Judy and I like history well enough, but we also like to sneak off the tour and have fun.
So one evening, we headed to the most famous hotel in Jerusalem, the King David. Built in 1929, it immediately attracted royalty, both active and abdicated. King Alfonso XIII of Spain, and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia both fled to the King David when their countries disposed of them. King George II ran his Greek government from the hotel after Nazis occupied Greece in 1942.
But wait! There’s more! The King David stays so celebrity-heavy that the significant length of its lobby floor is emblazoned with autographs of its guests. Barbra Streisand, Bill Clinton, Yoko Ono, Donald Trump, Prince Charles, Ben Kingsley, Marilyn Monroe, Jimmy Carter, Mohammed Ali…. It goes on and on.
We dined on their famous terrace, a semicircular affair ringed with lush flowering plants, overlooking the Old City. The after dinner entertainment was ogling jewelry display cases in the lobby: gold, platinum, emeralds, sapphires, rubies … you get the idea.
The next day, still in search of the New Jerusalem, we made a research trip to Mamilla Mall, a newly renovated market street re-using ancient facades. It was the night before a holiday—the Presidential election—and Israelis were out in force at the Gap, Columbia Sportswear, and Urban Outfitters, as well as shops with fine jewelry, Judaica, and art.
After stocking up on Ahava lotions and potions, we bypassed a double restaurant (there was a meat side and a dairy side) where a zillion people were eating meat, dairy not so much. We found another terrace for dinner, this one buzzing with birthday parties, first dates, senior citizens, Orthodox families of eight, and what we suspect was a bachelor party. People-watching at its best.
Our next goof-off day was in Tel Aviv, a loud and lively city with skyscrapers, Ottoman mosques, and a beach nearly nine miles long. One section is reserved for dogs who have let their people off leash. Happy pups roam freely, splashing bravely into the water, starting little fights and forming little packs. We saw one German Shepherd trying to start a soccer game, but the dalmatians didn’t get it.
At the south end is Tel Aviv’s ancient treasure, the 10,000 year old port of Jaffa. It’s a tangle of tiny streets with art studios, galleries, and ancient stairways that rise above a marina. We climbed up to the top park and plaza, a space lit with white lights and checkered with craft stalls.
While browsing, (okay, buying) we heard the sounds of a soprano rehearsing on a stage in the square, and settled in at a café smack in front of it. Promptly at 8:30, a contralto in a long red gown began warbling in Italian, soon joined by the rest of the chorus.
The stone, the illuminations, the soft summerish air, the breeze from the Mediterranean, all made us put Tel Aviv on Bucket List 2: magical places to return to.