Holy Land

Some years ago I got the chance to visit the Christmas Market in Nazareth. It wasn’t a patch on the one in Bath. Mind you, it was early closing day, something our extremely grumpy taxi driver had failed to tell us in advance. Even the Church of the Annunciation had a closed sign on its elaborate gates. All we saw was an empty coach park and a few stalls where alleged carpenters tried to sell us dodgy wooden artefacts in a desultory manner.

Natural Theatre was performing our Henry 8th musical in Jerusalem. It was sold out and we had to do extra shows. Consequently we only had one day off and our agent had promised us a luxury coach tour of the holy sites. What eventually drew up outside our hotel was a creaky old mini-bus with said tetchy driver at the wheel. Turned out it was his day off too.

Things started badly. Our guide refused to take us to Bethlehem, claiming he’d recently had Mick Hucknall and Simply Red in the back of his cab and people had thrown stones at them in Manger Square. How about the Mount of Olives I ventured? This seemed more up his street. Indeed, it was literally up his street, about three minutes drive away. And yes there was a view of the Dome of the Rock, if you could get past the very insistent have-your-photo-with-my-camel chap who I suspect was the cabby’s brother-in-law.

Having forced the reluctant driver to take us to the non-event that was Nazareth, we then decided to go to Masada, the ancient site of Herod’s hill-top palace. This involved a long drive across a desert and much to our driver’s secret delight Masada was closed too. Some of our more determined members clambered up the 400 metre cliffs via the famous Snake Path and did what the besieging Romans failed to do all those centuries ago: they climbed over the back gate and had a good old look around! I stayed in the car park with Grumps.

And then we drove back to the hotel. And that was our Christmas outing in the Holy Land. Give me a nice German bratwurst and a glass of mulled wine in the Abbey Churchyard any day!

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