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 62360 times)

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #105 on: July 08, 2014, 03:54:05 PM »
You might just have to publish a book about it. :) I'd buy it.
I take that as a compliment to my writing :)

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #106 on: July 08, 2014, 03:56:47 PM »
I take that as a compliment to my writing :)
Yup. Big compliment.

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #107 on: July 09, 2014, 02:12:01 PM »
You might just have to publish a book about it. :) I'd buy it.

I really enjoyed this book. you might too

http://www.amazon.com/Month-Italy-Rediscovering-Art-Vacation/dp/0985338741
My greatest achievement? I am fluent in FRIENDS quotes

Offline SOS

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #108 on: July 15, 2014, 09:01:30 PM »
its been a while since the last update....
and @yehuda was active on ddf.....

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #109 on: July 16, 2014, 01:33:45 AM »
its been a while since the last update....
and @yehuda was active on ddf.....
Hah, I never got around to planning Paris, so I had to do that now. Didn't realize how long TRs take, so I'm taking a lot of ppl's advice and doing it slowly. I have been trying to keep a short history of each day so I have good memory reminders for when I write the TRs.

Offline AtallD

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #110 on: July 17, 2014, 10:10:01 PM »
Just came across this... what an awesome TR! Can't wait to hear more

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #111 on: July 24, 2014, 05:57:35 PM »

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #112 on: July 24, 2014, 08:02:39 PM »
Welcome back
Thanks!

Back in the US of A! Wow, I've missed English and dollars and Kosher food EVERYWHERE!

Time to get to some TRs. After reading Yehoshua's TR, I see it's a much clearer to read than the way I've been writing. I'll try to use more bolded headlines, paragraphs and pics.
Here's some pics from the beginning of the trip till now to make up for the lack of pics before...

Ibex that we ran into when we overshot Ein Gedi:


View from the top of the first level hike in Ein Gedi (overlooking the Dead Sea):


Our seats on TLV-MAD, one of the few times we had 2 larger seats instead of a regular row with the middle seat left empty. Sorry it's not a great view:


3 sides of the courtyard in the the Royal Palace in Madrid.
1) The Palace (a different view from the one I posted earlier):


2 Row of arches that form one of the walls:


3) Church opposite the Palace that forms a 3rd "wall": (My only picture of a church from the trip. It just felt really cool standing in this courtyard with these 2 humongous buildings on either side.)


Train station in Toledo:


Santa Maria La Blanca Synagogue: (I told you it's empty and looks just like the pictures you'll find on Google.)


Fountain in Madrid Atocha train station with tons of turtles:


In Retiro Park:


Beautiful lake (with boat rentals) in Retiro:


That's all for now. In midst of putting together all my finals costs for the trip and writing up Barcelona.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #113 on: July 24, 2014, 08:44:03 PM »
Thanks!

Back in the US of A! Wow, I've missed English and dollars and Kosher food EVERYWHERE!

Time to get to some TRs. After reading Yehoshua's TR, I see it's a much clearer to read than the way I've been writing. I'll try to use more bolded headlines, paragraphs and pics.
Here's some pics from the beginning of the trip till now to make up for the lack of pics before...

Ibex that we ran into when we overshot Ein Gedi:


View from the top of the first level hike in Ein Gedi (overlooking the Dead Sea):


Our seats on TLV-MAD, one of the few times we had 2 larger seats instead of a regular row with the middle seat left empty. Sorry it's not a great view:


3 sides of the courtyard in the the Royal Palace in Madrid.
1) The Palace (a different view from the one I posted earlier):


2 Row of arches that form one of the walls:


3) Church opposite the Palace that forms a 3rd "wall": (My only picture of a church from the trip. It just felt really cool standing in this courtyard with these 2 humongous buildings on either side.)


Train station in Toledo:


Santa Maria La Blanca Synagogue: (I told you it's empty and looks just like the pictures you'll find on Google.)


