Enjoyed the last article on our Big Family Trip to Israel? Then you won’t want to miss article number 2 in the series – Caesarea and Jerusalem. Find out what are the best things to do in both of these historic cities!
Check it out here.
Enjoyed the last article on our Big Family Trip to Israel? Then you won’t want to miss article number 2 in the series – Caesarea and Jerusalem. Find out what are the best things to do in both of these historic cities!
Check it out here.
During the summer our family of five travelled across the ocean to Mr. L’s home country, Israel. This was our third family trip to this amazing country that is full of sea, sand and everything you need for a memorable experience.
In this first of a 3-part article series on the trip, I provide the Top 10 Family Friendly Places To Visit in Tel Aviv.
For the last few months I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to write guest articles for www.sixsuitcasetravel.com. An informative website about traveling with your large family and a great resource I have used for a few years.
My latest article was about our trip to The Poconos a few years ago.
To read the article you can find it here:
Drinking wine at lunch on a sun-soaked patio overlooking a glorious turquoise pool. Having a nap, in the morning after a full breakfast complete with egg-white omelette that I did not make. An impromptu massage before a 9 pm dinner. Glasses of wine served in pristine glasses overlooking beautiful vineyards. Feeling a cold wave crash over your head fighting the Niagara Rapids in an open jet boat. Having a conversation with adults (including a husband) that is not interrupted by “please do not eat with your hands.”
These are a few of the precious memories this mom of three took with her into this past week from a luxurious, too-short mini trip away with Mr. L to Niagara-on-the-Lake. An agreeable grandmother who took on all three of the kids (plus the dog) for a weekend so we could sneak away for some much-needed R&R led to a weekend full of food, wine, friends and fun. And much too short….
I could write away with abandon on everything we did, the amount of wine consumed, the delicious food, but all I will state is that if in the area, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Pillar and Post are two of my favorite things right now and if you can, run for a visit.
Instead, it became clear to me how much I needed a little recharging. As parents, couples well, people, I find if we don’t find a balance in life and slow down, life can turn from being busy and full to difficult and something you have to endure. As a mom home alone with three kiddies, dog and on her own for much of the time, it was a necessity.
The whole trip was based upon another couple. Good friends who were celebrating their twentieth anniversary, they had never been away from their son for one night. He is now sixteen. At dinner a winter ago, and after a cocktail or two the subject of their upcoming “china” anniversary came up. I volunteered to take them on a wine tour, something they have never done and we would make a weekend out of it. Planning is a strength for me, even in these crazy days, so with a little research I booked everything and then tacked on an extra night for Mr. L and I as a belated anniversary gift to ourselves.
All during the spring and early summer I looked forward to our weekend knowing that my hard work at home with the kids would be rewarded. And it was, very nicely. It was a picture-perfect weekend, (except for my red-eye due to severe allergic reaction this year to ragweed) and it seemed the weather gods had even listened providing the perfect weather to take a wine tour and enjoy the posh amenities at the Pillar and Post.
The other couple was so grateful and had enjoyed themselves so much, another tentative trip back is planned in January. I have a feeling now that they have a taste of alone time away from the responsibilities of house/child they will crave more of it. Or perhaps they were finally at a place where they felt comfortable to leave their son for a night or two with good friends or family. Either way, the embraced the weekend.
For me, a SAHM who spends most of her time catering to the demands of four other people, these carved out chunks of time are a welcome respite from well, normal life. I learned on this trip that it was not only me who craved and appreciated these times. Mr. L and our friends enjoyed a couple of days away from, well, the kids. Time away could be something as simple as a visit to my mother’s house, alone, but to be able to hear one’s thoughts for even a day is welcome. I have been known to take long walks to clear my head in order to achieve a little clairty.
In the everyday rush of life, I think sometimes we forget a bit of silence, rest and enjoyment from pleasures like a bike ride down a country road can work tiny miracles upon ourselves. It has done wonders for me this week. I feel calmer. My head feels a bit clearer. I can see things not as a constant to-do list but the big plans ahead with time to complete what I need to do. Life does not seem as overwhelming. I call it the “post-vacation high.” Sometimes it lasts a few days, sometimes longer. But I will soak it in while I can.
And on the upcoming days when things seem to start to spin out of control, I will close my eyes and picture the vineyards and remember I can go back. Even for a day. Soon.
