Capital of Israel.
City of Gold.
Whatever you call it, all Jews call it HOME.
From wherever they lived, our ancestors made the trip to the holy city three times each year, in a joyous pilgrimage to the world’s largest celebratory family reunion.
Music. Festivities. Flaming Torches. Celebrations.
We fervently await those days once again.
And until then, you now have the perfect kosher vacation rental to enjoy in Jerusalem, Israel, the amazing biblical city in which our ancestors walked.
Until now, Florida Kosher Villas, Lakewood Hosts, and Luxury Kosher Villas standards of excellence could only be had in the USA.
No longer! We are proud to announce our new property management and kosher vacation rental division in Eretz Yisrael.
It’s a perfect marriage of the best of the best, in the best of the best.
Looking forward to seeing you at HOME.
Swan Lake, NY.
Swan Lake? What’s there?
A whole lot.
Probably a lot more than you even thought to think about, actually.
But in its own, unassuming way, this pristine part of the Catskills retains much of the beauty of the old-world mountains, without the crowds and traffic you’d find in the more popularly known towns. And it is quiet. Much nicer and quieter than most of the known kosher Catskill regions.
Everyone’s been to (or at least heard of) Monticello, South Fallsburg, Liberty or Woodbourne. Sure they have lots to offer. But that brings crowds. And crowds bring traffic. And development. And traffic lights. And big box stores.
Before you know it, there’s a city there and it no longer retains the quiet country charm with sun-splashed meadows, views, solitude, starlit skies with the sound of crickets in the background quiet.
You can still have that in Swan Lake. Not surprisingly, many of the most popular camps also choose to be away from the hustle and bustle of the busier cities, and are located within a few minute car ride from this quaint, beautiful hamlet.
A short ride will bring you to Camps Bais Yakov, Munk, Pupa, Satmar, Machanaim, Camp Toras Chesed, Shoresh, Mogen Av, Gila Bnos, Aguda, Bnos Skver, Adas Bnos Vien, Romimu and more.
But don’t think you’re out in the boondocks either.
While being away from the main drag, you’ll still find so many great amenities with a small town feel. A shul with multiple minyanim a day, Tyberg’s grocery, a pizza shop, bakery, and takeout store all in the center of ‘town’. Minus all the parking hassles and honking horns.
There is so much to see and do in the area as well.
Staying local will bring you to some of the smaller family owned farms, farmstands and more.
LuxuryKosherVillas.com is proud to have two phenomenal, year-round kosher vacation rentals in Swan Lake, NY. These two properties can be rented on their own, or combined for large family sizes of up to 35, subject to availability.
Check out The Overlook Villa at Tranquility Pond – sleeps up to 16, with a private pond, spacious lawns, wrap-around porches, and a sunken, year-round hot-tub!
Check out the historical Mountain View Villa & Carriage House – sleeps up to 20, with spacious lawns, porches, and located across the street from all the towns amazing amenities – shul, mikvah, grocery, pizza shop, takeout and more!
Here’s a great list of fun activities, day trip ideas, and things to do in and around Greater Swan Lake:
Bethel Creamery, Swan Lake, NY
525 Happy Ave. Swan Lake, New York 12783 | Phone: 845-583-6059 | pellehpoultry.com
Owned by the Franklin family of Pelleh Poultry fame, has long been a roadside stop for many for decades. Best known for their milk, their grass fed, all natural Jersey cow dairy is a small boutique, old-world farm, where you can buy some of the best-tasting and freshest dairy products, yogurts, maple syrup and more.
Their farm stand is open daily in the summer months, and on Sundays, they have hayrides and farm tours as well, where you meet the farming family, their cows, and enjoy a tractor ride into their pastures. And (warning!) once you try their chocolate milk or spectacular Greek yogurt, it’s very hard to stop!
Rolling Stone Ranch, Bethel, NY
282 W. Shore Rd. Bethel, New York 12720 | Phone: 845-583-1100 | rollingstoneranch.com
A rescue horse farm just down the road from Bethel Creamery, offering trail rides, horseback riding lessons and more.
Beaverwood Farm, Swan Lake, NY
12 Topaz Ln, Swan Lake, NY 12783 | Phone: 845-295-0194 | facebook.com/beaverwoodfarmers
Some of the friendliest, nicest and knowledgeable goyim you’ll meet, and they can often open their farm and petting zoo for you and your family to enjoy. Call ahead, as they often are booked by camps as a traveling petting zoo. Inquire about curing thrush with goats milk directly from a goat’s teat – a well-known cure amongst many chassidim.
Water activities? Absolutely! White Lake, Swinging Bridge Lake, Loch Sheldrake and the Neversink Reservoir among others, all offer boat rentals and rides not too far away. From the fast flying motorboats, to easy pedaling there’s a great option nearby.
