Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hazy Shade of Winter

The summer is officially over in Jerusalem as it rained numerous times over the weekend. I was awoken at 4:30 a.m. on Shabbos morning to the first significant rainstorm of the season and I just breathed in the scent and enjoyed the sounds. After lunch, while Pidgeon and I relaxed on the couch in the living room, it started to pour again. Our neighbors were outside and their kids started screaming about the rain and we just sat back and watched it come down outside. Rain is definitely something I no longer take for granted living in this Country. I absolutely adore when it rains, even if it soaks me to the bone, because we go so many months without even a drop. Plus, when we were up North last week, everything was scorched and yellow from lack of moisture. I'm hoping the rain up there will help turn the beautiful scenery green.

We had a wonderfully relaxed vacation. With no internet access for 5 days, I went through a bit of withdrawal but all in all it was nice. Our hotel was not the nicest I've ever stayed at; in fact, I had to complain about the initial room they gave us and insist they upgrade us to a nicer room. The first room was a complete dump and there was just no way I could have used such a crappy bathroom. The upgrade was much nicer, and I was happy that this was one vacation where we didn't spent much time at the hotel.

I'm not a big fan of Tiberias, especially not the area where all the hotels are around the Kinneret. I was more than happy to spend all day out on trips and just crash at night in the hotel. We went to Ein Gev, a Kibbutz across the Kinneret from our hotel, for a wonderful fish lunch on the first day we arrived.  The view was picturesque and the food was fresh and good. We got back to the hotel and just crashed. It was a long drive up and we were tired.

The second day, we went to the Marizpan museum and shop. It was in this booklet of coupons we got, and since it was in a Yishuv up North, we figured it was a good activity for a pregnant woman. I hadn't realized how much great activities one can do up North. Unfortunately, they aren't safe for anyone whose pregnant. That meant no rafting, no kayaking, no ATVing, etc. We were limited in what we could do, but we adapted very nicely. The Marzipan museum was a lot of fun. Check out the picture above of marzipan vegetables. After watching a movie and viewing the museum, we decided to make our own marzipan. It was a lot of fun, and even Pidgeon who hates getting his hands dirty, joined in. We put marzipan in molds and walked away with a lot of good stuff. We even got his parents a nice gift box of marzipan and date jam and honey from the Yishuv as a Rosh Hashana gift. I hope they enjoy it. We were exhausted by the time we got back from the hotel, even though we didn't do much in terms of physical activity, so we spent the rest of the day just relaxing, walking around by the Kinneret. 

The third day of the trip was a lot more physical and intense. We woke up early, had a gross breakfast and then drove to Katzrin. First, we went to the museum to learn about Gamla. It was very interesting, and I loved the little crop circle conspiracy up near Katzrin that has archeologist baffled. I told Pidgeon it's because the ancient people who lived in Katzrin were waiting for the aliens to come down. At least he found me funny. After watching a movie about Gamla, we were off to Ancient Katzrin and ruins of an old synagogue. I don't know what sorts of trees or bushes they were growing in the area, but it was a heavenly scent. We walked around, saw a movie about the Talmud, and then went to the synagogue. It was pretty incredible to see how much was still in tact. 

After the synagogue, we decided to go to Mount Bental and this famous "coffee shop" called Koffee Anan. It's on a really high mountain that affords picturesque views of the Golan Heights, Syria and Israel. For some reason, Pidgeon's GPS decided to take us on an unpaved route up another mountain and I swear I was holding on tight and praying that our car would make it up this dirt road. Fortunately, we got to the top and parked without incident. Since there were signs that said we couldn't take any pictures, here's a shot of the Hermon mountain from the drive towards Mount Bental. The walk up from the parking lot to the top of the mountain was not very easy for me, but I made it to the summit. It was as beautiful as Pidgeon described and I have some great mental pictures.

After such a busy day, we drove back to the hotel and since we missed the crappy lunch we decided to go to Decks. This restaurant has a tremendous reputation as THE best meat place to eat at while in Tiberias. It didn't live up to its hype, although my butcher's cut piece of meat was very juicy and well done. Pidgeon wasn't a bit fan of his fillet though, and we felt for the steep prices the portions could have been a bit more generous. But, it was certainly better than the hotel food, and the view of the Kinneret was gorgeous. 

I was so tired that night that I apparently passed out in the middle of a conversation with Pidgeon. Oh well, that's what happens when I shlep my preggo self up a freaking mountain for the view. 

Our last full day in Tiberia was a lot of fun. This time, we decided to go check out the Hula Valley nature preserve. I had expected it to be much smaller and thought we would walk around. Little did I know that there was scant shade and that it was a 10 km walk. I asked Pidgeon if he thought I could do a 10 km walk and he laughed at me. So, we decided to spend some money and rent a golf cart. For the first time all trip, Pidgeon let me drive him around, and it was a lot of fun. My belly barely fit behind the steering wheel and it was stinking hot outside, but we were able to see some Cranes, Pelicans, pomegranate trees, beavers, buffalos and lots of bees. I was dehydrated by the time we got back to the car, but it was a good time. 

Since we were pretty far North, we decided to go even farther and went to Pidgeon's family's favorite fish restaurant in the entire country. Dag Al HaDan has a great reputation and for good reason. It's a quaint fish restaurant literally on the Dan river, in the woods, where they fish in the morning and then serve it up fresh when they open. We picked a shady table next to the river and the ducks kept coming out of the river to quack and beg for food around our table. I had some whole wheat bagel that I wanted to throw their way but Pidgeon said it wasn't a good idea. So, I just took pictures and enjoyed the rustic nature of the place. We both ordered the fresh fish; Pidgeon got drum and I got the denise. The waitress brought the whole fish, cooked, to our table and then filleted it in front of us. It was fascinating to watch and I now know how to properly fillet a fish. Fortunately, my denise wasn't that boney and with the garlic butter sauce it was delicious. I could have sat there forever, in the woods, surrounded by nature, eating fresh fish and watching the river flow. But, it was getting late and we had a long drive back to the hotel. We passed by Pidgeon's old army base on the way back and we stopped to take a look. Obviously, we couldn't get too close, but it was interesting to see where he spent so many years in the army.

I was happy to get back to the hotel and I spent a few hours just packing us up, showering, and relaxing before a crappy dinner. I was really happy when we woke up Thursday and headed back to Jerusalem. As much as I enjoyed the vacation, I yearned for the comforts of our own apartment. My bed, my pillows, the internet, my VOIP phone. The drive back was nice and uneventful, with only one pit stop on Kvish 6, and we got home with plenty of time for me to do some Shabbos cooking.

This weekend was very relaxing. We did a lot of sleeping, which was good since we're both really tired from the trip. We're looking forward to a short week, with Rosh Hashana around the corner. I have some baking to do for my in-laws for a meal we are going to on the second day of Rosh Hashana. Since it's also my English birthday, I am trying to figure out something special to bake so I feel like we're celebrating. It won't be my annual G&I birthday cake from Queens, which I've shared with my younger sister ever since she was born (we have the same Hebrew birthday although our English birthdays are 2 days a part) but it will at least be something to mark the occasion. 

Well, it's already 1:30 a.m. and I should probably try to get some sleep. The alarm is going off at 6:45 a.m. tomorrow morning since the IKEA guys are coming over to assemble all the furniture we bought. I'm looking forward to the new closet and dresser in our bedroom, although both are pretty much reserved for Pidgeon's stuff. I'm hoping with these new additions to the room that we'll be able to be less cluttered. We'll see.

Shavuah Tov from Baka!

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