Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Israel Trip Report Part 6 – Tel Aviv

Trip Report – Israel 2011
  1. United #1273: Orange County, CA (SNA) to Newark, NJ (EWR)
  2. United #90: Newark, NJ (EWR) to Tel Aviv, Israel (TLV)
  3. Tour of Jerusalem and Bethlehem
  4. Tour of Caesarea, Rosh Hanikra, and Acre
  5. Tour of Petra
  6. Tel Aviv
  7. Grand Beach Hotel Review
  8. United #91:  Tel Aviv, Israel (TLV) to Newark, NJ (EWR)
  9. United #311:  Newark, NJ (EWR) to Denver, CO (DEN)
  10. United #403:  Denver, CO (DEN) to Orange County, CA (SNA)

Part 6 – Tel Aviv and Overall Impressions

I love rain.  I love listening to it hit the windows of my house while I’m drinking red wine or hot chocolate.  I even like driving in the rain.  I hate being stuck in the rain, with a small umbrella that breaks from the wind and no shelter in quick walking distance…

The morning started off well enough.  Even though I had hopes of sleeping in I was awake by 7am and relaxing in my hotel room.  The weather outside looked decent but gray clouds were approaching in the distance.  My iPhone did say rain was likely.  I watched some TV while starting to pack up my things.  I decided to check my bag again so we will see if it makes it home with me.  A light drizzle had started by the time I headed downstairs around 9am to check out.  With my suitcase at the hotel and my laptop, iPad, and backpack with me, I headed out into Tel Aviv hoping that the rain wouldn’t be too bad. 

Walking Around Tel Aviv

I didn’t have an agenda for the day at all.  My only plan was to walk around the city and explore what I could.  I wanted to get a feel of Tel Aviv and some of the neighborhoods in town.  Starting east I meandered through side streets and main boulevards looking into the variety of shops along the way.  I tried to pet a few of the cats walking around but they weren’t as friendly as the ones in the tourist spots.  Heading up Ben Gurion Boulevard I then turned onto Iben Gvirol and walked all the way down to the Yarkon River.  From there I backtracked and then headed east on Jabotinsky then down south on Weizman.  By that time the rain was falling at a steady pace and my pants, jacket, and backpack were going from damp to wet.  Thankfully a mall was nearby so I passed through the security checkpoint and went inside to find a seat.  Unfortunately, every seat I could see was taken so I walked around the mall to see what was inside.  The ubiquitous McDonald’s was present along with a Toys ‘R Us.  On the lower level a small café/ice cream/pretzel stand had open seating so I grabbed a tea to warm me up and worked on a blog. 

People watching is always on of the best parts of traveling; whether it’s sipping a glass of wine on the streets of Bordeaux, eating some ice cold gelato in Nice, enjoying a beer in Rome, or drinking some hot tea in a mall in Tel Aviv.  I couldn’t understand the conversations at all but I could understand the generalities from a couple arguing, a toddler crying because she dropped her pacifier and the frustrated dad pulling her along, of the family entertaining their kid on one of those coin-operated merry-go-rounds.  While that child was smiling as he spun around looking at the blinking lights and listening to the music, I was cringing inside as it was playing “It’s A Small World” over and over.  And yes, the song has been stuck in my head most of the day.  I wonder if Disney licensed that song to that manufacturer.

The rain abated and I headed back out again with a destination now in mind, Jaffa.  I passed by the Tel Aviv Art Museum and eventually passed a pasta place on the street that sounded perfect for lunch.  A bowl of gnocchi in tomato cream sauce gave me back some strength to keep walking towards the old city.  There was a noticeable shift in building scale and composition walking along Jaffa road as the multistory buildings transitioned into two- or three-story older structures.  Small shops lined the streets on both side so packed with goods that would make a fire marshal faint.  It seemed as if there were distinct districts including appliances, house wear, repair, tailoring, and high-end fashion. 

The highlight, and highpoint, of Jaffa is St. Peter’s Church and the neighboring square.  The church was closed but walking around the square then down the narrow walkways and steeps stairs to the old port was fun.  There is something that I really enjoy about these types of settlements built on terraces up a hillside.  The square on top has a rather odd looking fountain with figures that look more like aliens than kids to me. 


Creepy Fountain

From this vantage point you can see the Tel Aviv skyline along the beach as you look north.  A considerable amount of the high rise development is along the beaches with commercial towers behind.  I was also able to see the dark clouds approaching in the distance and what looked like a fair amount of rain falling over the sea.  Fearing a heavy downpour I headed down from the top of Jaffa and back towards my hotel.  The clouds did move in faster than I anticipated and I was caught in a deluge.  My umbrella failed and I was soaked through all layers of clothing.  I was able to find shelter at a parking lot pay station but by that time the damage was done.  Thankfully, I was near a major street and eventually flagged a taxi to take me back to the hotel. 

Ominous Skyline

Looking back on the trip I can say I packed a lot in a little amount of time.  The three tours I was on provided a quick view of some of the highlights of Israel and the neighboring areas.  There is still so much more to see and experience here and I know I will be coming back.  I have to at least do a wine tour to sample the Israeli and Jordanian vintages.  I would like to stay a few days in Haifa and learn more about that city and the Carmelite traditions there.  My best recommendation would be that if you are ever planning on coming to Israel, you must find a way to make it to Petra and experience the rose-red city carved into the cliffs. 

I spent a few hours at my hotel trying to dry off and stay warm before heading to the airport.  Ultimately I decided to change clothes to get dry.  It was a wise choice.  The taxi picked me up at 7:30 and I was at the airport by 8:00pm.  It actually took longer and was harder to get out of Israel than into Israel.  Perhaps being a single male traveling alone with no friends or family in Israel set them off but I had a long round of questions just to get past the first round of security and check-in.  I was number 3 in line and once the ticket counter opened I got all three of my boarding passes and an invitation to the Dan Lounge prior to boarding. 

Once past the check-in counters came the next round of security.  I’m glad I got arrived at the airport when I did as the line behind me kept growing.  It didn’t help that three passengers in front of me kept the security line at a standstill for 20 minutes as their belongings and ID were checked again and again.  An Israeli woman in front of me started complaining and arguing with the lead agent which is never a good thing.  Eventually I was able to go through and after having my belongings swapped and analyzed I received my exit stamp and headed to the lounge. 

The Dan Lounge is a contract lounge utilized by multiple airlines.  It is not very large and I can imagine it filling up quite fast.  The décor is quite nice; great attention to detail in the finishes and just enough screening to separate different seating areas while maintaining a view of the airport.  The food and snacks available are limited to some breads, veggies, and hummus.  It is a step up from the United Clubs I am used to but not by much.  Drinks were all canned or bottled in a self-serve fridge and two wines were available for you to pour.  Both were Israeli wines, one white and one red.  I poured myself a healthy glass of the red and found it very mellow.  It didn’t have much of an aroma but the light fruit lingered on my palate for a long time.  The lounge also has free wireless internet in 30 minute blocks.

Dan Lounge Ben Gurion Airport, C Gates

No comments:

Post a Comment