DAY 8 February 02, 2023

Pilar do Sul



The photos from today speak for themselves! Especially the Giza Pyramids and the Sphinx.

Entrance to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization

But first, we stopped at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.  It is where the 16th-11th century Royal Mummies were moved in the Celebration YouTube we posted yesterday.  It also focuses on Egyptian civilization and cultural development through historical times. Built with joint funding by UNESCO, it was started in 2002 and completed in 2017,  The additional hall to display the Royal Mummies was added in 2021.  Photography was not allowed in the Hall of Royal Mummies and silence and respect for the deceased is expected.  Each mummy was displayed out of its sarcophagus and along with its sarcophagus.  Each had signage describing the name, parents if known, dates of reign, accomplishments of the individual and what had been determined about their physical attributes and cause of death, including bone cancer, gangrene, even disabilities like poliomyelitis. The exhibit is very dark and temperature controlled with all the latest technology.

Afterwards we entered those exhibits tracking the development of agriculture, tools, metals, weapons, jewelry and life along the Nile. Then we moved on to the Hall of Textiles to see the development of clothing, weaving, embroidery, etc.

Mike in front of the Great Pyramid

Finally we started an exciting excursion to the Giza Plateau in the southwest outskirts of Cairo, to see Egypt’s iconic Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx. Constructed as tombs for the pharaohs Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure, each of the three stone structures was built by hand using finely tuned ancient techniques that remain a mystery today. They were built by successive generations of the same family and each began construction on their own pyramid when they assumed control so that their burial chamber would be ready when each needed it. The Great Pyramid of Giza — or Pyramid of Khufu — is the oldest and largest of the three, dating back to 2580–2560 BC and reaching 455 feet high. Each pyramid was part of a complex consisting of a mortuary temple, valley temple, causeway connecting the two temples, boat pits surrounding the main pyramid, and smaller, subsidiary pyramids for Queens.  The three temples are surrounded by mastaba (Arabic word for bench) shaped tombs for other family members and high officials.

Since public schools are on winter break, the scene was chaotic with tourists, families with children, and vendors hawking “authentic Egyptian goods” from China. We stopped first to get close to the great pyramid, where Maget gave us discussion on the construction of the pyramids. Construction is currently establishing a new entrance and visitor center. Then we moved on to a panoramic overlook where we could view all three. Of course, camel rides were available!

Dining Beduoin Style at 9 Pyramid Lounge

Beduoin style dining

We ate lunch at the 9 Pyramid Lounge of traditional appetizers, grilled chicken, rice, and vegetables, and a rice pudding type dessert. From this location, we could see 9 pyramids: the three large pyramids, three smaller to the left, and three smaller in a row on the right.

The Sphinx

The Sphinx

Located nearby on this otherworldly archaeological site, you’ll also see the mystical Sphinx, a huge limestone statue of a reclining lion with the head of the pharaoh Khafre, sited so that, through eternity, he can guard his family cemetery. It is actually the form of a solar god called Horemahket.

Posted in Egypt, Giza | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DAY 7 February 01, 2023 – Egypt

Following a buffet breakfast at the hotel, our first full day in Egypt started with a 2 hour briefing to meet our guides and our fellow travelers, to gain an overview of our activities in Cairo , and a bit of Egyptian history in addition to housekeeping and logistics details like dividing us into 2 groups of about 30. Maged (we call him Magic) ended up being our guide and even gave us homework about the three kingdoms (periods of unity and power: old, middle, and new kingdom), made up of 30 dynasties, covering 3000 years before we head over to the Grand Egyptian Museum after lunch.

The Grand Egyptian Museum took the better part of the remainder of the day. This vast state-of-the-art repository, the largest archaeological museum in the world, is the home of the country’s most valuable antiquities, including the iconic, gold funerary mask and 5,000 other items uncovered in the tomb of the boy-king Tutankhamun. It was the concept of French architect and archeologist, Auguste Marietta. He founded the Egyptian Antiquities department in 1858 and was its first director with the goal of  eventually building a museum to house the artifacts being discovered across Egypt. It opened in 1902, designed by French architect, Marcel Dourgnon, in a Neo-classical style. It was built by the Italian company Garozzo Zaffarani. Since the museum houses the largest collection of Pharonic antiquities, we saw artifacts fro the Predynastic Period to the Greco-Roman era. The museum has two floors: the ground floor has items arranged in chronological order while first floor items are grouped according to subject or material.

