Treats of Tel Aviv




The number of super fit and beautiful people running past us on the bustling beach promenade was incredible. And not only at noon or at 3 o’ clock pm but also as we were returning from dinner at eleven o’ clock in the evening. Saying that Tel Aviv is a sporty city is an apt description. Also, you’ll have no trouble finding an outdoor gym as there are numerous of them sprinkled along the beach strip. And if you take a look towards the sea, past the teens playing beach volley (in December!), you’ll see a class of young surf school participants practising the basics of surfing in the water.

Though not everyone was doing the muscle work themselves: I’ve never seen that many electric scooters anywhere else. But still, Tel Aviv exercises around the clock and the atmosphere does wonders to spark one’s exercising motivation.


We spent our Christmas holiday this year in Tel Aviv. Strong recommendations to the city, I really liked it. 19 degrees Celsius during the day, a long beach promenade along the Mediterranean coastline, the sunrays caressing our cheeks, the savory treats of the Middle East cuisine, the busy Carmel market with its rich sweet pastries, the laid-back atmosphere and the gorgeous sunsets with twenty shades of orange: everything really that I had wished from our compact Xmas holiday.

Every city has its own sounds and the soundscape of TLV includes the rhythmic hits echoing from the Matkot beach padel game, the calls to worship from the mosques, the sounds of traffic, the rhythms coming from the lively beach bars and restaurants and the unique Hebrew language.



It is impossible to talk about Tel Aviv without writing about the food and the culinary joys. Try the full-bodied hummus, the luscious falafels, the fresh white fish, the delicious olives and the Flam Blanc white wine. We had a tasty Christmas Eve dinner at Beit Kandinof in Jaffa (Rehov Hatzorfim 14): it is an atmospheric and relaxed place and an art space with a lively bustle, good vibes, cocktails with local spice and such good food. I recommend that you also visit the bohemian district of Neve Tzedek and there the restaurant Dallal (Rehov Shabazi 10): it is romantic, cosy, beautifully lit with light twines and their kitchen combines Middle Eastern and European flavours. One treat that we’ll need to try on our next visit is shakshuka, the superstar of the Israeli breakfast: North-African styled poaches eggs in a spicy tomato sauce.


One thing I want to mention is that I felt very safe during our whole trip. There are tensions in Israel, but you can’t sense or see them in Tel Aviv. Though it was a bit strange to see a handgun tucked in the belt of a man fishing next to us in his civilian clothes. Not necessarily threatening but strange. In the airport it’s good to reserve some extra time for the security checks.

What else what else? Tel Aviv is a city with 15 kilometres of shimmering coastline. It is a culinary hotspot, bustling and vibrant. The White City area with its Bauhaus architecture is worth a visit and near it are many alluring boutiques. The price level in TLV is high, but luckily gazing at the stunning sunset and its mind-blowing tones by the beach is completely free.



Christmas Vibes under the Andalucían Sun



One of the best things on our Christmas holiday in the South of Spain? Light. Light. Light. Sunlight. Sunrays. After a long period of moist darkness in Finland, my every cell was yearning for solar energy. And that’s exactly what we got. Plus, a bunch of unforgettable experiences.

We spent the yuletide in Andalucía. We flew to Malaga and spent the first half of our vacation at Costa del Sol and did day trips to Marbella, Malaga and Ronda. The second half we spent in historic Córdoba, the city with the mesmerizing Mezquita mosque. It has become almost a tradition for us to spend Christmas abroad. Not to escape Xmas, but rather to make the most of the holiday season and to spice it with a bit of adventure. We’ve had Christmas treats made from various internal organs in Guangzhou, hiked to a mountain with the giant bronze Buddha statue in Hong Kong and bathed in sunlight in Lisbon while enjoying the rich pasteis de nata pastries. And now South of Spain.

Must admit, I was just a little bit doubtful whether the easy and comfortable Costa del Sol life was for me, with the all-day British breakfasts and generous cocktail offers. But what really made me fall for multi-layered Andalucía was the incredible versatility.

Here are some of the memories that are most vivid in my mind right now: Having delicious white fish for lunch in a chiringuito on the beach in December, wearing summery clothing (!). By the way, one popular local treat is a sardine espeto (skewer), warm and fresh straight from the grill.

Torremolinos

Patio de los Naranjos, the Mezquita, Córdoba

Taking countless pictures of tall palm trees (the new Christmas tree) and of orange trees which were ubiquitous. And listening to the mighty waves hit the shore on the beach promenade in Torremolinos when heading back from dinner.

Mercado Central Atarazanas, Malaga

Doing an evening stroll in Puerto Banus in Marbella, the Monaco of Southern Spain, admiring the big boats and yachts and marvelling at the imaginative and everything-but-affordable costumes the small dogs were dressed in.

Port in Benalmadena

The beautiful city of gorges, Ronda

Sipping delicious warm mint tea in an atmospheric tetería in Córdoba. And admiring the many atmospheric patios and inner courtyards of the city, with fountains, decorated balconies, the blooming poinsettia and cobblestoned floorings. For patio-afecionados like myself, in early May in Córdoba there is a festival Fiesta de los Patios de Córdoba: in this “best patio” competition many of the beautiful patios are opened for the public and flamenco is played on various plazas around the city. By the way, Córdoba is among those cities in Spain in which I could happily see myself living, in addition to Bilbao, Oviedo and Madrid, without forgetting the little cava village Sant Sadurní d’Anoia.

The exterior of the Mezquita, Córdoba


Back to Andalucía recollections. The food, the tapas, the wine and the dry sherry. The grilled chicken we got for lunch from the chicken kiosk Asador, El pollo dorado in Benalmadena Pueblo. The rich salmorejo (a puree made of tomatoes and bread), the oxtail, the morcilla black sausage and the various delicious treats of the sea, from navajas to different tasty types of white fish. Interestingly, we found many counterparts from the Spanish cuisine to traditional Finnish Christmas foods: Jamón ibérico for those who want to have their Christmas pork, arroz con leche – a sweet rice pudding (in Finland we have porridge), enjoyed cold. And Pedro Ximénez, a sweet and dark desert wine, a bit like the remote cousin of the Finnish rusinasoppa, raisin soup, which we enjoy with the rice porridge.


We got to see a lot, but so much remains to be explored: the Alhambra palace area in Granada with its vibes from the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, discovering Sevilla more thoroughly and perhaps a skiing holiday at the peaks of Sierra Nevada. Maybe next Xmas. Hasta la próxima.