Petra, Jordan

It took me ages to select just twenty something photos from this trip.

Day 5 – 8th February 2014

The trip to Petra was optional and for an extra $200USD. Most people from our group had seen it already or weren’t interested, so they preferred to stay in Eilat and rest after a long drive the day before. However, two ladies from the group and me took this trip and we were joined by two Israeli women on the border.

Our Israeli tour guide told us we would be taken over by a Jordanian guide on the other side and she warned us to rush the guy on, because he liked stopping by for a cigarette very often and have long breaks. Unfortunately, the Israeli women were smokers, too, so at the end of the day, I felt we could have seen much more, but because of ‘smoke stops’, we were delayed. We managed to see the Treasury, which features in ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ movie and it was not that difficult to find it, because it is at the very entrance to the necropolis, but we did not get further down to the Monastery, which is bigger and more impressive as I can see in the photos now. We had one day tickets which cost us $100USD each, so I do not think I would be coming back there any time soon or ever and that left me very disappointed.

It was very interesting to see more of the Arab culture, but when we finally crossed the border and were back in Israel, I felt as if I came back home.

Here’s the fragment from the movie, to refresh your memory.

Masada and the Dead Sea

Day 4 – 7th February 2014

First thing in the morning we went back to Qumran National Park to see the museum, because the previous day it was too late for it. Then, before it got too hot, we drove all along the west coast of the Dead Sea and visited Masada. After lunch time we had a cooling float in the Dead Sea and before it got dark, we arrived in Eilat by the Red Sea, where we stayed for two nights.

Jordan River Valley

Day 3 – 6th February, 2014

We left Tiberias for good and went down along the Jordan Valley. We had a quick stop at Bet She’an, where according to the Bible, the dead bodies of King Saul and his son Jonathan were hung on the walls of the city (1 Samuel 31:10). Then we had longer stops in hot pools at Gan HaShlosha National Park and at the Baptismal Site in Qaser El Yahud, where according to the tradition Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist. It is less visited than Yardenit, because it is very close to the border with Jordan and not often there is an access. Before the sunset we made it to Qumran by the Dead Sea and spent one night in Kalia kibbutz. I was so tired I went to bed at 8 pm.

Upper Galilee and Golan Heights

Let’s get on with it, shall we? For anyone who’s just ‘tuned in’, I’ll just explain that on average once a year I blog about my travels, shows and plays I go to. I do it more often than blog about it, hence the delay. This post is still about my trip to Israel I did last year.

Day 2 – 5th February 2014

From Tiberias, we went North to Tel Dan and then Banias, where the ruins of an ancient city of Cezarea Philippi are, shopping at the Winery and Olea Essence, lunch in Kartzenit, then down to the very south of the Sea of Galilee to Yardenit and an evening walk in Tiberias.

The Sea of Galilee

I wanted to post about my Israel trip every day on the first anniversary of being in those places, but it didn’t work out – long hours at work.

To continue the story after all, once we arrived in Israel, everything went rather smoothly and we didn’t have any more frustrating adventures which would fall on my head. I fell over once with my small camera, but it wasn’t very serious.

Every day had its usual drill. We would wake up at 6:30am, breakfast at 7am, get on the coach at 8am and come back for dinner at 6pm. Sometimes we had something organised in the evening, but mostly we would rest and relax.

First two nights we stayed at Astoria Hotel in Tiberias, then one night at Kalia kibbutz by the Dead Sea, two nights at Adi Hotel in Eilat and finally four nights at Mt Scopus Hotel in Jerusalem.

Day 1 – 4th Feb: Following the footsteps of Jesus around the Sea of Galilee: Korazim National Park, Mt Beatitudes, Tabgha, Capernaum, a boat trip on the Sea and via Magdala a short walk in The Valley of the Doves. Before going back to the hotel we stopped by to buy some dates, halva, herbs and spices.

Bumpy road to the Holy Land

When I traveled around New Zealand three years ago, I had this habit to write about new places I visited as soon as possible, while everything was fresh. This post was drafted in Tiberias, at the beginning of my visit in Israel, but later the schedule was too tight and in the evenings I was too tired to write anything, so I was just making short notes and going through photos from that day. This post will have more words, while the rest of them will probably be photo stories.

One year ago, exactly to the date, I went to Israel with an organised group, because I was too afraid to go on my own in that part of the world, well, at least for the first time. The trip was organized by my old Hebrew teacher (I used to study at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Warsaw), so I trusted her and I knew it would be an interesting and very informative trip not only in Biblical facts, but also in sipping the cultural background. The meeting point was the airport in Warsaw, so I had to go to Poland first. I decided to go a few days earlier to spend weekend at my parents’ in Masuria and then go to Warsaw.

I had a plane to catch from London-Luton on Friday, 31st January in the afternoon. Usually, trains from my nearest train station to the city centre went every 3-6 minutes. When I got there, I found out that trains were every 20 min that day. I started to panic and there was no announcement why they were so late. I took a bus to Wimbledon hoping that trains would stop more often at a bigger station. How unpleasantly surprised I was when I discovered that the problem was in Wimbledon! There was a fire near the tracks and trains were delayed, redirected or cancelled.

