Visiting Ein Hod and Acre

After a day of touring around Ramat Hanadiv and Caesarea, Noah and I went for a morning run around Zicharon Yaakov. Initially, we thought we would just run around through the pedestrian areas and maybe look for a park, but THEN we discovered something very exciting (in particular to Noah):

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Unbeknownst to us, Zicharon Yaakov has an artillery corps museum (called Beit Hatothan) surrounded by an outdoor area featuring a memorial monument and a couple dozen tanks and military vehicles. The museum was closed (and we were in the middle of a run…), but we looked around at the tanks and such:

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You could even go inside some of them!

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After the run and a quick breakfast at the Purple House, we drove to the nearby hilltop village of Ein Hod. Ein Hod is an artist’s village with winding streets, tons of galleries, and it is nestled within a forest of JNF trees:

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Walking through the village, many of the streets were dotted with sculptures and public artwork:

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We enjoyed wandering around and following signs to various galleries throughout the town:

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After a leisurely morning in Ein Hod (which ended with a run to the car during torrential downpour!), we drove to Acre (pronounced and sometimes spelled, Akko). Acre is located in the Israeli northern coastal plain, and it’s an area that has served an important historical purpose throughout time, providing a coastal link to the central Middle East. For a time, it was the headquarters of Crusader knights, and much of the area’s current attractions/focus is on that time period. Before exploring the fortress and knight’s hall in the area, we paused in the town’s busy market for a delicious lunch of kebab and salatim:

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After being revitalized by lunch, we toured the Crusader’s fortress – it’s still an incredible (and slightly terrifying!) compound after all these years:

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The exploration of the fortress was followed by a return to the busy market for a more thorough exploration:

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Our walk ended at the port that made this area such an important strategic location:

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After leaving Acre, we took one final drive of the day to the Shavit Guest House at the base of Mt. Arbel where we stayed for the next two nights. The Shavit Guest House is a small, family-run lodge/restaurant. The family was extremely nice and welcoming, and they were also eager to offer help and suggestions when planning activities. We arrived to the guest house just as the sun was setting, so Paul worked on taking some nice photographs with his fancy new camera…

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…and I found a friend:

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Other posts about visiting with Noah’s parents:

Zichron Yaakov – visiting Ramat Hanadiv gardens and Caesarea
Exploring in the north and Hamat Gader spa and hot springs

Day trip to Rotterdam

After a great three days in Amsterdam, Noah and I wanted to take a day trip to another city in the Netherlands. Rotterdam was an easy day trip and offered some interesting sights related to architecture, so we thought this would be the perfect destination! Trains from Amsterdam to Rotterdam run frequently, so getting there from the Amsterdam Centraal Station wasn’t too much trouble. Unfortunately, the express train we had planned to take was cancelled (surprise surprise!), but the local train only took about 15 minutes longer, so it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience.

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Adventurin’…

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Rotterdam is known for its unusual and modern architecture. The city was basically entirely destroyed in World War II, so the entire landscape shows a very ‘new’ look, and it seems that the remodel opportunity was used to have some architectural fun. Architecture is an interest of Noah’s, so he was especially excited to see the city. We used an app (Rotterdam Info) to guide us on an architecture walk through the city.

The first stop…Rotterdam’s Centraal Station – this was easy since our train from Amsterdam arrived there!

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Rotterdam’s main train station, this building was revamped and reopened to the public in March 2014:

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Right near the train station were several other interesting buildings including Groot Handelsgebouw, an enormous business center that covers a building block of 720 x 275 ft. Also, this is the style that once symbolized post-war reconstruction in Rotterdam:

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Delftse Poort are high-rise office buildings just across the street from Centraal Station that immediately give the city a metropolitan feel. These buildings are an imposing 495 ft. tall and have a mirrored facade:

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De Calypso is a colorful building with sloping walls. Inside are apartments, offices, shops, and, naturally, parking:

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And, to make things even more fun, there’s an oddly shaped church attached to the end of De Calypso:

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The Westersingel canal (a primary canal in Rotterdam that runs from Chinatown to the Museum Quarter) has interesting sculptures dotting the pathway along the water. The name for this route is Beeldenroute Westersingel (Westersingel Sculpture Route). There are 17 sculptures featured, created by artists from around the world:

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The end of the sculpture walk brought us to an odd (and apparently somewhat controversial) statue. The statue’s official name is ‘Santa Claus.’ but it is known at the Buttplug Gnome (hence, the controversy as to whether this type of statue should be displayed by the city). It is supposed to be making a comment about pop culture.

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Moving right along…SHOPPING!!!

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Lijnbaan, the busiest shopping street in Rotterdam, was the first pedestrian shopping area in Europe. There was a large mix of stores including popular American brands I recognized as well as smaller boutiques:

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Just off of Lijnbaan is the City Hall building. There’s a street running under the center of the building!

