Brief Encounters….

He came into my life like a shining light,

Illuminating the sky in the depths of night.

An angel so pure he flew into my sight,

Lit up the universe, with an energy bright.

A beautiful star that healed my core,

He soothed my wounds like no other before.

A gentle aura, the softest soul,

My broken heart was immediately whole.

His touch electrifying, fireworks when we kissed,

Gone yet never forgotten, but will always be missed.

His eyes the ocean, where I could swim and dive,

His skin the softest sand, making my body alive.

The perfect puzzle, our pieces fit together,

But perhaps nothing pure can last forever.

An enchanted forest, a mystical path,

Our adventure together, I’ll never look back.

A lonesome traveller, his time had arrived,

To take to his trail and leave my side.

An eagle he prepared to spread his wings,

To see whatever his future brings.

I stare at the sea wondering where he is now,

Or if our time together could have been different somehow,

They say its darkest before the dawn,

A dark thundery sky before a clear blue morn.

I think of him fondly, hope our paths cross one day,

And that cemented in my tapestry forever he’ll stay.

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Exploring Summer in Israel….

The unique combination of fascinating history, breathtaking scenery and glorious weather makes summer in Israel the perfect tourist destination. With so much to see and do it is impossible to get bored. Though tiny in size, Israel offers a plethora of exhilarating adventures, outdoor activities, and a wealth of history and culture, that welcomes all religions and beliefs.

Here are some thrilling adventure ideas, contrary to the usual tourist spots away from the masses.

Bedouin Hospitality:

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If you are looking for the cultural opportunity of a lifetime, then a Bedouin experience is for you. An overnight adventure deep in the heart of the desert is truly unique and memorable and the perfect escape from reality. Fall asleep under the stars Bedouin style in a large luxurious tent of soft cushions and blankets surrounded by the tranquillity of the desert air. In Bedouin culture, primary importance is placed on receiving guests with warm, openhearted hospitality, so enjoy an exotic and delicious home cooked feast of home- made pitta, salads and traditional ‘Matfuna’ whole stuffed chicken, and kebabs served, in an authentic manner by sunset, followed by an evening of enjoyable Bedouin entertainment. Wake up to the beauty of sunrise with traditional Bedouin tea and breakfast. Many Bedouin experiences also include camel rides and desert trips.

*Mattresses will be provided but it is recommended to bring a pillow and sheet.

Recommended:

Kfar Hanokdim: In the Judean desert, between the city of Arad and ancient Masada. A green oasis, that provides a truly unforgettable stay for its guests. For those who prefer more traditional lodgings, Kfar Hanokdim also supports a Bedouin-style desert resort on the outskirts of the village, with small cottages providing more modern comforts while still allowing for a serene desert experience.  413 NIS per person. Package includes camel ride, bedouin hospitality, dinner and a hearty home cooked breakfast. hanokdim.com/08-9950097

Chan Shayarot: Located in the Negev, close to Sde Boker, this desert haven offers an enjoyable Bedouin experience along with many other activities and workshops for its visitors. Hear Bedouin stories and learn real life desert customs during a traditional Bedouin coffee ceremony by campfire, and enjoy a typical ‘hafla’ (eating ceremony) before retiring to a traditional goats wool tent to gaze at the night sky before falling asleep . With many hikes accessible from this area, it is a great base to explore the desert the following day. (*All meals offered here are kosher.) For a night’s stay in tents+sleeping bags with dinner and breakfast is 225 NIS per adult,175 NIS per child

Accommodation in tents+sleeping begs with just breakfast costs 145 NIS for adults and children aged 3-12 is 115 NIS
Their tents are large and they are divided five partitions.shayarot.com/08-6535777

Dan River adventures:

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Located in the Golan Heights at the base of Mount Hermon, the Dan River is a wonderful destination for nature lovers with abundance of outdoor activities to enjoy. For those in the mood to relax rent a tube and float along the cool waters. If you have a thrill for excitement kayaking or white water rafting provide a great adrenaline- boost. Whichever you choose, a trip down the river makes for a lovely summer’s afternoon. A true highlight of the area is the famous Dag al HaDan (fish from the Dan) restaurant, which is nestled amidst the trees on the river serving freshly caught fish and a delectable array of refreshing Israeli salads. Nearby, located on the ruins of the biblical city of Dan, the Tel Dan National Park is a remarkable place to experience nature and archaeology all in one place. Visitors are offered a glimpse into ancient life through ruins and artifacts. In addition, the reserve also offers dozens of streams and hiking trails.
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Hikes: 

With an abundance of trails crisscrossing the country, a water hike is the perfect way to cool off this summer away from the city heat. Here are some fantastic routes to take you exploring through Israel’s spectacular deserts, enchanting forests and magical river beds. So put on your walking boots, and make a splash.

