Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Visiting Israel: Solo in Tel-Aviv

I woke up Saturday morning to a ridiculously beautiful day. Sun was shining, not even a single cloud in the sky, warm temperature… an amazing day for a trip.

A quick breakfast and a visit from another uncle of mine; by 12:30 I was already making my way to the taxi-cab station (you can’t take a bus in Israel on Saturdays; that’s what happens when religion is intermingled with politics).

Traffic is usually light on weekends, and Saturday was no exception. It took the cab 15 minutes to arrive at the beach.

I left the cab in Tel-Aviv’s “Opera Tower” – an impressive building with malls and restaurants right across the road from the beach. I can’t begin to describe how lovely the weather was, and the sight of the Mediterranean Sea, along with Tel-Aviv’s magnificent beach, just added to the exhilaration.

Oh, how I missed the scent of the beach.

In one famous Seinfeld episode, Kramer suggest an idea for coming up with a cologne that smells like the beach. I think this idea has its merits.

Armed with an MP3 player containing all of Mark Knopfler’s, Richard Bennett’s and Guy Fletcher’s work as well as Eddie Vedder’s “Into the Wild” soundtrack, I started marching north on the Herbert Samuel promenade, the beach to my immediate left. It’s winter here… sort of (one of the warmest winters in Israel’s history, if not the warmest yet); people happily took advantage and populated the beach. It also happened to be Valentine’s Day, which explained the scores of couples and families strolling up and down the promenade.

I took my time, walking slowly; great music in my ears, the scent of the sea, the sun… few things could compare to that.

Herds of people pass by as I walk northbound on the promenade that is never more than 25 meters away from the beach, and at most times – about one meter away. Waves smash against the boardwalk, sending salty mist into the air. Occasionally I stop walking, standing still in order to grasp a deep, full breath of fresh air; then gazing at the water, so blue, reflecting the perfect cloudless sky. Usually, in such cases, one shuts his eyes and imagines he’s in a beautiful, heavenly place; I insisted to keep my eyes open.

The promenade is swamped with everything you need to make for a joyful stay. Magic shows for the kids, acrobatics, and more importantly – countless restaurants, ice-cream stands, coffee shops. Other establishments, much less interesting for me but more interesting to others, are the scores of clothing stores, shoe stores and whatnot. There is something here for everyone.

After about 20 minutes of walking, I deviated a bit from the promenade and sat down on a rock, by the water. Looking at the waves rushing to the shore, I come to realize – heck, Richard Bennett’s “A Face No More” sounds so great when you happen to look at the sea. Feeling a bit melancholic, yet hypnotized by the beauty surrounding me, I continued gazing at the beach. In moments like these you can actually feel how you’re being recharged.

I kept on walking another twenty minutes or so, where the promenade ends near the Reeding Chimney. Make no mistake: this is not the end of the beach stretch in Israel. It’s just the end of the Herbert Samuel promenade. The Coastal Plain ( measures some 187km of beach, most of which is easily accessible.

I turned back and started walking towards the Opera Tower, stopping on the way for a bottle of water. Once across the road from the Opera Tower, I stopped for another 10 minutes of fresh air.

Cryptic mental personal reminder: Once I got up again, I decided to close a circle. I found the nearest trash can and got rid of that thing in the very same place where it started.

It was still daylight, so I started walking away from the beach. I walked up Allenby Street, then turned left into Rothschild Street. I was determined to, once and for all, try out that burger joint everybody’s been telling me about. It’s called “Moses” (even though some people call it “Holy Moses”), one block east from the Allenby-Rothschild intersection ( I was supposed to be accompanied by Omer, however he’s been sick lately.

There was quite a line up, so I decided to go sit at the bar.

“Hello, how are you doing?” the bartender greeted me.

“Great, thanks; and yourself?”

“Fine. Would you like anything to eat or drink?”

I was in no mood for guesswork, so I just asked:

“What’s this hamburger that everyone keeps telling me about?”

The guy smiled. “You mean the Art-Burger”.

This unique burger (you can see the description in the English menu available in their website) weighs a bit more than 1/2 lbs, and made up of a mixture of ground beef, lamb and veal, mixed with a home-made pepper ketchup. Sounds interesting, huh? Yeah, I know.

I asked if there are any toppings that come with the burger. The bartender said that the chef prefers to not serve it with any “strange” toppings such as mushrooms, as it destroys the taste – a better idea would be to get those mushrooms on the side, which I did.

Ten feet away from me there were seated two extremely cute girls. I decided that if I’m not going to approach any of them, then at least I should eat the same side-dish that they do. So I ordered a side of fries, which arrived after 3 minutes and lasted for another 10 before the entire plate’s contents were destroyed.

Then came the burger. I looked at it with awe, curious as to whether this is going to be something worth telling Richard Bennett about. Then I went in.

Holy Moses, indeed. This burger is so tasty, you can literally feel taste buds you never knew existed, and you can hear them thanking you for waking them up, finally, after so long.


250 grams of wonderful meat went by way to quickly; I paid and left, again to Allenby Street. There’s millions of bus lines going through Allenby Street. Initially, I thought about going on one of them and head back home; then I realized that it’s a stupid idea, as the weather was perfect for a walk along the beach.

And so I went.

Back in the Herbert Samuel promenade, I took another walk along the beach. Pace even slower than before, with more great music in my ears. “Cold water / it’s on my face for the first time” I can hear Guy Fletcher singing, the light acoustic arpeggios blends perfectly with the waves turning into white foam just meters away.

Walking north on the promenade at a clear night (which is almost every night) provides you with an awesome view of the Tel-Aviv skyline. This city never sleeps, and there’s something inviting you in 24 hours a day. I keep thinking to myself “what a great city”, looking back in time when I used to hate this place and simply can’t understand why.

And so I continued to walk north, then decided to walk back – but now, on the actual beach. And there I went, stepping on the wet beach sand, white waves’ foam centimetres away from my feet. I walk and I see young and old couples sitting on the beach, getting lost in the moment and letting the cool breeze take away all their troubles.

I then sat down on a large rock somewhere, and sunk into yet another ten minutes’ “chill-out” session involving staring at the wonderful waters and listening to music. Eddie Vedder’s “Guaranteed” is now playing, and I can literally feel my brain getting lighter and lighter. “I’m nature-drunk and high”, quoting another Vedder song.

Heaven on earth.

It started getting late and so I made my way to the Opera Tower, and within a minute I was sitting in the so-called “service cab” on my way home, a mere 15 minutes drive including stops along the way.

What a great day.



No comments: