Forgive me, Reader.
For I am apparently incapable of posting travel photos unless they were taken over a year ago. And since so much time has elapsed, I am also terrible at coming up with words to accompany them.
Over the past four months, I’ve written and posted multiple entries with these photos, only to change my mind and take them down. I’ve been having a hard time finding a story to accompany these photos.
I don’t want to write a travel blog. I’m sure that anything I could write about Iceland has been written before a thousand times; I’m sure there are hundreds of blogs out there with more interesting things to say about Iceland than I do after having only been there for four days. Why should I assume that my personal take on Iceland would interest anyone other than myself? I’m self-involved, but I don’t like to kid myself.
But I still wanted to post these photos. They are nice photos, and I enjoyed taking them.
The problem was coming up with a text to accompany them, since I’m also reluctant to post pictures without words. It just seems like a wasted opportunity. I had the opportunity to subject the world to my words and ideas, and I didn’t take it.
I considered weaving passages of a completely fictional story between the photos. But that seemed too non-sequitur; these photos are personal, and to post them alongside a story that has nothing to do with me seemed a bit odd.
I tried writing a story about my earliest memories of food and cooking. Stories from when I was a child, barely tall enough to reach the stove. Stories from when I was a college student, living on her own and cooking spaghetti for the first time. But that also seemed weird, and somehow forced.
I could tell those posts would end up not working because I had such a hard time getting them down on paper. I toiled over those posts. The words didn’t come flowing out, as they tend to do with my very best posts.
And so, as I sit here drinking Spätburgunder and eating Käsespätzle out of a take-out container (how German can one get?), I will write about a topic that comes easily to me — my own life, in recent memory. This trip to Iceland took place almost exactly a year ago, and I’ve been thinking about how much my life, and how much I, as a person, have changed since then.
So, what has happened to me in this past year?
It’s easy to see what direction my life has taken. Wellness, adulthood, coming into my own as a professional womyn. So what does that mean for this blog? Well, there might be more health-conscious recipe posts than I’m historically known for. And, I might experiment with some more varied content. What does that mean? Basically marrying my love of food and data in the form of data-driven food-related blog posts. I’ve always been interested in food trends and other people’s eating habits. And I’ve spent the last decade or so of my life learning how to (and making a living by) drawing insights from data. What if I did posts like this one on death row meals but backed with quantitative instead of qualitative analysis? Yeah, it’s a tall order (heh), but we’ll see how it goes.
I didn’t have much time to explore Tel Aviv, mostly just the mornings, but managed to take in quite a bit of the city. Mornings are a great time to explore Tel Aviv — the streets are mostly quiet but it’s warm enough to wear just a light sweater. One morning I woke up at 8AM and managed to squeeze in Carmel Market >> Old Jaffa (via Homat HaYam Promenade) before a 10AM meeting. An hour was more than enough time to do this walk, though I did feel a bit rushed at the end in Old Jaffa. The path along the sea was pleasant and tranquil, punctuated by beachside cafes and the occasional playground.
Shuk Ha’Carmel (Carmel Market). That famous outdoor marketplace in TLV where you can buy various food items and flowers. I barely had enough shekels on me to buy a freshly squeezed pomegranate juice — one of the few items on my TLV bucket list. (Highly recommended by the way — that was super refreshing!) I saw a lot of high quality, fresh ingredients here, such as olives, spices, dried fruits, produce and fish, few of which made sense to carry back in a suitcase. ;)
Yafo (Jaffa). Tel Aviv’s old town, an ancient port city, featuring interesting architecture and supposedly the best hummus in Israel. (I also got multiple recommendations for this place, also in Jaffa.) Noteworthy sights include Masjid Al Bahar (The Sea Mosque) and the Jaffa flea market. The Sea Mosque, which sits on a hill overlooking the harbor, seemed like a favored lookout spot for locals and kitties alike to sit in peace while staring upon the sea. The Jaffa flea market seemed just like any ol’ flea market — full of junk that no sensible human would buy. No, I did not come to Israel to buy someone’s used Samsung flip phone. That antique chair is nice, but it won’t fit in my suitcase.
For the other Tel Aviv posts, see here.
I’m not afraid to dine alone. I feel sorry for people who are. I once read an answer to a question on Quora that said the most valuable skill a person can learn is the ability to be happy alone (because then no one can take your happiness away from you). Although I’m still working on that in many ways, I appreciate the sentiment.
