Tel Aviv 2010

Day 11

We had an 8:45am pickup for a 10:25am flight to Tel Aviv.  The airport in Eilat is literally five minutes away  – you could walk if you were willing to lug your luggage.  This airport is completely undersized for the number of people going through there, but they had a lot of security people working so the process was quick.  We flew on Azira – no problems.

We arrived at Sde Dov airport –  were picked up by a driver (that VIP service again) and driven straight to the Melody Hotel.  Read my review of the Melody Hotel here.  Tonight was going to be the first night of Passover but things were still open and bustling when we arrived in Tel Aviv.  We made a reservation for lunch at Orna & Ella in the Shenkin neighborhood.  It was a bit of a walk so we took the bus in order to get there in time for our reservation.  We had a fabulous lunch – and the tip for the Sweet Potato Pancakes I got online, was spot on – incredibly delicious!!  When we were done it was 2pm and things were still busy outside so we decided to do some shopping in the many interesting boutiques. We went into a bathing suit store and Lauren started trying on suits.  The employees were extremely nice and helpful and she purchased a bathing suit she liked.  We walked out of the store at 3:15 – and what a difference!!  Everything was closed and the streets were empty as everyone had headed home to prepare for their Seder.  We decided to take a leisurely walk back to the hotel and enjoyed the quiet streets.

We had originally planned to just go to Tiv Tam market and get some food for dinner, as I had already confirmed they would be open.  However, the lady at the front desk said she had found three restaurants open for dinner that night.  Only the Red Chinese was within walking distance so we tried to make a dinner reservation there, but nothing available until 10pm.  Then another other guy at the front desk said the Hilton Hotel, which was just across the street, had a lounge open that we could go to without a reservation.

We headed over there about 7:45 and walked into the lobby of the hotel.  It was packed with people dressed to the nines mingling with each other.  We felt a bit out of place but headed to the lounge where a few other people were dining.  About fifteen minutes later at 8pm the crowds dispersed into various ballrooms for their specific seders.  There was a very limited menu in the lounge – they had a special Passover menu for the week but even more limited tonight.   However, we had very good Caesar and Greek Salads and gefilte fish so we were quite pleased .

 DAY 12

Today was the first full day of Passover so most stores, etc. were closed but restaurants were open.  We headed up to the hotel’s wonderful rooftop terrace to rest and read.  For lunch my parents walked along the Promenade and ate at a restaurant there.  The four of us headed to Goocha a few blocks away on Dizengoff St.  Another excellent meal – stellar seafood!  We had a great leisurely lunch then just rested more in the sun.  For dinner we decided to head to the Red Chinese as now we could get a reservation – Michael loves Chinese and when he heard we had missed the opportunity for Chinese food the night before he requested (begged) that we go there tonight.  Well, frankly it was the worst Chinese food we have ever had – enough said.

 Day 13

We met back up with Menachem today and he basically gave us a full tour of Tel Aviv, visiting Old Jaffa, Tel Aviv neighborhoods, markets, etc.

The highlight of the day was definitely Independence Hall.

There was a well done movie there that gave an overview of the history of Tel Aviv.  Also, an excellent docent who gave a fabulous talk on why Independence Hall in Tel Aviv was chosen to announce the Independence of Israel and details about that day.  We were taken into the room – set up just as it was that day and listened to audio recordings of that day.  I must say this was one of the most emotional experiences of the trip – just an overwhelming sense of coming full circle after 2000 years of the diaspora to finally have a homeland.

We had another wonderful lunch of mezze and mixed grill at Itzik Hagadol Grill on Raziel St. in Jaffa.

We were surprised to see that they also have a location in Encino, California!  Since Lauren attends college in Los Angeles – we have eaten there several times when we have gone down to visit her – it is just as good there!

We were done touring mid afternoon and we all split up in different directions. Lauren and I hit the many boutiques on Dizengoff street and enjoyed the rest of the  afternoon together.

For dinner we ate at Boccaccio – a nice Italian restaurant, then walked back home along the promenade.

DAY 14

Today was the last full day of our trip and a packed one.  Menachem picked us up at 9am and we headed straight to Caesarea.  It was a beautiful day and a stunning location right on the ocean.  Well preserved and restored, it did seem a bit more “commercial” than many of the other places we had been – but I can not deny that it would be cool to see a concert sitting at the ancient amphitheater.

Next we headed to Haifa and drove up to the top of the city and looked down at the B’hai Gardens, but we all agreed not to do the one hour garden tour.

Instead we went to Habank for lunch – I did not care for what I ordered but everyone else really enjoyed their lunch there.

From there we drove to Akko and visited the crusader fortress – amazingly well preserved.

We walked through the old part of the city to the tunnels and out to the beautiful coast.  We did do some last minute shopping/bargaining!!

It was a long day and we arrived back at the hotel at 6:15pm.

We had a 7:30 reservation at Gilly’s at the Port so quickly rested up before walking down there.  Had a nice dinner but not up to the caliber of Orna & Ella or Goocha.  Back to the hotel to pack for our flights home.

DAY 15

Today we flew home and it was also my birthday.  We always travel during the kid’s spring break,  which is generally the last two weeks in March.  Sometimes I have just returned home on my birthday, other times I have spent it shopping in Buenos Aires or serving schoolchildren lunch in Cambodia.  This year was one of those years where I get to celebrate by traveling home – eating airplane/airport food and having the day last for 34 hours!!  But our travel day was uneventful, we arrived safely home and I was able to think about the great memories of our trip – so all in all a great birthday!!

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