Our homework studies had covered the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt by Upper Egypt King Mena through the defeat of lower Egyptians, considered by historians as the beginning of Ancient Egyptian History, about the time that making paper out of papyrus was discovered. The periods of unity were disrupted by periods of disorder (intermediate periods of foreign occupation or civil wars) which brought about the collapse of the kingdoms. We saw various representative artifacts from each kingdom including the golden mask of King Tutankhamoun, as well as his throne and footstool. We also saw the best preserved mummies, which had not been transported to the Museum of Egyptian Civilization.

Afterwards more homework in preparation for tomorrow’s visit to the Museum of Egyptian Civilization. This video:


Aurogra buy cheap Included Feature:

  • Grand Egyptian Museum visit
Posted in Cairo, Egypt | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Day 6: Bethlehem to Cairo, Egypt

It was raining today, off and on torrential downpours.  We borrowed an umbrella from the hotel room to stave off some of the rain. We climbed aboard our bus and headed to Bethlehem.  On the ride toward Bethlehem, Michal filled us in on the history of Jews in area and the migration of authority over time.  Once we approached the border of the Palestinian Authority, as an Israeli, she left us and went back to Jerusalem.

In Bethlehem, the Church of the Nativity

On the other side of the line, Johnny, a Greek Orthodox Christian, boarded our bus to serve as our guide.  We drove through a small town known as Shepherd’s Valley to Bethlehem. Once in Bethlehem, we visited the Church of the Nativity, built atop the grotto where Jesus was born. This is the oldest site continuously used as a Christian place of worship. The writings of St Justin Martyr around AD 160 first identified this site as Jesus’ birthplace. In 326, emperor Constantine ordered a church to be built and in 530 it was rebuilt by Justinian. The crusaders redecorated the interior, but much of the marble was looted in Ottoman times. In 1852, shared custody of the church was granted to the Roman Catholic, Armenian and Greek Orthodox churches.

Touching the silver star marking the place where Jesus was born. The manger however was not available since the Catholics were celebrating Mass

The exact spot where Jesus was born is supposedly marked by a 14-point silver star. The steps down to the grotto were fairly precarious, so Mike stayed topside. I knelt and touched the silver star for a blessing. The differences, between each of the responsible religious organizations, are very marked.  The Greek Orthodox is very opulent, over the top, highly decorated.  The Catholics control the manger area and were conducting a service so photos not allowed. Subsequent to the partition of the space, the Catholics built an entire church connected to the Church of the Nativity.  The Armenian area was more similar to the Greek Orthodox but a bit simpler. While we waited to descend into the grotto to view the birthplace, the Greek Orthodox monks were cleaning their sanctuary with mops and brooms having just concluded a service.

The pope mobile left in Bethlehem under the care of the Franciscans after Pope Francis’ visit

From there, we popped into a small cafe for coffee and to catch sight of the “popemobile” in a plexiglass specially built enclosure . It was left here when Pope Francis came for a visit.  Because of the rain it was all steamed up, but I took a photo anyway.

Johnny escorted us to the Shepherd’s Tent, a restaurant overlooking Shepherd’s Valley, for lunch. He left us there to tend to a leaking roof at home.  Our driver, Surya, drove us back through the border to Jerusalem to the hotel to pick up our bags and rejoin Michal.

3 more Chagall windows in the synagogue in the Haddassah. Joseph is the one in the center.

