Our flight landed bang on time early Friday morning and Branson was there to waiting for us as we came out of immigration/customs. Big hugs and excitement all around. This time we took the train into Tel Aviv and a taxi to our hotel, The Embassy Hotel, about 2 blocks from the beach.
The day was already sunny and beautiful, despite the early hour. Our room wasn't quite ready yet (no surprise), so we dropped bags, changed clothes (swapping jumpers/sweaters and jeans for light linen trousers & t-shirts, yes!), and headed back out into town.
First on our agenda was the morning architecture tour run by the Bauhaus Centre (after a rather tasty breakfast across the street at the Landwers cafe). Unfortunately, I didn't catch the name of our lovely lady guide, but it was a really great tour. She clearly had a love of the city and a deep knowledge that she was all too happy to share with the group. It was a medium sized group - about 20 that dwindled as the tour went along to about 12 by the end. Although it didn't cover a lot of distance (just shy of a mile) the 2 hour walking tour took in some key highlights and let us compare and contrast the different stylistic elements. It was a really great introduction to the city and I would highly recommend others take it when in the area.
From there we took a meander over to the Carmel Market, where the preparations for Shabbat were well under way - cue jostling crowds, bargaining, and lots of tasty wares on sale. Since we didn't have any cooking space, we settled on a sole purchase of extremely tasty fresh dates.
By then it was time to check into our hotel, so we meandered that way, got settled in and. . .took a nap. Considering the over night (short) flight and the plans for a late evening, it seemed wise to take it a bit easy during the heat of the afternoon. Also, we are on holiday after all!
We woke up just in time to get ready for dinner at a little pub Branson knew called The Minzar. To get there, we walked through the Yemenite quarter. Very different than the part of Tel Aviv we explored that morning: winding streets, colourful buildings with small windows, and tons of trees in pots. As it was also sunset on a Friday evening, our walk also coincided with many in that quarter starting their Shabbat celebrations with song. Hauntingly beautiful and a great reminder that despite being in a very secular city, deep religious belief was just under the surface.
A traditional religious meal was not our destination, however. The Minzar is known mostly for it's pork dishes and we arrived smack dab in the middle of Happy Hour (oh darn). A very informal place and quite small, regardless, we found a table (after going on a bit of a scavenger hunt for chairs), ordered some beers and selected our dinner: Stephen had the veal sausages with mashed potatoes, Branson had roasted pork neck with sauerkraut and I had the ribs with cole slaw. The ribs still had chunks of pork belly attached and were super yum. Actually all of our food disappeared at a surprising rate. We hung around for another round of beers, content with people watching and catching up on all that has been going on in our lives.
From there we took a stroll and picked up a bottle of bubbly to take back to the hotel to get ready for our night out dancing. Branson had managed to get us onto the list for FFF Haoman's Passover themed evening. It had a been a long, long time since Stephen and I had been out clubbing, so it was fun to play the young kids again and also to have someone to actually dance with me!
While we didn't quite dance until dawn, it was a close run thing. We aren't 20 after all anymore, but we considered seeing 4am a perfectly reasonable run.
Not too shabby for our first day! And we certainly got to experience a good cross-section of the city. Needless to say the next day we would sleep in. . .