Suitcase and World: A Bit of Tel Aviv & a Bit of Old Jaffa.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Bit of Tel Aviv & a Bit of Old Jaffa.

View of the beach from my hotel room.

Today is Saturday which means it's the Sabbath which means there is no tour so I have some downtime. I could actually use some. It's been nothing but non stop sightseeing for the last week and it will be nice to just have a day to unwind. Even so, it won't be completely about doing nothing.

The best part about today was not having to set the alarm to wake up. I got out of bed just before 8a and was down in the restaurant, for breakfast, shortly after that.

Breakfast was again nothing memorable. A smaller buffet than at the Dan Jerusalem but this time I was able to at least have a cup of coffee which I sipped. I sat at a table by the window which had a wonderful view of the beach. It was early morning and there were already folks jogging and bicycling along the promenade. It looked like another gorgeous day and I couldn't wait get outside.

After breakfast, I made a quick trip back to the room to pack my purse and grab my camera and guidebook. I opted to leave the backpack behind which also meant I was leaving my water bottle behind. I was hoping that there would be a place I could by a drink....even though it's the Sabbath.

I headed out the hotel and down the ramp that led to the promenade. It was indeed a beautiful morning though slightly chilly.

It was early morning.  People were out jogging and cycling.

I headed north, towards the marina. Immediately, my ears were bombarded with an incessant thwack, thwack, thwack sound. There was a group of men playing a paddle game. I would watch them play on my way back from the marina.

I also passed by an outdoor swimming pool which I ignored for the moment. I wanted to check out the marina first.

I had seen the masts yesterday and I was curious about the boats. Once I got there though, I completely forgot about the boats. Instead, I was distracted by the surfers in the water. The waves here are nowhere as large as what you would find in Hawaii or California or on the west coast of Australia but that does not seem to have stopped the locals from wanting to ride them.

Not much of a wave but it didn't stop a few surfers from trying to ride them.

The marina was a pretty one. I think it's the only marina in town.


From the marina, I walked back towards the Renaissance Hotel, taking a quick look at the pool along the way. It was an outdoor lap pool with water piped up from the Sea and warmed. There were some people doing their morning swim.

Along the promenade,there were plenty of locals out for their early morning exercise - walking, jogging and bicycling and playing this game which I later learned was called "matkot". I would describe it as squash played with a large paddle racket but without walls. One of the balls happened to roll by me - it looked just like a squash ball. I stood nearby for a few minutes to watch them play.

These men also make it look easy but I think you have to have very good hand eye coordination to play this game - the ball would be shot back and forth with such speed that more often than not, I could not see it!

I continued my walk along the beach, heading to the promontory that the map had indicated was Old Jaffa. At least, that's where I hope it's located because that's where I was headed.

Though the promenade was filled with Tel Avivians (?), the beach was still pretty empty. Every now and again, I would see some people playing matkot or doing tai chi or even yoga but for the most part, it was a quiet morning on the sand.

Not a sunbathing body in sight!

Beach chairs and umbrellas at the ready.  I was hoping that's Old Jaffa in the distance!

I had slowed my pace down to a leisurely stroll. I was really enjoying taking in views of the Mediterranean Sea.

I did stop to watch this group of men playing bocce ball. At the end of the first game, there appeared to be a dispute over the winner. I chuckled to myself when the brought out the tape measure to settle the matter :-)

It's serious when they bring the tape measure out!

Plenty of playground and volleyball nets to keep people active.

It was nice to see a bike share stand on the promenade - a few bikes had already been checked out.

Finally saw the name of the promenade on a sign. It's a wide promenade and very popular with the locals.

It was a nice, broad promenade.  There were a few places where there was seating that was shaded. It was nice to be able to sit and take a break every so often.

Between the promenade and the main road, it looked like they had taken one lane and divided into two lanes, one going in each direction, for bicycles. In Tel Aviv, bicyclists also have to obey traffic laws so there are separate traffic signals for them :-)

Though it had been barely an hour since I left the hotel, I was already getting thirsty. I spotted a convenience store across the road and this being the Sabbath, I had no idea where the next open store would so I seized the opportunity to get a small bottle of water.

I took my first few sips watching these pigeons bathe in a nearby water fountain. For some reason, I thought they were exceptionally fat pigeons - maybe because it's winter time and they are carrying a bit of extra fat on their bodies.

The one thing I noticed on my walk is the amount of new construction that is going on in the streets near the beach area. From the looks of it, most of what is being built are luxury apartments and hotels. I can imagine that in the not so distant future, this same stretch of road that I am walking along today will be filled with high rise buildings - it will look like Manhattan on the beach!

The beach eventually gave way to rocks but the promenade continued on. Between it and the main road was now a park. A pretty place. Families were already out and about enjoying themselves.

Old Jaffa was still quite a distance away. I just kept walking and taking in the scenery all around me. I'm really liking this part of Israel :-)

As I got closer to Old Jaffa, it seemed like the promenade got more and more crowded. Soon, the promenade came to an end and I found myself on the sidewalk leading down the promontory. I had arrived in Old Jaffa. Looking back at the city of Tel Aviv and the Renaissance Hotel in particular, the high rise buildings seemed so small. I had indeed walked quite a distance - took me about an 1 hour and 40 minutes, with a few short breaks, to get to Old Jaffa.

View of the Tel Aviv skyline from Old Jaffa.  Give it a few more years and the view will be solid NYC.

