First Glimpses

When we peaked out the window at dawn’s early light, it was to rain-soaked streets and gray skies, a dampening first glimpse.web-sizeI was immediately thankful that my good man convinced me to pack both raincoat and umbrella. We were headed for a long stretch outdoors along the sea at a place built by Herod to impress Caesar Augustus – Caesarea Maritime.

The first glimpse of Caesarea, however, is not Roman, but Crusader built, complete with moat.web-sizeAnd first glimpses here do not disappoint.web-sizeNor do second or third glimpses.web-sizeCome with me through the gate of a Crusader citadel-town built on top of the ruins of the Roman and Byzantine Empires.web-sizeA wide angle lens is necessary to capture the scope of this place. For me, that’s a fish-eye. It’s the widest I own.web-sizeJust look at that ceiling! web-sizeAnd the thickness of those walls!web-sizeDid I mention the thickness of those walls? IMG_5081_edited-2After pondering that for a moment, glance down around you. You may just notice big hunks of marble.web-sizeGobs of marble.web-size

web-sizeAnd if that’s not enough to make you wonder, let  me direct you to the Mediterranean Sea and the remnants of King Herod’s amazing engineering feat, a deep-water harbor that welcomed worldwide trade to this Roman province.web-sizeThe south side of the harbor holds new construction on top of the remains of a Crusader tower that was built on the remains of the Roman harbor.web-size

IMG_5111_edited-2Caesarea was built by King Herod beginning in 20 B.C. as he strove to make an impression on Caesar Augustus. He constructed a massive harbor, palaces, hippodrome, and amphitheater, and made his city a thriving metropolis. It became the official residence of governors, including Pontius Pilate and lasted for 600 years under Roman governance. In 646, it fell to the Persians, who left a layer of their own construction on top of remains of the original city. No one built, rebuilt or reinforced Caesarea to the scale that Herod had first created.web-sizeThis photo has nothing to do with all that. I simply love the aesthetic of the sculpture/tree pairing. It’s okay to take a moment to just enjoy it. But then we need to keep moving. There’s so much more to see. Next, you will get some idea of the layers upon layers of construction. These marble columns lay where they were uncovered, under floors and streets.web-sizeTurning back toward the Sea for just a moment, you get a good view of this mosque built in 1809 by Serbian Muslims. The grassy area in the foreground is believed to have been under water in Herod’s day, and a likely place for the Apostle Paul to have boarded a vessel for Rome after appealing to Caesar.web-sizeIf you turn around then, you will see the remains of a Byzantine shop-lined street that stood along the waterfront.IMG_5113_edited-2And this is the photogenic end of that Byzantine street.web-sizeIt ushers us into the layers of Roman construction, with all its fabulous arches.web-sizeIt’s impossible to avoid the arches. And who would want to avoid the arches, given the choice. Not I.web-sizeBut before I get too carried away by arches, you must see this governor’s bath. He was enough of a bigshot to warrant marble-lined tubs and marble columns in his personal space. Just a little aside before we head into the hippodrome, because everyone needs a bathroom break before the big event.web-size As you leave the bathroom, don’t miss the fabulously tiled floor in the next room. Tiny mosaic tiles create this flooring. Art was not just for the walls where Rome was concerned.IMG_5143_edited-2When you get over the intricate detail on that piece of flooring and raise your eyes, you will see it in front of you – the Caesarean hippodrome. The big, open space stretching into the distance was once the scene of thundering chariot races. Up on the rise, you catch your first sight of important government buildings we’ll get to later in the tour. The woman in the foreground is Susan, our brilliant tour guide. web-sizeThis is the turn at the end of that dirt track, a little tight for a thundering chariot pulled by four horses, if you ask me, let alone multiple chariots. I’m guessing it made for some racing excitement, though. The low walls lining the arena were covered in beautifully painted tiles.web-sizeWould you like a seat in the corner of the arena?

