Monday, August 18, 2014

Mitzpe Ramon and the Best Birthday Ever!

When we travel, whether it be a short weekend trip or an extended getaway, the one thing we tend to always cheap out on is the hotel room.  (Oh, yeah, and the flight, too.  No economy seat is too good for us, no sir.)  Our philosophy is that the room is just for sleeping, so why spend unnecessary amounts of money on something you're barely going to look at?

My last birthday was the exception that has made us see the light.

When we lived in Guadalajara, we always spent TJ's birthday weekend in Puerto Vallarta, while my cumpleaños always seemed to be represented by a peaceful weekend at home.  TJ decided that, this time around, my birthday would receive the getaway treatment.  But where to go?

Several of our coworkers had already taken weekend trips to, and raved about, the Beresheet Hotel in Mitzpe Ramon.  And that's just where we spent the weekend of March 21st-23rd.

The Beresheet Hotel is part of the Isrotel Exclusive Collection, which basically means it's one of the chain's more exquisite offerings (and future weekend trips would sadly prove that hotels not in the Exclusive Colleciton were…not so exquisite…).  

The amazing accommodations featured a comfy queen bed and a full living room...

and a private infinity pool!!!

The hotel featured two delicious Kosher restaurants; The Lobby Bar offers a selection light dairy meals, while the Rosemary Restaurant offers a gourmet meat buffet. 

Beautiful, right?  Now, I'm not sure why I know anything about this town beyond what was to be found at the hotel, but we somehow managed to drag ourselves away for a bit of sightseeing and exploring.

The hotel is located on the edge of the towering cliffs that slope down into Makhtesh Ramon, a crater running 24 miles long, 5 miles wide, and 1600 feet deep. which was the next stop after Moa on the old Nabatean Spice Route.  The term "crater" is a bit of a misnomer, as such language would indicate that this land formation was the result of a meteor impact.  Instead, this makhtesh (the world's largest) was created by erosion.  A geological landform unique to Israel's Negev desert, a makhtesh has steep walls of resistant rock surrounding a deep closed valley.   

We awoke bright and early on Saturday morning and took in the breathtaking sight of sunrise over the makhtesh.  The world transformed before our eyes, rapidly changing from black, to purple, to blue, yellow, and orange.  

Following the sunrise and some serious caffeine infusion, we headed over ot the Mitzpe Ramon Desert Sculpture Park, located conveniently right beside the hotel.  Just like it sounds, this is basically a park, located in the desert, that has the occasional sculpture thrown about for good measure.  I don't believe we managed to navigate the entirety of the park, but we got the gist.  And now, so have you!

Making our way back toward the hotel, nature provide a perfect segue into our next activity.  Standing next to a sculpture was an Ibex mother and her kids.  

Now, being wild, aggressive animals with pointy horns, we opted not to pet them.  

But we DID pet the animals at the Mitzpe Ramon Alpaca Farm!  Would you just look at that segue!  BAM!  This seemed like a good use of time, as we love petting fluffy animals, and TJ had been a fan of alpacas since his trip to Ecuador.  I'm not sure what I expected, but it should have been a rundown family operated farm filled with filthy alpacas, llamas, and camels that wanted nothing more than to spit on me.  Don't take that as a criticism, as it was a lot of fun and an excellent use of time.  

I was happy to, after six months living in the Middle East, finally interact with a camel...

while TJ was overjoyed to have met Carol Channing.

We concluded our day with some exploration of the makhtesh itself before heading back to the hotel for more swimming, eating, and living in temporary luxury.  The crater and surrounding area forms Israel's largest national park, the Ramon Nature Reserve.

Ha-Minsara (The Caprentry Shop)

The next morning was filled with even more swimming, eating (I'm telling you, this hotel has the most amazing food), and living in temporary luxury.  I was treated to a birthday massage at the hotel's spa right before checkout.  Afterward, TJ met me in the lobby with a gift basket filled with massage oils, a tea light/aromatic oil burner, and enough oils to last until my next birthday.  

It was the best birthday of my entire life and is still my favorite weekend in Israel.  I could honestly gush about it enough to fill another post.  Maybe I will…if a certain someone would like to take me for a repeat visit next year...  

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