Weekend Home – Wrap up for trip to Israel

I am finally home and enjoying time with my family… which includes boring them all to tears with my stories and pictures of Israel.   (I guess my trip story telling is not as exciting as actually being there…kids can be rough critics…)   I am going to rid myself of all of my desires to share my trip here… so in other words I will be boring all of you to tears!… (Sorry wished I could promise more… although there will be a weird picture or two)

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Ben loved the idea of a big “chess” game…  I showed this to him while video chatting.   I think he was more excited to see this than me.

I stayed at Herods in the city of Herzliya.  (I finally know how to say the name of the place) I want to share some pictures of my hotel… ya… I know… if you are like my children you are rolling your eyes. You can look at them quickly if this bores you too much.

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This is the garden in between the two buildings that make up the hotel. I love this hotel!!!  The first time I stayed in the one on the right and this time I stayed in the one on the left.   On the other side of both buildings you can watch the sail boats come in and out of the harbor.   (The water is on both sides of the building and also directly in front of this picture)

Umm… I know that I shared breakfast pictures last time I stayed but in keeping with my “bore you to tears” theme here it is again. This time I will share just a small subset of the amazing breakfast buffet. (Click here Trip to Israel (part 2) to see a more comprehensive view)

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I had fish every morning.   On the far left you will see the smoked salmon with a sign stating that it was salmon.   This is one of the only fish that I could recognize with certainty.   What I found interesting is that the rest of the fish didn’t have signs. I never knew exactly what I was eating.  I wonder if there were no signs because the cooks didn’t know what they were serving.

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I also ate some of the nuts and dried fruits but to be honest I mostly ate bread with the honey. There is something special about getting it from the honey comb and this made me want to eat it every day. (you can see the honey comb upright near the nuts and small jars of jam)

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And yes… I gave into the temptation offered by this part of the breakfast buffet. I do not think I have ever eaten so much desserts for breakfast in all of my life.   This might be my new favorite breakfast… pound cake, cheesecake, and halva!

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Near the hotel there are great beaches. I had only visited the one south of the hotel not realizing that there was a much larger/nicer beach to the north.  I had a goal to walk along the beach south all the way to Tel Aviv (16 km round trip.. here is a map) but I didn’t get the chance to do this… maybe next time.

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The harbor also has many restaurants and stores and is a fantastic place to wander around aimlessly.  I love watching the cats, people and boats (millions of stray cats everywhere… ummm millions might be a slight exaggeration) .  The food was fantastic as well.  Here are some pictures taken near my hotel at the harbor.

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If you look closely you will see some cats. One up by the orange sign was the only stray that looked… well like a stray… it’s face was mangled.   I avoided it.  The rest I had no problem being near and if you were eating they had not problem rubbing up to you under the table… eww just thought about the mangled one rubbing up against my leg. Even with pants it would be disgusting.  I would probably have to throw those pants away.

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My first night there we ate at the harbor at Benny HaDayag (the fisherman).  I was not really hungry but thought that I would get a light fish dish.  I ordered a Moroccan fish dish… I know… not very light but it sounded good.  I had no idea that the order included a bunch of other stuff.

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We had no idea that this was going to come.  I just wanted a small plate of fish.
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Here is my fish… it was delicious!

Ok… I am going to stop boring you… well not really…  I want to share some more random pictures… hopefully more entertaining.   I often speak of creating a “coffee table” book.(yes I am all talk no action).   Here is another coffee table book idea.  “Art crap you see by or in the road”… maybe too long of a title. I know, I could just call the book – “Roadside Crap”.

Here are some pictures for that book!

Ocean themed roadside crap!

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The happy blue whale!  This could only be improved by adding a “whale -spout” fountain
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Sea snail… kind of nice… well at least in the sunrise it looks kind of nice.

Military themed roadside crap:

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Old canon… umm… probably something historic?
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Dual function… art and protection!   They also added a fountain how beautifully scary.

