Tel-a-visitor: Impressions of Tel aviv by Misty Roberts

Guestblog written by Misty Roberts:

“So, about a year ago my life kind of fell apart.  I had worked pretty hard to get things to look conventional.  You know- own a house, live with someone in a functional relationship, job, flowers in the yard, kitchen by Williams Sonoma. Then a series of unfortunate events occurred.  I got really sick.  And my relationship fell apart.  And I wondered if I was going to be able to pay for my little perfect house.  And car.  And doctor bills.

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You see, my role in life is to be strong.  My role is to be the person who has all their shit together.  I lead groups of people all over the world, when something goes wrong- they look to me.  The one with all the answers.  My job hasn’t ever been for everything to be perfect, it’s been to be able to anticipate and fix a problem before anyone else notices.  When someone like that has things fall apart, there’s no hiding it.  Everyone sees the cracks.

I’ve never felt more weak and broken in my life.  And that’s saying something because the path hasn’t been easy.  After a few months of wading in the shit, I woke up one morning and said “Ok, right…now to fix it.”  I felt a bit stronger physically.  Mentally, I was still a wreck.  It’s my process in life to just make lists.  So, I sat down and made a list.

“Things That Would Make Me Feel Better Right Now”

Do you know how long a list like that can become?  I started out easy with things like wine.  And new face creams.  

Then I got serious.  Things like “Sell house I bought for boyfriend and I to build a future in” and “Find a way to become more financially secure so that I never feel this hopeless again.”  

And the last thing on that list- “Feel FEARLESS”.

Now, I know it’s not really realistic to say that you will ever feel fearless.  But the kind of fear that had crept into my life after the previous few years was starting to consume me.  I didn’t leave my little house.  I didn’t want to go out in public, I didn’t want to meet new people.  I just wanted to hide in my safe place and feel some kind of comfort.

So, I’m going to skip over the months of self help books, therapy, cases of wine, HOURS of conversations with dear friends, hard realizations, new jobs and lonely moments to the end.

Almost a year later, I’ve learned some things.  I’ve learned some things about what I didn’t like about me.  I learned a lot of things that I love about me that I had forgotten.  I’ve remembered that I love traveling to new places.  I’ve learned that I love doing things that some people would never think about doing.  I’ve learned that after everything I went through- there isn’t much left in this world that scares me …at least to a point that i can’t overcome it.  I’ve learned that I missed my friends.  I’ve learned that I love making new ones.  I’ve learned that people are generally good.  I’ve also learned that everyone is flawed in some way and that those cracks let the light in.img_0858

So, this year I’ve done things.  It’s been the year of adventures.  I’ve flown friends to Seattle to see me, I spent 5 days with my oldest friend in the world on a road trip adventure to Marfa, TX to see The Marfa Lights, Prada Marfa and just indulge ourselves in some much needed catching up.  I went to Cabo St. Lucas with one of my other oldest friends- rented a car in Mexico and saw the coolness of The Hotel California, ate some of the absolute best food I’ve ever had in my life and spent many hours just sitting around enjoying each others company.

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But the thing that I did that I am the most proud of was take a trip by myself.  Last year when my life was crumbling down around me, I went to Tel Aviv for work.  I wasn’t able to do much because of work but I remember being in awe of how great the people I met were and how beautiful it was.  So, wrapping up one project and starting another, I had a week off.  I looked at where one ended and the other one started and a map and immediately knew where my destination was meant to be.

Tel Aviv, Israel.  

Now, I know that so many people hear Tel Aviv and think…”Israel, oh shit….things are scary there!”  We as Americans are very programmed to believe what the mass media tells us (as illustrated by this fantastic election cycle we are in 😉  I’ll be honest, I didn’t look at any news before I went.  I thought to myself that if I did, I would change my mind.  I did know that last year there were some pretty heavy incidents between the Israelis and Palestinians.  But that was about it.  

My gut instinct told me to just get by with the help of my friends, in the famous words of the Beatles.

And I did just that.  I let the 3 ladies that I had met while I was there working know that I was coming.  We didn’t plan really because to be honest, I wanted to trip to just be a go with the flow kind of thing.

I left Boston and flew through London Heathrow, which was a nice break between 2 long flights.  I landed in Tel Aviv at around 3PM and made it through customs and immigration in about 20 minutes.  They no longer stamp your passport going into Tel Aviv, they give you a little card instead with a car code on it and your photo.  Make sure you put that with your passport because you need it on the way out.  I met up with the car driver that I had my hotel arrange to come get me.  He was wonderful!  By the time we got to the hotel, he had offered for him and his wife to take me out for a drink while I was there and given me his cell phone in case I needed anything while I was in Tel Aviv.