Yam L’Yam is a unique hike spanning from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee. It is a total of 89km starting at sea level, climbing to 1,200 meters, and then descending to -400 meters. The journey begins on the coast of the Mediterranean, north of Nahariya, and concludes at the shores of the Kinneret, north of Teveria, usually taking 3-4 days. The route will take you exploring through nature reserves, archeological remains, some of Israel’s best vantage points and arguably the most beautiful section of the trans-Israel trail, passing fresh springs every day. This trek, rated easy/moderate, is ideal for families, with trails easily marked. Most people are comfortable hiking the trail alone, but a guide can also be handy for leading the way and explaining the history and geography of the region.

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Golan

Trekking the Golan can be an exhilarating experience in the summer.  With panoramic views overlooking Syria, and ancient ruins hidden among the wildlife that give a sense of its history.

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Nahal Yehudiah  

There’s probably no better hike in the heat of summer than Nahal Yehudiah, where the water is so deep, you have no choice but to swim to get to the other side. The path starts by passing a deserted Syrian village that was built on top of an earlier town from the Roman-Byzantine period, as it leads its way towards the highlight of the day, the  stunning 20-meter high Yehudiah Falls. This is where the fun begins. There are two cliffs to climb down, using rungs and ladders drilled into the side of the rock – one is four meters long, the second nine meters, which ends in the cool waters of a refreshing pool perfect for a swim. (Make sure your belongings are wrapped up in waterproof bags and remember your water shoes) (4-5 hours)

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The Yehudia Forest reserve is off Highway 87 just northeast of the Sea of Galilee on the Golan. There is parking, bathrooms, drinking water, a snack bar, place for camping (additional fee) and an information center; the entrance fee is 20 NIS

The Banias Nature Reserve contains an abundance of natural and historical beauty, from the ruins of ancient cities to the roaring Banias Waterfall – the biggest waterfall in Israel. Found in the Upper Golan between the fertile Hula Valley and the Mount Hermon mountain area, the Banias is a favorite for those visiting the Golan. Hours can be spent here; walking the trails, exploring the ruins and picnicking in the plush green woodlands. The Falls and the Springs are what makes this reserve so exceptional. The Banias Spring emerges at the foot of Mount Hermon and flows powerfully through a canyon for 3.5 km, eventually leading to the waterfall, the most impressive cascade in Israel. This is quite a site and makes this hike truly worthwhile. A stepped path near the spring leads to the Banias Cave where visitors will find the remains of a temple built by Herod the Great.

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Other worthwhile hikes:

Named by national Geographic as one of the world’s best hikes, The Israel National Trail is a footpath that winds its way nearly 1000 kilometers across the country, zig zagging its way from the Lebanese border in the north to the Red Sea in the south. The longest hiking route in Israel, it takes about 40 to 60 days to complete. Along the way hikers get a chance to really experience the unique landscape that the country has to offer. It is divided into 11 sections, and many hikers choose to cross only one segment at a time. There are places to reload and purchase food and water on the way. Crossing many villages and towns, the INT is full of choices and possibilities. (israeltrail.net)

Jerusalem area

The Burma Road is a route that is steeped with history. During the War of Independence, the Jordanians blocked the main route into Jerusalem, attempting to starve the city into surrender. Under the cover of night, Israeli soldiers built a bypass road, which succeeded in breaking the boycott. You can now hike this road in two parts. Both segments follow the Israel Trail for some of the way. The western part of the trail goes along the Burma Road in the direction of Latrun, taking you through a stunning pine forest known as Park Rabin. (There is also a bike rental shop here with the option of riding). The eastern flank of the trail across the road kicks off with a very steep ascent until reaching the village of Beit Meir. At this point the views of the famous highway below are excellent. (approximately 3 hours).

The Negev

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The Negev desert covers over half of the total land area of Israel. Its beautiful landscape and rich history is just waiting to be explored.

