Pack Your Bags: Tel Aviv


Last year, I was at a press event where the hotel manager from the Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv was speaking. He spoke so enthusiastically about Tel Aviv- claiming it was electric- like the Las Vegas of the Middle East. I remember thinking how cool it sounded... and yet, how unlikely it was that I would actually be there anytime soon.

Fast forward a year, and what do you know? My family went to Israel for my dad's 60th birthday. Complete with my uncle and cousins + their spouses, needless to say- it was a party.

We arrived to Tel Aviv on an EasyJet flight direct from London. (£275 each way for all four of us + 3 bags + priority boarding/seats). The 4.5 hour flight was easy and non-eventful. We arrived to the hotel around 11:30pm on Thursday, worried that we might have missed our window for dinner.

Little did we know, Tel Aviv is a city that doesn't sleep... well, at least until Friday's when Shabbat rolls around and puts the country at a quiet standstill But Thursdays? Well, consider it their Friday night... and dinner at midnight? No problem at all.

We spent 5 days in Tel Aviv, and all I can say is- everything that I had heard at that event all that time back was spot on. The city is every bit as exciting as they say... and more. It's absolutely worth visiting. Think great food, great people, rich with history... and, of course, perfect weather.

Here are some of our favorite places for your trip to Tel Aviv.

 


STAY

 

DAVID INTERCONTINENTAL: Since I more or less was introduced to Tel Aviv by the manager of the Intercontinental, it only seemed fitting to start there when planning our trip. I figured it would be fairly similar to the other hotels in Tel Aviv, but after going, I can only say: it is above and beyond the BEST spot to stay. Right on the beach, gorgeous amenities, friendly staff. Just trust me. You'll be regret staying anywhere else if you veer from this advice. (We did on our last night in town when other plans had been made for us... and we all were very sad about it, especially the "other" hotel's disregard of air conditioning.)

When you're there, don't miss spending an afternoon by the pool. Not only will you have some luxe respite from the heat, but you'll also hear some of the most fascinating conversations from the guests around you. I was having the best time people watching while munching on a giant plate of watermelon. It was one of those unexpected moments that happen in a trip that you never forget.

 

 

EAT

MESSA: This place is beautiful. And the clever menu featuring entrees of veal baklawa and carmelized salmon in coconut milk meets the gorgeous decor perfectly. For dessert, don't miss the Sarkozy... named after France's former president upon his recent visit.

SOCIAL CLUB: This is the restaurant that welcomed us to Israel. It was the first place we went to and it opened our eyes to how alive Tel Aviv was. Everything about this place was cool. Tyler tried the waiters suggestion of the prime rib, and it was without a doubt the tastiest steak I have ever eaten. We were shocked. Not a place for kids, but definitely a place for great conversations and late nights.

ABRAGE: If you're looking for something that feels classic, this is it.  Grab a table outdoors in the 6th century square where Abrage casually sits and enjoy having the friendly staff of this Jaffa gem take care of you. We spent our last evening in Israel here with all our family and it was a truly special setting atop historic Jaffa.

 

DO

JAFFA: Along the beach of Tel Aviv, you'll find the ancient city of Jaffa. (Where Jonah set out to sea before his whale encounter.) Definitely not one to miss for great history, cool eats and excellent sunsets.

CARMEL MARKET: This busting market offers a great glimpse of life in Tel Aviv. You'll also hear it called "Shuk Ha'Carmel," but regardless of what language you speak- you'll find loads of things that will catch your eye. Expect to find everything here from designer knock-offs to religious knick-knacks. Save a lunch for eating here and grab a spot at the tiny eateries dotting the market for a real, local treat. (I'd recommend Bar Ochel for amazing grilled meats and roasted vegetables. Don't miss the homemade lemonade to wash it down.)

 

EXPLORE

AMIEL TRAVEL: We were spoiled to have amazing guides take us around Tel Aviv and all of Israel. We got to see things and experience Israel in a way that would have been really impossible to do as unexperienced travelers to the country. Our driver and two guides, Yossi and Monte, unpacked the history in Israel and the cultures mingled there now in a way that has touched Tyler & I profoundly. (Warning: You may not want to ask us about our trip, because we can't be anything but longwinded in our response.)

Go to Israel. Have your eyes opened to the rich history of this small, unique place... and I'd really recommend to have Amiel take you there to make the most of your trip!

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

 

Posted on July 29, 2016 and filed under israel, travel.

Pack Your Bags: La Rotonde at Le Negresco, Nice

 

I wrote this post on May 6, but hadn't had the chance to edit the photos for it until this week. When the Bastille Day attack happend in Nice, I was sick to my stomach. The attacks were in front of the Negresco Hotel, and the rooms we were in and took hilarious pictures of Harrison were now triage areas for the wounded victims of this senseless event.

While I don't speak about these kind of events online, please don't mistake that for a lack of recognition of what is happening in the world around us. I endlessly read and observe what is taking place. When I wake up to these horrific headlines, I feel them deeply.

And while I do feel fearful at times and unsure of being in certain places, I realize that fear is a bigger enemy than any terrorist group. So I keep going. And I want to encourage you to keep going, too. Keep living lives that are full and joyful and rich. Keep exploring God's gorgeous world without the fear of "Yeah, but what if?" And, please, go to France. Enjoy la vie en rose at a cafe in Paris, the coastlines of Normandy and the light-heartedness of the Riviera. Don't let dark times snuff out the brightness of great cultures and places. And if and when you find yourself enjoying the sunshine of Nice, I hope you'll find joy in this place like we so recently did, too.


 

Our semester in France ended in Nice, on the dazzling coastline of the French Riviera. Nice definitely lives up to its name. From the sunny climate, the lush gardens and easy-going culture which feels, unsuprisingly due to its location on the border of Italy, somewhat of the love child of France + Italy- Nice lends itself to a rather pleasant place to find oneself.

After the last official day of the semester, we found ourselves with one last day in town. With nothing other than unwinding on the agenda, we decided it was time to treat our kids to something special. (After a few months of having them submit to our crazy schedule, it was the least we could do.)

If you followed our France time on Instagram, you'll probably have noticed my kids have a thing for carousels. Like a really big thing. At almost every town square of France, you'll find DNA from one or all of our family who have touched the carousel there.

 

So when we heard that the Negresco Hotel had a restaurant decorated as a carousel, "La Rotonde", and we also heard that they had a great lunch offer... and, thus, we deemed it serendipitous for how to spend our last day in Nice.

 

 

We went at the end of the lunch rush, which was good because it was nearly empty and our kids were a bit strung out. None the less, it was sooooooo lovely. (Does it make me sound less professional if I add endless "oooo"s to my adjectives? I'll deal with it. It fits the mood of this dreamy spot.)

 

 

The set menu was a great value- 2 courses for €25, but you are limited to only one option for your main course. The setting and food live up the famed Michelin star of the hotel chef, Jean-Denis Rieubland. Definitely a stop not to miss after a sunny day wandering along the Promenade or lounging at the beach.

 

 

Find more of my favorite places in Nice here, as well as in my France travel guide.

 

LA ROTONDE BRASSERIE, NEGRESCO HOTEL | 37 Promenade Des Anglais. Nice, France. 06000.  +33 4 93 16 64 00


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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on July 27, 2016 and filed under france, kids, eat.

Pack Your Bags: The Jurassic Coast

 

Last weekend, we trekked out to Dorset for our friends' wedding. It was a classic British wedding from start to finish: adorable little country church, women crowned with enormous fascinators and hats, and a tented reception sat amongst a well-groomed garden... with a wedding singer blaring Robbie Williams, "Angels."

 

The only thing missing from my expectations was Hugh Grant bumbling his way through the Best Man's speech. Otherwise, it was the complete experience.

 

 

While I was hopeful for all of the English wedding cliches, I didn't have much in my mind about what Dorset would be like. We were headed to the Jurassic Coast, and- if I'm honest- I was not expecting much. I mean, I've been to Britain's beaches. While they may be nice, they really don't compare to so many other places.

But the day after the wedding, we woke up at our tiny B&B, Crawford House. We spent a lazy morning over homecooked breakfasts then packed up our bags and hit the beach to have a picnic with the newlyweds.

 

 

We parked the cars and took a ten minute walk down towards the beach, Durdle Door. When we walked up to the overlook of the coastline, my jaw dropped. I started yelling at Tyler to "COME HERE. YOU'RE GOING TO FREAK OUT. COME HERE." Was this really in England? Or had we been mysteriously transported to somewhere to Spain? France? Italy?

