip Café Café and just got some snacks from the shop at the bottom. BTW Café Café’s site implies that it’s in a strip mall of some sort near the hotels, but we definitely saw a standalone one (maybe there are 2) about 15 minutes before reaching Ein Gedi. We got in the car and headed to the Dead Sea. We didn’t continue on the main road towards the hotel area (where I assume the free beaches are), but instead headed back towards Yerushalayim as we had passed a beach called “Mineral Beach”. Even if it cost money, my siblings just wanted to go there, so we did. It was 50 shek to get in (oh well) and it we had a great time. My siblings did the fish spa here that we did in Eilat. It was cheaper than ours but not as clean water/organized as the one in Eilat. We floated for a while, did the mud thing, and my siblings went into the steaming mineral pool they offered there. We headed back to Yerushalayim, showered and changed and went off to Sheva Brachos at Café Rimon.

Friday, we finally made it to Meah Shearim (my mom came too) and did all the classic things there – bought some tzitzis, got Mitz Pri, bought a nice Olive Wood sign, and stopped in Manny’s for old time’s sake. Friday night dinner was Sheva Brachos at the apt my cousin’s rented. We davened outside in the backyard and ate outside on the Mirpeset, which was really nice. Shabbos, we davened at HaNasi and again ate by my cousin’s. Motzai Shabbos we visited my friend’s apt who recently made Aliyah. We got back around midnight and just caught Katzefet (the one that opened in Rechavia where Heimeshe Essen used to be) before they closed. Midnight ice cream is the best kind!

Sunday… time to say goodbye :-/
We spent the morning going to the shuk and Yaffo area looking for a cell phone store to unlock my phone. Why? After I switched my phone situation to Sprint, it was clear they were wrong about me normally using 20MB a month and that 40 would be plenty. I had $70 in int’l charges after 1 week. I realized  I should have just gotten my phone unlocked in NY and then the Tmobile sim would have worked and all would have been well, but I didn’t. So we looked around and found a bunch of stores that unlocked phones, but most wouldn’t do a Sprint iPhone and the few that would wanted 700+ shekel! Something about Sprint was the problem. Anyway, if we were going to pay that, we might as well just keep going over on Sprint’s plan. We got lunch at Shalom Falafel (I wasn’t a fan) and picked up some groceries on the way to have some food for the next day, Madrid, as we heard mixed reviews about the Kashrus of the restaurant there. We went back and packed up our stuff, said our goodbyes to Zaidy (and thanked him a million times again) and after all the taxi issues we had on this trip, we just reserved a Nesher to get us to the airport. Really not sure why we didn’t do this the whole time. I guess I thought a taxi couldn’t be much more than 2 people on a Nesher, and I viewed Nesher as the cheap way Yeshiva guys get to the airport, but really, with the little luggage we brought on this trip, and after the taxi driver didn’t really make a cheap deal with us for our 4 airport trips, it would have been much cheaper/smarter to go Nesher the whole way.
We got to TLV with some time, so we went into the Dan Lounge. Not sure if there is more than one, but this one was right near our Iberia gate. We weren’t sure about the Kashrus of the lounge and the workers couldn’t show me a Teudah, so we just took some drinks and had them with our leftover falafels from lunch. Curious what people think about taking a few drinks from a lounge with you as you leave? We’ve done it now a few times as drinks are really expensive on the road. We’ve found cans of soda in supermarkets for .60 euro, but normally, when you just buy at a machine or at a mini-market, drinks are often 2-3 euros which you have to remember is 3-4 dollars. Anyway, we rationalized that we “paid” for access to the lounge and didn’t partake of the food offered, so we could take a few drinks with us. (Perhaps they even allow it. We have no idea if the policy of lounges is just to feed you while there. Maybe all lounges allow you to take a snack with you?) Back to the story, we went to the gate, boarded and once again realized that it’s really nice to be flying business. It’s just nice to get on the plane first and have guaranteed room for your bags (esp as we only had carry-ons – and they’re pushing the inches limit ;)). The plane was 2x2 – obviously not as nice as EWR-MUC, but still roomy. Ever since then, it’s always been 3 seats with the middle empty (well, not really as I sat in it ;)) as ilherman forewarned. Even when the seat map seemed like it was 4 rows of 1 seat each, that was a trick - the “rows” were just blocked off middle seats. Something got messed up here and they only had 1 KSML for us, but my wife wasn’t too hungry, and it looked gross, so we only ate a little. Realized I think it’s weird to be posting pics of the food, so yeah, I’m going to stop that. Not even sure which company supplied it, so I can’t offer that info either.

Anyway, off to Madrid – let Europe (and the real TR) begin!

