Journal Entry # 63 - Road Entry#52 (Mom's Office Garage – La Canada, CA - March 2, 2011)

It's the first full day of traveling independence. I have from January 21st until March 1st to do whatever I want in as many countries as I want. I am still committed to running the marathon in Egypt, so I set out for a morning run at 8:30am from Itay's apartment.

I take my bag with me, including some clothes to change into, because Itay's shower still wasn't working. I ran along Nachalat Binyamin Street to the Carmel Market and then west towards the sea through some surrounding neighborhoods. I got to the promenade once again and ran north towards the hotel where the rest of the extended travelers were staying. It was still early enough in the morning that I found other people running and working out. Especially in this one area with muscle resisting equipment. Along the promenade, there are these public workout stations. Each machine is designed to use the body-weight of the user to provide resistance. I worked out at this specific one near the Marina Hotel. In total, I spent a little more than an hour running and working out before walking up to their room in the Marina Hotel.

As I entered the Marina Hotel, the bellhop stopped me and asked me if I had a room in the hotel. For some reason, I lied and said I was staying in Room 307. I did stay in that room the night the Taglit group stayed there, but not currently. I obviously didn't look like I "belonged" in this hotel, so I guess my tone and confidence proved to be sufficient for him as he let me walk upstairs. I got to Adam, Sam, and Johnny's room and knocked quickly. There was no answer.

I was slightly worried because they said they would be there until 10am and I could come meet them. Luckily, the girls were staying in the room next door and Anna answered the door after I knocked. She was the only one in the room. The television was on and she was getting ready for the day. She told me that everyone was down at breakfast. I asked to use the shower in replacement of Itay's shower.

After my shower, Sarah, Nettie, and Jackie returned from breakfast. I was eating some bread, nuts, and dried fruit for breakfast. I had purchased them the day before near the Carmel Market. The girls finished getting ready while I was chatting with the guys about how they got breakfast for free this morning. They said that there was another Taglit group in the hotel and the staff assumed that they were apart of that group. They suggested that I go to the cafeteria area to try my luck with the staff and a 'complete' breakfast. I told them it was fine and I was grateful enough just to have a shower.

The first move for the 8 of us was to walk north to where the Egyptian Embassy was. Jackie, Sam, Johnny, and I had to get our visas for the trip to Cairo. We were scheduled to take a midnight bus from Tel Aviv to Eilat this day. After getting confused with the location a little bit, we made it to the embassy at 11:20-11:30AM. The embassy was closed.

There hours are 9-11 on weekdays. It was a Thursday morning and we were pissed that we missed it. We didn't know what to do and the security guard at the embassy told us to go across the street to a tour company called Massada Tours for help. Johnny and I did research on the prices of everything and also didn't want to spend an arm and a leg to get to Cairo. We knew that it should only cost $15 for the visa and around $20-30 for the bus ride from Taba to Cairo.

The problem was that we didn't and couldn't get our visas processed now. This tour company could expedite the process only if we booked a private van from Taba to Cairo for us. They had business connections with the right people to make it all possible for us at the reasonable rate of $75. I was pissed that I had to pay more than I was supposed to. I got over it quickly enough because it was our only option and we had all agreed to go together.

While the 4 of us were working on our Egypt trip, the three girls (Sarah, Anna, Nettie) and Adam were preparing for their weekend trip to Jerusalem and Shabbat dinner with Lee. They finished their plans as we finished paying the 250 shekels each and getting our "confirmation receipts". The 8 of us then walked north a little before heading west again to the promenade. It was almost lunch time now and we were all getting hungry. I suggested going to the new port area of Tel Aviv because I saw a bunch of shops, restaurants, and vendors there on my morning run the day prior. We leisurely made our way there; taking pictures and joking along the way.

The boardwalk market was congested this Thursday afternoon. There were temporary and permanent vendors throughout this portion of the new port area. A variety of specialty foods could be purchased along with lunch options. We all called it the seahorse market and cafe area because of a giant seahorse image/logo on the main portion of the building.

We walked throughout the open and closed air market for a little. I then decided on eat a hot pastrami sandwich for lunch. Everyone got something of their own to eat, and we sparingly shared each of our items as we sat on the deck of the new port area. Nettie and Sarah bought bread, cheese, and foie gras (fat liver of a duck or goose). I liked it along with Sarah, Anna, and Nettie. Mostly everyone else didn't enjoy the taste and flavor. It was my first time eating foie gras.

