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Sunday, November 6, 2011

A charming ambiance


I am writing today from Tel Aviv, which I am actually about to depart, heading back to Jerusalem, and the Abraham Hostel, for another few days. Today, Saturday, is Shabbat, and I read yesterday, in the guidebook, that there are no busses, or trains, running in the country, from sundown last night until sundown tonight. I knew that was true when I was in Jerusalem at the beginning of this trip, but thought at the time it was because of Yom Kipppur. I had no idea that it was a weekly occurrence. I can’t think of another place I’ve been where public transportation stops for a day on a weekly basis.

So, I asked the person at the front desk after confirming that it was indeed true, how do I get to Jerusalem? Thinking it was a rhetorical question. But, as it turns out, there is a shuttle bus, that goes frequently. Glad I asked. I enjoyed Tel Aviv, but wasn’t looking forward to killing the day here, until sunset, especially as everything is closed. And I thought Tel Aviv was the most secular city here.

The hostel here, an interesting place called the Old Jaffa Hostel, serves breakfast, supposedly from 8 am to 10 am. But by nine, there was no sign of any breakfast. Not that the breakfast here is anything to write home about, even though that is exactly what I am doing! Several other people up on the roof, where breakfast is served, had concluded that breakfast also wasn’t served on Saturday, when along came a woman and her young son to set things up. It was about 9 am. So, I suppose Jewish Israeli time may run on the off-again on-again schedule as in Umm el Fahem. Or, she was just late. The breakfast wasn’t terrific, anyway, in fact it may have been the worst breakfast I have ever had. It was instant coffee, white bread, the icky sweetest jam I have ever come across, and nutella, which I am sorry to say I don’t much like. Ah, but today’s breakfast, when it finally appeared, included peanut butter, too. I was tempted to try pb and nutella, which I am sure has been done before, but didn’t want to waste if I didn’t like it.

Lots of people had their own supplies, hummus and cereal and other stuff, but all of them seemed to be greatly craving coffee, until the woman arrived.

The hostel is an interesting place. Lonely Planet describes it as the best place in its price range, ie budget. Tel Aviv hotel prices are very high, on a par with Boston, maybe even NY. The middle range prices hover around $200. My private room is about $50, a little lower than the others, she said on the phone, because the window looked out on…..(something I didn’t catch.) But since online their site had indicated no rooms, I was happy to find out they did when I called. The dorm rooms are about $25 each. My window, by the way, opened onto an interior corridor on the floor below, which would have been fine, except the window didn’t close and so it was kind of noisy. The room itself, and the whole place, is kind of funky. It’s an old mansion from the Ottoman period, with old photos, sculpture, etc. all around, including the bedrooms. And old tile, and modern mosaics, , all around. It has, shall we say, a charming ambiance.

My room, amusingly, is called the TV room, a tile sign at the entry says that, and so does the key. I assume it once was a tv room. All the other rooms have numbers. There was indeed a tv there, but darned if I could find a way to turn it on. No matter. It didn’t have its own bathroom, that and the showers were down a half flight and down the hall. And up a half flight is the wonderful roof garden, where the breakfast is served. There is also a fantastic panoramic view of the city, including the skyscrapers and the older buildings of the city, and the ocean, which I am embarrassed to say I didn’t even notice the first time I was up there. So even though the breakfast was awful, as well as late in coming, it was a delightful place to spend time, in the morning sun, and also at night.

The roof is also where the washing machine (and dryer, non working) is, so I washed and hung my laundry along with many others and all the sheets and towels from the guests. It was almost all dry, when I removed most of it in the afternoon, but then this morning what was left was drenched. It had poured overnight, and in my interior room, I hadn’t even known.

While I was writing this, a hosteller came over to another, said goodbye and good luck with the film. I asked what they were filming, and he explained it was a documentary about Israel, without going into the politics. They were from Belgium. I immediately told them about the gallery and gave him contact info. Later, I could hear him talking to one of his team, and mention Umm el Fahem. Who knows?

Well, it’s getting close to check out time, without my having yet related my Tel Aviv experiences. Time to pack up and head out. Perhaps on the shuttle bus to Jerusalem I’ll have time to catch up.

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