The next morning got off to a pretty quiet start. We lounged around the apartment, eating, checking emails, snacking, watching some tv, nibbling and trying to stay out of the heat.
That afternoon we had planned lunch with my partner’s father. We met at a popular restaurant in an area called Romema.
Now, there is something to note about restaurants in Israel. Never, ever go when you are not hungry. The moment you sit down a plate of pita bread is slid onto the table with a plate of hummus and chickpeas. A nice start to the meal. Then before you have opened the menu, more food appears. A plate of pickles, some olives, eggplant, and a cucumber and tomato salad are also placed on the table.
I started to nibble as I perused the menu and when I looked at the table again, schug (not sure of spelling but it is a spicy Yemeni dip), more styles of eggplant and tahina appeared on the table. There was of course enough food there to feed us all but we continued to order some meat to accompany our ‘starters’. I ordered the steak fillet. When it came, it was also accompanied by more salads and chips and rice! I tried my best to get through it, but it was more food than I (or any of us) could manage.
Lunch was enjoyable, but not easy. My partner’s dad doesn’t speak much English and I don’t speak much Hebrew so I spent most of the lunch eating as much as I could to occupy myself when I couldn’t understand the conversation.
At the end of lunch the waiter asked if we would like dessert or coffee. “I will have a latte please” I asked. I was met with a confused silence and querying look. “It’s a kosher restaurant Kim, you can’t have meat and dairy”, my partner whispered to me… Shame. “I mean, I’ll have a black coffee thanks” I smiled awkwardly hoping they misunderstood my original request. Lesson learned.
That night, we planned to venture to the Jerusalem Wine Festival. I looked up the buses and after pretending I could read Hebrew I handed the laptop over to my fiancé to determine our transport. Bus number 68 was the one we needed. I gussied myself up, looking forward to a night on the town. The festival was at the National Museum of Israel, a lovely spot and was showcasing wines from 60 vineyards around Israel. There was also live music and food on offer.
We wandered down to the bus-stop round 7:30pm in a still balmy 26 degrees. As we approached, we saw two buses zoom past – we had missed our ride and hoped it wasn’t too long before the next bus arrived. As we waited, I noticed the number 68 didn’t come by this stop, only the 48. “Oh yeah, that must be it” said my fiancé confidently. As we sat, many passers-by slowed to look at us as they walked or drove past. It seems here staring at people is not out of the norm, although it is a bit disconcerting.
After about 20 minutes, the 48 bus appeared and we climbed aboard. We chatted happily as our bus driver hooned down narrow streets, ran a red light and generally bustled his way around town. It was like a theme park ride but without being safely strapped in. Eventually we approached the suburb of the museum, but the bus seemed not to be heading in the direction of the museum. Eventually, we were the only two people left on the bus as we pulled up to the secure gates of the Hebrew University – something was not right. My partner got up to check with the bus driver who frankly informed us we had the wrong bus and suggested we get off here and walk. So, we got off the bus.
As we paused to determine how we would navigate our way there, a car pulled up and asked us for directions. “Do you know where the Israel museum is?” they asked. Seizing on the opportunity, my partner said, “Yes, if you can give us a lift?” It was a risk that paid off. They told us to jump in and we had a safe passage to the event.
After successfully making it through the security line without too many people pushing in and purchasing our tickets we entered the wonderful world of Israeli wine. The place was packed! The museum is located high in the hills of Jerusalem and has a spectacular view of the city. There were bars set up at all different points, cheese stalls and live music playing.
We wandered up to the first bar. We stood in line for a few minutes and quickly realised that there would be some territorial challenges for bar space. We decided to look for a quieter bar to begin with. The main wine specialities of Israel are sweet wines, and reds (adom) such as Shiraz, Cab Sav etc. In terms of whites (lavan) the main offerings are chardonnay and gewurztraminer– not my favourites but I was keen to try the local fair.
We stopped at one bar where they had mainly reds on offer. We heard a loud voice next to us yelling “lavan, lavan [white, white]’ accompanied by a hand waving an empty wine glass at the host. “We only have red” the host replied “Ahh, ok adom, adom [red, red]” the booming voice responded.
“It’s obviously not about the wine” I joked – “You are right” the booming voice chuckled back at me.
After that, we realised a lot of people were there not to savour the subtle flavours and variations in the wines, but to get their money’s worth of wine tasting. We overheard one lady complaining that they only pour such a small amount in the glass. Thirsty punters aside, it was nice talking to the wine makers about their wines, how they are made and why they had chosen that particular grape. The views from the event were stunning and we enjoyed a variety of nice cheeses to accompany our wines.
We spent a few hours, exploring and tasting wines. No, we didn’t get through all 60 wineries but we were feeling a little starry eyed by the end of it. Not wanting to risk another bus fiasco, we opted for a cab to chariot us home.