Intimidating or unrecognizable roadside crap:

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Reminds me of my father when he would find out that I had done something wrong.
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umm… just don’t know…
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Big green thing?… um maybe an anchor?

Ok, enough of that… sorry if the pictures were blurred.  I took most of these through a car window while riding in a car. (that was redundant… I can’t imagine a case where I would take a picture through a car window without being in the car)  I have just a couple more pictures to share.

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This was the most confusing bathroom I have ever visited.  The outer signs showed that the entrance was for both men and women.  Once you enter the door you have a women right and a man right set of signs.   I am sorry I didn’t take any pictures inside but from there it got more confusing.

Herzliya 26There were two doors and in between the doors a “man | woman” sign.   I figured that the door on the left would be the man’s door and the door on the right would be for women… but I wasn’t sure.   I was relieved when I saw urinals and started to do my business.  I looked up and then noticed the same “man | woman” sign above my urinal.  What did that mean?  Was this a “unisex” bathroom?  and my biggest question… Can women use a urinal?

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I am not sure what this sign meant… does it mean I should run down the stairs?.  On the other hand I knew exactly what the following sign meant.   “Danger of Death”… much better warning than “Danger of Electrocution”.

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For those wondering, A colleague of mine asked if McDonald’s was the same in Israel.(This would be very important to Ben) My colleague was told that it is exactly the same. You never want to just blindly trust what people say…and luckily we didn’t have to eat there to validate this since I was able to find absolute confirmation!

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I discovered a new candy bar…   CORNY BIG…   (I have been called worse)
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This is one of Ben’s favorite.  Not only did he like the big chess game, he loved what he called “EGG CHAIRS”

For the end, I want to share with you a statue I saw at a park in Ra’anana.  I was not able to get a picture so I borrowed one from the internet… (I usually don’t do that…  on this blog the photos are always mine).

I post this not just because it is fun to look at but it also serves as a public service warning.   For those of you who have not enough reasons for avoiding the accordion here is one big reason that should dissuade you from playing this awful musical instrument.

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Thanks for taking the time to read me again.

 

Weekend and Work Travel (Part 4 – Caesarea)

Caesarea

This is part 4 of a one day site seeing visit to northern Israel (in the case you have missed part 1 – 3 here are the other parts)

After writing up all of this into blog posts and trying to only post a small subset of the large set of photos (about 600) I am realizing how much I was actually able to see in just one day.   (This is probably the huge advantage of visiting a small country so rich in history) I hope you have enjoyed these “touristy” pictures…because I really enjoyed being the “tourist”.

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Let’s finish all of this with Caesarea…  a city that was built by Herod in 22-10 B.C.   Herod named both the city and the harbor after Caesar Augustus…  (The port was named Sebastos which is Caesar in Greek).

 

The first place we visited was the theater.  I was surprised to learn that it is still actually being used for plays and concerts.  They have resurfaced the top of the seats but the rest is “kind of” in its original state.  I am trying to imagine going to a concert or play and on the way in passing actual antiquities.  You enter by a Vomitorium which is not what it sounds like… that is just what they called the entrances or exits.   I can’t imagine sitting in a theatre that dates back to such ancient times… very cool!

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Behind the theater is what I am going to call a “column graveyard”.  I am hoping that this is their way of showing what has been excavated and not the result of some out of hand rock concert in the theater.

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My favorite column top… The “sad lion” column. (not sure where this one fits in the classical Greek orders… Doric, Ionic, Corinthian… but it is my favorite).   Next we move to Herod’s palace.  He placed it between the theater and the hippodrome…   (Entertainment is important for men…kind of like have to big screen TVs on each side of his house).  There is not much left of his palace.   The materials were recycled into other buildings during later times.

