Day 1: What's Life Like in a Time Bubble?

Trip Start May 04, 2012
Trip End May 27, 2012

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Flag of Israel  ,
Tuesday, May 8, 2012

We're in the time bubble between home and our destination. We’ve left home behind, yet we haven’t yet arrived at our destination.  Maybe there is some truth to the saying "the journey is the destination"? 

After an overnight flight, we now have a three-hour layover in the Paris airport before our flight to Tel Aviv.  Our Platinum American Express card has gained us free entry to the American Airlines Admirals Club and we settle in to comfy leather seats.  We each forage the buffet and delight in our fresh croissants and strong coffee.  Harvey takes out his ipad and amuses himself with reading.   I take out my iphone camera and walk around the lounge, discovering an exhibit of photographs featuring the Eiffel tower from as far back as its initial construction to the current day.   How many ways can this icon be photographed so that each is unique?  There were great examples – in some compositions the tower was the main subject, perhaps a section or a close up.  In others, it might be a fountain or lovers in the foreground and the tower being the support and adding a sense of place.   Not one cliché.  They all said “Paris”.   I may feel a little sleepy from our overnight trip, but the combination of the coffee and the many interpretations of the Eiffel Tower awakens my mind and I feel inspired to remind myself on this trip to always ask myself if I am seeing with new eyes and how many ways I can capture a subject.   

As we gather our carry-on bags to go to the departure gate, Harvey says “I don’t want to feel like I’m just passing time, while waiting for something”.   There is a subtlety to knowing that there is an event in the future that you are looking forward to, yet still living life moment-by-moment – with the emphasis on living.

There are patterns of airport etiquette in different parts of the world.  Generally we consider New York to be the most aggressive.  A Miami-New York flight usually seems to have a lot of impatient people.   But our previous experiences flying to & from Paris have been fairly benign.  True, we had never flown from Paris to Tel Aviv before, but we have flown from Paris to Miami without noticing aggressive behavior.  This time was different. We are really surprised to see a group of elderly French women pushing and shoving to get ahead of us.  Their surprisingly inconsiderate behavior continued for the entire flight.  Perhaps it is a common human trait that when people travel in groups they tend to forget that there are other people around.

After our boarding passes are checked for our Paris-Tel Aviv flight, we start down the jetway and go through another screening.  This time they notice that a stamp is missing from our paperwork.  Apparently it is unusual to have your bags transferred without inspection between flights.  Also there must have been some checkpoint that we missed because we are pulled aside for additional screening.  It reminded us of the early 1970’s when Harvey looked so grungy that he was always stopped for extra screening.  But he looks harmlessly mature now!  They ask questions about our plans and intentions.  They want the combinations to our locks so they can check our luggage, which is already on the plane.  Eventually they let us board.  Naturally one of the French ladies had settled into one our seats and we have to sort that out.

A flight attendant offers Harvey a newspaper that is in Hebrew.  He wants to give it a try to see how much he can understand.  Without the vowels, it is tough.  So instead, Harvey gets up to go to the bathroom and has a conversation with the flight attendant.  In Hebrew, he tells her that he has been studying Hebrew so that he can flirt with Israeli women without me knowing what he is doing.  Of course, Harvey comes back to his seat and tells me about this conversation!  And when the flight attendant comes with food, he introduces me to her.  I think Harvey will have lots of opportunity to flirt on this trip!

When the plane touches ground people clap their hands as the song Hevenu Shalom Aleichem plays from the loudspeaker.

I really feel so excited!  

As we taxi down the runway, people are already jumping up to get their things from the overhead bins.  The crew tells people to sit down but no one listens.  This is the finale to a gregarious group of middle-aged French passengers who stood in the aisles and talked among themselves during most of the flight.  Our seats are at the end of the plane and now Harvey asks one of the flight attendants if all flights are like this and he responds “oh, you mean with the singing?”  Harvey says “no, with the noise and people getting up.”  All the flight attendants chimed in “yes, it’s always like this”.  One says “maybe they’re excited about arriving in the Holy Land”.

After checking into the Melody Hotel and taking hot showers, we decide to make a pilgrimage to our favorite shwarma and felafel stand, the Ha-komem or The Magician, an easy 15 minutes away.  As we walk the streets, it all feels so comfortable.  Low rise buildings, small shops, people eating in outdoor cafes.  Ha-komem has a line of people waiting to place their orders.  I start taking photos and one of the men behind the counter says to me “Yes I can!”  As we approach our turn to place an order, the man asks where we are from – Miami Beach, we say.  He says “welcome!”  Enthusiastically, I say that we were here four years ago and we just had to come back here.  He smiles and laughs and say “I’m going to cry”.   There’s no diet soda, so we go with two beers.  We’re asked if we are both over the age of 18.  Harvey says only him.  So they gave the two beers to Harvey!    Funny with my grey hair!

As we are putting are food on the table, a woman walks up to me and asks about my camera.  She just got a Nikon DSLR and has it in the safe deposit box in her room.  We bantered about just getting it out and playing with it– it’s digital, so just experiment!   She shared with us information about the Sare-el program where Americans and Canadians volunteer for 1 -3 weeks to work on an army base.  She’s here on a trip with her father.  She’s so lucky to have a living parent.  I took a photo of them and will email it to her.  We exchange emails! 

Sitting next to us at Ha-komem is a couple, the guy is Canadian and the girlfriend is Israeli.  He suggests we try  the restaurant and their signature menu item of the same name, “Sabich” on Frishman and Dizengoff.  We ask him to write this down in our notebook – our first entry for Israel!

It’s now late and it appears that all the stores in the area are closed, but on our way back to the hotel, we make a short detour into a shopping mall to try to find a place to purchase an Israeli sim card for Harvey’s android cell phone.  Just when we think we’re out of luck, we find one solo store open and bingo!  It sells sim cards!  The guy behind the counter helped us as if he had all the time in the world, describing the different plans, activating the chosen card and staying with us until we got confirmation and tested it out for us. 

We end our day on the rooftop terrace of the Melody Inn.  The Mediterranean Sea is all dark, but the lights of Tel Aviv glisten.

Click here for more photos!
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