Upon my recent return to work after my 3rd maternity leave, I was asked to attend a 2-day training workshop in my favorite place on earth – Israel. Once I got over the anxiety of leaving my breastfeeding 1 year old, and my husband reassured me he could manage the 3 kids for the days I was gone – I inhaled, booked my travel, packed my bags, and boarded the plane to the holy land.
As we landed, I exhaled. Israel is my happy place - it’s where I was born, where I have lived for part of my life, where my husband is from, where my career began, and where my heart belongs. So, when given the opportunity to stay in Tel Aviv for business and pleasure, I gladly accepted.
Travel is one of my ultimate passions – something Carolina and I have in common. Over those few days in Israel, I was able to refuel the fire that burns within when one travels. Oh, how I missed that feeling that comes over you when you are free and experiencing the wonder of the world we live in…
Somehow, this trip felt so different to all the previous visits. Why? Why was it so remarkable and unforgettable? Sitting on the plane on my return flight, I had a revelation. Yes, it was a much-needed time out from my daily routine, my kids and my everyday perspective, but ultimately it was the opportunity for me to be a tourist in a place where I was previously always the tour-guide. I was able to see this beautiful country through fresh eyes – not as a mom or a local resident, but rather as a visitor.
Tel Aviv – The city that never sleeps
Tel Aviv – wow, what a city. In just 2 days, I was able to fall in love all over again. My way of sharing a piece of the gift that is Tel Aviv is this 2 day visitor’s guide to the city’s gems. Of course, Tel Aviv offers unlimited experiences and recommendations, but here is a taste of what I experienced and would classify as “must do” on your next visit.
Start in the center of Tel Aviv on the iconic and popular Dizengof street – the hub of city’s hustle and bustle. Browse the shops and restaurants while you make your way to Dizengof center - Israel’s oldest and most confusing mall. Expect to get lost, and somehow end up with bags full of purchases.
Make an eating pit-stop for lunch at one of Israel’s most popular Shawarma spots “Hakosem” (Address: Shaul Hamelech 1). Even if you are vegetarian, the falafel, humus, mounds of fresh salad along with unique vibe will not disappoint! Be prepared to stand in a line up any time of the day - it’s worth the wait. You can sit and eat, or take-away and keep walking with Israel’s most famous street food.
** Ordering tip – Go with one of the plates of shawarma/falafel instead of the typical pita/laffa filled with meat/salad/sauces. The plate allows you to sample the variety of delicacies at your own pace, accompanied by soft, warm pita. #salivating
** Don’t be deterred by the flies in Israel. The rule of thumb is: the more flies there are flying around your food, the better the restaurant ☺
Keep walking towards the beach-front along King George street to soak up more of central Tel Aviv’s vibe with unlimited shopping opportunities. But brace yourself as you are make your way to Sheinkin street for some of the city’s trendiest shops, coffee bars and celebrities.
At the top of Sheinkin street, the road forks and presents you with 2 incredibly authentic and memorable markets:
Shuk HaCarmel (Carmel market) – Israel’s signature food market will feed you with a sensory overload. Only open on Tuesdays and Fridays – you don’t want to miss this!
Nachalat Benyamin – An antique-lover’s dream.
Near here is Rothschild Boulevard. Get yourself a coffee, frozen yogurt or ice cream and take a leisurely stroll up the boulevard ending at the city’s cultural arts center – Habima Theatre. Renovated since I was last in Israel, this area has a beautiful flower garden and place for kids to run around and play.
For dinner: Close to this area is a side-street that uniquely showcases a beautiful mix of religious tradition and a new-age foodie experience, with Tel Aviv’s oldest synagogue as the view from a handful of the city's hottest restaurants/bars. You will wait for a table, but rest-assured any of the eating spots won’t disappoint. Any night of the week, until all hours of the morning.
Start your day with an Israeli breakfast and relaxing time on the beach at Kachol (Blue) on Tel Baruch beach. Bask in the sun while fueling your body with the most important meal of the day, and enjoy the beautiful shoreline that Tel Aviv has to offer.
If you can tear yourself away from the ocean, make your way to Sarona Market - Israel's largest indoor culinary market that operates seven days a week. With beautiful open spaces, shops, eateries and a playground – this new area boasts an incredible shopping experience.
Head back towards the Tayelet (beachfront) for sundowners with your feet in the sand - this is an absolute must!! There are a few beaches along this boardwalk, so any one you choose will be perfect. We settled on Hof Gordon (Gordon beach – number 5 in this article) at a bar called “Gordo”. Their humus platter, bread basket and fries were yummy – and if I may suggest - order the watermelon with feta cheese. Just trust me… this is an Israeli favorite that can be found on most menus as it’s the perfect combination of sweet and salty.
Ensure you settle in way before sunset, so you can unwind and relax in time to watch the sun dip below the horizon as people jog past you, play volley ball, walk their dogs and ride their bikes. What a life.
Dinner time. Enjoy a relaxed late dinner at the cosy and cool Greek restaurant and bar, Sparta (54 Yermiyahu street). I suggest you sit along the bar for food and drink since the bartender is easy on the eye (hint hint, nudge nudge). If you’re lucky, the owner, Yuval, will DJ some vibey tracks, while you indulge in the chef’s delicious food or sip on a cocktail.
Got extra time?
The following is a list of places I didn’t manage to get to this trip, but are further recommendations to add to your to-do list:
Kerem Hateimanim - Yemenite quarter in Tel Aviv – filled with unique charm and incredible restaurants
Grafitiyul – A new and popular tour of the graffiti around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem
Benedict – All day breakfasts fill the menu at the city’s popular chain of restaurants
Thaizu - Best Thai Fusion (restaurant)
Jaffa - The old port has been redone with great eateries, take a stroll through the artist's colony in the old city, and grab a plate of hummus from either Abu Hassan or Hummus Dani
Max Brener – A chocolate lover’s dream (restaurant)
Namal Tel Aviv - Tel Aviv port - amazing for nice long walk, loads of restaurants and bars with fabulous scenery
Top 10 phrases you must learn and use:
Yalla – Come on, let’s get going
Nu – What are you waiting for? (Be sure to use attitude)
Sababa – Cool/chilled/awesome
Ayfo Sheirutim? – Where are the toilets?
Boker Tov – Good morning
Lyla Tov – Good night
Toda – Thank you
Bevakasha – Please
Hanacha bevakasha – Discount please
Ayze Yoffi – How amazing/nice
Israel’s equivalent of Uber is called “GettTaxi”. Make sure you download the app and you’re all set. You can also hail a cab on any street corner, and yes, the cab drivers in Israel live up to their reputation of being crazy drivers and absolute characters. So buckle up, and don’t be shy to have a chat with your driver – it will surely end in some good laughs.
So long, farewell
Thinking back to the ground I covered in my short and sweet visit leaves my tank feeling full. On a professional note, being back in the work place where I started my career over 10 years ago was incredible. And the workshop I attended – invaluable. The people (friends, family, colleagues and locals), the food, the beach, the weather, and more – all wrapped up into a beautiful gift with a bow on top, especially for me.
To my manager – thanks for sending me. And to Israel, thanks for having me. Until next time… Le’hitraot.