Ein Avdat is undoubtedly one of Israel’s most striking and beautiful sites. Set within the incredible landscape of the Zin Valley in the center of Israel’s Negev Desert, Ein Avdat National Park offers spectacular panoramas and enchanted hikes through its desert scenery. Its spring, covering all of Southern Israel, is an oasis amid the barren and rocky landscape that has carved a deep, narrow canyon through the rock. The remarkable canyon stretches over 60km and attracts visitors from across the country. Enjoy arriving at a stunning waterfall, and pools below it that provide a source of life to many animals and plants that inhabit there. Whilst in the area if you haven’t already been, it is worth taking a trip to Ben Gurion’s grave, very close to the lower entrance to Ein Avdat. Ein Avdat is located on Road 40 between Mitzpe Ramon and Beer Sheva

The beautiful and varied landscapes of Israel make it the perfect location for seasoned hikers. When hiking any trail in Israel, remember to bring plenty of water. Start hikes early so you have plenty of time to finish before the sun sets. Happy hiking.

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Informative and helpful websites for hiking Israel: 

Myhikeisrael.com 

tiuli.com 

Biking:

Israel has a diverse a set of biking trails that snake their way across its wide spectrum of landscape. From breath-taking green mountains up North to sunset-colored deserts in the South, cycling is a great way to experience the country that is so alive. So feel the summer breeze whipping through your hair and get up close and personal with nature along these recommended bike routes.

Biking in the Negev:

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Over the past few years, bike trails in the Negev have been developed at an unprecedented rate, making it easy and safe for bikers of all levels of experience to enjoy the varied terrain, magnificent landscapes, and striking peace and tranquility which biking in the desert provides. Along all trails visitors can find bike centers for equipment and various accommodations where tours and guides can be booked. (negevland.co.il)

The Sculpture Park Biking Trail at the Ramon Crater:

The Ramon Crater is 40 kilometers long and 500 m. deep. High and impressive mountains rise at the borders of the crater that formed millions of years ago when the ocean that covered the Negev began to move north. ‘The Sculpture Park’ is a short biking trail through the beautiful sculptures in the midst of the Desert, with picturesque views of the Makhtesh Ramon. The 4km trail is designed for an informal family riding route and makes for an extremely pleasant day out. The ibike hotel located in Mitzpe Ramon is the perfect base to start your adventure, especially if you are looking to spend the night. They have everything from bikes and accessories, to guided bike tours with experienced guides, and many other action packed opportunities in the area. ibike.co.il/ 052-4367878

The Hula Valley

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The Hula Valley located in the north of the country is another scenic cycling area particularly suitable for family cycling tours, since it is completely flat. Visitors to the Park will be able to hire bikes at the Visitors Center and use them to cross the area of Lake Agmon. The most popular riding route is the round-lake path of nearly 11km. The trail includes several small bridges passing over water channels. On these trails cyclists will have a fantastic opportunity to reach a truly special part of the country. The Hula Valley is home to one of the world’s major migration routes, and a bird lover’s paradise. With over half a billion birds passing through these lands twice a year, the chance to experience this definitely makes an unforgettable trip.

(kkl.org.il)

Bike, Wine & dine in the rolling hills…

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The Judean hills are an idyllic place to ride through its historic crossroads and ancient Roman ruins. As the central wine hub of the region, the vineyards and olive groves makes for a particularly enjoyable part of the route, and one must stop at local wineries for a taste of real Israeli wine. Close by and worth a visit is Beit Guvrin- Maresha National park. Bet Guvrin was an important city in the Crusader era, and its columbarium caves carved into the rock are extremely fascinating, aswell as the stunning outdoor Roman Amphitheater that was originally hosted gladiator fights to entertain the masses. Visitors can follow the marked trail through the park. This day out is a great combination of biking, fine wine, archeology and breath taking views.

 Park Hours:April-September 8 A.M.-5 P.M Entrance fee:Adult NIS 29; child NIS 15 Israeli senior citizen: NIS 15 Group (over 30 people): Adult: NIS 23: child NIS 14

If you are visiting Israel for the first time, or are looking for a truly unique biking experience try ‘Israel in a nutshell’ by Gordon active bike tours. This weeklong program will take you traveling through the true gems of the country side roads, villages and farms. The tour includes Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Cesarea, Mt Carmel, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee and the Judean Hills. The tour is suitable for an un-experienced cyclist and a family/individual looking to immerse themselves in culture, nature, and the true beauty of this small country. This company also offers single day cycle tours all over Israel. gordonactive.com/03-7659000

 

Travel Review- Skiing in CourMayeur

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Exuding character and charm, the stylish Italian resort of Courmayer is a popular destination for skiers of all abilities, not to mention a favourite of designer clad Milanese, flocking for long weekends on the slopes #spot the fur. Situated in Italy’s Valle d’Aosta region at the foot of Europe’s highest mountain; Mont Blanc, the town provides a wealth of both on piste and off piste terrain and is a great base for skiing the famous and exhilarating Valle Blanche run which can be skied from either the Italian or French side of the mountain, starting in nearby Chamonix.

