May 2010 Trip Notes Part 3: Israel

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Trip notes part 3 (05/18-05/20), Continued from:
May 2010 Trip Notes Part 1: Trip Planning + Zurich (05/11-05/12)
May 2010 Trip Notes Part 2: Paris. (05/13-05/17)

Random thought from our recent Europe/Israel trip:

-Finding award tickets can be a work of art. We flew from Paris to Israel via Frankfurt, Venice, and Zurich! We had to get to Venice to satisfy USAirways’ 125K First Class Europe ticket without using up a stopover in another city. From Venice I used 30,000 BMI miles to get to Israel and back.  Pay for a airplane ticket? Never!

-I bought an international Sim card from OneSimCard for $30 shipped.  The rates are reasonable ($0.45/minute outgoing from Israel to the US, free incoming) and there were free incoming calls in every country that we went to.  It’s a bit of a pain using the call-back feature, but you get used to it.  Plus they even give you AA miles for using their service!

-Whenever we had an internet connection I used the heavenly combination of Google Voice and Gizmo5 to make free phone calls to anyone in the US and Canada and dirt cheap calls to everywhere else.

-In Israel, I signed up for Sprint’s $2.33 per day ($70/month, prorated over days used) unlimited international data roaming plan which gave me unlimited internet usage there.  I plugged my phone into my laptop and had 3G service that I was even able to make phone calls over for free.  Beware, if you have a grandfathered old unlimited internet plan from Sprint it can be a royal pain trying to get that plan back onto your phone line after switching to the international data plan.

-We arrived in Frankfurt an hour late, leaving us just 30 minutes until our connecting flight. On the flight they told us that we had been rebooked onto a later flight to Venice, which wouldn’t have worked at all because we still had more connecting flights to make. After arriving, we had to wait for the bus to take us to the terminal, which left us with less than 5 minutes to run accross the entire A terminal from A1 to A40.

The best thing we did was make a quick 10 second detour to the Star Alliance Gold lounge to ask them to page the gate and let them know we were running. Even though we arrived a few minutes after boarding should have ended, they were waiting for us and cheering us on like at the end of a race 🙂

-The Star Alliance lounge in Venice is basically a dump, although it does have a neat terrace to walk out onto with a great view of the amazing city.

-In Zurich there are no Swiss lounges in the international terminal, there is a “Panarama” lounge though that Star Alliance Gold members can use.

-We finally arrived in Israel at 3:30am. Unfortunately, our bags didn’t make it with us, even though we asked in Zurich and were told that they had made it with us so far. The bags did make it on the next flight which luckily arrived a few hours before Shavuos started, so we were able to drive back to the airport and pick them up (they wouldn’t deliver them until the next day!) When they finally did arrive, 1 of the bags was completely destroyed…not fun!

-At 69 hours, it was by far my shortest trip to Israel, but it was definitely worth going for Shavuos.

-They moved the car rental location at the Tel Aviv airport halfway to Jerusalem.  Well not quite, but it will feel like it!  Luckily, if you have elite status with Avis you can still pick up your car in the terminal, but everyone else must take the very long shuttle ride to the rental car facility.  Also everyone must return the car to the rental car facility.  Dansdeals Forum user “Steve2” wrote up a nifty shortcut to the facility if you are coming from Jerusalem.

So that’s how we spent our first day in Israel.

-We stayed with relatives in Jerusalem for Shavuos which was very nice to experience after all of the superficial hospitality that hotels offer . It was my first Yom Tov in the holy land and it was just amazing. Seeing the throngs of people at the Kotel is awesome!

And what better way is there to hear the 10 commandments being given over than in a shul in the Old City of Jerusalem?

-After the Sheraton Plaza (now Leonardo Plaza) was booted from the Starwood program for not paying their bills, there were no hotels left near the old city that accept points.  I did have rooms booked at the Crowne Plaza for $30 using the Priority Club points workaround but didn’t wind up using them.  There’s also a Ramada that takes points, but neither of those hotels are close to the old city.

