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Showing posts from August, 2009

Independence Hall - Historical Gem

In today's day and age, the new genre of museums seems to be about virtual reality, sophisticated videos and high tech displays. Independence Hall is the complete antithesis of all of that glitz. Independence Hall served as the home to the first mayor of Tel Aviv, Meir Dizengoff, and later on as an art museum. But, more importantly, on May 14, 1948, the declaration of Israel as a sovereign state and the signing of the Declaration of Independence happened at that location.  The room has been restored to the way it looked on that day.  There is a short and rather primitive film followed by a twenty minute talk given by one of the museum curators who on both my visits successfully recreated the events and emotions of that monumental day.  Despite the lack of bells and whistles, or perhaps because of that fact, I was truly touched by this little gem of a museum. 
Independence Hall - 16 Rothschild Boulevard - 03-517-3942 - call in advance as one can only enter the museum as part of one …

Pizza Agvania

I recently came across an Haaretz article listing Pizza Agvania as one of the top ten pizzas in Israel and I would have to agree with that assessment. The pizza offered at the locations in this chain is nothing like typical American pizza with the focus on thick crusty doughs. Instead, at Agvania, the pizza is razor thin and it literally cracks in your mouth. Pies are divided into 1/4 slices so each slice is the equivalent of two regular slices. I am partial to the regular pizza but the tomato/basil/parsley pizza is also delicious.
Pizza Agvania (locations that I have visited): 19 Sheinkin (I like this location because it is large and has ample seating) 31 Ibn Gvirol
AND NOW IN RAANANA ON AHUZA

Nahal Sefunim - a great hike but not for the weak or weary

Israelis know how to hike and hike well. For the most part, like the boy scouts, they are always prepared - sufficient water, hats, and food provisions. My husband and I, on the other hand, are Americans who did not grow up with hiking in our blood. As a result, we have found ourselves in tight spots. We recently decided to do the Nahal Sefunim hike which is about an hour from central Israel. I read about on a hiking website but did not pay sufficient attention to the details. We did not come prepared and chose to do it at a less than ideal time - midday of one of the hottest days in August; fortunately the entire family managed to get through it (including my six year old); we were rewarded with the wonderful feeling that one gets at the end of a great day of hiking.The hike, which is circular, tracks Nahal Sefunim which is located in the Carmel Mountains region BUT this is a dry hike - at least in the summer months. The highlights of the hike includes spectacular views of the…

Decks - Dining on the Kinneret

Decks is a unique restaurant that will impress your visitors from abroad. Located on the outskirts of Tiberias, the restaurant basically consists of a large glass enclosed room and a smaller deck that juts out into the Kinneret.  Do ask to be seated on the actual (but covered) deck where the views are simply outstanding.  Decks is primarily a meat restaurant (though there are many good fish choices); the various types of meat are sold by weight and then cooked on open pits.  We generally order several appetizers (including the onion loaf, the focaccia bread and the middle eastern platter) and a combination of meats for the entire table; but we skip the dessert which is probably the only mediocre thing about the restaurant.  The meats come out on a special plate with coals beneath to keep the food warm.  The combination of the sea, the fresh slabs of meat and the stunning views make it a meal to remember.  
Decks - 04-672-1538 - RESERVE AHEAD!!!

Kayaking on the Jordan River

Kayaking on the Jordan River does not come close to kayaking on the Delaware, but it is fun, especially if it ends up in a spontaneous splashing water fight (as it did between my kids and some visiting American college boys in another raft on the river). There are basically three companies that offer kayaking on the Jordan River - Kfar Blum, Hagoshrim and Dag Al Hadan. We have used both Kfar Blum and Hagoshrim. There are slight variations on the routes (Kfar Blum has a nice plunge at the end but Hagoshrim seems to be a bit longer) but in general the experience is the same. One can take a raft which seats 6 people or a kayak which seats 2 people but requires more effort. There is an adventure expedition which is two plus hours but the standard route is approximately one and a half hours and perfect for families. The several times that we have kayaked we did not make reservations in advance though it can be packed during holidays and summer vacations.
Hagoshrim - www.kayak.co.il - 0…

