Thursday, February 16, 2012
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
With so much to see and do in Jerusalem, one can easily be overcome. To make the most of your visit to the Holy City, follow my travel bible.
1. Plan to spend several days in Jerusalem. On Day One, wander without a map and without an agenda. It is only by navigating the maze that is the Old City that you will learn how to get around.
2. If you want to access the Temple Mount, and are not a Muslim, visiting times vary (but are usually restricted to three hours in the morning and one in the afternoon). The site is closed to visitors on Fridays and Saturdays. Non-Muslims are not allowed in the Dome of the Rock (see photo) nor the Al Aqsa Mosque. The main security entrance to the Western Wall is also the main entry point for non-Muslim Temple Mount visitors. The line for the Temple Mount is on the far right-hand side of the sidewalk. As the line moves slowly, get there at least 30 minutes early.
3. The only time to see the interior of the 12th-century Church of St. James in the Armenian Quarter is at 3 PM daily, when religious services are held.
4. Try to time your visit to Jerusalem so that you are there at the start of Shabbat. The Jewish Sabbath starts at sundown on Friday night. And that's when the Western Wall is transformed. Thousands of worshipers come to celebrate, commune, and pray. Do note, if you do come to the Western Wall area on the Sabbath (between sundown Friday night and sundown Saturday night), you are not allowed to take photographs.
5. If you can’t visit during Shabbat, go for a Monday or a Thursday. Those are the days reserved for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs at the Western Wall. So again, you have a hub of religious activity and fervor.
7. Go down below and explore the tunnels under the Western Wall Plaza. A 90-minute tunnel tour reveals hidden layers of history, including large blocks of the Western Wall. Advance reservations are required, but they can be made the same day.
8. There are several hostels that were originally designed to lodge pilgrims to the Holy City. Today, whether you are a religious pilgrim or merely a curious one, you can stay for a song at places like the Lutheran Guesthouse; the Austrian Hospice (complete with a café serving Viennese treats); and the low-budget Armenian Hostel (located smack dab on the Via Dolorosa). Or choose from two dozen other Christian guesthouses.
9. Like any crowded city, if you look like a tourist, you will be a target for hawkers and potential “lovers” (particularly if you are a Western female). I find that walking purposely, dressing modestly, and using abrupt, dismissive but polite no thank yous in the native language fend off most unwanted advances.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
For those of you who watched my Travel Love Guru segments on television this week, here are links and information for the getaways and gizmos mentioned.
Valentine's Day/February Romantic Getaways in the Mid-Atlantic Region
Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay
The Four Seasons Baltimore
Colonial Williamsburg Romance Getaways and Historic Homes
The Goodstone Inn
Gizmos and Gadgets
Instead of paying inflated prices for a bottle of wine during your Valentine's Day getaway, BYOB and inflate a Vinnibag. Its compressed air chambers will keep packed bottles intact and packed clothing dry. $28
If you are rolling in a carry-on, you can't get more stylish than this bag from the performance-driven Tumi Ducati Evoluzione collection. $545 at www.tumi.com or Tumi stores.
Looking for a little his and hers action this Valentine's Day? What about matching high-end Royce Leather travel accessory bags? Made with fine grain Nappa leather, both versions have a waterproof lining and separate zipped compartments for liquids. His comes in black and tan ($115) and Hers comes in pearl pink, blue, green, and black ($95). Look for them on Amazon or at Brookstone stores.
A less expensive his and hers option is this red High Sierra Pack-N-Go Duffel . The duffel doubles as a backpack, and its carrying case transforms into a toiletry pouch. It's available at luggage stores and many major retailers, including Macy’s. $25-30
These little lunch carriers by KoKo will drive any girl cuckoo or to coo-coo. Adorable exteriors are teamed with insulated linings to keep hot things warm and cold things cool. And what else is cool--each bag comes with its own matching cutlery set. $20 For store information, go to www.cosmoda.com. In Washington, DC, Koko products can be found at Frager’s Hardware (Capitol Hill), Home Rule Inc (14th Street, NW), and Johnson’s Florist and Garden Center (Upper NW).
Finally, for something cozy and soft, the SeV Chloe Hoodie, lined in hot pink, will warm any woman's heart. Features include plush fleece cuffs with thumbholes and a dozen no-bulge pockets (with one especially designed for lipstick and another for an iPad). It's available at www.scottevest.com for $90.
Sunday, February 5, 2012
I myself am certainly not immune to travel-induced crazy (see right). However, I will plead the Fifth in terms of the specifics of my own deviant behaviors while on the road. After all, my journalistic integrity and objectivity must not be questioned. However, I should very much enjoy hearing about yours. Not, I should emphasize, in a voyeuristic sense, but merely as a journalistic/academic exercise. Now, I realize such a request is unlikely to yield results unless anonymity is protected. So, please feel free to use a secret e-mail address from which to share your heteroclitic travel proclivities.