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Here is the palace pool… wouldn’t expect anything less

On the plane ride over to Israel I watched Ben-Hur… so when I saw a hippodrome before me that movi’es chariot races came to my mind and I walked through augmenting all that I was seeing with what I had seen in the movie.  I would love to see an actual chariot race.  (I wonder if there was as much death and maiming in the real races)

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This last picture you can see the starting gates behind a statue that loosely resembles a chariot being pulled by three horses… (I can only imagine bringing someone back from that time and them saying what the heck is that…)  There was something also interesting about this hippodrome.  This hippodrome was covered over with pottery and rubble and another much larger one was built just a little more inland.   The excavators left a small square so you can see what they had to remove.

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Next… the port…   This port was almost completely washed away so you are only able to see what remains on the south side along with a crusaders tower.  I think that tower use to be a light house and was changed to be a fort by reinforcing it with parts of the surrounding buildings.  If you look closely at the picture (the building with the green naked guy in front of a building) you will see columns laid down in the walls.. .I imagine this was done to add strength.

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They were actively excavating the port’s vaults…   (….little shovels and dust brushes) I wanted to stay and watch the process but I was on a “whirlwind” tour… and well they were not doing very much at all.

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Here is the Nymphaeum… hadn’t heard of that word… so in my mind this was a small pool “stocked” with very pretty naked women… I am sure I have to be somewhat correct right?

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Another column graveyard…   lots of marble and granite… which all would have been imported (you can’t find either in Israel)

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This outer wall is the last picture I will be sharing on Caesarea.   This is where I caught the bus and headed off for the other locations I visited.   This is also the last post of my “site seeing” day…  I will have one more general post on Israel with my kind of pictures. (you know the weird ones)

Weekend and Work Travel (Part 3 – Acre)

Acre (Akko)

The secrets of the city above and the city below.

-some… Tourist Brochure

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Part 3 of my site seeing day is in Acre (Akko).   I “quoted” the tourist brochure because in Acre you will see an old city with an even older city buried below. (and because it is much more clever than anything I would have written)   The city below  is a preserved (brochure stated “perfectly”… but that is not completely accurate) Crusader city and you can witness all of the efforts that have been made to unearth it and bring it back to life.  You can also witness the influence of the city’s conquerors and their religions.  (Canaanites, Romans, Crusaders, Turks, and British)

I am going to try to offer a quick glimpse of the Acre through my pictures…  but I first I want to jump to my favorite place…   Latrine Hall

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I love this image…   “Ummm…. Are you looking at me?”….

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You will note that all of the toilets are placed in two rows… and the actual places you sit are “face to face”… kind of curious…but what I found even more fascinating… This “Latrine Hall” was were double deckered.  You are looking at the lower hall and there was a hall right above it.   Not sure I would have wanted to use the lower hall.   Oh ya… they used rain water to flush the waste down below into a large cavern… (This is a very dry place… and I imagine that their  “rain based flushing” was a very infrequent thing…   another reason not to use the lower hall)

Here are the rest of the pictures… hope you enjoy.

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Entry into the old city

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The fist courtyard is an amazing place to sit… not only because of it’s beauty but because of the shade

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This stairway was completely buried and if I remember correctly in 2000 they started to excavated this area

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From this new level (old city level) you can enter the buildings.   Entering these old buildings is amazing!   In the pictures you will be able to tell “original” from the new based upon how smooth the stones are.

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We walked a long tunnel from one hall to another leading to an ancient church.  This part is probably the only uncomfortable part of the walk… (especially if you are claustrophobic)

In these pictures you will note the Ottoman empire influence on the city of Acre… including a clock tower… not sure what the clock towers have to do with Ottoman but this is the second one that I have seen in Israel attributed to the Ottomans… the other one I saw was in Jaffa.

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That small island was called “Island of the Flies”…   wonder why?

 

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Lunch…. I had a shawarma…

 

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I will end with this tree…. look closely it is half embedded into the wall yet has a beautiful top…   fascinating!   I have one more post on my site seeing day in Israel… please come back.  (By the way Isabelle… Napoleon was unable to conquer Acre!!!)