Luckily, trains did go to Victoria and I managed to get there early enough to get on coach to the airport, which even arrived 17 min before the scheduled time. I had a plenty of time to drink hot chocolate after the amount of stress I had been through. I didn’t know then, that it wasn’t over yet. When we got on the plane and took our seats and every hand luggage was in the compartments, a crew member announced that one of the passengers decided not to fly with us and wanted to leave the plane. So, we had to take all our luggage out, put them on our laps and they had to check if everything of that person was unloaded. When we finally got back to our seats, the plane started getting ready to take off. We were already speeding up on the runway when suddenly the pilot pressed the breaks and we stopped. Wind? Rain? We were told it was a ‘technical problem’. After waiting 15 min for the breaks to cool down, we took the second attempt to take off from a different runway, which was successful this time. Later I found out that it was because of a puddle on the first runway and our plane was too big to drive through it.

We arrived in Gdansk with one hour delay. It was a real winter in Poland and for a van, which was waiting for me and other passengers from London in a temperature below zero it was too long. As a result its batteries died. We had to wait hoping the drivers would be able to recharge them from a different car of the same company. After one hour sitting in a cold car we were finally ready to go. I got home by midnight without any more adventures. Never the less, I started to believe I was dragging a bad luck with me and it was all my fault.

On Sunday afternoon, I went to Warsaw, spent some time with my sister and her boyfriend and in the evening they dropped me off at the airport. I had no problems with checking in and baggage control and I found my group by the gate easily. After recognizing some familiar faces and getting to know new people, I told them about my adventures from Friday. Everyone was cheering me up, when I told them my concerns about my luck. Their opinion changed and they started to look at me differently wondering if I was really a Jonah, when we found out few minutes later that the plane we were going to go broke down and LOT – Polish Airlines would give another plane, but it was smaller and 9 people from our group could go that evening and the rest of the group – 22 people were asked to stay over night in Marriott Hotel near the airport and go the next day with ELAL – Israeli airlines. My ex-teacher and organizer of that trip said it was the first time that something like that happened to her. I could only tell, ‘I told you so’ and wonder if I should risk and continue my journey.

I was in the group that stuck in Warsaw. On the next day, after delicious breakfast we all went back to the airport, but this time everyone individually was sort of interrogated by an ELAL staff member before checking in, then after being approved, we got our boarding passes and our luggage went through a detailed scan, including opening the suitcases, getting out all the electronic devices, cameras etc. Everything was examined. I had heard many stories about that, so I was prepared and understanding. Besides, if not in Warsaw, then we would have been checked at the Israeli airport after the arrival.

It seemed like it was taking ages, but we managed to get on board on time. The flight was pleasant, but I was surprised they showed ‘Captain Philips’ with Tom Hanks. The film was good, but I wouldn’t expect waching a film about hijicking a boat or any other mean of transport on a plane to the Middle East. It made me feel a bit uncomfortable.

We left Poland after 10am, flew for about 4 hours, but because of the time difference, when we arrived in Tel Aviv and joined the rest of the group and our Israeli tour guide it was already 4pm. We had our first hotel booked in Tiberias, 150km from Tel Aviv, so all we did was just got on the coach and went to Tiberias. I was mad and dissapointed. I had hoped we would be able to catch up on lost time, but it was impossible. The first day, when we had scheduled travelling along the coast and the visits to Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Caesarea, Haifa, Mount Caramel, Nazareth and Cana was gone. The beginning of the trip was horrible and I felt I was the only person to be blamed for.

The only comfort I had after the return from the trip, was when I made a complaint to the LOT and I got a complete refund for the plane tickets, €400, but still, I would rather see those places we missed, than the money I got. I don’t know when will be the next time I go to Israel again.

January opened my theatre year

New Year’s Eve 2013 was very low key. I spent it with my brother and his girlfriend at some friends’ and nicely went to work on the next day.

I didn’t have many plans for 2014 and I didn’t want to waste another year in London without moving forward or out, but before I noticed the year was over. It was a pretty difficult year, which I finished a bit depressed, but after having some rest during Christmas at my parents’ home, I started 2015 with the resolution to be a little positive. Maybe if I look at the highlights of the past year, I’ll be able to see its bright sides?

Last year, I saw twice as many theatre plays as concerts. Only in January I went to see two plays. First, it was Henry V at Noel Coward Theatre with Jude Law. I bought the ticket way in advance. It was cheap, because it was in the balcony, so I could see Jude’s bays on his forehead quite clearly. 😉 I took a sneaky photo before the play started.

2014-01-08 14.27.12

I was putting away the decision of buying a ticket to see Fortune’s Fool at the Old Vic with Iain Glen who plays Jorah, Daenerys Targaryen’s right hand in Game of Thrones. But when I left Noel Coward Theatre and having still in mind how much I enjoyed Henry V, I finally bought the ticket. On the next day I found out that Iain Glen stopped playing the main character in Fortune’s Fool, because of his doctor’s advice and someone else took over his role. It was so unfortunate. The other actor wasn’t as good as I would imagine Iain could be. I’ll never know.

