Up north to the border

After a simple but lovely breakfast in the dining room of the convent, we checked out their delightful chapel and the terrace on the third floor with fabulous views over Nazareth to the skyline. We walked down to the bus at 8.30 and left for Rosh Hanikra driving past forests of oaks, olives and pistachios and through towns that displayed lots of building work in progress.

On arrival we stopped at a lookout so we could gaze over the Mediterranean coastline. An Israeli warship was sitting calmly in the waters close to the yellow markers signifying the border between Lebanon and Israel. Israeli soldiers were on duty at the gates and were happy to give us a wave as they drove past in their UN vehicle. Walking on further we came to the yellow and red cable cars that would take us down to caves and grottoes where the sound of rushing water whooshed though the tunnels. Pigeons happily swooped from the cliffs playing in the sunshine.

Tunnels lit up dramatically made for great photos.

There were many “wow” moments at our next stop, the fascinating complex of buildings used by the Knights of St. John (the Knights Hospitaller), the Crusader Citadel in Acre, Akko in Hebrew. This site is spectacular! Walking through the dining hall, the market place, the crypt of an ancient church and an underground passage that their rivals, the Knights Templar, used, we were spellbound by the size and grandeur of the site. It is presented in the form of a museum that makes the history come alive.

After the citadel visit we walked through the old port town of Akko with its market place and port area, having lunch that consisted of delicious hummus made right before our eyes. Azmi used a code of “It looks like rain” to warn us to be careful of pickpockets and for the first time he used it today while we were walking through the maze of stalls selling delicious looking foods as well as lots of junky souvenirs.

At the edge of the market place we went down into tunnels running to the port that were only discovered twenty five years or so ago. These tunnels filled with water at high tides and were used to smuggle goods into the town so that taxes could be avoided. Who knows what else might lie beneath these streets.

The port area looked to be a vibrant place with cafes, shops and spectacular views. Lots of school children seemed to be on excursions over the last two days and today we were often just ahead of groups of excited kids and their frazzled teachers.

Wanting to avoid the horrific Nazareth traffic, we left Akko to be back in Nazareth by 3.00 for a walking tour from Mary’s Well, into the church that now houses the diverted springs and then to the magnificent Basilica of the Annunciation. The Basilica has two floors and is also built over the ruins of a village excavated by archeologists. It contains magnificent mosaics depicting Mary and Child made by and donated from countries all over the world. I’ve put in a photo of Australia’s mosaic showing the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she was going to become the Mother of Jesus. The architecture of the Basilica has a demanding presence that can’t be resisted as far as taking photos goes, with the delightful blue sky framing it perfectly.

This is our last night in Nazareth. Eight of us walked down to a foodie precinct for dinner and settled on Meshwar. This was not a highly successful choice as the staff appeared to be very disorganised and unprepared. The food was ok but the drinks left a bit to be desired, with the white house wine coming out with ice in it!! We’re guessing they didn’t have any cold so an attempt was made to chill it. Some of us came back to the convent while the others went back to where we had dinner last night, Alreda, for a few more drinks. Curfew for the convent is 10.30 so off to bed at a reasonable hour after packing our things to leave for our final destination of Tel Aviv tomorrow.

Today was another fabulous day filled with contrasts and fun.

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