Summer brought its usual grab-bag of photos worth sharing. We’ve got pictures of hiking from Claire’s summer of 25-miles of hiking, plus Fathers Day gifts for me including a t-shirt Claire made, Juliet berry picking, Claire’s first baseball game, the usual shots from around the house, and even a video of Claire riding her tricycle round and round her playhouse. Click on the picture of me and the girls at a picnic at the Picchetti Winery for a slideshow.
As a fun project for Claire, we set a goal of hiking 25 miles over the course of this summer. We did hikes everywhere from a few miles from our house at Lake Lagunita at Stanford, to Marin County’s Tennessee Valley, to the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve in the Santa Cruz Mountains, to various hikes in both Israel and Jordan. Claire kept a progress bar of her hikes, and each time she completed one throughout the summer got to fill in the bar with a color of her choice. Here it is!
After a lovely trip to Petra, we decided to take an adventure and drive up the fabled King’s Highway, built on the path of an ancient trade route from Egypt to Damascus. It was a beautiful drive, giving us sweeping views of the spectacular Wadi Mujib gorge and passing through many small and large Jordanian towns. The northern end of our drive included visit to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth where on the road overlooking the water our GPS put us at 392 meters or 1296 feet below sea level. We snuck into a luxury resort so Katherine could take a quick dip in the water. It was so windy that the waves were really up, and she only got about two minutes of float time but it was worth it. Kids weren’t allowed near the beach at this resort, so we don’t have a picture of Katherine in the water, but I did manage to dig out one of me in the Dead Sea on a visit 12 years ago to give you a sense of what it’s like.
The last stop on our trip, Amman, is a pleasant cosmopolitan city. We did lots of driving around the city. Claire and Juliet were deeply impressed at how many kids’ backpacks were on display on the racks outside the local markets. Stu also visited the King’s Academy, a school built in the image of his high school Deerfield with the mission of providing secular, co-educational boarding education to students from across the mid-east.
One interesting experience for all of us was visiting a Muslim culture during Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. Many Jordanians didn’t drink or eat (or even smoke!) during the day, so once sundown came around families join together for an evening “Iftar” banquet to fill empty stomachs. We went to one of these dinners at a fancy restaurant, and it was a festive atmosphere with extended families gathered at large tables, endless amounts of food, and even costumed waiters serving juice to the kids (see picture). We hadn’t been fasting during the day, so it was a lot more food than we could handle!
The last day of our trip was fairly quiet, and we took a drive to and had a nice hike in the Ajloun Forest Preserve about an hour north of Amman. Then it was off to another long afternoon at the hotel pool, dinner and a movie for the girls, and early to bed so we could rise to catch our morning flights.
All in all, this trip was pretty amazing for us. The girls got to see some new cultures and beautiful sites that will give them some great memories (or at least blog posts and pictures). Katherine got to see the mid-east for the first time. And we all had a fun family adventure together!
After our fun border crossing, and night of luxury we hoped into our rental car, and drove up the long, desert highway up to Petra. We made it in time to spend about two hours at Petra in the late afternoon, taking the girls on a guided tour in a horse-drawn carriage through the stunning slot canyon (called the “siq“) with its 500-foot cliffs towering over a narrow path that twists and turns through the desert mountains to the entrance to the 2500-year old town. We saw lots of horses and camels but luckily not too many other tourists, as the late hour was relatively quiet and also treated us to cliff walls and monuments bathed in the soft golden light of sunset.
Then it was back to the hotel for a quick and amazing bedouin style dinner in a tent on a cliff next to our hotel, which was cooked in a BBQ-style oven sunken in the ground. The next morning, we split up and Katherine and I each spent a few hours at the ruins by ourselves while the girls enjoyed the swimming pool back at the hotel. During her visit, Katherine even had a chance to ride a camel!
After a great time in Haifa, we made a run for the Israeli/Jordanian border in the southern part of Israel near Eilat, which is the easiest place to cross between the two countries. Along the 5-hour drive, we stopped at Mitzpe Ramon, a massive geological crater in the middle of the Israeli desert.
The border crossing was entertaining. We couldn’t drive our rental car across, so Stu dropped me and the girls off at the border station, then returned the rental car in town and rejoined us. We had to pay our exit tax, have our passports stamped, then load all our bags (including two pastel polka dot little girl backpacks) up onto a luggage cart and push it the few hundred yards across the border. All in about 110 degree heat. Claire wasn’t impressed by the whole thing…. she spent most of the time either sitting in her stroller watching Curious George on the iPad, or smiling and making friends with the border guards and their large guns. Once we got through the Jordanian border process, a line of taxis was waiting to take us to our refuge for the night….a fancy 5-star hotel right on the Red Sea beach in the town of Aqaba, complete with kiddie pool and beach cabanas.
Finally, the jet lag ‘broke’ on our fourth morning in Jerusalem, with Claire sleeping until 6:30 and Juliet sleeping until we woke her at 9:30. Later that day a couple of Stu’s Wikipedia friends came to visit and fill out our apartment and, in Sue’s case, bring new adult energy to the girls’ Polly Pocket dolls.
We then arrived in Haifa and found what must be the definition of a perfect hotel: it had a great swimming pool, was across the street from a playground, zoo, merry-go-round, and Beer Garden, next door to a Mall, with a McDonalds and a huge grocery store just down the street, plus a big breakfast every morning and a kids day care center. Despite all the alternatives, some of the girls’ favorite time was the hour or so a day they spent cleaning the picture window in our room with soap and wipes.
Other highlights include Stu and I heading out for a huge falafel dinner, a day trip to Acre and the Sea of Galilee (now filled with windsurfers trying a modern version of Jesus walking on water), seeing the interestingly named Alcoholic Kitchen restaurant (where Stu had a Board dinner), visiting the gorgeous Bahá’í Gardens which tumble down Mount Carmel around the gold-topped Shrine of the Báb, and finally a dinner and closing party of Stu’s Wikimania conference on the beautiful Haifa beach.
We spent our second and third days in Jerusalem trying to beat both the heat and our jet lag. Sunday morning we took a drive to the Mount of Olives, just to the east of the Old City, where we saw our first camel and some excellent views over the Old City. Then we took a drive to the Jerusalem Zoo where we met Stu’s old work friend Philippe and his children Michael (9) and Aya (6). After a couple hours walking around in the heat, we were about to melt so we planned to meet later at the pool at the famous King David Hotel, near our apartment. A couple of hours swimming in a luxury pool was enough to recharge our weary sleep-deprived selves for the rest of the evening.
Monday was another early morning thanks to jetlag, so we decided to get in the car and take a driving tour of the Judean Mountains west of Jerusalem. Our stops included a hike in a lovely forested valley, though with the temp at least 85 in full sun we only made it a couple of minutes down the trail. It was enough to get the girls awake and out of the car though. After long afternoon naps, we made a brief stop to the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall in the double stroller (what would we do without this thing!) and then on to dinner with Philippe and family at a traditional Israeli restaurant, where we ate lots of kebabs, hummus, steak and chicken schnitzel (aka chicken nuggets) for the kids. At dinner, Aya gave the girls tatoos on their arms, and Claire and Ela (3) shared a moment with the international language of ‘Dora’ on Stu’s iPhone.