Nahal Snir

One of the national pastimes in this country is hiking and there are in fact some wonderful hikes in this country. My youngest child is just reaching the age where we can start hiking as a family so I am hoping to be able to blog about a lot more hikes in the future.Nahal Snir Nature Reserve is a great hike for families with children pretty much of all ages. The hike runs along Nahal Snir which is one of three rivers that feed into the Jordan River. It is a lovely walk among waterfalls, streams and foliage. At various points on the trail one ends up walking in the water but it never gets too deep (and for most of the hike there is a trail along the water so those who really do not want to get too wet need not). The Israel Nature and Parks Authority manages the site; at several spots staff members stand guard to insure that hikers do not go into the water where not allowed. There are several points where one has to climb on rocks but nothing too strenuous. The hike takes about an…

VIP Movies

I just took a visiting guest to the VIP movies in the Raanana mall. It is more costly than an average movie ticket (120 shekels) but it is truly a fun evening with all costs included. You can get to the theater around forty minutes early and I suggest getting there as early as possible to enjoy the evening. It is set up as a small cafe with a food buffet available that includes quiches, fruits, cakes, nuts, pretzels and drinks. There is also alcohol available. The ushers announce when the movie is about to start. Before going into the theater, everyone stocks up on popcorn, sodas and ince cream. The movie is shown in a small theater with comfortable Lazy-boy chairs that recline and have leg rests. The ushers gave out blankets so that everyone could stay nice and warm. Definitely a great night out!
To order VIP tickets beforehand go to www.ticketnet.co.il

Azrieil Towers observatory

On the 49th floor of the Azrieli towers there is an observatory deck that gives breathtaking and panaromic views of Tel Aviv.  The observatory takes up half of the floor; the other half is devoted to 2C, an upscale kosher restaurant.  For the price of admission, one receives headphones that provide an audio guide to accompany the views.  I very much enjoyed learning all about Tel Aviv, its history and the various neighborhoods.  Unfortunately, there were several things that made it less than a perfect experience.  First, the place serves as a catering hall for private events. While we were there, tables and chairs were being set up. It certainly did not add to the pleasure of the experience.  In addition, the information provided on the audioguide is interesting but it is difficult for those not familiar with Tel Aviv and its buildings to pinpoint the places and buildings that are being described (the directions as to what to look at are not clear).  Also, a 3d film is advertised as p…

Tower of David Night Spectacular - not so spectacular

I finally made it to the sound and light show which runs several times during most evenings at the Tower of David. The show uses advanced technology to depict scenes on the stones and structures of the walls that attempt to convey the history of Jerusalem through sound and sight. While I certainly recommend exploring the Tower of David during daylight hours, I found the Night Spectacular to be more kitschy than meaningful or touching. The teenagers with me did not understand the point at all. There is about a 15 minute stroll to the seating area (scenes are depicted on the walls along the way); once seated, the show itself is around 35 minutes which is a bit brief considering that each adult ticket is 50 shekels. The graphics are amazing but an evening walk through the actual Jerusalem streets may be time better spent at a much better price.
Tower of David - www.towerofdavid.org.il - 02-626-5333

Tapuz - A Taster's Delight

Tapuz, which recently received kosher certification, is an outstanding dairy restaurant located in an orange grove in Moshav Basra in the Sharon area.  The ambiance is lovely. One can choose to sit inside but if the day is nice, I recommend sitting outside on the shaded porch (and if not too hot, in the unshaded part or the private pergolas on the grass).  The setting among the orange trees is relaxing and lovely.  I cannot recommend any specific dish on the menu because, in truth, all the food is very good. I would recommend having a glass of orange juice which is made from oranges grown in the grove, and unlike processed orange juice, varies a bit each time.  Also, do not pass up the desserts which are truly amazing.  The service at times can be a bit spotty but go on a day that you have time to spare, take visitors who will be wowed by the whole experience, and sit back and enjoy the atmosphere.  
Tapuz - Nehalim Street - Basra - 09-746-9322

