After settling into our hotel, we spent what remained of our afternoon walking along the seashore towards Old Jaffa. A bit too late in the day for a dip in the ocean, but I enjoyed the vibe and was reminded of southern California beaches and SoCal surfer culture. We arrived in Old Jaffa at magic hour, just as the sun was beginning to set. It’s a small little neighborhood, many of the shops were closing for the day, but things were still lively in Kedumim Square with evening dancing - many couples were participating and it was fun to watch. Prior to 1949, Jaffa and Tel Aviv were two different municipalities and it felt different than the other parts of the city we visited.
From there we wandered back towards our hotel, stopping for dinner at Nanuchka, a Georgian-inspired vegan restaurant with some delicious food and cocktails. Awesome vibe as well, funky tables and chairs and lots of art on the walls. We sat inside near the bar. I had their French Lemonade cocktail, which I’d gladly have again – it had a hint of an anise flavor if I remember correctly and wasn’t too sweet or too sour.
After dinner, we headed over to the more touristy part of town and took a walk down Rothschild Boulevard to admire some of the Bauhaus architecture for which the city is known. Dubbed the White City, Tel Aviv’s collection of over 4,000 Bauhaus buildings is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The buildings were built in the 1930s by German Jewish architects fleeing Nazi Germany. The architectural style is geometric, spacious, devoid of ornamentation, and usually made of concrete. The Bauhaus movement had a huge and lasting impact on art and design.
We ended the evening relaxing at Shpagat, one of Tel Aviv’s many café bars. We just happened to walk by and we were drawn in by the relaxed atmosphere and fun stadium seating– turns out (after a quick google) it’s one of Tel Aviv’s top gay bars – something you probably don’t find much of in the Middle East.
The next day we tried to get an early start, and headed over to the Camel Market in the Yemenite Quarter to check it out and a take some photos. While it wasn’t the most exciting or interesting market I’ve been too, I was awed by the mountains of delicious looking red cherries for sale at the fruit stales. A trip regret: not eating any of them!
Next up we wandered slowly back towards Rothschild Boulevard in search of some coffee. On the way, we passed what looked to us like a bomb shelter. I honestly thought we’d see a bit more of this sort of thing then we did.
It was at this point in the trip that I realized my bank had frozen my account. Despite an advanced warning of my travels and an acknowledgement on their part, they still froze my account – excellent fraud protection or complete incompetence? You be the judge. Forty-five minutes later and $15 dollars poorer due to the international calling fees, I thought it was sorted – but I was so wrong. More on that later.
Refueled from the coffee but frustrated by my bank, we set out for another walk, this time landing at Meshek Barzilay for lunch. It was a cute little place, we were surrounded by an eclectic mix of local families, international transplants, and presumably, other travelers. We got their chocolate mousse, and it was delicious – sometimes all you need to fix a bad mood is a little chocolate!
From here we headed over to the Flea Market in Jaffa. It was probably one of my favorite things we did in Tel Aviv. I loved wandering around the neighborhood and in and out of bizarre, over stuffed, antique shops - so many little treasures for sale and interesting tableaus of life there. I could have easily spent another few hours – but with so little time we had to head back to our hotel, gather our bags, and head for the bus station. But, not before wedging in one more amazing meal at the Persian-inspired, Zakaim.
To sum it up, perhaps during our brief stay in Tel Aviv, we spent a lot of time eating and drinking… but in a city known for its food, cafés, and bar culture, it seems a fitting way to spend the time. It was a very comfortable city; one I could easily see my lifestyle fitting into. Hard to imagine a place so relaxing and full of art and culture and free love can be so close to so much turmoil. But that’s Tel Aviv.