Thank the Eurovision Gods that January is OVER! After surviving debilitating New Years’ hangovers (which get worse every year if you’re anything like me!) and being forced, under duress, back to work. Having had no experience of daylight for the last 4 weeks (going to work in the dark and leaving work in the dark), vitamin D levels depleted and bank balances lower than Donald Trump’s approval ratings. January is officially the worst! The most depressing month of the year!
Seven days into January this year, a particularly cold snap in the UK saw me fully clothed, wrapped in my duvet, with heating on full, shivering as I drank my rapidly cooling cup of tea. Enough was enough! The British winter was beating me! IPad on lap, I start chasing the sun. After hours of searching I start thinking that finding a sunny budget holiday in January is about as likely as Gemini winning ESC back in 2003! However, on this occasion, my perseverance paid off and I eventually came across a potential candidate! Tel Aviv!
First of all, you must understand that January is bang in the middle of Tel Aviv’s off-season and there is no guarantee of sunbathing weather. However, with an average maximum daytime temperature of 17 degrees, 6 hours of sunshine and 11 days of rain, you’d be hard-pressed to find a brighter alternative – it’s certainly an exciting prospect when the UK is facing freezing temperatures and about 2 hours of sunshine in the whole month.
1) The food – the most amazing humus I’ve ever tasted
2) The people – friendly, helpful and most speak great English
3) The hot guys playing beach volleyball – only on sunny days
1) The wind – apparently at this time of year they expect gale force winds
2) The flight – from the UK flights are about 5 hours each way
3) The architecture – If you love 1960s style concrete apartment blocks then this is the place for you.
From the Airport
The modern Ben Gurion airport has great transport links into the city – with bus, train and taxi being available. The train to the city centre is cheap as chips, costing just a few quid and only takes about 20 minutes. A taxi, on the other hand sets you back closer to £40.
Once in the city centre, finding your way to your accommodation can be quite tricky so be prepared with a detailed map or just jump into a taxi if you’ve got the cash to spare. The 30-45 minute walk to the beach (where our hotel is located) is not signposted well but the hike is worth it as you take in the sights and sounds of Tel Aviv, while simultaneously getting closer to your IPhone’s daily 10,000 step target.
Like all major cities, there’s an array of places you can choose to rest your head at night, from 5* hotels by the beach to Airbnb style apartments.
The Olympia Hotel is a 2 minute walk to the Marina and beach. Some rooms have a sea view and they’ll even upgrade you if you’re celebrating a special occasion. You’ll find yourselves in great hands, with extremely helpful and friendly staff.
The complementary tea and coffee in the rooms as well as in the modest dining area is a really nice touch. Free WiFi and toiletries are added bonus’ but these days are somewhat expected. The double deluxe room with sea view was adequately sized, clean and comfortable. Although, while I concede it does have a sea view, that view is obscured by the monstrous building in front of it.
The hotel offers an Israeli style breakfast which involves a buffet type affair with ravenous morning folk jostling for a place to sit to gobble exactly the same small selection of food items as the previous day! This breakfast experience is significantly more stressful than it’s worth especially at busy times, so maybe consider an early attendance or enjoy breakfast elsewhere.
If you’re looking for local cuisine, you don’t have to walk far, with eateries catering for Tel Aviv’s 500,000 residents as well as the many tourists and visitors. Halevantini is one such establishment, providing Levantine dishes to sink your teeth into. What the restaurant lacks in refinement, it makes up for in character and taste. The meals are great value in themselves but the addition of the complimentary accompaniments would challenge even the most elastic of digestive systems. In addition to local foods, Tel Aviv caters for all tastes with cuisine from around the world.
Things to Do
There are heaps of things to do in and close to Tel Aviv, from The Ben Gurion Museum and Tel Aviv Museum of Art to a daytrip to Jerusalem. However, Tel Aviv is great for those who like being outside.
It takes just over an hour to walk from the marina to the old town of Jaffa along the promenade. It’s a wonderful walk when the weather is fine with great views and the intermittent cloud cover at this time of year helps to prevent overheating. It is a completely flat walkway that is well maintained so bicycles, skateboards and wheelchairs are all suitable modes of transportation along this route.
Once at Jaffa, the architecture changes to exude olde-worlde charm. Here you can take in the sights at Jaffa’s Flea Market where you can mingle with the locals, relax with an authentic coffee or search the stalls for Aladdin’s magic lamp.
Great food, lovely people, decent weather, comfortable hotel – what more could I have asked for? I can’t wait to go back.