Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wandering around the North

Since moving to our home in the north approximately ten years ago (though in this case "north" is open to interpretation, as some would refer to it as the "Northern Sharon" or simply as part of the ever-expanding boundaries of the "center"), we have done our best to take advantage of our proximity to some of the more beautiful parts of the country (and this, of course, also being open to interpretation). While I enjoy a good walk, I've never been a big hiker. The husband, on the other hand, lives to hike, and consequently, we've spent a great deal of our marriage meandering along various trails around the country, trails with varying degrees of difficulty. Fortunately, Israel has a great deal to offer when it comes to communing with nature, whether you fancy a treacherous hike through the desert, a leisurely stroll through a forest or past a waterfall, a picnic in a nature reserve (watch those campfires, folks!), or an educational outing to any one of a great number of antiquities sites and ancient ruins.

We've spent a great deal of time in the wild lately, and I never cease to marvel at all this country has to offer. A few weeks ago it was Nazareth and the Basilica of the Annunciation with friends, and just this past weekend we managed to hit the ancient synagogue (with its very impressive mosaic floor) at Kibbutz Beit Alfa, the Belvoir (Kochav Hayarden) fortress (the photo above was taken there), and the water channels by Nachal Hakibbutzim (see the photo below). We also managed to hit a tremendous amount of traffic on the drive home, but that's simply par for the course when returning home late on fabulous Saturday afternoon.

The Basilica of the Annunciation took my breath away. One of my favorite things about living here is the accessibility to so much history, and the Basilica did not disappoint. Wandering through its intricately designed halls filled me with a great sense of awe. I gazed around the chapel and stood by the grotto, allowing myself to be taken in by the historical impact of my surroundings, feeling as I had felt many years earlier when I first visited various sites in Jerusalem's Old City, feeling the history come alive. I never grow tired of the seemingly endless sightseeing opportunities here, but few have struck me as the Basilica did.

And of course, what outing would be complete without food? Indeed, some of the best food I've eaten in Israel has been discovered far away from the culinary center of Tel Aviv. We recently had the distinct pleasure to eat at El Babor (click the link and then scroll up to the first restaurant listed under "North"), a restaurant in one of the Arab-Israeli towns lining Route 65. Just thinking about the lamb's neck stuffed with rice and pine nuts makes me drool with longing, and I'm not even a big fan of meat! Unusual salads and professional service have put El Babor on our permanent radar, and we will undoubtedly look for reasons to return.

The north is filled with excellent restaurants that are well-worth the detour off the beaten path, but should you wish to bring your own, there's certainly no shortage of picnic and barbecue sites, many of which also have large, well-designed play areas. I've lost track of the number of times when we've stumbled upon one of these spots during our travels, caught totally unprepared (in other words, not having had the forethought to actually pack and bring food), and added the location to our growing mental list of spots to return to with food and friends. And, in typical Israeli style, if you stay long enough, the inevitable four-wheeled Israeli phenomenon affectionately known as the "gazlan" will roll up, proffering a splendidly fattening selection of ice cream. The kids are happy and everyone is sated. Now if only someone would come around with the mobile cappuccino maker, life would indeed be complete...

No comments: