King David Hotel Jerusalem, the full taste of history

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Jerusalem is overwhelming due its heavy mixture of history, religion and politics, but there is also a different way to get to know the city, through its special luxury locations. Where, of course, between two sips of high end tea and morsels of gourmet food one can also learn a lot about historical facts, figures and events. Out of many places I’ve visited in Israel, nowhere suits more this description than the King David Hotel. When it was opened in 1931 after almost 10 years of hard work, the construction made of the local limestone, was partially owned by Ezra Mosseri, a director of National Bank of Egypt.DSCN0372The interior design details were slightly changed since then, keeping the old Oriental charm in the carpets or wall glass decorations. The dark corners are an invitation to discretion and peace, outside the always busy outside world. Special visitors enjoy usually the quietness of the reading room, with its cakes, coffee and teas.DSCN0398In a place where high profile political figures, from Margaret Thatcher to Clinton family or Nicolas Sarkozy or the current American president or King Abdullah I of Jordan or many others, were always at home here, every object has its own history. For instance, this massive wooden table, where the peace with Jordan was signed that was especially traveled on to Cairo. If the wood would have the gift of talking, how many news will provide…And over the last century, the hotel assumed its high profile and VIP status. Which had a price to pay sometimes, as it happened in July 1946 when the British headquarters hosted in the Southern wing were the target of an attack.

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After the Six Days War, two additional floors were added, offering a perfect view over the Mt. Zion and the old City of Jerusalem. The hotel went regularly through various design lifting, but the original style was always maintained. Some hotels may change dramatically from an era to another, but King David always remains the same, outline the representatives of the company that guided my visit from the lobby to the top of the building. Nowadays, the hotel is part of the Dan Group Hotels, which decided to keep the spirit of the place, operating minimal changes at various levels, but using almost the same type of materials.

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At the beginning of January, there is the best time to book a room, as there are not too many visitors on the way, except the regular, faithful guests. The hotel has its own portfolio of customers, that keep coming here over and over again over the years. Like the Douglas Family (the Kirk and Michael, of course) who always stop here for a shorter or longer stay. The rate of returning guests is around 50%, and most part of the year, the hotel is fully booked.

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The outdoor pool, the biggest of this kind in Jerusalem, is ready to be used two weeks before the Jewish holidays of Pesach – around April – and is open till the mid-November. The beautiful big garden offers a great relaxation oasis, but also enough space for children to play. Especially during the big Jewish holidays, the hotel is usually booked in advance and various family events are hosted all round the clock.

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When the weather does not allow the outside wanderings – meaning that there are only around 10C -the special gourmet restaurant, with outstanding French touch offers a delight to the senses. At the beginning of the last year, I was invited to have a taste of the high-end afternoon tea, an innovation among the hotels in Jerusalem, which impressed even a very selective person as me.

DSCN0380For children, there are special babysitting services offered, unique gifts and tailored meals. From weddings – of up to 250 persons attendance – to various special events – like bat or bar mitzva – parties, the space can suit every special needs. There is even a special synagogue that can be used for unique occasions. The only condition is to make a reservation many months in advance, as the demand is very high. DSCN0387The wine collection has almost everything an expert and wine lover would expect. Enough to test and taste for a couple of years from now on. The prices are usually affordable, allowing also local people to have their unique moment of glory here.DSCN0388

The Regence meat restaurant is asking for a special extensive tasting experience, and the menu list where I spotted various kosher lamb veals and goose liver meals, regularly changed up to season or the gourmet preferences, makes the imagination wander far far away in the world of delicious foods. For the night owls, the Oriental Bar is open daily from 17 to 00 o’clock.

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Moving from a space to another is like visiting both a museum of history and a classical arts and design location. The current view is the result of the hard work of Adam Tiani, commissioned to do various changes into the structure and outlook of the rooms also.

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Special business oak room is available for hosting private dinners or business presentations, being provided with the latest facilities and technology, including free wifi and space for special projections. The old historical sepia or black and white paintings are here to remember how past, present and future should always stay connected. For the corporate clients, members of the Corporate Club, there are special facilities and discounts offered. The hotel also has a private parking place.

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High-end modern facilities are also provided by the fitness space. Outdoors, the tennis grounds are offering even more options for a fit stay at the hotel. There is also a ping pong space and a hammam for a relaxing ending of the sport practice.

