Day 1: Promenade, Carmel Market, Neveh Tzedek

Trip Start May 14, 2008
Trip End Jun 17, 2008

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Feel the gentle ocean breeze and drink the fresh air.  Our first full day in Israel begins with a full spread breakfast buffet at our Hotel Cinema.  Yummy. With full stomachs and a map marked by our front desk staff, we make our way to the meeting point of our group tour with Yona Wiseman which is a  "Walking Tour Along the Promenade of Tel Aviv" (  Yona offers regularly scheduled group tours as well as private guiding.   We meet a number of people in our group of 20; they come from the UK, Australia, Germany, South Africa, the US, and other countries.    A mini-United Nations!  We walk around the Promenade and learn the history of Tel Aviv's beach life with a focus on the time of the British Mandate and "illegal immigration".   Yona's presentation makes the area come alive!

Just to backtrack a bit.  At the beginning of each year, I do my annual goal setting.  This year, as it happens, I set out seven "intentions" for each day of the week.   The idea is keep in my mind during the day, a particular approach or mindset.  It is a creative visualization approach to my days.  Before this trip, I decided to try to integrate these "intentions" into each day.  It's a personal experiment.  Friday's intention is "Smile and Laugh". 

After the tour, we make our way over to the Carmel Market.  Our map does not have the area marked, so finding the Carmel Market becomes a sort of navigational game.  With smiles on our faces, we walk up to people and ask if they speak English and could they please direct us to the Carmel Market.  And you know what?  Every person we ask is really helpful...and in some cases, asks someone else for us!  We wind our way through back streets and eventually find the Carmel Market.  In retrospect we realize that it is only a few blocks from where we started.  But since we were blissfully ignorant at the time, we end up having an extra long tour of the area.  We are overwhelmed with the smells, people, and the variety of products!  It is just incredible.  We find an outdoor shwarma and falafel stand with chairs, where they only speak Hebrew.   With smiles and hand expressions, we order and have a bite to eat.  It is very busy and the only available table has four seats; so a few minutes after we arrive two people sit down at our table.  We have a very interesting discussion with our new friends from the Philippines who have been working here for seven years.  After a few more minutes some of their Philippine friends come along.

After lunch, we walk only a hundred feet or so and hear some hand clapping and we can see a large group of people in the distance.  We make our way towards the sounds and come upon some street performers.  Now these are no ordinary street performers, but their program as we found out later is called "Cirque No Problem", a juggling, acrobatic, trapeze performance ( It is a 40 minute program full of wows, laughs, and just plain fun.  Take a look at the photos to get an idea.  Even though we couldn't understand the banter in Hebrew, we could get what was going on.  We were laughing and smiling so much, we were having a ball!

We wander towards Nachalat Binyamin where dozens of artists sell their artwork in stands along the pedestrian street.  We're not shoppers, but we enjoy looking at their work.  It is a bit too busy for us and we are getting overwhelmed.  At this point, we decide to make our way towards Neveh Tzedek, an area that is in transition and interesting to walk through, recommended by our new TripAdvisor friends.  But wait!  At the exit to Nachalat Binyamin is a group of four string instrument players (3 violins and 1 cello), playing just beautiful classical music!  So we find a place to lean against a building, and listen!  More smiles!  After one of the pieces, I walk up and ask what countries they are from and learn they are all from Russia.  

And now we play the navigational game again to find Neveh Tzedek!  Once again, it is only a few blocks away, but that does not mean we find it quickly.  Wandering, we ask people, go this way and that; we finally we think we are around the corner from the area, and the people we are asking don't know which way to go!  Well, yes, thanks to the helpfulness of others we do find it.  See our photos for some comments on this area! 
We could spend a lot more time in the Neveh Tzedek area, but we need to get back to our hotel to get ready for the evening.  In one of the conversations during the day, we learn that on Friday evenings at sunset on Chinki Beach, people gather and like the hippies of the 1960's dance and play rhythms on drums.  We'll have to save that for our next trip to Israel (do hear this; we're here one day and already thinking of our next trip!).   
Tonight, we have a special treat.  We're meeting up with Avi, Harvey's former tennis coach who is from Israel but now lives in North Carolina.  It turns out Avi is visiting his family in Rehovot!  Our plan is to get back to the hotel and shower so we'll be ready when Avi picks us up for dinner at his family's home.  As we walk back, we become part of this festival going on around our hotel; thousands of people are listening to this loud rock music.  Now back at our hotel, we go to the terrace for an overview of the event.   The day has reached a climax of energy...the vibrating, pulsating, high-energy music seems to reflect and mirror the dynamic energy that we felt this day in Tel Aviv!

A shower, some ice cold lemonade and now we are off to meet Avi.  There is no way that he can drive to the hotel so we walk to meet him at his cousin's apartment.  We then navigate Tel Aviv traffic as this huge festival winds down.  Thank goodness Avi is driving.  His family is so warm and open.  It is just a fantastic evening, filled with lots of smiling, laughing, telling stories about Avi to his parents (some of them were actually true), and just plain fun.
So much to be thankful for.  It's now 12:30 AM and I'm pooped!  Harvey is already asleep and I will be too in a few minutes.  Signing off.

Click here for today's photos!
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