Friday, June 8, 2018

Eilat- The Red Sea

For the last 5 years everyone has been telling us to go to Eilat. Eilat this, Eilat that. Finally we decided this was the time to go.

The drive takes about 4 hours non-stop. Which in Israel is considered a massive drive. We loaded up the car and set out. the diversity of landscape in Israel is unreal. From the northern forests to the barren deserts of the Negev. If you have ever driven from Reno to Las Vegas, that is the drive to Eilat. We seriously felt as if we were going through Nevada, as well as parts of Arizona and New Mexico. We kept our eyes out for camels and other wild life, and finally saw some on the drive home. Why does the drive home always seem to take twice as long as the drive out?

We stopped at this place I deemed the Grand Canyon of Israel. The light was a little hazy so it is hard to see the different depths of the canyon. But it was great in person!

We passed through an area that really was breathtaking. I was busy being a co-driver and pressing the brakes on my side of the car for Jay as we wound our way down.

Once we finally arrived in Eilat, we found our hotel and get checked in. We stayed at the Isrotel Riviera Club. Sounds much fancier than it really is. It's a budget hotel with mini kitchens, and is a short 5-10 minute walk to the beach. It cost us the same price for 3 nights as 1 night in a fancier hotel. Besides, you don't go to Eilat for the hotel.
We set down our bags, changed into our swimsuits and headed to the beach. I had a moment of oh-crap when I put on my swimsuit. I didn't even THINK about my 35lbs weight loss when packing and just tossed everything in. Last summer things fit ok, but I was only down 15lbs, well 20 more made a big difference. Fortunately I brought 2 and the second fit just fine. WHEW! The beach was TOTALLY not what I was expecting! The sand is more pebbles and rocks and you sink down with each step. The water is much colder than we expected, so it took us (except for Zane) all a few minutes to wade in. Zane is part fish and dove right in.

In the evening we went next door to the Ice Mall. They have an indoor ice skating rink and kids amusement center with rides and games. Both kids roller skate, so ice skating was fairly easy. Lena used to ice skate in Canada, so this brought back many memories.

In the morning Zane insisted we visit the pool, so we spent a little time in there after breakfast and decided to go to the Underwater Observatory. We arrived at 1:30 and they close at 4, so if you ever have the chance to go, plan a little extra time. 

SEA TURTLES!!!! I LOVE Sea Turtles!

After we watched the movie, we walked out to the underwater observatory. These fish are not caged. This is what it really looks like out there!

Back inside there is Shark World. Massive take and an entire wall is glass.

We watched a guy feed the fish.

We were all getting hungry by this time, as usual, so we stopped in a center and found Paddy's Irish Pub. WOW! We both ordered the salmon, and it was to die for! We cleared our plates! VH1 was playing on the tv and throughout the restaurant and the outside eating area. We headed back to the hotel to refresh our waters, changed into suits and headed to the beach. Jay decided to rent a boat and take the kids out. I do not do boats. I get major anxiety on boats, especially in open water. Fortunately Jay totally understands this and didn't pressure me into going. The boat guys tried, which gave me even more anxiety. So while they were out, I sat on the beach and people watched. They had an awesome time and the kids both drove the boat. It was the highlight if their trip. 

*While I am sad I did not get to experience this, I did not want to make others miserable by having to deal with my anxiety and the repercussions afterwards. Jay found this out when I went onto the huge enclosed Ferris wheel in Niagara Falls when I was pregnant with Zane. I was sure I could manage my anxiety and have fun for Lena's sake. I ended up crying the entire time, and they ended up more worried about me than having fun. Then being depressed and angry after for being that way. Forget it. 

We hung out on the beach, watched the sunset and went back to shower. That evening Lena and I went shopping and Jay took Zane back to the other mall where he could play in the game room.

This is what the beach looks like. Water shoes/ Aqua socks helped a lot!

The next day we woke up to heavy winds. I was honestly ready to head home that day, so we said we would play it by ear and see if the wind really bothered us or not. We decided to go for a drive around Eilat. We ended up stopping right around the Coral Reef and watched people scuba diving, found some cool dead coral on the beach, and went back to the hotel to swim. 
The pool at the hotel is at the center surrounded by buildings so the wind didn't bother us too much there.
We showered and headed out to eat, back to Paddy's! Then across the street to do a little shopping, walked through the promenade once more. 

