My trip to Israel for the 2015 Jerusalem Marathon was sponsored by the Israel Ministry of Tourism. All options listed below are my own.
If you have any hesitations about traveling to any part of Israel, or probably anywhere on the Mediterranean Sea, let the following words, pictures, and many delicious Mediterranean foods reassure you it’s worth the trek if only to spoil your appetite for good. Our 6-day agenda was packed with historic sites, running and various other experiences, but at the end of the day we probably spent about half of our time eating.
The majority of our trip was spent in the city of Jerusalem, but we ended on a high note in Tel Aviv. Our days often looked like this:
Prima Kings Hotel Buffet – this was no continental breakfast. The buffet had entire sections dedicated to salads, fruit, various egg options (hard-boiled, scrambled, salad, mini-quiche, etc), granola + mixed nut station, fresh breads and pastries, and all the beverages. You could also order cappuccino or lattes if preferred.
One morning we headed over to the Mamilla Hotel for breakfast, and their buffet options also included fresh juices, such as apple celery and mint + a beet variation. No skimping on the fruits or vegetables here!
On our last day in the country, we enjoyed a night and morning in Tel Aviv via the 5-star Carlton Hotel. This breakfast spread trumped the others – maybe because the restaurant sat beautifully on the water or maybe because most of us had run that morning (or were recovering from 26.2 hilly miles) and were ready to put it down – and this was just the first round:
We were never under-fueled to start the day.
The midday meal is often the largest here, and that took a little stomach-adjusting for most of us. The first picture above is an example of what most tables were already armed with when we sat down – just a little starter next to a basket of fresh pita bread and usually dipping oil. What would follow: anywhere from 3 – 10 more courses! I wasn’t counting, but I’m not sure we could’ve kept up anyway. Sometimes we would order our preference for the “main course”, which usually caught us off-guard because we would have already indulged in the 8 courses before that. Everything was served tapas-style and would just keep coming.
On Thursday I opted to have the “grilled fish” as my “entree” and I learned a very important lesson: ask questions first. An example may be: has the fish been beheaded? Just wondering…
I had to put a napkin over the head to have any chance of keeping this down.
The shock of my week: I didn’t have falafel until Sunday afternoon! During our last day, we toured and explored the city of Jaffa, which is on the edge of Tel Aviv. Our guide finally let us indulge in the Americans’ must-have and took us to a famous Jaffa bakery’s sister restaurant. We couldn’t have been happier to stuff our stomachs with more carbs.
These hearty lunches were always followed by small desserts – just enough to stuff you and keep the stomach happy until…
We dined at top-rated restaurants such as Eucalyptus and J’oy Meat In while in Jerusalem; we were seated at one of the only eateries open after sun-down on Friday evening, with a delicious Lebanese spread; we enjoyed tapas and paella at Vicky Cristina’s in Tel Aviv, complimented with sparkling Rose and Champagne for the table.
We did not go to bed hungry or thirsty, I assure you.
Every meal was full of variety and catered to any type of dietary preference; a few times we had to mention that that were a few vegetarian + Kosher diners in the group, and everyone was gracious and generous with accommodations.
We were all sure we’d leave the country 5lbs heavier, but I don’t feel any different than when I arrived. The only thing I know now is that with three full and balanced meals, you don’t need snacks in between. I know the Mediterranean diet tastes that much better when you’re close to the Sea. And I know when you spend the day touring and exploring vs. sitting and working, you burn right through that energy! I also know that Israel knows how to eat well, and I’d go back for the food and drink alone.
I can’t speak for everyone, but all the fuel seemed to translate to hill-power during the run, and sufficiently spoiled me. By the time I was served breakfast on the airplane I wondered where my soy latte, fresh omelet and fruit bar had disappeared to.