Seaside bliss in the South

Peace has returned to Ashkelon and Ashdod, and the hotels are open for business.

Sunset at the Leonardo Hotel Ashkelon’s pool (photo credit: Courtesy)
Sunset at the Leonardo Hotel Ashkelon’s pool
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Leaving the crowded streets, noise, pollution and traffic behind, it was with great expectations and enthusiasm that I set off with a group of journalists for a weekday mini-vacation at the two newly remodeled Leonardo Plaza hotels in Ashkelon and Ashdod.
With world-class spas, excellent dining options and large swimming pools, both hotels are part of the exclusive line of the Fattal Hotels chain, which includes the Leonardo Plaza in Jerusalem.
It is hard to believe that only a few months back these beautiful cities were under constant bombardment during Operation Protective Edge. However, things seem to be looking up. Reservations for local hotels are up once again, as Israeli and overseas tourists have come to realize that these charming seaside towns have a lot to offer.
Our day opened at the Leonardo Plaza Ashkelon. We were greeted by the hotel’s newly posted general manager Eitan Ohana, who proceeded to take us on a tour of the facilities and rooms. Located a few minutes from the beautiful beach, it’s hard to imagine that a few months ago, in the middle of the summer, almost 100 of the hotel’s 131 rooms lay empty, while security personnel and members of the media rented the remaining 30 rooms.
“It will take time until tourists from abroad start booking nights at our Ashdod and Ashkelon hotels,” said Ohana. “Israeli tourists, on the other hand, have a very short memory. As soon as Operation Protective Edge ended, they immediately started booking rooms at my hotel.”
The hotel has a spa with treatment rooms, an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness room and a children’s club, as well as four conference rooms, the largest of which can hold 850 people. It also has a business lounge that is fully equipped with all the latest technology.
The rooms, as far as we could see, are distinctively modern and stylish yet maintain an air of elegance. The color scheme is bright, and most offer a fantastic view of the sea and the hotel pool.
We were then treated to the breakfast buffet, which included delicious pastries, cheeses and a wide array of salads, as well as eggs made any way we wanted and freshly brewed coffee.
Bidding Ashkelon goodbye, we headed to Ashdod, which is a short drive from Ashkelon. From the moment we walked through the doors of the impressive Leonardo Plaza Ashdod, we were struck by the extensive sea views in every direction. Yuli Stokin, the hotel’s guest relations manager who greeted us, said she wanted us to enjoy ourselves during our short stay at the hotel – and that we did.
The room we were given (one of 183 in the hotel) was spacious, open, very clean and bright. A small balcony just outside the glass doors of the room was big enough to sit on with a bottle of wine (thoughtfully provided) and enjoy the amazing sea view. Here, too, the décor is modern, and this time we got to try the bed – it was very comfortable! The clean, simple bathroom offers a plethora of fluffy white towels, slippers and two robes. At night they have a turn-down service and provide you with the next day’s weather forecast. A nice touch.
The “business and pleasure” theme appears in a number of places throughout the hotel, most notably in the upper level executive lounge. It is designed to facilitate the businessperson’s time away from the office by offering easy access to computers with Internet access, conference rooms and secretarial services. The lounge also encourages guests to unwind with a drink from the bar and a magazine from the large collection. Additionally, the business lounge converts into a quiet and casual café, where light snacks are served throughout most of the day.
We were both booked for spa treatments at 5 p.m., so we padded down, tea in hand, to be greeted by our masseuse. A range of massage and body therapies is available, including special treatments for couples.
The hour-long treatment was relaxing and effective. The masseuse took care of nearly every stress and strain of my body, massaging almond oil and encouraging me to breathe slowly and close my eyes. I floated out, feeling five kilos lighter.
The health club includes a fitness room.
Naturally, the facility also offers a sauna and steam room, as well as a Jet Jacuzzi.
After a wonderfully relaxing afternoon, we were offered a delicious buffet dinner.
The dining room was not full or noisy, there were no lines at the various stations, and the serving platters and chafing dishes were refilled on a regular basis, meaning that the food was always fresh and hot. Whoever is responsible clearly takes pride in his or her work.
Breakfast the next morning was varied and tasty and came in such copious amounts that my girlfriend and I couldn’t even finish everything – and we’re both hearty eaters. There was fresh bread, omelets, cheese platters and a variety of salads.
Despite being new on the block, the Leonardo Ashdod staff has got the service down to an art, the decorators have created a very attractive and modern-looking environment, and the cleaning staff is topnotch.
Plus location is always important.
The city offers not only areas of natural beauty, but also cafés, restaurants and shopping areas that take full advantage of outdoor life. The Ashdod municipality has plans to build a skate park, surfing pools, a huge entertainment complex on the boardwalk and even a swimming pool in the sea. In my estimation, Ashdod will be the next hot spot to visit in Israel.
A night for two people (including breakfast) at the Leonardo Ashkelon costs NIS 600 to NIS 1,200. Half board at the Leonardo Ashdod costs NIS 1,000 to NIS 1,800 a night for double occupancy.
The writer was a guest of the Leonardo Plaza Ashkelon and the Leonardo Plaza Ashdod.