Biblical lands; here we come
Tel Aviv Nov 2013
Started by flying to Tel Aviv via Frankfurt. I fully expected tight security and it started at the El Al counter in Frankfurt. We got asked a lot of questions, and bags were checked for traces of (I assume) bomb material on the bags. Then, after going thru the metal detectors, everybody got a pat-down; which was more thorough than the pat-downs in the US. Good for security for all.
Got into Tel Aviv airport in the afternoon, and got a visa at the airport, no charge. Also, the visa was not stamped in the passport, but simple a loose-leaf piece of paper visa was provided. This helps for entry to Muslim countries in the future. Inquired about how best to get to the hotel, we were advised to take the local train into the city, as the best way to get into the city. So paid the 6.60 NIS (shekels) each (less than $2 each) to get into city. Got off where we were told, and found out that the hotel was next to the previous train station ☹. So took a short taxi ride back to the Hashalom train station, as we had already exited the station. Got into the hotel (after they verified at the entrance that we were indeed real guests (security) and got settled. Elevators here were interesting; you had to enter in your floor # on a keypad (instead of up/down arrow) on the elevator lobby, and the system then told you which elevator to take. Once inside the elevator, you had no buttons to press for the floor desired; instead the elevator took you the floor you had originally punched in. Don’t know if this is for security or not.
After freshening up, talked to the concierge and got our bearings. Since I had forgotten my Macbook charger, got directions to go to the nearest Mall that had an Apple authorized store. Took the #63 bus from outside the hotel, to Dizengoff center (6.60 shekels again) where the Macbook power adaptor cost me all of 499 shekels ($142 ouch ouch). Note to never forget the charger again ☹. Then walked the rest of the way to the beach and ended up at the Abu Zaki restaurant on Ben Yahuda street; a local Arabic food popular place. Had the Falafels, Humus and Kebabs, which this place was popular for. Good food. Cost was about $20. It seems that in middle eastern restaurants, they serve you lots of small Meze dishes with your meal, so we usually ended up ordering more than we could eat.
The Tel Aviv beach is a nice place, with offshore breaks (artificial) set up so that the beach is sandy with small waves. Lots of people were using the beach, as well as the excellent promenade along the beach. Tel Aviv is in general a nice civilized place to be in; with friendly people, good public transportation and good weather (60’s at night (need long sleeves), 70’s during the day). Beaches were nice, clean, and well used by locals and tourists alike.
Next day, after an excellent breakfast at the hotel, we crossed the bridge to take the same bus #63; and it seemed there were many young people in army uniforms (national service I guess) crossing with us, some armed with automatic rifles. Of course I had to take a picture of one of these young uniformed women casually carrying around such a weapon on the escalator. At the bottom of the escalator, a young man, armed with a sub-machine gun, approached me. He politely introduced himself as being with the Defense ministry, and informed me that taking pictures of Defense installations was prohibited (how should I know that the bridge led to a Defense Ministry building?). He asked to see the pictures I had taken and since it was not of the installation and since it did not identify the young soldier I had pictured, he left us alone. Need to be more careful taking pictures, as Dilshad scolded me.
Caught the bus to the Carmel Shuk, which is a large open market for fruits, vegetables, all kinds of olives, baklava, halva, nuts of all kinds, clothes, flowers etc ; plenty of stalls and lots of trade and bargaining going on. The selection of fresh fruits was incredible as this is the Mediterrean area/climate, so all citrus fruits, olives, and many other fruits grow readily. Pomegranates seemed to be in season, so had lots of pomegranate juice.
Next we went to the next door Nahalat Binyamin arts market, which was tamer that the Carmel Shuk market, and had a great selection of various art; lots of talented people.
Then took a taxi to go to Jaffa, which is the original (old) city of Tel Aviv. Had lunch of falafels and humus at a small outdoor restaurant, which was well patronized by locals, and cheap. This was in an area of a flea market in old Jaffa, so everything under the sun was for sale. Walked around the old port area, which was quite lively.
Headed back to the hotel and then to the Tel Aviv port area (north end of the city) for dinner at another popular restaurant, Benny Fisherman for fresh seafood, pricy but good as this was an upscale place. Again a popular area with lots of nice shops, restaurants and people walking along the seafront.