She was escorted by her son, Jonathan, to visit the stained glass windows of Marc Chagall in the Hadassah Hospital synagogue. Created by Marc Chagall in 1960-61, depict the 12 tribes of Israel; Joseph was my favorite for its bright colors. They were installed in 1962. Tradition associates each of the 12 tribes with a symbol, a precious stone, and a social role. These elements are all represented in Chagall’s imagery and choice of color. During the six days war, several were damaged and replaced graciously by Chagall. It took him a year and a half to complete the repair project. He always considered these windows his gift to the Jewish people.

We left Hadassah and headed to Tel Aviv to catch our flight to Cairo. We had no issues with security but our flight was delayed a bit. We finally boarded, taxied out to the runway and a thunderstorm with lightening struck. We are placed on a ground hold until it was safe to take off.  We took off very late, arrived in Cairo a little after 10 pm, and arrived at our hotel the Nile Ritz-Carlton around 11 pm. Upon check-in we found dinner waiting for us in our room

Posted in Bethlehem, Jerusalem | Leave a comment

Day 5 Jan 30 -Jerusalem

Men gathering at the Western Wall. The smaller stones sat the top are later additions, the oldest are lower, huge blocks.

We began our day by entering the gate in the wall closest to the Western Wall. After passing through security, Michal gave us instructions about how to proceed. This particular area is under the control of the Orthodox Jews. We had written notes/prayers on slips of paper, folded them into tiny squares. Women went to the right, separated from men by a wall. We each approached the wall, placed our hands on the wall, said a little prayer, and inserted our prayer note in a crack in the wall.  Next door in the men’s section the same thing was going on.  Since it was Monday, 13 year old boys and their families were coming to celebrate their bar mitzvah and read for the first time from the torah – with the women on one side of the wall and the men on the other. The women, dressed to the nines, for this special occasion stood on benches to peer over the fence.

Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount

Next we proceeded to Temple Mount, venerated as a holy site for thousands of years by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike to go through security again. Gazed on the magnificent golden Dome of the Rock under which, according to Jewish tradition, lies the foundation stone of the world, and where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac. The Dome of the Rock was built in AD 688-91 and was one of the first and viewed as the greatest achievements of Islamic architecture. It was intended to proclaim the superiority of Islam and provide an Islamic focal point in the Holy City. The dome was originally copper but is now covered with gold leaf thanks to the support of the late King Hussein of Jordan to get on the good side of Muslims world-wide. It took 176 pounds of 24-carat gold to re-gild the dome in 1993. Since we were not Muslim, we were not permitted to enter either building. The Dome of the Rock is supposedly the spot where Mohammed rose into heaven.  Michal referred to the Temple Mount as the belly button of religion. We did walk all around the Dome of the Rock and we spent some time in front of El-Aqsa Mosque learning more about the Muslim faith. One interesting note was that Muslim women pray at the Dome of the Rock, while Muslim men pray at the El-Aqsa Mosque.

Crown of Thorns in the ceiling of the Church of the Flagellation along the Via Dolorosa

We strolled by the entrance to the Cotton Market to leave by a northern gate to reach the Old City, we followed the Via Dolorosa (which traditionally traces the last steps of Jesus from where He was tried to Calvary where He was crucified) west to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Calvary, where we saw the two holiest  sites in Christianity: the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and the empty tomb from where He is said to have resurrected. Our trail started at the Monastery of the Flagellation which is under the control of Franciscans and climbed up on steep streets to Calvary. The Via Dolorosa’s path has changed over the years but many pilgrims walk the route, pausing at the Stations of the Cross. On Fridays, the Franciscans lead a procession along the route. The 14th Station is the Holy Sepulchre itself.  The first basilica of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built by Roman emperor Constantine between AD 326 and 335 at the urging of his mother St Helena. It was destroyed by Fatimid sultan Hakim in 1009, rebuilt in the 1040s, enlarged by crusaders in 12th century, and damaged during a fire in 1808 and an earthquake in 1927, requiring extensive repairs. At the heart of the church, a marble shrine known as the Aedicule encloses the place where Jesus’ body was laid to rest after his death. The Stone of Unction commemorates the anointing and wrapping of Jesus’ body. We saw many people placing gifts on the stone to receive a blessing of the gifts they want to give to others, thereby transferring the blessing to gift rece30pient. This church is under control of Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians, Copts, Ethiopians and Syrians. They have physically taken control of specific areas and we saw various sects taking part in various customs and focus.  The church actually houses the 10th to 14th Stations of the cross: Golgotha/Calvary where Jesus is stripped of His garments, Jesus is nailed to the Cross, Jesus dies on the Cross, Jesus taken down from Cross, and Jesus is laid in the tomb.