Milestones. We celebrate them. We reward them. We rejoice in the accomplishments of our children reaching them. The first time they sleep through the night. Potty training. Losing teeth. Riding a bike. Reading.
This past long weekend, I reached a parenting milestone. A mini getaway, just me and the kids.
Now do not misunderstand. Mr. L is always welcome and appreciated on any family adventures. Most of the time he is very present, being a hands-on modern dad. However, he is a busy guy with his own business. This past year it became apparent to me that I cannot wait for his schedule to clear on each and every family adventure we have. It is not because he does not want to come with us. It is simply he is not yet at the point in his career where he can take off on a whim for a two-day getaway. It has taken me some time to realize, admit and grudgingly accept it. It is simply our situation. My rose-coloured views one child ago of us doing absolutely everything together; not even imagining planning anything without his prescence, has been altered into a more realistic point of view.
It became apparent after a marathon and rushed planning session with Mr. L regarding day trips, camping overnighter and lots of open time to just wake up and plan our day with the simple pleasures of summer (as per his wishes) that I was left with an unsatisfied feeling. I wanted to do something else with the kids. I wanted to take them somewhere new this summer.
My childhood summer memories overflow with grainy images of camping trips, Canada’s Wonderland, my grandparent’s farm, Storybook Gardens and of course, Niagara Falls. I also realized over the years that my mom was typically the sole parent most of the time. Or at least that is how I remember it.
Then it hit me. If I wanted to take the kids on a mini getaway, why shouldn’t I? Why did I feel as if I had to wait for Mr. L’s schedule to open up? We do not have a cottage I can simply take the kids and go to when the urge to getaway strikes. No time share in Florida. What was stopping me?
Fear. I realized I felt fear upon hitting that milestone of traveling with the kids on my own. Fearful and overwhelmed. Granted I have three young children, but still. Me, afraid?
I found it strange to have such a feeling since I spend most of my days with the kids ,alone, and manage (most of the time) to keep us all sane and semi-put-together. I plan things to do around town, take them on picnics, parks and hikes. My choice to be at home is a role we both agreed that I would take on, at least in their early years. However, that does not mean I have ultimate say in their lives. Mr. L is very much involved in the important things that have to do with our children and home. He is very much present scrambling to get home to give them baths, play a goofy game of tag and tuck them in.
Yet, fear was stopping me. Fear of being able to manage while travelling further than my parent’s house and back with them. Fear of taking that step that can sometimes make a family feel more separated when one parent is more present than another. Pondering this irrational fear it struck me that most likely lingering memories of how much my mother did on her own with me and my siblings and how un-present my father was at times due to work, may have been unknowingly feeding my fear. These memories seemed to be at the forefront of my determination and fear that our family would (and should) do everything together or else “suffer the consequences.” Yes, my parents ultimately divorced. (And yes, I am a psychology major in another lifetime.)
So, I faced my fear. I talked with Mr. L, who frankly and admittedly would not undertake any trip with the three kids on his own himself, but who said, “If you want to do it, then do it. I’m okay with it.” I am not entirely sure he understood why I felt I needed to plan this mini getaway with the kids, but he was supportive and I made my plans.
Scrambling to put together an itinerary and book hotel and tickets, a mini trip to Niagara Falls was planned. One night with Mr. L followed by a family day at Safari Niagara. Mr. L would then head home on an evening train for work the next day and for one night and day it was just me and the kids, exploring the hotel’s pool and restaurants followed by a day checking out Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls before our drive home. Nothing huge but a milestone for this mom of three whose biggest overnight adventure alone with the kids was to the small town I grew up in where we were surrounded by grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. Not really the same thing as being completely on your own.
All of it went without too much drama. We were fortunate to have beautiful weather on a long weekend. The second night on my own was a bit tricky as the girls were getting grumpy sharing a bed for the first time in our two-room suite at the Embassy Suites and Jacob decided to wake up at 2:45 am to “sleep” with mom. (Mr. L is the normal go-to person for middle of the night wake up calls which are fortunately, infrequent.) But I got through it. Thank goodness for Starbucks in the hotel lobby!
The day in downtown Niagara Falls complete with Skywheel ride, Build-a-Bear, Rainforest Cafe for lunch and then Hershey Store all went off without a hitch. I was proud of my kids who for the most part, were a fun little crew to be with for a day.
