It had taken fifteen minutes of twisty, uphill driving, but we had finally reached our destination: what was supposed to be the grandest view in Haifa, a promenade overlooking the magnificent Bahai Gardens and the Haifa bay. We slowed the car down in front of an overgrown field.
"This is not it," said Y.
But it was the address given to us by our hotel, and without internet we were basically helpless, so we parked the car and wandered into the weeds. The air was thick with the smell of skunk. There was trash everywhere.
This was not it.
We turned around, and on our way out nearly ran into two tourists; women who had apparently been given the same faulty address. One of them interrupted a man on his cellphone sitting on a parked motorcycle nearby.
"Rak rega," he said, annoyed. Just a second.
Y and I shrank back, embarrassed. We aren't tourists, remember? We're wanderers.
It turns out that we were just down the street from the promenade, and when we reached it we were embarrassed we ever thought it would be a dusty, overgrown trail. Our journey was worth it -- not just for the view of Haifa, but so that I could recreate this picture from 2000:
The last time I visited Israel, I was sixteen (and obviously a total fashionista). We arrived on a boat from Athens, Greece, pulling into the port in Haifa after days of seasickness, bad boat food, and mild claustrophobia. Haifa, a city on a hill that is compared to San Francisco (by others) and a sandcastle (by myself), must have looked magical. I remembered that, and 14 years later, I planned it as our first stop in Israel.
And it was just... fine.
Sure, we enjoyed our hyper-stylish boutique hotel and savored our first taste of real Middle Eastern hummus at Fattoush. The Bahai Gardens, a shrine to the founder of Bahai (a fascinating religion), are beautiful and worth a look.
But, and maybe this was because Haifa was our first stop, things just kept getting better and better and by the end of the trip, Haifa seemed like an afterthought.
On the plus side, we did invent a new catchphrase that's sweeping the world... it's so good we're giving ourselves a big... wait for it... Haifa-five.
You love it. Admit it.