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I checked into my hotel on Rothschild Boulevard.  I had no idea what a cool area Rothschild was!  When I looked for a hotel, I wanted something that was near the beach but also near the downtown area.  I found this one right in the middle of everything.  I had decided to kind of go for it on the trip and booked myself a Penthouse Suite.  When I arrived at the hotel, the incredible nice gentleman offered to make me a expresso and then informed me that he was upgrading me to the Rothschild Suite, the nicest room in the hotel.  I asked a million questions about the area and found out that there was a great coffee stand directly across the street, a market right around the corner, and an entire area of bars and restaurants about 2 blocks away.  After getting checked in, I went up to my Suite.  A full wraparound balcony in what was basically a large apartment!  With a bottle of champagne waiting for me on ice!  I can think of about 10 million hotels in the world that could learn something about hospitality from a place like this.

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My first night in Tel Aviv was spent…sleeping.  Haha!  The Jet Lag kicked in and kicked my ass.  I feel asleep around 5PM and woke up at 4AM.  

Day 2- I met up at around 9 with my friend Marilyn, who it just so happens lived about a block away from my hotel!  She and I caught up over coffee and she gave me the down low on the area.  We parted ways and I decided to just start wandering around.  I wandered and wandered and wandered.  Up and down Rothschild Boulevard to the Habima Theater and all the way to the opposite end.  A beautiful street lined with trees and bicyclists.  It reminded me so much of Newbury Street in Boston.  I stopped in the afternoon and tried Halva ice cream.  The best way I can describe it is a pistachio peanut butter brownie 🙂  Of course, I had to grab some more coffee too.  Tel Aviv is truly a city that people go outside.  All of the cafes and restaurants were packed full of people.  The city just really always seems alive.  During the day it’s calm but in the evening, it buzzes.

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img_0529I stopped on my way back from wandering around and taking photos and grabbed some Thai food because why not eat Thai when you are in Israel, hahah!  Again the jet lag kicked in I was asleep by 10PM and up again at 4.  One of my favorite things about this trip was making Nespresso in my room before the sun came up and sitting on the patio outside and watching the sunrises.  I began my days with meditation to the sunrise.  I’m not sure if you can get more idyllic than that.

Day 3 started with breakfast with Marilyn and Anat at the Sheraton.  Anat was the wonderful woman that I met when I was there for work the year before.  We sat drinking coffee and eating from the delicious breakfast spread and gossiping like only women do.  

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My friend Shiran introduced me to how great Gett Taxi Israel is later that day.  It’s basically Uber but quicker!  Her and I “uberred” over to Jaffa to walk around the street markets.  I’ve never seen such large outdoor markets.  So many beautiful things.  I wanted to buy everything!  But…getting it home would of been the problem.  Anything you can imagine there.  Furniture, jewelry, antiques, spices, baskets.  Shiran and I stopped for lunch at a fabulous restaurant and had some beverage that I still dream about.  Seltzer water with mint, honey and lemon.  Spent some time wandering around the Jaffa MarketPlace and picked up some handmade soaps at Zielinkski and Rozen that I am still trying to eek out the last of because they smell so incredible.  Inside the store they have all the large glass bottle of infusions that they use to make their products.  I’m betting if you are there at the right time of day, you can watch them make your bottle.

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We headed back to my hotel and parted ways and I decided to walk down towards the beach.  The one thing about Tel Aviv- it is HOT AS HELL!  My skin has never looked better after spending 5 days there, I think I sweated out every toxin I’ve ever put in my body.  I spent the rest of the day walking up and down the beach Boulevard and going in and out of little shops and dipping my toes in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.  I found a fantastic restaurant that evening called Manta Ray and had dinner on the ocean front.  Sea bass, gnocchi, risotto and a drink called Bitter Passion (which seemed kind of fitting for this trips cause) with red grapefruit, passion flowers and campari.  Gett Taxi got my back to the hotel that evening, hahah!  I couldn’t have walked a straight line if I tried.  

Day 4- Remember that Fearless thing.  Well, I took it to the limits on Day 4.  So far I really had just been fairly lazy and wandering around in the city.  I wanted to really see some stuff!  So, I woke up- had some breakfast at my hotel-img_0551

and asked Anat if she knew where I could rent a car.  Of course- right across from the Sheraton!  I Gett Taxi’d over and met up with her.  We went to the rental car spot and the because I was with her, they upgraded me to this snazzy White Audi!  Vroom, vroom!

