After the Desert

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Middle East » Israel
May 20th 2009
Published: October 10th 2009
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Haifa beachHaifa beachHaifa beach

I'll bring you the moon...
I have to say that the desert trip was a really tough trip and it took me a fair amount of time to recover. I must have been tired as I ended up with a cold sore which I always get when I am tired and run down. In fact since that trip I have felt pretty grotty, but just put it down to tiredness.

Anyway, enough of all that, I was thinking back over the last few weeks and it seemed to me that I had not done anything very much, then I really started to think what I had done and to be honest, it has been a fairly busy time again. Is it me, do I have to be busy, busy, busy and achieving something to feel I have been alive, probably I hear certain among you say.

Well the first week back from the desert I mainly went for walks, did a few morning runs in the Haifa nature reserve, (the mountains, I hear my poor little legs scream at me) and did a bit of artwork, three sculptures from the driftwood I picked up, and eight different paintings. I even took time out to
Ram's homeRam's homeRam's home

Ram's father Rony designed and built this house himself
start reading a book, written by an Israeli, about life in Israel many years ago, interesting but got side tracked by another book later on, so still not finished yet.

As I said (I think) my lovely bicycle arrived (thanks Jeremy for such great packing). I have taken "her" out for a couple of short cycles to try and get used to the gearing and the feel of "her", she is magic, I didn’t know cycling could be so easy (except for up mountain sides) and she makes light work of 30k flatish rides. The next thing I have to get used to is the cleats, trying that out this afternoon as I have a 55k bike race on Saturday, somewhere in Israel in support of all the soldiers that have been injured in the conflicts here. I imagine it will be very humbling to be cycling along with blind cyclists, and amputees, eating their dust as they fly past me.

It seems to me that here in Israel, they don’t let too many weeks pass without some celebration or other, despite the fact that they don’t smile too much or have great charm or people skills, they

Boat made of timber pieces, cloth and remains of a bouy float found on the beach
certainly know how to party, so on the 12th May we celebrated ‘Fires Day’, it is a bit like our bonfire night. People scavenge the building sites and skips for wood and head into the park to make fires and cook and generally party. It is great to sit on the side of the mountain watching the lights from fires and hearing the music and excited chatter of people, to smell the smell of barbecued food, and to taste potatoes cooked in the embers.

I have been on a few different trips to more local places, explored Haifa a lot more. The place still amazes me, the excitement of the markets, looking at the colours of the fruit and vegetables, the spices, nuts and dried fruit, smelling the fresh herbs and freshly baked breads. Seeing the old and the new side by side in the form of buildings. I like mainly the old German architecture here and now it seems the local councils are starting to realise what a gem they have and are actually starting to preserve them.

One of the memorable trips was to Tel Aviv and Jaffa, I took the train from Haifa and arrived
Passover feast with Ram's familyPassover feast with Ram's familyPassover feast with Ram's family

It seems to me that here in Israel, they don’t let too many weeks pass without some celebration or other
in Tel Aviv about an hour later, the exit from the train was straight into the most amazing shopping mall, Sian would have loved it, it was buzzing with people and soldiers everywhere, I then realised that right next to the mall was the headquarters of the army. Shopping not being high on my list of priorities, I headed out into the street and walked, and walked and walked, I sauntered up past the new German colony, new, because in Tel Aviv they have decided to conserve and protect these buildings, but they were in the way of the proposed developments elsewhere so they just moved the whole colony to a new place! Incredible, anyway, some are restored and look beautiful, others are still in the process. From here I headed into the trendy part of Tel Aviv, the Notting Hill type area - Rothschild boulevards, this again was interesting, it has a wide tree lined avenue in the middle of the road, with little cafes, flower sellers and sweet stands. It seems the trend here is for a motorised scooter that people ride up and down the pavements at scary speeds, weaving in and out of the walkers. Each
Bike ride for charityBike ride for charityBike ride for charity

I have a 55k bike race on Saturday, somewhere in Israel in support of all the soldiers that have been injured in the conflicts here
side of the Avenue is lined with Bauhaus architecture, which is not my most favourite, but these also are in the process of restoration and I have to say, some look really lovely.

