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Gardens, hummus and Vietnamese food in Israel [Jul. 15th, 2014|12:35 pm]
We woke up early the next day and headed to the Baha'i Gardens. They are absolutely stunning with giant flowering trees that litter petals in red, orange and yellow; manicured areas of cacti and other succulents; and hedge rows with fountains that my brother pointed out look very much like a level of Zelda. There are also lots of cool sculptures of eagles and peacocks. The shrine itself was a bit underwhelming. We were told it was incredibly sacred but it's really just a small room with a bunch of mirrors and a plaque with the tenants of the Baha'i faith. I'd been hoping for something a bit showier given the gardens outside.

After walking through the gardens, we drove to an outlook where you can see the them from above, which was really neat because the flowers form patterns that aren't obvious when you're standing in them. There was also an ice cream truck up there which offered way better ice cream than its America counterparts. I had a version of a chipwich with a delicious double chocolate cookie and Kevin had a chocolate chip ice cream cone with really good chocolate.

We then drove to Akko, which used to be a Crusader city but was later taken back by Muslims and then later by Napoleon. So there's a castle with a moat that was never filled with water because that's too scarce in the area but still left armies vulnerable to being shot with arrows. There are also forts with cannons and a bunch of mosques. There's apparently a tour you can take that shows the areas where the crusaders actually lived but that wasn't available when we were there so I was bummed.

What Akko is best known for among Israelis is hummus, and after having had it I have to relegate the Jerusalem hummus to second best. We ate it and more falafel and chicken shawarma in a little shop inside an Arab market which is bizarre because there are stalls that sell knock off toys and shoes next to ones that have just bags of spices or coffee that make it look like they could have been the same 700 years ago.

After lunch we hit up a small Israeli winery, which was cool. I got to learn a bit more about the wine making and aging process and try some really good bottles. There was even a bottle called Rotem, named for the owner's granddaughter, so I bought one for my friend Rotem as a gift. Then we returned to Tel Aviv. My parents and Cassie wanted to rest for a while but I was really hungry so Kevin, Jake and I shared a bottle of wine and went in search of food.

I'd consulted the edition of Time Out Israel left in my hotel room and found a Vietnamese place that turned out to be awesome. We were a little skeptical when we first showed up and the place was half empty but we were told that we'd have to sit at the bar because all the tables were reserved. But soon enough they all filled up and the bar turned out to be the perfect spot. The bartender hung out with us and gave us a free shot of mango sake and made recommendations, which were all great, and we had a full view of the kitchen. When we asked what we should have for dessert he asked if we trusted him and brought us out a sweet chicken with sticky rice dish, which was really good, but then threw in a caramelized banana dessert for free. I'd thought he was the owner but when I told him he had a great place he said, "No this isn't my place, it's his" and pointed to the chef who gave this adorable little sheepish wave. It was a very fun last night in Israel. The next day we had to be up super early to get to the airport and fly on to Paris.

[User Picture]From: lassarina
2014-07-16 01:25 am (UTC)
Did you get pictures of the gardens? I'd love to see. :)
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[User Picture]From: spreadnparanoia
2014-07-16 02:10 am (UTC)
Here's that view from above: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=864905250205888&set=a.864904746872605.1073741826.100000592627076&type=3&theater

Kevin has more photos so I'll poke him to add them.
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[User Picture]From: lassarina
2014-07-16 02:57 am (UTC)
Oooh, lovely!
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[User Picture]From: rollick
2014-07-16 05:19 pm (UTC)
We were told it was incredibly sacred but it's really just a small room with a bunch of mirrors and a plaque with the tenants of the Baha'i faith. I'd been hoping for something a bit showier given the gardens outside.

Yeah, but I gotta love a religion that prioritizes the garden over the altar.
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