This is a city is known for dancing the night away. Celebrity chefs and trendy restaurants. Beaches and world-class museums. I had heard from my friends for years about how fantastic this city was and how as a foodie I was completely missing out. The day finally came to step out of my comfort zone (Europe) and plunge forward.
As the bus crept down the street towards my hotel I kept waiting to see the high-class shops and fancy restaurants. What I had envisioned and what I ended up seeing were two very different things. I saw people strolling and riding bikes. Tree lined streets. Cafe’s and local restaurants. People gathering for coffee at a kiosk. Then what everyone probably wants to see, the Mediterranean. I made my way to the beach and stopped at the pay station to pay for chairs and an umbrella. Hoping I could take a nap was a bit foolish as the sun was intense. I didn’t want to make the mistake of waking with blistered red skin. Thankfully with music being played nearby and all the kids running up and down the beach, I was assured I could remain alert. After a dip in the Mediterranean to cool off it was time to venture on.
The Carmel market seduced me that afternoon. The first stall I noticed was filled with colorful and aromatic spices. I was invited to dip my finger in and taste. Not just one but any and all spices that I desired. Sampling one and then another and another. Flavors of pistachio, mango, paprika. I couldn’t stop nor did I want to.
After placing my order for the three generous bags of spices I paid and moved on. I didn’t get very far before I heard a man’s voice jovial and loud. Looking to the left I saw a very narrow store. Overflowing with tubes and jars. The space so small and the bins piled high with every kind of cream from The Dead Sea you could imagine. I quickly found out this was Leon’s place. He greets you and engages you immediately. Offering to answer questions about what you want and guiding you where to find it. Seriously how could he even know where anything was.
I spent the next thirty minutes with Leon. His personality was infectious. He engaged me with his British accent and his jovial laughter. Once again I left with a bag full of goodies.
Finally I came upon breads being crafted. Ovens were blazing and I watched the bread being shaped then put in the oven to bake until it bubbled and browned in all the right places. It was then brushed with olive oil and za’atar. Handed over to me warm. Consumed immediately. Never have I ever tasted such a delicate mix of flavours all at the same time. Street food at it’s best!
The hustle and bustle of the market continued as I walked by numerous other vendors selling electronics, clothes, and fruit to name a few. Anything you could think of seemed to be available at the largest market or shuk as they call it in Tel Aviv.
As I made my way to the promanede the sun was scorching and it wasn’t very long before I needed to stop for a drink. Bars and restaurants look out onto the sea and I’m at the halfway point to Jaffa.
Jaffa the oldest part of Tel Aviv has numerous alleys to get lost in. Wander into a gallery or two. Shop for antiques or browse through the flea market. Some of the best restaurants can also be found in Jaffa where the streets are once again bustling with the younger set of people.
While I only began to uncover the first layer of Tel Aviv, I was struck by the old and new. The city touched me differently than I had expected. I was reluctant for a long time to make this trip. Now I can’t wait to go back. Tel Aviv has trendy restaurants, gorgeous sunsets and friendly people. Alleys to get lost in. Markets to pursue and the glorious sea!
Life Begins at the end of your comfort zone! Cheers Tamara!
- I dined at Cafe’ Puaa in Jaffa. Reservations were needed for dining outside. Couches for sale made this places feel as if you were in someone’s home. Colorful and iconic. Order the fried cauliflower for a tasty starter and the Red Tahini. The menu has delightful vegetarian options as well as a favorable wine list.
- Yes I kept turning the menu upside down