First and foremost, I should mention that Israel is in my Top 5 places that I have ever been. Coming up with a Top 5 list is incredibly difficult for me, but Israel is a definite and one I put there without hesitation.
In 2011, for my great friend Colleen’s 30th birthday, we did as you do when you’re an ex-pat in London that can never sit still, and we jetted off for an unforgettable week away in Israel. Israel is magical. In just six and a half days we were able to very easily tour this small country, beginning in Tel Aviv, renting a car and driving from Tel Aviv up north to the Golan Heights, heading back down and around the Sea of Galilei (taking a dip into the water “where Jesus walked” as we did), going further south into Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho and the Dead Sea, and then moving west back to Tel Aviv to fly back out. Below is our itinerary.
We arrive mid-day in Tel Aviv and after dropping our things at the wonderful boutique Chic Center Hotel, we head straight to the café/bar Tepale. Going to Tepale I believe changed the rest of our trip. As this somewhat of a dive locale is known for apparently, within moments of arriving we were in conversations with the locals, being given shots from the bartenders, and basically having our entire food and nightlife itinerary planned by these overly generous and friendly people.
They sent us to Georgian owned, bohemian feeling Nanuschka for pre-dinner drinks, and Tapas 1 for some Spanish-Isreal fusion food, both of which were wonderful. Afterwards Radio was the bar of choice late into the nighttime hours.
After an absolutely unforgettable brunch from the shaded terrace of Cafe Suzanna, we toured the trendy Neve Tsedek area, wondering up and down the charming streets and quickly beginning to wish we could reside there permanently. Already swept up in the romantisism we were realizing was Tel Aviv, we continued on our exploration and walked the beaches that line the city and were swarmed with animated young men and women.
Proving that the people of this city say what they mean and truly want you to enjoy their home as if it is your own, our friends from bar Tepale met us for dinner at Sifo in Jaffa. Sifo and all of the restaurants surrounding it have small interiors, but allow seating to spill out all over the streets out in front, making for a magical and surreal feeling as you eat, talk and dance the night away in Tel Aviv.
Brunch: Benedict’s “Breakfast All Day” – open 24hrs. My idea of
heaven. Given champagne outside while you wait.
Warm delicious bread rolls
* Roasted pepper with pinenuts, pesto, goat cheese
* Smoked salmon with onions, capers
* Both had the classic Israeli breakfast – eggs any style, with herbs.
Dips – tuna spread, salmon spread, chive cream cheese (MUST)
Do: went to Jaffa market (boutiques, huge market, super unique), saw
rest of Jaffa (old city – wishing bridge)
Drive to Golan Heights (went thru Zichron Ya’Acov, Acco, Nazareth,
Safed – couldn’t see a thing as was pitch black already!)
Stay: in a Zimmer Chalet
Breakfast given to us by Chalet owner, yum
Safed: totally missed point of it as it was not clear where to go so
we never saw what we went there for!
All around Sea of Galillei (Kinneret Lake) – stopped at one of the
small beaches along the edge of it so we could go “walk on water”
Lunch: stopped in Ein Gev, along Sea of Galillei – called Restaurant of Fish
* Large Kinneret salad, hummus, and open trout (very simple, but a MUST)
Jerusalem (didn’t love where we stayed, though it did lead us to Charlie!!!!)
Dinner: Chakra, 41 King George Street, very very good, though little
bit more formal feel, not as quirky as some other spots we had been
to. #2 on Trip Advisor.
5 starters to share, for main meal (all very decent sizes)
* Grilled eggplant w/feta
* Calamari w/aioli
* Garlic and salt shrimp (MUST)
* Beef ceviche
* Grilled cauliflower in lemon & garlic
CHARLIE DAY – best guide ever. Local guy, from Jerusalem. a tour
with him is a MUST.
Cross over to the West Bank
Bethlehem – where Jesus was born
Jericho – lowest and oldest city on earth
Ate Lunch at Kibbutz Kalia (this is where you should go for access to the water)
Mount of Olives for views (great at sunset)
Taken to a local falafel spot for dinner – French Hill Falafel (MUST,
if you like this kind of food!)
Old City, Jerusalem
Wailing Wall, Church where Jesus was crucified/buried
Wandered all areas within Old City (Armenian, Jewish, etc)
Lunch: Lima – hummus shop in the Christian Quarter, Section VII (was a
Walked around New City – drink on top of Mamilla Hotel (amazing views,
Dinner: Adom off Jaffa Street in New City (not great! but in a good
and buzzing area)
Out: Toy Bar, around the corner from Adom. Fun pop music, cheezy though!!
Brunch: Zuni’s (ok)
Do: Israeli Museum (dead sea scrolls, etc)
Back to Old City, did Ramparts Walk (around walls of Old City)
Lunch: last falafel stop of the holiday!!! Random place in Muslim
Quarter (hole in the wall – so good!!!)
Drove from Jerusalem to TA airport – Crowded House’s “Weather with
You” on the radio, good moment!
Home to London.