ETA: TLV-MAD on IB was part of the OWE. The OWE for 2 ppl in J in total was 180K AA (incl. 32K SPG) + $1552. I don't remember the exact breakdown of the $1552 per leg, but about half the legs were $60-80 pp and half were $100-120 pp. (Assume the cheaper half were the IB flights and the more expensive legs were BA.)
« Last Edit: July 03, 2014, 02:33:58 AM by @Yehuda »

Offline lunatic

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #88 on: July 03, 2014, 07:30:29 AM »
There is a cafe cafe in a small round mall near the former let meridian

Offline sruly101

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #89 on: July 04, 2014, 08:21:09 AM »
Thanks keep it coming,

Offline HP58

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #90 on: July 05, 2014, 04:15:00 PM »
Wow.  Just went through this thread for the first time. Real nice TR. Can't wait for the Europe part...

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #91 on: July 07, 2014, 06:55:38 PM »
There is a cafe cafe in a small round mall near the former let meridian
Right, that's what it looked like from there site - we just never made it that far down the road. There is also one about 15 minutes before you reach Ein Gedi.

Thanks keep it coming,
Wow.  Just went through this thread for the first time. Real nice TR. Can't wait for the Europe part...
Thanks guys, glad you like it.

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #92 on: July 07, 2014, 06:55:51 PM »
Madrid
We landed in MAD and went through passport control very quickly (no line). We took a taxi to the hotel. (And as we later decided, it's just easier to taxi to the hotel upon arrival and try to learn the subways while there for possibly returning to the airport via a cheaper transportation method.) Taxi cost 30€ to TRYP Madrid Chamberi, booked for 2 nights at 11K Melia points/nights. This was thanks to the Melia deal that popped up in the forums where you got 12K points just for creating an account. A few of their hotels could be booked for 11K so I got one night under my name and 1 under my wife's. Never heard of Melia before, but the hotel was modernly designed and was a nice stay. As we learned on our trip so far (this post is coming out 2 weeks into our trip), it seems like most hotels have similar layouts for their non-suite/fancy/upgraded rooms. Assuming the room was recently renovated, it should be a nice stay.

From Gmap and GoDaven, I knew the hotel was close to a Shul - Beth Knesset Beth Yaacov. Another thing we learned on the trip is that you hope GoDaven is correct with Minyan times, but you don't really know till you show up in Shul. Got a bit lost on the way to Shacharis, but once I learned the route, it was about 5 min to Shul. Really convenient. Here is where I began to learn that basically every Shul in Europe has a security guard (usually a Jew) who asks for your passport and asks similar Q's to TLV security - what are you doing here? etc. Davening was super-Sefardi and super-long. Because we were unsure of the Kashrus of the Kosher restaurant (and we would be in Barcelona the next day), we brought food from Israel for Madrid. We had some Nature Valley bars for breakfast and then headed off to the Royal Palace. Hotel clerk helped us figure out the Metro for the day, and we really liked it. It was less than 5 min to the Metro station, buying tickets was not complicated (basically every machine we've come to in Europe has an English option) but it's a bit different than NY. You have to put in your destination and then it tells you how much your ticket will cost. I don't remember exactly how much we paid but it was probably around 1.5-2€ pp. Not sure if there were any like 10-trip passes because we were only there for a day, so it wouldn't be worth it. Royal Palace had about a 10-15 minutes wait, so there was no need to buy tickets online ahead of time. It cost 5€ for students, not sure how much for regular. You first enter a beautiful courtyard with the Palace on one side and a church on the other. The church is actually outside the gates of the courtyard, but at first glance, it looks like the courtyard is surrounded by a huge palace on one side and a huge church on the other. Gives it a nice symmetrical look.
Palace:

The Palace is elaborate and ornate. All the rooms were still furnished, so you can actually see how it may have looked like and try to put yourself in the rich days of yore. The walls/ceilings are all handpainted with beautiful detailing. We chose not to buy the audio guide and were more than satisfied. It's not like the people who once lived here were "famous", so hearing the history didn't really interest us. Walking around and reading the few English captions (most were in Spanish) was more than enough in our opinion. Pictures weren't allowed, but we did sneak in a few (*potch*). Here's a dining room to give you a sense of the grandeur (blurry bc I didn't have time to wait for it to focus before a guard started walking over):

Walking through took about an hour and then we found out there's an armory to look through as well. It's hard to find - on the opposite side of the courtyard, near the church and the entrance is not really recognizable from afar. Just walk to that side of the courtyard and look in the corner, you'll see a door. Armory is 2 floors of old armor, swords, shields, horse-protection, spears, etc. Cool stuff, but after a few minutes, it was just looking at the same stuff over and over again. I think the most impressive part of it was how much they had in the building, i.e. how much they were able to preserve throughout the years.

