Day 21: Art and Alleys

Trip Start May 19, 2009
Trip End Jun 16, 2009

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Monday, June 8, 2009

(Day 21, Jaffa, Monday) So we said that this was going to be a slower ten days than the last twenty have been. So it was today. Alarm at 9:00. Awake again at 10:00. Finally up at 11:00. Breakfast from last night's late-night purchases and laptopping. Finally out into the sun and heat at 1:00.

Today we tackled our own neighborhood in Jaffa, of which I have grown quite fond. The Arab (or largely Jewish, from what I could tell) market surrounding our hostel would wait til last, since shopping and haggling can take time, especially for me. So we crossed the busy main street and square with the famous clock tower (built 1901, a symbol of Jaffa) and climbed the slight hill to the top, where a terrific view of Tel Aviv and the coast was to await us. Luckily, there was a good picture-taking view on the way there, too, since at the top, the view was blocked by the lighting system of a concert stage for some conference.

Although Jaffa is maybe 4,000 years old (mentioned in the Bible (Jonah and the "whale"), conquered by the Phoenicians, Romans, Mamluks, and Napoleon, among others) the area around the park and nearby plaza looked new or renovated, and it was distinctly not busy. We went to the underground visitors' center to read about Jaffa's history and see some excavations; there also happened to be an adorable cluster of newborn kittens for some reason. Again aboveground, we wandered the quiet artists' quarter, the streets all named for signs of the zodiac (though we didn't find our Scorpio Lane), full of galleries of all kinds of art. One of the first we found was a fascinating collection of vintage Israeli posters and photographs from the early years of independence to today, including many patriotic exhortations and also movie posters. Kevin and I both plunked down a pretty penny for some posters and books, thanks to the warm help of the saleswoman (who is featured in the book I bought, no less).

We looked at some other galleries (the one of most interest was closed for a private function; we'll go back tomorrow) and then walked down the hill to the seaside road, passing the industrial port area, which was apparently home to some performance spaces as well, including a theatre and restaurant for the blind and deaf. Much of the quiet street had sailing-related businesses, which reminded me somewhat of Ballard (a part of Seattle home to fishing fleets). More great views of Tel Aviv and the long stretch of beaches.

Kevin went back to the hostel to work; I wandered the outdoor market nearby, which was full of storefronts selling clothes, food, Judaica, souvenirs, and lots and lots of furniture. It would be a great place to furnish a home or apartment, so much cool stuff. More purchases, of course, and some passionfruit sorbet to cool down with (a flavor as ubiquitous as pomegranate is at home).

We went to dinner at a place just around the corner that was well regarded in the New York Times called Charcuterie, where the menu changes daily. As at Puaa on Saturday, the restaurant seating was outdoors, taking up much of the street, but there was no traffic for blocks in any direction. We were seated without a reservation as long as we were willing to be gone by 8:45; as it was maybe 7:30, this was not a problem. (This is a pattern: while in the U.S. we might have to wait til 8:45 to be seated somewhere popular, here it doesn't get busy til then...and bars much later than that--all the gay parties for Pride start at 11:30 p.m. at the earliest). Our French waiter helped me translate some gaps in my vocabulary on the Hebrew-only menu (a rarity) and took great pleasure in describing various dishes. Dinner was quite good; I had spare ribs, Kevin a rump steak. Definitely not a kosher place, as there were shellfish and bacon and pork on the menu, and much butter used in cooking.

We decided to skip Plan A, which was to take a cab to a 10:00 p.m. concert at a club in the opposite corner of town in favor of a 10:00 p.m. movie in Dizengoff Center, the epicenter of Tel Aviv, in this case "Young Victoria" (Emily Blunt). Again paltry concessions and lots of commercials, but no assigned seats. When let out, we found one mall exit after another locked, which we thought was curious, but a woman passerby kept pointing us in the right direction at each exit until we found the open one (where we saw her again and smiled in thanks). Hopped in a cab for the ride back, buying our morning snacks at Aboulafia bakery again and walking the quiet side streets back to the hostel.
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