 

And the other element that upped the experience was that it full sunshine and over 90 degrees. I was loving every moment of it. (Minus the 20 minute hike back up to the parking lot. Woof!)

 

 

Can you believer this gorgeous place? As much as I think I've uncovered England, moments like this remind me that I have so much more to discover. What a refreshing look at a country that I've become so comfortable with over the years.

Any other hidden gems that you know of in England? Please share them below!

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on July 26, 2016 and filed under england, travel.

British Summertime (As Seen Through Tea & Cakes)

 

Typically, summers in England can be fairly... bleak. It's pretty common that your plans for picnics in the park or a weekend spent in the garden can be spoiled and swapped out for soggy days spent warming up over hearty meals and cups of tea. You find yourself living for those days when the skies clear and you- finally- get to see London in all it's steamy, sunny glory. As you sit sweltering in the air-conditionless English summer, you feel like you've earned each sunny moment with all of those rain-soaked days before it.

When I headed to the Four Seasons today to try their special afternoon tea, "A Journey Through British Summer," I knew it would be lovely... but I wasn't sure how it would be different than most of other afternoon teas. And if you're looking to spend a day out in London, you may be asking yourself why this particular afternoon tea is worth trying over so many others. And that's where me and my snazzy iPhotos can come to help.

 

 

First of all- location is everything, yes? So imagine yourself along the edge of Hyde Park, just a stone's throw from Buckingham Palace tucked inside a plush room inside the Four Seasons. Sunlight is dripping in through the windows in that way it seems to imply even the sunshine is higher quality than elsewhere.

 

Imagine being served a three-tiered tray of the prettiest food you've ever seen. Each item looks like it came out of a photo shoot... yet rather than being enjoyed by thousands of reader, each gorgeous little cake, sandwich and scone was painstakingly handmade for the eyes of you alone.

(I know, I know... this gets me all hot and bothered, too. Stick with me though.)

 

 

Now, imagine that you have your choice of the finest teas in all of the world to sip with these treats. You can choose fromdelicately curled oolongs, flowering jasmine teas, a delicate lemongrass or any of the other gorgeous teas available by JING. (We were lucky enough to be served a flight of teas, because, really... who can even choose?) Normally, I like classic English breakfast with milk- but we had Felicity from JING there to guide us through pairing various items with the teas. I didn't have one splash of milk with the entire tea... and I actually preferred it!

 

 

The tea is themed for British Summer classics. Tiny cakes hit the highlights: chocolate cakes shaped like ladies hats from the Ascot Race, white chocolate domes hand-painted as Wimbledon tennis balls, strawberries & cream cakes, Pimms baba au rhum set the scene, while classic British sandwiches meet simple refreshment. (Smoked salmon with a tiny bit of mashed spring pea, cucumber sandwiches with tiny slices of radishes and mint, and a tiny merger of crab and brioche that might leave even the biggest skeptic a bit emotional.)

 

 

As the food began to disappear from the table and our eager faces melted into satisfied grins, we joked that the only thing missing from this classic British summer treat was rain.... but we didn't seem to mind as we ventured to the patio to round out the perfect experience.

 

Find out all about the Four Seasons Afternoon Tea here. Too far from London? Order JING and celebrate the art of tea at home to avoid those FOMO blues.

 

Looking for a great afternoon tea in London? I always am. See more of my favorite places in my London guide.

 



 

 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on July 20, 2016 and filed under eat, england, hot tea, london.

Our Home: SMART SPACES & Uncommon Goods

 

Every night, Tyler and I climb into bed and sigh... "I LOVE OUR NEW HOUSE." It's true. I can't believe how much our quality of life has improved with a bit more space. The exta two stops on the Central Line are worth it. While I thought I would forever leave a piece of me in Notting Hill, I can confidently say.... I did not. It's all here with me in our new house, and both me and my in-tact heart couldn't be happier.

There's a huge long story about our house and how we found it, but... I'll save that for another day with a bigger selection of pictures to show you. I was prompted by a really neat company, Uncommon Goods, to share a few peeks out our home. Uncommon Goods has really quirky and unique gifts and, well, uncommon items. But what I really like about them is that they have a great ethos- supporting fair employee wages and benefits and also donating a portion of their sales to your choice of charities. Cool, right? (Plus, I also kinda love their selection of personalized gifts for anniversaries. You'll see what I mean!)

