The idea of travel and a specific guide is something that all who wander the globe either use or have considered using. It is certainly a very personal choice that can either make the trip spectacular or on the other hand, possibly leave something to be desired. A great travel “composer” or guide has the supreme intuitiveness to understand the client as a friend, confidant, personal assistant and more. Enter in Hani Sand, CEO of Travel Composer.
Israel can be a daunting destination. Does one only choose the heritage and religious sites? Does one venture to the desert and the coast and all the above? Is it safe? Are the roads good? There are just so many questions that require answers from a seasoned professional. The answer is yes, it is totally safe. Yes, the roads are great. And yes, you can compose an itinerary that will check off all the boxes and exceed all your expectations with a perfect amount of the “wow” factor.
Sometimes too much information spoils the fun. It is great to have a bit of leeway and less WIFI so you can go off the beaten path and live in the moment. We did all of this and then some more!
The journey- I was picked up at the InterContinental David in Tel Aviv by Hani Sand and guide, Rona Melnik. I immediately felt comfortable with both. We laughed from the get go and hopped in Rona’s SUV for our grand adventure. The destination? Caesarea- a Roman port city of extreme archaeological significance as well as incomparable beauty. In 30 BC Herod built a port city there and named it in honor of Augustus Caesar. It reached its peak of prosperity in the Roman-Byzantine period and the remains show a flourishing city with roads, temples, theaters, hippodrome of vast scale, and a palace on the reef! Truly a sensational work of planning and much of the remains have still not been uncovered. We were fortunate to witness a sailing regatta just off shore, adding to the beauty of the surroundings.
After this trek of beautiful history, a visit to a winery was in order! The Amsphora Winery is a sublime ode to Napa and Sonoma, if you blinked, you just might think you were there. Gracious and lovely, we were escorted to the main stone building where a wonderful tasting commenced with a fabulous array of Israeli wine.
Then it was off to Zichron Ya’akov- a storied hillside town, founded by the Rothchild family in the 1800’s. Truly on a sensational setting, it had a feeling of Europe and California all rolled into one perfect package. The history is quite the making of a spy novel, as it was also a pinnacle of human ingenuity. Zikhron Ya’akov came to fame during World War I for the establishment of the Nili spy ring by Sarah Aaronsohn, together with her brothers, Aaron (a noted botanist) and Alex, and their friend Avshalom Feinberg. The group volunteered to spy on Ottoman positions and report them to British agents offshore. In September 1917, the Ottomans caught one of Sarah’s carrier pigeons and cracked the Nili code. In October, they surrounded Zikhron Ya’akov and arrested Sarah and several others. After four days of torture, they planned on transporting Sara elsewhere, she requested to be taken home to change her clothes and shot herself with a pistol hidden in her bathroom and died after several days. Sara shot herself in the throat, leaving her unable to speak, to avoid releasing classified information. The Aaronsohn House–Nili Museum recreates the history of this period.
The evening was truly marked with the epitome of art with the destination of the Elma Arts Hotel. A stunning property on a hillside overlooking the Mediterranean, the modern, art filled structure is something to be treasured. Incredible modern art fills the halls, lobby and public areas- a new, wonderful surprise everywhere you turn. The building is an architectural masterpiece, curving to the form of the terrain, each view better than the last.
Day 2 began with an amazing adventure and new guide, Ariel Stolar. Quite well versed in the history of the area, Ariel was fun and entertaining, always quick witted with a great saying! We traveled to a kibbutz settlement on the border of Golan Heights and Syria. I had not realized just how close we would go to the Syrian border. We entered a real bunker and were familiarized with the geo-political situation in the area. It is quite different when the reality is right in front of you. Our local resident guide was in the IDF and is still currently working with them in Intelligence gathering.
The Ramot Resort was a wonderful and peaceful addition to the journey- everything was as perfect as it was exciting! Travel Composer is a fabulous opportunity to immerse yourself in a bespoke experience and have a bit of fun along the way!