Israel in January – Part 3

The last two posts were weekend days for Israel, Friday and Saturday, so for Jason having to go to work on Sunday seemed odd.

We’d start the mornings with the amazing breakfast at the hotel then Jason would head for work and I went back to the room to work from my laptop and these blog posts until around 11 or 12 every day.

Here’s a summary of what I explored during the workweek.

Sunday – or first day of the work week

It was so windy today, 25-30 mph winds and you could see the kite surfers from our room.  The wind was not stopping the health-conscious Israelis.  They were running, walking, and biking along the boardwalk.

View from our hotel - Tel Aviv Beach and a mosque
View from our hotel – Tel Aviv Beach and a mosque

Tel Aviv boardwalk walk

A walk along the boardwalk was on my agenda today so I bundled up and headed out.  This is a nice way to see the beaches.  There are several and the boardwalk spans for like 9 miles or something, from Jaffa to near the airport north.  There were public workout playgrounds all over the place along the boardwalk but also throughout the city.  That would be so nice to have those in our parks!  I walked about 3 miles north which took me past the hotels and shopping areas and then the marina, the port, and to the power station.  I was approaching the airport and didn’t see the path ending anytime soon; although, I really wanted to walk it to the end, decided to turn around at the power station.

Once I turned around that wind was blasting against me the entire way.  My face felt sand blasted.

My walked ended up being about 6.25 miles round trip and took me a few hours.

Old Man and the Sea restaurant

That night we went for dinner at Old Man and the Sea in the Jaffa port.  They served tons of small salads before the meal.  Wow, way too much.  We looked around and the locals weren’t having a problem eating it up.  The table next to us had 3 helpings of hummus!  So as far as Americans eating large portions…?  That was ridiculous.  Jason had grilled crab which was very tasty and because it was grilled the shell was easy to crack with your hands.  I had calamari and shrimp in a red sauce.  We walked back to our hotel to walk off our meal.

Monday – second day of the workweek

Today I walked into the city to check out the popular Rothschild Blvd.  It’s a central promenade for walking and biking that goes down the length of the boulevard with some cafes and restaurants and Bauhaus architecture.  It’s filled with locals and tourists.

I took this walk to the Sarona Market.  Sarona has a bunch of shops as well as an enclosed European-style market.  I had a little gelato, checked out the market, and headed back.

This was also a good walk.  Probably around 4 miles or so round trip.

We ate dinner at a local restaurant specializing in skewered meat.  I had chicken shishlik and Jason had lamb shishlik served with a rice lentil blend.  Again, way too much food.  I’m getting sick of eating out at restaurants at this point.

Tuesday – third day of the work week

This was my idea of the perfect day!  The wind started to settle, the temp was nice in the upper 60’s, and I went on a food tour.

My cold is getting much better now.  Luckily I can taste again.

I signed up for  an Eat Tel Aviv tour starting in Jaffa and ending at Carmel Market (near our hotel) meeting the group in the Jaffa port at 10:00 am.  The group size was nice and small: a nice and reserved couple from Finland, jet lagged couple from Michigan on business for a couple days, a Berkeley student who just finished Birthright.  Our guide Rachel from U.K. married an Israeli who was in the military about 3 years ago and now lives in Tel Aviv.  She’s a freelance journalist and leads these tours because she loves to cook and eat. (I’d love a job like this!)

Rachel did such a great job telling us the history, background, meanings, and more of the places we went and food we ate.

She explained that Jaffa exported Jaffa oranges which have a thick peel so it was easier for exporting than most oranges.

A highlight of some of the stops:

Our first stop was a hummusia (a restaurant that just serves hummus).   We had three kinds of hummus: with fava beans instead of chickpeas, served warm, regular smooth hummus, and chunky hummus.  The hummus was served with thick pita, onion for dipping, and an amazing but spicy lemon juice with green chilis sauce.

