My last day in Israel was my only day in Tel Aviv.

True to form, our group of 13 woke up early to get a jump on the day.Our first stop was Independence Hall, where Israel’s Declaration of Independence was signed in 1948. The tour included a really fascinating recounting of the history of Tel Aviv’s beginnings, when the town was founded as a suburb of Jaffa. We then got to sit in the actual room where the signing took place as our guide gave us a detailed description of the events that led up to the signing. (A little more history is here.)

Actual room where the Declaration was signed.

Actual room where the Declaration was signed.

From Independence Hall, we walked a few blocks to the Shalom Meir Tower, a 34 floor building built on the site of the old Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium, the first Hebrew high school in Israel. On the main floor is a series of mosaic murals by the artist Nachum Gutman. The murals tell the history of Tel Aviv and are very beautiful, especially up close. Which is, of course, the only picture I took.

Mosaic detail

Mosaic detail

We then spent some time walking through the Nachalat Binyamin Arts & Crafts fair. Though I heard a fair number of American accents, it felt good to be out among the locals. My kid bought a handmade wooden puzzle. My brother bought a leather and metal bracelet. And I went a block over to where the t-shirts were sold and bought my husband this:

Perfect gift for the man who has everything

Perfect gift for the man who has everything

We loaded ourselves, and our packages, back on to the bus and drove to Jaffa, where we had lunch at Dr. Shakshouka. Sitting under a canopy, we feasted on challah, more dips and the very yummy spicy tomato and egg dish called shakshouka. The restaurant was bustling and the waiters were running around trying not to bump in to one another. It was fun to watch.

Lunch at Dr. Shakshouka

Lunch at Dr. Shakshouka

After getting some ice cream down by the harbor, our group wandered around the historic section of old Yaffa. We climbed the steps, made wishes at the Zodiac bridge and took in some really beautiful views.

Scenes from Old Yaffa

Scenes from Old Yaffa

Then it was back to the hotel, where I needed some time to get our things together for our early departure the next day. The kids went down to the beach with their cousins while I organized our luggage, filling a whole suitcase with our week’s worth of dirty clothes. Then I showered and got dressed for our adults-only night out.

We took cabs to a restaurant called Messa. So different than what we had been experiencing for the past couple of days, it had a truly contemporary decor. Lots of white on white with long communal tables lining the center of the restaurant. We were seated in our own private room with a glass wall facing the rest of the restaurant. I had my first, but not last, slightly Dirty Martini. And I was not disappointed.

The Messa experience

The Messa experience

The food was really unique. Some of the items I tasted were a crab gnocchi with blue cheese and a raw quail yolk, a charcoal grilled eggplant with cherry tomatoes and cheese, and a carmelized salmon served with a coconut mousse, wild mushrooms and zucchini. All were delicious.

We had left the kids, all together, in our hotel room and they were supposed to order room service. No one had thought through the fact that it was Friday night. The start of the Sabbath. In Tel Aviv. And that the kitchen would not be offering any hot foods for room service. So all 5 of them had to have bagels and cream cheese. And I got the guilt trip, via text, from my 15 year-old kid. While I was indulging in wonderful food and some really smooth Israeli red wine. (Sorry kid. But you did get a trip to Israel. Get over it.)

The adults got back to the hotel around 11:30. My flight was leaving at 5:30 am. So we were told we had to leave the hotel at 2:30. Which meant waking up at 2:00 am so the kids and I could get our things together and make our way downstairs. Yikes.By the time the kids and I said our goodbyes to the family and washed up and settled in to bed, it was midnight. Two hours later, the phone rang with our wake up call. I knew I shouldn’t have had that last glass of wine. But I did so I woke up from my short night’s sleep a little hungover. And with a headache. But we made it out and got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. We even had a snack and some coffee before we boarded the Tel Aviv to Rome leg of our trip.

Our layover was only an hour. And I was so happy when we boarded the Rome to Miami flight. No crying baby. Upgraded seats. In the bulkhead. Private tv screens. I watched four movies. I even enjoyed some tortellini and a glass of nice Italian wine.

Once in Miami, we got through baggage claim and customs without a hitch. And walked out to the pick-up area where I laid eyes on my husband for the first time in a week. He had timed his arrival perfectly. We hugged and kissed and loaded our luggage in to the car. Always thoughtful, he had brought along some sandwiches and drinks for the hour and a half ride home.The kids and I stayed up until 8:30 that night to help us get ahead of the jet lag. And woke up the next day feeling pretty good.

And just like that, after months of anticipation and planning, our Israeli Adventure was over. Talk about a week going by quickly.

Next up? The recap. Did everyone get along? Am I wearing a Jewish star now? Can I speak fluent Hebrew? Does my son want to be a rabbi? Is he still mad about having to eat Shabbos bagels?

You’ll get the answers to these questions, and my overall thoughts on the trip, in my next post. I know you can’t wait.