We had a leisurely morning before leaving Jerusalem, as there was no rush, no commitment of transport to meet. Ended up leaving the hotel a little after 10am, taking a cab to the Central Bus Station and catching a bus to Tel Aviv. This trip took all of 45 min and cost 16 ILS pp (less than $6 AUD), much better than the $100 USD plus it would’ve cost for a private driver or taxi.
Got to the other end and the taxi drivers wanted to negotiate a price, starting at 75 ILS to go the 1.8km to our hotel. We found one with a meter and with ridiculous traffic for the middle of the day ended up paying 50 ILS (it was 47, but we rounded up).
We checked into our second Atlas hotel of this trip – 65 Hotel Rothschild. It was another hip and happening place, with the only flaw being a bit of an issue with the soundproofing between rooms. We did enjoy the vibe of breakfast in Café 65 and the lobby in general – it sounded like we were in New York City with many Jewish New Yorkers accents coming from all over the place, and they were just as friendly and chatty as the locals! See here for our pics and review.
Upon arrival at the hotel, because we were early for check in, the friendly woman on reception made us a lunch reservation at a restaurant we had shortlisted and we left our luggage and headed straight there.
Messa Chef Restaurant
Messa Chef Restaurant was our second ‘wow’ dining experience in Israel. We went with the 128 ILS ($48 AUD) two course business lunch, which also came with a chef’s welcome drink (“herbal infusion”) of passionfruit and mint, three dips (olive oil & balsamic, eggplant, and spicy pepper) and bread. We said no to dessert and the chef still sent us out two perfect balls of coconut ice cream.
Our actual meal: FIRST: Homemade shallot ravioli, shimeji mushrooms, tomato raisins, blue cheese fondue and candied pecans. Salad of baby jam leaves (which is iceberg lettuce), young cucumber, Iranian figs, mustard vinaigrette and salty cheese (some light as air, creamy feta). SECOND: truffle ravioli with lemon cream and Thassos olives. Caramelised salmon served with coconut mousse, gnocchi, wild mushrooms and zucchini. We began the meal with a Cava from Spain – Monistrol “Seleccion Especial” N.V. and followed it with a Sancerre (pretty much my favourite white grape) “Les Baronnes”, Henry Bourgeois, Loire, France, 2015.
All aspects of this lunch consumption were eyes rolling back in the head, eyes closing, soft groan making moments. Such a perfect start to this new city! And also a delightful contrast to the experience of last night at Machneyuda – both exceptional restaurants, both so very different! (See previous post for this experience.)
We delighted in walking the 1.6km back to the hotel. The streets around the hotel while congested with traffic, are actually great for pedestrians, with a wide walking and cycling path down the middle of the leafy boulevard, making it a pleasant way to get around. People were walking their dogs, children riding their bikes, a group of old men playing petanque, all giving the vibe of a neighbourhood rather than capital city. So many walkers, sitters, and many cruising silently on their battery powered bikes and scooters. It was so like Amsterdam Ave in Culiacan, Mexico City where we stayed in the Red Tree House.
Neve Tzedek and Old Jaffa Town
The next morning we set out at a reasonable hour – the goal being the old town of Jaffa and the flea market. We strolled down our Rothschild Boulevard and when we reached the end of it, got out our map to work out our next move. The second I did, a young woman approached us to offer assistance. She was utterly delightful, so thoughtful and kind and friendly. She lived in Neve Tzedek, and loved her country and her city. After our 20 minutes of conversation about everything from the Holocaust to where to eat for lunch to “you must stay with me next time you are in Israel”, we headed out for the rest of our day feeling fortunate to have met this woman. She was the epitome of the Israeli locals – just so friendly and helpful.
We strolled towards the Mediterranean and were presented with the darkest, most ominous sky ahead, but one that was beautifully lit by the morning sun. Rain began to do more than threaten, so we increased our pace to get to the old town of Jaffa, and hopefully some shelter. The rain retreated once again, and we climbed the slippery lime stone steps to the old town, discreetly trying to avoid the embarrassment of French teenage boys being yelled t by their teacher for not doing as they were told. That teacher was awesome and had them all in line with his reprimand.
The wind and occasional rain bursts made lingering in the old town less appealing. As it was only late morning, the pinnacle of Jaffa old town was mostly still closed, so we left via Abrasha Park, pausing to take in the vantage point at the top of hill for spectacular views of the city and coast.
Jaffa Flea Market was just east of the Old Town, so we headed in that direction hoping the rains would stay away. When we first arrived, I was amazed that such a junk pile warranted such a prestigious mark on the map, but then we realised we had arrived at the rear end, really, which was just a bitumen square marked out in yellow paint grids for people to offload their crap. We continued to the real flea market section, which was full of tempting stores: antiques, clothing, knick-knacks, and one amazing contemporary furniture store; I would happily furnish a whole house from their contents. Too much for hand luggage, and no room in our house!
Having made that declaration, we succumbed to temptation and entered a little ceramics gallery called Slush Shioshim on our walk back through Neve Tzedek (just browsing, of course!). We were both very impressed at the quality of the work on display and the surprisingly reasonable prices and so bought two small items from local artists. The woman staffing the gallery was one of the artists, and we bought one of her bowls in a technique that she learnt in Australia. It’s called Arabic lustre and it is quite difficult to create and is extraordinary to look at. The red Arabic lustre bowl was by Raya Stern and the other gold lined vessel was by Rani Gilat.
Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Colourful and clever street art geared us up for a visit to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. This museum houses many, many works, but we were drawn to the impressionists and postimpressionists on display. Loved that there were works by many of our favourite artists that we had never seen before: Picasso, Henri Moore, Miró, Chagall, Pissarro, Cézanne, Klimt, Raoul Dufy…an artistically delicious afternoon.
While in the museum, we missed a bit of a thunderstorm, and instead strolled back to our hotel in a freshly washed city in lovely light. A few sprinkles hurried us home, where our entry was timed perfectly with happy hour. Assaf, the friendly server at happy hour with the generous pour, chatted with us, glad to answer our questions. So proud of his country and this city – rightfully so!
Our adventures continue in Israel with our time in Haifa and Caesarea…