Tuesday, 30 December 2008

ISRAEL - Lovely people

Before we went to Israel we were terribly flippant and made lots of poor taste jokes about the Middle east Peace process. earlier this year, devoted blog readers (tee hee) will remember that we visited Iceland. During our stay the country suffered a massive earthquake, and shortly afterwards went bankrupt... what would be the effect of our holiday to Israel we tittered... foolishly!

While we were in Israel, we had the pleasure of meeting so many people, we were welcomed warmly into Yael, Mia and Romi's home (and Kester I suppose).. we were also invited to Shabbat supper at Yael's parents (see the last photo in this section) were we were treated to dishes cooked by Yael, her mum and her sister. we met and talked to cafe owners, Souk stallholders, Kester's friends, Yael's friends, Yael's colleagues, shopkeepers and so on. Everyone was totally welcoming and immensly kind. We always felt welcome, never threatened, always safe and never insecure as to the political situation.

It was with immense sadness that we read on our return from Israel, that almost as soon as we had cleared Israeli airspace the situation between Israel and The Palestinians had deteriorated, and that today the situation is more grave than it has been for many years. We all prayed at the Wailing Wall, and I know that some of those prayers were for peace in the region... I don't know if either side can be blamed for this situation.. it just seems hopelessly entrenched, and immensely sad.

Anyway.. a few of the wonderful people that we met on our travels . . .

From L to R .... The gruesome twosome of course, then my baby brother Kester, Mia kneeling down and Romi providing the bunny ears...

Can you guess what Jamie was drinking??
On Sunday 21st December it was the first evening of Hannukah (Jews celebrate their holidays at sundown the evening before the festival...) Romi lit the first candles on the Hannukiah. . .with her dad wearing a napkin on his head in lieu of a kippa..
In Rosh Pina they went on a procession of the town with the light . . .

On Monday evening we were at the Dead Sea and lit our Hannukiah in the hotel lobby. . .

Although we weren't in Israel for Christmas, Mia had kindly decorated us a tree, and with presents underneath, the cry of 'christmas now??' became somewhat familiar!!
Romi modelling some H&M clothes!

This chap did make me smile.. dressed in his traditional robes, having picked his herbs for lunch he walked into town, and then quickly called his missus to tell her he was stopping for a quick drink! The photographs of Israelis in their traditional dress were v disappointing, as I could not quite bring myself to set the shot up without trying to hide the camera up my jumper

possibly this lady here???

and last but not least Yael's parents, who were so kind and welcoming to us . . . . . .

Monday, 29 December 2008

ISRAEL - The Judean desert

The Judean desert . . . begins shortly after leaving Jerusalem, and at some point shortly south of our hotel becomes the Negev desert all the way down to Eilat. What a fascinating place.. no two views are the same... and I suspect that it looks different every single day as well.

The first photograph was taken from the back of our hotel.... at this point (7am) it was sunny, so the change later that day was quite a shock!
I think that this is my favourite photo of the desert... taken from the top of the masada.... It looks almost alien, how I imagine the surface of the moon to be . . .

This photo is almost identical to the first, but was taken just over an hour later.. the weather was changing very fast here... and the wind was really whipping up the sand. . .
as we drove away from Masada, we crsse dteh desert towards the new motorway to Tel Aviv.. At the time I did not realise that we were skirting Gaza, about 20km away at our nearest point.... Driving across the desert was awesome, made more so by the act that there was a (ok small) sandstorm.. and visibilty was prro, and sunlight very muted. My suitcases were on the roof, and may never recover.. they certainly got some very strange looks at Ben Gurion airport!

En route, we passed lots of Bedouin settlements.. these were all pictured at speed.. Kester is of the opinion that I can snap away at 90kmph.. and as we all know, ever still lifes can be tricky for me...
and the road what we took.. towards Hebron.. but not for long... thankfully. 24 hours after this photo was taken all hell broke loose in Southern Israel, and the Israeli army are busy bombng Gaza, not Hebron I knwo, but I am guessing that the situation is tense there. Israel is a beautiful country, with warm, friendly and happy people. While we were there I did not once feel unsafe, or threatened by the situation in any way. We, as a family wished that a peaceful solution could be found in the Middle East, but fear that this must be many decades away... such a shame...