Pro tip: Call first to ensure there’s availability and book by phone if you can ahead of time.
Motorboats, Tubing, Banana Boating, Pontoons
Paynes Watersports: 1550 NY-17B, White Lake, NY 12786 | Phone: (845) 583-1000
Gene’s Boats: 3429 State Rte 55, White Lake, NY 12786 | Phone: (845) 583-9787
Starlight Marina: 26 Marina Rd, Monticello, NY 12701 | Phone: (845) 796-2628
Swinging Bridge Marina: 371 Starlight Rd, Monticello, NY 12701 | Phone: (845) 794-6530
Canoes, Kayaks, Pedal Boats, (Picnic Boats, Motor Rafts)
Bradley Boat Rentals: 220 Lindholm Rd, Hurleyville, NY 12747 | Phone: (845) 807-1145
Boat Cafe: 1188 NY-52, Loch Sheldrake, NY 12759 | Phone: (845) 807-8006
Lake Superior State Park: 342 Duggan Rd, Bethel, NY 12720 | Phone: 845-794-3000
However you choose to enjoy your trip to to the country, you’ll be sure to enjoy it to the fullest with a kosher upstate vacation rental from LuxuryKosherVillas.com
Because when you want a real vacation – it’s not where everyone else is going. Leave your stress in the city, and enjoy a real kosher Catskills kosher vacation – where you can actually relax.
…and Rusty Nails Reused
By S.A. Rowner
It was made of memories and miracles. And it was ingeniously expandable to any size it needed to be.
A feat of engineering, you might think. But certainly not according to the laws of physics.
Using those principles, the structure probably shouldn’t have stood at all. After all, it had no walls. Not in any definition of walls we think of anyways. It didn’t have a roof either, for that matter.
I know this because I spent quite a bit of time in it, as a child, teenager and adult. Truthfully, the only way we can attribute its integrity each year that it went up and stayed intact was to miracles. As a high school STEM teacher, I can attest to that.
I’m talking about my Zeide’s sukkah.
I’m not sure when he upgraded to his custom-built contraption, but my mother often told me that he used to build his temporary dwelling each year with an odd assortment of colorful doors – the home variety that open and close when hung on a frame with hinges and fastened to adjacent walls – which I can only imagine how he connected together to form the walls.
In my mind’s eye, I see flaking colored paint, wooden splinters, door knobs, assorted dangling ancient lock chains, and the odd glaring hole where a brass knob once proudly allowed entry somewhere. But having not actually seen that particular sukkah of his, let me not digress, and get back to the one I did..
At some point Zeide decided that his aforementioned Sukkos dwelling was due for an upgrade, and he actually procured eight matching wooden panels from somewhere. I suppose purchase, as they all matched, although when I first remember seeing them, they matched in their aged condition, and that must have been thirty five years ago.
So how does a sukkah without walls even qualify as a sukkah? And how could it stand, let alone hold a crowd? And what was entailed in my Zeide “building” it?
Here’s how he did it, to the best I can explain.
Taking two blank, bare sheets of ⅝” thin, four by eight plywood, with no frames, two by fours or any other means of stabilizers, bolts, screws or attachments, my Zeide somehow proceeded to nail the two corner edges together so that incredibly, it stood. How? Miracles.
My grandfather then proceeded to replicate his miracle-inducing handiwork for the other three corners as well, leaving a large gap between his four ‘corner’s.
Pieces of well-worn, repurposed string were then affixed between two of the largest gaps, with a blanket thrown over one to close the gap, and a curtain suspended from the second string, to serve as a door that opens or closes. The other two gaps were closed by simply throwing up some scrap lumber and nailing them against an already unsteady structure – if it could even be called that.
How did it not fall over when he precariously nailed those wood pieces in? Another one of the mysteries and the miracles, I guess.
Lastly, my Zeide throw a motley assortment of bent, rusty-nail-filled, ancient beams across the top of his walls, placed bamboo poles and his favorite schach of bulrush reeds which he would cut himself in Canarsie each year, all the way back since he was a kid in the 1930’s.
Voila. My Zeide’s Sukkah. I’m sure he was proud of it. We certainly were proud of him!
But that wasn’t even the biggest miracle.
Year after year, he would take down the sukkah. But he didn’t believe in taking out the old nails. I guess he just wrenched it apart and the angels holding it up simply let go.
The sukkah weathered each year against the wall of his house out in the elements of his Brooklyn backyard. And so the rust on the nails grew, as the board’s edges splintered to bits.
Only to be lovingly banged back together again the following year, and again wrenched apart as the process repeated itself year after year.
How it stood from the beginning was the smaller miracle. How it went up year after year as it deteriorated further and further for so many years was the big miracle.
And oh, the memories that were made in that sukkah! The songs sung by generations of descendants – children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. What was a yom tov without a visit to Zeide and Bobby?
