Life & Culture

Schleps and the city: The mysterious thing that is the Jew-ish hotel

Booking a holiday on the Jewish map is like the Ber-jew-da Triangle, but instead of everyone disappearing, we all mysteriously appear in exactly the same hotels


Summer is approaching and for the first time ever, I’ve booked a holiday that’s on the Jewish map — a hotel equivalent of a bag of Ready Salted Walkers, it may not have a kosher stamp but it’s on the approved list.

When I say “first time ever”, I should say, “first time ever on purpose”. Despite the fact that no one ever says: “I’d love to go on an exotic holiday and take all the people from the queue in Daniel’s / Panzer’s / Grodz with me”, somehow that does sometimes seem to happen.

It’s the Ber-jew-da Triangle, but instead of everyone disappearing, we all mysteriously appear in exactly the same hotels in far-flung corners of the Earth.

You might not find one Jew in the whole of Corfu, but you’ll come across loads of them in the same hotel, who all swear they’re there by total coincidence.

Last summer, we did in fact have such an experience. We ended our road trip around Italy at a resort on Lake Garda.

We had stayed at four other hotels of a similar ilk and not bumped into a soul we knew for 12 days — but within five minutes of being at this particular resort I was in a selfie winging its way back to a mutual friend in Hampstead Garden Suburbs.

Then at dinner, I bumped into a face I hadn’t seen since uni days. And so it went on. Unbeknownst to me, I’d booked a Jew-ish hotel.

I’m generally happy for a little unexpected shmooze, so I’m not complaining. And at least I knew that the kitchen would be aware of our diet trend to cut out all meat and shellfish — and randomly say no to the swordfish, too.

I could also be fairly certain that if there was no avocado on the breakfast buffet, we wouldn’t be the only ones asking (come on, you know you have).

Often, these hotels on the Jewish map need to be booked a year in advance, because they tend to get full up early — something I put down to an alpha attitude towards holidaying. Excuse the sweeping generalisation, and I realise that this year of all years, not everyone is jumping to book holidays, but this diligence towards travel seems to be a thing.

Never was this clearer to me than when we booked a trip to Disney World a few years ago. If the trip came up in conversation with friends and colleagues outside the Jewish bubble, the response was generally: “How lovely. Have a good time.”

The response from my Jewish friends was more like: “Do you want me to send you my ride itinerary — I calculated the best order for minimal schlep? Have you booked all the good rides in advance? Are you planning to do a night parade? Have you booked a guide?”

Being half sephardi, my anxi-ashki gene is fairly watered down, but the habits of 'some of my best friends' have obviously rubbed off on me because this year I found myself booking my summer holiday 52 weeks in advance — a necessity for the particular hotel where we’re heading.

This time, it’ll be no surprise if I find myself in a selfie with a friend of a friend within five minutes of arrival, because I know exactly what I’m in for.

Until now my ethos has been that holidays are about the five of us having quality time together. As parents, we treasure those simple sunshine moments with our kids.

Gobbling ice-cream before it’s a melted mess, a late-night swim or Dobble over dinner.

But my eldest daughter is now 15, the age I was on my last family summer holiday with my own parents — then there was Israel tour and a girls’ trip to the south of France. I know I can’t take it for granted that every summer will be just us five for much longer, which I have to admit breaks my heart just a little.

So this holiday is a strategic one. We’ve chosen a place where my kids can have freedom, where they’ll probably know people (well, we’ve booked with friends, a first too, so there’s no “probably” about it) and although there will inevitably be less time just us five I’m hoping it’s somewhere that will work for years to come, when playing Dobble with Mum and Dad will no longer cut it.

And maybe that’ll mean we can string out those precious family holiday years for just a little longer. I am just not ready to let them go.

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