The cast of the hit Fox- TV series “House” got a little northern exposure, so to speak, last month when it toured the Galilee region.
While hunky Jesse Spencer (Dr. Chase) valiantly attempted to walk on water in the Sea of Galilee, Amber Tamblyn (Dr. Masters) was admiring the beautiful rings and bracelets she had purchased the day before in Safed’s captivating Artists’ Colony.
The entourage, which also included Omar Epps (Dr. Foreman), Lisa Edelstein (Dr. Cuddy) and the show’s creator and producer, David Shore, toured northern Israel as part of a week-long America’s Voices in Israel (AVI) organizational initiative, led by the group’s director, Irwin Katsof. AVI’s goal is to expose influential personalities to the beauty of Israel.
All of the “House” stars admired the serene beauty of the Galilee region. “It was just so much fun to able to relax and get away from it all, even if it was only for a day,” Tamblyn said. “It’s just so peaceful and beautiful up here.”
Which is the selling point for a number of posh Galilean boutique hotels located around the mountainous town of Safed and along the banks of Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) in the city of Tiberias below.
“The pastoral beauty, fresh air and unique historical mystique of Safed and the Galilee region is the perfect place for tourists who wish to get away from the big city and just relax,” said Nadav Brada, general manager of the Ruth Rimonim Safed Hotel.
In Safed, tourists can walk through the narrow alleyways of the Old City and pray in one of the spectacular ancient synagogues. The popular L’echa Dodi (Come My Beloved) Friday-night sing-along prayer was actually composed in one of the town’s ancient synagogues by 16th-century Safed kabbalist Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz. The adjacent Artists’ Colony boasts some of Israel’s most unique jewelry and art galleries (be sure to bargain with the locals).
The Ruth Rimonim Safed Hotel (http://english.rimonim.com) is a unique boutique facility, part of which dates back more than 300 years, when the Ottoman Empire ruled over the region. “Of the 77 rooms in the hotel, 36 are located in the ancient part of the hotel,” Brada said. “Each room in the hotel is designed in a different manner, which is what makes it so unique. We also have a fully stocked wine cellar, where we feature musical entertainment every evening, a spa and a swimming pool that faces in the direction of mystical Mt. Meron, as well as delicious food in our dining room.” The hotel offers free guided tours (twice a week) through the Old City and the Artists’ Colony.
As you wind your way down from Safed to Tiberias (about 15 minutes away), you can see with the naked eye that Lake Kinneret and the adjacent Golan Heights are abuzz with outdoor activities. “This is a place where families and kids can enjoy so many types of water sports, including kayaking, motor-boating, jet-skiing, as well as horseback riding, jeep rides and even rappelling across the Golan Heights,” said Omar Assle, manager of the Rimonim Galei Kinneret Hotel.
For those tourists who enjoy “culinary exercises,” sans the Indiana Jones adrenaline spike, the Galilee and Golan Heights regions sport some of Israel’s top wineries. Hotel concierges can easily arrange daylong treks to any number of wineries in the area.
The Galei Kinneret Hotel also bills itself as a family-friendly boutique hotel. Assle added, “We are not one of those big, crowded hotels. Our accent is on entertainment for the whole family. The youngsters go to a Kid’s Club where they can enjoy swimming, painting, magic shows. There’s even a kids’ buffet in the dining room. Parents can relax by the pool or in the spa, go to our private beach and in the evening, they can enjoy a show on our terrace opposite the pool. We are a small [120 rooms], classic hotel.”
The Prima Galil Hotel (http://english.prima.co.il) is a “concept hotel” that prides itself on its various indoor and outdoor experiences for guests of all ages. The hotel’s “Galilean” evenings (Monday and Thursday) entice guests to sample Galilean delicacies served on authentic platters, while listening to live music performed by local musicians. The hotel is also a popular venue for bar mitzvahs, with the picturesque Lake Kinneret serving as a stunning, natural backdrop.
One of the best-kept vacation secrets in the region can be found near Kfar Vradim in the Western Galilee. The Hacienda Forestview Hotel (www.c-hotels.co.il), which has been built like a Spanish homestead, sits amid 20 acres of forest. It is renowned for catering to body, soul and palate. The Hacienda highlights three different themed spas: “C and Enjoy” features nine treatment rooms for couples with mud treatments and body peeling; “C and Relax” features a Turkish steam bath, Jacuzzi and baths for reflexology treatments; and “C and Feel Fit” showcases the hotel’s exercise room. The Hacienda offers a colorful and healthy array of breakfast servings. However, it’s the South American style BBQ evenings, featuring prime cuts of beef and other delectable dishes prepared by Chef Itzik Marciano that accentuate a real gastronomic extravaganza. The hotel also highlights a buffet for kids right down to the toasted marshmallows and melodic outdoor kumsitz.