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There’s a Small Hotel ... In Israel?

by Linda-Marie Singer

 

Linda-Marie Singer - Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Tel Aviv, Israel: WHEN RODGERS and HART WROTE “There’s A Small Hotel,” the chances are they weren’t talking about Israel. Leave it to a travel writer to bring up this subject, because, like many of you, I often prefer the out of way but still luxurious places to stay. Comfort is never an issue to be compromised. Nor is safety.

For first timers to the Middle East who believe Third World is synonymous with Israel, brace yourself. The country has become a mini USA with a Hebrew accent. You’ll see more people wearing Levis, while cell phones keep ringing on every street corner.

This means that the advanced system of communications spills over to the business traveler. No trouble connecting to AOL GlobalNet, and since the hours are reversed, there will be no trouble with those frustrating busy signals. All this is a far cry from other Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan where hooking up depends on viable outlets. Surprise? There aren’t any. Try your luck in Egypt, and you’ll find the technology mummified.

And yet with all the modern day conveniences that Israel has to offer, the Land of Milk and Honey is fast becoming the Land of Milk and Money. Walk along any fashionable street in Tel Aviv, and you’ll find boutiques chock full of designer labels. It’s little wonder that the suburban malls are looking more like middle America instead of middle Israel.

With so much westernization, expect to find an abundance of Holiday Inns, Sheratons and Hiltons, all good chains, but hardly Israeli unless you count the signs posted in Hebrew.

Comfort, Whimsey and Congeniality in Jerusalem

However, if you are only comfortable in familiar places and find yourself in Jerusalem, the Sheraton Jerusalem Plaza Hotel is located in the heart of town, a short walk from the Old City, and a few blocks from the main shopping and business district. With 300 comfortable rooms, it may not be your idea of intimacy, but the ambiance is friendly, plus you’ll find two of the best restaurants there: The whimsical Cow on the Roof and The Primavera..

The Radisson Moriah Plaza Hotel Jerusalem doesn’t have cows on the roof, but does have the congenial general manager, Hayim Haviv. We hadn’t been together five minutes, when he invited me to view the Presidential Suite and see the view from the private terrace. Although you won’t find it in any guidebook, the panorama rivals any sweeping vista of the City of Gold. Perhaps, though, it’s had time to flourish, as the hotel began in 1936 as a private villa with only 20 rooms. Today there are 292 guest quarters.

“There’s nothing similar to what we have,” Haviv relates. Credit the mid-1960s when tourism to Israel caught on, in part due to the popularity of Leon Uris’ “Exodus” and movie starring Paul Newman. Suddenly everyone wanted to discover the Holy Land.

“We find that people want to experience the real Israel,” Haviv explains, “and that’s what we offer. You know, the King David is the most famous hotel here, but it’s not the best.”

Where to Stay in Tel Aviv, a City that Never Sleeps

If you’re still after that authentic taste of Israel and you happen to be in Tel Aviv, I would head for the Dan Hotel and the Radisson Moriah Plaza Hotel. The Dan is well suited for business travelers. The rooms are ample but not luxurious; however, it’s the amenities that make it worthwhile. The Israeli breakfast is plentiful and the service excellent. The biggest treat, however, is not the felafel but a man called Shlomi who runs the beauty salon. Easily one of the most talented hairdressers in Israel, he doesn’t speak much English but studies each customer and then goes to work. You’ll be surprised to pay $50 in such a small country, but if Shlomi were in a chic Fifth Avenue establishment or connected to Rodeo Drive, you’d be paying him $200.

Up the street from the Dan is my favorite hotel, the Moriah Plaza Tel Aviv. Radisson has now taken over all the Moriahs that stretch from the northern Tiberias to the southern Eilat. The change is bound to make the Moriahs more plush and even more prestigious.

Already cozy and definitively Israeli, the Radisson Moriah Plaza Hotel Tel Aviv parallels the Mediterranean. There’s nothing more peaceful than awakening to people jogging along the beach, and watching swimmers darting in and out of the waves. But the best thing about this venue is its 17th floor accessibility to all hotel guests. The Executive Lounge features enough appetizers to fill you up for the entire day, and services include confirmation of airline tickets, international newspapers, and the feeling somehow that this is your own personal dining area. The rooms are expansive and well appointed, while the lobby is just right for entertaining or relaxing. Once again, you’ll find the abundantly good Israeli breakfast with a myriad of cheeses and yogurts, fresh omelets and salads. Stay a day or two, and you’ll find it hard to believe you’re in Tel Aviv, the city that never sleeps.

