Israel has been on my travel wish list for over 20 years. However, early on, I was advised by many to visit Israel on an all-inclusive group trip – and to be honest, I found that suggestion very repellant. Yes, I realize that group travel was the preferred way to vacation for many “back-in-the-day” – but the reality of visiting a destination such as Israel around a tour company’s schedule is not only very limiting (and pricey), it really takes away the freedom of spontaneity which I enjoy when traveling. That said, I now would like to share with you my completely independent visit to Israel.
Timing is everything. For my first visit to Israel, I was fortunate enough plan my first visit around the inaugural launch of Air Canada’s brand new fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners. If you are not familiar with this marvel of aviation, I can assure you that this aircraft is a sheer joy to fly for long distances. Check out my Air Canada Dreamliner flight reports for my flights to and from Israel: Premium Economy and International Business Class.
The drive between Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport and Jerusalem is roughly 45 minutes and there are several ways to make the journey: Sherut (these are shared shuttles which are easily accessed once you step outside of the airport terminal building): Relatively inexpensive at 60 or so Shekels (Israel currency), or roughly $15 – or – Private taxi (250 Shekels or $64). Even though Sheruts are great deals, they are designed for average-sized individuals. So, if you are a tall and/or big person like me, I recommend that you spend the money (for comfort’s sake) and hire a private taxi.
Just like other big cities, Jerusalem has many major luxury hotel brands. However, it was recommended to me by another luxury-minded Wanderluster that I should stay at Dan Hotel’s King David Hotel…..and I was wise to follow their recommendation.
The Five Star King David Hotel is Dan Hotel’s Flagship hotel and it definies of the phrase “Grand Hotel.” With an unobstructed view facing the citadel that is the Old City of Jerusalem, the King David (its name honoring the most famous King of Israel) is a living monument which has witnessed, and oftentimes played a role in, many of Israel’s historic moments of the 20th century. Beginning with its opening in 1931, the King David Hotel quickly became the home away from home for royalty and world leaders of the time. To this day, dignitaries the world over remain loyal and they continue to enjoy stays at the King David when visiting Jerusalem. In fact, the hotel’s Golden Book reads like a “Who’s Who” of the world! See for yourself:
After I checked in, Jeremy Sheldon (who is a hotel manger of the King David Hotel) proceeded to escort me and my brand new Travelpro luggage to my suite. Along the way to the elevator, I took a moment to peruse the King David’s “Walk of Fame” which highlights the names of some of the hotel’s most famous guests – and it nearly stretches the full horizontal length of the hotel’s lobby level.
I was blessed to receive a very generous upgrade upon check-in – to a sumptuous Deluxe Suite (#428; This suite has been occupied by famous individuals such as: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Alicia Keys). As Jeremy proceeded to give me a tour of my opulent suite, I marveled at its cavernous size and I couldn’t help but notice that this suite was replete with the finest appointments and luxury amenities (anytime I observe a hotel or resort using Frette products, I know that the experience will be remarkable….it’s those small details which make ALL the difference to me when staying in a luxury hotel or resort). During my room tour, I observed the following: Very, VERY high ceilings, a massive bathroom which included a whirlpool tub AND a steam shower, an abundant amount of closet & storage space, a plethora of tech: Big screen High Definition TVs with Blu-Ray players and surround sound speakers in both the living room and bedroom (the TVs are encased within an aesthetically pleasing framed mirror), an HD TV in the bathroom and electronically controlled lighting & curtains. Plus, there is a restroom near the main entry – and for the ladies: A separate makeup vanity table. Of course, there is fully stocked honor bar complete with top shelf liqueurs, juices and more. Before the tour of my suite was completed, over, Jeremy opened the powered sheer drapes which revealed a balcony that had a perfect view of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Before I go on about my stay at the King David, I must take a moment to tell you about the bed in my suite: I have never had a more comfortable and restful sleep! Please keep in mind that I sleep on a very pricey Aireloom bed at home – but the bed at the King David completely trumped the comfort of even my own bed! Rest assured, you will sleep better than even the most content baby at the King David Hotel!
It is to be expected that a hotel in the caliber of the King David would have great restaurants – and certainly, you will NEVER go hungry when staying at here. Firstly, the lavish daily breakfast buffet is one of the most impressive I have ever experienced: Premium quail eggs, smoked salmon, herring and other kosher fish, a bevy of artisan cheeses and fresh & flavorful fruits & vegetables. The expertly prepared blintzes, Potatoes au Gratin, Muesli, and a bounty of fresh breads and pastries (including Baklava – which I haven’t enjoyed since I was 9 years old!) are simply a tour de force. In addition, you have the option to enjoy cooked to order egg dishes, Pancakes & Waffles as well as fresh juices, rich & robust coffee and a wide selection of herbal teas.
Since the majority of our audience is based in the U.S., I feel that I should note to those who are used to having the odd numbered sausage links and/or multiple strips of bacon with their breakfasts – you won’t find these items at the King David as it is a hotel which observes Kosher rules, and as such, serving pork is verboten. With all of the good food that is offered at the King David, trust me, you won’t miss having pork (and in the process, your body will thank you for that)….
The King’s Garden Restaurant is the King David’s casual restaurant – however, it is far from casual with its ethnically diverse fare. I dined here a couple of times during my stay and I was thoroughly impressed with the items which I ordered (especially the Mille Feuille! I haven’t had one this good outside of Quebec!)