-Last year when we were in Israel we had reservations at the Sheraton, but Starwood moved us to the new Mamilla Hotel which had just opened.  The stay there was a nightmare, but I suppose part of it could be chalked up to the fact that that had opened only a little while before we visited.  There were no refrigerators in the tiny, ultra-modern room and the service was downright lousy.  The toilets in the bathroom were so poorly shaped they actually hurt to sit on!  They charged us $10 when we checked out for when we requested ice that was supposed to be complementary and also charged us for breakfasts that we were told by the breakfast agent would be free.  Dispute resolution is just one of the reasons that I love AMEX though…

-The David Citadel used to be called the Hilton Jerusalem, but that hotel left the Hilton program quite a few years ago.  The good news is that the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem is finally making some progress, so hopefully that will be open and accepting Hilton points within the next couple years.

-The Cafe Rimon meat restaurant was closed for renovations, which meant this would be my first trip to Israel without devouring their mouth-watering Philly Steak Sandwich!  Don’t miss that if you go to Israel when it reopens.

-On the night after Shavuos (1 day!) we were able to take out my cousin who’s in seminary in Tzfat and eat at the Cafe Rimon milk restaurant which is always great.  The Belgian Waffle covered in Caramel and Chocolate sauces and Ben & Jerry’s Cholov Yisroel Ice Cream is too good to describe!  I’ve had better french onion soup though. My wife absolutely loved her Rimon Summer Salad which had pesto bruschetta, mixed greens, granola, pasta, feta cheese and nectarines in it. Of course we still had room for some delicious froyo afterward from Katzefet right across from Cafe Rimon on Ben Yehuda.

-The day after Shavuos we spent replacing my baggage that had been destroyed.  We also managed to pick up some Israeli goodies like the Original flavor of Smirnoff Ice (I wish this was kosher in the US), Chewy Nature Valley Granola Bars, Kinominim cereal, and the usual junk food like Bugles, Cheetos, Doritos, and all that other good stuff that we can’t get kosher parve back in the US.

-On Thursday we went with my wife’s brother’s family to Papagaio , a new mehadrin Brazilian steakhouse in Jerusalem.  We got the “Brazilian Table,” which is actually called “rodizio” in Portuguese.  For this they give you a red light/green light device that indicates whether you want more food.  They have about 10 different kinds of meats that they roast and keep bringing to the table giving you slices of it anywhere from well done to rare.  There was some debate between the waiters as to the cost of the Brazilian Table.  At first an employee told my brother-in-law that it was only NIS119 (US$30.50) because we had arrived before 6pm.   Then halfway through the meal our waiter told us that there was a mistake and that the cost was NIS169 (US$43.50) and that the 119 price is only if you arrive before 5pm.  When my brother-in-law offered to leave, somehow they managed to correct the mistake back to 119.  They also give you lots of salads and fries included in the price that they hope you fill up on so you eat less meat!  We didn’t have the heart to try to use this 10% coupon though after they gave us the 119 price. My nieces had the choice between the 79NIS kids Brazilian table and NIS43 for a shnitzel with fries and a drink…the shnitzel was actually really good!

It’s definitely a fun and worthwhile experience (especially at NIS119!), but they are just too slow to bring out the meats.  I liked the “original” version that I had at Mehadrin in Sao Paulo that was just $10 back in 2005 when I was last there.  But for Israel this was pretty good.  Don’t bother with the sublime Brazilian Caiparinha drink though, it’s neither good nor authentic.  Get that at Clubhouse Cafe in Times Square, NY instead…

-We stopped by “Mamtakalada” in Geulah in Jerusalem to get out fill of sweets like Milk Chocolate covered nuts (Yum!) and Passion Fruit/Spearmint Mentos (Surprisingly good and refreshing!)

-A few Dansdeals Forum members wanted to meet up, so we spent about an hour and a half talking over different mileage strategies and all that good stuff at the Ramada Jerusalem and had a great time!

-We filled up our gas tank (over $7/gallon…ouch!) and left Jerusalem at 10:30pm to catch our 1:20am flight to Brussels which I thought would be plenty of time…at least our gas tank stayed full when we returned the car!