After the Palace, I wanted to go have lunch at the Secret Gardens, a place I read about on TA that was supposed to be like 5 minutes away I thought. Gmaps was a problem as our data was capped at 40MB/month as I believe I posted earlier and we were already approaching that or over it (I forget at this point), but with people's help also we were able to find it. Don't go. lol. It's a small fenced in garden with some benches and bushes, but really nothing to look at at all. Didn't stop us from having our sandwiches that we brought from Israel. From there we took the Metro to Atocha Train Station (needed the line/stop for Atocha-Renfe) where we waited for our train to Toledo. We had already bought tickets online (which was a hassle, if you read my trip planning thread), but that was probably unecessary. The train was pretty much full, but I would bet that if we bought tickets when we showed up (we were there a bit early for the train) then we would have been able to get a seat. On the way back to Madrid, there were plenty of empty seats. The train ticket was 20.30€ RT pp. So you know, your ticket tells you what "coche" or "caboose" your seat is on as well as the row and seat number. We found that out after being asked to move from our seats. Our ticket was for a specific departure time, and I imagine you can't just take a different train like on NJ Transit if you can't even sit in the wrong seat. The train ride was about a 1/2 hour and then we took a 5 min cab for 5€ to the Santa Maria la Blanca (The Virgin Mary, as the building is now owned by a church) Shul. We knew that we were going on a Monday and therefore the El Transito Shul/Museum would be closed, but we planned on visiting Toledo anyway. (Turned out El Transito was closed the entire month for renovation or something, so I'm glad we didn't go on a different day of the week expecting to see it.) Entrance was 2.5€ pp and we went in. This is when things went sour for us. The Shul is just an empty room, a memory of the glory it may have once held. There are no pews, no Jewish decorations, no sign of an Aron - nothing to show it was once a Shul, not even it's name. Sure, it's got the nice horseshoe arches that you'll see in the Google pics (and I took one or 2 of my own), but that's it. It's a nice size, but smaller than the Google images make it out to be. We were really underwhelmed and disappointed that we schlepped out there for that. We walked outside to find the "museum" that was included in the entrance fee and there was a small room with an exhibit - run by nuns. LOL no jokes. They had a few paintings of Adam and Eve, etc. and we walked out quite quickly. We were disappointed. We walked by El Transito just to see the outside, although it's facade is not particularly noteworthy. We headed back the way we came and found an antique store, so we checked it out. There was actually a collection of Judaica items, so we shmoozed with the shop owner about them. They were all from about 1860 and owned by a wealthy Toledo man who knew he had Jewish roots. On his travels, he would find Judaica items and have his artists back home make copies of them. Now many of the items were put up for sale in this antique store. The shop owner gave us more of a Toledo Jewish history background than the Shul, unfortunately. We walked back towards the train station thinking if we find a cab, we'll take it and if not, we'll walk. We actually didn't bump into any, but kind of remembered our way back impressively and after about 45 minutes we found the train station. Was a nice day, so the walk didn't kill us. BTW the train station itself is small but very nice and old-fashioned. We had to wait a bit for our train and shortly we were back on our way to Madrid. Last point on Toledo: For us, Toledo was a waste of time and you'll see in the Spain thread, that in the moment, I posted - no one go to Toledo! But, I realize now (after taking Jewish tours in Barcelona and Rome) that certain places - especially those with little physical remains - are not the same without a tour. Too bad the only tour I found for Toledo (that Solomon guy) wanted over 300€ for a tour which was very out of our price range, but I think you really need a tour to learn about the community and then just see the Shul as an addition to help your imagination. Could be El Transito is much more like a Shul and the museum there is better, and in that case, a trip to Toledo w/o a tour may be worth it, but if all you're going is to see Santa Maria la Blanca and you don't have a tour, I wouldn't go.

Our next stop was Retiro Park. W/o really being able to use Gmaps, we asked around a bit and found where the park was - took about 10 minutes to walk from Atocha. The park is amazing. We loved it. It's huge and has several different types of areas - places to lay out and read in the sun, places to sit on a bench in the shade, areas that were kinda like mazes, fountains, bridges, streams, and finally when you get to the middle, a cool sculptured structure (that you've probably seen on Google Images) overlooking a huge lake. That's where we found out you can rent a boat and go around the lake! As much as I planned most of the itinerary down to the nitty gritty, it's fun to do something extra. We rented a boat for 45 min for just 5.8€ (!) and had a blast. After boating we found a stand that sold Ben & Jerry's which was the perfect snack on a hot day. We took a Metro back to the hotel and I went off to Mincha/Maariv - these went quicker, more the speed of an Ashkenazi Minyan and then the Rabbi spoke for a few minutes afterwards. I went over to him then to ask about the restaurant. If found out it's called La Escudilla and was actually, believe it or not, between my hotel and the Shul! Pretty cool that I picked the hotel right in the center of the Jewish things. He also told me it's under his Shul's supervision and is Glatt Kosher. Now, Chabad did tell me via email that they only eat at home, so I don't know if this is a political thing (which I hear more and more on my trip that Chabad and the local Rabbinate have political problems in many cities) or if the Hashgacha is not reliable. I guess you have to decide on your own or find out more info. I stopped by the restaurant just to see it and they told me they're open till midnight. Kinda impressive for a Kosher restaurant in a not highly-populated Jewish community that also doesn't see a ton of tourists. I went back to the hotel as we weren't going to eat there anyway as we had deli sandwiches from Israel for dinner.

