Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Haifa Beaches

When people think of Israel, my father says they imagine a scene from a really old movie called The Ten Commandments where a bunch of people escape Egypt to wander around in the desert led by a Bohemian hipster named Moses.

I haven't seen the movie because it's not on the Disney Junior channel, but I heard it's a famous story that just about anyone born in the 1970's would know. However, the film seems to paint a pretty desolate picture of what is today known as Israel. Endless desert. Rugged mountainous terrain. The Dead Sea.

The funny thing is (having been here a few times) when my family thinks of Israel, we think of beaches. Miles and miles of stunning clear Mediterranean water with powdery white sand. Here's a more recent photo of Israel so you can see the difference between myth and reality.

Within the country of Israel, there's obviously the famous cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Then you'd probably think of the Dead Sea region followed by Eilat if you're more Red Sea than Dead Sea, but you can't forget about my mother's hometown of Haifa in the northern part of the country.

As the third biggest city in Israel, Haifa is known for the caves where the prophet Elijah lived, the Baha'i Gardens and Mount Carmel. But Haifa also has multiple wonderful beaches as Google Maps loves to point out.

My mother's favorite beach when she was growing up here was Dado Beach (the dot furthest south on the map, just below Carmel Beach). In the past few years, the local municipality really invested in its infrastructure and built up a promenade at Dado Beach so that pedestrians can walk along the beach, stopping along at a restaurant or cafe as they meander down the coast.

The best part - there is no retail shopping (ie, stores that sell trashy "Your Boyfriend Thinks I'm Hot" tank tops) that would attract the Jersey Shore type of crowd. Instead of steroid infused bros here, you're more likely to find older overweight grandfathers wearing speedos (no photo necessary). But with free public parking, benches, cafes, clean public bathrooms, free showers, pubs and frequent sitting areas, Dado Beach really is for everyone - from young singles to families with kids to aging retirees.

The other day, my parents decided to ditch me with my grandparents while they snuck out for a beach day. Hopping the public bus, they were at Dado Beach in about 30 minutes. The entrance they use always stands out to me because it has the Camel Bar & Restaurant (with its blatant infringement on the popular American cigarette brand) as soon as you hit the promenade.

From there, they usually walk north along the paved walkway, passing by a few restaurants and pubs along the way to pick up a beer or ice slushee. Apparently, you can drink alcohol in a plastic cup in public. But since Israeli's don't really drink (well, not as much as Americans), it never becomes a big issue.

My mother and father usually skip the section of the beach that is directly in front of the larger restaurants (with its padded restaurant seating on the sand) as that area is more of a singles scene for the pseudo-socialites of Haifa. Then they pass the regular beach section where the families frequent with their kids running around all over the place and Israelis playing their paddle ball.

My parents keep walking, past all the action, but never unsure of the destination. Since my mother grew up there, she knew exactly where she was heading. Finally, they reach the spot where it's roped off due to the strong under current. It's a little quiet spot on the beach where my father won't get stares because he's a beautiful Asian man. There, they plant their butts down and enjoy the amazing beach.

After a few lazy hours of swimming, napping and tanning, they shower quickly in the public bathrooms (which are remarkably clean as far as public beach bathrooms go) then walk back down the promenade to a beach-side restaurant with passable food, but a comfortable outdoor seating arrangement.

Seasons Restaurant offers a smoking section for those interested in a little hookah (not to be confused with a midget prostitute) as well as standard Israeli food (shakshuka, falafel, hummus, schnitzel, etc). It seems every time my parents go to the beach, they end up at Seasons.

Even though the menu isn't that appealing and the prices a bit higher than you'd expect (33 NIS - almost $10 USD - for a Stoli vodka drink), they can always find a seat outside in the shaded patio area where they can people watch and relax. And my father never really turns down an opportunity to eat a little snack, no matter how mediocre the food is.

No comments:

Post a Comment