Why Haifa? Because neither of my kids had ever been there and the price was ok.We've already vacationed in the Golan and Galil, Tiberias, Tzfat, Tel Aviv, the center, the Dead Sea, the Negev, and Eilat.
Saarya and I started out on Thursday afternoon with a few divrei torah at an annual Pesach yom iyun in Raanana. My Hebrew isn't that good, but the speakers were good and you can't beat the price (free).
We picked up Tal from work and make it to the Theodore Hotel without much difficulty. I made the booking using Agoda.com. The Hotel is named after Theodore Herzl and is located on Herzl St. It's smack in the middle of a lowbrow consumer area and right next to a haredi area. The road is under construction and the only parking was in a parking garage located in the bottom of the hotel but run by some other company (20 NIS a pop to park for any length of time). It's nowhere near the coast, but it's a 5 minute walk to the science museum and a fifteen minute walk to the German colony and the bottom of the Baha'i Gardens - you can't do much at the bottom of the Baha'i Gardens. You have to walk up about 600 steps and around the outside of the Baha'i Gardens to get to the inner gardens and the shrine.
The hotel towers over the neighborhood and the view from the top is expansive. It's pretty at night with the lights of the city around, but in the day you get to see Haifa, which is a port for container ships and not that pretty.
The room was clean and small, with basic amenities: a TV with 21 channels, a safe, free WiFi, one tea bag, instant coffee bag, and sugar packet per person. Tal had a less-comfortable looking fold out bed, while Saarya and I took the double. Each floor has a small bookshelf in the corridor outside the elevators. I looked in all of them and found one book that seemed like it might be readable and a copy of Angela's Ashes, which I read all but 100 pages of over shabbat (it's depressing).
Breakfast came with the reservation and it was neither lavish nor pitiful, but ok. Cheeses, vegetables, an egg/vegetable thingie, burekas, cereals, fruit fresh and canned, instant coffee and plain tea (like in our room). Dinner and lunch on shabbat were actually very good and we paid very little for them because they slipped us into the group rate for the group that was staying in the hotel over shabbat. Unfortunately, the hotel was ill-prepared for the group. There were not enough tables for dinner so we had to stand around waiting, and it was incredibly loud the whole time. The hotel lobby and dining area rapidly turned into a disaster area by the middle of Friday evening and stayed that way the rest of shabbat.
The service for the room was quick and helpful: once to bring more towels and once to help with the room safe. The desk service was also helpful. The management service was not. The manager was suspicious of us when we came for meals on shabbat, couldn't find out names on the list (even though we had their coupons which they had given us before shabbat) and looked like he was going to try to charge us twice for the meals. This was eventually straightened out.
The Tea Incident
Worse was the tea incident. They served tea during dinner and I had three teabags in my room. I skipped tea during dinner because I wanted to clear out quickly to give other people a chance to eat. After dinner, the dining room still had a shabbat water urn running, and my room didn't. I was on floor 15 and didn't really want to go get a teabag from my room, so I asked them for tea and they wanted to charge me for the teabag. It took ten minutes of arguing with them that I could simply get the plain teabag from my room but I would rather not have to take the shabbat elevator up 15 flights to do it and it's just a stupid plain teabag. They eventually relented and gave me hot water and a teabag, but when I asked for a packet of sugar they said they would have to charge me for the sugar, at which point I gave up and drank it without sugar.
Thursday night we walked to and then down the German Colony, eventually reaching the port. The German Colony is a pretty row of restaurants right below the Baha'i Gardens. None of them are kosher, but it was nice to look. We were there late on Thursday night and there were very few people around, which seemed to me to be very odd; a similar stretch of restaurants on Emek Refaim in Jerusalem is generally packed with people on a Thursday night. maybe there were better places in Haifa to hang. We walked back a different direction, reading some of the ubiquitous historical plaques about the War of Independence on the way.
We watched two movies: My West is a silly Western with Harvey Keitel and David Bowie. Bowie is the leader of a gang that looked like the Harry Potter villains. It was cute. Raise Your Voice is a Hillary Duff puff piece, very predictable cross between Fame and Dirty Dancing, but nowhere near as rich as either of those (more like a TV episode). It had its moment.
Friday morning we walked to the National Museum of Science, Technology, and Space (aka Madatech). Other than the hotel it was the most expensive part of the trip, and that was even after the 50% soldier discounts Tal and Saarya received. It was a fairly interesting hands on museum with things to push, pull, and wave. But the descriptions of each exhibit required some revisions; they often forgot to relate exactly to what the exhibit was doing, which sometimes made it difficult to understand. We saw a nifty basic 3D movie about the universe. We skipped out on the sports science exhibit because Saarya was getting restless.
After some false starts we found a beautiful place to hike just past Haifa University. It is the right season to hike, with flowers blooming all around and lovely views of the valleys. I got the kids to sing me some Hebrew songs during the hike, which was cut short because Tal was getting restless.
Shabbat morning we hiked ths many stairs to see the inner gardens of the Baha'i Gardens of Haifa and the shrine of the Báb. The Báb is the messenger who came before the Bahá’u’lláh, and you can read all about it on their site. It was all very Reb Nachman. Pretty gardens and trees. It's supposed to be peaceful, but there are way too many tourists (like us) marching through it to achieve any peace. No wonder they kick everyone out by noon every day.
Sorry no pictures, since we visited on shabbat.
Nof Hotel Chinese Restaurant
Saturday night we stopped for only bowls of soup at this restaurant before heading back home. Judging from the soups, the restaurant is worth a visit next time we're in the area.