In 2007, I had a feeling that it was becoming harder and harder for my Zeide to put up his miraculous sukkah, and a premonition gripped me, to take pictures of it for posterity.
I turned out to be correct, as it was the last year the miraculous Sukkah went up before a commercially made small canvas one took its place of glory next year.
And while the malachim holding up the Sukkah aren’t visible in the pictures, the viewer does experience just a little taste of our special Zaide and Bobby, their Sukkah, and the miracles we merited to see with our own eyes.
Today, with LuxuryKosherVillas.com kosher vacation home rentals, great family memories can be made without resorting to such miracles and effort. Luxurious kosher homes, vacation villas and even large kosher family reunion-sized rental properties in Lakewood, simcha-sized kosher vacation mansion in Monsey, Airmont and the surrounding areas, stand waiting and ready for you to bring the whole family together!
And for Sukkos, it comes with a beautiful Sukkah and makes for great family memories… no rusty nails, repurposed doors or splinters included.
On 2020, hot tubs, quarantine, and witches in a blizzard, Part 2
By: S.A. Rowner
Uh-oh. Apparently, they sent him to a completely different house than what he’d booked, and it looked nothing even remotely like the pictures. Upon reaching out to the owner, she assured them not to worry, she had made a mistake and she owns multiple houses, so don’t worry if it’s completely not what they booked, and when on a convincing speech about how much better this home would be.
Hmmmmmm. What did he have to lose, by staying, I guessed. At least it had a hot tub, right?
So they pulled their minivan up the long, steep driveway and began to unload, just as the skies began to unload a two day blizzard of nearly 3’ of snow on them, the driveway and the car.
This was going to get interesting.
They settled in and headed for the hot tub, supposed to be the centerpiece of their entertainment for the trip.
Oops. Cold. The landlord hadn’t warmed it up, so they’d have to wait. No big deal, but you need to realize that a hot tub heats up by only 2-3 degrees per hour. This was going to be a L-O-N-G wait.
When they finally could get in, they immediately sensed something wrong, as everyone in the family got horribly irritating skin rashes from the chemically unbalanced water.
Could it get any worse? And they had no recourse, as they had made a private pay arrangement with the owner as opposed to booking through a booking system that could have intervened, or at least helped them with a refund, or at minimum, leave a review for the next guests reflecting their experience. Nothing doing.
My friend called me, and I was feeling guilty for all of his hardships. After all, I pushed him to do this. So I suggested that he bail out a bunch of water from the hot tub, and refill it with shovelfuls of snow, to lower the chemical content in the water.
He started doing that and immediately his phone rings.
It was the landlady.
“Vhy arre you pudding shnovw in der hottub? Vhudd arre you doo-eeng?” She wanted to know.
Wait one second. How could she possibly have known that?
Looking around, they spotted cameras constantly keeping an intrusive eye on them, even out by the hot tub!
“Eez goot” said the lady. “No too much chlooorreen, and eez perfect bahlanced bromine, dee vhadder.”
And these rashes got here all by themselves, right?
Man, this wasn’t turning out to be too great.
The snow kept piling up, and when they were supposed to checkout, I called them for an update.
“We’re trapped here”, they said. At this point, I had no great advice to offer them.
Moral of the story, some people just aren’t created with the kind of personality to wing all of these issues, and pull off this kind of vacation on their own.
They should vacation in a place that takes care of all these things, including kosher kitchens, proper maintenance, all of the little things they’d need and then some, and not have to worry about cameras intruding on their privacy, which by the way, is illegal.
My friend and his family are in that category.
The good news is, with the help of a tow truck and snow plows they eventually made it out of their entrapment, cold feet, rashes and all.
And when I asked his son if there was anything that they enjoyed about the vacation, I really didn’t get much of a positive response.
Surprised? The optimist in me was still trying to assuage my guilt.
They should have gone to a luxurious vacation home from LuxuryKosherVillas.com. Kosher vacation rentals in Florida, Kosher vacation homes in New york, Kosher vacation homes with indoor pools, kosher vacation homses with hot tubs; yup. they have it.
For what they ended up paying for the wrong mediocre property that they got, they could’ve done very nicely in a beautifully cared for, perfectly outfitted kosher vacation home.
And if it didn’t have a hot tub, (some do,) they still would have been better off and would’ve gone home without irritating chemical rashes.
And in so many great locations, many warm all year-round, being close to the shore, it doesn’t snow nearly as much as the inland areas do. This particular storm brought a few slushy inches to the Lakewood are, for one, that wouldn’t have gotten them stuck in the snow.
Never mind feeling trapped by a witch of a landlord peering intently at their every move on cameras.
I think they’ve learned their lesson.
Oh and their cold feet? They’re no longer brominated, not to worry, but to be honest, I’m not sure how quickly they be jumping to get into another so quickly.