Mr. L missed us and I think was regretting his decision not to stay. (He actually considered it for a couple of minutes before leaving for his train. After all, we do love having him around and he does enjoy being with his family versus work.) I received a couple of random emails from him asking what we were doing and to send pictures, which I was glad to do telling the kids to smile big for daddy.
What this experience taught me, because let’s face it, moms are always learning new things about ourselves, was that I can do it. I can travel with my kids. I do not need to wait upon someone else’s schedule to do everything I want to do with the three of them. Of course, I would prefer having Mr. L with us, but sometimes, as is normal and realistic, it is not going to be possible. So, I need to be okay with this part of life and also realize, it does not take away from our family. But in fact, enriches it a little. A little separation from the daily grind of routine, bath times and rushed dinners is not a bad thing. It made me appreciate how much I enjoy having Mr. L with me on family adventures and how much he does when we are together as a family. Mr. L appreciated being at home and getting some work done in a quiet house. He missed us and was looking forward to our return, but sometimes he needs some quiet time as well.
The night we returned home, exhausted but brimming with stories, we sat down to a casual family dinner of pizza and I realized I had no reason to be fearful. I could embrace the experience as achieving a milestone, conquer a fear and look forward to our next family adventure, on my own or all together. Either way would be fine for our family.
Being the first day everyone seemed to be feeling better and after lounging poolside for most of a day, Mr. L and I leaped at the opportunity to sneak out for dinner on our own. My in-laws were kind enough to offer to babysit, so after showers and tucking them into bed with kisses on their sunburnt cheeks, I finally got to play dress-up with one of the few dresses we had bought on our shopping trip.
Mr. L and I chose a restaurant close by and within walking distance. Just in case we needed to make a quick escape home. After all, we were coming off all three kids not feeling well and it was the first time his father and his wife had looked after our kids. As we walked hand in hand we ventured through Nahlat Binyamin, a lovely pedestrian area full of textile shops where an Arts and Craft market sets-up twice a week.
Continuing on, we came upon, Tracklin, a romantic candlelit restaurant. We were seated and promptly greeted by a charming server who introduced us to a local Israeli wine. Sipping our glasses we placed our order and settled in. It was refreshing to be out on our own enjoying each other’s company, good food and wine. A plate of warm bread was placed before us and we nearly devoured it.
A delicious combination of Italian artichokes with goat cheese later and a melt-in-your-mouth slow-cooked ribs that was one of the specials of the night later we were feeling very full so we nearly passed on dessert. I am so glad we chose not to! On the dessert menu was a chocolate mousse, a dessert that is my kryptonite, so we decided to share it. Although in hearing about the dessert choice, I had inquired about a dessert I did not recognize, (Shocking but true!) called Mallibee. Mallibee is a custard dessert that is garnished with fruit, fruit sauces, dates, nuts – pretty much any topping. Our kind server brought us one “to try” and we were delighted not only with the service, but the dessert. Mallibbee will be my new favorite dessert when eating out in Tel Aviv. Later that week when telling Mr. L’s family about it, D. our host at one brunch, made this “little piece of heaven” for our last family get-together. We so much enjoyed it that I am currently trying to score the recipe. After a pleasant night out and feeling re-energized, we were ready to continue our family adventures in Tel Aviv.
Walks on the boardwalk after dinner one night, trips to Carmel market where Elizabeth took her cherished ten shekels she had been saving to buy a large cup of freshly squeezed orange juice and visits to the park we soon found ourselves in the last few days before our trip back to Canada.
Low-grade fevers prevented some of our pre-planned activities from happening, but we did manage to get out to the Arts and Crafts market. Another great place to spend a morning when travelling with kids (or solo!). But ensure to get there early! By eleven am the place is busy and hot! Amongst the jewellery stands, hand-glass blown vendors and dragging our kids away from the people making huge bubbles with bubble sticks, we managed to pick up a few gifts for loved ones back home. The kids also got to see a glass artist torching his pieces of glass to make unique necklace pendants or animal shapes. A must-see for any visitor to the market.
Our last few days were filled with family/friend visits where we lingered trying to get in our last piece of conversations and make plans for future trips. The kids were spoiled with treats and hugs from the warmest people I have had the pleasure to meet and we lamented that our visit had to end so soon.
Mr. L and I managed to get in one last dinner out. Dutifully researching via TripAdvisor, he had chosen a place that was again walking distance again from our apartment. Upon sharing his choice with the cousins one sunny afternoon lounging in the backyard looking upon a lemon tree, they chastised him for choosing a good, but too casual of a place for a date night with your wife. A phone call later from M. and we had scored a table at one of Tel Aviv’s top restaurants by the sea, Raphael.
