In January 2010 I was one of the best men at my friend Ben Gandz’ wedding in Tel Aviv. Almost a year on I could not pass up the opportunity to return to the holy land with my partner and another couple ― who unfortunately I also do not get to see that often because they live up North ― and spend some quality time with Ben, his wife Elinor, the latest edition to the family, baby Daniel, and lets not forget Max the dog. Another of my best friends, Edan Brodie, also lives in Israel so thankfully I had the opportunity to spend time with him as well.
After arriving in Tel Aviv on the evening of January 5― an hour behind schedule thanks to good old Easyjet ― if you think that’s bad wait until you hear what happened on the way home― we successfully made our way to Herzliya, where we stayed the night in the flat next door to Ben’s which is owned by his parents, before heading to Eilat the next morning.
Ben is one of the funniest guys I know and it wasn’t long before he brought a smile to my face. Before going to bed,myself and Richard (who is married to my friend Jocelyne) decided to accompany Ben and Max on a brief road trip to Elinor’s parents’ house. It was there Max would spend the next three nights while we were in Eilat.
We all took the lift down to the car-park and as the door opened Ben rushed towards the car thinking Max was following him only to soon realise he was still in the lift! Thankfully the lift door remained open long enough for one of us to spot Max and usher him out. Could you imagine if the lift had quickly closed, gone up or down a few floors and people saw Max sitting there all on his own?
Once we all made it to the car the next decision for Ben was to decide where to put Max. After a painful deliberation process where did Ben decide to put Max? Some of you may have guessed by now, the boot!!!
Thankfully Max survived the journey in such tight confines with me checking on his health every so often. We then took Max for a quick walk around the area surrounding Elinor’s parents’ flat before dropping him off. The walk was eventful in itself. First of all Max decided to relieve himself in the street leaving Ben with little choice but to clear up the mess. Secondly Max ended up getting in a fight with another dog. Myself and Richard were cracking up and Ben’s antics certainly set the tone for the rest of the trip.The next morning at around 6:00 am we set off for Ben Gurion airport to catch our 40 minute flight to Eilat, which for those who don’t know is in the South of Israel. On arrival, Ben and Elinor checked into the Royal Garden Hotel ― one of the best hotels in the vicinity which Ben booked to help celebrate the couple’s first wedding anniversary― while myself, Katie, Richard and Jocelyn checked into an apartment which we would share for the next few days. The apartment was decent but not without its faults which will be revealed later.
While Ben and Eli, as we like to call her, spent some time alone that afternoon the rest of us decided to relax by the pool. Despite being fully aware that Eilat is nowhere near as hot in the winter as it is in the summer me and Richard decided it would be a good idea to see how cold the water in the swimming pool was. Richard was first to jump in and despite the look of pain on his face shortly after hitting the water, I jumped in straight after him. Both Richard and I have travelled extensively and swam in many pools but none of us had ever experienced such cold water in our lives. It was unbearable.
That evening we all had Friday night Shabbat dinner together in Ben’s hotel. It wasn’t cheap but the food was amazing. By the end of the night I could not move because I had eaten so much. After dinner we all sat down together for some light refreshments ―Tea Nana in my case― and sung along with the lady who was keeping us entertained in the background between catching up and reflecting on old times.
The next day was about relaxing and spending quality time together as a group before hitting Eilat town in the evening and partying the night away. Myself and my special someone even found time for a long walk in the afternoon before heading back to the room for an afternoon nap.
It was soon time to put on our glad rags ―a process in my case which was not helped by the power in the hotel going out while I was in the shower. Not only was I unable to wash myself, I also could not see anything! I can’t remember what day it was (My memory is terrible, perhaps because I am getting old) but another funny moment was when I nearly blew the whole place up! Somehow I managed to set a plastic cup on fire by dropping it in a small candle we lit to welcome in Shabbat. The cup went up in flames and things were getting quite desperate until my special someone saved the day!
