The final leg of our roadshow took us from the Galilee to Tel Aviv via mountain roads surrounded by farms and breathtaking views. Hours in the car melted away and we were soon crawling through the pre-Shabbat [Sabbath] traffic searching for our hotel.
Tel Aviv is a bustling city, her skyline dotted with construction cranes attesting to the rapid growth of an evolving metropolis. Secular almost to a fault and teeming with energy, neighborhoods evoke the exciting feel of any great city of the world.
Our home for the next two nights, the Cinema Hotel, originally built as the Esther Cinema movie house in the 30’s, is a handsome Bauhaus building on Zimenhoff Square. Zimenhoff is really a circle, so the term ‘Square’ is a bit of a misnomer. The building was renovated into a hotel in the early 90’s preserving it’s marble lobby and staircase. Vintage projectors are on display throughout, preserving history and making for a fascinating technology exhibit.
Friday afternoon is a crazy time as everyone rushes to get their shopping done before commerce shuts down for the Sabbath. Shops were bustling and restaurants were literally overflowing. We had shwarma and falafel al fresco on Shalom Hamelech, before lounging at a coffee house next door for cappuccino and ‘Hozen Hamman,’ the traditional triangular cookie of Purim. I do love me some Hamantashen, as we called them stateside.
Purim is a a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire from destruction in the wake of a plot by Haman, a story recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther – The Megillah [Thanks, Wikipedia]. It is also a huge party akin to Halloween complete with costumes and merrymaking. Although Purim doesn’t start until tomorrow many people and their dogs are already dressed in costume.
We took an evening disco-nap before heading out for dinner at Ella & Orna in the Sheinkin, where our dinner was mediocre at best. Tel Aviv is a great walking city and on the way home we ambled by many bars and clubs before stopping at a sidewalk cafe for coffee, desert and people watching.
Although my narrative is trending to the more urbane, the city still possesses the same magic as the surrounding countryside. While Jamie chose to catch up on her beauty sleep, I went out for a morning walk. I had a chance meeting with a nice man named Benny Geffen in a park, who had lived in San Francisco for many years and knew my friend Alan Kaufman. It’s a small, small world.
We made our way to the old city of Jaffa. For lunch, we visited an arab restaurant for a traditional meal that is served with fifthteen [that’s 15!] salads to accompany the main course. It was a bit of tourist trap judging from our fellow diners but the food was good, the waitstaff gruff and it was a steal at only 83 NIS.
We strolled up into the older portion of the city and shopped at the few stores and galleries that remained open in spite of Shabbot, before hopping an unfriendly cab over to the beach.
Funny thing about cabbies here–they are either really nice or really rude. We are often regaled with tails of trips to the US or personal histories. Others have misquoted fares, failed to use the meter and threatened to kick me out for trying to open my window.
We arrived at Frishman beach, and rented two chaise lounges by the water. Although the air was a little cool, it felt great relaxing to the sound of the waves lapping on the beach and the steady drum beat of Kadima being played. Kadima is like paddleball, but played on the beach with no net.
Someone nearby started feeding the pigeons and soon there was a flock surrounding us. Diseased creatures that they are, I do not like pigeons. I got up and shoo’d the flock away and was greeted with angry, Hebrew insults from my surrounding beach-goers. I returned to my seat chastened.
As we walked back to the hotel, I started to feel the road-weariness creep in. A week of walking in moist shoes has left me with a pair of painful blisters. I’ve also got some kind of bugbite on my neck that is swollen. Despite a good massage, my back is starting to ache as bit. Want some more kvetching? I haven’t been sleeping that much either, averaging maybe 5 hours a night. Although I wish we had another week, the end is rapidly approaching and it’ll be nice to sleep in my own bed again.
I’m still having a blast though and intend to enjoy every moment that remains of our trip.