And I don’t blame them a bit.
On 2020, hot tubs, quarantine, and witches in a blizzard, Part 1
By: S.A. Rowner
And so, as it inevitably happened to so many others these past two years, a friend of mine’s child tested positive for Covid.
As we all learned back in March, 2020 – and some of us are still learning through it – being stuck at home with everyone in quarantine is certainly no fun for the parents. And that’s just on the first day.
With the dreaded quarantine for all family members somehow taking longer than the actual ‘diagnosee’ these days (I know, go figure!), this friend and his family somehow survived the 14 days, were ready to send their kids back to school and he back to face the world again, when on the day they were allowed out, he, my friend, developed a fever.
He went to take a Corona test that night and called me back to let me know that he was absolutely certain that the lab he visited can get rapid results, even this late at night.
“Are you sure?” I asked him.
“Absolutely,” he replied. “I know this because I’m a very positive guy right now.”
Ouch. On just the day he was ready to make a “mattir assurim“.
His case was B”H mild, he got an antibody infusion, and in a few days was back to himself, BUT, his family was still quarantined, and now the Yeshiva had mid-winter break, an extended weekend off, and he was already sick of seeing his kids all day and night, and they were sick of being cooped up in the house!
Kvetching to me about his plight, I pushed him to break out of his box a little.
Rent a vacation home somewhere so at least you and the kids get a change of scenery, and quarantine safely there!
Skeptical, he had a million and one questions. “Where do I even find one of those?” he asked.
Being a more savvy vacation planner than he, I pulled up VRBO and used a couple of my own pointers to find him any house, that could hold his family, in a nice secluded area, affordably and sent him a link to the list.
What about the kitchen, he asked? How can you use a non-kosher kitchen? I explained that there are ways to kasher burners, self clean the ovens, etc, and I was sensing that he was getting a bit overwhelmed by it. Just bring along two George Foreman grills, one for milchigs and one for fleishigs, I suggested. Cook simply, like grilled cheese, paninis, hotdogs, and forget about kashering the kitchen.
He was concerned what his kids would do all day. I told him to find a house with a gameroom, common enough in vacation homes and a filterable category in the list of choices. The idea intrigued him, and he kept busy for a few hours, comparing air hockey tables and ping pong in the different options.
But then he got cold feet again.
So I had a brainstorm to warm him up to the idea again.
“Have you ever heard of a hot tub?”, I asked.
“Isn’t that like an outdoor jacuzzi?” He wanted to know. “That doesn’t affect me this trip. It’s the middle of January!”
I explained to him that the best and most enjoyable time to use a hot tub is in the freezing cold, with the temperature set to 104 degrees, surrounded by the snow under starry skies, your breaths misting in the cool air.
“Your kids will love it too,” I surmised. “Mine can’t get enough of it!”
Ok, it appeared that I had convinced him back on board, and I anticipated hearing back from him soon that he was booked in and all set to go.
Not so fast.
When I hadn’t heard back from him by the next morning, I called him to find out what was going on.
“It’s nuts,” he said. “I simply can’t afford this. Every time I get to the checkout page, there are all of these extra fees that hike up the price to almost double.”
I explained to him how to negotiate with the owners, by writing a nice quick form mail and then copy/pasting it to each potential home, and to make a short story longer, he finally booked something with someone, albeit off the VRBO system, so the owner could avoid paying commission and give him a price break.
Voila! Now it should be smooth sailing from here, I thought.
If only. I should’ve sent him to LuxuryKosherVillas.com.
My bad. Here’s what happened next.
My phone showed a text message the night he was supposed to arrive. “Please call. Urgent,” it read.
(Continued in Part 2)
Wintertime CAN be fun… or really not…
By: S.A. Rowner
The treadmill of a busy life just doesn’t stop.
And it gets tiring, makes one feel irritable, and sometimes just gets overwhelming. Never mind when enough life situations bombard you at the same time, making it feel like someone threw the speed switch up to the max.
And that’s what happened to a good friend of mine about a week ago. Work situations were moving so fast, he felt like he was going to just let go of the handlebars, and shoot off the back of the treadmill.
It’s good he didn’t.
Instead, his wife was kind enough to let him go for two nights to clear his head. So he called me and asked me to come along.
Now I had to beg the favor from my wife, who thankfully agreed to let me go with him.
To where? Well, he’s an avid fisherman. I’m really not one, although I’ll try it for kicks.
It’s the middle of January, for heaven’s sake. And to run off to a warmer climate for two short nights didn’t seem worth the hassle of booking flights, a car, finding a place to stay, and then finding things to do.
So he chose to do this a different way.
The Finger Lakes region of upstate New York is known for its beauty in the summer. And its generous amounts of lake effect snow in the winter, from Lake Ontario.
