The last 24 hours have been crazy but that is always the case when we travel internationally. We woke up yesterday morning at 3:30am to be out the door by 4 o’clock. We had a long drive ahead of us to make it to Miami International Airport by 9:45am.We would be flying El Al Airlines (the Israeli national airline company) which meant that we would be thoroughly vetted and questioned before being allowed to check our bags and head to TSA security. I was (am) thankful that El Al airlines takes such amazing steps to ensure the safety of their passengers and crew.
However, when it came time to board the plane at noon, I was given the third degree by the gate attendant. Apparently, I have changed a lot since my last passport photo and she could not tell it was me. In other words, I am older, fatter, and blonder than when I had my passport picture taken. Lol!
The flight over was fairly uneventful. No major episodes of turbulence or crazy landings to report this time around. Since El Al uses former fighter pilots to fly their planes, I was hoping we would not see any major issues on our flight. Coming through customs once we arrived was a breeze and before we knew it, we were standing on Israeli soil,
We were ushered onto our bus and since we had arrived in TelAviv at 7:00am, we would need to kill some time before being allowed to check into our hotel, Dan Panorama. So, our incredible Tour Guide, Harrison, showed us around the old city of Joffa and the port there that serves as the scene for the story of Jonah and the Whale.
We drank an Israeli espresso (YUM!) in a little cafe overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. We meandered down some old sandstone streets and toured the older parts of the city. It felt a little like parts of Italy, with the small streets and alleys.
Once we were allowed to check-in at the hotel, we wanted to get cleaned up. We were feeling a little grubby from the plane ride and needed showers and clean clothes. I went to use the hotel hairdryer after my shower and burned off a good bit of hair. Needless, to say… I think I might be air drying my hair the rest of the trip! 😉
We decided to walk down to the beach and stroll along the promenade. The beach here is lovely although there is major currents in the water and some awesome waves… perfect for surfing! We decided to stop at a beachside cafe and grab some beverages and hummus. While we were sitting enjoying the view and our snack, a young couple salt down at the table next to us and lit a joint… so, apparently that is legal here… it was crazy! The joint itself was as fat as a cigar and Jared called it a hog leg. They were making no attempts to hide it. It was a weird thing to experience, for sure!
Once we had gotten enough of a contact high (just kidding!) we wanted to walk around TelAviv. One of Jared’s clients had recommended a fountain that we should see, the Agam Fountain. This fountain combines fire and water to create a beautiful display of the elements. We walked FOREVER and finally found it only to realize that it was shut down for repairs. It was time to cut our losses for the day and go take some naps before dinner and orientation tonight. We are getting dressed to head there now. Apparently our dinner buffet will be insane! It will be followed up by orientation and mass. Our group has more than 300 people on this tour with us, so daily masses will be huge!
I’m calling it a day for now… we check out of Dan Panorama at 7am tomorrow to head north towards the sea of Galilea. I’ll share more then! Love you all!