In the Jaffa Flea Market we had a sweet Turkish dessert called malabi which is like a panna cotta made with rose water.  It was so light and delish.  This place is called a HaMalabia (only serves malabi, coffee and booze). This was in the heart of the flea market, which was no different than our flea markets at home.  The table we sat had a local man who let us join him but insisted in sitting in the middle of us all.  It was hilarious!

Arabic bakery

Also in Jaffa we stopped at an Arabic bakery which is the center of coexistence because the story is a Jewish family hired an Arabic baker for their bakery.  After quite a few years, the baker wanted to open his own bakery and the Jewish family helped him.  Out of respect for the family he named the bakery after them and closes on Arabic and Jewish holidays. This bakery now has several locations but this is the main.  We had flatbread with za’atar seasoning and za’atar leaves.  We also had a bagel which is not like ours in the US.  There is honey in the dough which makes it slightly sweet and it’s flatter and larger with sesame seeds.

We stopped at an old Jaffa train station that went from Jaffa to Jerusalem.  It was renovated with shops and restaurants but hasn’t taken off like Jerusalem’s did.

Eastern European Jewish French-inspired cafe

Now in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood, the trendy area, we stopped at an Eastern European Jewish cafe that serves baked goods with French twist.  We had a brioche like babka (amazing!), French bagel with the texture of a croissant, and a little cake with poppy seeds.

We proceed on to the Carmel Market and stopped at a little shop where we had amazing falafel and a pita filled with eggplant, tahini, egg, and salad.  Tasted some local white goat cheese…didn’t taste like the goat cheese we get at home.  It was a unique flavor and texture.  Also tasted some chocolate cheese which was mascarpone wrapped with chocolate.  Tasted some Halva – a tahini cake that comes in different flavors, some amazing strawberries, and my favorite…stopped by a spice stall owned by a father and son who sell super fresh spices, nuts, loose leaf teas, grains, dried fruits…  and ended the tour at a gelato shop that was fantastic.  Owned by a husband and wife who make gelato with all locally sourced ingredients from the market and very little sugar added.  It was divine!

I would HIGHLY recommend this tour.  It was my fav thing because it was a blend of food, history, and walking through neighborhoods to get a taste of local culture.

I was so excited about my day that I brought Jason back to the market that night.  We visited some of the places we stopped on our tour and bought some spices and tea, different cheese than what we sampled earlier, Halva (coffee flavored), and some breads. 

We finished at the Beer Bazaar that serves craft beers and has a really cool vibe, hence the gangsta rap playing and the smell of pot in the air.  It’s located on a side alley within the market – it was so awesome, good beer, great service.  We drank (a lot) of stout and had a really tasty eggplant tahini snack.  When we paid our bill they asked us if we wanted to do a shot with them.  How can we refuse?  They poured us shots of Arak.  (I think Jason will be here every night after I leave.)

Wednesday – fourth day of the work week

Today I wanted to explore some of the areas we went through on the food tour so I headed down the boardwalk towards the Jaffa Flea Market exploring a beach along the way.  The flea market was interesting to see that there wasn’t a whole lot of difference in the stuff (crap + hidden gems) they sell.

Then I did the DIY street art tour through the Florentine district which was also within walking distance.  It was really cool to see the amazing street art!  I could notice some of the artists that I also saw in Jaffa and Neve Tzedek.  I guess it’s illegal but they turn an eye on it if it’s adding some color to the areas.  Most of the art has meaning behind the pieces.

For dinner Jason and I visited the falafel shop in Carmel Market that we stopped on my tour.  We shared some falafel and pita then stopped for a sushi roll and drink while walking through the neighborhoods near our hotel.

Thursday – fifth day of the work week (Their Friday)

Today is my last in Tel Aviv.  We’re going up to the northern part of Israel for the weekend and I’m heading for home on Saturday night while Jason will be staying another week for work.

I explored more of the old town of Jaffa and spent more time on the boardwalk and walked in the Mediterranean.  It was pretty low key and peaceful.

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