After an exceptional nights sleep, we were greeted to a lovely morning breakfast of begele (bagels) with cheese and z’a’tar, in addition to a few sweet cakes that had been specially baked for our arrival. My partner’s mother kindly offered me a tea, which I took, asking for a splash of milk to be added. She gave me a queer look but acquiesced to my request. I took a sip and thought something was awry. I looked at my fiancés’ cup and saw his was a coffee brown colour, while mine was an anaemic greyish green colour. Seeing my confused look, he said he had coffee not tea, but it still didn’t explain the bizarre swamp colour in my cup.
I sipped coyly to avoid disappointing my host, but she quickly realised something was amiss. I wasn’t showing the usual enthusiasm for her culinary delights. “You don’t like green tea?” she enquired. So, that explained the weird colour in the cup and the funny taste of the tea with milk. Quickly the offending cup was poured down the sink and a traditional English breakfast offered in its place.
After our filling breakfast, we ventured into the city centre. We had a mission. Being recently engaged we have begun some vague planning for our wedding. Given my family is in Australia and my partner’s in Israel, we need to plan two events. A wedding in Australia, and a reception/ celebration in Israel. Our mission was to visit some reception venues for the celebration in Israel. We hadn’t told anyone in the family yet though.
On our way to the city, I remembered the episode of ‘The Nanny’ where Fran Fine marries Mr Sheffield. She tells the wedding planner “His family drink, mine eat – plan accordingly’ – We are pretty much in the same boat but reverse families.
The first stop was Mamilla. A gorgeous hotel with a stunning roof top terrace overlooking the old city. Everything was as I had imagined, the wonderful views and lavish surrounds. Surprisingly, the food and beverage package was very reasonable. I also like the Mirror Bar in which you get a private DJ. Another big selling point for me was that last time we were here, Madonna was staying in the same hotel (so shallow).
Second stop was the David Citadel. A hotel not too far away and with the same owner as Mamilla. We waited patiently to be greeted by the events manager. He appeared at first a serious character as he showed us the ballroom and another function room. I became quickly disheartened. After seeing the gorgeous views and opulence of Mamilla, I was thinking, “is this it? – Some drab windowless rooms?” Sensing our disinterest, the manager whisked us upstairs in the lift to the amazing terrace with views to the old city walls. It was lovely and he painted a picture of how it could look for the event. It was like he had deliberately saved the best till last.
Then we got down to business. We talked through some ideas we had for the event as he politely hushed us to make a phone call. “I am calling the chef, he is crazy, it will be great.” And, not long after, we were joined by the chef who was describing all sorts of interesting things we could do with the event, from tapas to food stations where the chef prepares the dish in front of guests. We listened intently as the events manager and chef came up with more and more original ideas. Suddenly, the chef got up and muttered, “have you eaten?” He turned his back before we could answer.
Moments later a dish arrived and the chef returned. A wonderful fish dish was presented with sauces and salads. It was delicious. It was not long before another dish arrived, this time a fish falafel. Again, incredibly tasty. It was so lovely to be treated to such hospitality. The chef was keen to showcase what he could do, and we were not disappointed.
We were then treated to a few tales of the lifestyles of the rich and famous in Jerusalem who had hosted parties at the hotel. From helicopters for guests to Mosada and back – and hiring out all the rooms facing the old city walls – my expectations rose slightly.
We left feeling very positive about the whole thing. But in the back of our minds knowing that the next step was socialising the plans with our families.
That afternoon, we had been looking for things to do and came across a beer festival in Independence Park. A showcase of Israeli beers and live music. We decided to go along and my partner’s brother joined us. It was packed with people and had a festival vibe. The live music was booming and the breweries had put on some impressive displays. We tried a couple of beers and ciders and settled in to enjoy the sounds of “Monika Sex” – a hit band from the 90’s. Their music was pretty catchy.
Some good beers included: Negev, Toburg and Chutzpa!
My partner’s brother was something of a minor celebrity around, shaking hands or high fiving people here and there. As we were standing talking about his popularity, a girl came up and gave my fiancé a big hug! He quickly realised it was his cousin who he had not seen in about 12 years. Turning to introduce me, he accidently said the name of her sister rather than her name – this made things somewhat awkward after that. I guess to be fair, he had not seen her in a long time, but we guessed this would be the subject of family gossip at the Friday night dinner.
After the set, the place began to clear out pretty quickly, so we did too. It was a lively event that I don’t think many people would imagine when they think of Jerusalem.