Getting fancied up in my LBD, (another new purchase courtesy of my FIL), we hailed a taxi and walked down the steps into a modern, low-lit restaurant decorated in black and whites. In no rush and ordering one of our last plates of humus, I enjoyed a wrapped vine-leaf appetizer stuffed with fragrant rice and lamb followed by a light and refreshing dish of white fish. Deciding to go easier on the desserts, we opted for a gelato dessert and I ordered a pot of delicious mint tea that came in a stunning silver tea set. Walking down the boardwalk after dinner, we talked about our trip and plans for next year.
Our last day in Israel was spent, where else? At the beach. We relented and got the kids their heart’s desire, frozen ice cream treats from the guy shouting on the beach, and they devoured them in between eating snacks and ordering our last meal beach side.
As we packed up the apartment, trying to stuff extra clothes and gifts into already full luggage, doling out Advil to still lingering low-grade fevers we dealt with the onset of tummy troubles that would follow us on the plane and home to Canada for a week. The kids were awesome going through line-up after line-up at Israeli security and enduring a twelve-hour flight.
We arrived home at YYZ (Toronto) just in time for Canada Day and are now straight into the first week of summer vacation.
One trip was over. The biggest trip this Mom with three kids has taken and we not only endured but I learned a lot about my kids and our family. Most importantly was that we can do it. We can travel, survive and have a good time. We will be planning our next family adventure soon.
The morning I woke up with the feeling that someone was stabbing knives into my stomach, I knew that was it. I was going to be down and out for the day. My new mother-in-law’s words came floating back to my mind the night before at dinner, “You are looking pale. Are you okay?” (Translated by Mr. L as she speaks only Romanian or Hebrew.) I had brushed aside her comment with a smile stating, “I am always pale.” Being a freckled redhead I am quite used to these comments.
Yet, here I was, the morning after, clutching my stomach in pain and cursing a very contagious viral bug we had all picked up. Steeling myself, I made a decision to try to at least make something of another beautiful day in Tel Aviv for the rest of the family. After all, had not we dragged two ill girls to a family meeting a couple of days before? If they could do that, I could do this. Certainly I could return the favour. So after a shower, two sips of coffee and breakfast of plain toast, we piled everyone into the rented large vehicle to check out Old Yafo.
Mr. L and I had been here on our last trip eight years ago and I had loved the old buildings and stone staircases. It is one of the must-see tourist attractions when visiting Tel Aviv. Feeling my adrenaline (and Advil) kick-in we walked down by the old Yafo Port by the boats and warehouses that are being turned into artist spaces and lounge-type restaurants. Finally finding the staircases up to the square, we made a go in the increasing heat with Mr. L carrying the stroller and me carrying Jacob when his legs got tired. Step after step the girls were squealing in delight at the secret passageways and doorways that opened up into artist studios.
Finally reaching the top, we felt the full force of the heat as it radiated off the white stone and the kids ran to the fountain in the hopes of feeling a spray of water on their faces. Feeling light-headed myself I looked anywhere for shade when Mr. L suggested an ice cream stop at a nearby umbrella-clad Gelato place. Sitting under the shade as I sipped water to calm my rumbling stomach the kids tried to eat their ice cream before it melted. Knowing I had reached the end of my ability to be out, I suggested we walk back to the car, quickly. Although not feeling well, I could appreciate the open square and remembered the main staircase from our last trip. I lamented it would be nice to come back for dinner to one of the many restaurants looking over the sea.
However, we walked back down the hilly street to the waiting car and I made it back to the apartment just in time and put myself to bed for the rest of the day.
The next day, I was feeling shaky and but we decided to head out for a morning at the beach to get some fresh air. Afterwards we met up for dinner with my in-laws for an Italian dinner on Rothschild Avenue. The deliciously fresh spaghetti mariana with fresh mozzarella cheese felt like heaven in my empty stomach. Jacob was getting a bit grouchy, so I took my girls up to the rooftop patio for ice cream as we looked at the sunset. As they drew pictures of the sunset and ate their dripping ice cream bars, I relaxed knowing that even though illness had hit our little family, we could still enjoy something simple as ice cream and a sunset.