After a traditional falafel lunch, we continued on, exploring the Christian Quarter, the Arabic Quarter, and the Armenian Quarter.  Each of the quarters had several Roman ruins.

Tower of David, also Herod’s palace

Off we go to visit the Tower of David, also known as Jerusalem’s Citadel. The archaeological ruins date back 2,700 years. The museum uses multimedia (maps, holograms, and models) to present 4,000 years of Jerusalem’s history. A walk around the ramparts offered spectacular views of the city. There is a lot to see here, and they have designated three routes: observation route runs along ramparts and has best views of Jerusalem; the excavation route concentrates on the archaeological remains in the courtyard; the exhibition route takes in the displays and dioramas tracing the city’s history.

The travel group in Jerusalem.


Posted in Jerusalem | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 4 January 29 – Jerusalem

Mount Herzl’s Memorial: the National memorial for all soldiers who gave their lives establishing and defending the State of Israel

On our way to the museums, we passed “bureaucratic hill” where the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, meets – which provoked a bit of discussion about Israeli politics. Mount Herzl is a high hill named after Theodor Herzl, the man considered to be the founder of Zionism, who is buried at the top of the hill. The slopes are a large cemetery, similar to our Arlington National Cemetery, where Israel’s military can be buried in the main military cemetery. The entrance was filled with young military persons out for a day of learning about their history.

We visited the Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s official museum of the holocaust remembrance. Its very name, taken from Isaiah, means a memorial and a name. It is an archive, research institute, and a monument to perpetuate the memory of the more than six million Jews who were killed during the holocaust. The entrance is along the Avenue of the Righteous Among Nations, which is lined with plaques bearing the names of 23,000 Gentiles who put their own lives at risk by helping Jews, including Oskar Schindler.

The dome in the Hall of Remembrance in Yad Vashem

Photos were not allowed inside the museum. Exhibits in the museum include 2,500 personal items donated by survivors. The Hall of Remembrance bears the names of 21 of the main death camps on flat, black basalt slabs. At the center is a casket of ashes from the cremation ovens. Above it is an eternal flame. The Hall of Names records the names of all those Jews who perished along with as much biographical detail as possible.  Photos are not allowed in the museum.  We were guided by David, a museum guide originally from Baltimore, now living in Israel.  Our tour lasted about 2 ½ hours as he recounted stories of the history of the rise of Hitler, Nazism, and the development of the “final solution to the Jewish problem.”  Visitors are expected to dress appropriately – no shorts or miniskirts!

We had lunch at the restaurant at Yad Vashem, called Modern. We were served a first course of traditional Middle Eastern nibbles: hummus, quinoa, beets, roasted vegetables, pita quarters.  The second course was chicken schawarma (dish that finds it roots in the Ottoman Empire) and an Arabic dish called upside down (eggplant, rice, vegetables, and shredded beef) – all served family-style.

After lunch we visited the ,  , one of the world’s leading museums of art and archaeology, where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed in the incomparable Shrine of the Book. The design of the shrine was inspired by the lids of the jars in which the scrolls were found.  The white dome and the black basalt wall depict the battle between the Sons of Darkness and the Sons of Light described in the War Scroll. The jets of water symbolize the ritual purity of the community that wrote the scrolls.

The model of old 2nd Temple era Jerusalem

Before we entered the museum, Michal gave us a history lesson as we viewed the  Second Temple Model, which depicts the city in Jesus’ time. It is now in a open air location and easy to walk around and to view the model from many angles.

