Monday, February 21, 2011

Holiday in Rome

Views of Rome April 2005
The first and so far only time I've been to Rome was a few years ago when we decided on a family vacation in Italy, there were only four of us then since my youngest son was not even a thought. We spent there only 3 hectic days before moving North towards Tuscany. We tried to see as much as possible and dragged our daughters from The Colosseum to The Forum, from The Spanish Stairs to Piazza Navona. We tried to introduce them in record time some Art and History. My daughters' favorite part was playing hide and seek in the impressive fortress of Castillo de St. Angelo on the other hand my favorite part was eating a square slice of thin crust pizza near The Forum and having a great cup of double espresso in a small cafe in the alleys behind our hotel. My memory of Rome is a bit blurred since we moved through everything so quickly trying to  see as much as possible but of course we hardly saw anything. 
The Angel guarding the Castillo de St. Angelo

Now I might have a chance to visit Rome once more. If my friend Sarah will win a contest by having as many viewers as possible to a little clip advertising Barilla Pasta on YouTube. So watch our video and spread the link, I'd love to take some new pictures of Fontana Di Trevi. 
thanks for your patience and enjoy!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Photography workshop

Views of the Sachne National Park

Finally my hopes were fulfilled and after a long while winter has arrived. The weather is chilly even cold sometimes, the rain is coming down and the land that is usually yellow and dusty becomes lush green. This is the time of the year that lots of wild flowers come out and their bloom decorates hills, mountains and even the sides of the road to my house.  This time of the year is very short so in order to make the most of it we take advantage of the weather and go to many hikes and tours around the country from North to South.
 A couple of weeks ago my friend Sarah the famous food blogger, and I went to explore the North-Eastern part of Israel, around the Beit-She'an Valley and the Gliboa Ridge.  We started our hike in one of the prettiest places on Earth (in my opinion), Gan-Hashlosha, or in its more popular name, The Sachne. It is a national park of fountains, and pools, the stream crossing it emerges from a fountain that holds water temperature of 28 centigrade all year long which enables swimming even in the coldest days. In the weekend the place is packed with so many people that if you arrive after 10am, the parking lot is already closed. A wintry weekday though, left the park empty and all to us. We didn't go swimming but rather pacing along the park looking for great shooting angles and correct composition for our photos.  We tried to capture nature's beauty in our cameras; you'll be the judge if I succeeded.

The park is not only about nature, people acknowledged its beauty and fertility since ancient times. A small museum of archeology sits at the edge of the park and it presents the finding discovered in the area as early as 5000 years ago.  In the 1930s of the previous century a Kibbutz was founded near the park called Nir-David and the historical site where it was founded is now restored and can be visited.
Human settlement in the area

We left the park and went exploring the Gilboa ridge, driving on a scenic route that has many viewpoints looking down at the valleys of Jezreel and Beit-She'an. Clouds were gathering and the temperature dropped.  But the cold didn't hinder our efforts to take the best picture of a cyclamen or an anemone, or even a shoot of wild asparagus. Sarah tried to teach me about apertures, shutter speed and other technical terms that once were a mystery.
Asparagus growing wild on the Gilboa 
Chives blooming

 After taking about a 1000 pictures of blooming forest ground we discovered we were famished. We went to eat in a local restaurant called Havat Hatavlinim (The Spice Farm). As we slowly defrosted, we tried several angles of indoor photography. When food arrived we didn't have a bite until we took pictures of the dish from every possible angle.
It was a great day; I took some very nice pictures, had great company and a lovely meal.
Food for thought at Spice Farm restaurant.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tea with The Queen

Village square in Provence, France

The bistro was located in old Mouans-Sartoux village center. Like all old villages in the area it was medieval with a modern twist. We were given a table on the porch under a huge plane tree. We found the scenery to be very charming and although it was August the weather was bearable. There were the five of us: my dear husband, me and our three children. My youngest son sat in his stroller but the girls sat at the table and couldn't keep their mouth shut for a millisecond.

 While waiting for the food we ordered I pointed out to my eldest that the French family next to us has very quiet kids. 
"Of course they are" she examined them scornfully; "they get beat up every day when they come home from school."
The remark summarizes precisely my daughters' views on how to bring up well-mannered children.
Israeli kids don't have table manners. It is an unfortunate fact that doesn't help build my country's reputation in the civilized world. I must confess that as a born and bred Israeli my table manners are hardly polished. My parents really tried to bring up well-mannered children but failed miserably as I am failing now.  When my kids sit at the table, well the truth is that they hardly sit. They fidget and move and squirm. They always have very important things to fight about when food is served; usually the fight is very loud. Once they finish their meal they jump off the chair and have to run around, if we're in a restaurant we try really hard that they won't run into the poor waiters, we tend to sit outside so they will have space. Don't let me forget  the commentary they always make  either on the food, or the surroundings or the people. The word "yack" is very popular, and it's pronounced very loudly.
The thing is I hear myself saying time and again all the sentences I heard from my parents: "Sit straight!", "Don't shout!", "Stop running!", and the number one of all times: "Don't say yack on food!" but to no avail. We acknowledge the fact that we are very poor in disciplining our offspring. But I must admit that deep down inside I'm rather happy they are such free spirited individuals, loud and opinionated, not docile and placid as the French kids we saw.
I had already come to term with the idea that my kids and I won't be invited to tea with The Queen. 
Cheers! Celebrating at a bistro in Provence.

P.S. A few months ago a very talented Israeli writer Rutu Modan wrote a children's book on the matter, highly recommended to Hebrew reading parents. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Winter in the Desert

Look at my DH taking pictures of the lovely view of Nitzana Hillocks near the Egyptian border. It is a beautiful area that we visited for the first time this year in our annual winter desert vacation. 
This is the third year we are heading south of Israel in January, when the heat is bearable for some hiking and  relaxing.  We stay just for the weekend, at the same hotel in Mitzpe-Ramon where we go out to our various excursions exploring the desert. The small quiet town of Mitzpe-Ramon sits on the edges of the Ramon Crater (Maktesh Ramon), a worldwide unique geological phenomenon and a great spot for family treks.
 Photos from 3 winters in the Negev area including ibexes, fossils, birds and great view.
 The desert provides the best opportunities for getting away and really reconnect with your family, yourself and of course nature in all its beauty. 
My kids  love these annual getaways. A weekend without TV but with a lot of birds, lizards and of course many ibexes (local mountain goats). Whenever we hike in the desert we meet one or more ibex and my kids are convinced it's all because of me, that I have a special bond with those animals since ibex in Hebrew is Yael.

3 winters of girls climbing on hills and trees.
This post is mainly about pictures, of family and nature. Going out with my favorite people on Earth to a place that might seem blank and lifeless but actually is full of adventure is one of my favorite things in the world.
How to bring up a hiker.
Indiana Jones style family in the old Nabbatinan city of Nitzana