Saturday, March 12, 2016

Touring Tel Aviv

It was tough leaving the family, but it was time to join the group and explore Israel. I drove to Tel Aviv to meet the other writers and our tour guide at the Dan Hotel.

The drive wasn’t bad from Jerusalem even though everyone warned me about traffic. Considering I spent most of my life driving in New York, I’m prepared.

Upon arriving in Tel Aviv, I saw the sea for the first time since arriving in Israel.

Despite the fact that it is such a small country, Israel has four seas– the Mediterranean, the Dead Sea, the Red Sea and the Sea of Galilee. (The first three are often referred to as “The Med, The Dead, and The Red.)

Tel Aviv borders the Mediterranean, but it’s also the most metropolitan city in Israel. It’s also the only city with a major airport.

I was happy to find out almost everyone in Israel speaks English. While most of my travels are usually in Europe and I can get by in the Latin languages, I don’t know any Hebrew.

I parked at the Dan Hotel Tel Aviv and immediately was looking for our guide, Carmela.

The original plan we had been told included a guide, someone from the tourism board, a person from the public relations agency, and a soldier.

No one was sure what happened, but it looked like the tour guide Carmela and the bus driver were the only ones who would be with me for the first day's tour of Tel Aviv.

In fact, a mix up had also occurred with the flights and I was the only journalist who had arrived.

Carmela and I made some calls, sent some emails, and did some social media to try to figure out where the rest of the group was, then finally took off on the bus on our own.

In a few minutes we were in Tel Aviv’s Old Jewish Neighborhood and ready for the walking tour.

We started at the Nahum Gutman Art Gallery. I found it quite interesting.

Gutman was a painter who came to Israel from Russia when he was just seven years old. He wrote and illustrated books and was the first to create a newspaper for children.

Although Gutman died (at 82), his son maintains involvement in the museum, which has workshops for children and adults.

We walked around for a while and saw a children’s exhibit about artistic legends, including Disney.

After the museum, we walked around the neighborhood. Carmela pointed out the Memshelec on the buildings. These sculpted hooks had faces of men and women and were quite interesting.

This neighborhood played a big part in Tel Aviv being declared a UNESCO Heritage Site. 

The architecture is representative of the 250,000 who escaped the Nazis to Israel and built German Bauhaus style houses.

While this neighborhood represented so much of the old style, Carmela pointed out that boutique hotels were popping up in the area.

I was getting hungry and looking forward to our next stop, the Carmel Market, where we would be doing tastings of typical food from the Israeli population, which was made up of many different nationalities.

The market, which has been open since 1920, was vibrant and busy with people selling and purchasing spices, baked goods, cheeses, olives, and lots of halvah, that sweet treat that I had always loved and discovered on my breakfast buffet at the Dan Panorama Hotel Jerusalem.

Among the places we stopped were: Uzi-Eli, where they use healing herbs and fruits to make smoothies, juices, and drops; Shmuel’s, a restaurant where we tasted a pita filled with tahini and vegetables and some beef with lamb fat; Center of Burika, a traditional Indian food that is cheese fried inside a pastry and served in a pita; and The Mamas, where we were served a soup filled with meat and vegetables.

I certainly wasn’t hungry any more by the time we left the market.

We went back to the Dan Tel Aviv Hotel and I was able to shower and rest before dressing for dinner.

The rest of the group came in that night (they had been booked on flights the wrong day) and we all went to the Pacific Restaurant at the Crowne Plaza.

I was excited because I would be tasting sushi for the very first time. My seafood allergy had kept me from it previously, but this was kosher sushi, made from salmon and vegetarian items, and nowhere near any shellfish.

I think everyone around me was just as excited as I was to try it. I did enjoy the rolls, as well as the salads, chicken, turnips, and dessert.

We had it all with a good Israeli Barkan Vineyards Riesling.

Everyone was wiped out by the time we got back to the DanHotel Tel Aviv around 11:00 pm. We went straight to our rooms to rest up for a full day ahead. 

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