Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Next Stop: David Citadel Hotel

After visiting the famous King David Hotel, I dragged Rafi onward to visit yet another up-and-coming hotel that I had heard a lot of talk about: The David Citadel Hotel. It was just a few steps away anyway, located just down the block from the King David Hotel, so he really couldn't complain that it was out of the way. I had to see it. We were all the way in that part of the city and I did not want to make a special trip back there to visit it on my own. After all, I explained to Rafi, the David Citadel Hotel is known to be the current rival to the King David, so it only made sense to see them back to back for a true comparison. I convinced him that we would just go in to take a peek. But, as it turned out (and as he expected) I marveled at what I found inside, and just had to keep turning corners in order to find the stunning vistas that I knew were lurking somewhere inside and to discover the hidden niches that existed throughout the hotel.

The David Citadel Hotel's prime location

I have to say that, prior to entering the hotel, I really did not know what to expect from the exterior. It didn't leave much to the imagination, as you see from the image on the left. I could have easily passed right by this hotel walking down busy King George Street, but as it turns out, this misleading exterior is a big part of the hotel's appeal. The architect has been given great kudos by many a critic for his ability to allow the grandiose property to somehow blend in with its ancient exteriors. I knew it was worth a good look, so inside we went, and this is what I found (see photos below). I was particularly impressed by the unique way the natural light from outside danced inside the hotel's luxurious decor (it was clear now why the architectural genius had been prized so many times for his outstanding work. I wanted to live in a place like this, because how could you not be happy here:

Indoor patio dining 
The foyer
Heading outside to the patio and pool area
Another shot of the indoor patio with a view of the old city
Pretty, isn't it? And I haven't even taken you outside yet! Wait until you see the breathtaking views I'm about to show you in a minute. Opening its doors in 1998, the David Citadel Hotel was designed as a giant U-shaped structure with 384 rooms and suites; and its terraces (as you can see from the image on the right) have unparalleled views, championing that of even its nearby competitor, the King David Hotel. I literally uttered "Wowwww" to myself, and then to Rafi, on numerous occasions when my eyes beheld new splendor that was hard to articulate in words. How could you not have such a reaction to that view? It is no wonder that the David Citadel Hotel is competing with the King David Hotel for the undisputed title of "Jerusalem's Flagship Hotel". Here, no matter which room you are staying in, you can be guaranteed to have a majestic, sweeping view overlooking the old city and the Tower of David. Here are a few more shots of what you might expect to see from your very own hotel room: 

Hotel Room View (from David Citadel's website)
Another beautiful hotel room view

Here are a few more shots, for your viewing enjoyment, that I captured from my visit to the regal hotel (my personal favorite is the third one down, it's still making me laugh): 

The pool and the old city from the outer deck and balcony
That's Rafi, not wanting his picture taken :) Sorry, amor, it's too funny not to post!
A good shot of the U-shape of the hotel from the outdoor area
One last shot of the indoor dining area

Interested in staying here yet?  Well, as for me, I quickly changed my mind. I decided that if I had gotten married in Israel, which was once a serious subject of discussion, then this would definitely be where I would want to get married. 

Wedding Ceremony on the deck of the David Citadel Hotel
And I am not the only one who caved. The David Citadel Hotel has also been known to "steal" clientele from its wealthy neighbor, the King David Hotel. Do you remember the lists of ambassadors and famous guests who have stayed at the King David? Well, these same people, on their more recent trips, have also chosen to stay at the David Citadel Hotel. Reportedly, President Bill Clinton, Senator Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama, Senator John McCain, Russian Prime Minister Vladmir Putin, and U.S. Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice are just a few of the many recognized names and faces who have been a guest at this new staple hotel in Jerusalem. It makes me wonder who might be there right now? Likely, someone probably is. Not only that, but also, as I mentioned it's a popular choice for marriages and also for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs (people frequently journey with their family and friends from the United States just to have their ceremony take place here in Israel), and it is obvious that the hotel is full of these types of guests at anytime as well. 