Looking towards downtown Old Jaffa.

I found a small park, with views of the sea, to take another break at. I took a seat on a bench and opened up my guidebook so I could check out the map and get myself oriented. After I put away my book, I just sat for a bit longer. It had gotten warmer and there was a gentle breeze blowing. Tel Aviv looked liked it was located another world away.....its high rises looking ever so tiny.

Soon, I was feeling refreshed and ready to continue. I continued to walk uphill until I arrived at a grassy area. The place was oddly filled with Africans. In the center of the hill was an amphitheater. There was a bunch of college aged students sitting on the tiers.....on a school outing of some sort.

Located nearby, I saw the spire of a church so I walked in that direction.

 The sign said that it was the Church of St. Peter. I entered in. There was no service taking place but there were quite a few people sitting on the pews. It was deathly quiet - you could've heard a pin drop. Not exactly the moment for me to be taking photos as I have a noisy camera that makes a sound as it focuses and then of course, there is the click of the shutter. I headed back out with the thought that I would return later to take a photo of the church's interior.

Back outside, I walked up the short flight of stairs to find myself standing in a small plaza ringed by restaurants and souvenir shops.

It was a nice little plaza.

At one end was a fountain that I give the award to for being the cutest town fountain. Around one edge of the fountain were twelve, cartoonish looking sculptures of the twelve signs of the zodiac. They were so cute, you couldn't help but smile looking at them.

Building near the plaza.  I love the blue color against the stone.

Following my map, I wandered onto one of the narrow streets that make up the section of Old Jaffa that is primarily occupied by art galleries. Unfortunately, it is the Sabbath so I would say 95% of them were closed. The plus side was that it was really nice to be able to wander about the back alleys in peace and quiet.

Quiet and cute.

I give the award for the cutest street signs to this section of Old Jaffa. Ceramic tiles, with cute designs on them, marked both streets and individual building addresses.


I also give the award for the most creative way to grow an orange tree to this section of Old Jaffa. This unique piece of living art was created by Ran Morin in 1993.

I continued to wander about the art galleries section of Old Jaffa a bit longer but with most places closed, it soon got boring. I made my way back to the plaza and did a bit of window shopping there as well. By now, I had noticed how popular Old Jaffa was with Russian tourists - the place was mobbed by them and many of the stores had signs in just Hebrew and Russian! It seemed like everywhere I went, I heard nothing but Russian being spoken. It was beginning to really annoy me. Maybe I was just getting tired.

I went back into St. Peter's Church. It was as quiet as before so I left again without taking any pictures. By now though, a small flea market had been set up just outside the front entrance of the church. I found a shady spot nearby and took the opportunity to sit, rest my feet and sip on some water. I spent the next few minutes just people walking.

It was a picture perfect Saturday!

When I felt ready, I headed back up the hill where the amphitheater was. The sign said I was in Abrasha Park. The park was still crowded with African tourists - it looked like several weddings/celebrations were going on.  I'm guessing they're Ethiopian Jews.

The guide book said that there was a Wishing Bridge that one should cross. I found the bridge and was greeted by this sign. Oh well. Not my lucky day.

I continued to walk around the park and happened upon a group of Japanese who appeared to be attending a service of some sort - led by man reading from what I presumed was the Bible.

A homeowner with a sense of humor.  Plastic watermelons strung up a vine.

I was getting tired....I think the sun and the warm air was starting to sap my energy. I knew I had a long walk back so I decided to go. I hadn't seen all that much of Old Jaffa but it was enough for me for today.

One more view of Tel Aviv from Old Jaffa before heading back.
On the way back down to the sidewalk which would lead me to the promenade, I stopped to take in one last view of Tel Aviv. There was also a view of the Fisherman's Mosque which is still in active use today.

Back on the promenade, I found myself engulfed in a sea of people. By now, most tourists and locals were out and about. It was a zoo. I was glad I had taken an early morning start to my walk. The beach was now filled with people of all ages as well. A few hearty souls had ventured into the water but for the most part, people stuck to dry land. I think the water is still a bit too cold for swimming. Beachside restaurants were also doing a brisk business. I thought everything would be closed but the non-kosher places are operating in full swing.

I was determined to take as few breaks as necessary but when I got to Clore Park, I could not resist stopping. The green grass was just too inviting to not sit down on. The park was as filled with people as the beach was. There were a lot of families out picnicking. The part also has a section with play yard equipment for kids - I could hear their happy chatter from quite a distance away! I was enjoying the people watching but I also really wanted to get back to the hotel. It was getting hot and I was running low on water and energy. It was just a short break and I was soon back on my way.

It took me a little over an hour to make it back to the Renaissance Hotel. It was shortly after 1pm. Back in my room, the plan was to rest up a bit and then head out again but I have admit, I got lazy. I just stayed in my room and watched TV. I didn't even feel like going down to the hotel restaurant and having dinner so I just ordered room service.

What a difference a few hours make!  The beach is filled with locals.  It's a gorgeous day.  Who can blame them?

In then end, it was a very relaxing day for me and I'm looking forward to resuming the tour tomorrow. I just hope that I get Uri back as my guide. He said there would be a slight (very slight) possibility that I would get another guide. I have my fingers crossed.

I really didn't get to see Tel Aviv at all so that is another excuse to come back to Israel. Someday. Soon.

Goodnight from Tel Aviv for the last time!