Day 10 was quiet, so there’s not a whole lot to say. I spent most of the day relaxing and regrouping. The hotel has access to mineral pools, swimming pools, the dead sea itself as well as a Turkish hammam. Naturally, I tried everything. The dead sea was so calm. There is no life in the water (because of its high salt content, hence “dead” sea), and there are no boats on the water (because the salinity would corrode all metal parts). Also, to avoided possible health issues from being in the water too long, people shouldn’t spend more than 15/20 minutes in the water. This in turn means that the beaches are also quiet, as people come and go fairly quickly. The combination of these factors makes this body of water unlike any other I’ve ever seen or been in. It was surreal, to say the very least. The ground leading up to and continuing beneath the water was salt rock. Hard, rough, and slippery. Floating was a very healing experience. Within seconds of entering the water your skin feels different. After, cuts begin to heal quicker and skin blemishes begin to fade. I can only describe it as magic. If only I could have stayed.
Day 11 I left the paradise by the dead sea after a walk through the world famous botanical garden. I headed to the bus stop in the scorching heat, and waited literally in the middle of nowhere with no buildings or cars for as far as I could see. About an hour later I was picked up by the bus headed to Eilat. Almost 4 hours after that, I arrived at the Orchid Resort Village Hotel, on South Beach, Eilat. The view, the room, the food and the pools here are amazing. Tomorrow I’m going to try to have some fun! Eilat is a huge vacation spot, so there are lots of activities to do all along the beach. We’ll see what I can afford to try!
Today, for the first time in 8 days, I slept in! Until 8 that is. The tour has been so full and busy, I’ll have to admit that I’m a little relieved its over. Its been truly amazing, but I’m excited to move on to the next part of my trip now, and to have a few days to do my own thing.
After breakfast I met Philip and Olivia (the young couple from the UK) and we walked to Carmel Market, an open spice market (or shook, in Hebrew) here in Tel Aviv. As soon as we entered the market, a kind lady running one of the stands welcomed us by yelling, “Taste, Taste, Taste!” and handing us pinches of fresh spices from the piles overflowing behind her. It was incredible to me to see the food all out in the open like that; unpacked, in such abundance, and free to touch and taste. Back home I would never even think of tasting food at the grocery store before paying for it at the risk of being kicked out of the store. Here, it is encouraged! Of course, places like this exist back home, just as supermarkets and mass production exist in Israel, but it is so much more common here to buy food from the open market and local farms than it is back home.
My first instinct tells me that this can’t be sanitary. If I was allowed to touch and taste, then who else’s hands have been on the food? And what about the bugs?! After taking a step back I realize that maybe I’m the crazy one. To me, good food is always clean, free of imperfections, wrapped and labelled. It is sterile, free from dirt and bugs. But food comes from the land, which is MADE of dirt and bugs. Maybe the real concern is that I consider food that has been polished, perfected, waxed, frozen, shipped and wrapped in plastic, to be “good” food, and food that has been grown, picked and touched by other people, to somehow be “wrong”. The people here seem so much more connected to the land and to what they buy and consume than I am used to. Everyone smells, feels and even tastes their food before they buy it. Each meal seems so much more appreciated here because it is almost always made fresh, and more often than not comes from right here in Israel (especially when it comes to dairy products and fruits). I think that today, in the age of mass production and over consumption, we spend so much time stuffing ourselves to the brim that we’ve forgotten to appreciate where our food comes from. I’ve decided that when I get home I’m going to try harder to care about what I’m consuming. I think we should all have more respect for our food and where it comes from, and for our bodies and what we put into them. Of course I will do this while still over-indulging from time to time I’m sure, because who doesn’t love a late night pizza run here and there?
After we left the marketplace, Olivia, Philip and myself headed to the beach for one last drink before parting ways. We said cheers to a wonderful 8 day tour of Israel, and reflected on our time together. We all agreed that the most fascinating part of the tour was knowing that we were walking in the same streets and were surrounded by the same walls as Jesus was over two thousand years ago. Also incredible was the fact that these streets and walls were ruled by such famous kings as Herod the Great, even before the times of Jesus. Perhaps the most interesting part to me was learning that so much of the Bible is actually history, and not so dependent on faith. Whether it was from an opinionated atheist such as our first guide Mark, a Jew such as Paulio (our second guide), or a devoted Christan as were Olivia and Philip, the stories of the land were the same. The only thing debated by other religions or non-religious people was whether or not Jesus was the son of God, who performed miracles. As for his life and death and people who lived during the same time as him, it was almost all inarguably history.
