City of David tour and Hezekiah’s Tunnels

Noah and I are back in the United States now! Wow, what a year in Israel. I’m going to try to put out a post or two about the first days back in Boston soon, but for now, here’s a final recap of the last days in Israel.

A couple weeks before we left, Noah and I finally took a much-anticipated tour of the City of David. We had been wanting to do a tour there since last fall, but schedules were always busy and we wanted to reserve a spot on an English tour in advance. Eventually, the end of our time in Israel was approaching so we knew we needed to go! We went on a Friday afternoon tour through the city and the water tunnels. In total, the tour was about 3 hours long. We got there early to look around the area before the tour started:

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The tour started with an overview of the area (which has a great overlook into East Jerusalem) and explanations about some of the ruins found in the area.

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The highlight of a tour to the City of David, however, is a trip through the water tunnels. King Hezekiah built these tunnels as a way to defend the city from the approaching Assyrian army in the 8th century BCE. Today, the tunnels still have some water (about knee deep, sometimes a little higher).

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Unfortunately, our trip through the tunnels wasn’t the greatest. We were behind a group that was singing very loudly and, it turned, included several blind people. It was great that the group was enabling some blind people to walk through the tunnel, but it made the trip through the tunnels very slow and I started to get sort of frightened after being in the small space for so long! I was definitely glad to see the sunshine when we got to the end!

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Besides the City of David tunnels, there were some other final activities and restaurant visits that we wanted to make sure to get in before leaving the holy city. A few highlights include…

birthday dinner at my favorite Jerusalem cafe, Kadosh:

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a final trip to the Old City to see the Tower of David Night Spectacular:

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a waffle from Waffle Bar:

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Saying goodbye to our beloved Jerusalem apartment:

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And a 4:00am trip to Ben Gurion airport for our departure flight:

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Goodbye, Israel. I will miss you so dearly. 

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Traveling to Amsterdam, staying at the ‘t hotel

Sorry for the break in blogging…I’ve been out of town! First, I was on a tiyul to the North with Pardes for three days (posts about that trip coming soon), and then Noah and I took a trip to Amsterdam for 5 days. We were extremely busy – rushing around to see lots of sites, visit museums, and enjoy exploring. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great during our visit to Amsterdam, and most days it was fairly cold and rainy. Nonetheless, we had a great time!

We left last Friday morning bright and early. Noah wasn’t feeling well so he tried to sleep during most of the flights.

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After a fairly full day of travel, we arrived to the Amsterdam airport shortly after 5:00pm.

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The Amsterdam airport is fairly unique in that it is very close to the city center. In fact, it takes slightly under 15 minutes to get from the airport train station (Schiphol) to the Amsterdam Centraal station in the Old City Center.

That is if the train is working….

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We waited for about 15 minutes by the tracks until someone came and told all of the would-be passengers that the train wasn’t running. After trying to figure out the bus system, we gave up and ended up taking a taxi into the city. The ride wasn’t too expensive though because two people behind us in line (a couple of travelers from Spain) asked if we wanted to share a cab!

I will say that the public transport train system in Amsterdam was pretty terrible from our experience. During our 5 days, we tried to use the train 4 times. 3 out of those 4 times the train wasn’t working (!!!) – something we discovered after buying tickets and spending time waiting around for the train. Fortunately, the train service desk was always very willing to give us a refund. Still, I hope our experience isn’t reflective of standard transit service, or I imagine it would be very frustrating to be an Amsterdammer.

After an unfortunately long amount of time, we finally made it to our hotel: ‘t hotel. Noah found ‘t hotel online while he was looking for a canal house we could stay in during our trip. The hotel is also a tea/breakfast shop, and the adorable sitting area greets you upon walking in the door:

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Our room was lovely – fairly spacious with a hot water station and comfortable bed (although there was some pretty gaudy wallpaper). The only downside of the room was that there was very little lighting (hence why the pictures are blurry/dark). I will, however, take full responsibility for the mess. 🙂

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To get to our room, we had to climb two extremely steep sets of stairs, a typical feature – we would soon learn – of canal houses:

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After dropping our stuff at the hotel, it was time to PLAY!!

We walked around and looked at some fun shops including this store which seemed to be one big, hot-food vending machine of sorts:

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We also stopped into a candy store and saw this funny display of American “candy:”

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Eventually we went to dinner at an Indonesian restaurant called Puri Mas. Indonesian food is very popular/common in Amsterdam (Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony), and we read about the traditional rijsttafel dinner in our guide book. Rijsttafel is a Dutch word that literally means ‘rice table,’ and it’s basically a sampler dinner of sorts – small servings of different meat and vegetable dishes accompanied by rice. We ordered the rijsttafel dinner at Puri Mas and it was delicious (although some dishes were a bit spicy):

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Post-dinner included a little more window shopping and a walk through Leidseplein – a square in southern Amsterdam with lots of shops, restaurants, and entertainment. The area seemed to be very popular among tourists, and we spotted one of these pop-up urinals:

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Exactly as it sounds, this urinal pops up from the ground at night to provide a place for people to relieve themselves that is more pleasant (for others) than the ground. We also saw these warning signs all over the place telling people to be careful about what drugs they buy (apparently some people were sold heroin as cocaine and died):

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I guess the rumors about people going crazy in Amsterdam are true…

Not everything in the square was so edgy though…such as this Mini Cooper store:

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Eventually, we were exhausted from the early start to the day and headed back to the hotel for some sleep.

In the morning, we got up fairly early to have breakfast before our 9:00am pre-arranged ticket time at the Van Gogh Museum. Breakfast was provided at the hotel and included juice, yogurt, coffee or tea, and – Noah’s favorite breakfast! – bread and cheese:

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While good, the breakfast got a little redundant after 5 days…I sure missed my yogurt and oatmeal. 🙂

Check back soon for the first day’s activities such as the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, and Keukenhoff Gardens!

Other Amsterdam Posts

Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and Keukenhof Gardens
Canal Cruise, Museum of the Canals, and the Old Jewish Quarter
Anne Frank House, Amsterdam City Museum, and Oude Kerk
Day trip to Rotterdam, architecture tour