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Posts Tagged ‘Jerusalem’

#FriendlyFiles: Experiencing Jerusalem

One of our newest Sales Team members, Lucy, shares her take on the wonder and adventure that Israel has in store for those who visit. Check out her tips for how to get the most out of your bucket-list trip to this destination!

Israel is much more than a religious destination. It is a country where ancient meets modern. While some travelers visit for a pilgrimage or spiritual awareness, others trek to this small Mediterranean country for the history, architecture, and nightlife–and Israel excels in all of these aspects! My family and I moved to Talpiot, a neighborhood in southeastern Jerusalem, when I was very young. And even after living there for more than 14 years, I still find new ways to fall in love with it every time I return! No matter what drives you to travel to this incredible place, I can promise you will leave awestruck!

Each alleyway has an adventure! Jerusalem Old Arab Quater ©Dan/Flickr

Each alleyway has an adventure! Jerusalem Old Arab Quater ©Dan/Flickr

Get Lost.

“Getting lost” might sound like a silly thing to do in a foreign place, but sometimes those moments are the most memorable! The best place to lose yourself is in Jerusalem’s Old City. With so many narrow alleyways and packed streets, you’re sure to find something unique on every corner. On my most recent trip back, I was exploring and came across a part of the Old City I had never seen before! Despite living there for over a decade, I managed to find myself falling in love with places I’m still discovering.

The smell of spices from a Jerusalem market are not easily forgotten! ©Blues Brother/Flickr

The smell of spices from a Jerusalem market are not easily forgotten! ©Blues Brother/Flickr

Close your eyes and open up your senses.

This is a tip I use regardless of where I am traveling. In a place as vibrant and rich as Jerusalem, closing your eyes and letting your nose and ears experience this new place is just as important. It is a whole different way to experience a nation. When you close your eyes, your ears open up and begin to notice things you may not have before. Have you ever been on vacation and only worn one type of perfume/cologne and the next time you wear it back at home you are suddenly transported back to that vacation? It is known as olfactory memory, and anytime I smell shawarma cooking, I am immediately transported back to the old city, and all these beautiful memories start rushing back.

Small plates of salads, vegetables, pickles, hummus, and more! ©Paolo Mutti/Flickr

Small plates of salads, vegetables, pickles, hummus, and more! ©Paolo Mutti/Flickr

Eat like the locals.

If there’s one thing you should know, it’s that Israelis like to eat! From busy markets to trendy restaurants and everything in between–shopping for and sharing tasty foods are staples of Israel’s rich culture. One of my favorite local dishes is ka’ak with za’atar. Ka’ak translated means street bread, which is a long oval shaped bread coated in sesame seeds, and za’atar is a middle eastern spice blend. This was my favorite afternoon snack to pick up for my walk home. It is best when the za’atar is mixed with olive oil so you can dip the bread in a flavorful oil. I can taste it now just writing about it!

For all you foodie travelers, don’t skip a visit to the Mahane Yehuda Market. This shuk (market) is chock-full of vendors selling cheese, fruits, meats and home goods! Be sure to go on an empty stomach because the local falafel and hummus is a must! If your itinerary has some evening free-time, it’s also a great spot to visit after the vendors have closed down and the market comes alive with tiny bars and restaurants.

And once you’ve picked out your dining spot, be prepared to eat together! It’s not uncommon for local restaurants to serve what’s called a mezze, or a collection of small dishes (such as hummus, salads, pickles, olive oil and pita bread), that everyone samples from together. Sharing a meal together gives everyone a chance to slow down for a moment, take in the bustling surroundings, and really experience the joy of spending time with friends.

Join a local Israeli family for Shabbat ©Sharon Gott/Flickr

Join a local Israeli family for Shabbat ©Sharon Gott/Flickr

Shabbat.

Shabbat for the Jewish faith starts sunset on Friday night and ends sunset on Saturday night. It is a complete day of rest so don’t be surprised to find the streets nearly empty and most vendors closed. According to tradition you are not supposed to work, including the use of electronics. You may even come across elevators that are in Shabbat mode, stopping at every floor so those observing this religious tradition aren’t required to push any buttons! I’m excited that our Discover Israel tour includes sharing in a Shabbat dinner with a local family. They will invite you into their home and you get to witness this unique tradition which includes prayer, candle lighting, blessings, and dinner together.

#FriendlyFiles follows Friendly Planet’s adventurous staff as they travel the world. It is crucial that our team experiences first-hand the sites, hotels, food and transportation so that we know exactly how the trip will feel for our travelers—and to help us as we strive to provide experiences, not sightseeing!

