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Trip Report Israel and Jordan as a winter break

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This is a trip report describing a two week vacation in Israel and Jordan (one week per country). I traveled solo. My reasons for going centered around a strong interest in and fascination for the Middle East, and wanting to try out the Hebrew and Arabic I had been learning casually for the past few years. I considered myself a 'budget' traveler, in the sense of not staying in high-priced hotels or eating at very expensive restaurants, but I guess everyone's definition of budget is different. I'll describe my accommodations, which included small hotels, B&B's and one stay at a Bedouin camp.

A lot of people suggested taking tours, and I considered this for the security and camaraderie that a tour would provide. Despite the concerns of friends and family, all the research I'd done suggested that Israel and Jordan were safe places. My biggest concern as a solo female traveler was being lonely or bored. However, in the end, after looking carefully a few options, I decided to take one three day tour of northern Israel, where it would be hard to get around from place to place without renting a car, and otherwise plan the trip myself. I chose to travel in November because airline prices were favorable, and it avoided the heat and peak travel times of August or September.

Flights and the Zurich Detour

I got economy tickets on Swiss, going from Boston to Tel Aviv. In my opinion, this is one of the better airlines for coach travel. I deliberately sought out a ticket with a long layover in Zurich so that I could get the chance to see the city. We landed in Zurich in the morning, and I had the day to explore the city before boarding the night flight for Tel Aviv.

On landing, I took a quick shower in the airport, got a one-day Zurich Pass, and left my luggage at storage. This actually took a while, and it was about noon by the time I made my way out of the airport. Zurich was fun, although I found the trains and the German language (which I admit I didn't prepare for) confusing. I had to ask for assistance quite a bit and the language barrier was an issue, but people were quite helpful. There was a train which went up to a mountain top called Uetliberg where there was a good view of the city below. I marveled at how clean and comfortable the trains were. Later, I went to the Swiss Museum, free on the Zurich Pass I'd purchased, but was surprised to find they wanted me to leave ALL my bags in the lockers. I was fine with leaving my backpack, but they also insisted I couldn't carry what I considered a small shoulder bag. (Tom Bihn's Co-Pilot). As this was the beginning of my trip, and all my most valuable things were in the bag, I changed my mind shortly after checking it, retrieved it from the locker, and left. The museum worker was very apologetic, and all in all it was a shame I never got to see the museum, but I didn't want to take the risk, however small, of losing my things.

I'll admit I was pretty tired by that time anyway, from not sleeping much on the flight the night before, and decided to just relax and not run around trying to find any other museums. Also, to be honest, I was so focused on the Middle East part of this trip that I was not as curious or enthusiastic about Zurich as I might otherwise have been. So I walked along the city's river, which cuts through a nice section of town, and made it to the Lake, which is within the city. This turned out to be an enjoyable stroll, and offered the opportunity to stop in a cafe for a coffee and apple pastry, and try to figure out the correct tipping procedure for Zurich. As a Bostonian I could have stood there all day, watching the way the cars, bicyclists, pedestrians and trams all co-existed so peacefully. I was amused to see the cars actually stopping at the red lights, and the lack of jaywalking. Weird. As evening fell, I started making my way back to the airport.

If I had to do the one-day layover again, I would have: (1) Carried a short list of German phrases, (2) Pre-printed a map of their somewhat confusing train lines, and (3) Budgeted a little more money. Really, if I go back to Switzerland, I'd probably try to take some more time, but this was still a worthwhile experience.

I was pretty tired by then, and the tiny but strong cups of European coffee I'd consumed didn't let me sleep on the plane. The flight landed in Tel Aviv at 3am. I was a little worried about getting through Israeli security, but after a few brusque questions my passport was handed to me and I was able to retrieve my suitcase and find a cab. I'd been wondering if I'd need to communicate with the cab driver in Hebrew, but it turned out that he and the dispatcher both spoke perfect English. Throughout my time in Israel, this was the case, and while this was convenient for me and made it easy to get around, it didn't help my language skills!

My first destination was the Eden House Boutique, a B&B in the Yemenite quarter of Tel Aviv. I had booked this hotel with the idea that I'd need pampering after the long flight, and it was truly lovely! The bedroom was tiny but had some charming little touches, and was surprisingly soundproof. I didn't think I'd be able to sleep but laid down for a few minutes, and woke up hours later, as if from a coma. One of the hotel's touted features was a free breakfast, which was voted 'one of the five best in Tel Aviv". So I hurried downstairs to check it out. And yes, it was a great breakfast!

I'll continue the trip report with my day in Tel Aviv and the Northern Israel tour.

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