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Trip Report Israel and Jordan Trip

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Just returned from a 16 night stay in Israel and Jordan having used Tours-In-Israel as our facilitator / tour company. This was a private tour with four adults and Yuval was our contact. We originally had Egypt in our itinerary but decided to cancel that when the protests began. We had worked for several months getting quotes, putting together the plan and then selecting TII. Yuval worked with us diligently once we selected him and then when we decided to drop Egypt and told him we wanted to expand our time in Israel and Jordan, and we revised our itinerary, he made it all happen even though we were close to departure. I'm not sure if we had been working with one of the bigger outfits that the changes would have gone so smoothly. Everything went off quite well and we were extremely pleased with everything. Arrived Thursday afternoon 03/03 settled in at the Dan Tel Aviv, had a great dinner around the corner at Raphael's and crashed for the night. Rooms at the Dan Tel Aviv were very good, more than adequate, breakfasts were great, and this was the most customer oriented major hotel we stayed at. Our guide Yankele picked us up at 8AM sharp and we were off to explore the northern Israeli coast, Haifa, Ceasarea, Carmel, Akko, and NaHaria, a very full day and we were back just in time for dinner at Manta Ray which was very good. Yankele was our guide for all our entire time in Israel and did a great job. Can't say we agree on everything politically or religiously but we agreed to disagree and we thought he was an excellent guide, a great person, someone we trusted implicitly, and felt he was a friend even after 9 days of being together (we hope he felt the same?)! Saturday being Shabbat we decided to be on our own so we slept in until 9ish and then we took the free walking tour of the Bauhaus architecture from 11AM -1PM which was very interesting. Grabbed some lunch went to Rabin Square then to the old port and a walk along the beach front back to the hotel, dinner was at Bistro Noa in Old Jaffa, which was good. Sunday we were off again at 8AM for points south, a drive to overlook Gaza, visit Beersheva, and eventually stopped for the night in Mitzpe Ramon at Chez Eugene. Chez Eugene is a small boutique hotel of 4 rooms with a restuarant. The rooms were spacious, king size beds, sitting area, large flat screen TV, hot tubs guite unique. CE is in a light industrial park so it was hard to locate and when we arrived we weren't certain what to expect from the outside but once we walked in it was just what it was advertiesed to be. The manager, waitress and chef were extraodinarily nice and we had a great evening and stay. Late in the evening we went star gazing with The Star Man of Mitzpe Ramon and it was an enjoyable experience although we had passing clouds which was somewhat disconcerting. After this late night we were off again at 8AM for a four hour 4X4 tour of Ramon Crater with our guide Boaz who was a stellar young man and we had a great tour and morning. A quick lunch back to CE to collect our luggage and we were picked up for a ride through the Negev to Eilat. This is a great ride and gives you perspective on the rough terrain of this part of Israel. Saw many military convoys as this was the time of the Egyptian protests and I'm sure they were on alert near the border. Many helicopters and a couple of checkpoints, certainly could only feel safe with this security. Stayed at the Dan Eilat for two nights and this was the most "commercial" and touristy of all the hotels we stayed at. The feel was more like Miami Beach or Las Vegas but the rooms and facility were very nice. Dinners were at Last Refuge and Eddie's Hideaway and both were very good. During our one full day in Eilat we tried to take in the bird sanctuary but that was a non event and so we went to the aquarium which was very nice. Took a couple of long walks along the boardwalk in the evenings and had some good ice cream. Wednesday morning we were picked up at 9:30AM and taken to the border to cross into Jordan. We were met on the Jordanian side by John of Nebo Tours who was contratced by TII for our stay in Jordan and who facilitated our entry into Jordan which went very smoothly. Our guide was Aladin 1 and our driver Aladin 2, no kidding, both were great, spoke perfect English (1 had been in England for 10 years and 2 had been in the US for 22 years). They were both excellent. Spent the afternoon in Wadi Rum, think Lawrence of Arabia, and did a couple of hours by jeep, very interesting and we thought it was a worthwhile experience. Spent that night and the next in Wadi Musa (Petra) at the Movenpcik which was very nice and right outside the entrance to Petra. Had dinner one night at the ala carte restuarant in the hotel and at the buffet the next evening, both were very good as was breakfast. Petra was incredible! We walked in 1.5 miles along the Sig to the Treasury - wow what a site, just awesome. Then we walked in another 1.5 miles to the city itself, and finally up the mountain a mile to the Monastery and of course we walked all the way back so it was an 8 mile day. Donkeys, carts, horses are all available for various parts of the trip if you don't want to walk it all, but it really wasn't