La Boca - South American cuisine

La Boca is a moderately priced casual restaurant in Jerusalem that offers South American cuisine. I have been there twice and each time it met my expectations - a relaxed night out offering food that is slightly different and interesting.  As I have recommended in the past, opt for the food that is the specialty of the restaurant.  We ordered enchiladas and empanadas for appetizers and were not disappointed.  Our main entree was a shared dish for two that consisted of mixed grill - lamb chops, entrecote, chorizos and spring chicken.  The chorizos and spring chicken were the knockouts.  For dessert we had the churros and pastillas.  The churros were slightly dry but the pastillas filled with halva were very good.Try to snag a table on the enclosed terrace so that you can watch the happenings of Emek Refaim down below.
La Boca - 46 Emek Refaim - 077-214-7755

Beach walk

One of the best parts of living in Israel, and specifically near the coastline, is that there are so many beaches in close proximity.  And each one has its unique flavor.  Recently, one of my friends recommended the beach trail near Kibbutz Gaash.  The trail which is about one to two kilometers runs along the cliffs overlooking the Sharon beach. It is absolutely stunning to walk among the cliffs with the beautiful blue beach in the foreground.  The path is primarily a sandy narrow road and at some points does slightly wind up or down.  It is not an excessively difficult walk but may not be recommended for those with specific issues.  At various points there are wooden decks with benches so that one can sit and enjoy the view.My recommendation - bring a hat, suntan lotion, a bottle of water and a picnic lunch - a perfect romantic outing!
To get there:  Take Road Nunber 2.  Get off at exit for Gaash and go under the highway.  Follow signs for Kibbutz Gaash and then for the Sharon Beach. …

West Side Story is coming to Israel

This is not a review but a cultural alert. I just ordered tickets for the international tour of West Side Story coming to the Tel Aviv Opera House for two weeks in September.  There are few tickets left so if you want to go see this production, move quickly.
West Side Story - September 3rd-14th 2009 - Tel Aviv Opera House To order tickets:  Castel - order online at www.tkts.co.il or call the Tel Aviv Opera House - 03-692-7777

Jerusalem International Arts and Crafts Festival

The Jerusalem International Arts and Crafts Festival is an annual event at the Sultan's Pool which is meant as a showcase for the wares of local and international artisans.  It is open every evening for two weeks in August.  It reminded me more of a state fair (minus rides and animals) than an arts and crafts festival. One pavillion is devoted to Israeli artists and one pavillion is devoted to artists from abroad. There is a large food court between the two pavillions.  In addition, every night there are various shows for the children and musical performances for the entire family.   It is a lovely way to spend an evening in Jerusalem with the whole family.   
The International Arts and Crafts Festival - Sultan's Pool, Jerusalem - August 3-15, 2009  NOTE:  There is a fee for admission to the grounds

Deca on the Decline

My first entry on this blog discussed my amazing experience at Deca, a fish restaurant in south Tel Aviv (July 31, 2008 entry).  I thought that kosher dairy cuisine had finally arrived.  But last week when I returned, for the first time in months, I was completely disappointed and do not foresee returning to the restaurant.  The food is still very good to excellent (such as the fish falafel balls which are outstanding); but the portions have become so skimpy that one feels that the food is being rationed.  Given the prices, I was annoyed to only get three small slices of bread in the bread basket and even more annoyed when I had to ask for a refill that also consisted of two small slices.  My husband's fish entree was the smallest portion of fish that we ever received as a restaurant entree; when he returned home, he went right to the kitchen in search of more food.   We kept our bill down simply because by the time dessert rolled around, we decided to forego dessert at the restau…