After our history lesson we entered the Book of the Shrine to see Dead Sea Scrolls – in 1947, a Bedouin shepherd discovered jars  containing seven ancient scrolls. Over the next 20 years, fragments of some 800 more were found in 11 caves and the nearby settlement of Qumran was uncovered. The scrolls date to between the 3rd century BC and AD68, with some containing the oldest existing versions of biblical scripture. The main chamber under the dome, reached after passing through a long passageway with an exhibition on life in Qumran, contains a facsimile of the Great Isaiah Scroll, the only biblical book that survived in its entirety. Its 66 chapters were written on strips of parchment, sewn together to be 23 feet. one of the display cases contained part of the real scroll.

On the Shrine’s lower level, is the 10th century Aleppo Codex, the oldest complete Bible in Hebrew.

We had some time remains so we spent about 30-minutes in the archeological section, and saw of the three Bronze busts of Emperor Hadrian (one is in the Louvre, and one in the London Museum), we Also saw Herod’s Tomb and a burial box with an ankle bone with a spike through it indicating additional crucifixions were more common than thought.


Posted in Jerusalem | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 3 Jan 28 -Jerusalem

Day 3 Jan 28

Good Morning!

I caught the early morning sun from the balcony of our hotel room! A new day! We were given a ready-to-hit-the-tourist trail time of 8:00 am! And even on the Sabbath!



View from Mount Scopus

View from Mt Scopus

After a buffet breakfast at the hotel (modified because of the Sabbath), we prepared to discover a few sites of the city of Jerusalem. We started with a visit Mt Scopus.  Behind us was the main campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as we stood on the overlook and gazed over settlements into Jordan.

Then we were off to the Mount of Olives, named for the olive groves that once covered its slopes. Between the Mount of Olives and the Old City is the Kidron Valley. Ancient rabbinic tradition holds that in the Messianic Era the resurrection of the dead will start here.

The cemetery in the foreground; Jerusalem’s wall in the middle ground.

Mount of Olives has been used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3000 years and has about 150,000 graves. According to the New Testament, Jesus visited the Mount  of Olives three times during the week before his crucifixion and it is also the place from which Jesus ascended into heaven. In 70AD the infamous 10th Legion (Legion X Fretensis) camped here during the bloody siege of Jerusalem. A few graves of note are Eliezer ben Yehuda, the Father of Modern Hebrew, S Y Agnon, Nobel Prize for literature, and Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin.

Olive trees in the garden of Gethsemane

After an orientation of some of the landmarks by Michal, our guide, we headed down the mountain to Gethsemane to see the church and garden, most famous as the place where Jesus prayed while his disciples slept the night before his crucifixion. Some of the trees in the garden have been carbon dated to the 12th century and some DNA tests have revealed that eight of them grew from cuttings of the same mother tree. The Church of All Nations, also known as the Basilica of the Agony, for the rock in the garden on which it is believed Christ prayed the night before he was arrested. A 4th century church here was destroyed in an earthquake in 747. Crusaders built a new one, aligned to cover three outcrops of rock, commemorating Christ’s three prayers during the night. It was consecrated in 1170 but fell into disuse after 1435. After excavations in the early 20th century, the present church was designed by Antonio Barluzzi and built in 1925 with funds from 12 nations, hence its name and the 12 domes bearing the national coats of arms. In the center of the nave ringed by a wrought iron crown of thorns is the rock of the Byzantine Church. The mosaic in the apse represents Christ’s agony, while others depict his arrest and Judas’ kiss.

Inside the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu

We proceeded through Kidron Valley – or Valley of Josephat, which runs between the Old City and the Mount of Olives – to Mount Zion to visit the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu. This church commemorates the traditional site of St Peter’s denial of Christ, fulfilling the prophecy “Before the cock crows twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.” Built in 1931, the church looks modern but in the crypt are ancient caves where Christ is said to have spent the night before being taken to Pontius Pilate. The caves cisterns are what remains of the High Priest Caiaphas house/estate. There is a golden Rooster on the sanctuary roof and we took notice of Byzantine era mosaics found during excavation. As we stood on the terrace and gazed across the valley to the Mount of Olives, we were startled by gunfire coming from the Silwan neighborhood below. News reports indicate that a 13 year old terrorist armed with a handgun hid between cars and waited for a group to walk by. He wounded a father and his 22 year old IDF son who, though suffering a chest wound, was able to wound the attacker.