For anyone who doesn’t know me, I’m not a particularly religious person, though I do consider myself to be spiritual in many ways. I am very interested in the beliefs of others, and what common threads tie together different belief systems. I used to think that believing any of the stories in the bible meant believing in God and Christianity, but that isn’t entirely true. I have learned so much this past week.
Sad to leave my new friends, I hopped in a cab, took a deep breath, and headed to Tel Aviv Central Bus Station. This bus station is one of the biggest in the world, several stories high, and resembling a mega mall on the inside, absolutely packed with shops and restaurants. It was chaos, and it certainly didn’t help my feeling of panic when I noticed that basically everything was written in Hebrew, with the exception of 3/4 small signs in English. Like a fish swimming against the current, I began to follow the signs that lead me to my bus. Thank goodness I did my research ahead of time and knew at least what platform number I was looking for, and the symbol of the Egged Bus company (the largest in Israel). Before I could even get up the first 5 steps to the next level of the station, a man who didn’t speak a word of english ran to my side, picked up my bags, carried them up the stairs for me and ran off. It was all I could do to yell “Toda! Thank you!” Before he was out of sight. It nearly brought me to tears to see someone help a silly tourits without any obligation or reward, and without even being asked. When I got to the top of the stairs, a young woman walked next to me and asked me where I was from and where I was headed. She pointed me in the direction of the bus I needed to catch, and it wasn’t long from then until I was on my bus heading to Jerusalem.
On the bus i sat next to a young gentleman who was about my age. He asked me about my life, my trip, my art and my home, and I asked him about his. He moved to Israel from Baltimore about 5 years ago, completely on his own. He served nearly two years in the Army, and now works and lives in Jerusalem. In israel, all citizens must join the Israeli Defence Forces for 3 years (2 for girls), upon completion of high school. Orthodox Jews are the only ones exempt from this rule (one of the reasons why other citizens sometimes have tension with them). There are also several other studying and religious programs which allow for the teens to spend less time in the army. The gentleman I was sitting next to told me that it unites a lot of the people here in a very special way, having to give back to their country through the IDF. Its hard to imagine this for me, coming from a place like Canada, where I was born and have the right to stay entirely freely (more or less) without such obligations as joining the army. The way he talks about it sounds beautiful and terrifying at the same time. He told me about his commander who was recently shot in Gaza, along with one of his friends, and how they thankfully both survived. It felt like he was talking about a different country when he talked to me about Gaza, having just been in one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever stayed at in Tel Aviv. Israel in this way is very complex. It is a small country with many different faces, some of them only a few miles apart.
When we arrived at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, I said goodbye and headed to my next bus (slightly less panicked this time, and feeling a little less intimidated by the chaos). I arrived at last at the Ein Gedi Kibbutz Hotel, a picturesque hotel built right between the mountains and the Dead Sea, on a hill overlooking the mountains from one side and the sea and Jordan from the other. The hotel features access to mud baths, mineral baths, and the sea itself, as well as one of the most beautiful botanical gardens on earth.
I spent most of my evening reflecting on my past week here, and looking over my plans for the weeks to come. I watched some Hebrew tv, and some English tv with Hebrew subtitles, and listened to music on a Hebrew pop music station… it was actually surprisingly catchy. I may or may not have danced a bit…
I miss home, but am learning so much that I know I’ll take with me forever, and I know that my life will still be waiting for me when I come home.
Day 6 We left Jerusalem behind, as well as Mark, our guide. Our driver Muhammad picked up our new guide, Paulio, an older Jewish gentleman. It was nice to have a different guide of a different faith, to see yet another new perspective on the culturally complex country that is Israel. We left the city behind us, and only a few minutes drive later we were once again surrounded by desert as far as the eye could see. Travelling on the highway we passed a checkpoint into the West Bank, where armed Israeli officers boarded our bus before giving us the ok. It is a simple formality, though it was a little intimidating. From here we headed to the Jordan River, where we passed another checkpoint, and dipped our feet in the spot where Jesus was baptized by John. That was quite the experience, looking across the Jordan river, only 20 feet from us, at Jordanian soil.