Fountain in Madrid Atocha train station with tons of turtles:


In Retiro Park:


Beautiful lake (with boat rentals) in Retiro:


That's all for now. In midst of putting together all my finals costs for the trip and writing up Barcelona.
Welcome back! Your TR is perfectly readable. I've had no complaints so far. I like the pics and look forward to reading the rest!

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #114 on: July 24, 2014, 10:52:53 PM »
Now u have to get used to American water & food again.

Offline bubble347

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #115 on: July 24, 2014, 11:05:16 PM »
Now u have to get used to American water & food again.
I doubt that would be too difficult!
Watch this inspiring video.

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #116 on: July 24, 2014, 11:07:01 PM »
I doubt that would be too difficult!
He's been away a long time. Probably just getting used to European water.

Offline Racer7400

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #117 on: July 24, 2014, 11:33:50 PM »
Wow great TR so far. I can't wait for the rest.

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #118 on: July 25, 2014, 07:23:18 PM »
Back! Shabbos at my mother in Jersey but I'm saying we're home safely, bh! What a trip. CLT was boring for an overnight, just FYI. :)
Welcome back! Your TR is perfectly readable. I've had no complaints so far. I like the pics and look forward to reading the rest!
Thanks :)

Now u have to get used to American water & food again.
Ha, hope it's better than our first few days in Israel!
Wow great TR so far. I can't wait for the rest.
Thanks!

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Israel/Eurotrip Honeymoon Trip Report
« Reply #119 on: July 27, 2014, 11:59:54 AM »
Barcelona

When we landed, we went to the info desk and found out that it would be 2 trains to get to the hotel, so we opted for a taxi that “should be 30”. It came out to 41€ of course. ;) We stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal for 7K SPG/night for 2 nights. We settled into the room (w/ free water bottles – perk of staying at an SPG) and went down to the front desk to learn the metro. The closest stop was a bit further than it was in Madrid, but not bad – took a good 5 minutes to walk to. We were trying to figure out how to buy tickets at the station when an English-speaker saw us and helped us get a 10-pass for 10.30€. The metro was nice like Madrid and thinking about it now, it was kinda cool learning the different metro systems throughout the trip although we only got to use each one for a few days. Now I have a list of the all the things I wish NYC subways had. ;)
Funky office building outside the metro station:

We got on a train and got out near La Ramblas, which is basically the pedestrian-only shopping street of Barcelona. Unfortunately we didn’t check the weather and it was raining, so I gave my cap to my wife to protect her shaitel and then bought myself the cheesiest Barcelona hat we could find for… 7€! >:(

Anyway, we strolled down the long strip until we found Maccabi restaurant. We really liked this place. My wife got a hamburger that was full of flavor and I opted for the shnitzel, which was a bit of a weird texture but tasted good. The portions were large enough that we were full halfway through and were able to save the other half for dinner. In total we spent 28.4€ there for what turned out to be 2 meals, so you can see their pricing and portions are pretty good. I spoke to the Mashgiach here about the other Kosher restaurant, Delicias, to find out what the deal was. Obviously, you have to assume that he wants to support his own restaurant so his words have to be listened to with that in mind, but he told me that Delicias is under the Hashgacha of a Rav in Portugal and although there is a Mashgiach on premises, the Rav never comes to check out the place. As opposed to Maccabi, which has the Chabad Rabbi leaving in Barcelona. That was his argument and we ended up not going to Delicias at all. Maccabi was great and cheap anyway, so no big deal. He also told me that Lays regular potato chips are Kosher in Spain – they’re the ones in the red bag and the only ingredients are potatoes and oil.