Lake effect snow occurs when cold air, often originating from Canada, moves across the open waters of the Great Lakes. As the cold air passes over the unfrozen and relatively warmer waters of the Great Lakes, warmth and moisture are transferred into the lowest portion of the atmosphere. Then, the moist air moves away from the lake and locally drops the moisture as huge amounts of snow in a very short time, sometimes measuring in feet!
It stays locally though and doesn’t usually tie in with other weather patterns responsible for bringing typical snowstorms associated with fronts and atmospheric pressure changes.
Anyhow, the attraction of snow was only one reason this Canadian-born guy and Russian-born friend decided to head up five hours North there. But it wasn’t the main one.
The Salmon River was.
The Salmon River is a small, fast-flowing river north of Syracuse in Upstate New York. It is a popular and economically important sportfishing destination, and the most heavily fished of New York’s Lake Ontario tributaries, as millions of popular sportfish fish return to the river for annual spawning runs after spending a majority of their lives largely in Lake Ontario, where the river ends.
We decided at 3 PM to head out there, threw a bunch of cold-weather layers into knapsacks, and were in the car on the way by 4.
We jumped into Evergreen Supermarket in Monsey, NY (along the way), and loaded up on a bunch of their conveniently already-prepared travel meals, bread, a tray of assorted cheeses, and bagged nosh. Now successfully (over)provisioned, we hit the main road for the trip up North.
In the car, my friend arranged a private fishing guide for the next morning, and we booked an Airbnb right on the lake for the night, arranging with the host that we’d be arriving late so we’d let ourselves in.
It snowed along the way, and that was totally fine with us, and we arrived at about 11 PM at the cabin. If we can even call it that.
Entering a musty porch, we could immediately see the appeal of the place – if you were looking for the local furniture dump.
The couches had more springs than a car suspension system and were about as comfortable as sitting atop a pile of assorted-size rocks.
There was a television screen held up on one side by a roll of tissue paper, and the drafts had been creatively dealt with by covering the large cracks in the wall with swaths of blue painter’s tape.
The bathroom had a plastic accordion door for privacy, but no ceiling so the walls only served as partitions, and the A-frame interior wood paneling amplified sound all around the cabin.
But five redeeming qualities generated, in my opinion, the 145, pretty-much all positive reviews that previous guests had left.
The first was the location. Backing right onto Lake Ontario, and being geographically close to the Salmon River, this was a fisherman’s dream.
The second was the outdoor tub. Give people a reason to spend time out of the ugly, and they will rave about that one pretty thing, and forget about the rest.
The third was that the house listing was presented exactly as-is – No attempts to gloss over or photoshop pictures, and therefore, guest’s expectations were delivered on arrival. No luxuries expected, and the cabin delivered on that expectation.
Fourth, the place was reasonably clean. That makes a big difference.
Lastly, the owner, a local farmer was communicative and friendly, and it’s hard to fault a guy who was happy to accommodate, delivered what he said, and even let us check out late.
Oh, and the fishing trip the next day was cool. Literally and in a manner of speaking. It snowed, it was freezing, and we had a really nice time on a private drift boat with our HUGE guide, aptly named “Tiny”.
Typically, my friend caught two huge Steelhead Salmon that we kept, and I caught…. none.
It won’t get me a Steelhead Salmon for Shabbos, but I won’t have to wrack my brains trying to figure out why everyone reviews the villas so positively. Because each villa simply speaks for itself.
Oh, and I’ll leave the treadmill back home.
By: SA Rowner
The jet ski pricing at JSK was reasonable, the machines in great condition, and most importantly, the people nice.
Our guide pointed out a massive manatee hanging out by the docks to us. He explained that being creatures that live primarily in salt and brackish water, they love the treat of freshwater from the hose when he rinses the jetskis. Cool! It was great to have such a close-up opportunity with one of these unusual, humongous, slow-moving creatures, aptly nicknamed ‘seacows.’
We decided to start with an hour’s rental, mounted the machines, and off we went! Being islands curving off the bottom of Florida, the keys have the Atlantic ocean on one side, and the Gulf of Mexico on the other side. Interestingly, the water conditions can vary wildly, and that can work to one’s advantage.
Our guide told us that the ocean side would likely be rougher, but was happy to accommodate us giving it a shot, so we tried that first, but being quite choppy (hey, maybe our guide knows something, after all…), we crossed back to the gulf side and really enjoyed ourselves.
Our guide kept his distance, allowing us to go pretty much anywhere we wanted, but stayed within a mile or so of us – close enough to help if we experienced any issues.
We enjoyed ourselves to the max, and as a bonus, got 1 1/2 hours for the price of an hour, because he didn’t count the ocean side attempt towards our paid hour.
We took his card – great service definitely deserves referrals – and thanked him for a really great time.