A Bar Mitzvah taking place at the Western Wall, just steps away from the hotel
I feel a little guilty abandoning my former awe at the King David Hotel, but I was in for such an unexpected surprise when I entered the David Citadel Hotel. Sometimes it's better when you don't have any expectations. It just got better and better with every turn and every new view that I found. Additionally, the David Citadel has an exit out into the shops at Mamilla, making it really prime real estate property. I mean, you can't go wrong here, it's on King George Street (one of the most popular in the city), it has an incredible 'words-cannot-describe-it' view of the old city, and it's conveniently located next to the modern metropolis of Mamilla Mall. Did I mention that the Waldorf Astoria is being built directly across the street from it? Well, it is. Competition is abounding. I am so eager to share this beautiful corner of Jerusalem with a visitor in person, but for now, I will bring it to you via the virtual world and I do hope you have enjoyed the visit!

Check back in soon for a visit to the third and final stop on my hotel tour. Uh, for the moment that is. There will surely be more to come in the future. It just keeps getting better and better, so I promise you won't want to miss it! :) By request, I will also work on getting more pictures of ME in my blog!

Monday, November 29, 2010

King David Hotel Jerusalem

Anytime that I feel I have overdosed on the ancient surroundings in Jerusalem, I know I can always visit one of the many luxurious and modern hotels that populate the city, standing in contrast to the historic world outside its doors. And that is just what I did last week, when I pressured Rafi to take me to visit the renowned King David Hotel. Actually, when we were considering getting married in Israel, this is the place that we would have gotten married. After a lot of research, however, we realized it would cost us the same, if not more, to have a wedding there, defeating half the purpose of having a wedding abroad. The other purpose being to have more of Rafi's side of the family attend the marriage. Anywhere we picked, it was a loss in some way and a gain in others.

Pulling up to the entrance of the hotel

Walking into the hotel's front doors

Regardless, I was eager to see the hotel in person. It looked beautiful in pictures, but I had never actually visited it in reality. My dad, when talking about the King David Hotel, would shake his head in a loss for words, signifying that there weren't words to explain its beauty nor was there a comparison for this hotel with any other in the world. It is that nice, he would say. Perhaps he was biased, I don't know. But, I had to see for myself.

Welcome inside the famous King David Hotel

King David Hotel's Walk of Fame
Visiting the hotel in reality did not disappoint. I will say that, after looking at the photos, they simply do not do it justice. Built in 1931, the King David Hotel is located in the center of Jerusalem overlooking the Old City and Mount Zion. The hotel attracts foreign heads of state, diplomats, presidents, royalty and the wealthiest bankers and businessmen in the world. Among the hotel's more famous guests include: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Hilary Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Winston Churchill, Tony Blair, The Prince of Wales, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Gere and Madonna, just to name a few. Heard of a few of them? Yeah, I thought so. If it was good enough for them, there is obviously something magical about this place. Also fun for curious visitors, there is a walkway throughout the hotel lobby, let's call it the "King David Walk of Fame", with the signatures of many of the hotel's famous guests, very similar in nature to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood, CA. You can find many a guest ooh-ing and ah-ing at the signatures of the many famous visitors.

Once your eyes have had sufficient time to ogle at the "Walk of Fame", it's time to explore the rest of the hotel:

This is the view my eyes feasted on from the hotel lobby windows
Lunch on the terrace anyone?
That's the ceremonial wedding area behind me

Pool View

Getting closer to the pool 
Can we jump in, please?
Pretty florals, typical of Jerusalem
Taking a rest somewhere on the property
Rafi taking a break on the stairs, we had done a lot of walking! 
From the pool looking up at the hotel
Additionally, I was curious to see where the wedding reception would have taken place if we had chosen to get married here, so I took a peek into the banquet and ballrooms on the property:

This is where most large receptions take place - with a view of the old city!
Just across the street from the King David Hotel is Jerusalem's YMCA, yes they have a YMCA here! I hear they have great exercise classes and beautiful facilities in general:

Front view of the YMCA from King David Hotel
Another view of King George Street and YMCA from the King David
Just spending a mere hour inside the King David Hotel made me feel so relaxed and seeped in luxury. Pictures never capture the feeling as well as reality does; you have to smell the flowers, hear the clinking of the silverware, see the employees dressed in fine tuxes, hear the piano music throughout the foyer, feel the sun beaming on your skin and the breezes flowing through your hair, and experience being treated like royalty. You will just have to take my word for it. I will definitely be going back for coffee dates, lunches and maybe even a pool or spa day at best. It was so rewarding to be able to appreciate the antiquated surroundings from the comforts of a five-star hotel. It made me think that I should reconsider my career choice here and opt instead for working in the hotel industry. That way, I would be able to indulge in the opulent comforts that a quality hotel offers each and every day of the year!  

