Hotel Review: Hotel Vital Tel Aviv

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I arrived in the small loby of the boutique business hotel Vital on a very rainy winter day of January. In Jerusalem the roads were blocked because of the snow – one, two centimeters are enough to raise the emergency level to unbelievable levels, exactly like the 30 plus Celsius temperatures in Germany, while in Tel Aviv, the Deliiah storm was putting trees on the ground. From the Central Bus Station, I just walked for 40 minutes and reached the hotel, part of a bigger mall and in the close vicinity of important medical centers. As it was too early for the check in and I may have been look prety pittiful after the long walking in the rain, I was invited to take a seat and relax at the 12th floor business lounge. Fresh pastry and juices, as well as coffee and free Internet were available and took my time to recharge but also have a look over the beautiful city.

Newspapers are also available and for the first time in a long time I had the chance to touch a print edition of Jerusalem Post. The hotel guests are also offered in the morning complimentary copies of the NY Times with Haaretz inside, in an elegant black and white badge…(Let’s keep the politics outside the gates of this blog,ok?)

As I would be explained later during my complimentary tour of the facilities, there are more opportunities to relax offered during the stay to this boutique business hotel: the 200 sqm fitness center can be used for free. Tours and airport transfers are also offered which make the stay even more enjoyable, especially if you are for the first time in the bubbling Tel Aviv and for a short stay and you want to parcimoniously use your time.

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The room offer is very diverse, and it answers practically every specific needs of the diverse tourists and visitors: single junior, executive room, executive room with kitchinette, club, family room, deluxe, superior suite deluxe, executive suite. The rooms are provided with basic facilities, among which a very fast wifi, electronic mini bar, TV, desk and work place, telephone and voice mail, safe, bath robes and sleepers. Laundry services during the weekdays are availble. In order to give the guests time to relax and enjoy their time, the payment is done upon checkout. Special facilities for people with disabilities are also available.

The diversity of Vital Hotel offer explains the diversity of guests: from diplomats to people coming for medical treatments or families with children.

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The rooms are simply decorated, with modern furniture and warm colours. It gives you the feeling of being at home, with all those small facilities and basic comfort that you need,especially if you expect to stay on the road for a long time. The design as such, too much IKEA-infused, did not impress me too much but the rooms are spacious and not over charged.

I enjoyed this homely feeling especially at the end of my day out, exploring the area around the Weizmann street where the hotel is situated. First, it is the mall nearby, with its many offers and coffee shops and small restaurants, all tempting you to stay more with their sales season. A couple of minute of wallking away, there is the famous Kikar Hamedina, with the most expensive houses and many fancy boutique shops. If you want more shopping, Azrieli shopping mall is also close. For culture lovers, Tel Aviv Opera House, Habima Theater – where extraodinary dance performances are regularly taking place, an advantage to taste arts without knowing the language – or Tel Aviv Museum are aso within reach. But most importantly for the business visitors, the hotel is in the vicinity of the Israel Trade Fairs and Convention Center or the Diamond Exchange. And if you love the sea, 5 minute away by car and around 30 by foot, you can relax at the beach, admiring the view while eventually sipping a glass of red wine.

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In the morning, the energizing breakfast, with a lot of good dairy products, including the very delicious cottage cheese which always tastes the best in Israel, and freshly made pastry put you back on the good track. Looking out of the window of the 12th floor, the view of the bold city that never sleeps gives you a lot of motivation and inspiration. The pleasant background music helps you to return to normal life, one step at a time.

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Before leaving, a last email checking and booking printing for the next leg of my trips. Everything works fast and I can do my things within minutes and spend the rest of the time till checkout touring once again the neighbourhood. Although I never heard about this hotel before spending here one night, given the big demand of accommodations in Tel Aviv and Israel in general, I am sure I will hear once again about it soon.

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

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1001 Nights at Mt. Zion Hotel in Jerusalem

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It is winter in Jerusalem and there are alarming news running on TV about the imminent coming of a serious wave of snow – to be read that will last maybe one, two days instead of a couple of hours. As winter is not my friend and the last place on earth I want to be bothered by snow is in Jerusalem, I dream about a warm place where I can forget about cold and other bad snowy news. At least for one night, Mt. Zion Hotel is the perfect choice.

DSCN0264I passed near the hotel many times when on my way back from the city center, but was never too curious to have a look inside. Now, I have enough free time for slowly walking there from the city center – around 30 relaxed minutes. It is situated very close from the lively Tahana Rishona, where regularly events are taking place, but also from the tasty and affordable restaurants in Rehavia. Although close to entertainment areas, it is very quiet and discrete.DSCN0265

As the check-in takes place around 14.00 o’clock, I still have time to admire the stylish metal furniture with comfy blue pillows and the old Oriental carpets. I try to move from a place to another, curious to test many vantage points. The hotel overlooks the Hinnom Valley, the old city walls and the David’s citadel and the historical Yemin Moshe area.

