February is here! And now its Matt Davis’s Birthday Month!! If you know Matt Davis, some choice words may come to mind when you think of him, such as… “tireless”, “energizer bunny”, “beast”, and “unstoppable”…..well this post may burst a lot of peoples’ bubbles…..Matt has now officially added a new skill to his list……RELAXING! He’s been training for this for about 7 years….and I think he finally has it down!
Now, now, don’t get carried away and book a beach vacation with us….. but get a load of how we spent last weekend!
Over the past couple weeks, we’ve been trying to understand the winter weather in Tel Aviv….well we still don’t understand it, but we know a few things: 1) its not the same across the whole country, 2) the rain is wet and less fun, 3) rain makes VERY messy mud, and 4) if we drive a little ways, we will probably find sun. So that was our goal this weekend, avoid the rain and enjoy some new places!
By suggestion of our friends from the previous weekend, we decided to check out some hot springs in the North near the Sea of Galilee. We LOVE hot springs and were not about to miss out on the chance to explore some new hot springs “close to home”. With a considerable language barrier, its always “exciting” and a bit frustrating researching new places to go…. but after checking a few websites, making some calls, and getting transferred several times to someone who speaks English – I was 94.7% sure this place would be open when we showed up…..(don’t worry, the story has a happy ending!)…..
So we set off in the morning for the North…after casually passing the Sea of Galilee (Matt: Where Jesus walked on water), we headed down a windy road with large fences and some questionable signs about certainty of death if we ventured down the wrong road….(don’t worry mom, totally safe!). Needless to say, Matt and I were a bit skeptical but it was clear we were following the well-made signs (heavily sponsored by Coca Cola) to this supposed hot springs. We drove a bit more and in true Israel fashion, we turned a corner and HELLO HAMAT GADAR!! Out of nowhere, we are in a bustling parking lot with people eagerly packing up beach bags with towels and robes (Yes! ROBES!), drinks, and tons of food! Matt and I shared a unified sigh of relief and packed our bags (sans robes and tons of food….next time!).
Once inside the gates, we discover this is quite the place! Not only do they have hot springs, they also have a small zoo with at least 200 crocodiles you’re allowed to get questionably close to as well as some birds, ostrich, coati, snakes, and monkeys! When buying our tickets, they kindly alerted us to the parrot show at 1:30! At this point, I’m quite excited! With some time before the parrot show (which Matt didn’t know at the time I absolutely intended on going to) we head to the hot springs! Time for a visual: Imagine Sun City Retirement Community meets Hot Springs meets Zoo – what a sight! People shuffling around in bathrobes looking at monkeys….well OK, why not!
We walked a short bit and found THE POOLS! OMG! I have to say, this place puts every hot springs gig in the US to shame! This was the Vegas of Hot Springs!! Two HUGE pools – one covered, one open – a super hot pool, and a “waterfall pool” with streams of water pouring down the walls onto your back! In the pools, there are seats and lounging areas with jets as well as huge pipes that dump out gallons of hot water to massage your body!
You can probably imagine what happened from here…..hours of soaking, floating, and water massages! We embraced it 100%! Early in the day, we considerably brought down the average age but as the day went on, it was a family affair and people really come to relax! Coolers full of food and plush bath towels – legit!
After our first round of soaking, we wrapped ourselves up in our towels and strolled over to the the zoo! Just in time for the parrot show! We have no idea what the trainer had to say in Hebrew….but the birds put on a good show and we had a good laugh. Next up, the crocodiles! SO MANY CROCODILES! We walked through the various exhibits and eventually got our fill of the zoo and headed back for more soaking! And eventually home for the night… (Matt: With the obligatory stop at the Golden Arches for some chicken nuggets (they are better here), fries, and a McFlurry… so good)
Following such a relaxing day, it’s often expected to do something hard, tiring, or otherwise physically demanding….so I was preparing myself for Matt’s request to climb a mountain or hike across the desert…..but after checking the weather…..it looked like all the mountains and deserts would be less than pleasant to conquer, SHUCKS! So whats that leave us?? The Dead Sea!!
I’m always game for MORE relaxing and we wanted to start scouting out good spots to take visitors (YES, come visit!). So we set off to the Dead Sea! We drove East, past Jerusalem, and started dropping down, down, down….to sea level….THEN further! We passed several road-side camels (total tourist traps, but still pretty cool!), past some run down buildings, and (in true Israel fashion) turned a corner into an established resort lot with tour busses and gift shops! We opted to check out Kalia Beach in the North of the Dead Sea since Matt had already spent time in the South. And I was interested in finding a beach that had Dead Sea mud!! This beach had it all and was a great place to RELAX again! Due to the high salt content, its literally impossible to drown! You can effortlessly float on your back and enjoy the rhythm of the gentle waves for hours. We also gave ourselves mud treatments with mud fresh off the sea floor! We enjoyed many of the magical healing powers of the sea and walked away feeling SO soft! (Matt: I was SO soft!)
So that concluded our relaxing weekend! OH – and we watched chick-flicks at night! I better not get too comfortable…..
Some highlights from earlier in the week:
- I learned I will be going to Ghana instead of Malawi to volunteer with Project Peanut Butter! I spent quite a bit of time trying to sort out the details of getting a Visa to Ghana – which involves sending your passport to DC…..which you shouldn’t really do when you’re abroad and its your ticket across borders! So after hours online and a handful of unsuccessful phone calls, I figured I’ve got all the time in the world and I might as well just walk to the Ghana Embassy to ask my questions. Navigating the city on foot is always fun – it usually takes me twice as long to get somewhere and a fraction of the time getting home. So I set off across town for the embassy….where I found out they could not help me. SO I decided to walk back across town to the US Embassy…which was more or less closed and not helpful. After about 6+ miles of walking back-and-forth across Tel Aviv, I concluded that I needed to make an appointment at the US Embassy to get a second passport….to be continued….
- Matt and I joined the gym in the mall next to our house. I decided to tap into my inner-grandma and take the water aerobics class! For anyone who has done water aerobics, you know its largely dominated by well….grandmas!…and its no different in Tel Aviv! Regardless, I think its a great workout and someday Cosmo will do an article on it and all the young folks will come flocking to the pool for some commercialized re-branded version of Aqua Zumba or something…..mark my words….and give it a try sometime :-). So the class was in Hebrew, which I don’t know, but I made a friend and she made sure I stayed on track and followed the teacher’s instructions! They are also a very forgiving crowd to practice my Hebrew on, win-win.
- I had my first lunch of Hummus and Pita – very common here and I thought “who can only have hummus and pita for lunch?!”…..well, turns out its delicious and I’ll gladly make it a regular thing! (Matt: I have seen many Israeli’s literally eat the hummus with a spoon and no pita… it is not that bad)