Weekend and Work Travel (Part 2 – Haifa)

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I was told that in Jerusalem you pray… in Tel Aviv you play… and in Haifa you work. (I was kind of disappointed that it didn’t rhyme).   Haifa is the third largest city in Israel and this is a continuation of a single day’s worth of whirlwind site seeing.  If you haven’t read part 1 you can read it  at Weekend and Work Travel (Part 1)

I didn’t get to spend much time in Haifa… just 30 minutes and they were all spent looking down at the Bahai Gardens.   What an amazing site to see….  not only can you see the gardens but you have a fantastic view of the city and the port.  Before I share those pictures… here is one for my wife.

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This is not a great picture… but Haifa has an Ikea… (took this through the window as we drove by)

Now… to the Gardens… The Bahai gardens are known as the “hanging gardens of Haifa” These terraced gardens surround the Shrine of Báb.   When I was told this… I thought  it was the “shrine of Bob”…  a much funnier name.   I am not very familiar with the Bahai religion but I can tell you that their gardens are breathtaking.

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Here is the gate at the top of the gardens.  I could not get an unobstructed view so I took just the top part of the gate.   There is something intriguing about the white glass ball and the iron work around it.   Fantastic Gate!… I think this could be a new love affair… I am very fond of this gate.  (It was also awesome because our guide got in a huge argument with the guard at the gate… our guide left us while yelling… “I will not take responsibility for all of these people… they are adults…. You are all being insulted by this guard”)

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As you enter you view all of the “levels”…. and how the gardens are immaculately groomed.  You will also note the incredible view of the city below.   This would be an amazing place to have a drone camera.

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The gardens have really interesting places to explore and even share a romantic moment.  This couple was enjoying one of those “romantic” moments until they realized I was lurking in the back of this tunnel trying to take a picture of that “moment”

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Is it weird taking a picture of someone you don’t know who is taking a picture of someone else?… and would it be weirder if they didn’t’ know each other?  (I wanted to ask if they knew each other… but I talked myself out of it… would have been too hard to explain why I was asking)

It is getting late so I am going to share two last pictures and while I do that… I will be wishing that I was a better photographer… My pictures just don’t seem to do this place justice.

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Please stay near…. Part 3 will be coming soon!

Weekend and Work Travel (Part 1)

Get ready… (please insert your own sound of excited anticipation… if you have a sound for that… or…  a nice high pitched squeal or breathy gasp would do…)

Rosh HaNikra

As promised in the last post… I am telling everyone where I am.   For those of you who are not familiar with the above mentioned place or who do not recognize the feature picture…  I am in Israel!    I have returned back to the same hotel in Herzliya (Herods)  and will be here for the next week.

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ARRIVAL – Saturday evening sunset with my back to the hotel looking out at the sea…
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FIRST MORNING – Sunday morning sunrise view from my hotel bedroom.   I took this at 6:00 a.m. as I anxiously waited for the “site seeing” day before me. (we left 1 and a half hours later… and I honestly felt that I  had waited forever)

I will be working all week but fortunately have one day to get as much site seeing in as possible.   I will post this day in a series and this is the first part… Rosh HaNikra.   You know you are visiting somewhere awesome when you have no idea how to say the places name and when that name has an extra odd ball capital letter  “N” in the middle  of it.

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Israel and Lebanon border!… when the solder opened the gate several kids ran onto the Lebanese part and then quickly back.  They all claimed victory stating they just visited Lebanon.  I was soooo jealous… but I just could not do it… the guy opening the gate had a machine gun.

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Rosh HaNikra is right on the boarder of Lebanon and Israel (205 km from Jerusalem and 120 km from Beirut… can’t believe I dropped off the 2 and the arrow on the left side).  It is on the coast of the Mediterranean sea and has white cliffs with amazing grottoes!