The good thing about that evening was, though, that I bought a cheap ticket, because it was a seat behind a pillar. Luckily, almost the whole row was empty, so when the play started, I could move to the centre and see everything very clearly. The stage was huge and they built a great scenography of a house and the garden at the back.
2014-01-18 20.41.15

When the play finished its run, the Old Vic has been transformed. The stage has been lowered and made round with the audience sitting around the stage. Quite a popular trend I’ve noticed in theatres recently with Young Vic and Trafalgar Studios as another examples.

So that was the first small bump at the beginning of my year – I went to see an actor and found out that he wasn’t in the play anymore. My next post will start the story of my trip to Israel, and the beginning wasn’t easy at all.

Christmas 2013

December is always hectic for everyone, so I’m not going to complain here how busy I was. I didn’t have plans to go to Poland to spend Christmas with my family, because I didn’t have many holidays left to use and the ones I had, I wanted to use on my trip to Israel in February. I decided to take up as many shifts in the RA shop as possible to save some money for the trip, because I wanted to buy belated Christmas presents over there.

So, in the madness of working 7 days a week from 5am till 6 or even 10pm for about 3-4 weeks and pre-Christmas Christmas parties, I was invited to spend the Holiday far from London noise at my friends’ in Farnborough. It wasn’t that easy to get there, because there was a horrible storm on that day and most of the trains were delayed 1-2 hours or cancelled, so my friends decided to pick me up from home.

There were floods and power cut in South West, but luckily my friends had their own power generator, so we managed to prepare Christmas Eve supper and didn’t have to sit only by the candles. I know it’s not humble to say that I made really delicious gingerbread and two kinds of herring: in beetroot and sour cream.

Christmas Day was properly lazy: slept late, had light breakfast, quick walk in the forest (the weather wasn’t that nice), long and amazing Christmas dinner with my friends and their parents and then TV and drinks in the evening. My friend’s dad used to tour with Eric Clapton, so whenever I hear his music, I remember that Christmas.

Next day the weather was much better and we went for a longer walk. In the afternoon my friends drop me off back home right on time to catch the screening of ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ in the nearest cinema.

Dave Dobbyn and Don McGlashan at Union Chapel

Going fast forward and we’re in early December. Non-Kiwi readers may ask ‘who on Earth Dave Dobbyn and Don McGlashan are?’ and I would have asked the same question if I wasn’t into NZ music that much. To be honest, I found out about Dave Dobbyn’s existence about three years ago, when Flight of the Conchords invited him to sing with them in a charity song “Feel inside (and stuff like that)” (the song starts from 10:15, but it’s worth to watch the interviews with the kids). He was big in the 80’s and now he’s a legend in Kiwi music industry.

Don McGlashan is another Kiwi music giant, whose career started in the 80’s as one half of a music/theatre duo The Front Lawn. Now he plays solo and with a band called The Seven Sisters in which plays Chris O’Connor, the drummer of my favourite NZ band, The Phoenix Foundation. So as you can see, everything is somehow connected with either Conchords or TPF.

Two great Kiwis in London was something not to be missed, even if I didn’t know all their songs, but I knew it’d be a fun evening. And I did very much enjoy the concert. Union Chapel was full of Kiwis singing along the songs they knew for more than 20 years.

For me, the highlight was The Front Lawn’s song ‘Andy’. A few years ago, back in my small home town, when I was listening to this song and loving it, if someone told me that I would hear it live some day performed by Don McGlashan himself, I’d say that person was crazy… or I’d want to know how and when it would happen. Amazing what twists and turns life can take, even when it seems like nothing happens, when we look from a short distance. It was quite an emotional moment when I recognized the song and I don’t know how I managed to record it.

I was absolutely impressed by Don and his multi-instrumental skills!

The first part of the show was just them two playing each other’s songs and for the second part they were joined by two more musicians. Here’s Dave Dobbyn’s ‘Whaling’ with the complete band.

You did notice the Christmas Tree in the left corner? Yes, holiday was just round the corner.

6 December, 2013

Villagers at Heaven, Under the Arches

Less than a week after my trip to Lincoln, I went to see Villagers live.

Villagers - screencap

Villagers is Conor O’Brien’s band, whom I saw at Barbican, where he shared the stage with and overshadowed (in my humble opinion) Glen Hansard. I bought both albums soon after that and was hoping to see the whole band performing in the nearest future. The opportunity came up, when one day on my way home from work, I saw their poster on Heaven’s door. I didn’t knock, but I went online, double checked the date if it wasn’t an old poster from their previous tour and bought a ticket right away a few months before the actual event.

Their supporting band was We Were Evergreen. I didn’t film them, but they were very good and you should check them out. There are plenty of videos on YouTube with them.

We Were Evergreen

So as with the Villagers. 🙂

Seeing Conor O’Brien solo just with his guitar vs. Conor with his band are quite different experiences and it was interesting to see both sides of this artist. This time there was not much of melancholy or shyness, but thanks to the power the rest of the band members were giving him, he was full of energy or even some rebellion. They gave an amazing performance and the same songs Conor played in Barbican, were like new when I heard them in Heaven.

I would love to see them again sometime.

This concert was on 7 November, 2013.