After we ate, we headed towards our scheduled Jewish tour with Urban Cultours. After 5 minutes of waiting at the meeting point, I realized I misread the address, and we dashed over to the correct place. We found Dominique waiting with an older couple and no one was upset that we were 5 minutes late. The tour was really great. Dominique has been researching the Jewish history in Barcelona for years and is a heavy advocate in protecting Jewish areas like the cemetery that still exists. Dominique showed us the old Roman city that existed within Barcelona (I didn’t even know the Romans were there at any point) and which streets were where the Jews lived. She pointed out stones with Hebrew words that were tombstones taken from the Jewish cemetery and used as building stones, a doorpost that clearly once had a Mezuzah, the old palace where it’s historically logical that Ramban had his famous disputation in and the few other Jewish things you could still see in the streets. You also visit a basement that was most likely once a Shul. A rich Jew bought the property after historians became confident about its past, and now it’s been remodeled to look a little like a Shul from that time. A guide there gives you a brief background into the property and purchase. If you want to just visit the Shul and not take the Jewish tour, you can for a small donation. As students joining others who had already “opened up” the tour, it was supposed to be 45€ pp but when she didn’t have change, she just told us to pay 80€ and that was it – was very nice of her.

*Quick rant on Jewish tours*
As we learned from this tour and the Jewish tour in Rome, you can walk through an area that has a ton of Jewish history and not know it if you don’t have a tour guide since so little actually remains for you to see by “walking around” the Jewish quarter. So for those on the edge about Jewish tours – it seems like each major European city has 1 or 2 companies that offer Jewish tours and the reviews always seem to be amazing, so I would think it’s safe to assume that they usually will be. Your decision, therefore, is likely based on whether you want to shell out the cash for the experience. Obviously in Barcelona for example, you could go around seeing the few remaining Jewish things on your own (if you knew where to look) but hearing the guide take you back in time to those days is really the focus of the tour and these little pieces just added a nice touch to the history. That’s really what we got out of this tour as well as in Rome. It’s basically a live history lesson in the place where the history took place. Sorry for the long rant here, I was just personally debating back and forth whether Jewish tours were worth it, so I hope my explanation can help others in their decision.

It was also here on this tour with the older couple that our trip really hit us. The retired wealthy couple travelling for 2 weeks through Spain and paying probably double what we were for a Jewish tour (as well as taking other Jewish tours throughout Spain) is how travelling the world is “supposed” to be. Yet here we were, just 2 young people going through the same experience that the world has taught us is supposed to be reserved for the rich and/or retired. Felt kinda cool.

After the tour we realized that the functioning Shul, Comunidad Israelita de Barcelona, was completely out of the way from the hotel (and Chabad was even further out of the way and only has Shacharis), plus we had no idea what time Mincha/Maariv was, so we just headed back to the hotel for the night where we had the leftover Maccabi food for dinner.

In the morning, I really wanted to Daven with a Minyan (something I learned throughout the trip was not going to be an easy thing to do), so we got up early to head to 7:30 Shacharis. It was going to be like a 35 min metro ride, which would have meant getting up super early, so we shelled out the money for a 15 min taxi instead for 12.30€. We found out that the GoDaven-listed time was pretty accurate, but there weren’t 10 people there. This Shul could easily fit a few hundred people, and unfortunately, there wasn’t a Minyan. After a little while, everyone started Davening by themselves, and I was disappointed as we took the taxi and woke up specifically for Minyan but then after about 20 minutes, 3 Israeli tourists popped in and we had a Minyan! It was a miracle! Publish it in the next cheesy Jewish story book. :)

After Shacharis, we found the Kosher grocery, Isamar Kosher, down the block and waited a few minutes till they opened. There is a deli counter (not sure about the Hashgacha) and a small grocery. We’re talking the minimum of the minimum here. We picked up hamburger buns and Nutella and a few packages of mini-muffins to last us for food while we travelled out of Barcelona and through Seville. It’s always nice getting food from groceries instead of restaurants as 20€ worth of food lasted 4 meals for us. :) We had some of the muffins for breakfast and it turns out they were Pesachdik, so yeah they were kinda gross, but you eat what you can when you’re in the middle of Spain.

