Early Morning Walk in Jerusalem

I find myself back in Israel.  I have so much that I want to share with you… and so little time.   For this post, I think I will share with you some pictures I took early this morning while walking through the streets of Jerusalem.

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I did not go into the office today but decided to sneak away and visit Jerusalem.   Being a bit weary of traffic, I left very early  and arrived before all of the shops were open.  What an amazing time to walk the streets.     You can take time and look at the shops with their colorful doors and really appreciate the arches as you walk under them.  There is something magical about the way the columns of light make their way down illuminating the narrow walkways.   (that was such a nice sentence…I should stop with that…  but I can’t help myself… so here comes more words)

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I think in addition to all the aesthetics of this morning’s walk, the thing I appreciated most was not having people harshly telling me to move out of their way each time I stopped to take a picture.   That happened frequently after the crowds arrived and they were not using polite phrases like “excuse me” or “pardon”.  Worse I understood their insults.  You would hope they would at least have said those things in their native language. (That makes it so much easier to ignore)  Who ever said “names will never hurt” was not really listening to what they were being called.

EarlyMorningJeruselem6Here are the rest of the pictures I took during the morning time.   I have many more I want to share but I will do that in a following post.

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I have two more pictures to share and they the type of pictures I like…. weird.    The first picture has a sign that I thought meant “No tractors”.   I now, after almost being run over by one, believe it means “warning tractors”.   I could be wrong, but if that is the case, the person driving the tracker was just as wrong.

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The second photograph is well….

A men’s toilet taken from the street while looking in through the door.   I don’t often take these kind of pictures.  This time I was curious and not in the creepy way.  I just don’t understand what I was seeing on the right wall just through the door.    Is this a foot wash… some weird urinal… or maybe a squatting type of toilet?  I would love for anyone out there to explain what I was looking at.

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Please come back later this week.  I will be posting more pictures from my Jerusalem visit.

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Week in Westminster

This week I find myself in Westminster Colorado.   I am attending ÜberConf… and no this is not a conference for uber drivers.  (although an uber drivers  conference would have the most diverse and interesting attendees… just not sure what they would talk about}  When I started this blog I stated that I would not talk about work… (Oh the duplicity…).   I still will try to omit work details and just show some interestingly weird things from Westminster.

There is going to be a little bit of story telling as well… (sorry)

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My family and I are a bit sad that I am gone again.  I was sitting at the airport a little down and on a very “tense” conference call when I noticed that the coke I had purchased had my name on the bottle.    This made me smile… I took this picture… and then everything seemed much better.   Isn’t it strange how little things can make such a difference.  (Wonder if it is because I am an incredibly simple guy… or maybe I am just narcissistic)… oh ya… don’t tell my family that I stopped missing them after I saw that my coke had my name.

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I arrived early in Westminster and my co-worker suggested that we visit the “Butterfly Pavilion” near the conference hotel.   I thought this sounded like an interesting name for a lounge or bar and said sure.    It was neither bar, lounge, nor restaurant.   It is exactly what it sounds like… a bug place.

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One of the first things I saw were domino cockroaches.   Probably the only cockroach you could consider cute.  (Cute relative to other bugs… not “cuter” than my daughters Gwen and Hanna)

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OK… hmm (not sure that I should I write this).   In the museum they had a display that allowed you to smell…  well… smells.   They had tall smell holes and short smell holes connected for some odd reason.   When I saw someone use this smelling contraption for the first time I noticed that as they put their nose to the top smell hole… the bottom hole was positioned… well exactly at their… hmm crotch.   I initially thought this was some weird thing to allow weirdoos to smell themselves or a way to help you understand dog greetings without offending another person…. but nope…

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And they had bees… along with a bee counter. (not to be confused with a bean counter).   Most importantly… they had a large butterfly section.   It was in a very large net enclosed area with beautiful plants an of course a scary amount of butterflies.  There is something incredibly calming when you watch butterflies flittering around… well that is until you step on one.   You are not suppose to do that… but it requires much more attention than I initially thought.   (It was an accident… promise)  I thought I would have awesome butterfly pictures but after taking three or four pictures my phone died… (I immediately  regretted wasting batteries on the cockroach, smelling thingy, and bee pictures…)  Here are the butterfly pictures  I took.  (I didn’t take one of the dead butterfly on the walk way… you know… could be used as evidence)

