(This is mainly for me to remember our trip, so just ignore useless details.)
We flew to Heathrow, Britain! I had Italian sausage on the plane for dinner and for breakfast had yogurt and a breakfast bar. Everyone else took drugs and slept great. I watched lots of movies and did not.
When we landed we found a bus bound for Oxford. The Durrs stayed in London to visit friends. We walked to St. Mary's Cathedral and had egg souffle, a blueberry roll and I shared a pot of tea with Niki. We strolled around the town and visited the botanical gardens and saw beautiful stick sculptures and huge greenhouses. We found The Eagle and Child, Tolkein and CS Lewis's Inklings hang out pub, and crammed our luggage into a tiny room with the six of us and had drinks. The boys had lots. I think Erik had about 7 ciders. After walking around a bit more, we went to a restaurant and I had sausage and mashed potatoes. While we took a bus back to the airport, Peter rode with a Turkish coffee in his hand and fell asleep. When we arrived at the airport the coffee grounds were all over his pants and the seat looked like he had a major accident! We couldn't stop laughing! We were interviewed at the Israeli airline terminal and questioned heavily about our intentions, but we finally got onto the plane and flew into Tel Aviv.
Upon landing, Jer and Peter rented two cars and without wasting any time, we made plans to drive the four-hour trek south all the way to the Red Sea! We stopped along the way a couple of times, for breakfast at a gas station - which was actually good! I had a tuna omelet. Weird, but good. We got pictures of an amazing view of the Negev desert before we drove down into it. We stopped at an interesting spice route/how to live in the desert/nice bathrooms museum and watched an informative short film. We saw free-range camels.
My favorite stop was a life-sized recreation of the Tabernacle. Our guide was super young, but we were very impressed with his knowledge! Everything was perfectly to scale.
In the same huge park as the Tabernacle, we braved the heat and climbed around Solomon's Pillars and some other impressive rock formations that served as a temple of old gods. Then continued our now longer journey south. We finally came to the Red Sea! We found a restaurant right on the water and had lunch. The boys rented us some snorkel gear and we snorkeled in the Red Sea! The water was cold, but Jer, who also doesn't like water did it, so I decided I'd try. I freaked out and couldn't breathe properly the first time, but I tried again when Cara changed her mind and went in and I actually saw lots of fish and an octopus! On the way back Cara and I slept as Peter and Erik drove the 4 hours back. He actually saw Gaza's rockets that they launched into Israel that night! We found our surprisingly spacious condo in Jaffa, took a shower then the girls went to bed while the boys all found a hooka bar.
We didn't wake up until 1pm! Finally, we got out the door and walked all around Jaffa. We got a fruit smoothie (you get to pick all the fruit you want and they blend it up), baklava, samples of other sweet treats (except no one would give Jodi any samples!) and walked around flea markets. Peter bought me a colorful quilty skirt that I tried to heckle down from 100 shekels, but Peter in the middle of my heckling just gave him 75. We strolled along the beach promenade and up through the white stone pathways and found ourselves at Simon the Tanner's house! Then we wandered through gardens, had a small dinner at a Greek restaurant with an amazing Mediterranian view. We had bread, eggplant, and octopus so delicious it made Peter dance! We walked back to get some sesame, fudge-like candy called halvah and then wove our way through the town back to our condo.
Everyone napped while Niki and I played banana grams. We left the condo again with a different feel in the air and soon realized after hearing much singing and chanting that it was the first day of Ramadan. Nighttime brought much celebrating among the Muslim men. We could see women and children peeking out from their mosque doors to watch while we walked to the Georgian restaurant next door. The food was different but yummy. We tried bread with egg and cheese and Peter danced with the waiter, but tragically ended up reinjuring his knee! I got some gelato from my smoothie stand, we watched the sunset and then headed to bed.
Dr. Shakshuka's restaurant was only two blocks from our condo so we feasted on a large breakfast of salad, bread, the famous shakshuka dish with eggs, cake, lemonade, hummus, and tea. We walked to get my morning smoothie and then Peter rented the two of us electric scooters. This was one of the best things we did! We rode up the beach then back down to the Carmel St. market and meet up with the Wells, Ourys, and Durrs somehow. Between Jodi, Peter, and Cara I'm sure we tried all the fun foods, like dates, croissants, lobster tail, and Beduouine bread and of course samples.
As we headed out to dinner, we realized that everything was very quiet. We found out that it was Israel's Day of Remembrance, Yom Hazikam, and everything closed at 7:00pm. So we found a place that had wraps and another that sold us naan type bread, but they wouldn't let us eat there so we brought it back to our condo and ate on the patio. At 8:00pm the air siren sounded and everyone, even the cars stopped and people got out and stood still for one whole minute. The TV showed pictures of Israeli soldiers who lost their lives. We played wizard and then went to bed.
Our last day in Jaffa. We woke up at 7:30am. I got dressed, had chai, did devotions on the swing on the back patio (This condo had patios on both sides, pretty nice.) then packed. We all went to breakfast and had fried eggs and toppings and sweet tea. Except for Jodi, who had gotten a pastry at a different place and they wouldn't let her in! I got my fruit smoothie from my new friends Salami and Akmed. We put our stuff in the car after an argument resolving session in our room and as we started driving the air siren went off again. This time we had to get out of the car and stand still. We drove to the Seasons hotel in Natanya. Jer and Peter took the rental cars back and caught a ride back to the hotel with the tour bus and our very sleepy church friends. While they were gone the rest of us ate at a restaurant across the street. I had a not good panini. Then we strolled along the beach and through a men's only area for traditional Jewish men and accidentally saw a naked man! We found a fun playground and animal statues to pose with.
We welcomed Peter and Jeremiah and the rest of the tour bus when they arrived and then we headed to the beach after buying some snacks. Everyone except Jer and I, who both despise cold water, went swimming in the Mediterranean. We ate Phish food ice cream instead. Then they were all told to get out because of riptides. So it was a very quick swim. Cara found some unique fruit on the beach that we tried and it was good, but no one could tell us what it was. We went back to the hotel to nap and shower. Sitting by the window with an ocean view, we ate dinner at the hotel amongst a plethora of tour groups. Israel was celebrating it's Independence Day, Yom Haatzmaut with a giant street celebration in Natanya so we joined the party. Two different stages were set two blocks from our hotel. There was lots of dancing, singing, families, flags, light up toys. I got foam sprayed by a girl and then my eyes stung so bad I couldn't see anything walking back to the hotel. I washed them off and then we watched the fireworks from the Durrs hotel room.