From Issamar, we walked to La Pedrera/Casa Mila, which is the house that Gaudi lived in and designed. (He’s famous for his architecture throughout Barcelona.) The exterior of the house is cool, but unfortunately it was covered in scaffolding (although they designed the image that covered the scaffolding to look like the façade – something we saw throughout our trip – not like it made up for missing the actual view though). We pre-booked tickets for this for 16€, but there was no line at all. We opted to skip the audio guide, as we did for most of the sites on our trip. The self-guided tour starts on the roof and we mistakenly chose to take the stairs to the top instead of the elevator as the building didn’t look too tall. There were a lot more stairs than we realized, and they were just in a small stairwell, so it’s not like you see anything cool while you walk. Anyway, on the roof you can walk around (not really any especially nice views) and see the different weird, random “structures” that are built on it. They’re funky and cool to look at for a few minutes, but then you start heading downstairs.
La Pedrera roof "structures":

Most of the tour was walking through the different floors of the house but it looks more like a museum, not living quarters. We quickly realized we were really in a Gaudi museum with exhibits on how he designed the different buildings he made. Although we didn’t have the audio guide, I don’t think it would have added much – there were enough English plaques to read – but the place was not for us. We didn’t care too much for all the detail on the architecture and were bored, so we moved through quickly. Finally, we entered a floor that was more of a living floor and they had a few rooms that were furnished olden-day style, which we really liked. After we finished, we went next door to another exhibit that came included in our ticket. The enclosed, outdoor lobby of this building was very nice – in Gaudi style – but the exhibit was terrible. It was a collection of photographs from some unknown photographer – and they weren’t very good nor “kosher”. We left after 5 minutes. That exhibit didn’t factor into our “liking” of La Pedrera, but we still wouldn’t recommend spending the money to see it unless you’re into architecture or Gaudi’s work. Maybe pass by the building to see the exterior (when it’s not under scaffolding) if it’s on your way, but yeah, we didn’t really enjoy it. We probably spent an hour there in total.

We then took the metro to Park Guell. After we got out, we had to ask around how to get to the park and were directed toward the famous (at least in the Spain Master Thread) escalator in the middle of the street. The park is at the top of a hill from the metro, and there is literally a row of like 5 escalators built into the sidewalk to go up.
Escalator in the middle of the street:

The park was free and really large. You first walk down a winding, paved path and then you’re at the bottom where you can pay to access the parts of the park that have Gaudi statues and buildings to walk through. We actually bumped into the couple from the Jewish tour here who were waiting for their entrance time to spend money and see the Gaudi stuff. ;) We passed on paying more money (and waiting on lines), as the park was nice in itself and we felt we had seen enough Gaudi in the morning. We stopped under some cool arches and had some chocolate spread sandwiches (the first of many – *barf*) and listened to some band try to perform American music with Spanish accents. ;)
Cool arches (not the ones we are under) in Park Guell:

We continued on the path which now led up the mountain and had some nice things to take pictures of. We ventured onward until we got to a fork in the road and chose a direction which turned out to lead all the way to the top where we had a breathtaking view of Barcelona. (Sorry, I realize now we only have pics of the view with us in them, so you'll have to go yourself to see what the view was like. ;)) There were a bunch of people up there and some cute dogs, and we were really glad we made it up to the top. There was a path descending the hill opposite the way we came, so we started taking it down, but it quickly turned into a dirt path. We couldn’t see any of the actual park down below, and we weren’t sure if we were even still officially in the park, so we went back up and headed down the way we originally came. In total, we probably spent about 1.5-2 hours in the park.
Artistic photo taken with my fancy DSLR that came with a built in iPhone 5 on the back:


We did not go to Sagrada Familia (as its a church so you'd really just be going to take a pic, which we weren't dying to do), but we did see it from our hotel window and in between buildings as we travelled the streets.