The drive home always takes twice as long. As we were driving we notice a bazillion cars heading towards Eilat. Boy was I glad we had booked Monday-Thursday. It wasn't crowded and we missed the worst of the traffic. Unfortunately people get off work early on Thursday, so we did hit some getting home. So the drive took a little longer, but we made it home and all slept like the dead. 

Until our next adventure.....

Final Day

It was our final day in Amsterdam. Our flight didn't leave until later that day, so we had some time to fill. Jay was really interested in seeing Body Worlds. So we packed up, checked out and stored our bags at the hotel, and headed back downtown.

Body Worlds is located on Damrak, the main road. One tip I have is to get there early, like at opening. You have to pay to store your bags, so make sure you come prepared. They have two different sized lockers, small, for personal items like backpacks, jackets etc, and larger for suitcases. Do not bother paying extra for the wand to hear extra information on each item. We rented one, and it ended up in Jay's pocket after the first floor.
If you have ever had any interest in the human body, this is THE exhibit to check out. I must admit that a few displays were a little creepy as there was still fine hairs and eyebrows, eye lashes on the skin.

After we finished we grabbed some lunch and grabbed our bags. Took the train to the airport.
I must say, I was really disappointed in Aegean Air. We arrived 2 hours before our flight and were told that we were "put on standby due to our failure to check in like everyone else". Needless to say we were a little shocked. We bought tickets just like everyone else, why do we have to check in 24 hours before? We had carry on luggage and they offered to check it as the flight was overbooked! Oy. This is not looking good. Oh, and by the way, your next flight isn't guaranteed either because you didn't check in. We did manage to get on the flight, seated in different rows. And on the connecting flight through Athens. By the way, if you want to eat in the Athens airport, do it before going through security. There was really nothing after security, and we were pretty hungry by that time.
Anyway, we made it home. And look forward to our next trip!

The Countryside

There is so much to The Netherlands, and I wish we had more time to visit and explore beyond the "normal" areas. But at least we did one excursion.
Viator offers a Countryside Tour with Zaanse Schans, Edam and Volendam. We met up at 9:00 am across the water from Centraal Station. got on the bus and headed away with our wonderful tour guide Juliette. She was wonderful. She gave us just the right amount of information as we headed out of the city and just when you started to formulate a question, she answered it for you. Or if you did have some question she didn't answer, she was ready with the information.

Did you know there is more than one Iamsterdam sign in Amsterdam? We didn't either!

Our first stop was the small village of Volendam.  

It was such a bright beautiful day. It was turning out to be one of the warmest day Amsterdam had seen in a long time! 

This hotel has an interesting story. As it was told to us: Long ago the owner wanted to attract visitors, so he invited artists to stay for free in exchange for painting the local scenery. Many great famous artist painted here and now most of the painting are hung in galleries all over the world.

After we finished our lovely walking tour, we got back on the bus and headed over to the Cheese factory!

This lady was great! She told us all about the making of cheese, they use non-animal enzymes rather than cow rennet to turn the milk into cheese. 

Jay tasting some cheese.

Oh, my gosh. We have entered Heaven. We fell in love with Edam. 

Look at the Tea House! Long ago people used to take guests out to have tea by the river.

Aging cheese in the attic.

The oldest building in Edam, built around 1530.

After we returned to Amsterdam, we grabbed some snacks from the store and rested up a bit. It was hot outside and we were not interested in walking around in the bright sunshine. So we waited until the evening and took a 15 minute train ride to Haarlem. The train station is seen in Oceans 12 by the way. It's such a cute quaint station. I failed to get any photos inside, but it felt like it sent you back in time. 

We walked to the main square, Grote Markt. There was a carnival going on there, lots of people and so many restaurants surrounding the main church, Grote Kirk. 
We grabbed some dinner and enjoyed the atmosphere. Took a lazy walk along the water and headed back to the hotel.