Taking advantage of a day when we all seemed to be feeling well, Mr. L suggested we take a break from the beach and head to the Gordon Pool. Packing up our gear and picnic lunch, we navigated traffic, parked nearby and walked down towards the pool. An oasis from the sand and sun in downtown Tel Aviv the lounging chairs and large umbrellas provided a luxurious and kid-friendly environment. Overlooking the marina and sea, it is a beautiful place to take in the sun, play in the kiddie pool, splash around in the salt water pool or swim your lap at the designated swimming lanes. Clean change rooms and showers inside the corresponding health club made a nice change from the quick beach-side showers we had become accustomed. It was a pleasant way to spend a day after the last few days of illness for nearly everyone.
More to come….
Downtown Tel Aviv is a compact city full of white cement buildings. Laundry hangs from rooftop lines or on patios and you quickly get used to hearing the clanging of pots through open windows as neighbours prepare dinner. The nearby sea provides an occasional breeze during the heat of late June and is beautiful backdrop full of ever-changing shades of blue. The Kerem neighbourhood near the Carmel Market is busy as people hurry to buy flowers, wine or cheese from the local cheese stand and our family quickly became part of the ebb and flow of people walking around the neighbourhood. One morning the corner coffee shop barista started making my morning cappuccino as I sluggishly walked towards his shop and he cracked a long-awaited smile confirming, “One sugar? To go?” I knew then we were starting to feel at home in downtown Tel Aviv as I placed my ten shekels on the glass deli counter with a nod in exchange for a piping hot cup saying “Ken. Toda!” and made my way back to the apartment we had rented up the street.
Around the corner from our apartment is the Shuk (Carmel Market) and is a hub of activity from early in the morning until end of day. You can buy pretty much anything you need at the market and it is very convenient to be able to run out on a moments notice to pick up food or supplies. Trays of freshly baked chocolate croissants or burekas lay in tidy rows or various piles of fresh olives to taste to help you choose just the right one to take home are hard to resist amidst the fruit and vegetable stands. If you cannot wait until later to eat, there are falafel stands or fresh melon grilled right in front of you to appease hungry stomachs. The best tip for heading to the Carmel market is to go early before the crowds appear and you are swimming like fish upstream trying to pile your groceries into your cart or stroller. When travelling with kids it can be a bit overwhelming and hot for little ones so going early is a must. For older kids it can be an interesting experience once they realize they can dip into that bag from the baked goods stand and munch on fresh pita or know that the juice guy will toss them a slice of freshly cut orange as they squeeze a frothy concoction of apple and orange juice into a plastic cup. Elizabeth quickly got used to our daily morning stroll as the two of us joined the crowds to grab croissants still warm from the oven for breakfast, coffee for Mom and a glass of fresh juice for eight shekels, which she insisted on paying for herself. We would navigate around the forklifts delivering produce to the stands and motorcyclists heading to work carrying our groceries the short walk back to our apartment.
After one particular morning, we thought a reprieve at the nearby park was a must for our kids after a larger grocery day letting them munch on snacks as Mr. L quickly took our groceries back to the apartment. A huge benefit to having an apartment in the heart of downtown Tel Aviv is everything is five minutes away.
One evening we decided it was time to check out one of the other fabulous beaches near my in-laws. As much as I enjoyed the downtown Tel Aviv beach, it was a fabulous break to go to Tel Baruch Beach on the north side of the city. Reminding me of downtown Miami with palm trees and manicured lawns and streets lined with pristine apartment buildings, this particular area is popular with seniors and families.
The beach was quieter and very family oriented with a playground. Heading away from the lifeguard area to a quieter area on the other side of the cove, the water was warm and although a little deeper, the kids had a blast finally seeing sea shells to collect. The nearby restaurant, Blue, was relaxing with couches to lounge in for a casual dinner after our swim. There was a huge sand pit for the kids in the middle of the restaurant complete with cube shaped bean bag chairs and we enjoyed dinner as the kids ran in between the table and the sand pit. It was a lovely way to end the day.
Unfortunately, the tummy troubles hit again the next day and although we attempted a morning in Old Yafo and managed to explore the oldest stone staircases of Tel Aviv grabbing ice cream to cool off, we quickly headed home where I was put to bed for the rest of the day.
