T from Timewalking in Tel Aviv – Day 1

T from Timewalking in Tel Aviv – Day 1

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Israel is for sand. Sand and camels. And lots of bombs.

That’s most likely the answer I would have conjured up a couple of years ago, before I met N. Fotunately, I’ve come a long way since. But then even so, I wasn’t quite expecting what I lived in Tel Aviv on my quick winter fling to Israel. I didn’t expect to be sweating my buttocks off in November. I didn’t expect to be such a humus fan girl, but I most of all didn’t expect the city to grab me hard by the proverbial balls.

Tel Aviv has a mind-boggling mix of old-school flea markets, trendy coffee shops and stately avenues full of architectural heritage, of a thousands of years old port and million-dollar-listing modern condo’s, of 8-lane highways through the heart of the city and small, cosy, art-loving hippie happy districts. In fact it’s pretty ironic (and a good reason to never _just_ believe what the media are trying to spoon-feed you) because I don’t think I have ever seen such a peaceful attempt to coexisting cultures of hipsters, gays, Jewish families, Arab Muslims and stray cats as I’ve witnessed with my own eyes. The Tel Aviv bubble, it really exists.

The journey to Holy Land

The flight from Brussels Airport to Ben Gurion was really quite uneventful. And early as well. I got up at 4.45 and left home at 5.30, not exactly the time of the day I enjoy most :). Ever since the terrorist attack on Brussels airport earlier this year, they’ve increased the security measures, including some extra luggage check upon exiting the train terminal underground and with the mass stream of people constantly traveling through the airport, I didn’t want to risk being late. Vixxie being vixxie… I was royally early as per usual. And good as well, because the queue at the security checks was dazzling. At least, for Belgian standards it was. Things fell right into perspective when I entered the border control hall in Ben Gurion Tel Aviv. Half a football field full of ‘queueing’ people. More or less.

If there is something to be known about the Israeli rules of conduct, it’s that there aren’t really any rules at all. Push your way through the masses, use your elbows, growl a bit if you must. Don’t do like me, stand politely at the back of the queue awaiting your turn, wondering why after fifteen minutes, you are still the last person in the line and haven’t advanced half of an inch.

One hour and fifteen minutes later, I finally got my entry passport.

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Either way, being greeted by a set of beautiful palm trees in the hallway upon exiting and being able to hug my love and wonderful guide for the weekend, made every second of that 10 hour journey worth it.

Tel Aviv by night

Vixxie loves her nightlit city skylines. It’s been a tradition to always score a beautiful sight of the city after sundown, everywhere I travel. And sweet baby Jebus, did I get served in Tel Aviv.

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N. drove us to straight into the heart of the old port of Yafo, for one of his favourite views on the Mediterranean and modern city skyline. It’s a true showstopper. Yafo, the ancient (mostly Arabian feel) port town that sits on a hill just south of Tel Aviv was a perfect start point location to set the romantic mood that lingered on during the entire city trip.

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The real exploring and discovery of Yafo was planned for the next day, so we just soaked up the romance and the views while wandering the promenade towards Abulafia bakery, where I was introduced to the wondrous art of arab baking.

Abulafia bakery was founded in 1879 and it’s one of the oldest businesses in Israel. I wanted to try all the traditional Arabic pastries ! But I settled for a freshly baked samboosak that had a subtle taste of calzone cheese pizza. It’s a meal on its own and delicious ! N. chose for a minipie-like stuffed with egg and mushroom. We also bought two little sufganyot (a sweet cake-ish bread variant filled with strawberry jam, especially popular around Hannukah) and crispy chocolate mini-croissants for breakfast the next morning. Yummi !

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Florentin and all the reasons why I love AirBnB

Florentin – It’s a bit like Barcelona’s El Raval disctrict except everything is in Hebrew and there are ten stray cats on every corner of the street. A bit grungy, alotta hippy and with the charm of crumbling glory, you can find some fun cafes and a lot of powerful graffiti and murals with political and pop-cultural messages.

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Our flat was in the parallel street to the famous Club 27 graffiti : a tribute to famous singers and performers, died way too young when they were only 27 years old. Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrisson, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse… do you recognize the rest?

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Florentin’s lifestyle is very different to much of the Tel Aviv seen by tourists. Arabs and Jews, modern and old, it’s a neighborhood which is a little unsure of who it is, but is amazing at being what it is. At night, Florentin comes to life transforming from a place of hard work to gritty leisure. Florentin’s colorful character comes from a mixture of poverty and wealth, hard work and fun. Before 1990, the neglected buildings of Florentin fell into ruin and became the home for many of the country’s poorest citizens. But in the late 1990’s, a lot of urban artists and designers got attracted to Florentin, due to the availability of cheap living space in large loft-style buildings, and they created trendy live-work spaces out of the derelict buildings. Since then, Florentin has changed unrecognisably.

So… That brings the grand total to: Sacred sites, shiny architecture, pearly white beaches, the Mediterranean Sea as far as the eye can see AND gritty authentic neighbourhoods… but who are we kidding? Vixxie’s heart got stolen by a small army of furry felines, happily acting out in the streets of Florentin. It must be said, the Telavivians love their animals. And even though the dogs comfortably live inside the flats, all the stray cats are being fed with bowls of food and water on the pavements and tended to with a vet practise on every odd corner of the street. If we weren’t on a ‘tight’ schedule, I would have tried petting all of them… oh wait… I did. Cats are simply irresistable. Lots of cats. In the Holy Land. Holy Cats!

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Love the fact that Florentin is not as gentrified as it’s neighbour district Neve Tzedek, so that makes it a way cooler and more authentic neighborhood to reside in…. Well hello AirBnb ! Where else could you find a place for rent, in the middle of the pounding heart of Tel Aviv? We rented Udi’s small flat for a weekend, right in the center of Florentin Street. It was perfect per definition, I’ve never known AirBnB to disappoint.

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I am still stunned about how gay-friendly Tel Aviv is, especially considering that this is the Middle East and that Israel is a very religious country – there are only very few places in the world where you can live as ‘out and proud’ as in Tel Aviv, let alone have a Pride parade of epic proportions, attracting a crowd of over 100,000 people. The streets of Florentin are dotted and decorated with rainbow flags.

Tel Aviv is for kosher food… burgers.

And the best burgers can be found in The Garage, a small all-american diner restaurant next to the highway from Tel Aviv to Rishon Lezion. I wouldn’t necessarily have picked a burger meal for my first evening on jewish soil, but this just happened to be N.’s favourite homie restaurant, and you can’t ever go wrong with a good burger. The whole theme was styled around famous maffia characters and there I was, dining with the biggest crook of them all: the man who stole my heart 🙂 Those burgers and the company were fantastic ! The menu was in Hebrew only – tough luck – but the typography was impressive. Yes, I know. Professional habit.

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And on top of all the noms, I discovered Static and Ben-El. The Justin Biebers of Hebrew pop music ! They’ve stuck so much to the back or our heads that I even decided to learn the lyrics phonetically… Hilarious. And very stam, too (in vain). Hebrew words do not agree with me 🙂

We combined the Garage, that was slightly out of our way, with a quick drive around N.’s home neighbourhood in Rehovot. Driving past the very famous and prestigious Weissman institute of Science and around the faculty of agriculture, N. told me all about the in’s and out’s of the hood he’s grown up in. That man of mine is such a rich kid *wink*. If it weren’t for the blistering heat in November (remind me to never consider visiting in August!!!), I’d move there in a heart beat.

The second part of my journey starts here !

 

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