Traditional cobbled streets lined with fashionable boutiques showcase the latest Italian designs; while foodies will delight in speciality wine, cheese and meat shops and a plethora of restaurants to suit even the most discerning customer. Tucked away on a quiet corner, Le Petit Bistrot; a quaint eatery serves simple yet delicious local dishes boasting with the flavours of fresh Italian ingredients. The winning feature of this cosy establishment, alongside its ambience and friendly staff, is the enticing choice of sweet crepes on the dessert menu, the perfect choice for those with a penchant to taste of the real Italy.

 While the après-ski scene is not quite comparable to resorts such as St Anton or Val d’s ere, a lot can be said for a late afternoon aperol spritz at the lively Bar Roma, centrally located on the main street, which offers a complimentary shmorgas board of Italian antipasti delights.

 For a truly relaxing experience, the Grand Hotel Royal Golf located in the heart of the idyllic village, features a heated patio serving après-ski hot chocolate, which is quite literally melted chocolate in your cup.910-370-CC-wedding-venue-italy-valle-d'aosta-aosta-hotel-royale-veues-15-locations

TRAVEL OFTEN….

My most memorable moments have come from my travel experiences. Venturing into unknown lands, meeting new people, experiencing nature’s true beauty that has been untouched by humanity. Each new place I see leaves its mark on my memory, enabling me … Continue reading

ALWAYS READ THE SMALL PRINT WHEN BOOKING A HOLIDAY IN CHINA……

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Living in a big city can certainly take its toll on any individual. Every once in a while there is an intrinsic need to take a break from the hustle and bustle, re energize and come back refreshed. After spontaneously boarding a plane to Shanghai four months earlier, I did not anticipate the omnipresent smog that hung in the air, or incessant beeping of impatient taxis to have such a negative effect on my usual calm aura.

I decided I needed a short weekend break, and what better way to unblock my chi ( according to ancient Chinese medicine ) than to experience the real China. From the moment I arrived to the city of dreams, I had been fascinated at how fit and able the Chinese as a nation were compared to us Brits. On my 6am morning jog in the park  I would find myself being lapped by 60-70 year old locals. Back home, this is certainly not the case, OAP’s are very happy to be labelled in their own category, hobbling along with their zimmer frames and complaining about the weather. I was truly amazed to see  a Tai Chi master the same age as my Grandpa leading a class of 20 individuals all around the same age. I decided I wanted to get more of an insight into their way of life  and began to research wellness retreats near the city where I could restore my inner calm.

Sat at work, my mind wandered; day dreaming of performing yoga  and meditating whilst sipping fresh juices to the  backdrop of calm running waters  and beautiful nature surroundings. I came across a website called ‘six steps retreat’ which stated that individuals were invited to attend a weekend just outside of the city where:‘at the very least participants get a break away from the fast pace of city life in a relaxing, friendly, beautiful and healthy environment’. The best part of all was that it was free, how amazing is that! sweet Chinese people, I thought, wanting to aid my spiritual journey. I jumped up with excitement, this was it!! this is what I was looking for. I called my friend Marina and told her to pack her bags we were about to have a fabulous girlie weekend to rejuvenate and relax. ten minutes later Marina called me back with a query, she said ‘Georgeee, are you sure this is legit, coz I just spoke to my mum about it and there might be a catch if its free’ ‘oh marine’ I said ‘no its perfect, its for people like us who just need a break’. ‘Yeah you’re probably right’.

Friday quickly came around; both Marina and I had eagerly packed our bags the night before ready to depart straight from work, as a shuttle bus was to pick us up at the tube station. We wanted to stop off at Marks and Spencers before hand to get some snacks for the road but didn’t have time. Never mind I thought, im sure the food is wholesome and healthy, I cannot wait to come back feeling like a brand new woman. So excitedly we made our way to the tube where the bus would be waiting. As we approached the entrance to the tube, a small rusty white van was parked outside, with a strange looking short fellow wearing glasses standing infront of it. We walked up to the van (I was secretly hoping that  this was not our transport) and asked if this was waiting for us. The man introduced himself as Tiger giving us a huge gapped tooth smile and invited us inside the vehicle. As we climbed in we were greeted by some other passengers also joining us for the weekend. There was only one spare seat in the back, but this being China where rules are made to be broken, no one seemed to care that Marina would have to sit on my lap for the 40 minute journey to our destination.

