Click the photo above for a little story about our trip to the Dead Sea
When I was growing up, my family visited Disney World fairly often. In Epcot Center — inside the giant golf ball — there’s a slow moving ride called Spaceship Earth that takes you through the history of human communication. It sounds boring, maybe, but as a kid I loved “the future” on that ride: a family communicating via video phone. It seemed crazy at the time, about as crazy as flying cars, and yet here we are, FaceTiming and Skyping like it’s no big deal (related: Everything is amazing right now and nobody’s happy).
Although I use technology approximately 100 hours a day and shouldn’t really be amazed by it anymore, I still kind of am — especially when I’m across the world from my life and still so connected.
Y and his grandmother FaceTiming with his mom
By the way: When I mentioned that I would be going to Israel, I think a lot of people (myself included) assume visiting the Middle East would be like traveling backwards in time. In some tiny ways, Israel feels primitive, and by that I mean that there are a whole lot of clotheslines. We stayed at Y’s aunt and uncle’s house, which came complete with a clothesline outside… and, at one point, five iPads at the kitchen table inside. And I’m sure ours wasn’t the only house with so many devices. Israel’s high tech industry is booming, and the country has been dubbed “start-up nation”. One example: pretty much the entire country uses a crowd-sourced Israeli traffic app called Waze that basically put radio traffic reports out of business.
Not exactly primitive, right? I think we’ve all learned our lesson: don’t judge a book by its clothelines.
“This is The Best.”
Add that to the list of really intelligent phrases Y and I regularly uttered while in Akko, Israel. But we just couldn’t help it. Every time we turned a corner, something else really was The Best. Especially at our hotel, The Efendi.
I came across the Efendi on Design Sponge a few months ago (you have to go look at the post, my pictures won’t do this incredible hotel justice). Two ancient Ottoman palaces were merged and preserved to create this hotel that basically puts every other hotel I’ve stayed in to shame (and I’ve stayed at the Luxor) (Just kidding, the Luxor was gross.)
I never thought we would be able to afford to stay at a place like this, but I found a great deal on agoda.com and, well, it was The Best. Here are seven reasons why:
1. A few steps from our room — past a giant chess board (think more antique Turkish, less Cracker Barrel-chic) — floor to ceiling French doors opened up to a patio overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and the mosque next door. We sat on the pillows in the photo below and drank [mediocre] wine out of [beautiful] teacups before walking to dinner.
2. Our room had a bathtub/flat screen combo, which may look romantic but was really just a place for Y to watch ha’ish misphacha (Family Guy).
3. Our room (and every other room in this magical place) had beautiful hand painted ceilings. This picture was taken lying on the floor of our room between the bedroom area and the bathroom area. (yes, Y was looking at me like I was crazy.)
4. On the rooftop of the Efendi, we had a panoramic view of the city, including the Mediterranean Sea on one side and hills in the distance on the other. This is where I most thought Akko resembled Aladdin; looking down on the rooftops of the city, it was easy to imagine jumping from roof to roof — in fact, several cats were doing it while we watched the sunset.
5. In the morning, we made our way downstairs for Israeli breakfast at a knight’s table in a “centuries old room that dates from the early Ottoman Empire.” There were tiny yogurt parfaits. Who doesn’t love tiny breakfast treats??
6. The Efendi was the best smelling place I’ve ever been. I have no idea how they made it smell so good in there. I don’t have a way to show you this in picture form, I’m not a rocket scientist.
7. After pushing back our reservation time to enjoy the slowest sunset of life (I thought maybe the world was ending a la this book), we walked through dark, narrow alleys to get to Uri Buri, the restaurant owned by the same person as the hotel. Y and I don’t usually love seafood, but we took a chance and ordered a 5 course fresh fish tasting menu, and, well, now I like seafood. But maybe only when it comes straight from the sea.
That sashimi? It was The Best.
breakfast at the Bay Club Hotel in Haifa
This weekend, we had friends over for brunch. I was planning to make something involving lots of syrup and whipped cream, but at the last minute I decided to make an Israeli breakfast. Because, what better way to answer the question how was your trip? than to literally put your trip in their mouths. (That should be a slogan for something, right? It’s so clear I went to school for advertising.)
Turn off that Nascar race and put down your cheeseburger for a second, because I have something to tell you: in places outside of the United States, people eat salad for breakfast. Israel is one of those places. An Israeli salad is some variation of finely diced tomatoes and cucumbers tossed in olive oil and lemon juice. I think I had it at every meal we ate — and I’m definitely not complaining.
I also made it my personal mission to try shakshouka — eggs poached in a tomato stew — wherever I went. Shakshouka was brought to Israel by immigrants from Northern Africa and is a huge hit among local cats.
For our breakfast, I made shakshouka (best served with a big hunk of bread for dipping), Israeli salad + hard boiled egg + hummus in a pita, chocolate raspberry rugelach, and passionfruit mimosas. (expert tip: our friend accidentally grabbed a bottle of red lambrusco instead of champagne. we went with it. moral of the story: 1) the combination of passionfruit nectar and lambrusco is pretty delicious, 2) letting your friend that’s been up all night working bring the alcohol is the most fun form of Russian roulette)
breakfast at the Bay Club Hotel in Haifa
This brunch was a win-win-win: we got to share the flavors of Israel with our friends, the unfamiliar food took the conversation about our trip to more interesting places than how was your trip, and I saved us about a million calories by not making almond poppyseed pancakes.
We’re definitely making this part of our travel routine — so you better pray I never go to East Asia. I highly doubt that would turn out well.
“WHY YOU MAKE PICTURE?”
A really hostile question from a man pushing a cart full of candy, the happiest thing in the world, right?
The photo above doesn’t do it justice, but the candy on the cart was bright and colorful and stood out among the dingy cars and desert tones that make up the city of Akko. So I took a picture, which I guess was absolutely the wrong choice.
“It’s beautiful,” answered Y, gesturing at the candy. Leave it to Y to smooth things over with this stranger. He’s good at that stuff.
And sure enough, the guy totally understood.
“FUCK YOU,” he yelled.
As a side note, the same kind of candy was waiting for us in our hotel room when we checked in. I took a picture of it. It didn’t yell at me.