-We arrived at Avis at 11pm and they started checking over the car with a magnifying glass for scratches!  I’ve never once had any Avis even check over my car before, but here they were unbelievable. (Yes, I know this isn’t a corporate ownded Avis location, it’s just a franchise)  Unfortunately when we arrived at 4am in the morning I was too tired to walk around the car and make them mark any scratches on their “paper,” so I was left holding the bag for some of the tiniest scratches ever seen.  They charged me $120 for it (more than I paid for the entire 3 day rental with their mandatory 3rd party insurance!).  I paid by World Mastercard so hopefully I’ll get it back, but I had to spend 90 minutes on the phone filing the claim for it…

-It took over half an hour until a shuttle came to take us for the long ride back to the terminal.  2 shuttles came in the interim but they had their lights flashing which meant they wouldn’t pick anyone up.  Finally we made it to the terminal with just 50 minutes until flight time.

-Brussels Airlines computers were down when we arrived, we finally boarded the plane just minutes before they closed the doors…and just enough time to run and pick up some last minute ice cream bars!  They weighed our carry-on baggage and only let us have it because we were in business class.  Their business class from Tel Aviv to Brussels isn’t anything special at all, just regular seats with a blocked seat in the middle, although the badatz mehadrin meal was decent and they even gave me my own 2 liter of seltzer…good enough to keep me happy!

Up next: Venice, Italy!

That’s all for now, hope this helps people out on their own trips.  I never got around to typing up trip notes from last year’s trip up to Israel’s amazing Golan region…should I still type them up?  All feedback is appreciated!

Pictures: (Click to enlarge, not all pictures were taken on this trip)

Lufthansa kosher meal, Paris-Frankfurt.

Flying over the Swiss Alps

Advertising like this in Europe and people still smoke wherever you go?

Swiss First Class Lounge Entrace, Zurich.

Swiss efficiency on display…when they say 28 seconds they mean it!

Swiss kosher meal, Zurich-Tel Aviv

More meat!

Caiparinha at Papagaio

Papagaio

Papagaio

Dansdeals Forum Meetup At The Ramada Jerusalem

Brussels Airlines kosher meal, Tel Aviv-Brussels

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Brussels Airlines kosher meal, Tel Aviv-Brussels

Mamilla Hotel, Jerusalem

Mamilla Hotel Bathroom (A flip of the switch frosts the glass)

Mamilla Hotel Rooftop, Jerusalem

Belgian Waffle at Cafe Rimon, Jerusalem

Ramparts Walk on the Old City walls, Jerusalem

My own lounge at Tel Aviv/Ben Gurion Airport.

And there’s my last name too on the thousand island dressing…

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43 Comments On "May 2010 Trip Notes Part 3: Israel"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.

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ac

we usually end up renting a car from eldan or budget (which has a different name in Israel and I can’t recall offhand) The rental counter is in the terminal, but it has always taken a looonnnng time to get the forms filled out. The cars are always pretty beat up, but I write down every little scratch. I learned the hard way after renting from Avis at Newark.
I think I will keep inept counter agents in the terminal for shuttle to a remote location in TA.

nadiv

fantastic post, thank you dan!

wow!

dan we love these!
Your so cool that you flew all this way for so little money!

you’ve inspired me to start collecting miles 🙂

reuven hunt

The Belgian Waffles are utterly divine!

Shelves

Btw which forum members are pictured above?? I often check the forums and wonder what everyone looks like!!

steve

Glad you had lots of fun. No need to post other trips though. Just please stick to the deals

aussiebochur

Love the report! Keep them coming.

Yossi

Please DO keep the posts. I find them more exciting and intriguing that when one wants they can get amazing deals at amazing prices. I fly alot and wish I had your knowledge to save me the high costs. I have learned a lot over time on this site and always looking to learn more. Thanks Dan the Man. Chazak!!

Bloo

Please don’t listen to Steve!! We really love your trip notes PLEASE don’t stop them!!