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I hit the road to the Dead Sea.  Driving in Tel Aviv is super easy!  Incredibly Americanized.  I mean, I drove around Los Angeles for 8 years, Tel Aviv has nothing on that!  About an hour, 10 minutes and there I was.  Staring at the Dead Sea!  Anat had hooked me up with her friend at the Crown Plaza Dead Sea which has a private beach.  I checked that out for a bit and decided that I wanted to hit the beach in an area with not quite so many people, I kinda just wanted to have that moment to myself.  So, hopped in my car and drove a little ways down from all the hotels and found a beach that had literally 3 other people.  I walked out into the water and I can honestly say you will never feel anything as magical as the Dead Sea.img_0569 I peeled my outterclothes off and walked all the way out.  I covered myself in mud and walked back out to let it dry.  After about 10 minutes I hopped back in and walked out far enough that I suddenly couldn’t feel the mud anymore.  The next thing I knew, I was floating in the Dead Sea.  There really isn’t any way to describe this feeling. I spent some time floating then decided it was time to get on the road to Jerusalem.  I took a different route than I had taken to get to the Dead Sea…and found myself a tiny bit lost in the Israeli desert.  Remember that Fearless thing.  It kicked in.  Okay, Im lost in the Israeli desert.  All the radio stations have switched to Jordan radio and my cell has lots service.  Whats the best thing to do when you are lost?  Keep going.  So, I did.  I turned up the Jordan radio station and kicked that Audi into high gear to see how fast I could go since there was no one else on the road.  And sped through the Israeli desert at about 110 miles an hour.  I’m not sure I will ever be able to describe the feeling of freedom that I had in those moments.  I can say that all the moments of the past year kind of just flooded away.  It’s the moment that I realised that I really can do just about anything.  

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I saw camels.  Real ones that I thought were fake…until they moved and one nuzzled my neck.  Trust me, you don’t want camel snuggles.  They are sloppy and smelly.  But incredibly funny.

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I hit Jerusalem about an hour later and got lost again.  Parking near the old city is pretty frustrating but so so worth it.  No matter that your religious views are- when you are standing in the old city realizing that this is the oldest that we know.  The beginning if you will, it’s pretty heavy.  I visited the Western Wailing Wall and the site of the Last Dinner.  I spotted a group of kids and one was wearing a KU Jayhawks hat!  So…I followed them and their guide around.  Haha!  Who goes all the way to Jerusalem and runs into some good old Kansas kids- this girl!  I took ALL the pictures that I could and bought some Jerusalem pottery to bring home with me as well as some handmade jewelry.  

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The trip back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem wasn’t quite as uneventful.  I got stuck in traffic for a few hours and by the time I was returned the car to the Sheraton, I was really happy to see a Gett Taxi pull up for me.  I headed back to my hotel and hit up the market on the corner.  Grabbed some hummus and pitas and assorted things…and wine.  I enjoyed my last evening on the patio of my stunning hotel drinking and eating and packing.

I called my driver that picked me up at the airport and asked if he was available to drive me back to the airport in the morning.  He was and offered to come get me early to have breakfast with him and his wife.  What a great offer!  So, he picked me up an hour early with his wife in tow and we hit up a spot that was fabulous.  I ate the most delicious omelet ever with an array of breads and sauces and Israeli yogourt.  Yum.  And my last delicious coffee.  

The trip out of the airport isn’t quite as quick as the trip in.  The security lines are pretty crazy but when you put it in perspective that it is to keep you safe, it makes sense and is a lot more tolerable.  Made it to my gate with about 15 minutes before boarding and hopped on my flight to Amman, Jordan to start work again.

All in all- my trip was fantastic in so many ways.  I never felt unsafe.  The people of Tel Aviv are friendly and most speak English or there is always someone closeby willing to help.  It seemed like every person I met in Tel Aviv struck up a conversation about where I was from and the reason for my visit.  Jerusalem was a bit more aggressive, if that is the word for it.  Not quite as friendly but I was in the biggest tourist spot so that’s to be expected.  

I recommended to some friends that were traveling through to spend a few days.  They did and I think they fell in love the same way that I did.  I learned some things about myself on this trip.  And about Israel.  And it’s people- all of them.  And I would do it again in a heartbeat.  

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