Friday, April 30, 2010

Life on the Road: the Deep South, Spain, Israel & Egypt

"Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living." —Miriam Beard
After a month that’s taken me from California to the Deep South of the U.S., Madrid, Spain’s remote mountains, Israel and the Middle East, here are some observations from my life on the road as an American journalist:

• Travel as Hero has an evil twin who can sear corneas, crash laptops and wreak travel havoc with volcanic ash. Moral of the story: whatever doesn’t kill or cripple you makes you stronger (and poorer).

• On a private island off Georgia’s coast, you can romp naked on a beach, spy on resident bald eagles, daydream in a swinging bed, soak in an outdoor hot tub warmed by a fireplace, and kayak amidst alligators. Bring along a dozen friends and decompress for a week for $2,500. Order groceries online and have Captain Andy Hill deliver them by boat.

• Southern delicacies include sweet Georgia shrimp, blue crabs, oysters prepared every which way and low country boil—a savory blend of shrimp, sausage, corn, carrots and potatoes, served up on newspaper for easy clean-up.

• Alligator tastes much like chicken, as does rabbit.

• Gab with Spaniards for 10+ hours a day and enjoy a FREE vaca at VaughanTown if your native language is English. Go to Gredos, 3 hours west of Madrid for 4-star accommodations or stay in a rustic collection of houses in the remote mountains of northeastern Spain at Valdelavilla.

• Israel is a troubled land and diverse melting pot where people can be unsmiling and unaccommodating. Most telling comment, overheard on a walking tour of Jerusalem’s Old City: “Welcome to Palestine.”

• Find cheap digs at Sky Hostel and Momo's in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem Hostel in Jerusalem. Save more and gain priceless cultural insight by couchsurfing with broadcast journalist Idele Ross and her artist husband, Norman Slepkov, in Jerusalem's Arnona district overlooking the Dead Sea.

• Jews who dare buy property in Jerusalem's Muslim quarter may find themselves in prison-like conditions, under constant threat of terrorism in their own homes.

• Don’t expect to buy groceries, check into a hostel, catch a bus or even snap a picture of your observant hosts on the Sabbath in Israel, when everything shuts down. Of course, it’s lively as sin in Muslim quarters, if you care to engage in any.

• There’s no bus map for public transport in major Israeli cities, making getting around inefficient and confusing.

• Think you have problems? Visit Jerusalem's Yad Va-Shem Museum, where the suffering of millions of Jews during the Holocaust is memorialized and your schtick will seem very small.

•You can get a good burger and nice chicken in Israel, but mostly anticipate an endless litany of falafel, shawarma and hummus on your plate.

• Expect to be frisked and scanned at Israeli bus stations, malls and landmarks. Steer clear of soldiers with oozies on every corner.

• Allow 3+ hours for security at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. Be ready to answer questions encompassing everything shy of your favorite sexual position and what you’re going to name your illegitimate child. I arrived at 7:30pm and barely made my 11:30pm flight to Jordan for connections to Egypt.

• Hurghada, Egypt is a model for what seaside development should NOT be. On a more positive note, find great snorkeling here and stay at a sprawling resort, in a massive room overlooking the Red Sea, for $30/night, including lavish breakfast and dinner buffets.

• Don’t show any interest in any souvenirs in Egypt or Israeli souks unless you’re prepared to haggle for a LONG time. Of course, bargaining is half the fun and you can come away with some cute knickknacks for your time and trouble.

That’s it for now. Bike tour down the Nile to Luxor, starts tomorrow. Stay well and keep in touch.


  1. I love the Geisha! Fun traveling with you, keep writing.

  2. Ok, that's living the dream! You go, Girlfriend.

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