Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Old Neighborhoods

When we left Tel Aviv this morning, it was raining pretty heavily, but the skies cleared before we even reached Latrun (which is good, since Rochelle didn't bring an umbrella with her). Dad and I chatted with the driver in Hebrew, while mom and Rochelle talk with each other.

Dad told stories about his uncle who ran a coffee shop. He didn't have a watch or a clock, and one time he went to bed and then woke up a short while later thinking he had slept the whole night. He went to the shop to open it for breakfast, but none of the rolls had been delivered yet. He went to the post office where there was a clock and discovered it was 2 am. He decided to go to sleep in the store and then overslept, only to be wakened by early morning workers demanding their daily coffee.

He also told us how everyone on his base was afraid of the commanding officer, because if he didn't like them, he could transfer them to a base farther from their families in Tel-Aviv. Since dad didn't care about going back to Tel-Aviv, he was the only one not scared. The officer had a dog and walked with a stick and one night when dad was on sentry he heard the officer and his dog coming from a distance. As they got closer, he put one bullet into the chamber and called out "who goes there." The officer heard the bullet being loaded and answered immediately. Dad didn't get in trouble since he was only "doing his job" and following protocol.

The driver had trouble finding the hotel (you have to take a few sharp turns), but we eventually made it. It was only 11 am, so only Rochelle's room was ready. As I was trying to check Rochelle and then dad asked if I could get them down pillows, like I know the word for "down" in Hebrew. It's a rather specialized vocabulary word that I've never needed before. I didn't even know the word for feathers, but I learned a new Hebrew word today: pookh.

We dropped off all our luggage and took a taxi to the Israel Museum. Unfortunately, it opens late on Tuesdays (4pm), so we had lunch in the cafe. The sandwich was better than the soup, and one of the managers was kind enough to find mom a roll without seeds.

After that I suggested we go to Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall, so mom and Rochelle could shop for various items. In one store, the staff were from Argentina, so mom and I spoke with them about various places (e.g., "El Palacio de la Papa Frita").

After that we walked to Nahlat Sheva, stopping off at Tmol Shilshom (bookstore/cafe) and we checked out the opening times for Shanty, where dad and I had some very good meals 11 years ago. After that, we walked through this very historic neighborhood of small, connecting courtyards surrounded by old stone houses until we found El Gaucho, an Argentinian steak restaurant that dad liked from his last visit. I don't know if my left hand is strong enough to cut steak yet.

After that they were all pretty tired, so we took a taxi back to the hotel, where our rooms were now ready. Rochelle, mom, and dad all went to take naps; I decided to walk to my old neighborhood in Emek Refaim. The street has really gotten much nicer. It was pretty nice back then too, but it just looks better. Nicer stores, and cafes.

I stopped off in one bookstore to look for a guidebook to Jerusalem I lost many years ago. It's in Hebrew and contains walking tours with architectural and historical descriptions of houses along the way. I think it's by David Kroyanker. The store ordered me a copy, and it should be in tomorrow afternoon.

I wanted to have a coffee at Aroma for old time's sakes, since I used to go there every afternoon when I got home from the archives, but they were gone! Turns out the moved a block away to what used to be a Burger Ranch. A vast improvement in the neighborhood, as anyone who's ever suffered through a meal at Burger Ranch can attest.

I ordered a small kafe hafukh, (like a cafe au lait) found a copy of Yediot Akhranot, and relaxed for a bit. I tried to follow the story which printed transcripts of some recordings done of Moshe Katsav's conversations with the woman he assaulted when he was President, but my Hebrew is definitely weaker than it used to be.

After that, I walked to my old apartment building and then headed back. I stopped to take a photo of the sign for Graetz St (the subject of my dissertation) Then I went to the Cinemateque and got their schedule for upcoming films.

Back at the hotel, I rented a (tiny) laptop to check my email and post this blog. At 5:30, I met my parents and Rochelle to discuss dinner plans. I suggested either Jan's or the Armenian Tavern, but they couldn't decide and wanted to ask the concierge. The hotel sends all its guests to the Colony restaurant, about a 10-minute walk away. It was cold and windy, and we mostly walked through a long, dark, unpaved parking lot, but we eventually found it.

It was nice and pleasant inside, with a heavy dose of tourists. We all enjoyed the starters (mushroom croquettes, gravlax, focaccio with a mezze setting, and sweet potato ravioli), but agreed that the ravioli was the best. Mom, Rochelle, and I split a boutique Israeli cabernet by Gustavo & Jo, that we all liked. Dad ordered the lamb kabobs, while mom and Rochelle both got the sauteed chicken livers with a sauce made from apples and caramelized onions. I had the slow-roasted goose leg. I love goose, but the sauce (red wine) either was too salty or to weak. Cranberry sauce would have been better. None of us could finish our meal (though mom came closest).

After that we bundled up and made our way back to the hotel (only stopping to look at the view of the Old City walls lit up at night.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Yum! El Gaucho Steaks...and it's Kosher too! I always liked Amichai's chair in the corner at Tmol Shilshom. The owner was in SF a few years back trying to raise money to keep the store open. Looks like he succeeded?