ISRAEL - Masada

As I posted the Dead Sea last, it makes sense to move on to the Masada, pronounced Metzada. The top of the Masada is actually 33 feet above sea level.. about 900 feet from the ground. Its a large rocky plateau about half way down the dead sea and was built on the oders of Herod as a hideaway.. Lucky palace builders building such a palace (including swimming pools) 900 feet up an impossible cliff! Herod never even went there... However the site is known for the end of the Roman Jewish war, when fearing they would be captured and enslaved over 960 Jews committed mass suice rather than be captive slaves. As suicide is forbidden in the Jewish faith they drew lots and 10 killed all the rest, then one man killed the other nine, and then he alone killed himself. (So murder is OK then!). This place now represents the Jewish belief that they will never be slaves again.....

The Masada, as taken from the car park (which you will see again in a moment)and a view of the cable car and also the snake path, which if you have a spare hour, a few spare lives and decent arteries you can climb to the top.... the carpark is behind the palm trees at the bottom...
the view from the top was definitely worth the journey!.. it's the dead sea with Jordan on the horizon...
and the same view through one of the windows of what I believe was the commandant's quarters
Pretty Little Mia, trying to look a bit mean and moody at the Masada . . .
and the first of many group shots.. or the last if you were actually on this holiday... as this is almost the last thing we did together!!
This is a Tristram's Grackle (or Tristram's Starling if you want to be boring) It is only found in this part of the Middle East.. Southern Israel, Jordan and Egypt.. and is found around the dead sea and the Masada in large numbers... It was certainly loud enough to keep me awake.. although as previously mentioned this did not actually take very much!!

ISRAEL - The Dead Sea

So, where to begin with all these photographs of five wonderful days in Israel??? Every time I have sat down, the mission seems impossible.. what to chose. Anyaway I have decided to kick off with the Dead Sea, which ironically was one of the last places that we visited. We arrived early evening in the pitch dark... this was taken from my hotel bedroom (the Daniel at the Dead Sea.. really don't bother, it's not a great hotel.. there have to be better places to stay in one of the most awesome places on the planet. Also, THE lowest place on the planet.. we were 400 metres below Sea Level when this photo was taken.. and boy didn't my ears know about that as we made out descent! By the way, the lights you can see in the distance are Jordan... well a few houses in Jordan, not the whole nation at a small guess. . .

The next morning I woke up just before six before sun-up!.. much nicer view. . .
and then over the next hour I kept getting up and snapping much to the irritation of Tom and Jamie ... (did I menton the hotel was so crap I had to sleep on the floor as the bed was less comfortable that sleeping in a fridge.. a tiny one...)

I love the salt deposits around the rocky island. The further south you do the saltier teh Dead Sea gets, we were about half way down and about average saltiness

Just a couple of miles north, you can see the problems that Global Warming is causing in this region. Whole swathes of the Dead Sea are alwmost empty with just artificial channels dug to allow water to continue to flow. The river Jordan has been diverted for irrigation so much that in 20 years this amazing Sea may no longer exist . .

and on to the floating.... we all pathetically forgot the newspaper, and so had to resort to reading Tom's Arsenal programme!

and just a quick warning here.. you may wish to skip this last photograph.... but some people wanted proof that I was swimming outdoors on 23rd December!! although when I say swimming, I mean floating... and when I say floating really mean just sitting there . . .

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Israel - will post soon HONEST!!

I know, I know I know, it's been three whole days since we got back from Israel... and come on I had internet access (internittently) out there.. and yet not a single picture have I posted from our travels.... most unlike me!! Many many apologies.. but have been a touch busy since returning.. given that we arrived home early evening Christmas eve, with over 700 photos to sort through.. plus some funny day on Thursday (food, presents, family... very very tired....all a bit of a blur)

Anyway.. this picture is of East Jerusalem, and one of the first to have been jiggled... 689 to go.. but who's counting???

Sunday, 14 December 2008


How does it go??? Neighbours, Everybody needs good neighbours.....

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Doing the Lambeth Walk

The Southbankl between Westminster and Lambeth Bridges is a special place...I love the lights and have been trying to find a way to do the place justice.. not quite there but nearly . . . The first photo I owe to the TV programme Spooks.. Thanks MI5!!!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Trafalgar Square - Christmas Tree 2008

The Christmas Tree on Trafalgar Square is a whopper. It is given every year to the people of Great Britain, by the government of Norway in grateful recognition in the part played b our soldiers during the Second World War. It has become a bit of a people magnet and Trafalgar Square was as busy as it is at the height of the tourist season. . . This hampered the photographs I think (see I'll blame anyone!) . . .but here you go.. merry Christmas everyone, and thank you Norway

Caught in the Act!!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Santa race - Battersea Park 6 December 2008

More Ho Ho Ho s than you can shake a stick at.. what a lovely find in Battersea Park this morning... 2,200 Santas running 6 miles for Charity... lots of very puzzled children and one or two photographers getting in the way!!