Rolling down to Jaffa

My second rule of travel? Check the local sporting fixtures when planning.

I’ve got two maps – one keeping track of all the countries I visit, the other all of the stadia. I don’t really watch sport on TV – back home I’ll cheer on the Hurricanes or Wellington Phoenix in person, but televised sport doesn’t do it for me. I prefer the stadium experience.

So whenever my travel takes me to multiple cities with no pre-determined order, I’ll try to be in town the same day the local football team. It’s a great way to cleanse the palate after overdosing on history and architecture. It’s also a good way to mingle with the locals – which is kind of important when you’re shy enough to put “Introvert” in the name of your blog!

My plans for Israel were not as flexible – the entire point of my trip was to attend catch up with friends and attend two weddings, so staying in the Jerusalem area was essential. That being said, I knew I’d have days by myself. And I knew there’d surely be football on somewhere. I’d checked the Israel Premier League fixtures before leaving, found a match near Jaffa in Tel Aviv, and with that my day trip was instantly sorted.

…and if I got to admire the history and architecture Jaffa while I was there, all the better!

My third rule of travel is that when event dates are given, confirm the provider is working with local time. I had trouble finding anything from a first-hand source, so I relied on Google. I searched for the fixtures while in New Zealand, and was told the match was on Sunday.

The match was on Saturday. Good thing I checked again upon arriving!

The downside of the match being played on Saturday was that the main bus company doesn’t run on Shabbat. I checked for other options, when Google Maps confidently told me not only do buses run on Shabbat, but which buses ran to Tel Aviv at which time.

My tax from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv cost 200 shekels. Yeah, I walked all the way to the main bus station in Jerusalem only to find out that Google was wrong.

My fourth rule of travel? Don’t trust Google.

Tel Aviv skyline as seen from Jaffa

I would have preferred not to have spent 200 shekels, but I wanted to see Jaffa and my friends were busy that day anyway, so I focused on enjoying a quiet drive to a new destination. Passing through the Israeli countryside reminded me of a time my father mentioned speaking to Israeli visitors who remarked on how green New Zealand is. Leaving the city during the day time was a completely different experience to anything I’d seen in a long time. I may be a cold weather person, but there’s something special about deserts.

My taxi driver dropped me off near the Jaffa clock tower, close to the Abulafia bakery where I grabbed a quick snack. There was plenty of time before the match, so I did what I did best – wandered around with no real destination in mind. I wandered down the old port first, where I had my first ever glimpse of the Mediterranean. I walked along the waterfront between the old port and the new port, spotting Andromeda’s rock as I went.

I explored the narrow alleys of the old city, occasionally popping into old homes which had been converted into shops and art galleries. I stumbled across a market area in the new port area just in time for lunch. First falafel in the holy land – served with hummus and french fries in a pita. Just what I needed! I was at the counter at the same time as a German woman, she motioned for me to go first. The menu was only in Hebrew so I let her go first in order to buy myself time to get my phrasebook… only for her to order in English with no difficulty!

I passed the house of Simon the Tanner as I left the port area en route to Bloomfeld stadium, where Hapoel Tel Aviv were to play Hapoel Ra’anana. Buying a ticket was easy, but getting into the ground was a bit more difficult. The security guard seemed pretty suspicious of me, and made me leave my drink bottle outside before admission despite it being empty. I wasn’t going to argue, and I managed to retrieve it after the game anyway, so the guard let me through.

The match ended up as a nil-all draw, but I was happy sitting down for a decent quality match in a new city.  Tel Aviv were easily the better team of the two, and the ref did well, but that’s just how football goes sometimes!

I walked into the Tel Aviv CBD after the match – with shabbat ending, the buses had started running again. My return fare to Jerusalem cost only 18 shekels, but that didnt cause me to regret shelling out 200 at the start of the day – coming here was worth every agora.

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