The duration of the trip we spent changing plans as on again and off again low-grade fevers combined with rotovirus symptoms hit most of us. Unfortunately it did cast a bit of a shadow on the rest of our trip, but we managed to take things day by day and see how different family members felt. Dealing with illnesses, thankfully not serious, while travelling means you quickly learn to just enjoy each day or sometimes each hour. The times when the five of us could all go out together became quickly limited as Mr. L and I switched off being at home with one or two of the kids while the rest of the family went out, even if only for a stroll to the park.
More to come….
After a visit to Mr. L’s city where he grew up we were going to head to a mall to meet my father-in-law. However, dealing with traffic in Tel Aviv is a whole new experience and with Jacob getting fussy, we opted to take everyone home for a much needed rest from the heat. After all, we were not used to the constant beat of the sun on our backs or temperatures in the low thirties (Celsius).
We have also learned that travelling with three or more kids, including a toddler, meant that a break each afternoon was necessary. We had attempted to forgo naps and rest times on one of our first days and Jacob, still napping most days, was a disaster by five o’clock. We decided that perhaps sticking to a later afternoon nap so he could keep up with the later culture would work best.
So, forgoing a mall excursion we headed back to the apartment where we all rested or napped. Having no real dinner plans we threw caution to the wind, packed up the brood and headed down for dinner at the beach. Apparently, we were not the only family to think of this as the beach was packed with families, couples and kids celebrating their last day of school. Settling down under a couple of umbrellas and ordering a casual beach dinner, (quickly becoming the norm for our family), we let the kids loose into the sea. Watching all the other naked little boys running free and forgetting the diaper bag, we encouraged our little guy to be free as only a toddler can be. Our family munched on chicken strips and humus as we watched another beautiful sunset over Tel Aviv and all the spectacular colours that came with it. No words can describe the brilliant pinks and oranges that streamed across a clear sky or how the sun looked like a ball of fire as it quickly sunk below the horizon. Yet, another wonderful end to a day for this family with three or more kids in Israel.
The next day we could not escape it. We had to visit the mall. One of the busiest days to go but we felt the kids needed a break from the sun and my in-laws kept pressuring to take us shopping. A hobby they love of which I abhor, dreading taking three small kids shopping, but apparently this mall (as with others in Israel) there are indoor playgrounds for the kids so it was a win-win situation. The kids (not being used to busy malls) were wide-eyed as we made our way to the food court where the playground was strategically placed. Without a backward glance, the three of them took off being familiar with the usual jungle gym of climbing structures, tubes and slides. Mr. L gave a wave and we were off.
Stores were crowded as my in-laws generously dragged me their preferred store to preferred story. Bypassing some of the ones I would have liked to go in but being a good guest I went with them, let them dress me up and pick out a few items. It was pointless to argue and it was very kind of them. At the end of it, I had scored a couple of cute dresses and pair of shoes. Not bad for an hour shopping trip.
After escaping the mall and dealing with traffic in Herzelyia, a feat upon itself, we finally made it home for naps. We had resolved to get everyone down for a good rest as we were meeting with family later for dinner at a cousin’s house and were expecting a late night. We also decided not to visit a mall in Israel again on a Friday or Saturday, both extremely busy days of the week as people finish work early and go out both nights. Israeli’s work very hard and play very hard. It is not uncommon for the normal Israeli to work very late hours Sunday through Thursday and then ensure they make the most of their two days off.
That being said, dinner at Mr. L’s cousin was a most enjoyable eye opener to Israeli hospitality. Without more than a casual phone call from Mr. L announcing our arrival, the family dropped any other plans to treat us to dinner to their home in Rishon LeZion, a suburb of Tel Aviv popular for families with small children. Their gorgeous apartment overlooked Rishon with a huge balcony complete with bouncy castle for all the kids. Language was not an issue for our kids and their Israeli cousins and typical shyness gave way to games of snakes and ladders and sneaking more treats from the cupboards. It was one of the most enjoyable family get-to-gethers we have been to. Family caught up, stories were exchanged and we all relaxed under the humid night as the continuous and delicious amounts of BBQ spread across the casual table.
The latest night our kids have ever experienced, it ended after more treats for the kids, warm hugs and kisses to all and promises to try to get together one more time before we left. It was a warm feeling to be so welcomed into a family’s home who I had met only once years before. It was also heart-warming to see our kids so cherished by our cousins that my little man threw us over for his Israeli family following them around all night and weeping upon leaving.
The sun went up the next morning yet our family slept, and slept. It was like recovering from a party. Being a Saturday the streets of Tel Aviv were surprisingly quiet. Mr. L told me because of the Shabbat, most stores were closed and the buses did not run. (Travel Tip: Buy any food or supplies on Friday before the stores close. Barely anything is open Saturday, including restaurants!) We finally made our way out of the apartment to head down to the beach with Mr. L warning us, the streets are quiet because everyone was at the beach. “Pshaw,” I remember saying, “it is only ten-thirty am, how busy can it be?”
Well, he was right. It was packed. My jaw dropped at the sheer amount of people setting up their own tables and umbrellas. Bringing down their coolers and inflatable pools, it was like a huge party where everyone was invited. We were lucky to get one of the last available chairs and umbrellas to rent and settled in. Israelis truly go to relax by the beach on their days off. Our usually lax way of watching our kids splash in the waves as we sat right at the shore gave way to being constantly vigilant about keeping an eye on all of them.
That was also the day tummy troubles visited our family. The girls complained of tummy aches and after lunch one started throwing up but had no other symptoms. After appearing fine, the younger girl went right to sleep for naptime and we had to pull her out of bed for another family visit that afternoon. Pleading with her to “buck up” until after the visit, we regretted not listening when she began throwing up on the way to another set of cousins for coffee. Feeling horrible but knowing it was our only chance to see this set of family, we endured the visit as our family tried to make us feel welcome even though two out of three of the kids were feeling terribly sick. We visited as long as politely possible and hustled our kiddies back to the car, plastic bags at the ready for any other inevitable sickness and got them all home and two of them into bed. Thankfully, the next day both girls seemed fine although the bug did hit Jacob one morning and knocked this mom on her back for a full day. A twelve-hour bug, unfortunate but not unexpected when traveling. A good rule of thumb when traveling with small children, 1) Take or know where you can purchase medicine for tummy troubles if outside of your home country. 2) Stock up on bottled water and keep everyone hydrated. I think that helped us get through this faster than others. 3) If your kids say they do not feel well, listen and postpone any set plans. You may need to make a get-away home. 4) Ensure you have lots of downtime in your schedule to re-schedule plans if illness strikes. Thank goodness for Imodium and nearby drug store!
More to come…
When Mr. L and I decided a year ago to fling ourselves into a new classification of family, families that travel, we had no idea what to expect. Up until this point we had taken brief family trips to Cuba, Mexico and Florida all with general success. But the idea of organizing a trip to Mr. L’s country of birth, a twelve-hour flight away, seemed too daunting to contemplate. Yet, with the onset of a heart condition by his father who still lives in Israel and cousins asking when we were making the trip, we made the decision that this summer would be the first inaugural trip to Israel for our family.
We agonized over the airplane ride. How would the kids sleep? I hunted for new books and toys. Mr. L uploaded new movies and games to each of their cherished but closely monitored devices. We coordinated with family in Israel on visits, booked the car and apartment.
Traveling with three or more kids, we have quickly learned that you have to be creative and strategic in well, pretty much everything. Mr. L reserved the bulkhead seats for us on the airplane thinking the extra leg room would work well for our brood. His father gently tried to nudge us towards a swanky hotel on the Tel Aviv boardwalk, but having a two year-old we knew a 3 bedroom apartment with full kitchen and separate sleeping quarters for Mom and Dad would be a better choice. We booked a place a mere seven-minute walk to the sandy white beaches along the Mediterranean and a full open market around the corner where we could pick up food on a moment’s notice. We booked a vehicle with a folding down third row to hold the umbrella stroller and luggage and could easily hold a full car seat and two booster seats. Mr. L called and confirmed, twice on everything. We ensured our insurance was all in order. On paper, we were set.
Fortunately, delegating the duties when planning to travel comes naturally to us after three kids and eleven years of marriage. Mr. L takes care of the logistics on the trip, I take care of well, everything else. Shutting the house down, a last-minute run to the grocery store for snacks on the plane, packing and researching places to go to name a few. It works for us, mostly. Forgetting Aloe Vera when you are a freckled redhead is not ideal in a country where the sun is out all day and the temperatures can reach as high as thirty-five degrees Celsius and the locals are putting tanning oil on their bronzed skin. But for the most part, we were set.
Then finally, after rushing to collect school items, drop off teacher gifts, a musical theatre play and all the things you have to do when leaving school two weeks early, we were off!
