Busing it and walking through Tel Aviv’s market-rich neighbourhoods — and by the sea

We’ve had many absolutely lovely spring days in Tel Aviv slowly going through the list of “must see and do’s” provided by my friend Carla in Montreal. We are staying at Irwin’s sister’s condo, about an eight-minute walk from the Savidor/Central Train station.

We’re getting used to the buses and their routes, relying mainly on young people with cell phones to look up our destinations. Using our bus/train passes, we have taken buses every day. They are smooth, comfy, efficient, clean, and most passengers wear masks. Like in Canada, the drivers have a plexiglass screen to keep them safe. At each bus stop, there are electronic signs telling passengers when a specific bus will arrive. Once on the bus, the “next stop” appears in Hebrew and English.

On the first day we explored Neve Tzedek, a small neighbourhood with little cafés and shops and then took a bus to Old Jaffa where we walked along the narrow lanes and along the beach and had labeneh and fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee at a vintage-looking Arabic resto.

On the second day, we took another bus to Allenby St., a major shopping thoroughfare and walked towards the beach. (I remember Allenby from 50 years ago when I lived in Haifa, and it hasn’t lost its charm.) We discovered a book shop lined with second-hand English books and an owner who looked very much like Philip Roth. He even had a picture of Roth by his front desk. If you’re on in the area anytime in the next few years, the place is called Halper’s Books at 87 Allenby St.

There are various beaches along the sea and most have facilities, restaurants, beach chairs to rent and play areas for the kids. I don’t think we’ve ever seen so many kids and so many dogs in one city before. Big dogs, huge dogs, tiny dogs and every mutt in between. We left our little Rufus in Montreal with good friends, Haruna and Moussa, but I do miss Rufus. Dogs are allowed almost everywhere although I didn’t see any on the beaches. You can find them in restaurants, bars, even on trains.

Back to the beaches and the Tayelet or boardwalk, which spans five kilometers. Tayelet is a beautiful Hebrew word that’s hard to translate. Its root Tiyul means a trip, which can be a short trip or a day trip or longer, or going out for a walk with a purpose… or not.

Along the Tayelet, you’ll see many of the bigger, five-star hotels including the Carleton, the Hilton, the Renaissance and the Dan Panorama. One street in from the sea on HaYarkon, and the hotels there are low-rise and most probably a bit cheaper. Prices at the Carleton start at $400us but it was hard to get that information until we told them the month of our stay and what kind of view we wanted. Let’s just say it’s pricey but so are many things in Israel.

Today, at the Carmel Market we had a salad with all the trimmings including tuna, egg and roasted eggplants in a take-out container for 35 shekels, about $13 Canadian and with the coffee, my favourite Café Hafuch (upside down coffee) the bill came to 47 Shekels, close to $20. Okay, not bad I guess.

We visited Nahalat Benyamin market, open only Tuesdays and Fridays. It’s mainly a crafts and jewellery market where artists set out their wares for prices that usually accompany these kinds of artisan fairs.

Another day we rode the no. 40 bus to Levinsky Market, a lovely food and clothing market with many little cafes. We bought all kinds of spices to take home, olives, and some nuts. Lots of fun but a bit too many people for us, because of COVID, to sit down and eat there.

It’s feels more “normal” to be wearing our masks everywhere, even outside when people pass us without masks. After a while you forget you’re wearing one and it seems like you’ve always had to wear it.

The weather here has been almost perfect, in the low 70s (F) with breezes and some sun in the middle of the day, perfect for walking and walking and walking.

My appreciation for Tel Aviv is growing. I used to think the city was too big for me and difficult to get around in, but I’ve grown fond of the bus rides and the long walks in the many markets, and the Tayelet.

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