The next morning I went to the same Shul and since we were confident with the subways, we asked the hotel clerk how to get to the airport without paying 30€ for a taxi. It was about a 15 minute walk to the Metro and if we had more than our 2 rolling carryons and backpacks, I don't think we could have done it, but we got to the train and paid (a bit more than our other Metro rides) and got on. There were 2 airport stops for the different terminals. We bought the ticket for the last stop in case that's what we needed (didn't want to take a chance of not buying enough fare and getting stopped on the train), but got off at the first stop. We bumped into a really nice teen or 20-something kid who spoke English/Spanish and offered to ask an airport worker if the terminals we stopped at were for Iberia domestic flights. We needed him because - and I left this out - we barely found English-speakers in Spain. Outside of our hotel clerks, we were literally working with "cuanto" "donde..." and "gracias". Italy, on the other hand, has been a breeze with English. Might just be our experience, but yeah. Anyway, we got off at the wrong stop, so we thanked the kid and got on the next train. 1 stop later, we got off and we saw signs in Spanish that seemed to say something about paying 3€ extra to get out of an airport station. We had no idea where to pay that if that's even what it meant, so we just walked out into the airport. We found an info-type desk and asked about the extra fee and in our broken English conversation, they said just go on. So, no idea what that fee is, if it's anything at all. We checked in, which was a bit confusing as they wouldn't let us online since we weren't checking bags. They made us go to a self-checkin machine, which was fine, we just didn't know what was going on at first. We found the Iberia lounge (which we visited 3 times that week ;)) and enjoyed the free cokes. With about 20 minutes till boarding, I went on a stroll and saw an ad in Spanish for a phone and all I could understand was 1€ a day with GoEurope and Orange. I was intrigued and turned around to find an electronics store right there. So I went in and for the first time, found a store employee who really spoke English! He explained that it's an Orange (which I heard of from Israel) pre-paid sim card called Mundo that works in Spain and the rest of Europe. You have to load at least 5€ onto it and if you load 35, they give you an extra 10 for free. For 10€, you get 1GB of data in Spain for a month and if you leave Spain and go to other parts of Europe, they can activate GoEurope, which charges your card 1€ for 100MB of data a day. I was like whoa! This is exactly what I needed! My phone was definitely unlocked to handle an int'l sim card and we were messed up with this Sprint 40MB/month thing, so I said let's do this, my flight's in a 1/2 hour! He cut the sim down to micro and created an account for me and got my phone working (took some time) and then I ran back to the lounge where my wife was waiting a bit nervously as she had no idea where I was and it was already boarding time. I apologized and explained the great deal and we ran to the gate. We made it b"h and got onto the plane to BCN. (Part of the OWE.) Flight was 2x2, so we had wider seats that kinda reclined. They for some reason only had 1 KSML, but my wife wasn't hungry anyway. They also brought out PSP's loaded with about 10 movies. Was kinda cool!
And that's it for MAD!

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #93 on: July 08, 2014, 03:05:58 AM »


Madrid
We landed in MAD and went through passport control very quickly (no line)....

Wow, incredible! Sounds like you had a blast! 😉

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #94 on: July 08, 2014, 03:13:56 AM »

Wow, incredible! Sounds like you had a blast! 😉
Can't wait to get to my VCE TR. Would you believe there was a DO??

Online TimT

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #95 on: July 08, 2014, 03:18:13 AM »
Can't wait to get to my VCE TR. Would you believe there was a DO??
Who with ?

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #96 on: July 08, 2014, 03:18:56 AM »
Can't wait to get to my VCE TR. Would you believe there was a DO??
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Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #97 on: July 08, 2014, 03:19:55 AM »

Offline sam28

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #98 on: July 08, 2014, 01:36:31 PM »
Nice report so far we need some more pictures please .

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #99 on: July 08, 2014, 01:54:41 PM »
Nice report so far we need some more pictures please .
Thanks, can try. Pics are a bit annoying bc I need to upload them first to something like imgur and make them smaller. Anything you would specifically like to see from what I've written so far?