Ok, folks, so I have a confession…. I turned 30 last week! Here in the Davis “Household”, we celebrate “Birthday Month” – which is the greatest invention ever; a whole month to celebrate YOU!….well in this case….ME! It’s not an elaborate endeavor, but instead a little special note or act of kindness each day. As you might expect, Matt Davis excels at Birthday Month and I enjoyed many pleasant notes (one said I could quit my job! It doesn’t get much better than that!), foot/shoulder/head rubs, and acts of strength and chivalry (carrying my skis at Sun Valley, packing everything in/on the car for the final moving trip, carrying ALL of our luggage for ISRAEL….oh Matt Davis)! (Matt: It was an eventful birthday month for Kelley to say the least but luckily it is now my birthday month! No pressure! #leapyear)
With the time difference between here and the States, I feel like I got to celebrate twice! I spent my Tel Aviv b-day walking around the shops, enjoying the beach, relaxing at a sea-side cafe, and taking a bath. Since Thursday is our “Friday” here, Matt and I went over to the mall’s weekend food carts and enjoyed a full dinner and beers for $10! We also saw “The Big Short” at the movie theater….full day!! As my Tel Aviv day was winding down, the folks in the States started waking up and I got to enjoy the flood of love from friends and family back home! Needless to say, I feel incredibly loved and thankful for everyone in my life – thank you!! I am very exciting for the year to come, 30 will undoubtedly bring MANY wonderful and exciting adventures – לְחַיִים!
Alrighty, enough about me! You want to know where we went and what we saw!!
So, where to start with how this weekend came about…..let’s start with last weekend when some nice people asked us to take their picture at the beach in Tel Aviv. We made some brief conversation and somehow wound up with an invitation to their house in Zikhron Ya’akov – Israeli Wine Country!! I had heard a little about this Israeli hospitality (ie, everyone we met in the States prior to leaving suggested we stay with their family somewhere in Israel) and thought it was worth a try! From our brief conversation, we learned the woman was from the States and they looked friendly….so after a few days of consideration, we made the leap to assume they would not kill us and accepted the invitation! I exchanged a few texts with Batia and we were set!
One of the great things about Israel is that everything is relatively close! So we can enjoy most places without doing the late-night drives we were so “fond” of in the States. We left Friday (“Saturday”) morning and got to Zikhon Ya’akov with plenty of time to enjoy the downtown shops and do some wine tasting at Carmel Winery – the largest winery in Israel build in 1882. The wine was delicious and we learned A LOT about the “wine scene” in Israel….it’s QUITE extensive for such a small country!
The town of Zikhon Ya’akov is lovely – we strolled the streets and enjoyed perusing the galleries and shops of local artists. We also enjoyed some incredible treats at the Tishbi cafe. (Matt: The chocolate soufflé was especially amazing!)
We haven’t quite figured out the Israeli weekends since it turns out everything closes around 2-3pm on Friday (“Saturday”) and things are often closed or have very limited hours on Saturday (“Sunday”) due to Shabbat (such as IKEA OPENING at 6:30PM on Saturday AFTER sunset and the end of Shabbat….that was interesting!). So as the shops closed in Zikhon Ya’akov, we made our way to our new mystery friends’ house a few blocks from downtown. We were greeted with warm smiles and open arms! Our hosts, Batia and Yoel (who we learned also assessed the likelihood of us killing them), shared stories of their families, travels, and the many wonderful places to see in Israel! We shared a delicious dinner, AMAZING wine, many good laughs, and talked into the night. Batia was a wealth of knowledge for places to visit and provided an American’s perspective on life in Israel! Yoel grew up in Zikhon and shared his comical and historical insights into the old town and the transformation of the wine industry since he was a child. Batia and Yoel -if you read this, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU, we had a great time and deeply appreciate your hospitality!
This brings us to Saturday (“Sunday”)! After a lovely breakfast with Batia and snacks for the road from Yoel, we headed out on our way up to Haifa. Haifa has a lot to offer so we just scratched the surface with a few hours of exploring. We were lucky enough to stumble upon the free tour of the Baha’i Gardens (you cannot enter these gardens alone, so we were VERY excited to find the tour starting shortly after we arrived). Following the tour, we walked around town, enjoyed some delicious falafel, and made a stop at the sweets shop for some baklava!
The gardens cover an entire mountain side….cascading down 19 levels over 1 kilometer….a pretty steep drop with LOTS of stairs! We dropped even more elevation with our pursuit of food…so we were basically at sea level…with our car back at the top of the mountain. Most people grab a bus or taxi to take them back to the top….but alas, I am with Matt Davis, so we must WALK back up to the top….gotta love that guy (Matt: It was further than I thought – classic “Matt Davis Mile”…).
Next up is a quick stop in Ein Hod, a quaint artists colony South of Haifa. Being the end of the day and Shabbat, some places were not open…so shucks, we will have to come back 😉 But we were able to stop in a few galleries and enjoy the hill-top views.
As the sun was setting, we hopped in the car to make one more stop! Caesarea! This is a VERY old port town with some incredible history and ruins. It felt like a trip back in the past thousands of years! You are able to walk in/around the ruins and enjoy a unique juxtaposition of old and new with lively restaurants and shops surrounding the ancient ruins. Not to mention an AMAZING sunset….one of those sunsets that just keeps on giving with new and dynamic colors every minute, so beautiful!
We stopped at IKEA on the way home….the meatballs were disgusting….we will stick to Israeli food from here on out!
That will do.