Thursday, June 30, 2011

Swirling Thoughts #204 - you say forests are for camping. i say forests are for spas.

If you see dinnertime is an opportunity to counterbalance the effects of a day of sugary and salty snacks (staples of the “I’ll pack it myself, Mom!” school lunch), you’ll find the last two weeks of school to be of dubious nutritional intake.

First there is the week in which each class celebrates the culmination of its learning with an evening of song and coordinated dancing. Whether in Hevron (potato borekas), at the school itself (candy, potato chips, hot dogs), or in the old city of Jerusalem (rumors of pizza), the performances and ensuing nachas offer sufficient sustenance to the parent-only audiences.

By the second week, in which each after school activity enjoys a night in the spotlight (guitar, taekwondo, gymnastics) the siblings (who are now encouraged to join the audience) are getting a little antsy. And so we bring dinner along. With proper planning, that could be noodles, fish sticks, cheese borekas, freezer pizza squares. Poor planning could yield the dinner we had last Wednesday night. A shared bag of Bissli followed by ice cream for everyone.

Bob returned from two back-to-back trips to America, delirious from jet lag. He missed all the school celebrations but was just in time for our anniversary getaway. Which I planned because I wanted luxury. Bob wanted camping.

As my kids enjoyed their last few moments of school, Bob and I snuck off to the Carmel Spa for pampering and (more than) our fill of legendary healthy cuisine.
Are you sure you don’t want to go camping?
Please get directions to the spa.

When you look up Carmel Spa, it shows up as being in Haifa. And so we got on our favorite road, Kveesh Shesh (the pay road, for which we finally figured out how to pay), and drove to Haifa. On our way, Bob was most certain he saw a tehine tanker.
Did you see that tehine truck?
That’s an oil tanker!
But it said Tehine on the side.
Do you seriously think there’s an oil tanker filled with tehine driving around Israel?
Yes. Yes I do.

We continued on and I spotted a red velvet couch. In the middle of an olive grove. I’m not delirious from jet lag, either.
Did you see that couch?
No, where?
In that olive grove, next to the plush green office chair. It was red velvet!

As we approached Haifa we drove through an Experimental Area.
What do you think an Experimental Area is?
I had no witty reply for this and in fact, I just now looked it up on-line.
Seems the Iranians (who’ve been accusing Israel of stealing their rain clouds) are following the experimental work of Israeli scientists who are trying to turn desert dust into rain clouds. Or something like that. In Experimental Areas in the North and in the South.

We arrived in Haifa and started our ascent up toward the Carmel, as per every sign we saw. When we weren’t sure we asked the locals.
And so comes the cruel punch line.

The Carmel Spa, Haifa is neither in Haifa nor in the Carmel. I know I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. Israel truly is an insiders club.

Evidence in support of my claim
* The vowels, yes, we know.
There are none. To read Hebrew you must already know the words.
* The Carmel
Spa. It’s listed in Haifa. Why on earth would you then not go to Haifa. Why on
earth is there a place in Haifa called Carmel that is not the location of the
Carmel Spa. And if this is a 5-star destination of tourists, why is getting
there shrouded in secrecy (our story was matched by at least 4 other couples
once we arrived).
* The maps. Better yet, Google maps. Overloading you with
undeserved confidence in how to drive from door to door, Google maps relies on
good old fashioned street names. OF WHICH ISRAEL HAS NONE.

Conclusion: You must know the language, know that names
of places are not necessarily the names of places, and know the names of streets
which appear to be nameless. An insider’s club? For certain!

And so, after a scenic two hour tour of Haifa, we made our way to the Carmel Forest Spa, located deep in the Carmel Forest. But not before we happened upon these guys.

The drive in was eery.

Do you think it’s strange one of Israel’s top luxury spas is flanked by prisons on both sides?

There were charred trees all around us. Just as I wondered if a particular spot was where the prison guards had been caught in the fire, just six months ago, we passed a makeshift memorial urging us to remember the fallen guards.

My babysitter had told us about new growth in the forest. I shifted my attention to the new growth.

We arrived, more than ready to commence relaxation and pampering. My cell phone rang as we were checking in and a slight woman, not taller than myself, bum-rushed me out the front door, all the while pointing to signs prohibiting cell phone use in the hotel’s public areas.

For the rest of our visit we kept an eye on this woman (who turned up everywhere) keeping an eye on all of us. The first night at dinner, she was at the next table.
Bob was excited to try the food.
Let’s go check out the salad bar.
I’ll wait here until you come back.
The kids are not here. We can go to the salad bar together!
But your phone is here. I’m worried about… you know, the cell phone police.

We loved the food. But Bob was suspicious of the corn chowder. How could it be so thick, so creamy, so satisfying, and yet healthy? He posited a theory.
I think the food here is made to be delicious and they make it seem healthy but in reality it is NOT.
That’s a pretty bold statement.

He pointed to the corn chowder as evidence.
Tomorrow I will call their healthy food bluff.
Please don’t.

The spa was filled with detail people. Towel folders, chair pusher-inners, candle blower-outers. My friend told me when she was there she noticed a guy whose sole task was shpritzing bottles of the signature Carmel Spa scent all around the hotel.

The trip was indulgence defined. Lazy swims, fuzzy robes, treatments, relaxing in the garden, and 3 delicious meals daily. We had a great time and a ton of laughs. Bob enjoyed himself, even as he poked fun.
What’s people’s fascination with walking around all day in a robe? And getting rubbed?
But I got him to join the hotel “club” so we can enjoy discounts in the future.
Will you agree to come back?
Can we go camping in between?
Once I give birth? Absolutely.
Then, yes. We can come back.

And so we returned home, rejuvenated, pampered, refreshed, to a bunch of missed cell phone calls and, more importantly, to a bunch of kids who were all too happy to eat Bissli, instant soup and pizza in our absence.


  1. Love this entry, Lisa. Also, you're pregnant again? Was there an announcement? Can we know the due date? We already know the name: Captain Barnacle!

  2. captain barnacle indeed! if it's a boy, that is! the new baby will be our guest of honor this coming rosh hashanah, with Gd's help.

  3. We spent four glorious days at the Carmel Forest Spa last year for our anniversary. Some people take home souvenirs from hotels like ashtrays or shampoo. I tried to take home the pastry chef. He refused to cram himself into my suitcase but did become my friend on Facebook and he sent me some amazing recipes. I blogged about the whole experience and got a winner of a halvah parfait recipe out of the experience.