Estee

Let me just tell you that the Nature valley chewy gernola bars come from the usa we get it hot off the con-var belt they are delicous!

moish

please identify those in the pic! steve, whats your issue?

Deal Guy

Thanks again for the wonderful reports. Since im heading there in 2 weeks, I would love to hear your GOLAN REPORT from last year, PLEASE, (if not here, then on the forums).
Btw,is the ‘Ramparts Walk on the Old City walls’ something to do? And is it easy while holding a baby in your arms? Where do you enter from?

Deal Guy

Dan, checking the coupon you posted for Papagaio, I find it funny that they tried to tell you that the cheaper price is only for arrivals prior to 5pm, when in fact the coupon states that their hours of operation are, Sun to Thurs “5pm” to midnight. So good thing you guys didn’t get fooled by them!!!

stevenr

hey dan first time post thanks for all the great posts and info keep it coming…

shmuel

Dan, sorry about the luggage. There was no way to get the amex $500 insurance for delayed or lost luggage?

dave

cant beleive you didnt like pappagios the liver is the best i ever had in the world

teachnyc

I love the notes, keep them coming, past trips, future trips, whatever… If you don’t want to read them Steve just don’t click…
BTW im going through Zurich to ISrael, can I use the SIlver BMI status to get into the lounge?

Avid Reader

Love the report. Thanks Dan!

Jeff

@ Steve,Most of us love the Trip Reports more than the deals so keep it coming, Dan!!!

Please let us which members are in the picture.

David

@steve:
Steve,
No need to post anymore. We dont need you. We were all doing just fine before you came along.

Dan, we love these posts. Keem em coming!!

Dan/Ctownbochur

@ac:
At 4am after 4 flights I was more focused on keeping my eyes open than marking down scratches. But next time I’ll know better. And hopefully you guys will too-mark down every scratch on the paper no matter how tiny it is!!!

@wow!:
Yup, miles are just amazing, I haven’t paid for a long-haul ticket in years-and they’ve all been in First class!
Much better than paying out cash!

@reuven hunt:
Yes, they are divine!!!
I wish I knew how to make them like Cafe Rimon does!

@Shelves:
I’ll let them identity themselves if they feel like it.

@Estee:
A shame we can’t get them parve in the US.

@Deal Guy:
I don’t think I’ll get up a full golan report in 2 weeks, but definitely go! It’s just an incredibly beautiful place with hidden gems like Banias, Nimrod’s fortress, Har Bental, lots of hiking options, even Charmon in the summer is fun to take the ski lift up and walk around.

The Ramparts walk lets you walk on top of the Old City walls of Jerusalem. It’s cheap and lots of fun! There are some stairs to get up the wall though and you are pretty high up although there are walls on both side. It can be done holding a baby, but use caution.

@Deal Guy:I think they may be open at noon now-call to confirm.

@shmuel:
My bags are so rarely delayed (and often I try to not check bags at all like on my last 2.5 day trip to NYC) that it’s not worth paying the extra money on each ticket for the premium baggage.

In retrospect I should’ve added it on for this ticket though.

@dave:
I did like Papagaio a lot (I couldn’t bring myself to eat the liver though!) I just thought that there could have been more cuts of meat and they could’ve come a little faster so that we didn’t have to sit there for over 2 hours to have out fill. Also you do kind’ve feel a little gross after eating a meal like that with so much meat. Somehow I don’t fell like that after ice cream!

@teachnyc:
The BMI Silver will only get you into the BMI lounges in the UK.

But it’s definitely still fun!



Thanks to the rest of you guys for your opinions…much appreciated!
It takes a lot of time to write these posts so I just wanted to make sure they’re helpful before I keep writing them up.

big fan

was upset too that cafe rimon was closed, but me and freinds booked a milchig meal for the second day shvuos, cuz isrealis only hold the first, it was great, love the post…keep up ur vood work!

shimon

any tips for a good and cheap hotel in jerusalem? or any hotels that accept points?
im going with my wife in a month and we dont want to speand 200 a night….thanks

Yaakov

Dan if you’re a “ben chutz la’aretz” how did you only keep one day?

marc h

For furure reference Avis is impossible with the car rentals. Every time i rent in jerusalem i need a magnafying glass and writ down every nick of any size. they always try to screw the renter 100% of the time. Just take pictures keep good records and never pay in cash. when it comes up on the cc fight it and they will deal with it. They have tried the scam on me multiple times and i always fight it and never pay a dime. Budget in jerusalem is a little better and Budget in the airport(btw right outside the terminal 3 min walk) is best. they didnt look at all last time i rented from them in the airport.

