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Shopping and Noshing in Tel Aviv...

 

Nechlat Binyamin and the Crafts Fair...

Don't miss this - it's great fun. Nechlat Binyamin is a pedestrian only space that runs alongside the Carmel Market. Each Tuesday and Friday from 10:00 AM to late afternoon this street is magically transformed into a wonderful street fair. Tables and booths laden with Israeli crafts stretch for two city blocks, performing artists show off their skills, and cafes and coffee shops around the perimeter do a booming business.

This is a perfect spot to simply browse, chat with the artisans and perhaps pick up goodies for yourself and the folks at home. You'll find everything from whimsical toys to silver bracelets, earring, paintings and candles. Half way through our shopping spree Sunny and I stopped at the 'Twice Coffee Shop' on the corner of Rambam and Nechlat Binyamin to rest our weary legs and enjoy the best glass of fresh mint tea I've ever had. Honestly!

 

The Port Area is fabulous...

Tel Aviv's port area dates way back to 1936. In 1965 it was decommissioned as a working port and just left to crumble and decline. Today this area is a booming recreational center that attracts both Israelis as well as tourists from all over the world. We saw young mothers pushing strollers on the boardwalk, joggers, dog walkers, children playing in the port's huge sandbox, men fishing, people in patio cafes overlooking the sea and lots of visiting photographers capturing the lively scene. Each Saturday there is an enormously popular antique market held here; on Fridays it's the organic farmers who come to sell their wares.

JourneyWomen will especially enjoy the Port's Comme il Faut Complex #26 which highlights women's issues with ever changing, thought provoking installations. Their very large, modern cafe offers delicious, healthy menu choices like Lamb kebobs, Swiss Chard Fettuccini and Finely Chopped Vegetable Salad (with sunflowers seeds and tehina) all served with a smile. Travelling solo? Try and snag a seat on their spacious patio -- time will fly as your enjoy your latte and the passing parade.

Next door is the Comme il Faut fashion forward clothing boutique and across the hall is Coola (meaning All of Her), a small day spa especially for women. We loved their mellow white walls, white wooden floors, their friendliness and the windows overlooking the sea. Not only does Coola list the usual treatments like Swedish, Hot Stone and aromatherapy massages they also offer therapeudic sessions for breast cancer survivors, menopause relief and 'Safe Touch' for survivors of sexual abuse. Impressive! Website: www.coola.co.il

Down the hall is a Sisters, a sex shop for both men and women and Le'Ela is a wonderful gift shop featuring items designed in Israel.

Still want more shopping? The entire Port boardwalk is lined with shops though most are international brands we see everywhere. However, Journeywoman did enjoy browsing through a very large 'Do It Yourself' shop called Ace, the Israeli clothing chain called Castro, and Shilav (pronounced She Love) that offers everything a mom needs from maternity clothes to baby clothes and strollers, to a children's books store (Steimatzky) with a section devoted just to English titles.

 

Levinsky Street Market area...

This district is reminiscent of the Israel I visited thirty years ago. A shopping spree on Levinsky and surrounding streets means busy, crowded, noisy, Middle Eastern horn honking, wonderful aromas, great photo opportunities and even better bargains. My guide and I wandered up one street and down the next. Each offered up a different specialty and we made sure to investigate any that looked intriguing.

A personal favorite was Matalon Street for its group of toy stores. Each shop offered up a jumble of dolls, trains, the latest Hannah Montana fads and loads of handicraft kits. The great fun here is wading through the disorder in order to come up with treasures and Journeywoman and her pal were ready for the challenge.

By far, the most colorful and chaotic street was Levinsky with it's exotic spices and food specialties. All the stores are open to the street and brimming sacks of spices, nuts and seeds line the store fronts like fat soldiers. Pereg Spices, a narrow shop owned by a brother and sister team was crowded when we went by. Perhaps it's because they grind their own spices and then package a melange designed for busy housewives. Making meatballs? Just pick up their requisite mix, add to your meat and you're done. We thought those packets would make great gifts for pals back home. Website: http://www.pereg-spices.com/

We would have stopped at Panaso's bakery for a snack of yummy burekas (filo dough filled with cheese, spinach or potato) but we already had our lunch spot picked out. The decision was a good one. We made our way to Niso (47 Levinsky) especially for the exotic flavors of Turkish cuisine. We loved the idea that Niso says he owes his success to his mom who taught him everything he knows about slow cooking. Whether you're a carnivore or vegetarian you won't be disappointed by an interesting menu that changes daily. The day we were there we enjoyed a large crepe bursting with spinach and mushrooms topped with an aromatic tomato sauce. Every daily special comes with at least two sides which are almost impossible to finish. This place fills up fast. Get there before noon so you don't have to wait.

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