If you've been following me for the past week and a half, you'd know that I had the privilege of visiting Israel as a guest of Vibe Israel, a non-profit that shed light on the industries in Israel. I was there to check out the fashion and beauty scene. I'm going to do multiple posts on this trip because it's just too much to cram into one post. This post will give an overall synopsis of my journey and highlight some of my most memorable parts. So when I found out I was going to Israel, I didn't have a lot of expectations, but in my head, I only have a political or religious affiliation. It's a common expectation that they ride camels. I didn't think that, but I heard a lot of jokes about camel riding. Note, I didn't see one camel while I was there.
How I Got There
I guess I should start at the flight there. It's pretty easy to get there. You will fly to an international airport and take a flight straight into Tel Aviv. I went from Atlanta to Miami and Miami to Tel Aviv. The Tel Aviv leg can be 11 to 13 hours. I flew American & El Al Israel. On all the flights, I had an aisle seat, and the outer armrest moved up. For tips on flying while plus-size check out this group.
Where I Stayed
So I stayed a few places during my stay. For most of my trip, I stayed at the Nordoy in Tel Aviv. This is a boutique style hotel. The staff was super friendly and helpful, the rooms were big, bathrooms were updated (I have an issue with bathrooms), and there was elevator service. The location of the hotel was pretty close to everything we went to, so you could easily walk the city. I'd stay there again. The second hotel was Nea and it was in Galilee. We spent the day in northern Israel (about 2 hours away, Israel is about as big a New Jersey) and stayed at one of their resort hotels. It was right on the beach (it was too cold to go in). There were spa service, warm & cold pools, and abed that cradled me like a newborn baby. Ha! It's a bit away from everything, but honestly, if I went back, I would probably stay at this hotel. It's resort style and very relaxing. Note, they just renovated the hotel. The third hotel I stayed at was Brown Beach House. It's located right by the ocean (again it was too cold to go in). To me, this was the most Instagrammable hotel. On IG Stories, people loved this look of this hotel the most. The staff was super friendly.
What I Ate
If you are worried about the cuisine...don't! If you love good Mediterranean food, this is the place for you. I don't think there was one thing I didn't like. There is also a lot of food. I feel like I never ate so much in my life. HA! Lots of food, lots of courses, and there is always dessert. Always. Most of the meals I had were served family style. There were lots of things to taste. I think the biggest part for me was managing to get a small spoonful of everything so that I had room in my tummy to try everything. As expected, there is a lot of great hummus. If you have dietary issues with being vegan or gluten-free, it's not a problem. The Mediterranean food, for the most part, is gluten-free and for the bread, you can request gluten-free bread. Vegan will probably be a little harder, but not much there is a lot of yummy veggies to eat. I would recommend trying Sabich; they boast the best shawarma in Tel Aviv. It was delicious, very filling, and inexpensive. We had a traditional Friday night dinner (Shabbat) with the Alon family. If you can find someone to host you for a traditional Friday night dinner, do it! For me, it felt like Sunday dinner tradition amongst African American...lots of good food, family, and laughs. I also had a traditional Druze (which is a religious sect of Islam) dinner. It was amazing too. There was a sort of meat cake with rice and vegetables that was pretty amazing. It reminded me of chicken and rice, but with more stuff inside. I said this on Instagram, and I will say it again. It is always an honor and privilege when someone invites you into their home and in their space for dinner. You'll want to note that there aren't a lot of American chain restaurants which is probably a good thing (there are a couple), but there is a lot of good food to try and just like the U.S. you can easily other types of cuisine. We didn't have cameras at every at every meal if we did I would just need a separate food blog post. This place would be a paradise for foodies.
Lunch at the Dead Sea
Traditional Friday Night Dinner
The Fashion Scene As a fashion blogger who's niche is in plus size clothing, I couldn't go all the way to Israel and not check out the scene. As anticipated, I expected the options to be limited. The U.S. is the leader in plus size fashion offering. Top Israeli blogger, Zohar, gave me the scoop on the limited offerings even though the average Israeli woman is a size 14. Sound familiar? While there I was able to check out a designer. Her line goes by Nox Tel Aviv. It's goth & pinup inspired and serves sizes 0 - 24 with the option to customize to larger sizes because she manufactures in her shop. I also got to chat with an emerging designer in her final stages of opening up her store in Tel Aviv. She goes by the name of Retema, and you can check her line out here. Finally, I got to check out Medusa bags, some really unique handbags made in Tel Aviv. Check them out below.
Jerusalem & the Dead Sea These were amazing, but again it's too much for this post, and I will touch on them in another post very soon! Beauty
As expected, Israel had fantastic skincare, and it deserves its own blog post. Stay tuned! I am going to do a separate post on the skincare.TechLittle did I know was that Israel is considered the start-up nation with tons of companies, ideas, and products that started in Tel Aviv get brought to the U.S. While there I got to sit down with a three emerging companies and dive deep into what their businesses are about. One very cool concept that I related to was Screenshopit. It's an app that allows you to take your screenshots from Instagram and it generates the same or similar items that you can buy to recreate the look. It also has plus size options as well (you know I had to ask). A lot of times as bloggers items we wear can be sold out, and this allows for our readers to be able to find something similar. I thought it was very innovative and brought a solution to a pain point to many of the people that follow social media fashion folk. Check out ScreenShopIt here. There is one other product that I didn't know originated in Israel was Dafni, the heated brush that straightens your hair. Dafni is the original, and it was started by a woman. The Dafni works great and gets your hair straight in under 5 minutes (at least for my head).What I Learned I've traveled quite a bit since the age of 30. It was when I put travel on my list of priorities, and this is on my top 3 of most memorable trips. With any place I go, there are always so many things to see, but for me, the people made the difference. With oceans and miles that separate one country from the next that although we may have some variation of cultures, we are all the same and want the same things. I went to Israel alone and I honestly expected to experience everything alone. I'm a person that likes to keep to myself when put amongst people I don't know. Once I got there, I was welcomed, and I even made some friends. It's interesting because I have never felt so at home with people I didn't know. The trip felt like I lived in Tel Aviv for ten days as opposed to just visiting. I even left with play cousins. HA!Finally, would I recommend visiting Israel? Yes! The historical context alone is worth the trip...not to forget they even have great food, friendly people, and beautiful beaches. Just don't go in January it's too cold to enjoy the beach.Photography credit: Nir Slakman & Ravid PerryDisclosure: I did not receive compensation, but all travel expenses were paid by Vibe Israel.