TRAVEL TRIPS (click on the name)

JEFF GROBERMAN's Road Trip to See Africa
JEFF GROBERMAN's Road Trip to See the Eclipse

May 14 - 21 2017  Posted Aug 25

I returned to New York this Spring to celebrate my daughter Melissa’s graduation with a Dual Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology (May 14 & 15) at Columbia University and my 80th birthday May 18.  This was my second visit in less than a year as I’d previously been to visit Melissa in July 2016 which gave me a chance to visit her college and provided my first impressions of the city.

This time ‘round I took an overnight flight via Cathay Pacific ($600.00 Cdn).  Dinner was served and there was lots of leg room for comfort.  I arrived in New York at 7:00 a.m. ET (4:00 a.m. PT).  First on the agenda was to go to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods to store up on groceries as restaurants in New York are very expensive. 

Monday, May 15:  Attended grad ceremony inside the church, housing 500 graduates and 1,000 in the audience.  We had front row seats next to a giant screen.  The graduates paraded in, accompanied by a brass band.  There was a brief speech by the Head of the University and a procession of graduates who were individually named.  This was followed by a grand reception inside the University where I met Melissa’s fellow grads and their professors.

Tuesday, May 16:  Full University Grads’ Outside Ceremony.  89 degrees F and at least 15,000 in attendance!  After ten minutes in the sun, I retreated to one of the tents with a screen to watch the proceedings; that ten minutes gave me a sunstroke.  Afterwards I met my daughter at the University book store to buy shirts with the University logo and a picture frame for her certificate.  I was exhausted from the heat and shopping, so went to a nearby massage parlour for a 60-minute massage ($45.00) which was wonderfully relaxing.

Wednesday, May 17:  Started the day with a manicure for $8.00 and then to get a facial that my daughter booked for me as there was a Mother’s Day special for $55.00 (normal price $85.00).  First time in my life.  Believe me, I felt and looked 20 years younger!  That evening after dinner at one of my daughter’s favourite places, we went to see the play Oslo Accord at Lincoln Centre.  It was well acted and balanced.  Incidentally, they won Best Play at the Tony Awards and were also nominated in three other categories.  We almost missed it as we thought it started at 8:00 p.m. when it began at 7:00! (it was a three-hour play with two short intermissions).  There was a 3-month waiting list to see it (the play has now closed).

Thursday, May 18 (my birthday):  We first went to a take-out salad bar called Sweet Greens (there are quite a few of them around).  Vegetarian or non.  For $10.00 you get enough to feed two.  My daughter booked us to go sailing from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.  The boat took no more than four passengers and champagne was served during the tour.  It was 95 degrees F so a good day for sailing!  We went around the Statue of Liberty and even climbed on the front of the boat.  We met a wonderful couple on board and exchanged photographs via e-mail. 

When we returned to shore, we didn’t want to go home yet so visited Central Park and the 9/11 Ground Zero Memorial site and then took in the movie Paris Can Wait with Diane Lane.

Friday, May 19:  Went to the Museum of Natural History where we had a private guide – Jennifer Chan (Melissa’s school chum from Crofton) who assists with curating new exhibits and sometimes for friends only conducts private tours.  I saw the Mummy movie here and can swear the museum was used as I remember seeing the Mummy’s.  In the evening we saw Phantom of the Opera, but to get to the Majestic Theatre we had to go at least ten blocks as several roads were closed due to a crazed guy who killed one and injured a dozen others by driving his truck on the sidewalks.  We did, however, make it to the theatre on time.

Saturday, May 20:  Time to meet my nephew from New York and two nieces from Detroit who flew in for the weekend to celebrate my daughter’s graduation and my birthday.  Before meeting them, Melissa wanted me to go for brunch at another of her favourite places – this one in Soho, called Delicatesen.  I had a wonderful sort of Belgian French Toast – 4 inch square with cherry cheesecake inside it.