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As in the case of the lobby, the rooms have an Oriental touch, with warm colours and simple combinations. 130 rooms are maintained in the typical old style, with a view over the old city of Jerusalem. If the lobby evokes the reminiscence of the old Egyptian or Syrian influences, the rooms were little by little oriented towards a more residential and business outlook. The silks of the curtains and the velvets of the bed covers are creating powerful impressions and a special mysterious ambiance.DSCN0423The diversity of the rooms and suites offered answers a big  is big and especially the big families with children are given a lot of choices. There is the Jerusalem Suite and the Royal Suite, the President and Deluxe Suite, the Executive and various Duplex suites. The views are different, but there is hardly a view that can be considered ‘bad’ in Jerusalem, as every corner may have its special history and special memories. For those interested to find out more, the hotel can book special tours made by recognized experts.

DSCN0429All the rooms are provided with wifi and at the top floors, the tv set is inserted in the bathroom mirrors. Sliding panels can extend or separate the spaces, in order to . A special concierge service is registering the requests of the customers before arrival trying to offer the best expectations. “Our customers, some of them frequent guests for over 30 years, know what they want. We just want to offer answer their demands”, I am told by the representatives of the hotel.DSCN0430There are at least 6 volumes of signatures of the famous guests of King David Hotel. From private political meetings to VIP family gatherings and film shooting – Exodus was filmed here in 1960 – this hotel has a lot of stories to tell. The secret of its survival despite various hotel trends and fashions and boutique temptations: building a brand and keeping the stories in. Like the city of Jerusalem itself.

Disclaimer: I was offered a complimentary tour of the hotel, but the opinions are, as usual, my own.

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Crossing the Channel. Another travel dream come true!

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I am not too much into travel buckets – my one and truly only such list has one big objective written down with several colours: See the World! – but crossing the Channel Tunnel – if possible to Pas-de-Calais – was always a secret dream of mine. Thus, when I decided to come back from London by car, I knew that this will finally happen. We left London in the afternoon spending a lot of time on the crowded streets. After around one hour and a half of safe driving, we spotted the first signs announcing the proximity with the channel.DSC09358

My dear France was only 35 minutes away from me and went very excited about the coming experience. But first, we went through the passport checking on both sides, that went very fast and without any bureaucratic problems.DSC09363In-between controls, a little stop at the shopping area, a clean area offering a lot of small souvenires shops and some basic fast food courts. DSC09366

Once the legal procedure finished, we were ready to go. I was very curious about the channel but even now, a couple of weeks after went through the experience, cannot explain clearly why. The most important fascination has to do probably with the fact that it is the largest undersea tunnel in the world, with around 38 km. long going under the sea. DSC09368The first plans for such a project were discussed as far as 1802, following the designs of the mining French engineer Albert Matthew Faner. At the time, it was aimed to serve the transportation with carriage, but till 1830, the idea of the construction of rail networks was already in sight. In 1867, on the occassion of the Exposition Universelle de Paris, Queen Victoria and Napoleon III agreed over the necessity of the channel, but the dream come true only at the end of 1990. DSC09371

Most delays were due to various financial problems and some political misunderstandings too. As for now, the channel traversation is part of the daily routine and can be done by train and car in just 30 minutes. DSC09372The process of crossing as such does not justify at all my enthusiasm and curiosity. It may be another example of attraction – my personal one – for scientific achievements that I don’t necessarily understand in their technical details and that fascinates me especially for their inhuman perfection.DSC09375The cars are entering the train platform, some of them with colourful wagons that contrast with the dirty look from inside. There are special schedules for the trains, but we were lucky to be in time and there were some space left for us. The interior is in fact a big parking place and it reminded me of the recent water crossing to Konstanz, the last summer. Except that you don’t see anything. Indoors, everything is that quiet that you might think that you actually are not moving at all. The speed is probably so high that you end up by not feeling it at all.DSC09376

After a while, the waiting is getting bored, but you are allowed to go out of your car and go on the other side of the silver doors and visit the restaurant or the restrooms. Of course I wanted to do it too – mostly disappointed that nothing special is happening during the much awaited travel experience – but after a couple of minutes I was still passing by another cars and decided that I better give up and come back to my car.DSC09378

It was an inspired choice as the traversation was done fast, in around 30 minutes. The pleasant view of Pas-de-Calais and its vineyard hills were welcoming us and I forgot all the disappointments. The worse part was to come: my decision to go back to Berlin from London by car, only because of the Channel, was worth 25 hours of driving across Europe, mostly during the night. But following the motto: Better now than ever, it was just another travel experience that you should go through it if you are really interested about what is done and going on in this world we are living.