Lazy Days

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I’m here in Olympos, on the Lycian Coast, and I’ve decided that it’s the perfect place to wind down my last few days in Turkey. This is definitely a backpacker town, and I’ve been doing little else but lounging around the guesthouse garden in a hammock, going to the beach, and if we’re really feeling adventurous, walking twenty minutes up the road for coffee and dessert. (And I have finally found a place in this country that serves real coffee! Actual, sippable drip coffee, in a decent sized mug with real milk! It has been ages since I’ve had anything but Nescafe or small but potent shots of Turkish coffee.) Continue reading

The Most Popular Restaurant in Amman

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Hashem Restaurant in Amman is apparently legendary, though I had no idea until I showed up there. I was operating without any maps or guide in Jordan and couldn’t tell one falafel stall from another, but luckily about 10 different people in the capital tipped me off about this place, which definitely stands above the rest. Continue reading

Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan

I wasn’t overwhelmingly impressed with the food in Jordan. They do meats very well (and mixed grill is always on the menu), but I found the similar dishes in neighboring Israel (falafel, hummus) fresher and more flavorful.

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That said, an absolute must-try is mansaf. It’s the national dish of Jordan and while I believe it’s more of a special occasion dish, it’s widely available in restaurants. It basically consists of a dish of rice with a big chunk of tender, melt-in-your-mouth lamb on top, and then you’re given a large dish of warm, thinned yogurt sauce to pour over the whole thing. There’s typically some flatbread under the rice as well to sop up the excess juices. It’s also garnished with chopped herbs and nuts. Almonds and pine nuts are most common, but I also had it served with peanuts at a restaurant in Wadi Musa, as pictured.

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I ate this several times during my nine days in Jordan and find myself craving it now that I’ve moved on and it’s no longer available. It’s strange, I don’t like yogurt on its own but I love yogurt sauces on things, and I think mansaf is definitely the best way to eat it.

Falafel and Shawarma and Schnitzel, Oh My: Israeli Street Food

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I learned fairly early on that Israel is a pretty expensive country to travel in. Prices are definitely on par with the United States or Western Europe, and restaurants? We’re talking New York prices. Luckily all of the hotels and hostels I’ve stayed in so far have served some sort of breakfast (even if it’s just toast and hummus), and I’ve mostly been able to avoid expensive, sit-down meals. Here are some of the widely available street food options: Continue reading

I <3 TLV

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I’ve been in Tel Aviv for a week already. I was considering moving on to Jerusalem today, but I’m concerned that there won’t be much to do once the sun goes down tonight for Shabbat, aside from areas like the Muslim Quarter. Tel Aviv, on the other hand, is a much more secular city and the options aren’t as limited, so I’ve decided to stay here until Sunday. Continue reading

Birthright Days 5 & 6: Shabbat in the Middle of Nowhere

Although our itinerary said we would be spending three nights in Jerusalem, this turned out to not be the case. Instead we were in a vaguely sketchy, halfway under construction hotel in what seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, a town near the airport that is nearly a full hour from actual Jerusalem. Whatever, it wasn’t the first time the provided itinerary was misleading, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Continue reading

Maidreamin’

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As if a visit to a cat cafe wasn’t enough, I also visited a maid cafe while in Tokyo. Apparently the Japanese really like their themed restaurants and stores. I hadn’t planned on going (in fact I’d never heard of this phenomenon before), but some boys from my hostel wanted to check the whole thing out and my interest was piqued as well.

We ended up at Maidreamin in Shibuya, part of a chain.This location had vaguely Nintendo-themed decor, with Mario Bros. wallpaper and color-changing blocks hanging from the ceiling. That totally wasn’t the weird part, though, and actually the interior design seemed like a bit of an afterthought. It was all about the maids here, and ended up being one of the most bizarre experiences of my life. Continue reading

Tasting Death: eating fugu in Japan

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I’m a bit of a foodie (though honestly I dislike that word… can we come up with something better?) and I live for new experiences, so of course I had to try eating fugu, the poisonous pufferfish that is a delicacy in Japan. After doing a bit of research it turned out that it’s not really as dangerous as I had previously thought, since the preparation of the fish is so highly regulated in Japan and fatalities are quite rare. I was also a bit misled when I thought it was illegal back home in the United States, since apparently a couple restaurants in New York serve it. So that was a bit of a let down, but the idea of taking (however slight) a risk and trying some great sushi was still appealing when two of my new friends invited me to join them. Continue reading

The magical fairyland of Japanese 7-Elevens

7-Eleven may have originated in the States, but let’s face it, the ones here are pretty beat. You go in if you’re on a road trip and need snacks or are otherwise desperate for sustenance and/or cigarettes. We didn’t even have them here in New York until a few years ago and trust me, we weren’t missing anything. Let’s face it, no one is going in there and eating the hot dogs out of choice. The only reason to stop in is a slurpee, right? And then half the time the machine isn’t even working.

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