Yesterday began with two plateful of olives, olive and eggplant spreads, a variety of yoghurty dips or spreads, tomatoes and cucumbers, salted fish, a selection of chocolate croissants and a large cup of what tasted like instant coffee. Dessert was halvah, dried prunes and apricots. The variety of fresh vegetables here seems superior even to our California wintertime selection. And the diet seems to be very attuned to the needs of our digestive systems.
During the first part of the day, we meandered through the different neighborhoods of the city. For the most part, the city seemed deserted (Shabbat!), and the few families we came across seemed to be headed in the direction of the beach. The city's neighborhoods seem varied in affluence and religious and lifestyle affiliations, and eventually we stumbled onto the enclaves of active weekend activity. On the Rothschild Boulevard, many cafes were open and busy with customers. We walked by Max Brenner's chocolate caffee -- two or three Thanksgivings ago we had a very memorable lunch at its sister caffee in New York City, Chocolate by the Bald Man. We were thinking of going into this one, looking at its store, but got spooked by the security guard who stood at the entrance and made a move to take Dave's backpack away from him. Later we realized that every sit-down restaurant here seems to have a security guard on staff, but at the moment we were just confused -- why is some scruffy, beat-up looking man asking for Dave's bag?
Later we went into a very cute family-friendly neighborhood Neve Tzedek, where young and old congregated between an ice cream shop and a community center. Kids and adults alike all seemed to have an ice cream cone in hand. But we resisted the temptation -- we were heading to Old Jaffa, an ancient city that's now within the limits of the modern Tel Aviv. Dave's cousin recommended a hummus shop there for lunch, and we were saving room.
We definitely need to come back to Old Jaffa with a tour guide later in the trip. Without a guide, any city, no matter how ancient, seems to be just a conglomeration of old walls and market stalls. But the experience of walking around here blind to the historical significance of all that we see is a valuable experience in a different way. It lets us pay attention to the rhythms of the contemporary lifestyle in the city, to play with the idea of how it would be to actually live here. The thing to do in Old Jaffa on Saturday afternoon seemed to be getting a grilled sesame seed bread stuffed with yoghurt spread, cheese, and a selection of olives and mushrooms and corn to your liking. We got it to go and walked out on the beach-side promenade to eat on one of the benches.
The beach turned out to be the right place to go. At least, everyone else had the same idea -- the entire population of Tel Aviv was promenading along the beach. The sun was shining like on the best days in San Francisco, but the sea was still chilly and the most interesting thing to do seemed to just sit there and take in everything going on around us for a while. To the left of us there were the mysterious walls of the Old Jaffa. On the beach right below us somebody was walking a horse. On the beach to the right of us people were playing volleyball and other types of ball that we didn't immediately recognize. One game looked like ping pong without the table. Along the promenade in front of us, large families walked leisurely in both directions. Lots of Russian spoken. Some English. Spanish. French. Baby talk. Hebrew, of course.
See Dave's blog for what we did the rest of the day.