My second day in Israel, Sivan took me on a really long walk under the bright Israeli sun, which resulted in her resembling a tomato and me a coal grilled chicken! It also introduced me to the city I would easily kill to live in. I haven’t seen very many big cities but there’s one thing I always knew- I hate big cities or hated…because the moment we reached Tel Aviv, my hatred of big cities ended.
Taking the boardwalk route from Herzliya, we walked past a beautiful, glamorous shore-line to Tel Aviv. We stopped at a cafe on our way so I could have some breakfast. I have had a zillion mochas in my life but I’ll never forget that cup. The effort this little cafe had taken in presenting me the mocha was outstanding. I had a chocolate croissant which was quite spectacular and overloaded with chocolate. This was also the first time that I was introduced to the stray cat epidemic that surrounds Israel. One cat decided to jump onto the seat next to us and soak in the sun-shine. Seemed like a good idea. I felt like I could sit here for hours, just quietly working away on my laptop, staring at the sea and catching up on the low flying planes that came in from Eilat. I feel these moments will stay etched in my memory forever.
After 30 mins or so we decided to carry on our journey. We had already passed a stunning wooden bridgeand seen planes flying so low I could read everything printed on their fuselages. Moving forward, there came a beach just for dogs, a beach just for religious ladies, a beach just for VIPs, 5 star hotels, people on some cool portable electric scooters like I’ve never seen before and a sign post that said La La Land! I even tasted the most awesomest Mango sorbet ever as we walked by the sea-side. Companies in both UK and India can learn a thing or two from the variety of ice-cream and sorbets that are sold in Israel.
By the time we reached Tel-Aviv I was drenched in sweat. I had forgotten how hot and cruel the sun can be but seen as I had traveled there from Plymouth, UK, I felt like an honorary Brit…I had to overdo the sun lovin. The massive buildings surrounding the sea-side were so extraordinary. In many ways they reminded me of Dubai yet the vibrance around set it on a polar opposite side of the spectrum when compared to Dubai.
I remember Sivan pointing at a beautiful sky-riser and telling me- Justin Timberlake might stay here! Yes he was supposed to perform a few days after I left. What a shame, had we managed to see him together, we could have atleast re-lived our 90s boyband obsession.
I suppose an hour or so later we reached the old town Jaffa. It was quaint and chaotic at the same time. The city markets were filled with weird second hand goods and I could smell Zaatar just about everywhere. We finally spotted a local Arab bakery and I bought myself some Zaatar Bread! I’ve missed Zaatar since Dubai, which was 2011. A little further down the road, we walked into a Baklava shop…yes a shop just for Baklava! I was the happiest little girl in town. The sight of greasy, honey dripping sugary madness was an overload on my senses and even tougher on my arteries.
After taking in the chaos of the old-city market, we had a halt somewhere near a fountain where we sat and did some tourist spotting. Whoever tells you that Tel-Aviv is a scary city is so wrong! It has tourists coming in all the time. In many ways, the tourist groups reminded me of my times in London. There were all sort of people there. Arab school girls in religious attire, senior Brazilians groups, loud teenage boys and Americans…and more Americans.
By about 3, we were shattered. We had been out since 9.30-10 am. I could tell Sivan had started missing her dog Skye who was put up at her boyfriend’s house so we decided to go pick her up. I remember seeing Skye for the first time and thinking…damn this dog doesn’t give a fuck! All along I had been worried about how I’d get along with Sivan’s wolf but turned out she chose to ignore me completely.
The plan for the night was to eat at this famous restaurant that serves fish but it turned out that the place was closed so we decided to head over to their other branch at the port. The restaurant was called- The Old Man and The Sea. This was Tel Aviv’s vibe that night- Lively and Loud! I had missed this noise in the UK. Sure there are crowded restaurants here but what was happening in Tel Aviv was on par with the chaos and vibrance I can experience in India. Cultures obsessed with food are very different to those that well..aren’t!
Even before you place an order at The Old Man and The Sea, they bring out this huge spread of random foods. Hundred different dips, falafel and laffa bread (tastes like naan). The waiters put on some crazy stunts when they serve you or clean out the table. I was thoroughly entertained here and the food was exceptionally tasty! As we walked out of the restaurant I witness a huge crowd. Turns out, Israelis don’t like to queue the old fashioned way…Israeli queues are horizontal, you push and shove to get to the front. This strategy screams and shouts- India.
I found many similarities between the Indian and Israeli cultures. The only difference is that I felt crazy safe in Israel, something I have never truly felt in India. It has the best of both worlds, there is the Western tech-culture trends-lifestyle set to this contrasting background that is a mixing pot of the Jewish and Islamic religions. The family culture/values are quite evident, I did not see a single pregnant-pram pushing cigarette smoking-boyfriend abusing teen-child. I saw happy dogs everywhere, stray cats that just wanted to sun bathe, beautiful women and men playing volleyball in swimwear, enchanting live music performed by techie buskers who had their macs plugged in and double decker trains!