|Tel Aviv from Joppa|
Day 1 - Tel AvivWe stayed at the Dan Panorama hotel in Tel Aviv. It was overall a very nice hotel. When dad and I arrived in our room, we thought it was funny just how small the room was. It was small. It barely had enough room to fit the (single!) king bed, a desk, a night stand, and a dresser, and you didn't have much spare room to walk around.
This was the lovely view from our balcony, which could maybe fit 2 people. Here we are, practically right on the Mediterranean, and outside our door we can see the building across the street, and…. the roof of our hotel. Every door in the hotel had these things attached to the side door frame. I apologize to my Jewish friends for my ignorance - you're either going to find it funny or offensive, but I forget what these are called, and all I remember is that the Jewish guests will kiss their hand and touch it whenever they enter the room. And there's no significance to it being attached at an angle other than aesthetics. Now, there are only three rules of touring with the NCC:
- No complaining.
- No complaining.
- No complaining.
After some language barriers with a staffer that came to our room we think to simply tell us our bed couldn't be split, we did get a new room. This was the view from the balcony of our new room. Wouldn't you agree that it's a bit nicer?
I was incredibly tired and crabby. I frankly was not that impressed with Tel Aviv as we walked around that first night. It seemed like any other city. There were a lot of empty buildings, buildings missing windows, graffiti… all that plus the unfinished seafront kind of confirmed what the Israeli on the plane told us - that Israel is forced to spend so much on defense, that it frequently does not have much leftover for itself to develop and improve. And our guide told us that it's very common for contractors to leave a job unfinished because they go bankrupt.
Day 2 - Tel Aviv
Oh, I forgot to mention that during rehearsal, Harry (the NCC founder and director) told everybody about how his wife ran into a baritone that was eating just pancakes and eggs for breakfast. I was sure he was talking about me, because I had eaten breakfast at a table right next to theirs. He went on to chastise this baritone and tell the whole group that we're halfway around the world, in another country, and we need to branch out. Fortunately, it became evident that he was talking about another baritone that had eaten pretty much what I had eaten for breakfast, and he was all embarrassed. Afterwards, I let him know that I had his back and that I understood.
After rehearsal, we joined the non-singers on our buses. There were about 300 in our group, so we took up 6 coach buses of around 50 people each. Each bus had its own guide for the trip. Our guide's name was Gila. She was extremely knowledgable and fun to listen to. She seemed to know everything about wherever we went - even which peddlers to avoid and which people would definitely try to pick your pocket.
The buses took us to a marketplace in downtown Tel Aviv. Dad and I had actually walked almost all the way to this place the night before - it was a hike. I forgot to mention that we had eaten in a local eatery. Dad had schwarma, which is almost like an Israeli taco. They cut some lamb or chicken from a spit, put it into pita bread, then you get to dress it with whatever they have available. I had the hamburger and fries. Oh, calm down… I branched out later. I had both falafel and schwarma before we left! But I digress…
The market streets were very, very narrow. Maybe wide enough for 2 or 3 people at the most side by side. And there were just so many vendors. Everything from clothes to jewelry to trinkets to food to luggage to spices to groceries… this really where most business is done. Women were there doing their grocery shopping - I guess they're used to coming to the market every day and buying their food for the next day or two. The streets seemed to be endless. I couldn't imagine having haul all the stuff that the vendors had in and out of storage every single day.
While dad was eyeing a Burger King not too far away, I purchased…. something… from a vendor for lunch. I don't know what it was called. But it was essentially a pita that had some kind of spices slathered all over it. A remarkably horrible description, I know, for what turned out to be a quite tasty treat.
In my next entry, we're off to Joppa.
Click here to go directly to Part 3 of the story.