web-sizeIt might give an unencumbered view of the start and the horse stalls. (And the aforementioned fabulous arches).web-sizeA close-up of the stalls.web-sizeThe next view is meant to give you a sense of the layer-by-layer excavating that has taken place in Caesarea Maritime. It’s remarkable.web-sizeTake one last look, will you, at all we covered on this history-saturated tour. The Crusader tower built on top of Herod’s harbor rubble is on the very left in the distance. The mosque tower is in the center. Directly behind those fabulous Roman arches you can see on the right, stands the Crusader gate through which we entered Caesarea, and of course, you can’t miss the hippodrome, barely saved from the crashing Mediterranean Sea by a small stone wall.web-sizeThere is much more to see in Caesarea. I have spent hours poring over pictures, written history, and artists’ renditions trying to keep it all straight in my mind. I’m still not always sure that it is. Maybe a little photo tour will only confuse, but I hope it will inspire you to read a little bit more. Sometimes all we need is a first glimpse to usher us through the gate to stand in front of the fabulous arches.


©Erika Rice













But Not Alone

If you saw the title of my previous post, Israel On My Own, I hope you also noticed the very last line, “…on my own, but not alone.” While I set off from home alone, I connected in New York with two of my favorite people, and together we arrived in Tel Aviv.


There they are. Two of the lightest packers in the world. That’s it, folks, right there in their hands – all the luggage they carried across the globe for a two week trip. I’m so happy to call those brilliant packers Mom and Dad, the people who gave birth to that blessed husband of mine. Being with them was the next best thing to holding his hand when arriving on Israeli soil. Together, we passed through customs, met our group and boarded a bus for our hotel.

Here are some early glimpses of Tel Aviv:

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What city would be complete without a car wash? It must be a universal need.

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We got to our hotel room, did what any decent traveler would do and made straight for the windows to check out the view.



Looking west toward the sea (Gasp! The Mediterranean Sea!), the world was a bit off kilter and everything was sliding off the edge of the world. Oh…no…I was the one off kilter, hanging out the window like a crazy lady to try and get an actual view of the sea. I think it was effective.

Once I had climbed back inside the room, Mom and I decided our best next move was to make for the sea and put our feet in before dark. We didn’t know if we’d have another chance. What we got was cold toes and a ridiculously lousy picture of our feet.


You’ll just have to take my word for it – we were really standing in the Mediterranean Sea.

See? There it is. Dark, blustery and foreboding on that particular evening.

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Which, it seems, is perfect for kite-boarding.


Already overcast and dim, darkness was closing in quickly; and the last thing we wanted to do was miss supper, so we turned our steps back toward the hotel.


The hours without sleep and the crossing of several time zones were taking their toll. I have no recollection of what my first meal in Israel was like. But I remember the people and the dining room. And the great pleasure I felt knowing that sleep was on the horizon as the sun went down on Tel Aviv, the city that never sleeps; where I was far from alone.



©Erika Rice 2015




Israel On My Own

Visiting Israel has long been a desire of my husband’s. I never put much thought into it. I didn’t need to. He thought about it, talked about it, and devoured books about the region. I just always had in the back of my mind that I would get there someday, because I’d be holding his hand when he finally arrived on Israeli soil. It didn’t exactly happen the way I expected.

One year ago today, my husband put me on a plane to Tel Aviv without him. His hand didn’t make it to Israeli soil for me to be holding. I squawked a little before leaving about how it wasn’t fair that I was going while he stayed home. I complained that my expectation to have his vast wealth of knowledge whispered in my ear at each new encounter was not being met. I wanted to wait till he had vacation and freedom to travel with me. But he wanted me to go – his parents were going and I wouldn’t be alone. He didn’t know when it would be possible again. He would have come in a heartbeat had he been able. So in the end, I went with eager anticipation and without my husband.

Friends encouraged me to blog about my adventures, posting pictures as I went. I answered with cautious optimism about my ability to do so and good intentions to please. I failed, miserably. I blogged nothing while away. My excuse was the triple-wammy of too many sites, too little internet service, and an over-saturated mind. An information overload that needed processing, and lots of it, judging by the length of time it’s taken me to get to this point. Here, on the one year anniversary of my departure from home, I am finally sharing bits of my excursion through Israel and Jordan.

Stay tuned for the next twelve days or so to walk with me through this terrific journey. Israel on my own, but not alone.


©Erika Rice