Next, we headed to Beit Shean National Park, ancient ruins that have been recently discovered and excavated. The ruins were beautiful, but it was so hot and the air was so still that most of us simply couldn’t wait to get back to the bus. The stop afterwards was in Nazareth, a C area (Israelis only). We saw the Bascillica of the Annunciation, and learned about the lives of Mary and Joseph as well as Jesus’ years living in Nazareth until he preached and was thrown out of the city. From Nazareth we drove up to the Golan Heights, in Northern Israel near the border with Syria, and close also to the border with Lebanon. The mountains here are absolutely stunning. Covered in small villages and vineyards for miles and miles, it may be the most serene landscape I’ve ever seen in my life. In the upper Golan Heights We visited former Syrian fortifications, where there were actually known live minefields nearby. Of course we were smart enough not to go gallavanting off of the road and into a minefield. Other than military buildings, the Golan Heights are covered in vineyards, date palms, olive, banana, mango and apple trees, as well as free range dairy farms. There are also several Druze villages here. After a quick stop at the Banias (source of the Jordan River) we finally head to our kibbutz hotel called Kfar Giladi, a lovely hotel full of gardens and lookout points onto the mountains. This is as they say “the land of milk and honey”, and now I can see why.
Day 7 we drove in the morning to Safed, an artists colony in the Golan Heights area. Most of the artists and residents originally fled to this area from Spain. Here we looked at all the beautiful galleries and shops, and visited several synagogues along the way. Safed, which means “to look over”, is approximately 900m above sea level, so needless to say we had quite the view from up top. The synagogues in this area are full of blue, the Abuhav Synagogue in particular. It is the colour of heaven and “the colour that says go away Satan!” as Paulio says. The synagogues here are much more European looking than those in Jerusalem, and they contain paintings of Rachel’s tomb and the Western Wall, which are both far from Safed. After holding up the bus by spending far too long in the galleries in the artists colony, we finally were able to proceed to the Sea of Galilee for a boat ride.
The sea is the lowest body of fresh water in the world, and is the primary source of fresh water for all of Israel. Since the country is primarily desert, Israel uses advances in technology to conserve water resources. They have developed a water drop system, which involves small hoses/pipes that travel underneath literally every tree and plant, releasing water in the exact quantity needed for each species’ survival. It is really very impressive once you realize the amount of land that uses this technology.
Galilee was beautiful, and of course a very Holy place, as it is where several stories in the bible take place, including Jesus walking on water, calming the storm, and feeding the thousands of men with only 3 loaves and two fishes. After the boat ride around the lake, we enjoyed fresh tilapia caught in the sea that very morning. It cant get much better than that.
After lunch we made our way to Capernaum, a small fishing town during the times of Jesus. Jesus preached here often after he was thrown out of Nazareth, because he could preach to many people at a time, as it was a fishing town that also had a synagogue and an olive press, making it a popular place. Here we also visited Capernaum church, built facing the sea of Galilee, though most churches since have been built facing East.
Our final stop of the day was Tiberius which was founded by King Herods son the Jewish ruler of Galilee. By the end of this tour we were absolutely exhausted, and positively drenched in sweat.
Once we got back to the kibbutz we tried some local wine, and got to experience a common occurrence for the locals in the area, a siren sound and instructions to hurry to the lower level of the building which is also a bomb shelter. Apparently it was set off by airwaves, but it is extremely sensitive, and goes off often without any real reason for concern. Every one in the kibbutz told us not to panic, and laughed as they said “welcome to Israel!”
Day 8 was the final day of the tour. We visited the beautiful city of Acco/Acre, where we saw ruins from the Crusaders, and the mosque of Al Jazar. Here we met a friend of Paulio’s who is both Muslim and Christian, and who speaks fluent English, Hebrew, German, as well as Arabic. It is so impressive to me the amount of history in each of these places, and that is carried by each city’s inhabitants.
From Acre we visited the extremely wealthy city of Haifa, home to the Baha’i Shrine. The city invested nearly $250 million into gardens in the area, which are absolutely incredible to see. Haifa is the world centre of the Baha’i Religion, and actually passed a law that states that no one may remove any tree from the city without special permission. We could use more laws like that in the world.
Caesarea was our final stop of the day before heading to the hotel. King Herod built the city to be magnificent in every way. The city had an aqueduct, a port and a trade centre along with palaces, temples, a theatre and a hippodrome. Today the site is nothing but ruins, though even the ruins are magnificent. High gothic arches surround fallen marble pillars, all along the beautiful Mediterranean coast. Today, Caesarea is mostly a vacation destination. It is also home to the Prime Minister of Israel, and it doesn’t take long to understand why.
After a quick tour of Jaffa/Yafo, we head to our hotels in Tel Aviv, the very place we began our tour. After a swim in the Mediterranean with friends, I enjoyed Shabbat dinner alone in the hotel, a meal that was truly fit for a king. As of tomorrow I am on my own once again, as the tour has ended. I have learned so much so far, and cannot wait for the next chapter of this trip.
Where do I begin!? Since my last post it feels like it has been weeks. The days have been long and packed full of different new places to see. I also haven’t had Wi-Fi since the morning after my last post, so I’m going to catch up today hopefully.
Before I get into what exactly it is that I’ve been up to, let me first tell you a bit about Israel to give you a better picture. Israel is mostly desert, and it is hot and sunny literally every day. The mornings sometimes start off hazy but always end with the group hopping back on the bus, absolutely covered in sweat. I have never appreciated air conditioning so much in my life. I’d guess it has been about 40’C the past few days but I haven’t seen any thermometers around… maybe it’s better if I don’t know. The buildings in Israel are a mix of ancient, from the times of Jesus, and modern, in the suburbs. Recent Israeli law states that all new buildings must be constructed using only white limestone, which is what gives Israel (especially Jerusalem) it’s distinctive appearance. Tiny white cubes cover every hillside in cities, like little blocks that you’d think were stacked on top of each other if you didn’t know better.
Of course with everything going on lately in Israel most of you will have heard by now of the West Bank and Gaza. It is easy to say that these areas are Palestinian territory, however there’s a lot more to it than that. The areas are divided into 3 sections: A areas, which are Palestinian only (Israeli passport holders are not allowed to pass the checkpoints), B areas, in which Israeli citizens and Palestinians live together equally, and C areas, in which only Israeli citizens can reside, and no Palestinians are permitted entry. All areas are surrounded by walls and checkpoints. Tourists are able to enter most areas with guides, though special permission is required ahead of time for some areas.
Day 3 I was picked up by my tour guide Mark, a big man with a big personality. He is originally from Holland, but has lived in Israel for several years now in a kibbutz with his family. He is notorious for saying “I don’t want to talk politics, or state my opinion…” and then talking politics and stating his opinion. He took me to the tour bus, where I got to meet the rest of the group. Because of the Israeli/Palestinian situations recently, a lot of people haven’t been travelling, so we actually had 3/4 different groups on the tour with us, which was really fun. Ive met a lot of people from all over the world, with different accents as well as faiths. It has been great getting to know some of my fellow tourists on a more personal level. I am the youngest out of everyone, other than two teenage girls who are here with their family, so almost everyone has had much more travelling experience than me, and it has been great learning new things from each person I’ve met.
Our first stop today was Masada. I wish there were words for the view… desert as far as the eye could see, with a view also of the dead sea. After taking a cable car up the mountain, we explored the ruins of the fortress built by King Herod the “great.” We then got a view of the first cave in which the dead sea scrolls were found. Later, we headed to the dead sea for a float. The water is 33% salt, about 8 times as salty as the Atlantic ocean, and it only takes a drop in your mouth or eyes before you’re running to the showering area. The mud felt so smooth and thick on my skin, and the float was easier than I ever could’ve imagined. It felt like one of those dreams where your body is doing things that your mind knows are impossible. Getting your feet back under your body after floating on your back proved to be a bit of a challenge for a lot of people believe it or not. After the dead sea, we visited Mark’s kibbutz, to see what it was like. It was small and quiet, away from all the hustle and bustle of the city. Then we headed to our hotels in Jerusalem.
Day 4 started off at the Israel Museum where we saw the Shrine of the Book, otherwise known as the dead sea scrolls. The scrolls were written in Hebrew over 2000 years ago, a beautiful language that hasn’t changed at all since the beginning, meaning that even a child today who understood hebrew would be able to read the original scrolls. Of course what we saw was not the original scrolls, which are actually stored several feet beneath the museum in a bunker. The scrolls were found in the caves near Masada, and contain the first full written copy of the Old Testament, an important book for both Christians as well as Jews. After the Israel museum, we headed to Yad Vashem holocaust museum. The memorial was beautiful and incredibly powerful. It was put together very artistically, with many images, drawings, words and videos. An unforgettable experience. We then headed to Bethlehem, birthplace of Jesus, where we visited the church of the Nativity. Since Bethlehem is an A area, we had to have a different tour guide for this part of the day because Mark is an Israeli citizen. We enjoyed a traditional Israeli lunch of pita with salads and chicken in Bethlehem (just one of many incredible meals I’ve had since my arrival). In the evening a few of us visited the Western Wall in the old city Jerusalem, and made our way to our hotel only a few minutes from the gate to the old city.
