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Adventures in Family Vacationing [Jul. 5th, 2014|12:57 am]
[Current Location |Israel, ]

I'm currently in Haifa, Israel on a trip with my parents, brother and sister and Kevin. My dad turned 60 this year and wanted to celebrate with a big family trip and chose Israel. I'm the only one in my family who hasn't been (I did a study abroad in Thailand instead of Birthright, the program that send Jewish teens/young adults to Israel for free) so I was fine with it but the rest of my family tried to persuade him to go anywhere else. But he's become pretty religious in his old age and really wanted to go, though he eventually compromised on just doing most of the trip in Israel and then a few days in Paris and London. We're leaving after Paris because my time off is very limited though. We're off to Paris tomorrow then heading back home Tuesday.

So the trip so far:

Kevin, Jake and I flew out of O'Hare on Tuesday. My dad used frequent flyer miles to upgrade us to business class and let me tell you luxury international travel is incredibly bad ass. Before our flight we got to hang out in an airport lounge with free booze, snacks and WiFi (which you normally have to pay for at O'Hare) plus a bunch of TVs showing the World Cup where we got to watch most of the U.S. vs. Belgium game. Then for the flight Kevin had to take a picture of how much legroom he had because he was so excited. We were in the front row of the plane and he could fully extend his legs (which are really long as he's 6'2") without hitting anything. We were flying Air France and nice French flight attendants offered us champagne and suggestions for wine to pair with dinner, which we got to pick from a menu of four options after an appetizer of mango salad with lobster. We read, watched Snowpiercer and slept.

In Paris we met up with my parents and Cassie, who'd flown in a day earlier from Miami. Apparently they'd gone out to dinner the night before to a restaurant a friend who'd been there before had recommended but between my dad who doesn't eat pork or seafood and my sister who doesn't eat cheese, red meat or carbs there was nothing they could eat. So they went to another place where they found an accommodating chef who would give my sister a dish without rice even though he really thought she should have some. God I'm happy I wasn't there. It's bad enough taking my family to a restaurant in Chicago and having to watch the waiter explain that they really should try the edamame with the signature chili sauce. It's worse in a place that takes food even more seriously to watch them insult people with their dietary restrictions.

The flight from Paris to Tel Aviv was much less luxurious but still had pretty good food and wine. I was exhausted by the time we got in and my dad went to rent the car we were going to use to drive around Israel (we've spent every night in a different hotel). But apparently he forgot to account for all our luggage when saying how big a vehicle we needed as he got a minivan with room for six people and nothing else. So we had to wait an hour for him to get a bus that strongly resembles an airport shuttle. When we got to the hotel in Jerusalem parking it was absolutely insane. The hotel garage is underground so he had to drive this bus into an elevator and then try to turn it around in very close quarters. It was excruciating to watch. After that we went out for dinner and then went back to the hotel and slept like the dead.

The next morning started the sightseeing portion. We went to this YMCA that has a tower where you can get a really impressive view of the whole city, then walked into the Old City. We visited the Western Wall where my dad spent some time praying and I had to wear a shawl to cover my shoulders because I forgot to bring anything that wasn't sleeveless. Then we took this very cool tour of the tunnels under the wall. People have been building on this spot for 2,000 years so there's an absurd amount of stuff just built over other stuff. The wall itself was built by King Herrod by hauling spectacularly large stones with oxen and pulleys, but that was built over earlier structures so they've found ritual baths, and then Crusaders and Muslims built other stuff on top of it so excavations are like a layer cake of civilization.

Then we had lunch of the best falafel I've ever had and my family went and shopped while Kevin and I visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which is built on the place where Jesus supposedly was buried and then resurrected. It's the most insane thing I've ever seen. Basically every form of Christianity except for Protestants thinks the place is incredibly holy so they have this massive structure that's divided between different sects. So you can walk from a room decorated with gilded Greek Orthodox iconography to a simple Ethiopian chapel with a bit of Rastafarian thrown in to a Coptic nook staffed by a monk. There's also this room that burned because an Armenian priest's beard caught on fire that can't be restored because of conflicts between Armenian and Assyrian Christians about who even owns the room. Also there's a cistern underneath that was used by a temple to Aphrodite.

My parents had their first fight of the trip after that because my mom wanted to do more shopping and my dad just wanted to drive to the next hotel because he was exhausted. He won out and we went to Tel Aviv where I met up with Rotem, a friend from high school who moved to Israel five years ago. We had dinner at a burger place and then delicious dessert at a restaurant entirely devoted to chocolate (hot chocolate, shakes, brownies and ice cream) then passed out.

Which takes us to yesterday. We drove to Jaffa which is a port city where Cassie randomly ran into one of her sorority sisters boarding a booze cruise filled with American tourists celebrating the 4th of July. She was very sad she couldn't to a cruise instead of more archaeological exploring, which is what we did. I'll share the rest of that later but for now time to head downstairs and meet my family again.

[User Picture]From: adam_0oo
2014-07-05 02:32 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a great vacation so far!
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[User Picture]From: oberndorf
2014-07-05 08:03 pm (UTC)
One of these days I should really tour that part of the world. Jerusalem, Damascus, Beirut, stop by Antioch, Alexandria, and Tyre. . . And then I remember what's going on in that little corner of the world and I say to Hell with it.

Hope you enjoy the trip, and hope you come back safely.
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[User Picture]From: lassarina
2014-07-08 01:21 am (UTC)
This sounds completely fascinating. I think I'd love to see the "layer cake of civilization" - I love that kind of thing.

I hope you get through the rest of the trip without your family sending you up the wall too much.
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