Saturday, August 18, 2018

Ashkelon: Tsunami - 0, Missiles - 1.

Who knew? 
We spent five days in a hotel in Ashkelon with my mother. It was five days of no cooking, no washing up, no cleaning, and no internet. It was wonderful...ish. Ok, there were a few issues along with the fabulous pool and the cable tv. Overall it was a definite good holiday.

We booked through I always use them and there has never been a problem because I've never had to change anything about the booking once I've booked it. This time I found out that changing anything about the booking is a big pain when you didn't book directly with the hotel.

We were without a car and the hotel was advertised as just outside Ashkelon. We didn't know how far out of town it was so we booked dinner as well as breakfast in the hotel. Dinner was £28 per person. We didn't really think about it when we booked but this is an enormous amount when you're not planning to eat three full courses every night. It's a buffet but the choices are the same every night which also gets boring.

After the first night we went to the reception and asked to cancel dinner for the next three nights. "Sorry, we can't change anything about the booking. You need to phone" So we phoned and we spoke to Mike in Berlin. (Have you ever wondered what these world travelers do for a living on their laptops for a few hours a day? - This is it.) Mike in Berlin, bless him, made a mistake and cancelled dinner in only one room. So we called back (each call takes 15 minutes to get through) and Dave managed to cancel dinner in both rooms. Then we discovered that Mike had not just ignored one of the rooms, he'd actually cancelled breakfast in the second room by mistake. I don't know who we spoke to next, Netta I think. After each call we had to wait while they sent an email to the hotel office with the amendments. Anyway, it all got sorted but that was two hours of our holiday we won't get back.

Grandma and DD at the Marina.
The other thing we discovered was that although we are not breakfast eaters at home, I forced myself to enjoy the breakfast buffet because we had paid for it (and I couldn't face another ordeal with but DD wasn't interested in eating it at all. I think next time I'll have my usual coffee for breakfast and buy us both an early lunch (or brunch) in the lounge cafe when DD's hungry. Seriously, one pizza and one salad from the lounge cafe is much cheaper than the breakfast buffet.

On the second evening we walked only 15 minutes along the sea-front to the marina and had a fabulous fish meal with dessert for about £40 for all three of us. Actually the portions were so big that we could have shared two between us.

The Ashkelon Marina is buzzing at night. It's more Greek fishing town than Monte Carlo but it has everything there including entertainment, shops, every type of food, the sea and the boats. And the 15 minutes walk there  and back (nearer 25 minutes on the way back as it's uphill and after dinner) was just the right amount of exercise to be pleasant.

I was surprised to see tsunami warnings along the front. Also signs showing which direction to run to and how many metres to safety. Between 350 and 600 if you're interested. DD was intensely interested if not fixated on the chances of there being a tsunami. We explained that there has to be an earthquake in the Mediterranean region first and then you have a few hours warning. By the time the tsunami comes we'd be back home in Jerusalem. That night she snuggled up to me in bed and said, "can I sleep closer to you tonight? I'm nervous about a tsunami."

On the third morning we were woken by loud sirens signalling a rocket attack from Gaza. DD and I rushed out of bed, I grabbed the door card, banged on my Mum's door, and ran to the stairwell. There we met several other guests in various states of undress. You only have 30 seconds before the rocket hits (unless it's intercepted by the Iron Dome) so no time for modesty.

My sister sent DD a whole package of activity books for the hotel.
We weren't fazed because we've been in war situations before. My mother remembers the first doodle-bug to hit London. It was on June 13th 1944 (I just googled it) after they'd returned from being evacuated in Scotland. Her older brother was standing by the window trying to get a look at it but her mother pulled him away. They took cover under the dining table and the whole window shattered into the room from the impact of the blast. DD and I spent a whole summer running down to the bomb-shelter in our building a few years ago and she remembers it.

So we were't fazed but we were a bit shakey when we returned to our rooms to put on the tv news. It's not a joke even if you've done it before. It's real missiles and they do kill people. That same morning one rocket had landed on a house in a town just south-east of Ashkelon. Interestlingly, DD wasn't worried about the missiles from Gaza like she was about a possible tsunami. This is ironic as there have been about 200 rockets fired at Israel this summer and not one tsunami.

There was quite good entertainment in the evenings at the hotel.
That day my cousin from Tel-Aviv drove down to have lunch with us and we had a lovely catch-up. The next day family friends from Stanmore, now living in Netanya drove down to see us. Whilst having coffee in the lounge I told them about another English couple in the hotel. The evening before, whilst playing our nightly match of kalooki or contract whist, we'd overheard them talking to a guest and they mentioned Edgware and Netanya. "I'm sure you must know them," I said.

Within two minutes the other couple had spotted our guests and joined us for coffee. Turns out that the man is a cousin of our friends' son-in-law and their daughter is married to an old friend of mine from 40 years ago. Btw, yesterday I met my old friend's sister in the supermarket and she said that the couple's guest from the first night must have been her cousin from Ashkelon. I once heard this joke: There are only 10 committed Jews in the world. The rest is done by mirrors. Sometimes it really feels like that.

The next morning we checked out. We asked the receptionist to order us a taxi to take my Mum to the airport. She called her husband but he wasn't available so he got his friend to take us at 2/3 of the price of a real taxi. Welcome to the Middle East. And after dropping my Mum off at terminal 1, DD and I continued to terminal 3 to get a Sherut (a shared door-to-door, mini-bus taxi) and go home.


  1. Well it was certainly an exciting week! Glad that it all worked out in the end and that you had time with your mom and with friends. Isn't it astonishing how small the world seems at times and who you run into. I was born in Edinburgh and people say the same thing about someone always knowing someone that you're related to!
    I love breakfast buffets and staying at hotels - I always say that if I ever win the lottery I'm going to check into a luxury hotel for the rest of my life! :-)

    1. Margie, you must read A Gentleman in Moscow - it's about a man who lived in a hotel under house arrest for 30 years! I also love hotels. xxx

    2. That book is on my to be read list! But I do want to be able to leave the hotel now and again! :-)

  2. Nice holiday despite! Sad for you having to get used to living with fears. Pleased you are all safe. 😊

    1. Yes, sad that we take it in our stride we're that used to it. I'll still use as it's very convenient but try to think ahead next time. I thonk it's easier to buy the extras later rather than cancel them.