Shalom! For my birthday present from Josh this year we decided to get a bit of winter sun and headed to Tel Aviv, Israel, for a long weekend. It’s right in between a short- and long-haul flight length from the UK at about five hours, and appealed to us as a beachside city with great food, interesting culture and warmer temperatures than home. We stayed in the south-centre of Tel Aviv and also did a daytrip to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, which I’ll split into another post. Here’s what we got up to on the first evening and day.
Arriving in town early evening and in need of dinner, we set out to explore as soon as we’d dropped off our bags. We stumbled across a cute looking place in a backstreet and pleasingly they had an English menu – doubly pleasingly, it was all vegetarian! I have no idea what the name is in English, but in Hebrew it’s זכאים- בוטיק טבעוני אורגינל which Google Translate tells me means ‘Payables – Original Vegan Boutique’, hmm.
Tel Aviv does this kind of cosy, rough elegant interior thing pretty well. Mismatched chairs, limewashed walls and raw ceilings are the norm in a lot of bars and cafes.
Another cute thing is the way that restaurants proudly display their fresh produce and make it into a decorative feature. With such beautiful vegetables why wouldn’t you? I seriously considered how to smuggle home several kilos of the amazing tomatoes and aubergines.
The food was a superb introduction to the Israeli cuisine, which usually tends to feature those burstingly fresh vegetables smoked or burnt to intensify the flavour, always served with lots of bread and a swirl of tahini. I think this was my favourite meal of the trip, in fact.
The next day was Saturday, the Shabbat, which we kind of didn’t realise means that everything in this Jewish city is closed all day: the shops, public transport, most museums — thankfully nearly all bars and restaurants are open though. As was the beach, and it was a beautiful day so, along with what seemed to be half of the city’s locals, we headed down there.
There’s a strip of beaches along the west side of the city, again an easy walk from our central location. We started at Gordon Beach, got ice cream and watched the locals playing beach volleyball and matkot (rather brutal looking beach tennis), then took a wander southwards down to Charles Clore garden.
There’s lots of interesting Bauhaus architecture along the way.
We cut back into town via a cute area called Sharazi with lots of cafes and artsy shops, cat-spotting along the way. There’s a large stray/semi-feral cat community in Tel Aviv, and much like the rest of the city’s inhabitants they seem pretty laid-back and happy to get on with their business without disturbing you.
We got lunch at Port Said, a cute indoor-outdoor cafe behind the Great Synagogue, where we’d had a drink the night before. The food was similar to the first night: a meltingly soft aubergine ‘sashimi’ doused in proper olive oil, a punchy bread salad with those fresh tomatoes, and creamy butterbean mash, washed down with fresh lemonade.
After lunch we caught a cab south of the city to Yafo (Jaffa). Tel Aviv grew from the ancient town of Yafo in the early 20th century and is now the bigger city, but they make up a joint metropolitan area. It’s got a nice lived-in vibe with lots of bars and cafes, and a flea market every day except Saturday (don’t worry, we came back for it).
We climbed around the Zodiac alleys – restored ancient walkways that wind up from the harbour….
…then popped into the food market at the port for a beer.
The view back to Tel Aviv from Jaffa Hill.
For dinner we went to Mezcal, a Mexican place in the Florentin area in our way back to the hotel. It was pretty impressive and tasty, and cocktails were at happy hour prices. We headed back for an early night, ready for an early start for our Jerusalem trip in the morning.
More soon! You can see all the places I visited on my Foursquare list.