Before we left, we took note that there was actually a number of very well kept houseboats parked by the marina – vacation rentals that were much higher priced than ours, but much more professionally managed and kept pristine. Although these had engines and could certainly drive, when rented, they would have to remain moored at the marina. Many might appreciate that experience, but I was much happier with the privacy and seclusion of our cove.
With no major plans for the day, we headed out to leisurely explore the area. The keys have this laid-back, island vibe, and nobody is in any kind of rush. It’s a great feeling unless you’re stuck behind someone leisurely enjoying the slower pace on the 2-lane overseas highway :).
There are tens of fishing charters alongside the roads, as the keys are known for incredible sportfishing, but they can get costly. While fishing isn’t something my wife is a fan of as the non-stop rocking motion of an ocean-going boat doesn’t suit her, my suggestion, if you want to try a fishing charter, is to shop from one captain to the next. A guy who isn’t busy or is simply more desperate for the business is more likely to throw you a deal or be negotiable.
But not going fishing, we walked the docks, watched the pelicans scramble for scraps, and saw tots of tarpon, big sportfish that were just hanging around the boats in the shallow waters. Hey, if big fish like that just hang around the docks, why even take the boat out? Just fish from the dock!
We relaxed for a bit, checked out a couple of tourist traps before heading back to our canoe, so we can embark to our accommodations before dark.
Being Tu B’shvat that night, we enjoyed an assortment of unique ripe shehechiyanu fruits we had purchased from Robert is Here, the world’s most incredible fruit stand on our way to the keys, in Homestead, FL, known as the ‘Gateway to the Keys’.
The next morning we awoke bright and early, as we had a snorkel trip booked, and we were also “checking out,” bringing all of our things back to the car by canoe.
We had arranged with a private guide to take us out to the reefs, but because we didn’t have cell service on the boat when he tried to call us, the guy literally jumped-ship on us and decided to accept a better-paying charter instead. So much for our deposit actually meaning any kind of commitment.
Well, we did see that JSK, the jetskiing guy from the day before offered snorkel tours, and we really liked their service, so we called our buddy and arranged a snorkel trip with him. Bonus, he charged us $150 less than the other guy, too.
We had a really enjoyable time once again, and our guide was super nice, pointing out unique places along the way, like a community where each family has a hangar for their private plane instead of a garage, and a runway instead of a main street!
Cool stuff. We headed back to the mainland for the night, had a great meal in Surfside, and stayed overnight in a cheap all-suite hotel to be closer to FLL for our flight back the next morning.
We know this type of trip is not for everyone, and when you’re ready for a relaxing Florida experience in which you can truly relax, not have to worry about chemical toilet odors, knowing how to canoe, or kasher a stove, you go to Florida Kosher Villas. You’ll be treated like royalty, and enjoy the tropical vibes with all the amenities of a vibrant frum community in the sun.
By SA Rowner
The world of social media sharing makes so many jealous because people choose to share picture-perfect moments that make your life look like a fantasy on unending positive experiences.
You don’t find people sharing things that don’t go right. But face it, nothing in life is completely perfect.
It’s a good thing that you can’t smell pictures, because, well, while everything looks beautiful in them, the restroom odor… We called our host, and his response to the exaggerated odiferousness was to, “try taming it by pouring in some Fabuloso…”
There are many exceptional chemical packs for RV/marine restrooms that really work. We know, because and after trial and error in our own RV, we NEVER had odor issues. Pouring Fabuloso in?? That’s NOT the way to do it, and no, that wouldn’t work, sorry.
Still and all, with the restroom door closed, it wasn’t so bad. I’ll admit, many would not have stood for the restroom situation, and I’d completely understand anyone who’d have given up right then. After all, would you want to have to get in a canoe at 3 AM, in the dark, then paddle for 15 minutes to get to a restroom? And then paddle all that distance back to the boat, just to get back to bed?
So we chose to make do with our on-board facilities. Truthfully, with the skylight open and deck doors open, the brisk breeze reduced any stray nefarious odors to pretty tolerable levels.
Now back to the positive, which for the most part, was our overall experience.
There’s something beautiful about being surrounded by the water, no lights except flashlights and the twinkling stars above. The cove was very calm, so fears of waves and nausea were, thankfully, completely unfounded.
Our host had also given us a green underwater light to hang off the back deck into the water, which was supposed to attract fish for us to see.
We did have inexpensive underwater Go-Pro-type action cameras, which we wanted to try and capture some underwater images, but the quick-moving tide churned up silt and no fish we could see, so we gave up after a few unsuccessful attempts.
The upper deck was beautiful to sit and relax on, and the gentle water and wind sound and seclusion were quite pleasant. The American flag at the back of the boat, was pretty much the only sound, as it flapped unceasingly in the breeze.
We headed inside to bed, and the gentle motion on the water lulled us to sleep. We both slept quite comfortably until morning.
