FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Tel Aviv: True Love In Tel Aviv

May 1, 2011
2011 / May 2011

The expansive metropolis of Tel Aviv rises from the shores of the Mediterranean in a shimmer of alabaster tints and shadows. It’s hot, in a pleasingly intense way, and the chilled strawberry juice that my husband James and I have treated ourselves to at a streetside kiosk tastes more like a divine elixir than a simple concoction involving squashed, strained fruit.

Walking is the best way to absorb Tel Aviv, and we’ve been meandering along Rothschild Boulevard, mingling with locals and visitors like ourselves who have come to spend a leisurely afternoon admiring the famous Bauhaus architecture found in this part of the city. Dozens of kiosks and cafés are situated casually along the city’s collection of wide, strolling boulevards. Ordering a freshly prepared falafel and a cool drink provides an interlude to shopping and a chance to relax on a bench beneath the leafy boughs of the thoughtfully spaced trees.

Still a young city — especially in this historic corner of the world — Israel’s cultural capital was founded in 1909, developing out of the Ahuzat Bayit and Neve Tzedek neighborhoods as they expanded north of the ancient seaport of Jaffa. Scottish sociologist, biologist and pioneer urban planner Sir Patrick Geddes was assigned the task of planning the infant city amid its once-stark setting of sand dunes.

Working from a strong conviction that the utilization of space affects social processes, Geddes set about creating a city that maximizes sun in winter and shade in summer, and funnels cool breezes from the Mediterranean between buildings and through the streets. His plans, successfully implemented, feature shopping areas, neighborhood parks with fruit trees where children play and people gather socially, and easily accessible green spaces that include the pleasantly shaded pedestrian boulevards. Geddes even went so far as to consult a doctor on how many steps a pregnant woman could safely walk from the residential areas to the neighborhood markets.

This downtown “White City” area of Tel Aviv boasts more than 5,000 Bauhaus-style buildings and a number of Modernist structures inspired by Swiss architect-designer Le Corbusier. It was this rich architecture that led to UNESCO’s 2003 recognition of this collection of neighborhoods as a World Heritage site.

After spending another hour or so on Sheinkin Street, known for its trendy shops and restaurants, we head west toward the intersection where Sheinkin meets King George and Allenby streets. It’s Friday, and the Carmel Market is abuzz with street performers, musicians and a host of vendors selling everything from exotic oils and cheap T-shirts to beautiful, handcrafted jewelry. We negotiate the throngs of shoppers, breathing in the provocative scents of unnamed spices that wrap around us like mysterious perfumes. James watches me carefully as I admire the bracelets and earrings displayed at the table of a woman artist, listening as I ask her about the inspiration for her designs. We move on to where a group has gathered to watch a particularly talented juggler, and while I’m busy clapping and laughing, James slips away. Out of the corner of my eye, I see him head back to the jewelry maker’s table and watch as he makes a transaction and slips a small package into the pocket of his camera bag. He’s smiling as he makes his way through the crowd back to my side.

Clever wife that I am, I pretend not to notice and say nothing as we make our way to the old neighborhood of Neve Tzedek, where the Shimon Rokach House is located. Easy to identify thanks to its distinctive domed roof, the house was one of the very first to be built beyond Jaffa. Once the well-tended domain of community leader Shimon Rokach, the house fell into disrepair after his death in 1922. When the surrounding neighborhood began to crumble and the house was targeted for demolition, Rokach’s granddaughter, Leah Majaro-Mintz, stepped in and transformed the home’s lovely indoor and courtyard spaces into a working gallery.

A sculptor noted for her softly proportioned figures of women, Majaro-Mintz was awarded the Jerusalem Prize for Sculpture in 1983. Everywhere we turn, her whimsical figures — sitting naked in garden chairs, lying curled in nooks and peering inquisitively around doorways — seem to watch us. I sense that James feels slightly outnumbered by the numerous female forms, and we leave to catch a taxi for the short ride to our next destination.

We disembark on Mazal Dagim Street in Old Jaffa at the Ilana Goor Museum & Gallery. Situated within a breathtaking mansion in the renovated artists’ quarter, the 250-year-old building is a complex of golden-hued stone and soaring arches, with views of the blue Mediterranean from nearly every window. Formerly the private home of artist and collector Ilana Goor, it’s filled today with a rather stunning collection of her functional art, furniture and jewelry. Goor also hosts lectures, dinners and parties within the generous space; and James and I share an awed two hours surrounded by the artist’s diverse creative offerings, all beautifully staged within the gracious, multilevel building.

Later, after a brief sojourn at our seaside hotel to refresh, we head out for an evening stroll along the wide Tayelet, the promenade that winds along the beach all the way from northern Tel Aviv to Jaffa. Greek legend says that just south of where we stand, the local people tethered the princess Andromeda to a pile of sea boulders as a sacrifice to Poseidon. Before the terrifying sea monster Cetus could devour her, she was rescued by her true love, Perseus, who arrived via the white, winged horse, Pegasus, to sweep her away to safety.

I’m always in favor of tales of true love, especially when they involve Greek gods and white horses. But it’s sunset, and it’s the Mediterranean — and, quite simply, time for a little romance of my own. As we stroll past the Opera House, James promises to always keep me safe from sea monsters, then reaches into his pocket and pulls out the small package he acquired earlier in the day. Inside, I find a pair of earrings that I’d admired at the street market: hammered silver discs, shaped like petals and inlaid with amethysts. Exceptionally clever husband that he is, he knows that wearable memories always have my absolute approval.


Info to Go

Ben Gurion International Airport (TL V) is about 10 miles from Tel Aviv. Stick to taxis regulated by Israel Airports Authority, accessible from Level G in T3. The train station is on Level S next to the Greeters Hall in the Landside Building, with ticket dispensers on Level G. Car rental counters are in the first-floor Eastern Gallery of the Greeters Hall; the shuttle stop is on Level G of T3. Bus information is available next to Gates 21 and 23 on the second floor of the airport bridge. For information, visit www.goisrael.com.

Lodging

Brown TLV Hotel
This hip urban boutique retreat offers easy access to city sites, museums and restaurants, along with a rooftop deck and a full-service spa. 25 Kalisher St., tel 972 3 717 0200, $$$

Neve Tzedek Hotel
Ancient and modern blend together in this dreamy oasis in the trendy Neve Tzedek neighborhood. Special touches in themed suites include garden showers. 4 Dgania St., tel 972 54 207 0706, $$$$

Renaissance Tel Aviv Hotel
This seaside location with easy city access has the works: vegetarian café, sports bar, two full-service restaurants, spa, pool, fitness center and meeting space. 121 Hayarkon St., tel 972 3 521 5555, $$$$

Dining

David Ve Yosef
Creative tapas with fresh, local ingredients and a Spanish slant. Closed Friday afternoon and evening and Saturday mornings. 22 Yirmiyahoo, tel 972 3 604 0036 $$$

Orna and Ella
Locals love this informal eatery for everything from morning pastries and afternoon pear pie to gourmet dinners. Be prepared to wait. Closed Friday evening and Saturday. 33 Shenkin St., tel 972 3 620 4753 $$$

Suzanna
Besides outstanding traditional Mediterranean fare at excellent prices, there’s great ambience and a thoroughly romantic terrace. Open daily 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. 9 Shabazi St., tel 972 3 517 7580, $$

 

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