Exploring my new(ish) city

8 May

Learning a new city is so incredibly exciting and fresh. It has been years since I moved to a new city .. one unfamiliar to me. Jerusalem always felt familiar though I am sure there are plenty of secret gems in the city unbeknown to me.

Jerusalem was the city of my youth and Tel Aviv is the city of my adulthood.

Today I spent the day wandering around the city with my close friend Yael. Yael has been living in Tel Aviv for many many years and spent her teenage years wandering around the city. She has impeccable taste and I just follow her while she guides me through her Tel Aviv.

We met up on Rothschild and Allenby and walked down to Nachalat Benyamin street. On the corner is a gorgeous olive oil store called Oil of Life. This is *the* store for olive oil lovers. The store carries all kinds of olive oils, antipasta & olives, spreads & tapenadas and kitchen utensils (all that happen to be kosher). They also sell incredibly reasonable yet unique gift sets.

I came across a mortal and pestle set that was incredibly reasonable but also very heavy. I have been searching for the right kind of mortal and pestle for a very long time but typically they are out of my price range. This one was perfect. Except for the weight issue. I decided not to buy and come back another day to shelp it home. It was too early in the day to be carrying around something that weighs a good solid 5 pounds. I bid the mortal & pestle adieu and off we continued.

We made our way into Neve Tzedek. The neighborhood was bustling with lots of people and not just because it was Friday – today was the first day of the “Open House” weekend where the historical houses were available for public viewing. The streets were overflowing with men & woman carrying expensive cameras ready to snap gorgeous photos of the houses that are only available to the public once a year.

Yael and I stepped into Cafe Suzanna’s (on Shabazi St) for our morning brunch. Cafe Suzanna’s has been a staple of the Neve Tzedek community for over 20 years. This week on Tuesday night their rooftop bar will open for the summer season. I cannot wait to return and drink a cool glass of white wine while enjoying the elegant ambiance of the neighborhood.

After a delicious brunch we were back on our feet for more exploring. We decided to head to Florentine to go shopping for spices. I have had my heart set on trying to cook with red, green and purple peppercorns (none of which are easy to find). We walked through the Suzanne Dellal Theater (the website does not do the compound justice). It is an incredibly lovely building with surrounding gardens and Alice in Wonderland chairs. I grabbed a booklet for the upcoming performances and hope to return there sooner rather than later. The Batsheva Dance Company practices & performs there (with open rehearsals for anyone).

Off we continued in our journey from Neve Tzedek to Florentine. I never realized how close the two neighborhoods were to each other. Once we crossed over the street Derech Yaffo you knew you had left Neve Tzedek behind. This area of Florentine reminds me of the neighborhood that spanned between Broadway & 5th and between 27th and 38th street in NYC. Wholesales, junk retail stores. It took me back down memory lane when I used to work on 27th and 5th and had to pass through the neighborhood.

We made it to the outdoor spice market where the baskets and containers were overflowing with all different kinds of spices, rices, grains, beans, nuts, dried fruits. Yael took me to her preferred store and I bought some dried cherries(yum),dried cranberries & pianola nuts. Yael bough some all natural dried pineapple (delicious). Across the street we spotted a “chain” spice shop where I was finally able to find red peppercorns for a ridiculously expensive price. Lucky for me these red peppercorns are going to last me years.

We then circled back around and headed back towards Shuk HaCarmel (the outdoor fruit/veggie/food market). I decided that it was time to shop in the outdoor market and not the supermarket. On the way we passed Taludet, a little baked potato restaurant that just began using Twitter to reach out to the TLV community. We walked inside and told them that we were here because of their tweeting. The owner looked surprised to see us there – I mean, he joined Facebook only a year ago and was skeptical of Twitter. We proved to them that indeed their name was reaching a wider audience and took magnets for future food orders.

We headed right back down Nachalat Benyamin street where we began in the morning. This time I walked right into Olive of Life and bought the mortal & pestle. How else was I going to crush the new red peppercorns? Satisfied with my well needed yet heavy purchase we left and came across a funny sight I had seen a few weeks back when my friend Allison from NY came for a visit.

One floor above us floating in the wind were three crinolines. Someone must have tied them to the line outside the window and the two of us just stood underneath them giggling like little girls. I havent seen a crinoline in real life since I was a little girl and my shabbat dresses required the extra puffiness. Yael took a few photos and we kept walking and giggling until we reached the beginning of the Artist Market (which is parallel to the Carmel Shuk on Nachalat Benyamin street). I am embarrassed to say that this was my first time experiencing the artist market. There are some very talented artists selling their works of art on Tuesdays and Fridays. We came across street artists dancing to hip hop (11 year olds), a tap dancer, mime and an acrobat swinging from a rope. We ooohed and ahhhed over paintings, jewelry and decorations and then made a left into the shuk.

My plan was to buy cheaper fruit and veggies and I got just what I wanted. Fresh strawberries, melon, onions and snow peas. Yael pointed out the best cheese booth in the shuk (mentally noted for a later date). We battled the busy shuk and made it out alive. You have to understand that the outdoor market on Friday is absolutely insane. If you dont move you get crushed by people wheeling grandma shopping carts, strollers and focused shoppers. I spotted a plant store with very cheap prices but I figured since I have a black thumb it wouldnt be fair to the poor plants if I took them home with me.

Behind the shuk is a large parking lot and bus station. We shmoozed for a bit more and then parted ways to head home and rest our tired feet.

Today was the perfect Friday – quality time with a close friend and quality time spent getting to know my gorgeous city. The love affair I have with Tel Aviv is just growing stronger the more I get to know her.

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