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Our mission is to foster and appreciation of invertebrates while educating the public about the importance of conservation of threatened habitats in the tropics and around the world

Butterfly Pavilion Mission:

After this visit I definitely gained a appreciation for invertebrates… even the detritivores… Big word that I learned and I am going to just throw it out here like I know what I am saying.   The Butterfly Pavilion was earnestly committed to their mission statement insomuch that if just visiting didn’t foster appreciation…. they offered the chance to eat invertebrates with beer.

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I guess you will need several beers before you will be willing to eat some of their “unique, delectable dishes”.   (I wonder if they server butterflies…  I actually think I could eat one)… They also have an alternative for those who don’t drink alcohol…

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“INSECTIVAL”… kind of reminds me of “Festivus”…

OK… enough bug stuff… and a little bit about the conference venue… By the way this conference has a tag line of “no fluff, just stuff”.   I am not going to focus on the stuff… I will just share some of the fluff…. I found while being out and around.

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The hotel where the conference is being held is fantastic and has some amazing grounds. I have really enjoyed walking around during the breaks… (my fluff time).   While walking around I noticed that there are wild rabbits everywhere.   I think they should advertise this hotel as a “Rabbit Pavilion”.  The pictures below are just a small sample of the rabbits I saw… and no… they are not the same rabbit.  (Different sizes, colors and locations)

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LOTS of rabbits… I have a great idea I am going to go “sell” to this hotel

“BUNNIES and BEER”….

 

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Just Got HOME! (Last Pictures from Israel)

I just arrived home after a long flight.   I was fortunate (read that with sarcasm) to sit in the same row as two very large men.   I was by the window and every time someone would walk down the aisle, or bring the cart down the aisle, the two gentleman would have to squish into the row which crushed me into the side of the airplane.   This happened the entire flight…  twice while I was asleep… knocking the wind out of me.  Luckily the flight was only 11 hours (read that again with sarcasm).   I didn’t think that things could get worse but the very large man in the middle seat fell asleep on me.   When he finally woke up the left side of me was soaking wet with his sweat.  (wow I probably shouldn’t complain…   I am sure it could have been a little bit worse… you know like the plane going down and killing us all)

I want to share my last day with all of you.   I had hoped to have at least half of a day open to go visit somewhere cool… or even just somewhere other than work and the hotel.  Unfortunately I had too much work… or maybe it was not enough time… either way I was not able to go site seeing.   (I am going to just share my last day… next time I will make sure I have enough time… maybe even visit Petra)

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Here was my last breakfast…   yep… desert for breakfast.   I am going to have to go on a serious diet to make up for all of the eating I have done this past week.  I tried supplementing my meals with a little bit of healthy options.  (Enough to take away the guilt… )   I fell in love with the pears in the picture below.  I have no idea what kind of pear they are but they are “mini” sized.   I was able to eat one of these and not ruin my appetite for the real food… you know cheese cakes, fruit tartes, Belgium waffles and of course halva.

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After my breakfast feast I went on my last morning walk.   Here are some picture from that walk.

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This fish was on the walk way… being guarded by a cat.   I pulled out my camera and the cat ran off and hid.  I have never seen a camera shy cat before… imagine… scared enough to leave behind this prize (still got his picture of it… see below)

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I didn’t have much time for this walk otherwise I would have sat on this toilet… pretending to go…you know… just to watch other people’s reactions.   (Next time I really need to plan to have more time for the important things like toilet pranks)

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In Israel Sunday is the beginning day for work and Thursday is Israel’s “Friday”.  In our office Thursday you can count on two large challah loafs on every floor.   I am going to have to find a recipe for this brioche like bread… (am still working on my halva recipe… looking for help if you know how to make halva… please leave a comment)

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When I visit other countries I love visiting the grocery stores.  It is always fun to see what is the same and what is different.  Plus it is free to visit unlike  a lot of monuments and museums… you just have to put yourself in a “zoo visiting” state of mind.    Especially when looking at the people.  People watching is fantastic at the store since people are most like themselves while shopping. (you know… seeing them in their natural habitat… just don’t try to feed them… ).  I love seeing everything written in Hebrew…   I am still struggling to learn Hebrew and my mind keeps changing the Hebrew characters into English ones.  I didn’t realize that the store’s logo was English and Hebrew.   I thought it read “stop!  Open”.   I noticed that the second word was not English on the last day.