  Afterwards we met my nephew and nieces at Saks Fifth Avenue.  We spent the afternoon at Central Park, took lots of pictures, then went to dinner at another of Melissa’s favourites – a Persian restaurant called Ravagh in Manhattan (11 E. 30th Street between 5th & Madison Avenue; Telephone 212-696-0300).  There are two other locations but this Persian Grill was the best and the menu had very reasonable prices.

Sunday, May 21 – My last day.  65 degrees F just as the first day I arrived.  My nephew invited all of us to a barbecue at his apartment in Brooklyn which is now the most popular place to live.  Buying a place or renting one is going out of control.  To buy a place you must pay broker’s fees; otherwise you can’t go in to see the property unless you agree to pay the fees if you buy it.  The area is so clean and there’s a park that is four miles around but there are beautiful sites inside and out. There is also a triumphal arch monument – The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch at the Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, New York - dedicated “To the Defenders of the Union, 1861 – 1865”, which reminded me very much of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.  After sightseeing the area we came back for the barbecue done by my nephew.  Salad and dessert by Melissa which we all loved. I had packed my bags as Brooklyn was closer to the airport so I took a UBER pool from my nephew’s to get there.

In the eight days in New York I walked at least 20 miles and climbed up and down stairs in the subway over 2,000 steps.  I bought a weekly subway pass for $32.00 unlimited use and I strongly recommend it.  It helps if you know the subway system (thanks to my daughter!).  Sometimes the subway skips some stops and you won’t know when so you may have to get out and take a cab or go to the appropriate subway.  Don’t take a cab through heavy traffic downtown unless you don’t want to go via subway - or if you have three or four people, take a cab.  If you love shows, musicals and/or plays, go once a year like some CBC retirees I know.

Tips recommended are now 20% or higher.  Food in high-end restaurants is expensive.  Unless you belong to WestJet, I recommend Cathay Pacific.

After all the walking I now fit into many of my pants.

Sept 22 – Oct 6, 2016 Posted July 19

The last time I was in Israel I went with my daughter Melissa who took part in a world wide medical conference in Jerusalem for only 4 days and I had only time to tour in Jerusalem. But this time I had the opportunity to go to Israel with my brother Reuben and was invited to stay with my niece Diane Curtis who moved from London 4 years ago to Hertzilia Petuah, a half hour drive north of Tel Aviv, which is a suburb or resort just two blocks from the beach. I have over 200 relatives there whom I haven't seen for over 35 years, but as we came to see Israel and the changes over the last 35 years it just wasn't possible to visit with them during this trip. I did manage to call some of them though during our time there.

I was so impressed with the wonderful changes made. My niece had a car so the first day we toured the markets and at night visited the wonderful parks where children 10 years to seniors enjoyed the soft sponge-like walk and run paths. Groups of 20 or more with their coach kept everyone in shape. I did not see a child, teenager or senior obese. Seems like a must as almost everyone had to serve 2 to 4 years in the army. There were also exercise machines in the park for tourists to use. I was also impressed with the care of birds and animals. Did you know that they have a blood bank for birds? There are parks for dogs to go through obstacle paths. There are thousands of cats that certain designated women feed every morning and night and which are taken to be neutered or spayed. But we could hear them fighting every night. They sound almost human.

The roads and freeways in modern Israel are beautifully done. The buildings and apartments are all like marble and shelters every 2 blocks. Security tight, with cameras everywhere.

Upon arrival we had a picture I.D. and you had to present this when you registered in any hotel in Israel so that your movements can be traced wherever you go. Even cameras can trace you any place, any time. When you go back to the airport they question you especially when you go temporarily to Jordan or Egypt. They ask you if anyone asked you to take a supposed present for them. Did anyone get extra friendly, fellow tourist or resident? There are soldiers all over in case of any problems. We felt very safe.

