So you’ve definitely heard us telling you that Sassy Mama’s giveaways are pretty darn amazing, but why take just our word for it? Our May giveaway winner Rebecca won a choice of stay at any of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World properties and here she tells us about her pick – The Efendi Hotel in Acre, Israel. (Jealous, us?) Congratulations again, Rebecca!
My husband and I were both thrilled to hear that we had won the Sassy Mama May giveaway prize of three nights in a Small Luxury Hotel of the World property! As it happened, we had a two-week holiday in Israel fast approaching, and as our breaks in Israel usually centre around seeing as much of my husband’s family as possible, we spend a lot of time hopping between different couches, spare rooms, and inflatable beds! This time, the thought of three full nights of luxury was too much to resist.
We searched the SLH website, hoping and praying that their extensive list of hotels included one in Israel. We were in luck, finding The Efendi Hotel, located in the old city of Acre. The kids and I had never visited Acre and it had been over ten years since my husband had been to the city. He remembered only a very good hummus restaurant, so with the promise of a luxury hotel, good hummus and some history thrown in too (Napoleon once tried to conquer the city of Acre), we happily booked our stay.
The Efendi Hotel was the dream, and eventually the reality, of a very well known Israeli Chef, Uri Buri. The hotel was built from two Ottoman palaces that were obviously carefully and painstakingly restored to something approaching their original glory. The painted mosaic on the ceiling of our room was truly amazing, as was the view of the Mediterranean Sea over the buildings of the old city. The marble floors, high ceilings and sweeping verandah all made us feel that we were really staying in a piece of history. Just sitting on the verandah against the cushions, watching the sun set over the sea on one side, and the old city on the other was a real taste of Israel. The daily breakfast really did justice to Israel’s wonderful fresh produce, from its fruits to its cheeses plus delicious homemade breads. We loved the antique communal dining table, and high-backed chairs. It really was like breakfasting back in time!
The old city of Acre is now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site and to be staying within such a historical but still very much lived-in city was a truly special experience. Acre Old City is also one of very few places in Israel where Jewish and Arab populations live peacefully side-by-side, and we really appreciated the opportunity to show our children this.
The Efendi Hotel is just a short walk from the port, where you can take a tour of the coastline in a fishing boat, or watch locals fishing with rods. Our children were happy to stand watching the fishermen, and we had to drag them away each time in the end! There are some great open table restaurants at the port – you order main dishes of meat, kebabs, and included in the price comes a table laden with more varieties of salad than you can imagine.
Our children also enjoyed the local market that we stumbled upon. We came upon it in our search for Hummus Said, which – according to my husband – is one of the cheapest and best places to eat hummus in the whole of Israel! Of course, we had to test his claim, and three plates of hummus and countless pita later, we declared him correct! Our children were happy to find that the handful of shekels they had as pocket money would buy them plenty of plastic toys and brightly coloured candies in the market, which was also great for fresh fruit and vegetables which we bought to fortify the kids throughout the day, and a perfect place to admire what the fishermen of Acre had caught just that morning. Our children particularly enjoyed watching the fish sellers slipping the stray cats a small treat or two, in payment for keeping any rats away!
We used our four days in Acre to really explore the northern part of Israel, an area that includes the Kinneret, or Sea of Galilee, Israel’s largest freshwater lake. It is about an hour’s drive from Acre and includes more activities for families than we could fit in. We went horse riding at a kibbutz famous for training and breeding horses; we swam in the Kinneret, which is so big it has waves like the sea; we swam and canoed in the River Yarden (Jordan), and had our feet and ankles nibbled by lots of little fish; we visited a chocolate factory and made our own sweets (so messy, but so much fun!), fed cows and held chicks and rabbits at a petting zoo while hunting for peacock feathers. And still there was so much more we could have done!
We would like to thank the The Efendi Hotel, Small Luxury Hotels of the World and Sassy Mama Hong Kong for our wonderful prize. The hotel was truly stunning, the service superb and we cannot thank the hotel enough for their tolerance of our three lively children! We had such a hectic visit home, but our three nights in Acre really stand out as a highlight. Thank you for our taste of luxury!
For more luxury bookings, check out http://www.slh.com