Day 5 was our official day dedicated solely to exploring the old city Jerusalem. We went to mount Scopus and the garden of Gethsemane beside the Church of the Agony/ Church of all Nations, where Jesus was betrayed and later arrested. We wanted to visit the mount of olives but a riot broke out the night before in the area nearby, so we went to a lookout point to see it instead. We then entered the old city and saw the dome of the rock (non-muslims are only allowed in the area early in the morning, and it always has quite the line up, so we didn’t go inside). We then went to the Western Wall, and got to place prayers/wishes written on small pieces of paper within the cracks of the wall. Of course I’ll try anything once, so I jumped at the opportunity to do so. Next to me were several Jews, many orthodox, moving back and forth in prayer at the wall. It was incredible to feel how passionate so many people here are when it comes to prayer. They truly devote their lives to God. Of course if you know me, you’ll know that I don’t necessarily identify with a particular religion or God, though I do consider myself to be very spiritual. I am always interested in other people’s beliefs, and most importantly curious about how we are all connected regardless of our faith.
After the wall, we saw the Beit Yaakov Synagogue, Via Dolorosa and the stations of the cross, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Dormition Abbey, as well as the “room of the last supper” and “mary’s tomb” (both of these sites are more of estimations as to where the site may be, and are not confirmed spots. The same is true for the location of Jesus’s crucifixion, which Catholics believe is within the walls of the old city, and Protestants believe is just outside. We walked through all four quarters of the old city, the Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Armenian sections that were all separated by walls, and we walked through many bazaars and alleyways. The spices, clothes and food looked and smelled incredible, overwhelming to the senses. We had to be careful of pickpockets, as tight alleys and big crowds are a convenient setting for sneaky hands. We also saw the Golden Gate, where Christians believe Jesus will return, and where Muslims built a graveyard to stop him from doing so. It is so interesting to see how the religions interact with each other. Mostly, each religious group is respectful of the rest, and simply keeps their distance. Sometimes there are conflicts, but most people are truly peaceful. In the end, the old city is filled simply with people who care greatly about their faith, and who live lives of prayer and devotion without really having much of an affect on anyone else. Throughout the old city, walls and streets from the crusader times (before Jesus) are common. It is hard to imagine streets so old still being walked on today.
In the evening I walked through the city alone, surprised only by how friendly people were. I’ve gotten the pronunciation of Shalom (hello), and Toda (thank you) down to an art now, and use them both frequently. The locals smile and nod. Ive learned that the most scary part about walking around in Israel is not crime, which on a personal level appears to be virtually non-existent, but much more I have to worry about spending all my money on incredible jewellery, clothes and souvenirs. The shopkeepers are some of the friendliest people (and best salesmen) I’ve ever spoken to. Of course their first question is “where are you from?” because I tend to stick out a bit with my blonde hair and green eyes. Several men have yelled “beautiful hair!” As I’ve walked by. Like I said, very friendly. Their interest may be that they want me, the young tourist, to spend my money in their shop, but the point is that they are never intimidating or threatening in any way, and even as a young woman walking around after sundown, the streets are filled with friendly people. Few places are truly dangerous for a tourist (outside of Gaza) and any violence or harassment is generally a matter of tourists wearing inappropriate attire in specific neighbourhoods, particularly Orthodox Jewish ones.
I met up with two of my new friends for a drink in a beautiful spot just outside of the Old City gates. This young couple from the UK have gotten to know me quite well, and I’ve learned a lot about their beliefs, life and travels. I have truly enjoyed getting to know each new person on this trip. I guess the irony is that I came here to learn and separate from what im used to, and in doing so I’ve made friends. I guess life is about learning to let go and accepting that all things will pass, but we shouldn’t enjoy them any less because of that.
I guess technically it’s day two because of the amount of time it took to get here and the time zone difference…
Either way, shalom!
I’m in Tel Aviv, Israel right now, and glad to be in bed after a long day of travelling. The good news is that my driver Bruno who picked me up at the airport said that I’m going to love Israel and have an amazing trip! Since I know that Bruno would never do me wrong, I have decided to believe him.