I also enjoyed a great meal at King David’s fine dining restaurant, La Regence, which happens to be one of the highest rated restaurants in Jerusalem serving meals with locally sourced ingredients. My meal there was very memorable: The lamb dish was unlike anything I have experienced anywhere!
After spending a day touring and shopping, you can relax in the King David’s pristine swimming pool, play tennis, workout in the fitness center or enjoy a spa treatment. And if you are traveling with the kiddies, the King David has an area dedicated for childern where they can spend their time playing the day away.
Guest service at the King David is genuine and personal – but not overwhelming. There are some hotels which obviously browbeats their staff about “perfection” with the customer experience, and result coming off either disingenuous or trying “too” hard. However, staff of the King David has mastered the guest service experience: The staff is always at ease, personable and can practically predict the needs of every guest before they ask. In short, the King David guest services experience reminds me of what it is like to stay in the mansion of an established family.
After my glorious 3 night stay in Jerusalem, it was time for me to begin my journey back to North America. But before I head back on my amazing Air Canada Dreamliner flight in International Business Class, I spent 2 nights in Tel Aviv.
Traveling to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem is easy. There are regularly scheduled trains and buses (Train: 25 Shekels or $6.35; Bus: 22 Shekels or $5.60) – or – you can book a Sherut (prices vary based on your location in each city) or taxi (280 Shekels or $71). To be very frank, I suggest that everyone travel this route via taxi or private car service since it’s not cumbersome and it’s far easier and faster to arrive at your destination in this manner.
I was very fortunate to continue my Dan Hotels experience in Tel Aviv for a 2 night stay at the Five Star, beachfront Dan Tel Aviv Hotel. Similar to the King David, the Dan Tel Aviv continues to be the preferred “home away from home” for many VIPs – particularly those who are in the entertainment industry. Stars such as: Madonna, Mick Jagger, Lady Gaga, Jesse Eisenberg and many others stay at the Dan Tel Aviv home when they are in the region – and I totally understand why! While this is a popular luxury hotel, the Dan Tel Aviv is one which remains very conscious about the needs and expectations of its most notable guests. In particular, privacy & security are of the utmost importance and the Dan Tel Aviv accomplishes this successfully in a very discreet manner.
After check-in, Simona Marcus (Dan Tel Aviv Assistant Manager) escorted me to my luxurious Terrace Sea View Suite (#501) which has been occupied by many famous celebrities including: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio & singer Leonard Cohen. Similar to the adornments I experienced in my Deluxe Suite at the King David Hotel, the Dan Tel Aviv Terrace Sea View Suites are equally replete with blissful amenities and ample closet space. The warm wood finishes, comfortable surroundings and amazing technical wizardry all help to make my stay in Dan Tel Aviv’s Terrace Sea View Suite an amazing experience (and the view of the Mediterranean Sea from this suite is phenomenal!). I should also note that guests staying in this Suite are granted access to the Dan Lounge (which provides complimentary beverages, snacks and more all day).
Dining at the Dan Tel Aviv is an event! The hotel’s intimate dining restaurant, Hayarkon 99, is very unique in that it hosts no more than 40 guests. The meals are thoughtfully prepared with great care and wines are paired by the restaurant’s Sommelier, Norman Gluck. Since my meal included a Filet Mignon entree, Norman recommended a wonderful 2012 Petit Castel from the Judean Hills. This Bordeaux-styled wine was flavorful with strong berry notes – which is perfect for Kosher beef. I particularly enjoyed Norman’s choice since I find the stinging finishes of Syrah or Shiraz too strong for my palate.
When visiting Israel, I highly recommend that you experience a cultural immersion into Shabbat which starts every Friday just before Sunset, and it ends early Saturday eventing. To learn more about Shabbat, please visit
here to learn more on the Israel Ministry of Tourism’s website. Shabbat at the Dan Tel Aviv is an especially wonderful experience – particularly at dinner time!
Growing up in Southern California, I was immersed in a variety of cultures – and due to my mother’s profession, I became aware of many aspects of Jewish culture & customs. What I wasn’t aware of was the Shabbat dinner! The Dan Tel Aviv puts on QUITE a spread with a Shabbat buffet which is nearly bigger than any dinner buffet I have ever seen in Vegas! So take my word for it, you will want to make sure you have a big appetite in order to enjoy all of the goodness that is offered! That said, taking a swim in one of the Dan Tel Aviv’s 2 swimming pools, after you take a walk along the strand immediately in front of the hotel, is strongly advised. Everything I enjoyed – from the prepared salads to the to the Hummus, to the Roast Chicken, to the massive dessert offerings – EVERYTHING was delicious! Even as I’m typing this, I am recalling the amazing flavors and freshness of the food!
For a regional luxury hotel brand, I wasn’t expecting anything outside of the ordinary. But, Dan Hotels completely and pleasantly surprised me! There are many large hotel brands which bandy the word “luxury” in their promotional materials, but the reality is far from it. As a brand, Dan Hotels stands alone and it doesn’t need to “bang a drum” about it’s luxury positioning: Dan Hotels simply delivers the very best effortlessly.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Israel and I am looking forward to our upcoming production of “andiamo!” there soon. The people are friendly & genuine and they will go out of their way to ensure a pleasant visit.
Please be sure to check out the video on my journey to Israel below: