When you live in a city and get used to a certain daily routine, it’s hard to break out of it. Though most of us dream of getting away for the weekend, planning a jaunt out of town is often left precisely there, in dreamland. Luckily, in Israel, being a weekender requires little more than a tank of gas and some moxie.
The following is an account of 48 delightful hours spent off the beaten track in the Lower and Western Galilee regions with one small child and spouse. Aside from hotel reservations, no plans were made in advance, no reservations booked, no itineraries printed out.
We set out for Nahariya at 5 p.m., where we are booked at the brand new O-Live Boutique Hotel. On the way, we stop in Acre for dinner at Uri Buri (www.uriburi.co.il).
Around for more than two decades, Uri Buri sits across from the beach promenade, a modest three-roomed building. We arrive before the dinner rush and are surprised to be seated next to none other than veteran chef and autodidact Uri Buri himself. As he sips his espresso, Buri helps a neighboring table decide what to order.
The staff are incredibly friendly and helpful. All dishes can be ordered in full or half portions, and there are plenty of choices for small diners. We each order fish and a side dish. The food arrives and, true to the restaurant’s reputation, the dishes are inventive, nicely presented and, above all, fresh.
We settle the bill and head out for ice cream at one of the many kiosks along the promenade.
Then it’s just a short drive until we reach the bustle of downtown Nahariya.
The O-Live (www.olivebb.co.il), which is a national chain of boutique hotels and guest houses, recently opened the Nahariya location adjacent to the brand-new Arena Mall. Taking up two floors, the O-Live Boutique Hotel is so new they have yet to outfit the rooms with the hotel’s insignia or artwork. The 24 rooms are divided into doubles and two-roomed suites for families.
The location boasts a spa room as well as a games room for children. We check in and get comfortable in our room.Day 2:
We wake up to a bright morning overlooking Nahariya and head downstairs for breakfast. In the small dining room, the hotel staff has laid out a classic spread and immediately offers made-to-order omelets.
We sit next to a lone traveler who is in town for business.
After checking out, we pack into the car and drive to Kibbutz Nir David’s Gan Guru (www.nirtours.co.il). Open since the mid- 1990s, Gan Guru is an Australian oasis in the middle of the Galilee. All of the plants and animals, which include birds, koalas, kangaroos, lizards, goats and sheep, were transported from Australia. Inside the park area, visitors can pet and feed the animals as well as learn about their eating, sleeping and mating habits from the knowledgeable staff.
Tired and hungry, we say goodbye to our kangaroo friends and head to the Gilboa Herb Farm restaurant (www.thegilboaherbfarm.
rest-e.co.il). Overlooking the stunning Jezreel Valley, the 22-year-old restaurant serves Mediterranean cuisine with an emphasis on locally grown produce and meats.
We sit on the balcony and eat our delicious lunch as butterflies quietly flutter through the flower-studded gardens.
From the Gilboa it’s a short drive to Nazareth, where we check into the Golden Crown Hotel (www.goldencrown.co.il).
Located on the edge of the city, the Golden Crown functions as both a tourist hotel and a convention center. The enormous facility boasts nearly 250 rooms as well as a handful of banquet halls. Taken over from the Renaissance chain 15 years ago, the Golden Crown’s traffic is divided into business and religious tourism. The rooms are clean and homey with windows overlooking a courtyard with a massive swimming pool and Jacuzzi.
The hotel is just a few minutes away from the new Big Fashion outdoor shopping center. Equipped with every major Israeli chain plus international labels like Zara and H&M, the mall is open long hours and worth a stop.
As half-board guests of the hotel, we are offered dinner and breakfast. Dinner is a slightly sad affair. Though there are plenty of options, none of them are fantastic.
After a short walk along the hotel’s courtyard, we turn in for the night.Day 3:
We wake and have breakfast in the hotel, which is much better than dinner was, pack up and drive to the Shaked Tavor Visitors’ Center and Marzipan Museum (www.
shakedtavor.co.il). Established in 1901, Kfar Tavor is home to vineyards, olive and almond trees. In recent years, the Shaked Tavor brand has come to include not just marzipan but a host of other delicious products such as almond butter, tehina, silan, herbs and spices. At the visitors’ center, we are invited to watch a short video about the invention of marzipan and how it came to Israel. The viewing room is lined with marzipan vignettes, including scenes from The Gruffalo, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and a tableau of The Beatles. Outside are marzipan busts of Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu and other public figures.
Across the cobblestone path is a game room and workshop space for children. A young woman leads us through a chocolate and marzipan workshop in which we make our own chocolates and sculpt multicolored marzipan into fun shapes.
The staff recommend that we head to nearby Kiano Bistro Bar for lunch (www.facebook.com/kianobistrobar). Snuggled between two playgrounds, Kiano has a hefty menu of bistro favorites. Our little one makes use of the many slides and swings, while we enjoy a tasty hamburger and the chef’s salad. The staff is friendly and helpful and the prices very reasonable.
After bidding farewell to the pastoral Kfar Tavor, we drive back home with great memories of our mini-break in the North. The writer was a guest of the places mentioned.