So today, I'm sharing a share a few peeks at our new digs and some of the special things inside them that make it feel ours. So while it's not an entire home tour, how about this.... a handul of little nooks and things that I love in our new home.

 


 

EN-SUITE BATHROOM

I've always rolled my eyes at people's obsessions with "en-suite" bathrooms on the home shows here. I mean, is it really so hard to leave your bedroom to use the bathroom? Well, we lucked out with one here. I can't tell you the gift that having an exta bathroom has given to our marriage. We have never lived in a place with more than one tiny bathroom. It's even converted me to love showers more than baths, which has never been the case until this glorious little nook of hygiene appeared.

 

 

OLD-FASHIONED FOOTED TUB

Okay, I do prefer the shower on the daily routine... BUT, when I can score an hour to sit in this bobsled-esque tub downstairs, I feel like the luckiest woman alive. Toss in some rosewater and powdered milk and it's a dreamiest, steamiest milk bath there is. (Warning: All guests of our home will have a rose milk bath forced upon them. It's my new love language.)

Plus, bathing the kids in it everynight is one of the prettiest and calmest times of my day.

 

 

THE GARDEN

It may be the size of a pickup truck, but the mental freedom that arrives with being about to go outside without getting everyone dressed and pushed out a park? AMAZING. I sit out there sans decent clothing with a popsicle and music blaring as much as possible.

My kids are quickly learning from my example, too.

chairs, amazon

 

 

THE PLAYROOM

Some might call this an office. Others might call it a small bedroom. We call it the playroom. It could have been Harrison's room, but we decided to keep the kids in the same space... and, more importantly, their toys in another (enclosed/hideable) space. Harrison wakes up early, so each morning I haul him there, coffee in hand, and perch on the sofa while he plays. On the wall are pictures from places we have lived and loved. The pillows follow suit with a Union Jack and two embroidered State pillows that I really love. (Again, Uncommon Goods!)

couch, ASDA | throw, peacock alley | state cushions, uncommon goods

 

 

ALL AROUND THE TABLE

I think the thing that I was the MOST excited about after we signed for this house was the dining room. You see, we have been living with small dinettes shoved into our living rooms as "breakfast nooks" for the past 5 years. They were awkward and the proximity of baby food debris to the living space was always a messy chore. Now, the mess is still there- but just, you know, in a place where it should be.

In the midst of being overwhelmed with the prices of dining tables, I stumbled upon a carpenter in Cambridge who had some great tables on sale. I even picked out the Farrow & Ball paint color and had him deliver it to me for £300. Can you believe that? It's perfect for the space. The chairs I got from Amazon, 8 of them for £140, but they seem to be a tiny bit higher priced for the US.

I didn't have any dishes here (they had always been provided in our past rentals), so I ordered a basic white set for 8 people from Gilt for only $120 (including international shipping). I think they fill out the room in a really easy way.

table, the farmhouse workshop | chairs, amazon | vase, west elm | dishes, gilt group | wall art, monoqi

 

OPEN SHELVES IN THE KITCHEN

I'm not sure why it is so gratifying to be able to see your dry goods lined up on a shelf... but, what can I say? It is. Call me a cliche, but a happy one. It feels so nice to see the staples right there without having to dig around in the back of our cabinets.

glasses, bodum | bird vase, uncommon goods

 

*       *       *

 

To be honest, as I've been writing this, I've been thinking of so many other things that I could put on this list... but I'm gonna stop here. I'm gonna quit while I'm ahead. Except for this one little tiny PSA: If you're living in a TINY urban space (especially with kids or pets) and it's making you crazy, consider moving out just a bit. We are 10 minutes from the door of our old flat, and, yet, our world is so changed. I still feel totally connected to the heart of London, and, in some ways, even more so.

 

Our neighbors came and introduced themselves, we can actually get into great schools and the list goes on.... I encourage you to let loose of the idea of what you address you think you need to really experience "London" and see what you might get in return!

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

*this post was sponsored by Uncommon Goods.

 

 

Posted on July 6, 2016 and filed under home.