On Day 10 of our trip, which was a Thursday, we had another leisurely morning since there wasn’t anything left to visit or do. As such, AJ and I slept in until 7 a.m. again, went down to the beach again, walked along the boardwalk again, chilled out in the room for a while, and then had some lunch at an outdoor cafe. At 2:45 p.m. we arrived back in the hotel lobby where we met up with our bus, which was to take us to the airport in Eilat for a flight to Tel Aviv.
At the airport it took our entire group almost 2 hours to get through security and then another 30-45 minutes for our flight to be ready for boarding. Then once in Tel Aviv, we had a seven hour layover before our 1 a.m. flight to New York. But that was needed because we had to go through passport approval AND security all over again in Tel Aviv. Ezer told AJ to move to the front of the line since she was older, and for a few minutes I debated whether we should before those around us all but told us to move ahead to the front of the line. Even then we stood there for a long time waiting for our turn because the El Al security folks were a bit disconcerted about an entire group of 100+ people storming their line all at one time. One of the guys in our group took time to meet with a manager to go over the “standard” questions that our group would get, in order to speed up the line. Once explaining who we were and why we were all together, the manager left and the lackeys were meant to start processing us. Unfortunately, the manager he met with promptly went off-shift and her replacement showed up, not knowing anything about our group, and thus caused a massive delay all over again. Our representative told her to call the original manager to clear up the confusion, which she did. At that point, the lackeys finally began processing us through the line.
Once AJ and I made it through security, we went to check in to our flight where I discovered that, once again, our seats were not near each other. I begged the counterperson to see if she could move things around, and after a few minutes she was able to place us together in a window and center seat. We’ll take it! At that point we made our way into the main section of the airport, where we took a seat in a little shopping area and just chilled out for a couple hours while our group slowly trickled through. And by slowly, I mean that it took El Al about 3 hours to get our whole group through because their security is so strict. Yikes. Good thing we had a long layover!
We finally made our way to our gate around 10 p.m., where we still sat and waited until about 12:30 a.m. to begin boarding our flight. We had been up since 7 a.m. and were very tired and looking forward to being on the plane so we could sleep. Finally we began boarding, and AJ and I found our seats. I asked the woman in the aisle seat if she’d consider switching so AJ could have the aisle for potty breaks, but she said no. Oh well. Travel companions can’t all be winners, I suppose. But I taught her a lesson – I coughed all over her during the flight out of spite. Just kidding. I didn’t do it on purpose. But I did cough on her – I couldn’t help it. My sinus infection was on all cylinders at that point.
The flight, which left late, was long. Endless. Hot. Apparently red-eye flights don’t like to run A/C at all, because it was ridiculously hot on that flight, making it all but impossible to sleep. Oh sure, I may have caught 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there, but for the most part, I was awake for the entire 11 hour flight from Tel Aviv to NYC. We landed in NYC at 7 a.m. ET (which was 1 p.m. Israel time – meaning we had now been up for 30 hours at this point with only short cat naps here and there). Baggage claim and customs was surprisingly easy, and we were able to check in to our flight to DC very quickly. For this flight, we were going first class, which we were looking forward to. We thought we could hang in the Delta first class lounge (and get some sleep since our total layover in NYC was ~5 hours), but our flight didn’t qualify, so down to our gate we went, where we sat for 2-3 hours waiting for boarding time. AJ managed to sleep in her chair for about 30 minutes while I hung out watching the news (something I did NOT miss while on vacation). Finally our flight began boarding. Our first class seats were delightful, but man that flight was short – only 45 minutes.
We landed in DC at around 1 p.m. (7 p.m. Israel time for those keeping track). By this point I was exhausted beyond all belief, having basically been awake for 36 hours. We got our bags and I texted my sister that we had landed. She picked us up a short time later and by 2:30 p.m. we arrived at her house where after some brief conversation about the trip, I started some laundry and promptly passed out for a nap (so did AJ). I woke up briefly around 8 p.m. for some dinner, before passing out again for the remainder of the night.
The next morning I woke up very early (because I was still on Israel time) and began packing my bag and getting ready to hit the road for my 6-hour drive home. After breakfast and hugs all around (and many thanks from AJ for traveling with her), I headed for home. It was so great to finally walk in the door at my house and hug the family (I didn’t kiss them since I was sick), pet the dog, and basically spend the rest of the day unpacking and chilling out. It was glorious!
And so was the entire trip, really. It was such a pleasure traveling with AJ, and even though it took me almost a full week to get over the jetlag and get back to a normal sleeping schedule, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. It was the perfect vacation, and definitely one of my Top 3 vacations of all time (it’s right up there with Hawaii and Holland/Belgium). If you EVER have the opportunity to go to Israel, I highly recommend it. You won’t regret it.