Sunday, March 18, 2007

Auto Adventure

There are perhaps a dozen of us living at the Ulpan and by the time classes end on Thursday afternoon, many of us are itching for a change of scenery, of food, and for a break from the routine, the cold rooms, the kvetchy weather and from each other. Many people take off for the weekend, and those who don't have other ways of managing: one woman has her hair done every week. After spending many hard-won hours waiting for, and using, the Internet last week plotting my escape, I hit the road on Friday morning.

Israelis have a reputation as lousy and dangerous drivers, but as a Boston driver who had a year-long apprenticeship in the passenger seat of numerous Mexico City taxicabs, I felt equal to the challenge. I hopped into my rented Hyundai Getz and off I went, heading north on the coastal road, Highway 2. Accompanied by the lively sounds of Israeli pop music, I was Queen of the Road, zipping around the Holy Land in my cute car, feeling like a million bucks.

My first stop was Zichron Ya'akov (Remembrance of Jacob), a relatively affluent community in Israel's wine country, nestled in the hills with a view of the sea. My parking karma was in working order and, without much ado, I found a convenient spot. After browsing in several arty clothing boutiques I realized I was hungry and started to investigate restaurants. I guess part of me was still dying for dessert, as I found myself tempted by the Motek (Sweet) Cafe, with its hot pink decor and a luscious pastry case. Forget a real lunch, I was going for the cheese cake, a substantial wedge accompanied by raspberry sauce and a lemon wedge. To wash it down I ordered a dark hot chocolate, which arrived as a cup of steamed milk poured over chocolate chips. I was skeptical of this concoction, but after the chocolate dissolved so did my doubts. Mmm! The indulgence, plus tip, set me back 50 shekels (about $12), a somewhat outrageous sum.

Forget Ya'akov....I think I'll remember this town as Zichron Cheesecake.

Satisfied, and with the rain beginning anew, I started up the car and headed further into the hills, towards some Druze villages. The road wound its way upward through olive groves and before long I spotted a roadside stand, marked by an Israeli flag. By the time I realized I wanted to check it out I couldn't safely stop, so I drove further and made a U-turn. It turned out to be one of the first of many similar stands along the road where the Druze sell their olives, special yogurt cheese and pickled vegetables, and make their famous Druze Pita, a delicious flat round bread filled with cheese, rolled into a wrap, and baked over hot coals.

To be continued.....

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