Saturday, May 28, 2016

Tel Aviv Hotel 2315

It's amazing how much you can do in a single day when you don't have to go to work.

I spent the morning rollerblading through Yarkon Park. The dancers I met yesterday do rollerblade tours in different parts of the city on different days. Today was Yarkon Park. I'd already explored the opening and poked around a little, but my new lesbian friends took me in deeper than I ever knew I could get.

We skated the entire length of the park, mostly sticking by the river and passing playgrounds, far more trees than I expected and a restaurant or two. The park has a zoo, basketball courts, a baseball diamond, several fountains, places to rent paddle boats, an amphitheater, a large public square, places to rent bicycles, a lake next to the river and a playground with a huge wooden jungle gym. It's a much bigger park than it looks from any of the entrances.

One of the open fields was where Elton John played last night. It looked very different the next day. They are not completely finished tearing everything down, but they're getting close. Someone said that he's playing Russia tomorrow, so adding more dates here was probably never an option. This might also be the same field where Paul McCartney played when he came here.

We went into the park's tropical garden, which is like a tiny rainforest, with all kinds of birds and tropical plants that don't grow in the rest of the park. We also went into the rock garden, which is much larger. It looks like a small desert in the middle of the park. The funny part is, the rainforest and desert are next to each other. And it's all in a city park right next to the Mediterranean.

Every Friday before Shabbat, there's a huge farmer's market at the Tel Aviv Port. It's kind of like Mahane Yehuda before Shabbat, but the farmer's market is new and mostly indoors. Mahane Yehuda is the best place for spices, bread and cheese. The farmer's market had plenty of bread and cheese, but it was mostly prepared foods, like potato salad, egg salad, desserts and pasta dishes. Mahane Yehuda is for grandmothers. The farmer's market is for yuppies. They feel very different, but I liked them both. One was old Jerusalem. The other was new Tel Aviv.

From the farmer's market, I got some fresh fruit and bread and some old cheese. There was nothing fancy or five star about it. Each component was delicious on its own, but everything worked well together.

This was one of the best meals in Israel so far. When you travel, you go to a lot of restaurants. At least I do. Some restaurants are great. Some are terrible. Most are somewhere in between. You never really know what it's going to be like unless you've been there before. Sometimes a picnic with fresh local food is the best.

This is my last night in Tel Aviv, so I saw my last sunset over the Mediterranean. It looked pretty much the same as the first, but beautiful enough to watch every day. I suppose if I lived here, I'd stop watching sooner or later, but I'm only here for a few days. So a sunset over the Mediterranean is going to impress me every day. We don't get anything like it in Hong Kong.

Shabbat began at sunset, but I didn't notice. In Jerusalem, you know when it's Shabbat. The city just stops. It's a little eerie at first when you watch a city with a million people just close up shop and go home. Large public squares that usually have crowds of people hanging out are suddenly empty. In Tel Aviv, I couldn't tell the difference. A few restaurants and stores were closed, but most of the places I went were still open. There were as many people out and about on Friday night as there were on Thursday night.

Just after sunset, my new friends took me to a drum circle on the beach. I think it might be the hippiest thing I've ever experienced. There was drumming, dancing and what quickly became a large bonfire. We started with about a dozen people that eventually grew to at least 50. People just wandered in from all directions and joined us. Most of them brought their own drums, but there were plenty of loaners. There were a lot of bongos and congas, a few banadir, some claves, tabla, a cabasa or two, timbales, a couple of marching band bass drums and some snares. I was using someone's West African djembe. Those without drums danced around the fire.

Is it legal to have a drum circle on the beach? I don't see why not. Is it legal to build such a large bonfire on the beach? Maybe not. Is it legal to pass around funny smelling cigarettes? I'm guessing no. But I never saw any police on that beach. Had the police broken us up, I would have been safe. It's none of my business what kind of drugs other people take, but I keep all of it out of my body.

After the drum circle broke up on its own, some of us went to Polly, a pub on Rothschild Boulevard, not too far from Catit. This is one of those local neighborhood places where everyone knows each other. I'm not big on pubs, but I guess sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.

There's another drum circle every Friday before Shabbat at a place called Drummer's Beach near the Dolphinarium. It's not connected to the drum circle I went to. Mine started at sunset and went into the night. Theirs ends at sunset, so I assume it starts sometime in the afternoon. It's supposed to be very famous, but I never heard about it until today.

Dinner was at a place called the Tasting Room, which is mostly for tasting wines from Israel and all over the world, but they also have a full kitchen. After a few sample glasses, I think I started to taste the difference between wineries. Or at least I told myself I could taste the difference. I was mostly there for the food. Since I don't know anything about wine, I assume French is the best, but the two best glasses I had were from Israel and South Africa.

They had fancy chefs who made exactly the kind of fancy antipasti you'd expect at a wine tasting room. They had a wide variety of cheese and some outstanding toasted sourdough bread with diced vegetables and a boiled egg on top. The rye bruschetta with tomatoes, olives and balsamic vinegar was my favorite.

I'm looking forward to going back to Jerusalem, but I'm going to miss Tel Aviv. They're two very different cities. I wouldn't be surprised if they were in different countries. They're like New York and Los Angeles. I've met a few people in one city who would never want to live in the other. I like them both.

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