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Interesting window shopping continued at the Beursplein, also sometimes called the ‘shopping trench’ because it is a below street-level pedestrian shopping area:

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Walking through the Beursplein led to a momentous occasion…my first Swatch! Noah is a big Swatch fan, and I finally let my envy of his cool watches get the better of me:

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The Grote of Sint Laurenskerk (often called Laurens Church) was built sometime in the late 15th or early 16th centuries and is the only surviving late-Gothic building in the city. Today, the building is used not only by tourists and churchgoers but also for concerts, lectures, and other large events:

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After all this sightseeing, Noah and I were hungry for lunch and excited to stop for a bite to eat at one of the most interesting buildings we saw…Markthal:

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Markthal (Market Hall) is a recently-opened indoor food market with shops, stands, produce vendors, restaurants and more. Of course, I would love this sort of food market no mater what, but the building itself is part of what makes this place really interesting. The building is built with apartments and offices forming a partial oval around an open-air center area. In this picture, the internal area extending from the large central window is the open-air market while the exterior ring is office buildings and apartments:

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Inside…food, food, food!

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From the inside, the ring of offices/apartments looms high above all the action, and the dividing wall is decorated with flower images:

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Here is a view to the outside from the center of the market:

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So neat!

After lunch, we looked at a couple of the other neat buildings in the immediate vicinity. Directly across the street from Markthal was Bibliotheek Rotterdam, Rotterdam’s public library:

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Also across from the Markthal are the iconic cube houses:

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These houses were designed by an architect named Piet Blom. His vision was to make the houses look like trees and have the complete unit appear like a forest.

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One cube house is a small museum of sorts where visitors can go inside and see what it would be like to live inside one of these houses. From the inside, the design seemed like a pretty inefficient use of space to me, but it was fun to get a view from within! Here’s a peek out of the attic window:

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Our last adventures of the day were to walk along the Nieuwe Maas (the large river running through Rotterdam) and to visit the Het Nieuwe Instituut.

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The wind next to the water was incredible. I literally thought I might be blown away, so we didn’t spend too long there before seeking cover on a different walkway. The Het Nieuwe Instituut is a contemporary museum about innovation. Unfortunately, our visit was a bit disappointing because half of the 4 exhibits were closed or not completed. There was a fairly detailed exhibit on 3D printing though….if that’s you’re thing. 🙂

Other posts from the Amsterdam Trip

Travel day and hotel
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

 

Out and About in DC

My DC posts are all a bit delayed as I was too busy with my friends and at the AIPAC conference to write them in real time, but you can enjoy them now….and it’s sort of like I get to enjoy the experiences TWICE!

For my first full day in DC, we got up to have ‘breakfast’ (quotes since it was approximately noon) at the American City Diner. Since the diner was only a few blocks away, we walked there.

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This was a truly traditional American diner – jukebox and everything!

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Our table was on an indoor patio, and we had a view across the street.

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The menu had all the diner essentials: milkshakes, eggs, home fries, french fries, and sandwiches of many colors. I ordered the Eggs Florentine, and it was so good I completely forgot to take a picture before eating it. Oh well!

After brunch, we headed out to explore DC. Stops included:
– the Washington Monument
– the Freer Art Gallery
– the Capitol
– the Sculpture Garden
– the National Gallery of Art

At the Freer, two things stuck out to me. The first was the Peacock Room. In addition to being great simply due to it’s name, the golden paintings of peacocks within were very beautiful:

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The second was ‘Monkeys Grasping for the Moon,’ a sculpture (of sorts) by Xu Bing.

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The monkeys sculpture hangs down from the ceiling, with the word for ‘monkey’ artistically written in 21 languages and strung together, a la monkeys in a barrel. The sculpture runs from the ceiling, down through several museum levels, and finishes just above a pool of water on the lowermost level.

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The pool is meant to represent a lake shimmering with the reflection of the moon. The piece is inspired by a Chinese folktale in which a group of monkeys unite in an attempt to capture the moon. To do so, they link arms and tails to form a chain from the branch of a tree to the moon. When they reach the ‘moon’ though, it is only to discover that it is really just a reflection on the surface of the pool beneath them. The moral of the story is that often times the things we work hardest for are nothing but illusions.

Continuing our art education for the day, we stopped by the National Gallery of Art. We didn’t originally intend to go, but we (meaning me) were drawn in by an advertisement for a photo exhibit called Faking It. The exhibit focused on the manipulation of photos prior to photoshop and other modern technologies. The gallery in its entirety is quite immense though, and we made several detours on our search for the Faking It exhibit. Example A, mobiles in the ‘colored paper’ gallery:

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Will they move if we blow on them??

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After the long day of exploring, we were looking for someone to eat dinner that would be delicious, affordable, and good for accommodating a large group. The answer was found at Indique Heights in the Friendship Heights neighborhood.

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I’m not always a huge fan of Indian food, but I really enjoyed my meal here. Of course, it’s hard to not to enjoy a meal when you are with such great company:

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The service and restaurant atmosphere were both great. There were sauces on the table when we arrived…

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…and the food arrived much quicker than anyone expected. One of the reasons I think I don’t always enjoy Indian food is that the dishes start to get monotonous for me. Luckily, Indique offered a Thalis (combination dish) with small portions of several menu items. I ordered the Vegetarian Thalis, and got a sampling of 4 different vegetarian dishes, lentils, mango rice pudding, and raita. Plus naan and rice. This was too much food to finish, but it was delicious and good for sharing around the table!

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Among the dishes others enjoyed were lamb biryani and chicken tikka makhani:

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Everyone enjoyed their meal, and if I lived in DC I would definitely come back to this restaurant. Since I was taking pictures throughout the meal, Cameron perused my blog to get the scoop.

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Now you’re famous! 🙂