Review: The Market Courtyard-Jerusalem Suites: your home far away from home

DSCN0336Nachlaot is one of the nicest neighbourhoods of the busy Jerusalem, with its traditional small houses, quiet parks where people can meet to talk the latest news or play some chess or shesh besh, small green streets and local synagogues. During the sunny days, the old buildings are wrapped into the light and made you forget which century you are living in. I passed along HaCarmel street many times before, but never had the reason to stop for more and read its messages. It is close to the famous Mahane Yehuda Market and the flea market from Agrippa Street, but also from the Central Station and the Light Rail. The friendliness of the people and the colours of the streets invited me to stay more and this is what I did before checking my apartment at the Market Courtyard -Jerusalem Suites.

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Once I was given the key, some small details about entering the courtyard and the house and some codes – everything looked very safe – , I am free to discover my residence for the rest of the day and the night. My apartment has a big living room, a bathroom, a bedroom that gives into the interior yard, a kitchen and a balcony where I am thinking to spend as much time as possible.

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The bathroom is spacious enough, with a bathtube, a priviledge that is not easy to have, either in apartments or hotel rooms in Jerusalem. Hot water is available round the day and everything looks white and clean.

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The kitchen is provided with minimal amenities: a fridge, a microwave, coffee machine, coffee and sugar. It is enough space to give you inspiration to cook a family meal and the vicinity to the Machane Yehuda offers more than an opportunity to make yourself, your family and children feel like home. As the table in the living room can be enlarged and made bigger, you can also have a big meal, eventually with your new friends.

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The decorations are minimal, but with good taste, especially the old black-and-white pictures from the old city or the posters about art exhibitions. The furniture is custom made, with serious brown and red pillows that brings more life into the room.

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The residences are tailored for short, medium and long stay, as you can rent them for the day, week, month and even year. It works very well for couples, single travellers longing for the feeling of being at home, families with or without children. The wireless works very well and there is TV and air condition too. Well-written and interesting books about Jerusalem and history of Israel are inviting you to plan more wisely the next legs of the trip.

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The bedroom reminded me a bit of a bungallow, and as in the rest of the house, the details are minimal, offering enough space for moving and thinking freely. Who needs too much furniture when you are on vacation? The closet is big enough to accommodate different wardrobe needs. Mine gave to the courtyard and was quiet for this time of the year – beginning of January.

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The Market Courtyard (or the Hatzar Hashuk, in Hebrew) is a historical building, preserved and reinvented as an apartment building, keeping in mind the traditional elements of the Jerusalem architecture. Its internal courtyard leads to a 3-storey building, each new and provided with modern facilities. Every residence offers a different view of Jerusalem: either the Nachlaot or the marketplace bustle. If you are lucky enough to stay at the top floors, you can even have a view of the Israel Museum, the road to Gilo, or the Supreme Court Building.

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My balcony offered a view over Nachlaot, without too many people outside during the day, but apparently with its own secret life during the night. In the middle of the night, a guitar player and singer in the park, made me think about some local Romeo and Juliet story, and these thoughts kept me busy enough for not trying to bother the solo concert. The balconies are big enough to allow you spending a good part of the morning there and if you want to better understand this city and its people, this seems to be a good standpoint to start with.

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The courtyard offers a fascinated view, and its interior yard offers opportunities to the guests to meet and, who knows, to plan some trips together. The green plants hanging fhe balconies give an air of familiarity and friendliness. The main construction was originally built in 1886, and was part of the larger efforts to bring more Jewish population outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem. The old stones of the courtyard can be a reminder of the old and many untold histories.

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When it was about time to go to my next destination, I had the feeling that I have to leave a place that I was just starting to become too familiar with to abandon without regrets. The Nachlaot and the secrets kept into the courtyard were calling me back. I wonder if the guitar musician still singing in the park?

For more insights from this accommodation, check the dedicated Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/the-market-courtyard-jerusalem-suites/

Disclaimer: I was offered a one-night stay at the Market Courtyard – Jerusalem Suites, but the opinions are, as usual, my own

Friday afternoon walking in Jaffa

DSCN0698It is Friday afternoon in Tel Aviv, and for a short while, the life is slowing down, but just for a couple of hours. Everyone is getting ready to join the usual family gatherings of the evening, marking the start of Shabbat, the day of rest. There ae even less tourists on the streets, so quiet now that you can hear the waves of the sea nearby. For me, this is the perfect time to go back to Jaffa, walking slowly on the beach till I reach the area of the port, with its coquette shops hidden between ship repairing garages.

DSCN0699Especially in this moment, when there are not too many tourists and the shops are getting ready to close, the streets usually crowded with visitors can reveal their mysteries and stories, testimonies of the long and rich centuries of history.DSCN0702Compared to other historical places, here in Israel or elsewhere in Europe, you don’t have the ovewhelming feeling of being in a museum of human history. The human presence integrated the rich past into through the colouful windows and the green alleys that spring from the millenial cobblestones.DSCN0703Beyond each massive door mysterious stories seem to hide in their well locked wooden boxes. But right now, I can only hear my steps on the stones and the sound of intensive preparations in the kitchens.DSCN0708Either there are private houses, art galleris or antiques shops, you feel invited not to buy, but to stay, hear stories and eventually take a decision while admiring the streets, with a glass of fresh lemonade or a big cup of hot black Turkish coffee in the front of you. DSCN0709Every time I visit this part of Israel, considered as one of the oldest in the region, I feel that there are always so many things that I want to learn about: about the three different religions coexisting here, and the various religious symbols can be noticed on the streets outside the old city, about the history of architecture of the country, about its nature and beautiful trees, about its old and new traditions, visible in the variety of art styles dispayed in the many art galleries. DSCN0713Like in the old city of Jerusalem, there are so many short streets and houses that are so close that you can mistake them as part of the one and only block of buildings.DSCN0719Besides the art galleries and antiquities shops, another important landmark in the area is Ilana Goor Museum, hosting an interesting collection of works, that can be eventually introduced by the artist herself who is often there talking with the visitors. DSCN0720But today, I rather want to feel free, taking the advantage of a sunny December afternoon and walk as much as I can, together with my friend which wants to learn so much about the art, history and the controversies associated with the region. But when you walk these old streets and you see everything with your own eyes, you don’t need any more to get your sources from the biased media.DSCN0721The art courageously dispayed on the antiques walls make me feel less guilty for not visiting too many art galleries this time. Only one every ten minutes. DSCN0727The artists and the gallery owners are there not only to help you take the right decision, but also to tell their and other people’ stories. The beautiful pieces of jewellery from Yemen or Morocco are especially beautiful, displaying old crafts for ever lost in Europe. At one antiquities shop that is about to close, I am showed different Seder plates brought from Jews home from all over the world. My favourite is one made shortly after the creation of the State of Israel, provided with a little machine that sings for a couple of minutes Hatikva, the national anthem talking about hopes and love for freedom.  DSCN0730For me, nothing can represent better the spirit of this place than the 1993 work of Ran Morin – Oranger Suspendu ( in English, Hanging Orange Tree). Made of steel, artificial stone and orange tree, it can be read as a narrative about strength and resilience, that needs to fight against unexpected artificial problems but tempered and helped by the given natural destiny. This piece of art is considered one of the top photographic attractions of this area, so during the busy week expect to wait a bit in line till you will be able to take your selfie here. Morin, who lives in Israel, is the author of several full-sized living trees.DSCN0735While my mind is thinking maybe too much for this time of the week, the streets are getting empty and I feel somehow compelled to find our way outside the area, maybe going back to Tel Aviv for the Friday evening meal with a view over the sea. DSCN0739

The streets are getting cleaned and the tables are ready to be set. The quiet stones are ready to hear more family stories. DSCN0746Accoding to the Biblical story, Jaffa was the location from which Jonah set sail before his encounter with the whale. A massive statue of a whale by Ilana Goor reminds the visitors about this reference. Another story says that the famous cedars used in building Solomon’s Temple were shipped to the Jaffa port.DSCN0751Right now, the port is quiet and the touristic restaurants serving fish dishes and the tasty local versions of Mediterranean food are ready to open. Far away, but still very close, I can see the lights of the beautiful city with its sky scrapers and creative high tech industry. This is the moment when past and present meet and I am happy to be here and hear this story of hope and resilience.

Hotel review: Gordon Hotel&Lounge Tel Aviv

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The hotel industry in Tel Aviv is offering every year more and more pleasant surprises and new rising stars, the boutique hotels being one of the most dynamic offers. Situated at the corner of Hayarkon and Gordon Street, the newly renovated Gordon Hotel&Lounge is hosted in one of the famous Bauhaus white buildings. It used to be before only a small bar, that was maintained now, with additional 12 cosy rooms and a modern restaurant and bar space.

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The entrance looks a bit poor and may misguide you about the simple and warm yet polished ambiance waiting from inside. As it is situated on a very busy street, minutes away from the beach, the high traffic can be a problem,  including during the night, for those looking for some perfectly quiet nights. But you are in the ‘City that never sleeps’ so don’t expect too much slow life during your stay hee…

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Once I arrived from Jerusalem to join my friend for a long weekend in the bubbling city, I preferred to go first to catch the sunset from the terrasse, with a glass of wine and the view of the beautiful Mediterranean sea in the front of my eyes. Altough the end of December, the weather was perfect not only for photographic opportunities, but also for enjoying outdoors on the comfy chairs the beautiful colours of the sky reflected into the water. For a couple of minutes, the time just stopped.

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Indoors, I was welcomed with a smile by the personnel and given always good suggestions for the choice of breakfast (my constant choice, delicious black lentils and artichokes, hummus, red beet and cranberries). The decorations of the rooms and of the lobby are in the style of the 1970s, in light colours and transparent stickers, the warm contrast to the black massive doors.

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The rooms are cozy, with simple functional additions and depth perspectives given by the discrete and romantic lights. The rooms are provided with technical facilities, plasma TV, mini-bar and Internet (during my stay, the wifi was not properly working, but I took it as a sign that I can use my time otherwise than checking news online). From the balcony, one can spend hours and hours looking at the sea and the fast city life.

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The predominant white in the rooms gives you a feeling of quietness and peace and makes your sleep full of nice dreams. The only think that I did not exactly understand from the interior design setting was the curtain outside the bathroom glass wall. Maybe an opaque glass wall would have been a more practical and aesthetical solution. But spending time in the room – although the temptation to watch the international news on the huge tv is dangerously great, but I can stand it – is not on my to-do-list, and shortly after checking I am out to see, feel and smell the city.

On the way to the beach, I could not resist to make a stop to the tempting SALT Kitchen&Drinks Restaurant, and I am lucky to find a place and hang around chatting with the locals. The next evening, the bar is fully booked for a party, but from now on, I know that regardless how much I want to see new places in the city, I will make sure that at least once in a while I will stop here too.

For more images from Gordon Hotel&Lounge, check the dedicated Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/gordon-hotellounge-tel-aviv/