I'd been to Israel
several times before but that was many, many years ago. The memory
I carried of Tel Aviv was of a busy, crowded, noisy, Middle Eastern
city. I remember cars honking, people shouting, lots and lots of
falafel, and swimming in the absolute bluest of blue seas. Yet,
lately I'd sensed a media 'buzz'; Tel Aviv was enjoying a renaissance
and was being lauded in travel sections of top newspapers and on
the covers of popular travel magazines. There were big changes.
I had to go and see for myself.
Luckily I have a
life-long pal living in Tel Aviv. Sunny Holtzman welcomed me with
her own sweet brand of Middle Eastern warmth and hospitality. She
acted as my guide and interpreter. For four days we had one mission
-- to check out the shopping areas and the quirky restaurants of
Tel Aviv that women travellers would enjoy. Oh my goodness, it was
Shenkin Street is in the
center of Tel Aviv...
area used to be the bohemian quarter of the city -- a jumble
of independent cafes, coffee houses and fashion forward
workshops. Alas all of those oldies are just about gone.
Yet, what has sprung up in it's place is truly fun in it's
own more modern way.
the cafe category and hanging on for dear life is Cafe
Tamar, one of the oldest original coffee
houses in Tel Aviv. It's run by legendary, Sara Stern who
has been in charge for over 55 years. The original Formica
tables and chairs are still in use both inside and outside
the cafe. The bagels with cream cheese, hard boiled eggs
and salads items are the same as they were way back when.
We loved the jumble of of vintage bumper stickers stuck
to the front counter as well as the aging photos of famous
folks from years gone by. This is a hustle, bustle Israeli
coffee house experience at its very best. (55 Shenkin)
the opposite side of the street is a shop in the 'newbie'
category. Eretz Bread
at 44 Shenkin is part of a well-know chain of bakery shops.
It's a tiny place with old fashioned tiles on the floor
and the sweetest aromas in the air. Crammed into their space
are delicious baked breads, rolls and muffins all started
from a healthy whole wheat base. Think mouth watering loaves
like cheese, olive, black plum, sesame seeds and pumpkin.
Their hefty sandwiches have a distinct Middle Eastern flair.
Imagine tehina, avocado and pickled lemon layered in a sesame
seed bun. Oh my goodness! They sell olives by the weight
and spreads of almonds and honey from the Golan Heights.
If you're lucky a seat will become available on the one
bench outside. Jackpot! It's a great people watching perch.
and Ella is a modern restaurant named after
the two women who own and run it. These two friends have
known each other and worked together for eighteen years
and it shows in their cafe's delicious fare and warm, welcoming
service. It's the type of spot that both local gals and
tourists flock to and love. The decor is minimalist with
modern lines, whitewashed walls and tables covered in white
linen tablecloths. Ella and Orna started out by serving
just their fat-free cakes and deserts. They now offer Middle
Eastern specialties with a modern twist. Imagine sweet potato
pancakes served with an unique mixture of sour cream, chives
and mayonnaise or their special brand of mouthwatering Israeli
chicken curry. All brunch dishes are accompanied by organic
goat cheese bread and Syrian olive tapenade. For us, that
complimentary starter was a meal in itself (37 Shenkin).
shops in this area consist of a mixture of well-known brands
easily found in North American (Diesal, Billabong, Addidas)
mixed with a smattering of European chains and a few upstart
clothing boutiques that were fun to browse. However, I was
looking for places that were truly Israeli. My guide laughed
when I insisted in popping into an AM
PM which is just a grocery chain found all
over the city. I liked it because I could buy sunflower
seeds (Garinim) by weight (a favorite Israeli snack) and
Israeli bubble gum called Must which is the Hebrew version
of Bazooka Bubble Gum. A perfect gift to bring home for
the little ones (26 Shenkin).
Journeywoman's favorite shop on Shenken Street is the international
brand, Michal Negren.
Their corporate mandate is 'Live the fantasy' in an 1820
Romanic Era sort of way and every piece in their collection
of furniture, clothing and jewelry lives up to the promise.
Each nook and cranny of the shop is filled with items covered
in bright colored stones and sparkles. You can buy anything
from earrings, to picture frames, clothes, necklaces and
religious items that are attention grabbers. Be sure to
take note of the pink chandelier and the pink roses in their
floor tile. Website: http://www.michalnegrin.com/.
It is kitsch with a capital 'K' (33 Shenkin).
walking distance along Shenkin Street is Tel Aviv's famous
where you can buy anything and everything from eggs, toys
and t-shirts to fruit, veggies and bath towels. Vendors
hawk their wares and you needn't be afraid to bargain. This
place is the perfect spot to pick up reasonably priced gifts
for the folks at home. There's the Middle Eastern sweet
call Halvah that's sold in tins for export, $5.00 pajamas
for toddlers, Israeli wines for the guy in your life, tea
towels for granny and $8 personalized funky t-shirts for
teenagers (Ask for Arie at the Cool
Gunja Stuff stall, 41 Hacarmel at the entrance
to the market). Guaranteed you will fill your shopping bags
in this place.
Take a look
at the produce aisles. Israelis manage to grow the largest
and tastiest fruits and veggies Journeywoman has ever seen.
Pick some up for your picnic lunch. Friday morning in the
market is a perfect time for people watching. This is when
housewives across the city pop in to buy the ingredients
they'll need for cooking their traditional Sabbath dinner.
an authentic restaurant within the market for a casual lunch?
Journeywoman recommends HaShuka
(The Market) on Rabbi Meir Street. This no nonsense eatery
has good, solid food served on plain wooden tables and chairs.
There's no address outside; their sign is in Hebrew only
so you'll need to ask a local for directions. My pal and
I ordered a smorgasbord of small plates -- specialties like
falafel, stuffed vine leaves, fried cauliflower along with
the traditional chopped liver and pita bread. It was so
good and priced perfectly for our budget.
On our way
out of the market we stopped into a second restaurant, Bat
Artzi (Daughter of our Land), a female inspired
basic co-op eatery that had been recommended to us as well.
Here all the food preparation is done by three women who
cook their own traditional family recipes. They say that
the menu changes every day and depends solely on what they
find in their fridge. When we were there they were serving
from large pots brimming with rice and lentils, roast chicken,
goulash, and a fish dish enlivened with pesto sauce. There
is absolutely no decor to speak of at Bat Artzi. It's really
like eating lunch at your Aunt Tilley's kitchen table. Address:
7 Hashomer Street (off Nechlat Binyamin)