I’ve grabbed more than few solo bowls of pho while living in SF and Berlin, but eating alone while traveling is a completely different sort of ritual. There’s something about having a new experience, in a foreign land, just for yourself, that is so dreamy and liberating.
You can walk into any restaurant, on a whim, without having to consult anyone else. You can sit at the bar, people watch, talk (or not talk) to strangers, and take photos of your food without your dining companions losing patience with you. You can soak up the scene and just be. You can get lost in your own internal monologue.
You can take a bite and sigh to yourself, “Damn that’s good!” and pat yourself on the back for having made such a good decision. (I actually did this at Mizlala.) You can revel in the pleasure of treating yourself. You can order that last glass of dessert wine, just because.
I discussed this at length with Eva on Saturday, about how it’s actually the expectation of company that makes one feel so shitty when plans fall through. This would explain why I felt so secure and content traveling alone in Israel but almost cried when two different people flaked on me last Sunday. If you set out to do something on your own, or have it in your mind that the company of others, while welcome, is optional, then you won’t necessarily feel like you’re missing out by not having other people to share your experiences with. Why should we deprive ourselves of new experiences on account of other people, anyway? (Said the neediest person, ever.)
The older I get, the more I learn that being alone doesn’t have to feel lonely. (Especially when you’ve got social media. ;) I’ve got eating alone down; let’s hope the rest will be soon to follow.
Some places I ate in Tel Aviv that I would gladly return to, alone or otherwise.
– Mizlala – Fine dining by one of Israel’s premier chefs. This place has a great vibe. I had a ton of fun sitting at the bar and getting drunk by myself. The space feels classy yet cosy and my entree was amazing.
– Port Said – A gastropub with delicious food and a spacious patio. Apparently it’s also known for its hip music and vinyl collection, which I didn’t even notice because I was too busy stuffing my face with eggplant and short-ribs.
– Delicatessen – A nice place to get lunch and people watch, cafe-style, on one of the hippest streets in Tel Aviv. You can buy all sorts of gourmet things inside. (Although I didn’t get a chance to because I had to rush to the airport.) THEY SERVE ICED COFFEE THERE. (Something I miss in Germany.)
For all other Tel Aviv posts, see here.
I sometimes have the fear that I am running out of time to travel the world, and that before I know it, I will be too old and too scared to step out of my comfort zone and have a real adventure. I know that Israel, as a travel destination, is tame compared to Costa Rica or Vietnam, but I still like to think that it is a step in the right direction.
I could’ve never imagined that my first time ever setting foot on the continent of Asia would be in the Middle East, let alone Israel. As a person who from appearances is clearly of Asian descent, this was one thing I found myself mentioning often to the Tel Avivites I crossed paths with during my very short stay in this city. The decision to go to Tel Aviv, the booking of the flight and hotel, happened so quickly that I hardly had time to register what was about to happen. I’ll admit, I was scared. I was expecting to feel completely out of my element. I was expecting a crazy adventure. As a person with no ties to Israel, who has never traveled alone, who has never even been outside of North America or Europe (except for a family vacation to Tahiti), the thought of traveling alone in Israel was daunting. I got off the plane expecting everything around me to feel foreign. To my surprise, I instead felt safe, secure, and very welcome.
The city is so small that I just walked everywhere. The sunshine and ocean breeze reminded me of California. The food ranged from good to fantastic. Everything was shockingly affordable.
The unexpected highlight of my trip was the people. To my surprise, I found myself chatting with strangers much more often than I ever would in the US or Germany. Some of the things I’d heard about Israelis were true; others weren’t. Yes, they are direct. Yes, they are warm. No, they didn’t force me to have an opinion on global politics. One woman (who sat next to me on the plane) forced me to take her phone number though, in case I had questions while I was in Tel Aviv. Another (sitting next to me at a restaurant) forced me to try a bite of her steak. The steak she was eating for her 30th anniversary dinner! (This was not out of the blue. We warmed up by taking shots together and trading stories about our families and our favorite foods.) It’s funny how much one opens up when traveling alone.
It was so surreal yet so lovely to be there, brief as it was. I took lots of photos so I’ll never forget how it felt to walk on those streets, like some weird alternate version of the beach town I grew up in in Orange County, except with more construction, better food and signs I can’t read.