Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A 20-degree change

Let bunny take the wheel.
A change of scenery was desperately needed for the family.  Since our trip in January we haven't left Amman and while I really, really love living here, sometimes you just need to get out of the house, out of the Embassy, and out of the city.  Ian has had a rough few weeks and even has visitors this week in his office, but I really didn't want to skip town without him.  That means leaving later than I anticipated.  But on the flip side, where I thought we'd have to come back early today he actually took the day off so we could stay as long as we wanted.  Shorter on one end and longer on the other and we all got to take a break from the norm.

A nicer beach than the Movenpick, for sure.
We tried out the Holiday Inn, primarily because the Marriott and Movenpick are so expensive and we were booking last minute, not knowing if Ian would even make it. The folks at the front desk were a little surprised we were there, commenting that "Usually the American Embassy people stay at the Marriott."  It's true.

It's a resort all on its own, the other resorts can be seen further down the coast but the Holiday Inn has public land on either side.  It's a smaller resort with several pools, a small spa, a few restaurants, a snack bar, and an artificially created beach that is partially under construction.  The rooms are nice and can sleep 3 with a king and a couch bed.  The WiFi is free.  The minibar contents are complimentary.  A complimentary minibar makes any hotel 5-star with my kids.  

We had temps in the 80s with a cool breeze.

Actually, when we arrived, everything was quiet as it was later than I hoped and the beach and pools close at dusk.  We also remembered, too late, that a board game is always a good idea.  Next time, Scrabble or Ticket to Ride, Tsuro or Monopoly Deal.  Or all the above.  The lobby has great seating with huge square tables perfect for a TableTop night.

But we didn't.  We had a late dinner after exploring the resort (for those who are curious about the buffet: 11 and under eat free, 12-18 are at 50%), sent 3/4 kids off to their room, then watched the Caps-Lightning game instead.  Free WiFi!  Ok, I passed out since I knew the ending, but still.  Free Wifi!

At first thought it was salt...
Today was our day to enjoy the Dead Sea.  Rebecca and Katherine came down this way early in the school year with their classes.  Jonathon too.  Ian and I came down for a day away, one of those special days the Embassy is off for a U.S. holiday but the school is busy teaching.  Nicholas had never been.  Honestly, the one time we'd gone it was pretty hot, the food was OK, and the flies were atrocious.  It was good to say we'd gone, but not a very memorable time.

This time was different.  Sadly, staying at a hotel is one of our fun things to do.  I guess we're spoiled like that.

This is just some weird sweetener.
Oh right... breakfast is included with the room too.  The buffet breakfast didn't compare to Movenpick's, it was far smaller and much more basic, but again, Holiday Inn is a functional hotel and the breakfast is plenty functional.

On top of sleeping in a hotel and free minibar contents, a buffet breakfast tops my kids' list of awesome fun things.  Ah, buffet breakfast.  If it has an omelet station even better, and a waffle station?  The best.

I still don't know what's in the yellow packet.  Something sweet and corn based.

Unlike this stuff, which is so fresh and real we looked at it and had no idea what to do with it.  Clearly you cut a chunk off and then... what? I told the kids you're supposed to milk it with your hands.  I'm sure that's right.  It wasn't next to the tea or the pancakes, but it was next to the Middle Eastern foods, but not the Middle Eastern desserts.  Maybe it's a snack just as it is.

I'll continue to ponder on my own time.

Of course the big attractions at the Dead Sea are not the sweeteners but the sea and the mud with the floating and the salt.  The Dead Sea will helpfully point out every nick, cut, and scratch on every millimeter of your skin. The salt gets on your lips and in your eyes and into every crevice. Mud offers a little protection, and lots of minerals and such, until it runs off.  I think I read somewhere that staying in the water for a long time isn't recommended due to high levels of certain minerals.  Well, if nothing else, you get dehydrated fast, so there's that.  

After the mud runs off then the oily, slick sensation takes over and sticks until a shower cleans it all up. In the end it's actually kind of gross and painful, in a fun and mucky sort of way.  After about 45 minutes everyone was out and ready to hit the pool.  After the room, the minibar, the breakfast buffet... the pool.  Any hotel, whether it's by the remote Dead Sea or in the middle of Washington D.C. is better when it has a pool.  Or three.  Or five.  Or more.  One of the reasons so many families pick the Marriott is for the large number of pools, one with a slide or two.

If you have kids, you know the power of the swimming pool.   If you're a parent you know the power of the hot tub.

If you have teen girls, you have no idea what goes on in their heads but you humor them anyway.

And if you're a mom with 4 kids with a husband who is with them all in the hot tub, your view should involve your toes and a Kindle.
From the girls' room.
Even if there is but a single day to renew and rejuvenate, enjoy it.  Who am I kidding, if there are 10 minutes to renew and rejuvenate, enjoy it.

No one recommended the Holiday Inn to us, but I'm going to recommend it now.  No, it doesn't have all the bells and whistles, but the rooms are comfortable, the food is simple, the service is decent.  It's a nice place to stay, affordable, and honestly, the size is attractive.  There aren't a thousand places to eat or wander, nor is it a country mile hike to reach the water.  There's a lot to love about the Holiday Inn and I get the feeling we'll go back.

The hotel across the street.  Just because.

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