David

@shimon:
dansdeals.com/forums

David

@Yaakov:
dansdeals.com/forums

Motti

Dan – You mention using the tethering option with Sprint, I’m constantly in Israel and Europe, however I was never able to get the tethering option to work, even though sprint insists that it should work, any clues.

ChicagoBlackHawksRocks

My friend had a similar incident in UK where they inspected his car with a magnifying glass and they found charged him for minor scratches.
A couple years ago when returning a car to Avis in Jerusalem. I overheard the agent telling a yeshia bochur (from Chicago) he will be charged for a new tire. I intervened saying the tire was defective and not the yeshiva bochur’s fault. The Avis agent responded who are you, it’s not your business.

Deal Guy

@Dan/Ctownbochur:

Thanks Dan! Where in Yerushalaim do I enter the Ramparts walk?

Dan/Ctownbochur

@shimon:
There is a lot of discussion on Jerusalem hotel options at http://www.dansdeals.com/forums including some rates negotiated just for forum members!

@Yaakov:
That’s Chabad for you, I only eat cholov/pas yisroel, can’t have gebroktz on pesach, can’t carry on shabbos even with an eruv, wait 6 full hours between meat/milk, can’t shave my beard, but just one day yom tov in Israel.

@marc h:
Yup, Avis was also getting the guy next to me for a scratch, they really are horrible in Israel!
But the rate was sooooooo good. Seems like they’re running a bait and switch operation!

@Motti:
I used my trusty old Palm Centro and USB Modem and the tethering worked perfectly.

@Deal Guy:
There’s a little entrance at Yaffo Gate.

yah

steve, if you dont like these reports dont look at them, but please dont ruin it for the rest of us who like his reports and find them extremely beneficial.
Take your attitude elsewhere because SOME of us love these reports

yellow

Listen steve im really getting annoyed by your post!!
you could have ruined it for those of us who “kvell” from Dan’s trip notes

David

Btw, when i returned my car to Avis in TLV, we actually HAD made a scratch but they didnt notice it because it was dark out:) It was very small on the mirror…

chochem

hello dan i see you making dansdeals fan gathering

are you gonna be in NY for guimel tamuz?
maybe you should arrange a farbrenguen for dansdeals fan
let us know by facebook post (since i am not familliar with the forum ) or just a regular web post 😉

aaron

How many times a year do you bentch gomel? 😉

at

dan i had the same story with avis in israel if you want i can give you the email address of the woman who helped me get back my money. i could email it to you just give me your email address

Chanie

I also had the same question as “Yaakov.” I was in Israel, too, for Shavous. I had to keep 2 days! It wasn’t so bad since I was staying with family and they all had off from work and school that day anyway. But Dan, can you clue us in as to how you/we only have to keep ONE day in Israel when you are a resident of America? Thank you for your amazing travel posts!

sholom

AVIS in TLV tried to pull one off on me as well. When i arrived, I insisted on walking around the car with them 2-3 times to note EVERy scratch, when I arrived at the airport to drop off the car, they added an extra fee to clean the car!!! $40! They also made me pay the mandatory insurance, though I used an American Airlines CITI card (the only card I know of that actually covers insurance in Israel.

abe

cut u tell me from where u got so many miles thanks

donny

keep up the trip notes. there great

JAMES

those chewy granola bars are not kosher even in isreal it has a rabanut sticker on it but i think its a mistake its not kosher at all buyer bee aware

Dan

@JAMES:
The ones I bought from this trip had another hechsher besides rabanut.

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