After the park, we took a metro to Maccabi for dinner. We ordered a steak and a tuna avocado salad to split. The steak was phenomenal. It came out as 2 pieces (which was great for us) and it was just bursting with flavor. The salad was also really good. We finished off with my wife’s favorite dessert of warm chocolate cake with ice cream, but unfortunately, it was much more cake-ier than most restaurants make it and the inside wasn’t so gooey-chocolatey. Oh well, still didn’t take away from the awesomeness of the steak. Dinner was 43€ and was plenty for 2 people. While we were eating, we had them prepare pastas for us to take with us for dinner the next night in Seville. The 2 pastas together were 19.8€, so again you can see it really wasn't an expensive place.

After dinner, we quickly debated going to Mincha/Maariv and decided not to thinking about our barely-Minyan Shacharis experience and we could only imagine how Mincha/Maariv would turn out. It was too bad that our hotel wasn’t near La Ramblas, which wasn’t near Shul, which wasn’t near the hotel, etc. We enjoyed the Four Points, but if you have the points/money to stay closer to either the Shul or “town” you would be better off IMO, which is something we learned throughout out trip. We knew that by only staying at points-hotels and by trying to stay at cheap ones that we would often be far from things, but that’s what you have to do when you go on such a long trip. If you could stay closer to at least 1 main area, then I would obviously say to do that.

In the morning, we continued our tradition of trying to return to the airport via a cheaper method, and we followed the hotel clerk’s advice to take the metro. Again, I wouldn’t suggest this if you’re travelling with a lot of luggage. We walked to a station that was a bit further than our regular metro stop (took about 15 min after getting a bit lost even with Gmaps). As we had used up our 10-pass the previous night, we had to buy tickets just for this ride. I’m having a bit of difficulty remembering exactly, but I believe that when purchasing an individual ticket, you have to pick your destination like in Madrid and a ticket to the airport was 4.20€ pp. If I remember that correctly, then it shows how getting a 10-pass is really worth it since I think it could have worked for this trip and saved you about 3€ pp. Anyway, we got on the train and were on our way. I assume that because our flight tickets were “confusing” – an AA-booked RTW on different airlines – we were never able to checkin online ahead of time, nor could we even checkin at a self checkin machine. This was annoying because we never able to find out online which terminal we needed, as you saw if you read my Madrid TR above. So, despite the hotel clerk telling us that we would need the terminal that the train drops you off at, airport workers told us we needed a different terminal that had to be accessed via a free shuttle bus. In the end, it was no big deal, but this was one of the reasons why we always tried to be at the airport 2 hours before our flight. Most of the time this meant relaxing in a lounge, but in times like this, it was helpful to have some flexibility. We waited for the bus and finally got to our terminal. This is where the story I posted above came into play.

We walked into the terminal at 7:58AM and couldn’t find our 9AM flight on the board. That’s because our flight was at 8AM, in 2 minutes, and I had misread my itinerary. I freaked out for a bit as we needed to make the connection in Madrid to Seville, didn’t know if/how much we would be charged for getting on another flight, if there was even room on another flight, and would missing a flight affect the rest of the ever-so-delicate OWE ticket? My ever-so-calm wife turned around and saw an IB customer service desk right there, so we went up to the counter and told the guy what happened. He was a bit hesitant at first and mumbled some stuff while looking at the computer and then voila! He had us on the next flight to Madrid FOR FREE and it would even get us there on time for our connection! We didn’t know for sure at the time, but b”h nothing happened to our OWE either. So yeah, thank G-d that all worked out. The flight to MAD and from there to SVQ were 3x3 seating with the middle seat blocked off. I probably said this already, but even though most flights were like that, the other benefits of flying business were really awesome – lounges with free drinks, priority checkin, priority security line, and priority boarding (i.e. guaranteed room for our carry-ons). Obviously, free bags would also be great, but we didn’t need them. ;) We found out that IB wasn’t going to get us KSMLs for the intra-Spain flights, but they did confirm that they will get us for our last IB leg on the way to Rome.

On to Seville!