Monday, July 20, 2009

Museums + Shopping + Beach = Tel Aviv!

Today was the most "tourist-y" day we've had so far.

After a breakfast provided by our hotel this morning, Neal and I were off to change money (a most necessary exercise!), and wander down Dizengoff Street to look at the shops. The humidity in Tel Aviv is much higher than in Jerusalem, but the terrain is much flatter and the sidewalk (stones) are not as slippery. Consequently, I found myself bopping along at a good pace instead of picking my way gingerly up and down the hills. I'd felt old and more infirm in Jerusalem - Tel Aviv makes me feel like maybe I haven't quite lost "it" yet.

Dizengoff was shady and the sidewalks were wide, so we ambled along for a while.... And then of course, I saw a Crocs store and I was gone! (Others go for jewelry and other adornments. Me, I go for Crocs - hmm, not quite sure what that says about me.) It's actually all Barb's fault - she introduced me to them in Atlanta!

I got a great pair of one of the newer styles. Not really on sale, but probably a little cheaper than I would have been able to get them in Maryland, if I'd been able to find them.

Neal pointed us in the direction of Ben Gurion's home. No cost to get in and a chance to see the house kept as it was when he died. Neal called it "Israel's Mount Vernon" -- and although it was a fraction of the size, the significance is probably pretty similar.

What amazed me was that in the four upstairs rooms, plus one room on the first level, there were over 20,000 books - floor to ceiling in most cases. Subjects ranged from Greek and Latin classics to Jewish law to Kabbalah to American history, French history and more. Not just one or two volumes of each, but shelves and shelves and shelves. It was humbling to think about how well-read he was - even as he was busy building a county - and how narrow and liminted my own reading is in comparison.

We went back to Benedict's for lunch (shakshuka again for me; something different for Neal) and saw our "new friend," Renee - the head wait person, who we'd met last evening. Renee is an interesting person: she's just returned to Israel about a year ago after having spent 8 years in the United States - living in Pittsburg, Chicago, New York and Baltimore. It was fun to compare memories of some of the same places! Lunch time is much busier at Benedict's than early evening is, so Renee had just a few moments to talk in between seating customers, clearing tables, and helping to serve customers. When I told her that I'd blogged about Benedict's, she beamed and then said teasingly, "Make sure you tell your friends how great the service is, too!" So, here's to Renee and her co-workers - all of whom know the meaning of the phrase "service with a smile."

After a brief rest, we headed out to the Palmach Museum. When our son visited Israel two summers ago, he said that if there was no other museum we visited, we had to go to the Palmach. He couldn't quite articulate why we had to go - just that we did.

It was a very moving experience. I understand why our son found it so difficult to articulate.... I need to let things roll around for a while before they become clearer.

After a "happy hour snack" provided by our hotel, we (again) rested for a bit and then headed across the street to the Hilton beach. Although it's next to the Hilton Hotel, all beaches in Israel, our front-desk person told us proudly, are public beaches. The Hilton Beach is lovely, the sand was cool underfoot and the water was tepid. Neal snagged two chaise lounges and I plopped down (he went swimming). We'd hoped to get there in time for sunset, but it was hazy and not very picturesque.

But the breeze was pleasant. It was quiet. A wonderful opportunity to pause and reflect on a very busy day.

Although it's only 10:30 pm here, we'll be turning in soon - tomorrow morning, we're leaving at 7:15 for a day trip!

Lailah tov /good night & pleasant dreams from Tel Aviv!

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