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Speaking of Hebrew… “Shin” is the first letter I learned… and it’s sound is “sh”.  (This was also the first letter in a word I learned during a meeting שתוק“shutup”) I remember this letter because you see it alone everywhere.  Many of you know what you are looking at… but I had no clue until I asked.   This was on my hotel door and you will find these little tubes with this letter on many doors.  (Every door at my office has one).  I learned that these are called mezuzah and have a small prayer written inside.

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Not all of the stores have Hebrew words… like this store…   “Gentleman It’s a Man’s World”…. what a long name for a store.  When I entered I was glad I had a beard… you know proving my manliness.  I wonder if they let women shop there?

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And then there are places with no English… (other than a coke advertisement).   This is where I had lunch on my last day.   I went with co-workers and they wanted to eat hummus.   I thought I didn’t like hummus, since I had only eaten the hummus you buy in the store… plus in my ignorance I thought hummus was just a chip dip.   They offered to go somewhere else but I wanted to see how you could make a meal out of this adult baby food.

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I practiced the name of what I wanted… which meant everything… and ordered it here.  (picture above and darn it… I have already forgotten how to say the name).   Watching this gentleman prepare my dish was like watching an artist.  He painted on tahini and hummus, plopped in onions, parsley, and courser ground chickpeas (not quit hummus), and swirled in sauces and oils.  I caught him before he plunged the egg… not sure I wanted hard boiled egg mixed with all of that stuff.  He signed the work of art with red spices… not sure what kind of spice but I imagine paprika.

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Here is my lunch and I was not sure how I was going to eat this…   But it was fantastic.  I was completely wrong about hummus and it is definitely “meal worthy”.   I think I only got about half of the bowl eaten.   I mentioned not being able to do any site seeing but this lunch on its own was an interesting view of this regions culture.   I think we often forget that a meal can be an exotic vacation alone in itself… plus the food doesn’t mind when you stare or take pictures.

The day quickly ended and I had a plane to catch… but had three hours to waste and I spent it on the beach.

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I got to spend the last night on the beach with a sunset… so romantic… made me really miss Isabelle.  (I am not sure I should say it was romantic without her… don’t want her to get any ideas.)

Thanks for taking the time to read this!

Working in Ra’anana

I am going to post some pictures  with possibly boring words talking about and showing where I work while in Israel.  This post is “self/life logging” at its worse…

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Don’t hate….this is acting as my personal journal and I wanted to “remember” where I spent the majority of my time while in Israel.  Above is my work’s office building located in the city of Ra’anana  (it has taken me three visits here before I learned how to say the city’s name)

This is going to make me sound dumb but the first thing I had to learn in this office, to fit in, was how to operate the elevator.    Yes… I know how to push buttons and the numbers are in English… but it is different.   The picture below is the outside of the elevator.   They are “too cool” to have just an up arrow and a down arrow… they have an LED screen and a key pad.

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In the elevator you have only five buttons… one to close the door, one to open the door, one to sound an alarm… and well two others that I have no clue what they do.  (see picture below)… Of course I had to push the other buttons several times and those two “dot” buttons did nothing.

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On the outside of the elevator on the keypad you punch in the floor.   That sounds simple… but here is the tricky part… there are 4 elevators marked A, B, C, and D.   You have to watch the screen after you type in the floor and it will tell you what elevator (one of the four letters) will be going to that floor.

You can’t just get in the first elevator that opens the door… ummm like I did.   It may not be going where you need to go and once you are in the elevator there is nothing you can do… you are at its mercy.  I have no idea how the seeing impaired use these elevators.   While the outside keypad has braille, the letter that shows up on the screen is not voiced… nor touchable… how would they know which elevator to go into?  (see I am sensitive and  think about accessibility… and yes… I am trying to make up for the previous blog’s “cripple beach” comment)Random Israel 26

The building has great flower beds, lily ponds, and even a roof top garden.   If it wasn’t so miserably hot and muggy I would have sat in the gardens during lunch.  I am not sure that I like the heat and humidity here… but the views are fantastic.  (Most of them I enjoyed from inside the air conditioned building.)

