Tel Aviv

Friday 4 May 2018

I have wanted to go to Tel Aviv for so long. The vegan food capital.

I’m so excited that I’m finally going.

It’s a 5 hour flight from London and Israel is 2 hours ahead of London. So it was 11.30pm when we landed.

Passport took ages. The queue just moved so slowly. But when we got to the front, we were very quick, so I don’t know why some people were taking so long.

On a Friday evening, the only option into the city is by a taxi, or a sherut (a shared taxi).

We just got a normal taxi. And it was now 12.30am. It cost 155 shekels (£32).

The drive was quick – around 20 minutes – and there was no traffic. We are staying in the middle of Tel Aviv city in a boutique hotel.

1am – and bed time!

Saturday 5 May 2018

From Friday sunset (well, 18 minutes before Sunset!) until 1 hour after sunset on Saturday sunset (until 3 stars can be seen in the sky!) is the Jewish Shabbat. ie the day of rest. And this is what Israel operates on! Apparently most shops will be closed. And no buses run.

We were up and out by 10am (which is really 8am for us – and we only arrived at 1am).

Tel Aviv is Israel’s second largest city, after Jerusalem. The vast majority of the city is a UNESCO world heritage site, due to its 1903s Bauhaus style buildings.

The plan for the day was just to wander around. Tel Aviv doesn’t have any main ‘sights’ as such. Just 400 vegan cafes! And I planned to go to as many as possible!

We are staying right on the Rothschild Boulevard. A green strip of land, surrounded by cool buildings and a few landmarks.

From here, we headed into Neve Tzedek, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Tel Aviv, founded in 1887. These were narrow streets, filled with flowers and pretty houses. Really cool.

Then through an area completely full of graffiti everywhere. Some of it was very clever.

We were heading down into Jaffa. Jaffa is the oldest part of Tel Aviv and is an Arab area. There was a large colourful mosque and the 1903 clock tower.

We had barely seen any people on our walk so far. But it was a bit busier down here – Arabs and tourists.

We weaves around all the old narrow streets. We found the floating orange tree! And steps leading up to the main square. There was a small market up here – and views to the port below us.

Jaffa has one of the oldest known harbours in the world, the port of Jaffa was mentioned in the Bible and was once the disembarkation point for pilgrims to the Holy Land.

Jaffa is also famous for its flea market. But on a Saturday, it is closed.

From here, we had great views of the beach front of Tel Aviv city.

We started walking along the beach front. We were walking for ages. But didn’t seem to get too far on the map! I think I was being a bit optimistic for how far we were going to walk.

The beach front is 14km long (we weren’t going to walk anywhere near that far!)

So we gave up and got a taxi up to the northern end of the city – up to the Dizengoff circle area.

There is a vegan cafe that I wanted to come to here – Anastasia.

It was so busy. There was a queue. But it didn’t take long to get a table. We ordered what everyone else was having – the breakfast platter. Literally every table had one of these!

It was some slices of bread, with a salad, scrambled tofu (which had black salt in, so tasted weirdly like egg) and a lot of dips – turmeric tahini, soy cottage cheese, sauerkraut, pesto and hazelnut butter. It was good.

We wandered around this neighbourhood for a while. Stopping in a newsagent to get some bamba – peanut butter puff crisps (!) I’ve never seen there before. Like wotsits – but peanut butter flavour!

And then walked past a hummus shop that I wanted to visit. I wasn’t all that hungry, given we had just eaten. But….we went anyway.

Because the food I was most looking forward to eating here – hummus.

Hummus in Israel doesn’t seem to be the same as we get at home. Here, it is silky smooth. And topped with various things, like chickpeas, beans, onions and pickles.

In this shop, there were 3 options. Hummus with chickpeas on top. Hummus with fava beans on top. Or chunky hummus.

They automatically brought a plate of pitta beads. And a plate full of pickles, chillis and onion. It was a lot of food.

The hummus was disappointing. It just didn’t taste right. I’m not sure why. After being so excited about it, it was a let down.

From here we continued walking back in the direction of our hotel. South, through the city.

Carmel market is closed today (will go on Monday). But a couple of shops were open. Including Arte glideria – the gelato shop with 15 (!) vegan flavours!! After being given many samples, we got almond flavour and passion fruit flavour. So good!

The shops all around here were largely tailors and haberdasheries. We popped into a small supermarket for a browse!

It was 5pm by the time we got back to the hotel. And had a rest after a lot of walking.

We headed back out for dinner about 7pm. We went to Meshek barzilay, which was only a few minutes away from us. The food was good – I had noodles. But the service was terrible. We had to wait for so long. So I wasn’t very impressed.

We were too full and too tired for dessert, which was a shame!

An early night ahead of an early morning tomorrow!

Sunday 6 May 2018

See Jerusalem here – Jerusalem

Monday 7 May 2018

It was raining when we woke up. Not a good sign. But by time time we headed out at 9.30am, it had stopped.

Today we were going to the markets – as they were shut on Saturday when we were wandering around the city.

The first market was Levinsky, this was just one block away from us. I don’t know if we were too early, but not much was open. There were a few spices/dried fruit/pulses shops open, but not much else. Not too exciting.

The surrounding area was full of tailors, but most of those were closed too.

So we headed north. Up to Carmel market.

Carmel market is Tel Aviv’s busiest street market. It sells everything – fruits, vegetables, juice, spices, traveller baggy trousers, plastic stuff and fake everything (clothes, makeup etc). It was starting to get busy.

We wandered down the whole length of the market. Then stopped off at a hummus shop – Humus HaCarmel. This cafe is inside an old synagogue and has retained some of the features – stained glass windows and writing across the walls. It was cool.

And the hummus was so good. Much better than the one we had the other day. I like hummus again.

As well as market stalls, the market street is lined with shops. We bought a few things at an organic/vegan store.

A traditional Israeli dessert is malabi. One hole-in-the-wall called Hamalabiya sells vegan malabi. And there is one in Carmel market. So we stopped off here too. It was good. Made from almond milk, which has been set. Topped with rose water and a syrup of choice – we went with ‘traditional’ raspberry and pomegranate, with buscuit bits and coconut. I really liked it.

I really wasn’t hungry anymore. But it was the last opportunity to get vegan gelato from the amazing shop with so many flavours. Today they had chilli chocolate – I tried it, it was amazing. But we shared a pot of plain chocolate and pistachio instead.

After picking up some vegan sushi for the journey home, we collected our stuff and got a taxi back to the airport.

I have read lots of reports about how slow, busy and awful Israeli airport security is. And it is recommended to be at the airport 3 hours before the flight.

We arrived at the airport about 2pm. Our flight was at 4.40pm.

The first line was for people travelling with hand baggage only. We were asked a few questions about why we were there, whether we had a nice time. And that was about it. It wasn’t quite the grilling I had been reading about. They didn’t go through every single page of my (completely full) passport or ask about any previous travel. There was a slight problem as my passport photo doesn’t look like me. But he seemed satisfied with my Indian visa instead.

The queue at business class scanning was much shorter than the normal one. And we were through very quickly. Then similarly for the actual passport exit. It was quick.

And we were done.

That didn’t take anywhere near as long as i was expecting. It was around 2.30pm when we got into the shopping area.

Our plane was quite delayed leaving, not taking off until nearly 5.30pm. And a 5 hour flight back to London.

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