I was so impressed with my hotel visit, that I dragged Rafi to check out two more hotels nearby after our King David visit, each more impressive than the next. It's sort of become habit after the hunt for a wedding venue. Hotel hunting is one of my favorite things to do. Check back in the next few days for the follow-up posts on these other a m a z i n g hotels!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

How to Spend a Saturday

Saturday in Israel is really Sunday. What am I talking about? What I mean is that it may come as a surprise to all of you to learn that the work week here in Israel is from Sunday through Thursday and the weekend days are Friday and Saturday. Confusing, I know. But that's just the way it is. Because Israel is a religious place, people throughout the country observe the Sabbath. And since the Sabbath is observed here, it transforms what we Americans know to be the average work week, from Monday to Friday. Things are simply different here and I have found that it is one of the hardest things to get used to. No more Monday morning blues......here, it's Sunday morning blues! Wake up bright and early every Sunday morning, hit the alarm clock and get ready for day one of the work week. So much for Maroon 5's catchy tune, "Sunday Morning"; it does not carry the same meaning here. And there are a plethora of others: U2's "Sunday, Bloody Sunday", Craig Morgan's "That's What I Love about Sundays", Rascal Flatts' "Sunday Afternoon" and Billie Holiday's "Gloomy Sunday", among many others. 

So, not only is the Sabbath observed here, but what this means is that the entire city of Jerusalem (and the entire country of Israel really) shuts down from sunset on Friday night to sunset on Saturday night for a full 24 hours. Think of the 'ghost town feeling' that overtakes major U.S. cities on big holidays like Christmas Day. Anything and everything shuts down. Same thing here, except it's every single weekend. The most religious folks take the Sabbath seriously, which means no cooking, no cleaning, no showering, no driving, no laundry and no use of electronic devices. Not only does this mean no phones, no internet and no television, but also, this means you aren't allowed to use an elevator. I think you get the idea here: there's a whole lot of doing nothing to do. Well, the religious crowd wouldn't say it's nothing; it's spending quality time with friends and family, and relaxing and recharging for the week ahead. It's 'observing the Sabbath', they would say.

The solution? In terms of elevators and such, there are special shomer shabbas elevators in almost every single building in Israel that are set to stop on each floor. You must simply be patient and wait for the elevator to arrive. Yes, even if there are 30 floors. No worries, for those who do not keep the Sabbath  (i.e. me), there are regular elevators. Though I do then have to deal with the "tsk, tsk" that I feel from religious men and women eyeing me. Sometimes I feel that they're judging me as well for not covering my hair when I'm married (another Orthodox practice) and for not being covered up from head to toe (perhaps it's just in my head, that's what Rafi says at least). I simply grew up a different way, in a home with reform practices and I'm okay with that. I'm just not sure "they" are okay with that. It is what it is. Additionally, as per Shabbat solutions, all cooking and cleaning must be done ahead of time, and all warm food must be left on hot plates for you to eat later on. Of course, as mentioned, these rules only apply to those who keep them, and as I mentioned, me not being one of them.

So, what's a girl to do during these 24 hours? As luck would have it, there are "American" parts of the city that have open bars and restaurants. Since no buses are running, you will need a car to get around, or else you will find yourself stranded. As for Saturdays, it's a good day to do homework and laundry (if you are a nonobservant student) or if you are like me, you spend this day sleeping in, working out, picnicking in the park, laying out in the sun, watching movies, reading and eating. Not a bad way to spend a free day, if I might say so myself. It's a good excuse to take it easy and relax. Here's where we went today (and it looks like many others had the same splendid idea):

Here are a few of us enjoying the warm November sun, a toasty 75 degrees, at a park near our house:

After lunching at an open cafe adjacent to the park (I had a grilled tomato and cheese sandwich and Rafi opted for quiche) we headed over to Aroma (Israel's version of Starbuck's) for a late afternoon coffee:

Finally, no better way to end a relaxing day than to watch the sunset over beautiful, historic Jerusalem:

The sun beginning to set over the old city
The sun setting over east Jerusalem
The sun continuing to set over west Jerusalem
And with the setting sun, Shabbat has come to an end. The city is finally ready to reopen its doors and the people are ready to begin yet another busy work week. Next weekend, I just have to remember to put on more sunscreen!