Travel Notes: Israel

I've taken a small break from the crazy travels of the first half of the year.  But in attempt to share my experiences and give some advice to fellow friends traveling abroad, I'm creating posts called "Travel Notes".  The first one is long overdue, but as one of my best friends is currently here - it's time to launch this sucker!  First stop - Tel Aviv, Israel.  Complete album of photos linked here.

Tel Aviv & Jerusalem
I was fortunate enough to visit Tel-Aviv for work in June.  It was a quick trip, but I fit a lot in and whet my appetite to go back. Tel-Aviv has an amazing energy.  It's full of good restaurants, nightlife and beautiful people both inside and out.  What struck me about Israel is an amazing sense of history.  Not just ancient history, but a history of a nation and generations that are still tied to creating that nation and fighting for its independence.  These are the chalutzim (pioneers) of Israel, and it seems every modern day Israeli has a story to tell of how their family history is tied to these pioneers.  And many of them are Polish - gotta love us.  :)  I found this aspect of the culture very interesting, and I look forward to learning more in coming trips.

- The general energy of the city.
HaTachana, the Hebrew name for the old Jaffa railway station which has been transformed into a shopping complex with really cool shops and restaurants.
- My friend Adi's, balcony.  Complete with the best lounge chairs around.  Next time I will take a picture.
- Jersualem.  Wow.  I think human history was pretty much born here and you feel it.  For a Catholic, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was amazing and moving.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (where Jesus was crucified and buried).

Memorable Eats:
Manta Ray - Middle Eastern fish and seafood restaurant.  Right on the shores of the ocean.  Well known in Tel Aviv and absolutely delicious.
NG - 1.5 kilos of porterhouse steak dipped in butter.  I mean come on, does it get better than that?  Yes.  This restaurant is in the Neve Tzedek, which is a really charming, beautiful and charasmatic neighborhood in Tel-Aviv filled with great restaurants and cafes.

Chomping into the 1.5 kiloness - No, I didn't eat this all by myself.

What I brought back
- A tan, finally, after a long winter in London where my skin grew continuously more pale, dangerously approaching the hue I was as an infant, before the sun ever touched my skin.
Spices in the Shouk (Za'atar is the green stuff)
- Za'atar, which is a dried herb mixture popular in the Middle East.   Also known as "crack" to those of us who've just discovered how deliciously addicting it can be.  Add it to hummus or sprinkle over grilled haloumi and ride the bliss cloud.
- Halva from the Shouk (marketplace in Jerusalem)
- Peanut butter puffs (for Kristen, but I ate most of them - sorry)
- Michal Negrin - Fashion and jewelry designer.  Her designs are whimsical and romantic with a vintage feel.  I think every girl could find a nice piece from her to add to the collection.  It's all Israeli made and has a lifetime guarantee, so it's an authentic souvenir.  And Adi confirms Michal Negrin is a wonderful person as well.  P.S. Don't let the website scare you away, it's a bit much.

What I Want to Do When I go Back
- Visit more of Tel-Aviv, see Yaffo
- Swim in the Dead Sea
- Dive in Eilat
- Take a day trip to Petra, Jordan from Eilat
- Spend more time exploring Jerusalem

Favorite words
Sababa - "good", "cool"
motek - "honey" (like sweetie) - no, no one called me this but a girl can always dream  :)

I will stop at those two words.  I've actually picked up a good 20 to 30 words, which I throw around at opportune moments.  But let's not go into detail.  Otherwise, this could be misconstrued as speaking Hebrew, which border control was convinced of because I carried a Polish passport.  I've never been questioned in so much detail as I was coming in and out of Israel.  Always my luck.

Things to Watch Out For
- Always ask the cab drive to run the meter - ALWAYS.
- Buy a guide book.  Especially for Jerusalem.  In North America and much of Europe, we're used to some sort of signage/guidance at historic places.  I hadn't really prepared for the trip and going into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I had no clue what I was looking at and there wasn't anything indicating what it was.  But people were crying in front of it, so I knew it was important.  Between Adi and I, we pieced together a tour by listening to other tour groups, but take my advice and do your homework or bring a guide to get the most out of the experience.
- The airport - it's a process, be patient and leave lots of time.
- Israelis are very direct - appreciate it, don't take it personally.  You always know where you stand.  :)


  1. Jackie, just an enjoyment to read your blog. I'd love to follow all your trips! Keep traveling and keep writing!
    How's everything in Paris? Settled down? I am sure you are going to have another lovely experience!
    All the best!

  2. Motek, or as I like to call you, "My little motek." It's the kind of culturally blended idiom we Americans find quaint.

    This was a fantastic article, and timely, thank you! I have a few short hours before I leave this morning to stroll around a bit. The heart and culture of this place and people has really made an impression. I hope I can travel back here one day soon.


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