One of the reasons I choose Tel Aviv was because I wanted not only a beach city for my vacation, but some antiquity as well. Caesarea though only a brief drive is simply not easily accessable by public transportation. Thus, you either rent a car or join a trip. I figured I’d take a tour so I could hit some other sites as well. Via my hotel the Cinema Hotel I booked the Pearls of the Western Galilee with Rent a Guide. In one day from 7am to 5pm you get to see Caesarea, Acre, a glance at Haifa, the Bahai’ Towers, and the HaNikra Grotto along with a peek at Lebanese Border.
We started in Caesarea the ancient port city built by King Herod circa 25BC. It’s amphitheater is not only still intact, but still used to this day for shows. Herod built a pool right on the beach, the tiles still intact 2000 years later. Though its the Hippodrome that fueled my imagination the most…Chariot races a la Ben Hur, slaves fighting animals and of course Gladiatorial combat…oh the horror, the glory! Actually, now that I’m thinking about it…it’s what went down by the pool by the sea that has my mind racing…Next up was right outside of Haifa the Bahai” Gardens. Though they are beautiful, I’m thinking the $250 million used to build them could have been better spent in the region.
From there we ventured on to Acre (Akko) one of the worlds oldest cities (as in Bronze Age, 3,000 BC first settled old) due to its strategic location on the Med. The Crusaders, Templar’s, Ottomans, Napoleon all left their mark. I had the pleasure of going through the escape tunnels the Templar’s built. It must have been a lot of fun in armor. These days it leads into a courtyard. While most of my group perused a copper jewelry shop I grabbed a local Malik Blond IPA at Kukushka after escaping through the tunnels. We then wandered around the old part of the city where many families hung signs from their homes that showed they made the trip to Mecca by the ports and the Green Mosque. We learned there that Green=good luck while Blue wards off evil in the Muslim religion. For lunch(of note, not included in the price of the tour) we went to Cafe Moreno for Salads, Lamb kebabs,Mint lemonade and Arabic coffee in the Arab market. Before we headed to our last spot on the trip we purchased a variety of tasty treats in the Arab Market. Many from my group got Pistachio nut clusters while I opted for crushed pistachios in the center of ground coconut with a pink outer coating…think Sno-Balls, Yummy:)
For our final stop on the trip we went to the Rosh HaNikra grottoes on the Lebanese seaside border. We took the worlds steepest cable car up and then wandered around the sea caves and then took it back up. The Grotto was absolutely beautiful, see the pics they tell a better story then mere words can. All in a all a great day trip. Our guide was a wealth of knowledge who greatly enhanced the experience. While I generally like to keep like tours to a minimum, its times like this when you realize in certain cases they are the way to go.