Friendly Planet Travel giving travelers what they want, according to Conde Nast Traveler’s 2009 Readers Choice Awards

As I was home catching up on some work-related e-mail this weekend, I spent some time browsing the latest Condé Nast Traveler: 2009 Readers’ Choice Awards. I couldn’t help smiling to myself as I read that once again, Friendly Planet has it pretty well covered in terms of what travelers want.

Take the Top Cities category. We offer trips to eight out of the top 10 Asian cities: Bangkok, Hong Kong, Chiang Mai, Kyuoto, Shanghai, Jaipur, Tokyo, and Hanoi. Singapore, also on the top 10 list, is coming in 2010, and that’s just Asia. We also cover four out of five of the best Africa and Middle East cities: Cape Town, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Dubai.

FP_Plane.jpgThe No. 1 and No. 2 airlines on the list of Ten Best Global Carriers — Singapore Airlines and Emirates — are prominently featured on some of our tours. And even some of the world’s best hotels, such as the Fairmont Hotel Dubai, are found on our programs.

So, you could be thinking, "big deal." A lot of companies feature these places, these airlines, and these hotels. And that’s the point. A lot do feature all of this and more, but at what price? That’s where we differ from almost everyone out there. The best for the least means something in my mind. It translates into a lot of work in creating the tours that result in great vacations in great destinations at great prices.
 

That’s the thought  I had after reading these lists, anyway. But more importantly, how do YOU think Friendly Planet Travel stacks up? Are there cities we don’t offer that you wish we did? Where do you want to go with us? Let me know in the comments section below! I would really love to hear from you.

A step through time: Classic Israel

Last week I told you about our customized tour options through the Holy Lands. Well, we also have a set tour through Classic Israel. On this nine-day vacation, travelers can see, touch, and experience the land of the Bible, as it was in ancient times, and as it is today.
This trip’s itinerary features all of the most important Biblical sites. And unlike many of our other vacation packages, there aren’t any optional tours on Classic Israel, because everything “must see” is already included in the program and part of our low price of $2,199.
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Every tour is escorted throughout by a certified Friendly Planet Travel teacher-guide who knows and loves the land and will make the Land of the Bible come alive. Every hotel has been selected for its location, comfort, and service. And every day of the program has been carefully designed to be sure that our vacationers’ experiences in Israel is the best.
The journey begins in Tel Aviv, and travels north along the Mediterranean Sea to Caesarea, the Roman capital of Judea. There, travelers have a chance to explore the beautifully restored theater and extensive and ongoing excavations of the ruins of the ancient town, its harbor, and aqueduct.
Next is Megiddo, Biblical Armageddon. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, Megiddo’s 20 major strata contain the remains of around 30 different cities and holds a central place in the biblical narrative. Continue to Mount Carmel, where Elijah defeated the priests of Ba’al then on to the Sea of Galilee.
The next morning, set sail through the Sea of Galilee aboard a wooden fishing boat built to represent vessels used during Bible times, and arrive at Capernaum, once a simple fishing village, where Jesus was often a guest of his disciple Peter. Here, vacationers can visit the ruins of the ancient synagogue and house of Peter, then continue to Tabgha, site of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and the Mount of Beatitudes, site of the Sermon on the Mount.
Travelers will drive south via the Jordan Valley to Beit She’an, an extraordinary excavation of an ancient Greco-Roman city. Located some 30 kilometers south of the Sea of Galilee, Beit She’an was one of the major cities in the land of Israel, due primarily to its location at the intersection of the road to Jerusalem and the road to Transjordan. Next is Qumran and the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947.
Next, travelers can enjoy a cable car ride over the historic fortress of Masada. After a tour of the extensive excavations at Masada, continue to Ein Gedi, David’s waterfall and a pristine nature center.
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On to Jerusalem and everything the fascinating city entails, including the Mount of Olives, Mount Scopus, Mount Zion, the site of the Upper Room, the Kidron Valleyn and the Garden of Gethsemane. Within the walls of Old City lie the Via Dolorosa, the restored Jewish Quarter, the Western (Wailing) Wall, the Rabbinic Tunnels under the Wall, the Temple Site on Mount Moriah, and the Garden Tomb.
The final destination of the nine-day journey is the new city of Jerusalem, outside the walls of Old City. Here, travelers will find the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed, the Memorial to the Holocaust at Yad Vashem, and a model of the city during the Second Temple period.
If you’ve ever dreamed of understanding and experiencing more about the origins of faith — whether that be Christian, Jewish, or Muslim — this journey of Biblical discovery and spiritual renewal in Israel, Land of the Bible, will be an unforgettable adventure. For more information or to book now, please visit the Friendly Planet Travel Web site.