My hotel is stunning. Unfortunately I’m only here for one night, so I decided to make the most of it and I went for a walk along the Mediterranean coast and watched the sunset this evening. The rocky shore was beautiful, it went on forever, only interrupted by the strong waves crashing hard on the rocks to what felt like the rhythm of my breath, filling the air with that slightly sticky sea salt mist.
I don’t think I’ve ever watched a sunset alone before. Company is nice, but there’s a different quality to some things when you watch them without someone next to you.
I enjoyed an amazing dinner for one after watching the sunset and can already tell that the foodie in me is going to love this trip.
I think that the biggest thing I learned over the past day is that when you’re travelling, a smile and manners go a very long way. Airports are busy places full of tired cranky stressed out people and workers who are tired of dealing with the tired cranky stressed out people… sometimes all it takes is a little bit of politeness followed by a smile, and even the most intimidating looking security guard will likely smile back. I think it will be important for me to remember on this trip that we are all human and we are all capable of love and compassion. It doesn’t take much for someone to stop what they’re doing and lend a hand. I’ve already been lent several.
Sending all my love from Israel,
For those of you who didn’t know, in Dec. 2013 I was awarded a grant by the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation. The foundation sent me funding for my proposal, which was a trip to some of the most culturally rich countries in the world, Israel and India.
My goal on this trip is to understand more about the different cultures and religions in our world. What makes them different? More importantly, what do they have in common? My paintings are spiritual in nature as I deal with the subjects of life and death, body and soul. I wish to find out more about the topics of life and death in religious contexts, and humans as both physical and spiritual beings. Below is a day by day itinerary of my trip, and I plan on posting every few days here on my website with updates on where I am and what I’m up to. So stay tuned for future posts!
Here’s my itinerary:
Trip: 40 Days, 13 Flights, 54.5Hrs of flight time.
-Sat Sept 6 - 6:45pm Flight from Toronto to Tel Aviv, Israel Arrives at 3:35pm Israel time (Sun Sept 7) Total 20hr 50min trip (1 stop)
-Sun Sept 7 - Israel Highlights Tour begins. (8 Days, group tour with Noah Tours) Transfer to hotel (Dan Panorama, Tel Aviv).
-Mon Sept 8 - Drive to Masada, ascend by cable car to the fortress. Descend for a float in the Dead Sea. Proceed to Jerusalem for overnight (Dan Panorama, Jerusalem).
-Tues Sept 9 - Drive to Mt. Scopus, view of Jerusalem. Visit the Garden of Gethsemane and Church of the Agony. Continue to Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book. Later to Yad Vashem. Drive to Ein Karem village. Return to hotel in Jerusalem.
-Wed Sept 10 - Walk through the Old City Jerusalem: the Jewish Quarter, the Western Wall, the Temple area, the bazaars; Via Dolorosa and the stations of the cross ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Drive to Mt. Zion and see the tomb of King David, the Room of the Last Supper, and Dormition Abbey. Continue to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity and return to hotel in Jerusalem.
-Thurs Sept 11 - Leave Jerusalem and drive North through Jordan Valley to Beit Shean. Proceed to Tiberias. Drive along the shores of the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum to visit the ruins of the ancient synagogue. Continue to hotel (Kfar Giladi).
-Fri Sept 12 - Drive to the Golan Heights. Visit former Syrian fortifications, Druze villages and Via Banias. Proceed to Safed to visit a syngogue and the artists’ colony. Head to Nazareth to visit the Christian Holy Sites. Return to hotel.
-Sat Sept 13 - Drive west to Acre. Continue to Haifa, tour of Bahai Shrine, Persian Garden, and Mount Carmel for a view of the city and the bay. Proceed to Caesarea. End the day with a short city tour of Tel Aviv-Jaffa.
-Sun Sept 14 - Israel Highlights Tour ends. Transfer to Tel Aviv Central Bus station for bus ride to Ein Gedi. Overnight in Ein Gedi Country Hotel (at the Dead Sea).
-Mon Sept 15 - Ein Gedi hot springs, gardens.
-Tues Sept 16 - Leave Ein Gedi hotel, take bus to Eilat Central Bus Station (Approx 4hr bus ride). Transfer to Orchid Resort Village Hotel, South Beach Eilat (at the Red Sea).
-Wed Sept 17 - Day at the Red Sea.
