The stresses and strains of the last eighteen months have taken their toll of my sister and of me. A few months ago Peter suggested that we take another holiday as it was apparent that I needed a break and an escape from life at home. Mum’s gradual deterioration, as well as the touch of pneumonia that was diagnosed a few days before our intended departure, had me in two minds. Sarah, the Community Matron, advised that I needed a holiday. I knew that I would be able to jump on a plane back from Italy if necessary but I was still ambivalent. It was only 48 hours before we were due to leave that I changed my position from ‘if we go on Friday’ to ‘we’re going away at the end of the week’.
A little more than two days travelling to Italy’s Ligurian coast provided the start to our late summer holiday. We were unable to locate the satnav and this navigator took her eye off the map a couple of times so we meandered a little more than we should have. The route wasn’t supposed to include a drive through the centre of Brussels with its many tunnels, nor did we intend to cross and re-cross into Germany, but we found an excellent little hotel with a very good restaurant in the Rhineland Palatinate. At journey’s end, with the car unloaded, we located the satnav under the suitcases and have no idea how it got there.
The best thing to happen was an email from my sister, informing me that mum has now been granted NHS Continuing Healthcare and funded Nursing Care. I’m not exactly sure when this will all kick in but at least mum will be taken care of in her own home with no further financial burden on her own savings, so that’s another worry lifted from my shoulders. We are both so thankful to Sarah and her efficiency in taking care of the situation and making mum’s needs so urgent and imperative.
So now I can return to enjoying what is left of the holiday. Just two more days in Italy where it appears that the unsettled, overcast weather has finally come to an end. Two days lazing by the pool under a blue sky are just what the doctor ordered and I intend to make the most of them. Here’s to la dolce vita.
I know I should have visited Israel before now, but each attempt I’ve made in the past has been thwarted, so when I had the chance to join a cruise that disembarked in both Ashdod and Haifa, the chance was too good to pass up.
Two relaxing days at sea were followed by three and a half days spent in the heat of the Holy Land. Arrived at Ashdod (what an ugly port, not destined for tourist ships), I offered my first shaloms spoken in Eretz Yisroel and rapidly reminded myself that Israelis can be the rudest and most offhand of all nations. No matter: I was in Israel and that’s all that counted.
First stop on dry land was to collect the hire car that we’d pre-booked. We couldn’t believe how they could rent out a car with so many scratches and marks; even the front number plate was wonky! However it wasn’t long before we encountered the standard of driving on the local roads and soon found out why our car was far from pristine. The roads were easy to navigate, although our Hebrew is so poor that we could only cope with the signs that were translated into English. It didn’t take long to get onto Highway 4 and famous place names started to appear: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa – places I’d only ever heard of or encountered in the Bible.
Our destination on our first day was to Ra’anana, a suburb of Tel Aviv, to meet friends and business colleagues. We pulled off the main road for a light snack of Israel’s national dish: Falafel in pitta bread. However we didn’t realise that Bnei Brak, the town we’d chosen, was ultra religious. Coming from London we were used to Chasidic Jewry in Golders Green and Stamford Hill, but this was something else. I must have been the only woman wearing short sleeves and no head covering or wig (sheitl). Even the snack bar we chose was Glatt Kosher, despite not selling meat products. Anyway we enjoyed our food, shared with a couple of Israeli soldiers, and continued on our way. We eventually found our destination, made friends with a beautiful, elderly, cross-bred spaniel-dachsund and had our first proper meal on Israeli soil in the seaside resort of Herzlia. Israeli food is hugely influenced by Middle Eastern cuisine, and owes very little to traditional European Jewish cooking. The food was delicious, although not kosher (there were prawns on the menu), and my pudding of a semifreddo of Halva was too delicious to leave, although I was rather full by then.
A late night drive back to the ship, by which time the traffic had calmed down immensely, where a good night’s sleep was imperative to set us up for the next day’s trip to Jerusalem.