Founded in 1909, Tel Aviv is a modern city of 3.5 million, roughly half of Israel’s population. Located on the Mediterranean Sea, it sports modern architecture and a lively youthful atmosphere. New residential and commercial towers are being constructed everywhere, and gentrification of neighborhoods are making the cost of living exorbitant. Much of the growth is fueled by immigrants who continue to pour in from Russia, Europe and the U.S.
While Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, all government services, military headquarters and business centers are in Tel Aviv. There aren’t many tourist attractions or historical sites in Tel Aviv itself. This became evident when our first stop was the University of Tel Aviv. We also toured some neighborhoods including Rothschild Street. Much of its original Bauhaus architecture of the early 20th century is being carefully renovated, and is highly sought after. Investment from the West has made it very expensive for the common Israeli to comfortably live in Tel Aviv, so suburbs have sprung up nearby. From a triathlete’s point of view, Tel Aviv would be a good place to train. Miles of beachfront running and swimming are the obvious benefits. Also, most public parks have installed training circuits for strength training.
Just south of Tel Aviv is the ancient port city of Jaffa. Here we roamed through the narrow stone streets and flea markets; and had (yet another) hummus lunch, this time served with egg and what looked to be refried beans. I now understand what helps our guide Benni stay so fit– he eats hummus with a spoon and not with bread. He also stops eating when he’s full…a good idea that I look forward to trying one day. While the others shuttled back to our hotel, I walked the 4K beachfront back to the Crowne Plaza hotel. Surfing and paddle boarding is very popular in Tel Aviv and boards are available for rental along the quay. Tel Aviv reminded me of Sydney except even more varied in culture and international flare.
Our group was growing sentimental as we headed out for our last dinner where we would meet our trip host from the Ministry of Tourism. We ate in a famous Jaffa restaurant called Dr. Shashukas. Its chef has won many international cooking competitions. We met Shashuka himself over a glass of tea and desert.
Despite missing “my boys” at home, I am sad to leave this beautiful country and my new friends. I will definitely be back…perhaps for Israman 2016…
Author Barbara Mica is a contributing editor to EverymanTri.com. Barb is a four time Ironman finisher and ITU Long-distance Championship triathlete. She has run more marathons than she’d like to remember. She and her family travel to many international race destinations and enjoy learning the lifestyle and culture of the host countries.