-Thurs Sept 18 - 7:45am Flight from Eilat, Israel to Tel Aviv, Israel Arrives at 8:25am. Total 40min trip. 12:45pm Flight from Tel Aviv, Israel to Delhi, India. Arrives at 3:00am Delhi time (Fri Sept 19) Total 11hr 45min trip. (2 stops)
-Fri Sept 19 - Transfer to hotel (Crown Plaza Okhla). Joanne meets me at hotel, meet with tour guide. Jewels Of North India tour begins. (14 days, private tour with Indus).
-Sat Sept 20 - Begin in Old Delhi, at the famous Red Fort. Bike rickshaw ride through the alleys off Chandi Chowk bazaar. Visit Raj Ghat (Ghandi’s cremation site) and the Jama Masjid (one of the largest mosques in India). This afternoon visit the Qutb Minar, a 240-foot minaret, the tallest in the world. Return to hotel.
-Sun Sept 21 - 10:30am Flight from Delhi to Varanasi. Arrives at 11:45am. Total 1hr 15min trip. Half day excursion to Sarnath to visit the tranquil Deer Park (where Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. At sunset, cruise the Ganges River to witness the evening Aarti prayer rituals. Go to hotel (Ramada Plaza, Varanasi).
-Mon Sept 22 - Early morning boat ride to see pilgrims gathering on the ghats to bathe in the sacred Ganges, and Hindus performing rituals including cremation ghats. Return to the hotel for breakfast, day in Varanasi. Return to hotel.
-Tues Sept 23 - Visit Ramnagar Fort on the opposite bank of the Ganges. Return to hotel.
-Wed Sept 24 - 12:20pm Flight from Varanasi to Khajuraho. Arrives at 2:45pm. Total 2hr 25min trip. (1 stop). Visit the Eastern and Western Group of temples, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with a scholar. Go to hotel (Ramada Khajuraho).
-Thurs Sept 25 - Morning at leisure. Later drive to Jhansi to board the evening train to Agra. Shatabdi Express Train 6:05pm, 4hr trip. Go to hotel (Jaypee Palace, Agra).
-Fri Sept 26 - Early morning visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise. (May be tomorrow morning instead) After breakfast, visit Agra Fort. Later, cross the Yamuna River to visit Itmad ud Daula mausoleum. Return to Hotel.
-Sat Sept 27 - After Breakfast travel to Jaipur via Train, 5hr trip. Enroute visiting Fatehpur Sikri. Arrive in Jaipur (The Pink City). Go to hotel (Trident, Jaipur).
-Sun Sept 28 - Excursion to Amber Fort. Royal ride on elephant up the hill to Jagmandir. Return to the city to see the grand Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), City Palace and Jantar Mantar. Return to hotel.
-Mon Sept 29 - Leave Jaipur and head to Udaipur via Train, 7hr trip. Go to hotel (Trident, Udaipur).
-Tues Sept 30 - Begin at City Palace, overlooking Lake Pichola. Inside the complex, see the crystal gallery, and continue to the Jagdish Temple. After, explore the Old City. Early this evening take a sunset cruise on Lake Pichola, sailing past Ghats and palaces, stopping at the island of Jag Mandir. Return to hotel.
-Wed Oct 1 - 7am Flight from Udaipur to Mumbai. Arrives at 8:15am. Total 1hr 15min trip. Half day tour of Mumbai, see the Dhobi Ghat. Then visit the Prince of Wales Museum. Continue to Mani Bhawan, the Gandhi Museum. End on Marine Drive, Mumbai’s most popular promenade and a favourite sunset watching spot. Go to hotel (Kohinoor Continental, Mumbai).
-Tues Oct 2 - Jewels of North India Tour Ends (Joanne leaves Mumbai-Toronto Early morning) 5:45am Flight from Mumbai to Jaipur. Arrives at 7:25am. Total 1hr 40min trip. Head to Country Inn & Suites by Carlson, Jaipur. Overnight in hotel.
-Wed Oct 3 - Leave hotel and head to Dhamma Thali Vipassana Centre, Jaipur. Vipassana Meditation Course, runs 3pm Oct 3- 7am Oct 14. Here’s a link to explain the course a little. https://www.dhamma.org/en/about/code
-Tues Oct 14 - 4:45pm Flight from Jaipur, India, to Toronto. Arrives at 12:35pm Toronto time (Wed Oct 15). Total 29hr 20min trip. Home.