With most of our itinerary booked in advance, we travelled by air, train and bus and my niece's car as follows:

1. Thursday Sept 22: My niece dropped us at Jaffa (Tel Aviv) at an old Arab market to shop and sight see. Had lunch (falafel) then walked along the beach. Took a bus to Tel Aviv to visit the famous sugar carmel market, about a furlong of vendors with world wide famous fruits, vegetables, sweets and spices – a vegetarian paradise. I got some saffron spice for my daughter as promised, some inexpensive jewelry, more falafel for lunch. Next to the market were clothing stores for tourists, very cheap and beautiful for all ages. We sent I-phone pictures of items to Vancouver for approval before buying them. I also wanted to buy a prayer shawl (took a picture) as the last time in Jerusalem (2012) I bought one at the hotel where we stayed but it turned out to be a Christian shawl with St. Matthews inscriptions so gave it to a dear friend, Lillian Hanson, to wear it when she sings at her gospel tabernacle.
2. Friday Sept 23 and Saturday Sept 24. Flew from Herzilia to Eilat and spent the night there.

Next morning went with a group to Petra, Jordan. Had to pay $160 for a visa into Jordan and another $60 to get back to Eilat. Went on tour with a Syrian Christian guide to the caves and mausoleums. Had a camel ride (see picture) and rather than walk back 2 miles paid for a horse drawn chariot type cart for 3. Our guide warned us not to buy from gypsies and not to accept side trips offered "or we won't see you for a month, possibly in nearby Aquaba". Also found out that 6,000 Jordanians from Jordan and Aquaba walked daily to Eilat for jobs waiting for them but they had to be back by 8pm before the border closed.




Back in Eilat went swimming at our hotel pool and ate at shops near the beach, cheaper than in hotels.

3. Sunday 25th in Eilat visiting world famous aquarium. Tickets were good for 3 days and
we had to go back Monday Sept 26 as there was so much to see.

4. Tuesday Sept 27th. Drove in niece's car to Haifa and visited Bahai World Center Gardens.
Saw the dome-like shrine of Rab (1819-1850) merchant from Persia Ali Muhammed said he was sent by God to prepare humanity for a new age. Visited the Archives Teaching Centre and Gardens which are maintained by volunteers. It's located in Acra/Haifa. Wanted to drive to Tiberias but reserved it for another day. If you have a GPS to find your way it's no good. Use Israel's "Ways," very up to date and dependable. Warns you vocally of hazards or trouble ahead, even speed checks which we found out later were camouflaged bird cages on posts.
5. Wednesday Sept 28th. Took train from Hertzilia rather than Tel Aviv (unless you are in Tel Aviv) to Jerusalem for 28 shekels each way $10 Canadian. By taxi it would cost you 350-400 shekels $150 Canadian each way. By bus from Tel Aviv only, so stuck with train which took 1½ hours (bus 1 hour) but with better view of the country. Arrived 3pm which did not give us much time so went to the Western Wall and 4 Nation (Israeli, Arab, Armenian, Christian) Market, vendors and shops by Jaffa Gate.

No time for night show at Tower of David so went back to Crown Hotel (2012) for dinner but the Indian restaurant we loved was gone so had the buffet dinner downstairs and next morning had a wonderful breakfast buffet which is a must for tourists as you can sneak some food and fruits for lunch or to have as a snack on the way to the Dead Sea by bus as we did.
6. Thursday Sept 29th. Took bus from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea and along the way we went through Palestine Authority Territory. Passed Masada where Jews committed suicide rather than be captured by Romans. Saw the Dead Sea and was surprised to see so many sink holes that would swallow any vehicles as the sea is drying up so fast that in 20 years it will not exist. So a lot of beaches were closed. Only hotels where we stayed had safe access to the beach where I floated but, while trying to stand up, fell on my face where the salt water burned my eyes. Luckily there were showers within 30 metres to wash away the salt. Loved the hotel and pool area which enclosed a swim pool with salt water similar to the beach for those who did not want to go to the beach at 40 degrees centigrade. Amazed to see so many tourists of all countries, especially Russians, both Jewish and Christians. Did you know that there are over a million Russians in Israel, ever since Israel urged Jews and now non-Jews to settle in Israel? They are exempted for 2 to 4 years from paying taxes, so Russian tourists eventually take advantage and stay, so now all road and shop signs have to be in Hebrew, English, Arabic and Russian.
Canadian philanthropists (Bronfman's) encourage Jewish youth 19 to 26 years to take a free (birthright) trip to Israel. Some stay and work in the kibutzes up to 6 months. We returned by bus Friday morning Sept 30 to Jerusalem to catch the train back to Hertzilia but encountered delay in traffic due to world delegates attending Shimon Perez memorial and burial. All airports were closed and main roads diverted for security of delegates. We had to get to the station in time for the 1:00 pm trip which was the last trip before Jewish Shabat, so we urged our taxi driver after the bus ride to get us there in time and paid him an extra 10 shekels. We made it with 5 minutes to spare as we thankfully already had our own prepaid train fare or it would have been taxi back to Hertzilia.

