Day 6: Haifa

Trip Start May 14, 2008
Trip End Jun 17, 2008

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Where I stayed
Kibbutz Cabri

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

After another delicious breakfast at Villa Carmel, we pack our bags and take some photos.  Harvey and I take a few minutes to make some notes about our stay here.   Ariela and Gabby have only recently offered their Villa as a bed and breakfast, which explains why they are only recently listed on TripAdvisor.

Their property is really two homes with a terraced garden between.  They live in one home and the other is laid out for guests.  On the ground floor there is a living room, dining room, kitchen and two guest rooms.  On the second floor are additional guest rooms, all with private bath.  Guests also have access to the terraced garden, which is really pleasant.  Staying in this residential community gave us a window into how some Israelis live.  The homes have higher ceilings than we are accustomed to, have stone floors (no carpet), stone exterior walls, and numerous energy saving and conservation technologies for the water heater, water sprinkler, and the built-in retractable blinds.  The rooms are very comfortable.    Staying here also gave us the opportunity to have more interaction with Israelis.  However, I will say that Ariela and Gabby did not impose upon us and if we were not interested in this interaction, there wouldn't have been any problem.  We were exceedingly comfortable and really enjoyed our stay.  If you have any questions about Villa Carmel, feel free to ask!

Before we pull our car from the driveway, I really want to have in mind what roads we are driving to get to Haifa, how we are going to navigate through the streets to find the Bahai Shrine and gardens, and most of all where we are going to park.  At this point, I want to mention that the intention for Wednesdays is "Calmness, Receptivity, and Vibrancy"; as the morning unfolds, practicing these qualities helps me enjoy the experience.  I am getting a little anxious, and Harvey is assuring me that everything will be fine.   The road signs into Haifa from Zichron are excellent, so without any difficulty we find ourselves in Haifa.   Our goal was to find the three small Bahai gardens that are open on Wednesdays, since this is the one day of the week that the main garden tours are not offered.  We had the addresses of these three gardens that can be visited without reservations:  the uppermost terrace at 61 Yefe Nof Street; the gardens adjacent to the Shrine of the Bab, 80 Hatzionut Avenue; and at the bottom plaza, which is the intersection of Hagefen Street and Ben-Gurion Avenue.  Our plan is to find any of these locations, park, and walk to all three gardens.   We find a parking spot and begin to walk up the hill with a Haifa map in hand, and it becomes clear very quickly that we are not really sure where we are nor how we are going to find the gardens!  We sit down on a bench, under a tree, and study the map.  We decide on the direction we are going to walk and after about a block, we hear someone calling out.  We turn around and see someone running uphill towards us with one of our SLR cameras in hand.  Oh my gosh, we had left the camera on the bench!  I hug the woman and profusely thank her!  One of us must have left it there, but each of us is taking responsibility!  Is this how we've stayed married for 37 years?  There is a story about a couple that was having a 60th wedding anniversary party.  The MC (master of ceremonies) asks them how to explain their long happy marriage.  The husband responds "just 3 words".  The MC asks if the words are "I love you".  Of course not responds the husband.  The words are "I was wrong!" The MC turns to the wife and asks her.  She responds, "I let him do the talking!"  Harvey simply apologized for his error.

It now occurs to us as we look around that we're not sure how to get to the gardens.  As we are scratching our heads and gazing at the map again, a group of teenage boys and girls see our cameras, come up to us and ask to have their photos taken!   Here we are, totally lost, but smiling and laughing with them.   They are our first Arabic students that we have met and they want to show us to the gardens.  It's clear that they want to take us to the bottom level so that we can get a picture of the whole garden.  But we want to go to the top.  Eventually another group of teenagers comes along and the two groups start arguing about the instructions.  All worked out well when some Bahai volunteers join our merry band.  One volunteer is from India.  The other is from Canada.  Both speak perfect English and give excellent instructions.  We thank our teenage advisors, get email addresses to send them photos and return to our car so that we can drive to the right place.  This turns out to be an excellent decision because the distances are long and the vertical is steep.  We had wanted to find a parking space and leave the car because we thought parking in Haifa would be similar to parking in Tel Aviv.  It turns out that at this time of year anyway parking is not a problem in Haifa.  We have no difficulty finding spaces near the three sections of the Bahai Gardens that we visit, the museums or the German Colony.

After our visit to the Bahai Gardens we have lunch in the German Colony at Douzan, which was recommended by someone on Trip Advisor.  It is located directly below the Bahai Gardens and is a good place for people watching.  The food is fine.  It is a short walk to the visitor's center where they have a brief movie about Haifa.  Then we proceed to the Maritime Museum and Immigration Museum.  As we are about to pay the entry fee the hostess notices that we have platinum MasterCard's and tells us that this entitles us to free entry.  This saves us 58 NIS!  As usual we get into a discussion about her life, her husband, why she does not like math and where to eat in Akko.  She tells us about Hummus Sayed.  We plan to go there tomorrow; so you will have to read tomorrow's post to hear about that.

The Maritime Museum can be viewed in about an hour.  There are three floors with exhibits covering local maritime archeology as well as global maritime issues like piracy.  We never knew that Jean Lafitte was a Jew.  He was a pirate in the Caribbean and New Orleans.  We had expected the Immigration Museum to be a repetition of the information we learned in Tel Aviv.  But it was far more than we expected.  It has a very moving film about life aboard one of the immigration ships running the British blockade and exhibits on the detention camps in Cyprus.  It also has decommissioned naval ships including a submarine, an immigration ship and gun boat.  This museum should not be missed.

On our way out of Haifa we decide to stop off for a brief walk on the Promenade.  In typical fashion we get lost.  We wind our away to the general area and park in a residential area a few blocks from a naval base.  It is strange to see all the military personnel walking out of the base into a residential area across the street.  You would think there would be some kind of buffer.  Anyway we pass an ice cream store and sit outside eating some sherbet.  There is one other customer at the next table with his young daughter so we engage him in a conversation.  He is an Arab homeopath who has lived in Haifa his entire life.  He speaks multiple languages and is very friendly.  His daughter goes to an Arab school and only speaks Arabic.  Our conversation covers many topics - too lengthy to discuss here.  He leaves just before us.  As we walk to our car he stops his car and asks if we needed a lift.  We continue to be amazed at the friendliness of many of the people we encounter.

Our next adventure is experiencing rush hour traffic as we leave Haifa for Kibbutz Cabri, just east of Nahariya.
Click here for today's photos!
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