israel is a very easy destination, this surprised me.
rule number 1: RENT A CAR! it's so easy to drive around. when we made reservation online we forgot to ask for a gps, and when we got to the counter they told us they finished all the gps. we felt lost for a minute or two, but as soon as we jumped in the car we realized how easy it was to drive around even only with a good old map.
so this is what dany and i did over five full days in the country, along with some travel tips that might be useful (here i won't lose myself in places descriptions, those are for next time):
you can stay up to 3-4 days in the city. It's worth it. just make sure you pick a THURSDAY night, as it's so alive and fun. in fact, you will see NOBODY on the streets on friday nights and saturdays... we couldn't find one single store open for breakfast on Saturday morning! thursdays are like saturday nights in Italy, very much alive.
we checked into a hotel with a very convenient location close to Jaffa Street. not fancy, but cozy enough. the name of the place is city center, and it's in the new part of Jerusalem, which is very vibrant.
old city jerusalem... what to say about it. it needs a post of its own.
for the time being, i'll only share pictures of it.
from Jerusalem you can go to bethlehem in thirty minutes top: TAKE A CAB from the Mount of Olives to go there. the drivers will offer half the price than the hotels and tours, so you are going to spend about $75 per person. you need to take a cab because it's not possible to drive on your own in palestine, and you don't want to find yourself in trouble. the impression we got was that beyond the wall that separates jerusalem from palestine all was very quiet and calm, and i'm sure it is. but rental companies so not cover there, so if you have a car accident i let you imagine the pain.
bethlehem is a nice city, i didn't expect at all to find KFC there!!! but there was. i guess i was envious... in italy we don't even have starbucks! the thing about bethlehem is that as you walk in the town you will see many shops closed. the christian community is slowly leaving, due to the lack of jobs and a relationship of 4 women/1 man.
two hours are more than enough here! the place is known as the arab capital of israel. lots of crowded streets. it took as one full hour to drive less than a mile and leave the town. crazy traffic and narrow streets!
there's the church of the annunciation, sometimes also referred to as the basilica of the annunciation: the lower level contains the grotto, believed by many christians to be the remains of the original childhood home of Mary.
on the sea of galilee (which is actually a lake), tiberias is one of the hottest places in israel. it's below the sea level, so you can imagine the heat.
we went there on saturday, and since it is a jewish city all the places were closed but one and only, where we had a delicious lunch and sipped a local beer (maccabee) to refresh a little.
great city. if you go, make sure the Bahá'í gardens are open. the view from up there is gorgeous.
6. netanya beach.
beaches from haifa to tel aviv are all beautiful. white thin sand and wild. hope these speak for themselves.
7. tel aviv.
unfortunately, we got to spend only one night here, before heading to the airport for our overnight flight.
we went to dine at jaffa port and had a great impression of it. we eat in a greek restaurant up on the hill, where i tasted the weirdest recipe (but yummy): lumb with yoghurt and mint leaves on pita bread.
there are many restaurants in jaffa, local or ethnic.
i hope i will have another chance to visit tel aviv better next time.
in addition, some randoms:
1. the best travel guides of all time are the FODOR's, they are only in english, but i usually buy on amazon. full of helpful details and they don't make too many mistakes :-) i traveled with other guides in the past and sometimes i got lost (for instance, in beijing, and you don't want to get lost in such a huge city where nobody knows a word of english and no directions at all!).
2. in old city jerusalem, remember to have a meal at Abu Shukri. they make the best hummus i have ever tasted (and i tried many, modestly!). it was suggested by every guide: not fancy, local clientele.
so i hope i shared interesting things this time. more soon.