The kids did amazing at the airport and all slept on our overnight flight, except the Mom holding the thirty-pound two-year old who kept shifting every half hour. It was the most exhausted I felt on a trip. But we arrived intact with our entire luggage to meet his Dad with tired smiles. After a very, very long wait for a taxi shuttle to pick-up our car we were off to our apartment. (Note to self: Next time rent from a car company located in the airport!) His father had stocked our fridge so we were set for a casual dinner at the apartment. After a brief walk on the boardwalk looking at the blue waters, we headed back to the apartment and put everyone to bed. But not before I got a chance to see our first sunset from our fourth floor patio overlooking the water.
The next day began our real trip. Still feeling a bit tired, we headed to the beach for the day. Packing up towels and sand toys, the girls wasted no time in plunging into the warm salty waters and digging in the sand while we watched from rented chairs and umbrellas. The nice thing about Tel Aviv is that every block on the public beaches there are huge lifeguard stations and they will whistle and yell at anyone venturing too far into the waves or where the current may be too strong. Another set of eyes on your kids is not a bad thing. As well, casual restaurants are plentiful with beach chairs and umbrellas at your disposal. For a small fee one can rent lounge chairs and umbrellas in the open spaces. This is an ideal set-up when travelling with three or more kids erasing the need to lug down your own chairs and umbrellas along with all your other gear. The water is also fairly shallow and sandy so a parent of small kids can feel confident that their little ones are safe. Like bath water this time of year, the water provides a pleasant swim and even on a “red flag” day the girls jumped the waves enjoying teasing us with how far they could swim. Jacob was a little more hesitant hearing the soft roar of the sea. Yet, by the end of the day even he was coaxed into the relaxing waters to kick at the waves and spot the silvery fish near the shore. You can take a cooler, which we did that first day, full of fresh watermelon slices and sandwiches. (And lots of water!) Or alternatively (as we have done other days) you can switch it up and order from the nearest restaurant a plate of humus/pita, huge and filling salads or hot dogs for the kids to munch on in between building sand castles or taking another dip in the sea. Alongside your food, beer is available or refreshing Limonana, a delicious drink of lemonade and fresh mint leaves. What other way is there to start a family vacation?
Bringing sand home is inevitable, although there are numerous foot rinsing stations or showers. But back to the apartment we went to have showers, a quick rest and then out to dinner with my father-in-law.
Our first dinner in Israel was at a local favorite restaurant, The Old Man and the Sea in Jaffo. Windowless, it overlooks the sea and families gather here to watch the sun set counting the minutes as the sky turns from pink to orange. Upon sitting down, the table is overflowing with middle eastern dishes; humus, salads, falafel, pickles and pita. A pitcher of Limonana appears and is always filled. One feels as if eating like royalty. Diners munch on the dishes as they await their main courses. We finished early as the restaurant filled up. Still being on Canadian time, our brood was getting tired not used to the Israeli culture of late nights so after watching the sunset, we headed home for a long night rest.
After another morning at the beach and walk around the Carmel Market to pick up fresh chicken for dinner, we hosted our in-laws in our small kitchen, took the kids down to the local shop for ice cream and across the street to the park. Sunburnt but happy, the kids finished their treats, played on newly discovered equipment, squealed in delight at the stray cats that seem to populate the city streets and another day was done.
Our third day we wisely thought a break from the beach was a good idea. Our brood, being Canadian and having a very cool spring, were not used to the heat and sun. So into the car we piled to take a trip to Mr. L’s town of childhood, Ra’anana. Elizabeth asked numerous questions as we drove by his old apartment building and walked down the streets of his youth. Audrey, being affected by the heat more than her sister, trudged along only perking up as we neared a toy store and our destination for lunch, La Trattoria. A well reviewed pizza place in the area. After a toy was bought for each child, we ate our lunch on the patio and awaited the most delicious pizzas. Everyone was stuffed as we left to wander down the streets, stopping as Mr. L pointed out which stores were the same and which were different when he lived here. Ra’anana is a quieter town, albeit still busy. Tree-lined the downtown street is filled with cafe’s, bakeries and fresh fruit stands. Elizabeth pulled us into a bread shop that had cream-stuffed éclairs on display in the window. Lacking chocolate, I was not sure what to expect. As we all tried the soft desserts, we instantly all wished we had bought more. They were simply, divine. Walking back to the car as we wiped cream from our mouths, I said to Mr. L, “this is the type of memory I want them to have from a family vacation.”
More to come…
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