A Travellerspoint blog


Our Last Blog

for this trip

94 °F
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We were awake this morning at 5 am, Miami time. We are about half way to changing to Eastern Time. We finished the "The Way of the Cross" blog and posted it. Then we left on our first leg home.

We stopped in Palm Bay, FL (just south of the Cape Canaveral area) and had lunch with a long-time friend, Kirk Casteel; he was the best man in our wedding. We enjoyed lunch with him and catching up with each other's families. Then we resumed our trip north.

We stopped at Costco for gas and supper in Jacksonville, and have checked into a hotel for the evening. Our goal is to be home by tomorrow evening.

A few general observations about our tour:
• Morning Star Tours and Moody Bible are both well organized and do an outstanding job. We would strongly recommend them to anyone looking to do a tour in the future.
• It was really nice to have multiple Bible teachers on the trip as it presented multiple perspectives rather than just one. Sometimes different teachers disagreed on specific points but it was very friendly and professional. They just presented their different viewpoints and let us decide which made the most sense to us.
• Arriving a day early was very beneficial as it provided time to catch up on our sleep and also gave a substantial time margin for flight delays.
• If we were to do a tour with such a packed schedule again we would probably add an extra day at the end to give a little time for recovery before we made the long trek home.
• Morning Star recommended that couples pack half of their clothes in each suitcase in case one gets lost. We forgot to do that and everything was fine, but one woman didn’t get her suitcase for 5 days and was very sorry they didn’t follow this advice.
• The food provided for breakfast and dinner was excellent and plentiful if a bit different from what we are used to. Breakfast was dairy and eggs only, no meat, and dinner was meat but no dairy to keep Kosher rules. Salads and cold fish (salmon, sardines, etc.) were available for both breakfast and dinner.
• Israeli security is very good, very polite and omnipresent. Since all Israeli citizens must serve at least 2 years after graduating High School and additional time in the Reserves, a significant percentage of their population are in the military at any given time.
• One of the men on our tour had a date without his wife’s knowledge. The next morning his face was all puffy and his eyes were almost swollen shut. Who knew that you could have a food allergy to dates?
• Israeli agriculture is amazing – everywhere you look are massive groves of almonds, dates, olives, oranges, peaches, bananas, and lots of things we couldn’t identify.
• Many of the historic places mentioned in the Old Testament are large (cities, hills, rivers) and have been found and validated but some of the places in the life of Christ are small (houses, gardens, etc.) and are less certain. What we realized is that the specific place is not nearly so important as what happened, wherever that place might be.
• Understanding both the Old Testament and the Jewish mindset is critical to really understanding the New Testament.

The things that stuck out the most to Dan (all of it was great but he had to pick 2) was understanding the history and geography of Cesarea, where Paul was held in Herod’s palace prison, and Cesarea-Phillipi where Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am,” within a stones throw of a super-center of pagan temples.

Sandy’s top 2 were Hezekiah’s Tunnel and Megiddo/Jezreel Valley. Hezekiah’s tunnel was an amazing feat of human perseverance to dig that much all that distance, as well as being a miracle of God for the two tunnels to actually meet in the middle. Megiddo has been destroyed and rebuilt so many times, we got to see parts of just a few layers. The Jezreel Valley, also known as the valley of Armageddon, is very large and very fertile, and it will be the scene of the last big battle on Earth. If I were to pick a third, it would be the northern part of Dan. It was so lush; I did not expect that at all in a desert country.

Thank you for reading our blog. I hope you enjoyed it and learned some things about the Holy Land and the Bible, as well.

Posted by dasafish 18:46 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Flight Home

a long day

94 °F
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It is now Thursday. We went to bed last night around 8:30 and got up this morning at 3:45am; that's 8:45pm on Wednesday at home. We were already packed, so we just had to clean up, dress, and put the last few things in our bags. We were downstairs waiting for our ride to the airport a little after 4:30. The hotel had a luggage scale at the bell hop (do they still call them that?) station out front, so we weighed our bags while we waited for our taxi.

As a Mercedes-Benz mini-van drove up, it was preceded by a taxi bearing the lady from Morning Star who managed our tour. That's dedication to show up at 4:45 am to make sure your clients' transportation goes smoothly. We were traveling to the airport with another couple from another bus, so we met for the first time in the limo as we were leaving. We went through a couple security check-points (these were permanent stations built on the road) between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. When we got to the airport entrance ramp, there was a set-up like a border-crossing checkpoint manned by both the police and the IDF (Israeli Defense Force - their military). The limo driver was told to pull over to the side, and the couple who sat in front of us had to present their passports. We were asked if we knew the driver (we didn't), and what our itinerary had been. I happened to have our itinerary memorized from writing this blog, so I rattled it off. That probably saved us 5 minutes of looking for paperwork we didn't plan on needing again. They asked a couple more questions and sent us on our way. We had been told we would be questioned a time or two at the airport, so it didn't bother us, much. ;)

A note about Tel Aviv: If you go looking for it on a Bible map, you will find it named Joppa or Jaffa. Actually, Tel Aviv is next to, but not on top of Joppa. Today it is the closest seaport and international airport to Jerusalem.

At the airport, we found our ticketing counter (on a different floor from the rest of the airlines). Just before we got to the security check point (their version of TSA), we realized the ticketing agent had made a mess of our boarding passes. We each got two, but I got one of Dan's boarding passes, and he got one of mine. After we got them straightened out, we realized we each had two boarding passes for our first flight, but none for our second flight, the one out of Istanbul. Dan took the boarding passes back and got them fixed.