I awoke early and went up to the top deck to watch the early sun rise on the horizon. And then I hear a splash. About fifty feet off the boat, there were dolphins, playfully frolicking in the water. Awesome!! And that was something we definitely don’t see back home.
I chose not to awaken my wife, or to even run and get the camera, opting instead to just take in the experience. It’s not always about the pictures, and I’m (sometimes) cognizant to remember to live in the moment.
The dolphins actually came within a few feet of the boat, and it really was something to see.
When my wife did awaken a bit later, I told her about it, and as I was saying it, the dolphins came back for a spin. This time I grabbed the camera and snapped a few pictures for posterity. Definitely cool.
We davened in the tropical solitude on the deck, had a delicious breakfast of bagels and fried eggs, and off we went in our canoe to head to our car and start our day.
We tied up our canoe at the marina and drove our rental car out into the main road on the island of Islamorada, stopped in a local grocery store, and loaded up on water, some drinks, and snacks for the day.
I’m a fan of stopping in the visitor’s centers to see if anything piques my interest, but the Islamorada one was somewhat uninspiring, so we just snapped a picture of a cute stone manatee mascot they had outside and continued exploring by car.
Passing by a small Jetski Rental sign at a side of the road marina, we called them to see about rentals.
JSK Watersports turned out to be a small family-run operation, friendly, happy to help and their sign said that they even offered snorkeling options, too.
We loved the sign they had hanging on a tree as well that said:
Advice from a Tree:
– Stand tall and proud
– Go out on a limb
– Remember your roots
– Drink plenty of water
– Be content with your natural beauty
– Enjoy the view!
(Warning… not for the faint of heart!)
By S.A. Rowner
There are two kinds of vacations. At least in my opinion.
There’s the vacation that you take, to just kick up your feet and relax, with a drink at your side, and do nothing but breathe.
Maybe I’ll enjoy those someday, but for now, I can’t imagine doing that for more than 45 minutes without dying of boredom. Ok, maybe not dying, but you get the gist.
And the other kind is a vacation where you transplant yourself to somewhere different. A different climate, attractions you can’t do back home, unusual scenery, etc.
The second type is more my speed – so long as we leave the kids – or at least most of them – back home to actually enjoy the experience.
One of the easiest (and most economical) destinations is Florida, and with good reason. Firstly the climate is tropical – the perfect escape and why so many folks transplant themselves there entirely each winter. The word “snowbird” – was coined just for them.
Many people go the tried and true route of taking a kosher villa, renting a hotel room, or just setting up with resident friends for a few days for their break. Florida Kosher Villas with beautiful kosher vacation villas in North Miami Beach, Hollywood, and Boca Raton is an awesome choice.
But tried and true? Not, I. At least not the time I’m telling you about in this story.
We wanted quiet, privacy and to snorkel the reef, and for all those reasons, we chose to stay in the Florida Keys, a string of islands that runs southwest off the tip of Florida all the way to Key West.
Having driven the famed overseas highway end-to-end before, staying overnight midway on the island of Marathon in a mom-and-pop type hotel, we looked for a somewhat different experience this round.
We chose a small houseboat, moored in a private cove off of Islamorada.
It’s not for everyone, and it was a bit risky because the guy had no reviews, but the price was attractive, and the pictures looked decent, so we decided to go for it.
We flew into FLL, (Fort Lauderdale we have found to be a much more efficient airport than MIA in Miami), rented a car, and bought ourselves an assortment of takeout food in foil pans that we could reheat, after kashering the stovetop.
Stovetop? Yes, believe it or not, most decent-sized boats have the same amenities as RV’s, including a stove, oven, refrigerator, couch, and yes, a bathroom and shower, (because I know your itching to ask!)
It really gives a new twist to the definition of “living off the land.”
Disclaimer 1 – we had already been to South Florida at least five or six times before and experienced much of the regular stuff, so we were looking for a new experience.
Disclaimer 2 – We own and have traveled in RV’s several times across multiple states, so we did have more experience than the average frum family with off-the-grid appliances.
That being said, we made up to meet our host at a marina on the island of Islamorada, perhaps an hour and a half drive from Miami, where he ferried us in his motorboat to our accommodations.
It was a lovely ride, and the only ride we’d be getting to the boat or back to shore for the next three days, aside from paddling the canoe he provided us with – a 10-15 minute paddle that could be relaxing or rigorous, depending on the tides.
Our host introduced us to the boat, the ‘Jenny,’ (his pet generator), and a couple of things niggled at us, but he was really a nice enough fellow, and we soon enough sent him on his way.
In a nutshell, the peace and solitude were fantastic, after a wipe down of all the surfaces the place was decently clean, and there was a skylight at the foot of the beds that, the way the boat was anchored, brought a continuous fresh breeze over the beds and through the boat out the back glass sliding doors, where there was a back deck with some chairs.
