Israeli hotels are famous for their buffet breakfasts, which typically include a very large selection of salads, hard and soft cheeses, several kinds of smoked fish, a variety of breakfast cereals, fruit and fruit juices, and many types of bread and rolls, besides eggs cooked in just about every possible way – scrambled, sunny-side up, hard-boiled, lightly-boiled, poached and omelettes. So when my sister and I flew down to Eilat for a few days holiday last week, to celebrate her birthday and my impending (early) retirement, I wondered how she was going to stick to her diet and how I was going to avoid putting on weight, now that I’m about to exchange the constant rushing-about of a criminal prosecutor for a more sedentary lifestyle.
I should have remembered that this was the sister who drinks Cappuccino with whipped cream on top, together with a rich chocolate cake – and then puts Sweet & Low in the Cappuccino 😉 . Of course she had a solution to the problem. Looking me calmly in the eye, she explained:
“When you’re on vacation, the calories don’t count.”
And that, my friends is the First Rule of holiday dieting.
Rule n0. #2, which is no less important (and possibly more so, because it is applicable even when you’re not on holiday), states that:
“If you crumble your cake, the calories slip away, because there’s nothing to hold them together.”
Thus, it was perfectly possible to enjoy our four-day stay at the Royal Garden Hotel to the full. And enjoy it we did. To begin with, we received an upgraded garden suite. Why? I don’t know – nor did we ask. We aren’t complaining, that’s for sure 😉 . We had a two bedroom suite (enabling each of us to have our own bedroom and our own bathroom), with a living-room, fully-equipped kitchenette and a large balcony overlooking the pool and garden. In fact, there is a whole series of inter-connected pools, joined by causeways and bridges, enhanced by waterfalls- and one of the pools even has a sandy bottom and a miniature beach.
In the gardens, there are majestic palm trees, tropical flowers – and the air is filled with birdsong.
In fact, the birds proved to be extremely camera-shy. As soon as I whipped out my apparatus and began to focus, they would fly away – even when I was trying for a long shot, using the zoom.
Matters were different at the breakfast table. The need to gorge themselves on the leftovers made the task of photography easier – though, even then, it took me several attempts before I got a decent shot:
This mission accomplished, I was able to get back to my coffee:
Nor were the birds the only ones to seek sustenance in the patio dining-room. One little cat realised, quickly enough, that I was the only guest willing to share a meal with a four-legged friend:
I’m happy to say, she wasn’t the only feline to cross my path. I saw this white-furred beauty down on the promenade, sunning herself beside the beach. Closer inspection showed the tip of her left ear had been clipped, from which I infer that the Eilat Municipality has a TNR programme for feral cats.
And from the cats’ well-being to our own. We treated ourselves to a Swedish massage in the hotel spa – during the course of which, I managed to elicit from my Filipina masseuse almost her entire life story. We enjoyed strolling down “Le Boulevard”, a Parisian-style shopping arcade within the hotel building – with prices to match. We visited the “Kings’ City” theme park, a fairly recent attraction which I have been wanting to visit for quite some time now. I would be less than honest if I did not admit that, with the exception of “King Solomon’s Waterfall”, this Biblically-inspired theme park failed to live up to expectations. The Cave of Illusions was quite interesting:
So, too, as I already hinted, was King Solomon’s Waterfall, where a 10-minute boat ride takes the visitor through a series of tableaux portraying the life of King Solomon:
Children will no doubt enjoy the Luna Park outside the main edifice (which is supposed to represent a huge Oriental palace), but you should be warned that the entrance ticket only gives you rides on three of the attractions. For anything else, I assume, you pay extra. All in all, while I am not sorry to have visited the Kings’ City, the attractions on offer certainly did not justify the whopping 125 NIS entrance fee. (Thanks to the organisation for which I work, we obtained tickets for only 85 NIS, but IMHO, even that was exhorbitant.)
On the other hand, the Las Vegas-style revue, “WOW10” (so-called because the programme changes every year and it is now in its tenth year), which we saw in the Isrotel theatre at the far end of “Le Boulevard”, fully justified the 85 NIS entrance fee. I would not normally go to see acrobats, aerialists and dancers, but one does things on vacation that one doesn’t do throughout the year. Besides which, my sister wanted to see it, so we went, and I’m glad we did, because I enjoyed every minute and was sorry when it ended. Special praise goes to the (mostly) French-speaking Master of Ceremonies, a trick cyclist, who had the audience in fits of laughter. Eilat is very, very popular with French tourists and there are also many French Jews now buying property in the city, possibly to have a safe place to run to if rising antisemitism in France makes it necessary for them to leave. It’s driving up the price of real estate in Eilat, but I can hardly blame them for that. If the situation in Europe deteriorates any further, there will be a place for her Jews to find refuge – unlike last time.
I will leave you with the pictures from our last day, where we strolled down to the end of the long jetty, and took pictures of the Bay of Eilat, with Aqaba in the background, of the feline denizens of the seafront and of the sunset. I was asked by so many tourists to take their pictures for them, that my sister remarked – only partly in jest, I suspect – that I should start a photography business.
We came back, it must be said, just in time. In Eilat, it only rains for a very few days each year – if at all – and then, usually in January or February. However, two days after we left, a heavy and totally unexpected deluge hit the city, with torrential rain flooding the roads and the airfield and causing the cancellation of all flights till the following day. But the day we left was still warm (32 degrees Celsius) and sunny, with no hint of what was to come.