After this I walked through the cheaper side of town, through streets that were not so rich and restored. Lots of little businesses all seemingly to sell the same things….how do they survive? It was interesting to walk through the area where there were little work units with people making Sofa’s, doing metal work, stone work, selling second hand items of all descriptions all sorts of different businesses. All run on a shoestring I should imagine, and I don’t think many of them have heard of Health and Safety, but they survive.

From here I edged into Jaffa old town, I was at the seashore. Looking to my right was Tel Aviv, with its high rise modern architecture. To my left was Jaffa old town with its warm yellow sand/limestone buildings and the stunning architecture , dating back to goodness knows when 1300 I think, (not so good on the history, I like to just look and breath in the history rather than read too
Tel AvivTel AvivTel Aviv

Looking to my right was Tel Aviv, with its high rise modern architecture
much about it, sorry all you historians!). Here I was sandwiched between the old and the new, that hits you here in Israel, in some ways it seems to work, but I can’t imagine BANES or WWDC letting us get away with it in Bath or surrounds. It was also strange to have on the one side the hub of Israeli business and on the other fishermen reeling in their catch, all within such a short distance.

Jaffa was a delight, with its pretty little alleys, stairs leading into squares, lovely old worn pavements, pretty windows and doors, and surprises around most corners. It is has been restored, and in some cases I think a little over restored, it is obviously a VERY expensive area to live, and mostly the residents are artists of one kind or another, how they afford it I don’t know. The harbour side was lovely and unspoilt, no Monaco here, just a few pleasure boats and the rest fishing boats, all a little tatty round the edges, however there is a big building being put up between the old buildings and the harbour side, all glass and metal, which I think is to be

To my left was Jaffa old town with its warm yellow sand/limestone buildings and the stunning architecture
a shopping/eating mall. It will be interesting to go back when it is finished to see what it looks like, how it fits. One lovely restaurant on the harbour is called the ‘Dark’ restaurant. It is alongside a theatre, both are run purely by deaf and blind. The idea of the ‘Dark’ restaurant is that you go along and eat your meal in the dark, served only by blind people. It is to let us seeing people experience what it is like to be blind, I wanted to try it out, but it was fully booked for weeks ahead, apparently it has a great reputation, so this is one of the things I hope to go back and do. I settled for a nice cold beer in a lovely little pub, sitting outside watching the sun set. I then walked back along the seashore to Tel Aviv, and retraced my steps past the Bauer houses and the German colony, which both take on a different atmosphere in the dusk, back to the train station. One thing that struck me in Tel Aviv is that people are out exercising and cycling quite late at night, I suppose it is because of
A prety little alley in JaffaA prety little alley in JaffaA prety little alley in Jaffa

Jaffa was a delight, with its pretty little alleys, stairs leading into squares, lovely old worn pavements, pretty windows and doors, and surprises around most corners
the heat, the other thing that struck me was, after Haifa it is so flat, it would be great to have the bike here. It was nearly 2.30 am before I got back to Haifa.

Saturday 16th (17 years on!) I cycled from Haifa to a little village called En Hod, it was total madness of the ‘mad dogs and English men’ sort as the temperature on my gauge said it was up around 35/37C. This was the first ‘Artists’ village to be founded in Israel. Apart from the fact that it was up yet another bloody hill/mountain, it was lovely, really peaceful the buildings were all pretty and of lovely stone, and interesting designs. I found a pottery where I will be going back to learn (again) how to throw pots, run by a really nice couple. The place was just filled with Studio’s of every type of art, glass work, painting, jewellery, metal work, big sculptures, really everything you can imagine, and the ‘Studio’s’ were part of the artists homes which made it really interesting for me being so nosy. It also fired me up about my work, as I met a couple of artists who do very similar work to me, and they seem to be making a small living from it. One was a mad American woman who was having a ‘Show’ in the village, she was from the north of the country, but she was very lively and interesting, a good fun person whom I will be going to stay with for a few days. We found a great little pub with live music, and it was good, where we had a pizza and a cold drink. It was owned by another slightly, no lets be honest, very eccentric guy, but amusing, who made his own beers, which seemed to be going down a storm. The cycle home was great, it mainly all down hill and flat, I cycled about 25k, had a great day in a lovely village, this was my sort of day despite feeling absolutely lifeless.