Saturday evening: a night of drinking, dancing and all out fun. After another sumptuous dinner where once again I had too much to eat we began the night at a negillah bar. Baby Daniel was in the capable hands of one of the hotel babysitters so Ben and Eli were able to join in the festivities. After a good old smoke and some Mojito cocktails we headed to the nearby Three Monkeys Pub to drink some more and dance the night away.
Wherever I seem to go in England I always seem to know someone and the trend continued in Israel and at The Three Monkeys. An old friend of mine, Laura, whose name I could only recall after talking to her for about five minutes and posing for numerous pictures, turned out to be working in the bar. A similar scenario occurred around 30 minutes later. Another girl claiming to be aware of my existence approached me and once again I had no clue who she was at the outset.
After showing off our dance moves and in my case saying goodbye to the friends I never realised I had, it was time to turn in for the night. Myself and Richard, were in singing mode and generally feeling high on life so we treated Ben, Eli, Katie and Jocelyne to an array of West Life, Backstreet Boys and other pop numbers on the walk home. Richard was clearly on another level, so much so he even wanted to challenge me to a table tennis contest at 2:00 am. The fact I had been demolishing him the previous few days was his main motive. Unfortunately we were not permitted to play at such a crazy hour. But Richard was determined to be up at the crack of dawn to gain his revenge for the previous beatings.
I thought he was joking when he said he would wake me up at 8:00 am to play. It turned out he was serious. Tired and dreary eyed we headed out to play and after the first few games when my tiredness got the better of me I quickly returned to form and disposed of hum. It was now official. My new title was Andrew Pentol Table Tennis Champion Eilat 2011!
The rest of the day was all about relaxation and spending more quality time with everyone. In fact the day passed quite quickly― a little too quickly it must be said. It was soon Monday, the day we would head back to Tel Aviv for me and Katie’s last night in the Holy Land ― Jocelyne and Richard were not leaving for another few days. Thankfully our flight was not until 9:00 pm so we had the whole day to relax before heading off.There was even time for an act of spontaneity en route to meet Ben and Eli and baby Daniel. Our apartments has an area where patrons can take to the water in Kayaks and seeing as it was our last day in Eilat the four of us thought it would be fun to take to the water. Katie and I decided not to change into swimwear, a decision we would later regret, based on the assumption it was unlikely we would enter the water.
Everything was going according to plan with the men doing the Kayaking and the girls relaxing and admiring the scenery. It wasn’t until Richard decided to spice things up a little by tying the two boats together that things went crazy. In an effort to separate the boats, mine unfortunately capsized and myself and Katie ended up in the water. The first task was to turn over the boat and the next was to actually try to get back on. Katie was going mad and in the end gave up trying to get back into the board and swam ashore.
I eventually made it back on the boat and after Richard returned my oars to me― yes he did leave me stranded at sea for a while― I was able to navigate myself back to the jetty. Katie was irate to say the least. Her clothes were ruined and she was freezing. I could not stop laughing which antagonized her even more. She barely spoke to me for the next few hours, but once the dust settled I think she saw the funny side of it all. All in all we had an oar-some time!
The rest of the day was spent drying off, walking, relaxing and eating. Before we looked round it was time to catch the40-minute flight back to Tel Aviv. Our bonding session in Eilat had come to an end.
The next day Katie and I woke up nice and early as we wanted to visit with one of my oldest friends, Edan Brodie, before flying home. Ben took us to the station where we said our goodbyes and we embarked on an hour-long journey to Binyamina to see Edan. It was great to see him. He took us for a nice breakfast then back to his flat to chill out. He then dropped us to the station to catch a train to Ben Gurion airport ahead of our flight home.
We arrived at the airport in good time, checked in our luggage and were then handed the news that our flight was delayed for around five hours. This meant we would not land until 3:00 am UK time and not get home until around 6:00 am. We both new there would be little point going to work with a full day at work looming. How I got through the day at work is beyond me.
The delay, however, did little to spoil a trip which involved sun, sand, table tennis, good food, great company and let’s not forget a capsized Kayak. There are few things in life which are better than spending quality time with quality people in a perfect environment.
Let the good times continue!