7. Friday night Sept 30th. My niece and her friends took us to a posh Vietnamese restaurant but I am not a seafood lover. I wanted chicken, and red meat in Israel is too fatty. So later that night walked in downtown Tel Aviv where the city does not sleep just like New York. There were so many outdoor entertainments like a makeshift London square where a look-a-like Queen Elizabeth was greeting everyone. When I was in the crowd dancing to the Beatles music, the Queen grabbed and danced with me! My niece took a video of me dancing with her and posted it on Facebook. Next we went to a public salsa jam session where pro-like dancers entertained and urged tourists to join them. Wish my other brother Ralph were with us as he is an experienced salsa dancer and teacher!

8. Saturday, October 1st. Drove to Tiberias by the sea of Galilee, bordering Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the Golan Heights, where we had the best sea bass fish. I normally like salmon but it comes from Norway at a price, but was glad I had the sea bass. We wanted to rent a boat to go around all the borders but rentals were not open for another 2 hours. My niece spotted a big speedboat coming in so rushed and asked if they could please take us 4 and she would pay them 200 shekels. Turned out they were nephews of my rabbi in Vancouver! Soon as they found out, they immediately invited us to come on board. We somehow had to jump over a chained fence to get in but it was a memorable trip going along the sea of Galilee scouting all the borders.
We were not done yet. From Tiberias we drove to a Christian "Kibutz Kineret" where there was a yardenet baptismal site along the Jordan River Valley where I got some trinkets and a bottle of holy water from the Jordan river from a priest. I asked him why he wasn't performing the baptism in the pool. He said the priests are too old to be in the pool itself and chance possibly getting sick from so many tourists but have assigned staff to do it. The river there is also drying up and may not be as clean as it used to be. I will be giving the bottle of water to a dear friend.

9. From October 2nd – 4th which is the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana) was another reason to go to Israel. After spending 62 years singing at services at my own synagogue, I was invited by my cousin Moshe Cohen who is the choir master and cantor in his synagogue in Raanana just north of Hertzilia to sing in his world famous choir which included a guest cantor and 2 rabbis. The congregation consisted of immigrants from Britain, South Africa and Australia. Did not have time to rehearse with the choir but went over briefly with him the songs they sing and surprisingly knew 80% (15 songs) of them so he asked me officially to join him. It was a wonderful experience. One choir member later asked him who the new recruit was and that he looked just like him. He said he's my long lost cousin. They wanted me to stay for Kol Nidre (Jewish day of atonement) services on October 12-13 but I had to be back in Vancouver to attend services at my synagogue.

10. Wednesday October 5th. Our last day before returning to Vancouver we went back to the sugar carmel market to buy last minute presents and take back fresh sweets, Turkish Delights and Halva and the famous biblical "manna from Heaven" given to the Jews during the exodus from Egypt. Also gold jewelry, necklaces, earrings and bracelets, particularly a Hamsa (hand) bracelet or necklace intended to drive away evil spirits that is universally worn. People from all faiths buy them.


11. Thursday October 6th. Back to Vancouver but stopped at duty free to buy wine. Big mistake! It's double the price and not enough variety. Should have bought it at the Golan Heights or local stores where it would have been cheaper. Also at duty free, they did not wrap it the official way which should be in clear duty free bags with receipts attached. We were warned by tourists to put it into our luggage or it would be confiscated in Toronto or Vancouver.
Thus ends a very enjoyable trip. I was glad my brother Reuben took an international driver's licence which you need to drive a car in Israel!