I suddenly started to feel slightly sceptical about this magical escape I had envisioned for us, looking to my left at the chap sat next to me my heart suddenly started to pound with nerves as we drove away from familiarity into the dark of night. His wrists and ankles were covered in beaded bracelets that kept making an infuriating jangling sound every time he flicked his wispy long hair from out of his face. Every inch of his arms and legs were covered in tattoos, and as he told us that this was not the first weekend like this that he had been to, and that he had many demons that needed letting out; I began to suspect that he was quite a complex character.

After a good half an hour of the journey; both of my legs now numb thanks to poor Marina who was sat crouched on my lap, her head hitting the roof of the car every time we hit a bump in the road,I asked how much longer we would be and Tiger said we should be arriving very soon. Suddenly the car turned off the main motorway and down an extremely dark eery track that was not a properly carved out road, this meant Marina was now holding on for dear life. As the car winded its way round the country lane I suddenly felt as if I was on the set of a horror movie. Where the hell had I brought us? how could I be so stupid we were definitely being abducted, sold off to slavery as foreigners.  The car suddenly screeched to a halt Marina hitting the seat in front with force. I couldn’t even be relieved that we had finally arrived because as I hopped out the van and looked around all I could make out in the darkness were huge wooden gates guarding something that I could not see. I felt like crazy old Maurice in Beauty and the Beast when he arrives at the Beasts castle in the dead of night about to be taken in as a prisoner. What was lurking behind those gates?

The gates slowly creaked open and we began to enter into what seemed to be a courtyard. In the distance a procession of hooded figures in cloaks were slowly walking towards us, and as they got closer and took their hoods off, it became clear that we were at some sort of temple and these strange beings were nuns. Marina and I suddenly looked at each other, the same thoughts and questions reeling through our minds… …………

WHERE THE HELL ARE WE?

Butterfly Mornings…

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When you wake up to nature’s alarm of tweeting birds and  sunlight beaming through your bedroom window, that is a butterfly morning;  a day with promise in the air, one that makes you want to do something worthwhile, be someone, make yourself proud of the achievements you have accomplished,  and giving you a yearning to achieve more………. that is a butterfly morning.

I have had my fair share of these great mornings, and when I think back to a time when I  truly started to experience this, it would most definitely be during my time living in China.

Arriving in Shanghai for the first time was the beginning of my butterfly morning adventures. Waking up was exciting, I had a thirst for life and the possibilities that every day could bring. Strolling down the street watching passers by, grandparents walking their grandchild to school, local street sellers setting up their stalls, fighting for a taxi and even the strange smells of chinese food wafting in the air made me smile. That is a feeling I long for again and one that I will never forget. Pure happiness and enjoyment in being alive.

A city full of energy where everyone is there for a purpose, to be the best that they can, living each day to its fullest that is Shanghai. Everyone you meet has a smile on their face, wants to talk to you, know your story and share their experiences of life in the magic city so far. Shanghai is most definitely a bubble, it’s its own world sort of detached from reality, When i stepped off the plane I felt like Dorothy stepping  through the gates into Emerald City. I suddenly knew I was meant to be someone, I was meant to leave my mark on this world, be memorable.

Life is a strange thing, everyone gets up in the morning, has a direction, a path that they are on, but so often we forget to stop and appreciate what is going on around us. Moving to London, I have myself got caught up in the rat race of life. Getting onto the tube every day I look round and notice that no one is talking, no one acknowledges each other, people are tired and dreading the day ahead, counting down the minutes till they can get back on the train for their journey home. We all breathe the same air, walk the same streets, live on the same planet, yet seldom do we stop and give each other the time of day. However, the mentality of an expat is completely different, and this is what I found so refreshing living abroad. You become part of a strong tight knit community, with a common thread. Being a ‘laowai’ (alien) in a foreign land, immediately strong bonds are made that are hard to break. You respect people for who they are inside, and find yourself becoming friends with people you potentially never would have done, back home. You become a better version of yourself. My Butterfly mornings turned into wildflower afternoons! For the first time in my life I was comfortable in my own skin.

I definitely left my heart in Shanghai, and somehow feel that I have unfinished business with the crazy city that changed my life. Untill I go back, I dont think ill feel whole again.