Tel Aviv, Israel
May 12, 2008
We're not actually in Tel Aviv yet, but we've already got a hostel bed booked, a friend meeting us at the airport, and a fun dinner with new friends all planned!
Oh, and we seem to be lagging a bit behind on the "stories and photos" part of the blog (which, I guess, just leaves us doing well at the "making a little dot appear on a map" part of the blog). Israel should have some super duper fast internet connections, so we can get some of those 90,000 photos of different mountains on the site. Too bad all of the mountains are starting to blend together, 'cause it may mean the captions will be a little weak ("Here's ... another mountain. This one also has snow on top.")
We arrived in Tel Aviv on May 12th after a lengthy flight from Delhi (now voted Kyla and Nick's least like airport - sorry Gatwick!), with a transit through Tashkent, Azbekistan (more Soviet than Kyla's trips to Moscow and St.Petersburg in 1992) and finally to the clean, sparkling, well set up and incredibly organized international airport in Israel.
It was a joy to walk through the arrivals gate and see our friend, Ran, waiting for us. We met Ran in Nepal. Actually a more suitable description would be "Friend we met at the highest elevation". We met Ran at the teahouse a couple of hours short of crossing the Thorang La pass - likely at 5000m. Ran instantly became a good friend. He was enthusiastic to hear of our plans to visit Israel, invited us to join in on Passover dinner in Nepal, answered all of our politically sensitive (and I am sure, naiive) questions about the Holy Land, and took up the role as our guide in the Tel Aviv region.
So after getting ourselves sorted out at the airport and our hostel, we were off for a quick tour of Tel Aviv and then on to Jaffa for a very tasty lunch in an eclectic spot and a stroll through the old town, taking in postcard views at each corner. My favorite? THAT view of the city with its white highrises stretched in front of the endless coastline. I had to pinch myself. Were we really here?
Later that night Ran and his roommate Dikla hosted a small dinner party for us with their good friends, Gili and Shili. The conversation never lulled and nothing was off topic. The required military service, the Holocaust, recent immigration to Israel, the future of the region, religious Israel and secular Israel, and of course, all the great sites we should to take in. I think we might have convinced everyone to join us for some vineyard tours on the way to Jerusalem (or was it they convincing us?) The entire evening was kind of like reconnecting with friends from home, and the food was fabulous. We even drank my Nana's favorite white wine, Blue Nun. Someone has to mention that to her! We are very happy to know we will be seeing more of our new friends.
Today we will take in some swimming at city beaches. I think this is the first city we have visited where there are great beaches just across from the busy sections of downtown. It would be like being able to swim below the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, or along the Harbourfront in Halifax. After that we are off to an afternoon market in the Yemenite quarter, and we may visit a musem. And tonight will be fun - although we do not yet know what it will bring.