A year later, I returned to the sacred land. This time, less as a tourist, and more as a local. And also, as an official family member of the Belo family (a lot has happened in a year, I know!). I landed in Tel Aviv just in time to watch Argentina vs. France (it was the beginning of the world cup), so I got to watch futból in Hebrew. All I understood were the player’s names— oh and the goals! I still prefer it in Spanish though, nothing like a 20-second “GoooooooOOOOOOOOl” (you get the idea).
So what was different this time? Well, for starters, my ear was more used to Hebrew so I was able to grasp words here and there. I got to drive, which honestly, wasn’t something I wanted to do, but since Eran had gone through knee surgery I had to step up and be the designated driver for a few days. To be honest, I’m not scared of driving, but, have you seen how they drive in Israel? And don’t get me started on parking! What else? Oh, yes! I got to visit one of the northmost towns in Israel, Goren, near the border with Lebanon.
If you ask me what’s my favorite thing to do in Israel, I will say go to the beach. Their beaches remind me of home, they’re warm, clear blue and very close to the city. So if you ever visit Israel, make sure to add a beach stop to your itinerary. But let me tell you a little more about Goren.
The drive from Tel Aviv to Goren is about 3 hours north which is considered a “long” drive in Israel. We made a few stops on the way, one of them being Haifa. But it wasn’t just any stop, it was the foodie stop, where I had the best falafel sandwich ever! The first thing I tried was kadaif with goat cheese. Kadaif is the typical middle eastern pastry tossed with lots of butter, filled with cheese or nuts and drenched with a heavy sugar syrup, yum. After the dessert, came the actual meal, falafel sandwich. Falafel Hazkenim in Haifa is THE place to go. Enjoy a complimentary falafel ball with tahini as you wait for your sandwich in this little shop crowded with locals. Totally worth the wait! And to those who like to wander around in cute little streets (like me), you can take a quick stroll and snap some pics while you wait.
After having a delicious street lunch, we continued on our way to Goren. Goren is a Moshav, which is similar to the most commonly known Kibbutz— a village that is a cooperative community. They focus mostly on agriculture so you’ll see a lot of farms in the area. There’s not much to see here other than hen houses, and some nice views of Western Galilee. But there are a few camping and hiking spots that are worth the visit, like Goren Park, and If you travel outside of the town, you will find more natural wonders like Monfort Castle or Nahal Betzet. You can also just isolate yourself in a nice little cabin with a pool like we did.
After 3 delightful days of pool time, barbeque, and nature, we headed back to the city. Since hubby couldn’t explore around with me, my sister in law volunteered. I don’t think she knew what she was signing up for because I walk more than the walking dead, but, as a great host, she made time to take me on a promenade around Tel Aviv. We started walking down Dizengoff street which is one of Tel Aviv’s most happening streets. You’ll find a lot of restaurants, cafes, and bars, as well as many bridal stores ( might not be relevant for many of you, but letting you know just in case). Since it was a summer day, we decided to start with ice cream so we stopped by this cute little shop called Créme. Now, this was some unexpected delicious ice cream! Créme mixes pastries with ice cream, and by pastries, I mean cake, apple pie, or meringue tart. This was the perfect motivation for our summer walk.
An hour later or so later we arrived at our final destination, my favorite neighborhood in Tel Aviv, Neve Tzedek. This is one of Tel Aviv’s prettiest districts and its name means Oasis of Justice. Once you walk down one of the narrow streets you can feel how the noise and “balagan” of Tel Aviv streets start to disappear as you enter a peaceful haven with beautiful architecture, designer shops, and little restaurants that welcome you to sit and relax. It’s like a little France in Israel, especially because most of its residents are French who migrated to Israel. So if you’re in the mood to practice your French because your Hebrew is not as good (like me), then this is a great place to do it.
In Neve Tzedek you can visit Edition, one of my favs. This is a store that offers furniture, accessories, fashion and also coffee. You’ll find many art galleries and designer stores on Shabazi street so can start there and also make sure to walk down the little alleys and get a glimpse of the old buildings. You can also stop for a coffee at Café Suzanna and enjoy the breeze on their patio. If you’re feeling hungry there are a few nice restaurants like Bellini or Okinawa.
Israel is not a big country, but I certainly have more to explore on my next visit. I still haven’t visited the red sea (which is different than the dead sea) in Eilat, Bethlehem, or hopped over to the neighboring Petra in Jordan. The good thing is I have a nice checklist for next time and will be sure to share with you.