Eight of us went to Israel for my stag weekend at the end of June. All British passport holders, some more travelled than others.
The age range was 40 -70 years old. I was the only one who had been before, my friends being an eclectic mix of professions and beliefs from tree surgeons to the landlord of my local boozer and C of E in name only to atheist.
We flew EL AL, purely because the price was good and it involved no transfers.
At Heathrow we faced extensive questioning, originally because we knew that we had booked separately but were travelling as a group but in reality because we recognised from the in flight magazine that the CEO of the airline was on our flight.
Any concerns I had as to the effect upon my fellow travellers of the intensive interviewing were laid to rest, when as one they indicated to me that it made a refreshing change from the perfunctory security they had endured on other flights and that they felt a greater sense of security in flying with the airline.
Night flight.....I am getting too old for such shenanigans! It always seems like a good idea when you book it, but blimey it can take its toll!
Landed 05:30, bit of a delay in baggage retrieval but soon we had met our prearranged driver ( organised by a friend) and 200NIS/30 mins later we were at Herods Hotel.
Inside it is superb, from the beachfront it looks like it has suffered from machine gun fire. Obviously undergoing cosmetic renovation.
We could not have had better ( and fortunate) service from the front desk. Although not due to check in until the afternoon, we were all found rooms and able to dump our bags and clean up, at no extra cost.
A quick walk along the beach to acclimatise followed as my friend and I took in the view.
By 9am we were at what used to be Cafe Masada, renamed "Bistro" gone was the lovely sofas and sadly the service.
Coffee spilt over a friend, with little apology; Goldstar was cloudy and undrinkable; views were fabulous but the conversation was hilarious.
A number of my friends work in construction, next door to the Bistro construction work to what was Mc Donalds was going on. We agreed that the site would have been closed down had what we seen gone on in the UK. Safety hats.....of the baseball variety, rigging? I don't think they knew what that is; rendering was being done in such a way as to ensure that the facade when finished will not last.
Their dexterity was excellent, but with a crane seeking to dismantle the building without apparent appreciation as the what on earth was going on around them would have been funny had it not been so obviously dangerous.
I explained that we had had a hand in building the Pyramids, but my friends just shielded their eyes and winced.
Back to the Hotel, some slept, most didn't and we made good use of the Pool and its Bar.
Evening saw most of us in our 28th hour without sleep, but Dr Shakshukah kept us going. Tour Guides on here will appreciate how difficult it is to please everyone in a disparate group. The 120NIS set menu sorted that, with something for everyone. All enjoyed the food and the service, but soon the nerves crept in as we anticipated England v Suarez.
Some got taxis back after a quick view of TLV from Jaffa, all agreed we would return tomorrow as I explained the delights of Abu Lafiah.
The rest of us walked back to the tourist strip, and eventually we met at Jessicas near to Mike's place and had 2hours to wait until kick off.
Jessicas is often overlooked by anglos, it is not the 'pick up' bar so many sadly are. 3 years on it has not lost any of its vibe nor its friendly service.
Beer was cold and we were joined by two of my oldest friends. The waitress was a little bemused as our eighth round of Carlsbergs coincided with half time.
Ultimately the only winners were Uruguay and Bank Hapoalim as we left Jessicas at around 00:30, quick nightcap in Molly's followed by drinks at another bar and we were all safely tucked up in bed by 02:30.
Rooms were immaculate, but we knew that we wanted to get an early start on the Friday....... TBC