too bad and we needed the exercise because all the food so far had been great. We were very careful about what we ate and drank in Jordan and no one got sick on the trip. We stuck to bottled water, beer, wine in Jordan and nothing that wasn't cooked. We ate bars we had brought for lunches so as to not have to take any chances outside the hotels which we felt comfortable with. In Israel we were less strict but bottle water was the usual although we eventually took a little scotch or vodka with ice and were none the worse for it, better I might say. As I said food was very good every where we ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The next morning we were off again at 8AM for Madaba, Mt. Nebo, and a tour of Amman along with the museums such as they were. Roads were all great and both Aladin's pointed out many extras along the way. Stayed at the Marriott in Amman and it was very nice as was the restaurant there where we had dinner and breakfast. Saturday morning we were off again early for several hours in Jerash, very impressive ruins and even the Israeli's say better than Beit Shean, and then on to Ajloun both of which we enjoyed, then to the border crossing for our return to Israel. This is a somewhat more complicated process but none the less not a problem. Israeli security searched our suitcases most thoroughly but such is life in this part of the world. Our one hick up of the trip happened when no one was at the Israeli side to meet us but this turned out to be a great experience. There were several guides there waiting for other groups, random people etc. and everyone of them offered to help us, made calls for us, and just couldn't have been nicer, it really made us appreciate their humanity if you will. In any event our transfer person had broken down so after a call to Yuval it took about an hour for a backup driver to arrive and we were then off to Rosh Pina. In the scheme of things a one hour delay in almost 3 weeks of travel was absolutely inconsequential. I should also mention here that Yuval checked in with us several times during our travels and was available when we called on this Shabbat after crossing the border. He was very tuned in to our concern about traveling in Jordan during the protests and he kept us apprised of the activities as did our Aladin's. We never felt in any way compromised or concerned for our safety, nor did we hesitate to leave our money, passports, etc. with Yankele or Aladin when necessary. In Rosh Pina which is in the Golan area near Zafet we stayed at a B&B, Posh Pina for 2 nights, and it was great. I had made these reservations myself with the owner, Shahar, who was fantastic. He was a great person and couldn't have been nicer and more accomodating. I'm almost afraid to say it but he even did our laundry for us, what a prince of a man. He called us cabs, made us brekafast and just couldn't have been nicer. The rooms were great with small kitchens, sitting areas, flat screen TVs, great views of Mt. Hermon, just wonderful. Our dinners were at Shiri Bistro and Auberge Shulamit and both were very good. Toured the Golan, a couple of kibbutz, and Zafet. On our way to Jerusalem on Monday morning we went through Tiberias, along the Sea of Galliee, a winery, etc. touring all the way, never any down time with Yankele which is the way we wanted it. In Jerusalem we stayed at the David Citadel which we liked very much, the rooms were excellent, quite and the staff accommodating. They did try to get us to upgrade our rooms, can't blame them for trying, but the standards we had had king beds, and were quite lovely. In Jerusalem we did all the stuff one is supposed to do, old city, new city, went to Masada and the Dead Sea, Kotel tunnel tour, Dome of the Rock, City of David Tour, 9/11 Memorial, Yad Vashem, Rachael's Tomb, etc., etc. Yankele knew his stuff and we saw it all, great experience. On Saturday the 19th before our late night departure we went to the Israeli Museum which was stellar, you could spend days there, don't miss it and the Dead Sea Scrolls. So this wraps it up but once I again our guides were all fantastic and gave us a great experience and understanding such as one can get in the short time we were there. And of course Yuval and his assocates at CTO made it all happen. Even though this was a private tour and we selected the hotels, handled our own restuarant reservations, specified the size vehicle (7 passenger vans), and indicated the route and sites we wanted it couldn't have happened without their facilitation, input, oversight and guidance. Yuval was as patient as Jobe with us as we planned and changed this trip and I would highly recommend him if you want to do this type trip. He also does group tours as well and I would have to believe would be equally as good. I have seen some comments about responsiveness and while there were times when I needed to send him a reminder he always came through and he always made it happen for us and I attribute this to his being a smaller operation so he doesn't have the staff support, but on the other hand you get personalized, first hand service and know who you are dealing with so I have absolutley no complaints and can only say again that everything happened just like we had planned it, couldn't have asked for anything more or better.

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