After the security check point, we had to go through passport control; for those of us with RFID chipped passports, it was computerized and took less than 2 minutes each.

We went to the lounge (a nice added benefit for traveling business class) for about 45 minutes to wait for our plane to board. When we got to the gate, a couple minutes before boarding time, there was no plane! The plane was finally delivered to the gate and we left about 30 minutes late, but we had a long enough layover that we weren't concerned. The flight to Istanbul was mostly over the Mediterranean and lasted about 2.5 hours.

In Istanbul, we bought a couple gifts in the Unifree (dutyfree) shop and went on to the lounge there. We shared a couple bites of dessert - a baklava that was not as sweet as what we usually find in the US (I liked it better than the US baklava), and a pastry that had a flaky pastry layer top and bottom with a vanilla custard in the middle. It was very good, but the custard squished out when you bit it.

We then went to our gate and we had to go through another security check with separate lines for men and women; they looked in our bags, lightly patted us down, and swabbed our clothes and shoes with a chemical wipe which they tested for explosive residue. They also swabbed my computer tablet and wanted to see that it worked. We didn’t have to take our shoes off at any of the non-US airports.

The flight from Istanbul to Miami was uneventful, other than there being lots of “rocks in the road” (turbulence). It seemed like we spent at least a third of the flight with the seatbelt sign turned on. They fed us lunch after takeoff; it probably took 2 hours to go through it all, from the hot, steamed wash cloths, the warm salted nuts, the beverage, the appetizer, the main course, the dessert, the hot, steamed wash cloth. I’m not used to all that attention on an airplane any more, but it was nice! Then they made our seats into beds and the lights went out. Dan and I got about 3 hours of sleep, then we woke up and watched movies until the lights came back on and we were served supper (same type of routine as lunch).

We got into Miami at 7 pm, and in 90 minutes were done with passport control and customs, and had picked up our suitcases. We were at our hotel by 9 pm and were in bed shortly after that. We had been up for about 24 hours with only a 3 hour nap in the middle and we were beat!

Posted by dasafish 16:44 Archived in USA Comments (0)

There will be change!

sitting at Miami airport

View Israel on dasafish's travel map.

We've had a good day. We got a good night sleep and had a leisurely morning before hitting the road to continue on our way to Miami. We stopped at the Costco in Lake Park, FL for gas for the car and lunch for us, but realized when we got there that it was one of the few Costcos without a gas station. We ate lunch, did a walk through the store, found a gas station down the road, and returned to the interstate.

We left our car at the hotel we'll use the night we return to the US (Jun 6) and took the hotel shuttle to the airport. We got to the airport when we planned, 3.5 hours early, checked our bags, and were told our flight is 3 hours late! So we are leaving a little before midnight instead of a little before 9pm, and they had to change our connecting flight from Istanbul to Tel Aviv.

But God is gracious. We had decided to splurge and fly business class because the flight is so long, and it turns out business class passengers on our airline can use the VIP lounge on the concourse. So we are sitting in the VIP lounge with a window seat over the ramp, watching the baggage trucks zip here and there and the occasional airliner lumber in or out. They also keep a buffet going 24/7, free for guests of the lounge, so we will be eating supper here this evening as we wait for our flight.
Miscellaneous note of interest: All the announcements on this concourse are made first in Spanish by a native speaker, followed by a heavily accented English announcement.

Posted by dasafish 15:13 Archived in USA Comments (0)

A night in Ormond Beach

Florida's coast is hot but has a nice breeze!

Today we got up at 5am and were out the door before 6am. Traffic through Atlanta was amazingly light (for Atlanta). We heard on the radio that everyone would be on the road to Florida today for the long Memorial Day weekend, but we must have been out ahead of them. We hit very few slowdowns.

Breakfast was at a Waffle House south of Atlanta, and, of course, it's not a Fisher vacation trip without a Costco stop, so today's lunch and car fill-up were at a Costco in Jacksonville, FL. After gas, lunch, and a couple purchases (it's rare for us to leave Costco without buying something!), we hit the road for the St. Augustine outlet malls. We got in some good walking between the two outlet malls (one on each side of I-95), then continued south for Ormond Beach and the Sleep Inn there. We walked to supper to a nearby Japanese Steak House (Takeya?) - it was excellent!

I think I have my email invitation list mostly complete. If you find we have forgotten to give this blog address to one of our friends, would you please share it with them? Thank you!

I hope to blog a little from the Miami airport tomorrow while we wait for our plane, I hope to have more to tell you then. Good night!

Posted by dasafish 19:41 Archived in USA Comments (0)

We leave early tomorrow morning

an Expedition-style departure

Tomorrow we leave for our trip to Israel. We decided to drive to Miami, where we'll catch our plane to Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday about 8pm. Since we live north of Atlanta and are driving south, we are aiming to leave about 5:30am, trying to beat Friday morning rush hour. I refer to this as an "Expedition-style departure" because at Living Science, our middle school science retreat (Expedition) departs at 5:30 am to try to beat the morning rush hour as we transport 100+ students plus chaperone drivers through Atlanta on our way to St. Simons Island each April.

I'm headed to bed! Tell you more tomorrow.

Posted by dasafish 19:42 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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