May 17th and 18th was feeling really grotty, and tired, but had to try and dismiss it as I had booked myself in for the Haifa 10k, (why oh why with all those bloody hills), so I ignored and carried on. The day of the run, I was really low and did everything wrong,

Artists' village
got hungry two hours before the run and ate too much pasta, didn’t drink enough and really didn’t want to go, but having paid and this being my only chance to run here I went along anyway. Oh my goodness, everyone seemed to be so professional, limbering up , showing off their muscles, I must be mad, I thought as I waited to collect my number in my tatty shorts and oversized t-shirt. The run started and within the first 1k I was feeling terrible. My legs wouldn’t work. I felt sick, I had a stitch, I should not have eaten that pasta, it was like a lump of lead in my stomach. I gritted my teeth (in hindsight not the thing to have done) I turned up the music, told myself I had to carry on for at least 20 mins for my body to get used to it, and jogged on, very slowly, oh it was hard, the first 5k was all up the mountain, and very hot still, it was bliss if you managed to fun in the shade of a tree. I was at the 3k marker when the elite runners came hurtling down the other
Arty bench in En-HodArty bench in En-HodArty bench in En-Hod

Ram's standing with the bicycles
side of the street 7k for them, lucky buggers. I must have settled into it despite the agony of the hills and was able to finish the run, I had two other women that I kept overtaking going up the hills and they overtook me going down, in the end, one beat me and I beat the other. The last 1k was a relief and I was quite enjoying it by then, the streets were lined with supporters, and lots of youngsters cheering us on, I even managed a mad dash the last few hundred meters for the finish line….oh bliss. I have to say I was by now feeling quite light headed and dizzy and my tooth was aching something chronic, so clutching my goody bag, yes I got the T Shirt, went home and called the dentist. She will see me 8am tomorrow……ahh.

Well the dentist confirmed that I had yet another raging abscess, (some of you may remember I spent Dec to Feb having root canal treatment) the root canal had not quite filled the gap and another infection had started, hence the feeling so grotty. The dentist was great, she booked me for the start of more root canal at 9.30am that morning, so I didn’t have too much time to think about it. It was so painful, no not the treatment, but when the dentist removed my cap that along with the previous treatment cost me nearly £1000, the treatment was painless. I have a temporary filling whilst the infection heals (anti-biotics) and in about 10 days I will have the final root filling and a new cap, the good thing about it (if there is one) is it is about a third the price of treatment at home.

This morning I looked at the results for the Haifa 10k………surprise, surprise, I came 3rd in my age group, and do you know what, I missed the chance to get up on the podium to receive my trophy and winnings (All of about £15). Last run I missed it by a few seconds (Mount Tavour, came in 4th) and this time because I thought I had run such an awful run I couldn’t possibly be in the medals, and was feeling so ill I just went straight home. Never mind, just knowing it was not as bad as I had thought gave me a boost and I went for a run this morning, knocking 6 mins off my normal time…..little things please little minds.

I am sure I have missed out so much more, but I will now save the few brave among you who read to the end, from my wittering on. I have to go now and start polishing up my lovely bicycle, 55k to do on Saturday!!

I hope you are all keeping well and happy, miss you all and think of you often, take care and lots of love

Liz xx

P.S for all of you who don’t know who Jeremy is, he is from Johns Bikes in Walcot Street, so if you ever need a bicycle, go and see him, he knows his stuff!


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