Sculpture of olive tree – Gift from the Italian people placed in the Hall of the Last Supper

We visited the Cenacle, also known as the Upper Room, in David’s Tomb, traditionally held to be the site of the Last Supper. David’s Tomb is one of the most revered Jewish holy sites, but it was incorporated into a mosque by Muslims who consider David a true prophet. Today the entrance hall is still used as a synagogue, with separate seating for men and women. From the 4th to the 15th centuries, the tomb was associated with the Pentecost and the death of the Virgin Mary. According to tradition it was here that Christ washed the feet of his disciples after the Last supper.

We enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant located in a pilgrimage hotel/church complex called Notre Dame.  The buffet had assorted foods – a bit of something for everyone.  Afterwards, we returned to our hotel, the King David, with a free afternoon.  Dinner tonight is on our own!

We walked through Blumfield Garden, a park near the hotel.  We stumbled on Montefiore Windmill, a 19th century windmill that was one of the first structures outside the walls of the Old City.

We strolled down to The First Station, a hodge lodge conglomeration of fast food, eateries, shopping, bars, etc. set on the footprint of former traintracks and train shed, warehouses similar in design and structure to true industrial spaces. We found the Culinary Workshop, a meat lover’s dream.  We started off with bacon wrapped shrimp with sour cream and balsamic vinaigrette on toasted pita triangles – sort of like nachos.  Mike went for smoked brisket served on a cutting board with coleslaw.  I decided on a burger and couldn’t eat but half!


Posted in Jerusalem | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Day 2 – Jan 27, 2023 Israel

We woke up to breakfast, lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry orange blossom syrup, served with fruit and yogurt.  Arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport and transferred by bus to our hotel  in Jerusalem, The King David. During our afternoon on our own, we took the time to revitalize ourselves after our journey by taking a quick shower and joining in on a 1 hour tour of the historic hotel.

King Size Bed

Bathroom with double sinks and huge vanity

Our room is lovely and spacious. Bathroom has both tub and separate shower. And is roomy enough for the two of us. Large windows with a small balcony overlooking the grounds provide a lot of natural light. The high coffered ceilings add drama and make the room feel more spacious. We have a wall of closets and shelves to store our clothing, far more than we need. We also have two comfortable lounge chairs in our room – and, if we were so inclined we have enough floor space to dance. Upon check-in, there was a bit of a hiccup – our keys didn’t work, but it was easy enough to get a new set.

The Reading RoomThe King David Hotel was built in 1931, and floors 5 and 6 were added in 1958. We visited the Jerusalem Suite where heads of state have stayed. It had great views of old Jerusalem, a conference room, an entire room for a treadmill, a living room, a bedroom, and a his and her bathrooms! It is protected by bullet proof glass.

We visited the Reading Room where the table is kept upon which the accord was signed. We climbed up to the roof to check out the old city walls and the scenery. After a short break, we met the other group members and walked to a nearby restaurant Deja Bu for dinner. It was good time to get acquainted and enjoy a meal.  On the way back to our hotel, I snapped a photo of Jerusalem’s YMCA.  The to bed, since tomorrow starts at 7 am!

The YMCA in Jerusalem. I think Mathews YMCA is due a renovation!


Posted in Jerusalem | Leave a comment

Day 1 – Flights to Israel

Day 1  January 26, 2023 Fly to Tel Aviv overnight flight.

Left Richmond VA and flew to Newark, NJ – though a bit late. Our crew needed a longer layover to conform to FAA guidelines, so we left about an hour later than scheduled.  Since we had a long layover in Newark, we were not in danger of missing our non-stop flight from Newark To Tel Aviv.

