1st January 2013: My family (minus one brother, who wanted to go bowling with his grandparents) and I toured a couple of the art galleries and ethnic shops in Telaviv, looking at new exhibitions and in the end buying two wooden stamps from the dervish gallery, which was full of glass beads, beautifully patterned bags, clothing and scarves, and a lot of ornaments and wooden objects. We ate falafel (yum!), and continued along the beach front until it was time to visit my dad’s cousin and his family. We had met them several years previously, when the family was doing a year long OE and spent a month in New Zealand, which we spent with them travelling down the North island, and then returning to start school while they continued to the South Island, Australia and Thailand. During their stay, my mum had taught them how to make home-made pizza (ours is WAY better than the stuff at pizza hut, dominoes, and other places like that).
3rd January 2013: So, I’ve been to the zoo! Dad and I took my little sister to the “Jerusalem biblical” zoo (really, I didn’t see anything at all holy about it, apart from the very obvious Noah’s Ark)… it was about a 2 hour journey, one way!!! Then there was the actual zoo, which is pretty cool – it has quite a few animals Auckland doesn’t, for example, a variety of snakes – which meant walking heaps and running around after Morag in general. But it was nice, because it’s a big, and the weather was nice, and apparently when I was a kid we used to go all the time, like once-a-week all the time. Then we needed to find food, because ours ran out, and it’s really weird, but the zoo is kind of a dead spot – there’s the zoo, and nothing else! So we needed to go to actual Jerusalem for that,which was another journey by bus and tram, where we met a friend of dad’s who works in Russia and was in Israel at the same time as we were, (we went to this really neat restaurant where there was mainly sea food and and I’m telling you, I am totally getting this seafood vibe of Israel, it’s like they think that eating out at a restaurant = seafood, fish, or chicken breasts. It’s a bit boring, but I suppose it’s because I haven’t eaten at an ethnic restaurant again after the delicious Georgian one) come back (by dint of trams and buses), catch the last train home, switch trains, wait for the train to arrive, and then walk the remaining 15 minutes home. We got there at 10pm. I was tired.
5th January 2013: I’m up north in Qiryat Tivon right now with my maternal grandparents, where it’s colder, and MUCH more rainy, and therefore greener. Also less densely populated, so right now, it feels a bit familiar!! We went to this really cool place, it’s like a small warehouse that’s been transformed into a shop, and they have long tables that are just filled with bowls and bowls of different types of spices and mixtures and herbs and there are about three tables dedicated to different kinds of tea infusions, stuff like coconut and caramel, or passionfruit, pineapples and strawberry, and it’s amazing, and also, you get to taste the teas to see if you like dried strawberries, for instance (which is really yummy); I took advantage of that. Then there’s the back section which is filled with cooking appliances, really cool stuff like waffle-makers and enormous pans for making stir fry that could feed twenty, crazy stuff like that, and all these cute things like smiley face pancake tins and rose muffin trays and why don’t we have something like this in NZ???? And then there’s the tasting stall at the very back, where someone makes food using the cooking appliances as a way of advertising how well they work, and I got to eat piklettes!! And about 7 different types of halva – yum. There’s also a cafe attached, and an outside pavilion type of thing where dwell the brave of heart – those who aren’t afraid of having their food stolen by a threesome of gorgeous grey cats, and the view is pretty cool because there is a huge field full of herbs that you can walk through if you don’t mind adding a few kilos to your weight via mud (which my sister and I did – fun!! But scraping it off is a bore), and moreover, other fields where there’s veggies and all kinds of edible plants that are in season and which you can pick, uproot etc, and then buy – so, like the fruit orchards in NZ – and it’s really awesome ‘coz you get fresh veggies for lunch!!! We totally need something like this in Auckland – it was great. It’s a shame that most of our pick-your-own orchards are out of the city.
On the subject of food – YUMMY!!! Street food is completely different, it’s all (proper, honest to goodness delicious) falafel, and fresh bagels, and lots of yeast-cakes in bakeries, and stuff like baclava and knafe (goats cheese with orange noodle things coated in syrup on top, everything drenched in more syrup) and CREMBO – I swear I’ve eaten a whole box by myself by now, and bamba and bizli (I think you tried bamba, it’s that peanutty fluffy snack, and bizli is just another popular savoury thing) is really cheap compared to how much it costs in NZ. But the restaurants are you know, the same – Korean, and Thai, and Chinese, etc, and cafes offer basically the same as well. There are more middle-eastern ones though, obviously. And probably heaps of Russian and Iraqi food, considering that there are huge populations of them in Israel. But I haven’t eaten any yet, apart from falafel.
7th January 2013: For the last two days, it’d been raining non-stop, and the skies seemed to be clearing a little so we quickly took the opportunity to drive to this alligator and hot-pool place, right on the border of Israel. So I got to see the fence! And Jordan, the neighbouring country, a teensy little bit. In this valley, there’s an experience type of place, which is part hot pools, part zoo. So, when we first got there, we decided to visit the animals first, which meant walking around while it bucketed down. We saw lots of snakes, coiled up in their heated g;ass enclosures, including an enormous green python. There were also bunnies, a ferret, a fawn (gorgeous!) and some antelopes. There was also a track of 5 minutes that you could take, which led you to all these different types of crocs – alligators, crocodiles, cayman, etc. They’re all different sizes and sub-categories, which was news to me, as I thought they were just alternative names for the one animal! At a designated time, there was a parrot show, which was very cool. Some parrots talked, others did things like cycle on a tight-rope or rollerskate…and they were all very colourful and loud. After getting completely soaked in cold rain, we felt a change was needed, so proceeded to the hot pools, after which we drove to my aunt and uncle’s and spent the evening there. This included meeting the newest addition to the family – the sixth child and fourth son, named after my grandfather.