Tel Aviv – A vibrant city and the pride parade

The famous shared van ride of Israel happened again, on the drive from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. The ride wasn’t too bad though it wasn’t the most efficient way to travel. This time the van got full pretty soon but I ended up being one of the last drops. The trip took a lot longer than expected but I did finally get to the Crowne Plaza right next to the Tel Aviv beach.

The hotel was right between a crowded street and a packed beach and was under renovation. I could not open the balcony door which would have offered me a sea view. Besides that, it was a lovely hotel right in the middle of the action with some great facilities and good food. The real advantage of the location would reveal itself only the next day. I checked in and spent some time resting and having a pizza snack before heading to the beach to enjoy the sea.

It wasn’t a pretty beach, the waves were tiny and it was full of people. The energy there was amazing! People were playing volleyball, running, kite surfing, or just enjoying the view. I walked around for a while, got my feet wet but this wasn’t the kind of beach I would take a dip in. As the sun went down, I saw one of the best sunsets I have clicked, albeit with the wrong lens. I had left my telephoto zoom in the room and only had a wide-angle when the Sun was seen touching the horizon. There wasn’t enough time to go back to the room. I did my best and even though it was a wide shot the Sun was looking spectacular kissing the horizon and a sailboat passed by at just the perfect moment.

A beach-side bar was a perfect place for an amazing dinner before I crashed for the day. The area around the hotel was buzzing with activity as this was the party night. The Pride parade was scheduled for Friday afternoon and a lot of people had traveled to Tel Aviv for that. Besides with Sabbath starting Friday evening, Thursday is the night to be out. I enjoyed walking in the liberally dressed crowd for a while.

Friday started with a lavish pancake breakfast and then a walk in the Jaffa district and its Flea Market. The roads were being closed for the parade, so it took a little while to get there. The place wasn’t too crowded and it was quite an eclectic mix of old and then new. The building around (a clock tower, a small fort) seemed old, but a lot of the infrastructure was new. It was easy to pass hours there, but getting back was a different story. It took a while to find a cab driver willing to take me anywhere close to my hotel, because of the blocked roads. The traffic situation was getting worse by the hour, so I was lucky to get a cab that charged double and dropped me 500 meters from the hotel.

Once back in the hotel, I rested a bit and then walked back out to enjoy the high energy Tel Aviv Pride Parade. The area was abuzz with activity, color, and music. There were games, water pistols, and guitars to give company to a lot of beer and cheering. Pride flags were waved proudly and people cheered from their balconies. I had my camera out with a 70-200mm lens and I could get some close-up shots without getting too close. I stopped at a store for a beer and a hot dog to cool myself down in the hot sun and then carried on with the parade. It was such a hearty celebration that I carried on along the path for longer than planned.

The parade probably increased the liberal quotient of the city for the weekend and one could see several skimpily dressed folks not just at the beach but also in pubs and on the street. The vibe of the city was infectious and there was ‘party’ in the air

Once the parade ended, I rested a bit in the hotel and then got a bit worried about dinner. Sabbath would start soon and a lot of places would close. Several things did shut down but it was easy to find open restaurants and bars through the evening. These places were not empty either. I found a seaside restaurant close to the hotel and I enjoyed a fantastic burger with a refreshing cocktail. A fitting end to a brilliant trip before I caught a 4 am cab to the airport, only to find my flight heavily delayed. I did get home, just a few hours later than planned.

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