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Here I am looking down from the top of the cliffs at a shoreline that is breathtaking… even the road on the left is interesting… love the way it is carved down into the rocks. (no mocking… I really do think the road looks cool).  If you think looking over a cliff is cool… Wait…  this gets much better…   We went over and down the cliff on a cable car that claims to be the steepest in the world. ( a gradient of 60 degrees)

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At the bottom the fun doesn’t stop not only do you get a better view of the water… and the white chalky cliffs…   there are “GROTTOES”.   (Grottoes…  what a an awesome word… much more manly than the word “caves”).   I loved walking through the grottoes and seeing the blues of the water contrasted against the white chalky walls.   As I looked closer the myriad of colors became more and more amazing.  Again I feel poorly equipped to offer descriptions that truly represent what I saw… So I am going to just share a bunch of pictures.  (Yes… less words… I am imagining you sighing in relief right now)

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The two guys in blue (matching… and I am sure it was planned) are co-workers… Let’s call them “Nate” and “Sean”…

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It is hard to pick out the best pictures… and not just share all of them.   (wished I could share all but I think I might have close to 100… a tad too many )

This is the end of part 1…  keep an eye open… (or browser) for part 2!

Home at last…(Cruise ends)

Sometimes good things have to end and so it is for my cruise with Isabelle.   Today I went to work and realized that I need a rest break after that vacation.  ( and no… I am not talking about a rest break from my wife… ).  Most of the cruise pictures were serious… and that is a little bit out of character for me so I wanted to summarize this “cruise vacation” with a series of weird pictures. (Hopefully they are weird… I lost the weird contest so I am worried that I am loosing my touch)

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The boat had lots of original art work… and several art auctions… Here is a fine example and although it is not on velvet… it should have been…  
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Here is more art… not sure why the eyes are x’d out… “Knock out his teeth”?   (That is mean)
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And you can see that the fun doesn’t end once the teeth have all been knocked out!!!  We have an artist who really hates clowns
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Speaking of clowns… doesn’t this vacuum look like it should be used by a clown.   By the way… isn’t the carpet horrible on the ship?
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There were lot’s of signs… my wife found this weird.   This was on the running track… but it was not the weirdest thing I saw while on the track.
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Is this a warning… or instructions for some weird tagging game.
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I noticed these evacuation stations. At first this looked fun… almost like you were sliding down an esophagus…
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Then the second sign showing the do’s and don’ts of esophagus travel… scared me.   This looks way to complicated and I can’t tell what the one on the left is doing wrong. 
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Speaking of danger… would you sit at a beach that had this sign?   A niece of ours recommended that we go to this beach in St. Martin.. stating that it is the best beach because  planes land and take off right next to it.  I think she might have something against us

 

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Here are more signs from the track…  They do everything to get you to spend more money… but this seems extreme stating that I had best spend it now… since I may not last

 

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It is good to know that you can’t dump garbage into the sea… You would think the sign would just leave it at that… but it had to list that there were “allowed” exceptions under MARPOL..  I had to look this up just in case I fell under the “exception” clause (sounds fun throwing things off the back of the ship)… sadly I don’t meet any exceptions…   Ironically certain Oil Tankers do… no sure that sounds right or fair.

 

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Speaking of garbage… this place doesn’t allow dogs that poo garbage.    And if that isn’t garbage… I really wonder what that dog ate.

 

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Who doesn’t love sheep with flags…  

 

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and canons that love you?

 

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Finally a sign that makes sure that one doesn’t forget manners when taking selfies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Naked in St. Martin

We arrived in St. Martin just at the same moment a storm was arriving.   I wondered if this would be the day that weather would not be in our favor.    The rain was beautifully annoying but it only lasted 15 minutes and the rest of the day we were roasted by the sun.  (I got a sun burn through my t-shirt… didn’t think that was possible… I can’t imagine what would have happened if I stripped naked… more about that later)

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We arrived early and we sighed in relief knowing that today nothing could go wrong with our excursion.    You will note that from the pictures the water was incredibly clear and the most stunning blue.

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We had an hour before our shopping/beach tour started so we visited the dock with all of its many tourist stores.  Isabelle found a shop that sells macarons and we decide on the way back from the tour we would buy some.  (ha… buy some at the end of the day… we are such novices…   there we none left by the time we returned)

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St. Martin is an Island divided by two countries… France and Netherlands.  We landed on the Dutch side (Philipsburg) and Isabelle wanted to make sure we visited the French side.  From this map you can see our tour plan.  We spent 1 hour in Marigot and 2.5 hours at Orient Beach.

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Our excursion tickets came with a warning that “some nudity may be observed”.  We ignored the warning since we have been to the beach many times in the south of France and have seen “some” nudity.   The warning is misleading… “Some” should be changed to “A lot of” and “may” should be changed to “will definitely”.  Before I talk about naked people I want to start with pictures from Marigot the capital of the french side.    We were fortunate to find a “boulangerie” where we bought a picnic for the beach.  Here are some pictures.

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Marigot is a small town but has lots of charm… Isabelle made me visit the mall… (That is not part of its charm)  Next we were off to the beach.  We were promised a free drink, two chairs next to the water along with an umbrella and finally free bathroom visits.   Who could ask for more…   in fact that was perfect.   Little did we know we would get much… much more..

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First of all the drink… watered down punch served in a small dixie cup was kind of disappointing but the beach looked amazing.   They started leading us down towards the water and I noticed the sign you see in the picture above.   I quickly took a picture and wondered what have we got ourselves into.   Someone saw me take the picture and  I got my second scolding for this trip… no picture taking allowed on this beach!   (No one can tell me what to do… I thought so  I slipped in a couple more… I will share them but they needed editing)   Isabelle was very upset but this time it was all her fault since she picked the tour.   I told her I was really disappointed that she would lead me into such debauchery… as I put on my sun glasses.

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We decided we would give it a go and try to ignore all the others.  We ate lunch and had a small “fully” dressed swim (fully dressed meaning in swim suits).   I think our shocking state of being in swim gear annoyed the local naturalists.   As we returned to our chairs we noticed that we were being joined by several naked men who decided to put their backs to the water and there… hmmm… I will use french… “zizi-s” to us.   I am not a prude but staring at a 70+ year old zizi  from a distance of 6 feet is not something I could take for more than 15 minutes.   There is good naked and this was not it… it was all bad.  We were stuck in some “bizarro world” where if you should be covered up you were not and if you had a body to show… it was hidden… plus there was some un written rule that you had to be over 70 to be naked.

I tried to close my eyes (I am sorry… you can’t help staring even at bad nakedness) and finally Isabelle said (quit loudly)  I can’t look at anymore naked perverted men… lets leave.  Fortunately the other end of the beach was family appropriate and while we didn’t have chairs we found walking down it much better than being stared down by old men parts.   I think we could have stayed where we were if it had not been for the three men who wanted to make sure we understood that they were naked.   I think they should make another rule… you can’t stand closer than 5 feet if you are going to point your “zizi” at another… especially some of us more “modest” beach goers… or jesh at least look at the sea…  I can ignore your bum.

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We left the beach 30 minutes before we had to be back on the boat. (we had no choice since we had to leave when the bus left)  I couldn’t wait to get back and take a long sanitary shower. (I sat in a chair that probably hours earlier was being sat in by some naked person)  I wished there was a way to somehow wash my eyes.   I don’t think I ever want to see a naked person again… (sorry Isabelle).   There is one bright side to all of this.  I am no long insecure about my own body… I realized there is much much worse out there.

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Here is the last picture.   We left port with a beautiful sunset and the captain blowing his horn… (He played the theme from the love boat with the horns… and I felt I had just lived some cheesy 1970s porno).   Isabelle was upset and went to customer service and complained that they need to warn people that the excursion was to a nudist beach. (she said had they included that in the description she would not have signed up). At first they didn’t believe that we were sent to a nudist beach and then when it was verified they started to laugh.  They made it better by refunding us our money…  (at least now we can say that we didn’t pay to see that… but I still think I need therapy)