DSCN0279Everything is suited to bring you peace and relaxation. I instantly fell in love with the painted wood of the furniture and the mixture between delicate vegetation and metal works. I fill my time reading various leaflets with information about tours and other attractions in English, Russian, French or Spanish or having a look at the good looking cakes from the bar. The friendly reception personnel, fluently English speakers, can help the guests to make various reservations, including airline and various flight details confirmations.DSCN0282I reach my room through a maze of corridors leading to a small courtyard and a garden surrounding a pool. Once I open the door of my suite, I am exactly in the kind of room I am expecting to have when on the road for a long time. Smooth colours, moderately stylish interior, a lot of space to both work and rest and relax.DSCN0283The metal framed furniture is also present here, but the intensive presence of wood brings the ambiance in the room to a more feminine, easy to cope with presence. I am in love with the colourful glass doorknobs of the close. I instantly find my place to the working table and happily start using the advantages of the very fast Internet – as everywhere in Israel, listen to that, dear Germany…Working in a space without windows is not necessarily my favourite type of office though.DSCN0284However, I can move with my laptop in the living room or on the balcony, but I am afraid will be too distracted to work by the beautiful view. The inviting bottle of red Yarden wine – one of my favourites – or the crafted cakes and fruits as well as the arabesques of the tables will be too disturbing. So I better go back into the windowless room to have some work done fast. DSCN0286

The rooms are fully equipped with everything you need in your modern life: big TV screen in the main living room and another small one in the bedroom, phone, hair dryer, tea and coffee making facilities, personal safe, air condition in every room. The doors lock automatically upon closing and everything makes you feel safe and relaxed. The beautiful smell brings you back to the world of 1001 Nights.

DSCN0288For longer or more family oriented stays, the kitchen offers the chance for preparing healthy meals. Out of the 137 rooms of the hotel, recently refurbished, 38 are Deluxe and family oriented, out of which 11 do have a balcony. The mini fridge can accommodate enough food for a couple of days. By request, a crib can be offered to families traveling with infants. Babysitting service is also offered. DSCN0296The Moroccan sink of the bathroom is another episode of the Oriental nights, with scents of lemon soap and various fine toiletries. DSCN0298A day in Jerusalem, either as a local or as a tourist is never easy, so spending time in the balcony and admiring the view is an inspired choice. Otherwise, those with more time can book a relaxing hammam stay or a spa treatment. The outdoors swimming is open from April till October.DSCN0304After going out to one of the many restaurants of the Tahana Rishona or Rehavia, the sweet treats from the room are the happy ending of the day. Bite after bite, I like to look more and more around in the suite, trying to figure out all the small details of the interior design. It seems that there is a duel between different strength of strong materials: stone, leather, metal, wood. Every single details is well balanced and harmonized by the choice of colours.DSCN0310In the morning, I woke up in the sound of the birds. The ecological and ergonomical pillows took a good care of my dreams and I feel fresh for a fresh start into the day. Just another beautiful day outside is waiting for me. Clearly, there is still a chance that there will not any winter in Jerusalem.DSCN0317Soon, I have to leave my secret retreat for the night, and I want to have one more look around my suite. These big walls were used since the end of the 19th century, at the beginning as an eye hospital. Mount Zion (Har Zion) is used as a hotel only in the last two decades, but it seems that the various redesigns brought the best from all worlds, with a lot of facilities and exquisite furniture and decoration choices for the guests.DSCN0319The breakfast helps me to forget that very soon I have to leave everything behind. The welcoming Israeli breakfast is waiting for me, with a mixture of various fruits and vegetables, fresh juices that can be made on the spot, traditional shakshuka. even cheesecake. For the summer mornings, the buffet can be tasted on the outside terrace. During the day, the restaurant and bar near the reception offers various special easy local meals, such as salmon filets, cheese plates, Greek and haloumi salad, falafel, kubeh or hummus as well as fresh sandwiches.DSCN0321

It is time to say ‘good bye’, but after such a lovely and welcoming stay, I plan to go back to enjoy some more spa and wellness one day. The sooner the better!

Disclaimer: I was offered a complimentary night at Mt. Zion Hotel, but the opinions are, as usual, my own

Fancy staying in a cinema? Think about Esther Cinema Hotel in Tel Aviv

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Tel Aviv has not only a very spectacular real estate, with impressive prices that may easily compete with Beverly Hills or Manhattan, but also went through an dramatic development of the hotel industry. The creative spirit of the people were able to adapt to new situations, giving new destinations to old buildins, while keeping the original spirit. An example in this sense is Esther Cinema Hotel, hosted in a traditional Bauhaus building in Dizengoff Square.