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Very beautiful work environment at least when I am not “working”.  When I am working I am often “parked” in a bomb shelter that moonlights as a conference room.   I have to admit it kind of makes me think about where I actually am and my safety.  I have never felt unsafe while in Israel but I have also not had to work in a bomb shelter.  I keep thinking that there must be a reason for these.   I am not sure I want to experience that reason…. hmmm if you think about it what a scary place… (with bad cell phone reception).   As a side note…  These bomb shelters are on each floor and they have hatches in the far corners that lead either up to the shelter above or down to the shelter below.

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My co-workers are fantastic… love to argue but brilliant.  The company is great and they are kind enough to give me a card that allows me to have “free lunch”… Everyone in the office enjoys complaining about the food but I found the cafeteria to be better than average(that is better than average for a cafeteria).  It is kind of fun not knowing exactly what you are eating half of the time.

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I hope you have enjoyed a small peak into my work day.   Again I really appreciate you taking the time to read my words.  As a reward I will leave you with this picture of a blue cow in front of the cafeteria.

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Back in Isreal

I just arrived in Israel (yes I am here again…  feel like I just left).  I am back for work and everything about this trip is starting to feel familiar.   I am staying at the same hotel, Herods in Herzliya, and in fact they put me in the exact same room… I am not going to tell you the room number you will just have to believe me.  (You can see the hotel above in a photo I took this morning… and you can see my room in the photo below)

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I know… the hotel and hotel room pictures are boring.  One of the things about travelling to the same place frequently is that all of the newness goes away.   I worry about sharing pictures of this trip with all of you because I have already shared so much.   What I hope is that even if you are familiar with my posts and especially the posts from Israel I will still be able to offer something interesting, surprising, and hopefully weird.   Often places that are very familiar can become “new and exciting” again if you just pay enough attention and try to truly see things.   (Our minds tend to tune out so much… especially when we are familiar with the place)

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A colleague and I arrived in Israel very late last night… darn flight delays. (six hours delay in New York)   I didn’t feel like eating but he was “snack” hungry. (“Snack hungry” is a new term he taught me)   We stopped by a “familiar” place McDonald’s.  This seems to be very familiar even in Israel.

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We realized that we were not exactly “home” when we tried to read the menu and noticed that everything was in Hebrew.  We were both taken aback by the strange combination of familiar icons and food images along side very unfamiliar letters.  My co-worker stated “you can’t even try to sound out the words”.

This was kind of interesting… Then… we looked closer…

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WOW….

It is not often you see a person in line before you with a live boa wrapped around his neck.   Notice the counter worker looking around to see if the snake was real.  I am not sure I would have looked or remained so calm.  We decided to wait back a bit until this young man left with his order… (wonder if he shared his food with his pet snake and if he did… is McDonald’s food safe for snakes?).

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Today (this morning) I went for a small walk around familiar places including the beach on the north side of my hotel (Acadia)… really a fantastic beach.    A coworker from here said it is a “how you say it….  a cripple beach”.    I looked around the entrance to see if I could find a sign stating the beach’s accessibility in the same way as my co-worker… but no luck.   I hope I haven’t offended anyone.   I am sure this is one of those things lost in translation and I think what she meant was that it is handicap accessible.

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This picture of all of the cheeses is to make my wife jealous. (Isabelle… I miss you already)

I followed up my walk with the now “familiar” and always “fantastic” breakfast…  and yes I am going to share again pictures of the wonderful breakfast my hotel offers.

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Thanks for taking the time to read this!  I will try to post something new and interesting from this trip later this week!

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.

Caesarea 21

Caesarea 22

Caesarea 03

Caesarea 23

Caesarea 24

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?

Caesarea 25
Another column graveyard…   lots of marble and granite… which all would have been imported (you can’t find either in Israel)

Caesarea 26

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)