We decided to check out United’s new Polaris International Travel Business Class Club. It was very swanky. We decided to get lunch there instead of fast food at the food courts. I had baked cod, roasted winter vegetables and spinach salad.

View out the window

We left a bit early to get to our gate and go through the auxiliary security check at the gate. They searched our carry ons and wanded us front and back.  There was a short wait at the gate while the caterer loaded food and drink on the plane.  We had upgraded to business class so we were in group 1 to load.

Mike enjoying his business class seat

Mike enjoying his business class, soon to lay flat seat

Aboard the plane, our business class seats were great. I had a window seat, Mike across the aisle – so we both had aisle access.  The flight from Newark to Tel Aviv would be 10 hours and 55 minutes and we will land tomorrow around 9 in the morning.

My flight attendant, Scott, started me off with a glass of Prosecco, a glass of sparkling water, and bowl of mixed nuts.  For dinner I had selected turbot, with asparagus, gooseberries, and cauliflower and rapini croquettes. It was accompanied by a spicy soba buckwheat noodle salad.  As dessert, I selected ice cream with chocolate fudge topping and brownie crumbles.  Once finished, I flattened my seat and got set up to try to sleep as long as possible.

Ice cream dessert


Posted in Jerusalem, Newark, NJ, Richmond | Leave a comment

Croatia October 3, 2021

Headed home!

We got up this morning at our usual time of 7:00, showers and headed for breakfast.

We departed La Perla at 9:00 and were picked up by a Mercedes van arranged by Vantage as part of our package, headed to the airport in Dubrovnik.  At the airport we met up with Paolo who walked us through the checkin process. We then walked to the UAL counter and checked our bags, we had uploaded the results from our Covid Antigen test yesterday so we were good to go.

We cleared immigration and security and we’re now sitting in the United Business Lounge awaiting boarding at about noon. Were flying from Dubrovnik to Newark NJ where we will clear immigration and Customs and board a flight to Richmond arriving at 8:30 and then drive home.

When Mike entered this post, he did not realize the frustrations that this travel would bring.  First of all, his boarding pass from Dubrovnik to Newark was marked “SSSS,” which stands for Secondary Security Screening Selection.  It is supposedly, a random selection – but it has happened to him before. So, as they scanned his boarding pass, a Security agent came over, took his boarding pass and passport, isolated him for special screening.  I won’t tell you what that entailed other than he was not happy.  They were checking another man at the same time. They handed Mike a passport and boarding pass – not his! But, the other gentleman was no where to be found. Luckily they were on the same flight. Meanwhile, I am settled in on the plane and I hear the flight attendant paging Michael Rohde.  Shortly, a flight attendant walks back to Mike’s seat, looking for him. I told her he was pulled out for special screening and she incredulously asked me how she had his passport and boarding pass. Like I would know how that happened! It gets straightened out, but the flight attendants have taken dinner orders and, when they finally check in with Mike, his first choice is not available. Now he is angry.

The impact of that SSSS stretched across the Atlantic to Newark. We used Global Entry to get through Immigration, Customs was a breeze after our suitcases finally showed up.  We rechecked them on to Richmond. Unfortunately, we had to go through TSA security check point before continuing on to our connecting flight. That insidious SSSS had voided TSA PreCheck for Mike, meaning he had to go through the regular check point: remove his shoes and belt, power up the airbook, etc. Now to most of us, removing our shoes is not a big deal, but TSA has removed most benches and places to put yourself back together. Mike needs a bench to get his shoes back on. And, we had a short layover in which to get from Terminal C to Terminal A, in an airport where NJ has failed to improve the HVAC and it is as hot as Hades. As you can imagine, not a good scene at all. Luckily we made our flight to Richmond and were able to drive the hour and a half home.

We got home to Morgan doing zoomies around the living room! So happy to see us!