Eilat Princess - Elegant and SpaciousFeeling Like a Princess at the Eilat Princess Hotel

A city that sleeps well is Eilat on the Red Sea. From the time Solomon and Sheba held their legendary assignation, Eilat has been a special getaway. The sun smiles all year long there, making it a haven for Europeans in search of a healthy glow who don’t want to spend their life savings. Eilat offers the Coral Beach Nature Reserve, glass bottom boat excursions, submarine tours. The Coral World Underwater Observatory also features special environments for viewing the rich life of the sea.

Visitors to Eilat prefer dipping themselves in water, and here they have a choice of parasailing, windsurfing, diving safaris, sailing, water-skiing, and of course swimming. I found the place to stay was at the Eilat Princess. Every guest is made to feel like royalty, and the exquisite, decorative lobby will leave you breathless (click on picture for enlarged view). All this, plus the food is among the best hotel fare in the country. What’s more, Eilat borders Taba, Egypt, so within minutes you can and be in another country! You can also go through the Gulf of Aqaba and tour the ancient city of Petra in Jordan.

Living Well by the Dead Sea

But if it’s pure relaxation you’re after, don’t miss the Dead Sea. At the Hyatt Regency Dead Sea Resort & Spa, you’ll find peace, tranquillity...and the Mineralia Spa Club - rejuvenation for mind, body and soul. The spa is the largest and most lavish in the Middle East, and pampers and soothes the body and spirit with a complete range of health and beauty techniques, utilizing the world famous Dead Sea natural minerals and mud. For instance, the Cellulite/Slimming manipulation, Jet Lag Massage, Seaweed-Mud Body Treatments are all moderately priced and leave you tingling with good health.

The Hyatt Regency Dead Sea Resort spans 12 acres, and contains 600 rooms -- the largest hotel in Israel. Don’t forget to drop the kids off at Camp Hyatt, while you take off on a desert safari, mountain snappling or archeological excursions.

For thousands of years, long before the era of publicists, the Dead Sea had been famous for its healthy cures. King Herod rejuvenated himself in the mineral water, while the Queen of Sheeba used the Dead Sea salts for therapeutic bathing. The only thing they didn’t have was . . . a small hotel.

 


(Click to browse Internet-based Maps of Israel)

WHERE TO STAY IN ISRAEL

Radisson Moriah Plaza Hotel Tel Aviv
155 Hayarkon Street
Tel Aviv, Israel 63453
Phone: 011-972-3-521-6666

The Dan Tel Aviv
99 Hayarkon Street
Box 3219
Tel Aviv, Israel 63432
Phone: 011-972-3-5202525

Radisson Moriah Plaza Hotel Jerusalem
39 Karen Hayessod
Jerusalem, Israel 94188
Phone: 011-972-2-695-695

Hyatt Regency Dead Sea Resort & Spa
MP Dead Sea, Israel 89680
Phone: 011-972-7-659-1234

Sheraton Jerusalem Plaza Hotel
47 King George Street
Box 7686
Jerusalem, Israel 91076
Phone: 011-972-2-629-8686

Eilat Princess
Taba Beach
Box 2323
Eilat, Israel 88000
Phone: 011-972-365555


WHERE TO EAT

Cardo Culinaria
The First Century Dining Experience
Box 14002
Jerusalem, Israel 91400
Phone: 011-972-2-626-4155

Eucaliptus Restaurant
7 Horkenos Street
Jerusalem, Israel
Phone: 011-972-2-6244331

Mamma Mia
Ristorante Italiano
38 King George Street
Jerusalem, Israel
Phone: 011-972-2-248080

The American Colony Hotel
1 Louis Vincent Street - Nablus Road
Jerusalem, Israel 97200
Phone: 011-972-2-285-171

Cow On The Roof
The Primavera

Sheraton Jerusalem Plaza Hotel
47 King George Street
Box 7686
Jerusalem, Israel 91076
Phone: 011-972-2-629-8685

Babai
1 Jaffa Port, Hanger No. 1
Tel Aviv, Israel
Phone: 011-972-3-6818795

 

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Linda-Marie Singer "The LIVEWIRE" for Travel Watch. Former President of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association, and created the national writers conference, "The Days of Wine & Proses." She is a travel and entertainment reporter living in the San Francisco Bay Area. (More about this writer.)

Email: lindamari@aol.com - Web: http://www.i.am/lindamarie  

 

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