As the boat had no working engine, our sole means of getting anywhere – our canoe – was tied here as well.
The nicest part of the experience was the top deck, where a setup of outdoor seating was arranged for relaxing in the sound of the waves.
We kashered the burners, toiveled some cookware right off the back of the boat, and settled in for night one off the land and the grid.
…so you don’t have to make them yourself.
By S.A. Rowner
Sometimes you have to learn things the hard way.
Like the time I went skiing for the first time, when I was about nineteen or twenty years old and came down an entire frozen mountain, painfully on my posterior. Most of that pain was probably shame.
You see, I grew up in the era where roller skating was cool. Very cool, in fact. So cool, that it pushed you into the top tier of (perceived) advanced athleticism, at least in the eyes of the neighborhood kids.
A skinny, fast runner who loved active fun but hated structured sports, this was a really fun outlet for me to pursue.
So when my grandparents gifted each of us kids our own pair of roller skates, we were really quite thrilled!
They say you can’t forget how to ride a bike. I’ll conjecture that for most, it’s because it isn’t so simple to learn how to in the first place, and that is its long-term reward. I’d say that roller skating shares those similarities as well.
But hey, kids are resilient, particularly when our reputation is on the line!
Suffice it to say, my siblings and I became quite good at roller skating, and in many ways it was even preferable to our bikes, given the many smooth empty roadways in the Yeshiva complex in which we lived.
But to transfer that skill set to skiing required money and parents with the time and willingness to drive the distances needed to reach the ski resorts – neither of which were viable options in the large family I grew up in.
After Mesivta and a year in Beis Medrash, I began working my first job at 18, and bought my first car. Since I now had both the car and the means, (along with my now kind of obsolete roller skating skills), I was ready to join the exciting world of downhill skiing!
Should be quite a simple segue for such a talented, athletic guy like me, right?
With my younger brother, an avid roller-blader who was at least twice as athletic as I in tow, we headed one winter morning to Pennsylvania, home to many ski resorts, and only about an hour and a half drive from our Passaic home.
Arriving at the resort, my brother confidently rented the newest really cool toy, a snowboard and that was pretty much the last i saw him for the rest of the day.
I swaggered up to the rental counter, ready to proudly prove my fantastic skiing profess to the entire mountain. My cockiness must have impressed the guy choosing the skis, because he handed me a skinny, long, speedy set of expert skis, never intended for the beginner I really was.
Or maybe I didn’t actually impress him. Perhaps he saw right through my charade, and cunningly decided that a lesson in humility was due me, so he purposely selected me that particular set of skis.
I guess I’ll never really know his true intentions. But I do know the results.
Notwithstanding – no really, not-with-standing, – I carefully slipped and slid my precarious way to the hills to strut my stuff.
The bunny hill where everyone learns to ski, well that was for everyone, right? I wasn’t just anyone. I was a puffed-up, cocky, cool dude who’d master this skiing thing in the first three-seconds of moving, I assured my foolish self.
Bypassing the bunny slopes, I confidently attempted to remain upright as I slipped, slid, and jockeyed my way onto the lift to the highest intermediate level slope in the entire place.
Watching everyone cruise down the mountain underneath me, my assuredness grew. This was going to be a breeze – I could barely wait to get to the top to be those guys.
A ski lift doesn’t stop at the top. The slope begins immediately, as you raise the bar and slide off your seat into the slope, where you are supposed to make a quick one hundred and eighty degree turn to the main trail down the mountain.
I confidently slid off the seat and was off.
Where my skis promptly crossed one another, landing me in a heap on the snow.
Must’ve started wrong. No big deal. Up we go. Left ski pole up, right foot up, right ski slip, owch!
I didn’t know I could do a forward split.
Painfully getting to my feet, my way down the mountain was downhill from there. No, really!
Soon completely numb bottom, skis tucked uncomfortably under me, (figurative) tail between my legs, and head buried in shame, it took nearly thirty minutes (!) to make my frozen way down in shame.
It was both my first and last ski trip that season. A year later, I learned to ski from the ground up, and with effort and expense, was cruising black diamond expert trails by the end of the day. But it was worth every penny!
When people spend their hard-earned time off on a vacation, there are some who like I did, feel confident and capable of pulling it all off on their own. They never anticipate that failure is an option, and do you really want to fail at your vacation?
Wintertime is prime season for a kosher Florida vacation. Sure, you can try it yourself, pressing your luck with an AirBnB and hoping for the best, but what if things go wrong? Was it really worth trying to skimp?
Because your vacation time is precious. And making the mistake of trying it on your own, could land you in a pile of uncomfortable snow.
Learn from my mistakes. Don’t waste your time trying to find the options.
With more than thirteen years of kosher villas in Florida, make the right choice the first time, and truly enjoy the experience.