I liked the foie gras to the point where I was extremely tempted to wash the flavor away with some sweet yogurt dessert on the boardwalk. I had a vanilla yogurt with banana slices, strawberry slices, chocolate syrup, and crumbled granola. I shared my treat with the group as we walked back to the hotel to meet up with Michal. Michal had the rest of the day off from her base. She was waiting in the lobby when we arrived. We all shared time speaking with her before all heading out the lobby down the boardwalk south towards Jaffa. Noah met up with us on the promenade as we walked south as well. It was nice to add some more people to the walk. I unfortunately had to leave the group and the walk to get some laundry done. I had thrown my clothes in the wash at Itay's place, but it wouldn't be fully dry by the time I had to leave that evening. I split up with the group after we passed the Intercontinental Hotel and headed back to Itay's flat.

I split off back east and walked through the carmel market area again on my way to his flat. Along the way, I bought almost 2 kilograms worth of dried fruits and nuts. It was a great decision because these little snacks lasted me more than a week during my next leg of my travels. I got back to Itay's place with my goodies, a mission to get my laundry dry, and to write some of my previous travels during the drying process. I found a local laundromat a couple of blocks away from his place. I dropped it off and went to a cafe around the corner. There I had a tea while writing a bit of the travelog. While I was there, I also used the internet to send out some couch surfing requests in Cairo and Luxor. I also made it a point to correspond with some e-mails, Facebook, and some of my favorite websites from home (ESPN.com, Mint.com, and Nikerunning.com).

Maybe 2 hours later, I was finished with my communication and correspondence and ready to pick up my clothes. I took my bag-o-fabric back to Itay's flat and started folding it. Once I was done folding, I started to clean up his apartment for him. It wasn't in a catastrophic state, but I figured I could help in anyway because I was only staying less than 24 hours. He was being so gracious and hospitable, and I just gave him the disc as a thank you so far. I packed my bag once I was done with cleaning his place up a bit. I didn't attempt the bathroom, but straightened up the living room, bedroom, and kitchen. I then went to meet my Taglit friends that had walked to Jaffa and back. They were only a couple hundred meters away from my location. I had communication with them because Sarah let me take their cell phone. They called me once they had gotten close.

I walked with them from Allenby, along King George, to the Dizengoff center area to find a place to get dinner together. We all settled on a restaurant called Bar Giyora. It was a bit pricey, so I chose to have just the soup on the menu as my main entree. They called it 'Orange Soup' because it was a blend of butternut squash, carrot, and sweet potatoes in soup form. The 9 of us sat down to dinner, took pictures, shared more fun tales of the Taglit trip and other trips. Then Ron and his girlfriend came and joined us 30 minutes into our arrival. They had come Ra'anana, a little north of Tel Aviv (suburb). Now the 11 of us took up the entire space of this restaurants rear end. We ordered another round of beverages and cocktails and continued to have a great time chatting! It was great to be there as Johnny, Sam, Jackie, and I knew it would be goodbye to Noah, Sarah, Anna, Nettie, and Adam. We all finally said "see you later" outside the restaurant around 9:30pm.

From there, my three travel companions went back to the hotel as I went back to Itay's to grab my bag and stuff the final things into my bag before getting to the bus station at 11:00pm. Once I got back to Itay's place, he was there and we said goodbye to each other. He graciously sent me off with a couple snacks and I walked from his place to the bus station. The central bus station of Tel Aviv is actually in the south of town - where I would be meeting Jackie, Sam, and Johnny for our midnight bus to Eilat on our way to Cairo.

In order to get to the bus station, my walk required me to walk through the tougher neighborhood of Tel Aviv - (alone and at night). It wasn't the most comfortable walk in the world, but it was predicated by Ron telling me that this area was the "dangerous" neck of Tel Aviv. Nonetheless, it was fine and I was a little late getting to the bus station (around 11:15pm). My lack of punctuality wasn't appreciated by Sam because we all agreed to meet at 11:00pm in the train station. I was trying to get there as fast as possible with a mini-bus from Itay's place, but none came and I decided to walk.

Once I got to the train station, I got the tickets from the electronic kiosk and we waited for almost 30 minutes before boarding the bus to Eilat. While we were waiting, these two Arab teenagers were singing in the bus station and I was appreciating their musicality. I was smiling, tapping my foot, and slightly moving right and left to their singing. They noticed this and started talking to me in Hebrew. I said "Ani Lo Metaber Evrit" (I don't speak Hebrew) and continued in english. They had fun with me, tried to teach me a part of the song, and then started making fun of me because of my naivete.

Johnny and I were relieved that these two rascals didn't board our bus to Eilat because they had a lot of energy and could have been singing all the way down to Eilat as well. We all passed out on the bus and then woke up in Eilat at 4:45am when the bus ended.

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