Posted in Dubrovnik, TSA, United Air Lines | Leave a comment

Croatia October 2, 2021

The harbor at Cavtat, Croatia

We left La Perla before nine and boarded our bus for Cavtat. At Cavtat we caught up with Paolo for a walking tour. The bay here is very well protected cut back into the shore and protected by three islands near its mouth: St Barbara, St Peter, and St Mark. Remember: the majority of Croatia’s citizens are Catholic. The town is home now to only 2500 people. It is the last town in southern Croatia (Montenegro is less than 30 minutes south) and serves as the administrative center for the area. The bay itself ranges from 3 to 30 feet deep and is bordered by a palm lined promenade with shops and restaurants.

The palm lined promenade at Cavtat. The palms are closely monitored since they are under attack by weevils who weaken the trees until the tree dies.

As the southern entry point to the Adriatic, it became a significant trading point for ancient Greeks. In 168 BC, Cavtat was taken over by the Romans. Since the residents pledged their allegiance to Julius Caesar, it was a peaceful takeover and Caesar granted them the title of a Roman Colony, affording them status and a certain degree of autonomy.

When the Slav invaders came, they flattened the town and eliminated any vestiges of the Romans. At that time Cavtat had 40,000 residents, only 8 families survived and as refugees they moved up the coast to develop Dubrovnik.

Water polo is a big sport and we were fortunate to spot a match during our visit. As we walked by the bay, Paolo pointed out that the sea urchins protect themselves from the UV rays of the sun by hiding under shells and pieces of stone. May tourists think the male sea urchins are decorating themselves to attract females or that the females decorate themselves with “jewelry.”  These sea urchins thrive where the waters are very clear and clean. So they are a good sign for swimming, but can be difficult if a swimmer steps on them.

Paolo shared a tidbit that Yugoslavia was one of the first countries that opened to a nudist colony. In fact, King Edward 8 and Wallis Simpson asked for permission to swim and sunbathe nude during a visit here and, of course, it was granted.

An original tile roof

We passed a structure with a brownish tile roof. Paolo explained that it was one of the original roofs of clay tile.   The tiles are usually 10 inches long, weighed a lot, and made by potters in Dubrovnik in medieval times.  Usually the potter shaped the tile over his thigh, resulting in its curved shape.

Franciscans were sent in 1427 to convert population to Catholicism. Over time they constructed the Monastery of Our Lady of the Snow, so named for a legend about it snowing in August. The complex is cloistered, one story, and rectangular with a church in the eastern end and a garden in the north wing. A cistern was built in 1878 for the use of sailors. The roof was currently being replaced.

Pine trees were planted to replace the vineyards killed by the phylloxera epidemic, introduced by botanists from Victorian England who collected specimens from American vines in the 1850’s. Europe and especially France were hit very hard.

As we walked around the peninsula, we saw a huge boat belonging to a Russian businessman who owns or used to own the Chelsea soccer team. He supposedly  paid 610 million dollars US for it, but it was not, in my opinion, a very attractive boat. It did have a huge “garage” to house his toys like runabouts, jet skis, etc. So maybe its attractiveness was its functionality.

Ivor, whose family owns the mills and his helper in traditional garb.

We left Cavtat and headed a bit farther south to Gruba, where we met Ivor whose family has owned an old mill for generations. We were greeted with a snack of figs, sweetened orange rind, and almonds accompanied by various brandies. I tried the loquat brandy: it was sweet and scrumptious. They also had walnut brandy, grappe, and cherry brandy.

The mills were built in the 16th century to harness the power of water to make daily life in the countryside easier. At one point there were 10 mills for grinding corn and flour, a few used in the process of making olive oil, and a few for fulling wool (the process of beating it to compress the fibers into a tighter weave.) Use of the mills ceased in 1965 but between 20 and 15 years ago, Ivor’s family reconstructed two of them by fabricating new wooden parts to make them operational.

After touring the mills, we were afforded a lunch of ham (prosciutto) and cheese, warm bread baked under a steel dome and wood fire, and, of course, local red or white wine.

Then, back to La Perla to prepare for our farewell dinner and to prepare for tomorrow’s departure.

Posted in Croatia | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment