P.S. You have a hoverboard!

Readers, you have my express permission to skip this one. The title is misleading, this post has nothing to do with hoverboards. So go ahead and skip it.

For my yoga teacher training, I had to write a letter to current myselffrom 43-year old self. It wasn’t easy, and it isn’t necessarily something I’ll check back on once I’m a worldly and seasoned 43-year old. But the practice of writing for myself is a revelatory practice, that I’m happy to try out once in awhile! To my lovely two followers: I didn’t know where else to post this letter to ensure the best chance that it’s around in twenty years. It’s scary to overshare like this on the internet!

Dear Alexis at 23,

What is it that you want? What are you willing to do to get there?

While your life must necessarily be a mystery to you in order for everything to turn out as it will, there are still a number of things I have dreamt of imparting on my younger self. There are big things ahead for you, some will be obvious, some disguised as small things whose significance can only be appreciated from a great long distance.

First, a quick update for your incurably curious brain. We are doing great in the big ways. Always there will be small disturbances to the balance of your life, but you are grounded in your relationship with yourself, after decades of disordered thinking and self-blame. You’ve made intentional strides toward adopting the pliable nature of unshakably content women. I’d say, at 43 we’re soundly halfway there 🙂

Here’s where you stand, from “my” perspective twenty years from now:

You’re still figuring out what’s most important to you. What success is. You have a cloudy idea of what you want your life to look like, but need a bit more confidence before you can start making steps in that direction. Right now, you know that being independent is important. That you want to make enough to comfortably support yourself and maybe a kid one day. You want to find a career that completes you but doesn’t try to eclipse you (basically, a career like Dad’s!).

You want relationships to be the star of your life. You want to find a career (and a couple relationships, actually) that spark your passion, but right now you’re scared of the uncontrollable commitment that comes from engaging with something (or someone) completely. You’re scared of the momentum that passion creates, because you surrender control when you admit to yourself that you’re passionate about something. It’s like how you feel with David right now: You love him, and passionately desire to make a life with him, but to dwell on that desire, to sit with it in complete honesty: it’s dangerous! It opens up the possibility of wanting something I have no control over and (at least at the present moment) that I might never get. Once you admit that you want something or love something passionately, it’s so much harder to switch tracks should that thing not work out! But I’m telling you that passion pays off, even when it leads to deep pain at times; it also leads to the deepest elation of your life. Because of the emotionally cautious person you are, embracing passion requires major courage and the maturity to see beyond the joy it can bring long term. Once you are able to glimpse the great joy that comes with delayed gratification… and couple it with the hardest work of your life, you can quit digging your heels in so damn much!

In twenty years, you will be 43 years old. Where will you be? What will fall away along the way, and what will emerge? At 43, you want to have a small family. You want good relationships with your parents, whom you are just learning to love as they deserve to be loved (that teenage angst was rough on you!). You want a balanced life with a rewarding career and family life. You will need love and supportive relationships. You will need spiritual growth (but don’t worry about that one too much because it can’t be rushed anyway!) You want physical health (Crohn’s will not win. But you will have to prove you are a serious opponent) and I want to assure you that so long as you act intentionally, you are likely to find health.

My last and perhaps most actionable advice is to stop giving up on things when the going gets rough or you’re bored or something else catches your eye. Do not quit yoga when your body hurts. Do not quit trying to get into a doctorate program when it feels like an uphill battle toward another battle. Do not give up on relationships that become temporarily inconvenient. Do not give up. Your persistence in the pursuit of what you think is worthwhile (at times mistaken for obstinance) is part of what makes you who you are. Kapka told mom that, somehow, you always get what you want. And she was right– because you know when to keep trying and when to change what you want! The point is: Consistency in the face of adversity is when you get the opportunity to earn your stripes.

Your favorite poem at 23 (and a fervent reminder):

God has pity on kindergarten children,
He pities school children — less.
And adults he pities not at all.

He abandons them,
And sometimes they have to crawl on all fours
In the scorching sand
To reach the first aid station,
Covered in blood.

But perhaps
He will have pity on true lovers
And take care of them
And shade them
Like a tree over the old man sleeping on the public bench.

Perhaps even we will spend on them
Our last coins of compassion
the we inherited from Mother,

So that their own happiness will protect us
Now and in other days.

Sending love from across the universe,

P.S. you have a hoverboard!

 

Wild Geese

No time for a full post this morning, but I just needed to share this with you. The first four lines have been sort of haunting me as I get deeper and deeper into my yoga training.  The rest of the poem is a great reminder that, no matter what kind of blizzard you were stuck in this weekend (thanks, Jonas), Spring is on it’s way to save us.

Airborne by Andrew Wyeth

Airborne by Andrew Wyeth

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

The world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —

over and over announcing your place in the family of things.

Serene in 2016

Hey there! Been awhile.

A friend recently reminded me that I have this blog, which encouraged me to start writing again. When did we last speak? Looks like my last post covered my April 2015 trip to Israel. So we have 6 months of catching up to do! I’ll summarize:

New Jersey to Charlotte, NC. New job. Same friends. Some new friends. David in Israel. Yoga. Graduate School. Oh, and Crohn’s. Aaaand that brings us up to today. This autobiographical blogging thing is so easy!

Now that that’s over with: this weekend is a doozy. And by that I mean so many things are changing in my life: 1) I’m starting a yoga teacher training 2) My dad and I are going into business together 3) David is leaving for another eight months in Israel and 4) I am sending off my application to my dream doctoral program.

I start yoga teacher training in T-5 hours. Whoa. While I wouldn’t call myself a yogi (something inside of me cringes every time I hear that word, must work out why), I’m undertaking the yoga teacher training to deepen my own practice of yoga and to potentially teach yoga down the line. I love the idea of therapeutic “subtle yoga” for older folks or for interpretive yoga for the younger chillin’s. I think my neuroscience background will give me a unique framework for studying the practice and benefits of yoga, and I hope that I will get a lot out of this experience. I also hope they don’t make us chant in sanskrit. We’ll see how far I get with that.

 

 

 

tbt to 2.5 months ago….

It’s been longer than I care to say since I’ve published a post. A lot has happened in the past week, however, so this is going to be an action-packed post. I have a week’s worth of pictures to share!

Last Sunday (while we were staying in Haifa), David and I took a day trip to Akko (also called Acre) across the bay. The trip only took 25 minutes by train, which only cost $4! I wish the NJ Transit would implement a similar pricing policy…

According to wikipedia, Akko was first inhabited in 3000 BCE and has been continuously inhabited since then. It’s been conquered by the Greeks, Romans, Judeans, Islamic empire, Crusaders, and most recently (until early 1900s) the Ottomans.

Like most of the ancient cities in Israel, Akko has been built, destroyed, and rebuilt countless times, such that the current city is a conglomeration of many cultures and traditions. Apparently it was common practice in the conquering days of old to simply build a new city directly atop the rubble of the old city. For example, the crusader’s hall that David and I toured (now excavated) was once filled completely with sand so that an sultan could build a new palace directly atop it.

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The crusader hall is called the Hospitaller complex, because the knight’s order that occupied it maintained a pilgrim’s hostel and hospital there during the first Crusader period. We descended a stairwell into series of large halls used for various purposes by the knight’s order. The rooms were entirely bare (they’ve been buried and abandoned for almost a century) but the architecture was really cool. The sheer size of the halls, their columns, and their arching ceilings were impressive to behold. Somehow I lost my photos of the inside, but David has some. At some point I’ll get those from him and post them..

On Monday, we returned to the Ba’hai gardens for a chance to explore the inner ring of gardens and visit the shrine to the Ba’hai prophet Bab. The garden is undoubtedly one of my favorite places we have visited here.

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After visiting the gardens, we took a bus to Stella Maris, a monastery on top of a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. The monastery is located atop a natural cave believed by the order to be the location where the prophet Elijah sought God’s advice before attacking the prophets of Baal. Regardless of whether that’s true, the church has some beautiful frescos and stained glass representing Elijah’s story.

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Then, we accidentally took an arduous hike down a humongous hill toward another cave, where Jews think Elijah also stayed.IMG_0160IMG_0163

After that, we realized we hadn’t had lunch. So we took a bus to Angus, a meat restaurant that came highly recommended. The kebabs were seriously good.

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Tuesday, we woke up early and took the bus from Haifa to Jerusalem, which took about two hours. We took a walk around our new neighborhood, the charming Rehavia, and had lunch at a kosher sushi restaurant!

Wednesday, we started the day by taking the bus to the Garden Tomb, located just outside the Damascus Gate into the Old City. The Garden Tomb is a beautiful spot: it’s a lush garden surrounding the spot where Protestant Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried. IMG_0169

From there, we walked into the Old City in search of the Via Dolorosa, the path Jesus supposedly walked from his conviction to the spot where he was crucified (according to all the other sects of Christianity), the Holy Sepulchre.

It’s a pretty long road that Jesus had to walk, so we took a break in the middle with some Apel Streudel at the Austrian hospice.

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The views from the top of the Austrian hospice were amazing!

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When we finally reached the Holy Sepulcher, it was really crowded. The Sepulcher is an amazing church surrounding the location where many believed that Jesus was crucified and buried in a tomb. The original part of the church was built in 335 CE, but has been added to, subtracted from since such that the current church is kind of an architectural mess!

It was incredible, though, to witness these places that hold such meaning for so many people. There was definitely a heavy but excited feeling about the whole place.

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Pilgrims waiting to kiss the spot where Jesus’ cross supposedly stood. IMG_0182IMG_0184

The line to get into the tomb where Jesus was reportedly buried (above) and the ceiling above the tomb (below).

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Over the centuries the walls of the church have been carved into by countless pilgrims…IMG_0186

Around three o’clock, we finally sat down for lunch!

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Thursday was Yom Ha’Atzmaut, or Israeli Independence Day. It’s sort of like the Fourth of July, except people get a little more into it and there’s more folk dancing. Th fantastic Israel Museum had free admission on Thursday, we joined the throngs of people to see their huge collection of ancient artifacts from the region.

The museum was amazing, and that’s coming from someone who normally has a very limited tolerance for history museums. They probably have one of the largest collections of artifacts from the biblical era anywhere in the world (makes sense, it happened here), plus some cool Egyptian and Greek stuff. They even have the world’s first nano-sized bible!

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The Israel Museum also houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are some of the oldest biblical writings ever discovered. They’re housed in the “Shrine of the Book” and are pretty incredible to behold. I would have taken a better picture but there was a vigilant guard watching the place…

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Friday we took a trip to the gigantic Jerusalem Mall. We wandered around, ate some terrible food court asian noodles for lunch, and had a relaxing day. Most notably, David, who has bought one new pair of shoes since I met him three and half years ago, purchased a pair of boots.

And today is Saturday! I’m almost entirely caught up!

Today we woke up slowly. We had cornflakes at home for breakfast, and then walked all the way to the Old City around 11am. We briefly joined a free tour at the Jaffa Gate, but promptly wandered off to find lunch. After lunch, we spent awhile relaxing by the Garden Tomb again, before heading back into the Old City to find an open pharmacy for some cold medicine! After finding the cold medicine, we explored the tiny Armenian Quarter of the Old City. We looked at some interesting pottery, were almost run over by a procession of Armenian priests, and then settled in at a coffee shop for awhile. Then, we walked home by way of the famous King David Hotel (the fanciest place in Jerusalem!) and the president’s house.

Which brings us basically up to the present! In a few minutes we’re going to have a late dinner at the Carousela Coffee shop, next to our apartment!

XO

High on Haifa

Friday was a tough day. We checked out of our place in Eilat early in the morning to catch a bus to Haifa. It was a bit of a “bumpy” ride. The bus is comfortable enough, and the price is certainly right for a cross country trip ($25), but the ride felt like an eternity.

One adult with three toddlers was sitting behind us, and every five minutes a sticky little hand would reach around the seat and play with my hair or touch my arm. When that lost it’s appeal, the seat kicking started. And didn’t stop. For the entire six hour trip. A teenager in the seat in front of us moaned and sweated.. and then yakked into a trash bag for the first two hours. And to top it all off, the bus driver was playing an ABBA album so loud that I could barely hear my podcast. It was a serious assault on the senses.

David and I were glad to step off the bus in Haifa yesterday afternoon. We found our apartment, rested for awhile, then set out in search of dinner. Literally everywhere in walking distance had shut down for Shabbat, though, so we ended up at McDonald’s eating “Big America’s”.

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Saturday morning, we woke up around nine and walked to the much-anticipated Haifa flea-market. Online, we read that it was “one of the best in Israel” and “not to be missed”, etc. Well. The Haifa flea market can really only be described as the dirtiest, most perplexing garage sale I’ve ever seen. At least one hundred vendors were spread out along a dusty dirt road, selling everything from old shoes, old baby carriages, piles of Russian VHS’s to rusty farm equipment, grandfather clocks, and old sewing machines. There were even multiple half-drunk bottles of Russian vodka for sale. Perplexing.

Dave and I had a breakfast of Israeli salad with sumac and hummus at Abu Maron’s in the flea market. According to our Airbnb host, it’s the best hummus in Haifa, but we both agreed it was average. It’s simply hard to compete with Abu Hassan’s in Tel Aviv.

We walked back to our apartment up a steep hill. Haifa is almost like San Francisco with its hilly streets, its moderate temperature, and it’s bay location. I would bet that Haifa is steeper, though. The part we are staying in is so steep that you can see the bay from almost every corner.

After taking a very brief rest, we headed back out for a free English tour of the Ba’hai Gardens to begin at 1:30. Even though it’s fairly close (we can actually see the golden dome from out apartment window!), we took the bus to the entrance to avoid the steep hill. The tour began at the very top of the gardens, which occupy a wide strip of land that slopes down the mountain on which Haifa sits.

The golden dome is the monument to one of Ba’Hai’s two prophets. The dome is actually in the center of the gardens, but the tour only took us through the upper half. We may return tomorrow to see the “inner gardens”.

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The tour took us from the very top to the golden dome, down 700 steps!

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Just to give some idea of how steep the gardens are!

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Loved this photo of Dave and me looking up at the terraces. Just to state the obvious, the gardens were absolutely beautiful. They’re stunningly manicured and almost completely symmetrical. Tiny waterways run alongside the 700 stairs on the way down, simply because the sound of water is intended to be soothing to pilgrims visiting the holy site. I can’t wait to go back tomorrow!

We walked home through the neighborhood of Hadar, a hipster-y, young place with colorful graffiti all over the buildings. We stopped at an outdoor café for coffee, then went home. We went to the “German Colony” for dinner, which, it turns out, is really just a touristy street full of overpriced restaurants. The major silver-lining of the German Colony was the view looking up at the Ba’hai gardens, lit up for nighttime.

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Today (Sunday) we went to Akko, but I’m going to save all that for a different post. This one is long enough!

XO

 

 

Easy, Breezy

Our days here in Eilat have breezed by and tomorrow we’re headed to Haifa by bus. Here’s a “greatest hits” what we’ve been up to in easy, breezy Eilat this past week:

1. A Kick-Ass Airbnb

I had to mention this, because it’s just so much better than our first one.

2. Walking along the Promenade and checking out the mall.

Too tempting. Must. Not. Enter. Zara. Noooo….

3. Finding out where locals go to the beach.

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Migdalor Beach, a twenty-five minute bus ride out of town. Seriously worth it though: it’s the only beach that has free lounge chairs and umbrellas, a chill bar right on the water, and an amazing coral reef system about ten feet from shore! Our awesome Airbnb came with two snorkel sets.

4. Vegan food. And real cous-cous.

A blog post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t rave about what we’re eating! Just kidding (but not really). We found a vegan restaurant where we ate some delicious and definitely dairy-free food. Dave was really cool about me wanting to try it out. He even said his lentil burger tasted good! (awee).We also tried out Lalo’s Restaurant, which serves only Moroccan cous-cous, but does it so well no one seems to mind.

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Lalo’s was so good that we went there twice: once for the chicken cous-cous and once for the meatball. Also, it might sound unlikely, but I swear the cabbage salad at Lalo’s was de-lic-ious. If anyone wants to help me market a fad diet based on eating raw cabbage… let me know.

5.Oh, yeah. I almost forgot to mention that we went SCUBA DIVING today. 

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David was a natural! It took me a little longer to get used to breathing underwater (can you blame me for hyperventilating just a little at the beginning?) but by the end of the class portion we were both really comfortable. We brought the GoPro with us, but didn’t take too many photos cause we were too busy being amazed. The terrestrial landscape of Eilat is a largely monochromatic red clay. Underwater: Eilat is tropical. We saw venomous lionfish, sea urchins, parrotfish, frogfish, rainbow-colored flute-mouth fish, burrowing eels, and a bajillion other fish I can’t name.

We’re still working on uploading the videos from the GoPro, so hopefully I’ll get those up by tomorrow.

XO

 

Gone South

I’ll own up to it: it’s been two days since I last posted. I’m still pretty happy that I was able to post for 12 days straight.

David and I took the bus from Tel Aviv to Eilat on Sunday morning, and it felt like we left Tel Aviv right on time. We had cold weather and rain all weekend and that cloud was supposed to hang around for the next week. So, we escaped to Eilat. Sunny and 85 degrees is the forecast for the next week here, and that’s alright by us.

The ride down took about five hours, and we read for most of it. The bus made a stop at a rest area about halfway through the ride, where we unloaded for exactly fifteen minutes. I stepped into the McDonald’s at the rest area for lunch only to discover that McDonald’s is really expensive here! A regular hamburger ran about 45 nis or $11. A Big Mac, which is called a “Big America” here in Israel, cost about $15! Isn’t that name poetic?

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Anyways, I ended up settling on a kebab from the place next door (much cheaper!) and hustling back to the bus. David, on the other hand, assumed that the driver meant an Israeli fifteen minutes (anywhere between ten to thirty minutes) and ran up the stairs onto the bus just as the doors were closing..

The drive down to Eilat took us through both the Arava Desert and a part of the Negev Desert. The closer we got to our destination, the more distinct the landscape became, with massive red clay canyons reminiscent of those in Arizona, and an imposing mountain range rising over the flat desert to the east. It was pretty incredible watching the landscape change so drastically from the rolling green farmland outside of Tel Aviv to the dusty red Negev!

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Finally, we arrived at the central bus station in Eilat, and made our way to our Airbnb apartment. The place is way nicer than our first apartment in Tel Aviv with real space to walk around and a place to sit that isn’t the bed. Walking down to the water, we began to discover Eilat in all it’s beauty and weirdness.

Eilat is a strange, strange place. Even lonely planet (the travel website) describes it as “brash and ugly.” The airport is located in the middle of the dusty, low downtown, which makes it really noisy. There’s a shopping mall right on the water, and the board-walk is trashier than the one in Ocean City, with countless trinket shops (probably selling the same crap you’d see in Ocean City), convenience “Super Markets”, and aggressive salespeople marketing expensive glass-bottom cruises. It’s not exactly charming. Luckily, that’s not all of Eilat.

Today, we’re taking our host’s advice: we’re getting take out cous-cous from the Moroccan place across the street, hopping on bus to Migdalor Beach (“Lighthouse Beach”), a more secluded spot away from the many hotels, where our host says there’s lots of coral to look at and some dolphins! Annnnddddd: we’re bringing the GoPro!

XO

Rainy Day in Tel Aviv

Today was our last day in Tel Aviv. We’ve really enjoyed exploring the “secular capital” of Israel. It’s been a seriously wonderful week and a half here: exploring the many neighborhoods, sampling the food, walking along the ocean at least three times per day. We’ve experienced so much already and yet have only scratched the surface of what this amazing country has to offer. In light of that, tomorrow morning we board a bus for beautiful Eilat!

This morning we woke to the sound of pounding rain on the terrace outside. It was lousy weather by any standards, but the fact that it was Shabbat, meaning almost all businesses would be closed, induced a bit of claustrophobia. We decided to take our chances with the rain and set out in search of a brunch spot. We thought we might have to walk all the way to new Tel Aviv (about 2 miles) in the rain to find an open place, but we were willing to if it meant getting out of our tiny apartment!

Turns out we only had to walk about five blocks before we stumbled on a seriously lovely café called Albert. Initially, we only ducked in to avoid a downpour, but we were quickly charmed by the menu (written on postcards and displayed in the kind of accordion booklets grandmas use to carry around family photos) and decided to stay.

I’ve been trying to maintain my dairy-free diet, so I went with a vegan sandwich of tofu and veggies and vegan shake.

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Verdict: sandwiches will always be better with meat (and cheese.. *single tear…*). However, the “exotic vegan shake” was amazing. So good that I took a picture of the ingredients listed on the menu so that I can someday try to recreate it.

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The downpour continued for almost the entire morning, so Dave and I flipped through the Hebrew newspaper and did all of the sudokus we could find. We also tried a soy cappuccino, which was surprisingly great. Albert had a great soundtrack that included “It Don’t Mean a Thing if You Ain’t Got That Swing” and left us singing Minnie the Moocher for the rest of the day.

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Until next time, Tel Aviv!

XO

King Hummus

going up

I’ve tried to refrain from making this blog entirely about the food I’ve been eating, but seeing as today is Shabbat, I’m going to give all that a rest. This post is all about food, glorious food!

Here’s something about Israel that is different from the US that I have really come to appreciate: eating on the cheap here does not mean eating unhealthy convenience food.  It may mean forgoing a sit-down restaurant in favor of a coffee shop or shawarma café, but overall the quality in taste and ingredients everywhere we have eaten has outshone the expectations I held for eating on a meager budget!

For example, yesterday afternoon, David and I tried out Abu Hassan’s, a Tel Aviv institution. Known for having the best hummus in the entire city in a  city full of restaurants that serve only hummus, Abu Hassan’s stakes a pretty huge claim. It has…

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The Old Man and the Sea

Last night, David and I went to The Old Man and the Sea (Hazakan V’hayam), a restaurant overlooking Jaffa’s old port, which has been in continuous use since the Bronze Age.

Nowadays, the port is a semi-retired relic of the city’s biblical past: fishermen with dingy’s, sailboats, and touristy harbor tour boats are the only vessels allowed in the harbor now. All of the big cargo ships are diverted to the harbor in New Tel Aviv.

Nonetheless, the harbor has been buzzing the past couple days. The entire country has been on Passover vacation, and you see huge extended families picnicking on benches and fishing over the side of the retaining wall. You can tell the spot is touristy when you hear Hebrew, Arabic, English, German, Russian, and Portuguese all in one place! It seems like everyone comes to the old port to enjoy the sunshine and the view on a warm day.

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The restaurant is one of the biggest ones we’ve seen in Israel; it probably seats 100 people outside and another 100 inside (while most smaller places seat thirty people, tops). David and I decided to sit inside to avoid the wind, and were seated in a booth adjacent to the window.

As soon as we sat down, a waiter came over to our table and practically threw twenty different appetizers/salads before us. I’m not exaggerating: the Old Man’s tourist-trap gimmick is that each meal comes with exactly twenty different salads, a pitcher of lemonade, tea/coffee, and dessert.

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The twenty plates made a little mosaic of our tiny two-top table. So we started in strong on the falafel, hummus, babaganoush, Turkish salad, roasted eggplant in tomato sauce, tabouleh, carrot and cranberry salad, a surprisingly hot salsa, white and red cabbage…. When our main course (Dave and I split the sea bass) arrived at the table, we barely had room for it.

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After dinner, we rolled ourselves back to our apartment where we both gave in to a food coma.

XO