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The cinema was inaugurated at the end of the 1930s, as the property of Moses and Esther Nathaniel both born in Aden that emigrated in 1924. The cinema was considered as part of their contribution to the improvement of the cultural life in the country, and Esther Cinema succeeded to be a noteworthy institution, part of the Dizengoff Circus complex. Classical movies were displayed here, including top European and American productions. Provided with the last cry technology brought from all over the world, it used to host around 1,000 people. ??????????

At the beginning of the 1990s, the cinema went through serious financial problems and was soon purchased as part of the Atlas Hotels network. The original structure was kept, and the space was separated into 83 hotel rooms,  with 2 new suites recently added. The rooms are provided with modern amenities, such as air condition, multi-channele cable TV, coffee and tea facilitis, safe, free wifi. It also has a business lounge and offers to the guests the possibility to use a nearby gym for a moderate fee. The location is perfect, as it provides access within minutes to the beaches, as well as to shopping avenues and many restaurants, some of them open all round the week and the year.

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When you enter the hotel lobby now, you may be tempted to go directly to the reception desk and ask what movies are in the program tonight. Original projectors and classical ads are displayed, as well as original chairs. Some of them were converted to the modern style, but keeping the furniture fashion typical for the Bauhaus design. Regularly, classical movies are projected in the lobby, with popcorn treats included. The rooms also do have a traditional touch, with ads and posters that may remember about the golden times of the cinema.

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The monumental staircase is a trademark of the hotel and still looks as a work of architectural avantgarde. It radically separate with vertical lines the enormous interior space of the building, creating a deep perspective in the middle of the building, similar with the voids in the water during high storms.

The stairs lead to a terrace on the upper level, from where one can admire not only the fancy Dizengoff Avenue with its expensive shops and glamorous restaurants, but also the dynamic city of Tel Aviv and its ports.

In this modern network and spectacular life that seems to never rest, the cultural and historical legacy of Cinema Esther stays as a reminder of how far you can go if your mind aims for change.

For more images from the hotel, have a look at the dedicated Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/esther-cinema-hotel-tel-aviv/

The secret gem of Jerusalem: Chagall Synagogue at Hadassah Hospital

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Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem is worldwide known for its extraordinary medical achievements, saving and improving lives of people from all over the world. As I visited the hospital for a minor medical checking, I was impressed by the friendliness of the people and the feeling that I am in the middle of the huge factory of people working without break to save lives. Young girls were distributing for free kosher food to the patients and everyone was friendly and keen to help us to find the right directions.

But there is something else that you can find inside the hospital, probably less known for many of the people coming here: the Chagall synagogue.

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The entrance is made from inside the hospital, at the ground level. After paying a ticket and receiving an audio guide and an explanatory leaflet, you have to slowly close and open your eyes for entering in a different world of colours and lights. The 3-meter high panels, made of 144 pans of glass represent the 12 tribes of Israel. Every one is a small world in itself of Chagall work. Inspired by the Biblical sources of Jacob’s blessings of his 12 sons and of Moses own blessings for the each of the 12 tribes. Each has a dominant colour and is represented by one of the 12 distinctive gems on the breastplate of the Grand Priest and is built around the specific blessing attributed to them.

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‘All the time I was working, I felt that my father and my mother were looking over my shoulder and behind them were Jews, millions of other vanished Jews of yesterday and a thousand years ago’ wrote Chagall after the work – that he considered his gift for the Jewish people – was finished. The works lasted for 2 years and the painter himself took part at the official inauguration.

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His assistant, Charles Marq developped a special technique allowing the use of more than 3 colours on a single pan rather than the usual procedure of one colour separated by a lead strip. The stained glass was created in Chagall’s workshop in France.

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Chagall studied at length the place, trying to find the best way for a proper reflection of the light through the colours inside the synagogue. The rest of the space is simple, with a stone floor which serves to receive the projections of the colours during various times of the day.

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The decorations of the Aron Kodesh were made by the American-Israeli artist Aviva Green and she finished the work requested by Hadassah together with another Israeli artist, Ruth Hayatt, specialized in textil art. The aim was to offer a simple contrast to the colours of the stained glass, by using simple materials, such as natural fibers and organic contexts.

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During the Six-Day War in 1967, shrapnels of the Jordanian Army destroyed four of the panels. It is said that Chagall, still alive at the time said: ‘Don’t worry about the windows! Worry about Israel. I’ll make new windows!’. A year after, the damaged glass were replaced under the artist’s supervision. Another massive reparations took place at the end of the 1980s that also considered the damage done by the specific Jerusalem climate and the other effects of war, the works being supervised by the son-in-low of Marq, Jacques Simon. The works lasted for one year almost.

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The shtelt of Vitebsk where Chagall grew up is no more here, but his work and modest dedication will keep inspiring us. In the middle of a hospital whose achievements can make the world a better place, the delicate stained glass are a testimony of the victory of the spiritual world against all odds and tragedies of the last centuries.