It was in Israel that I began to appreciate the appeal of outdoor markets. They're places where people gather to gossip, to buy spices, to squeeze the fruit and to carefully select the best bread.
It's a necessary ritual, repeated daily for some people. For me, it is the combination of the smells and the colors that was intoxicating. From one vendor, a fresh pretzel. From another, a freshly brewed cup of tea. If there is fear in this vibrant country you don't see it in the markets of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.
This was also the home of some of the most exquisite food I have ever eaten. There was the roadside falafel stand where people lined up to spend $1.50 for fresh hot falafels layered with sour cabbage and onions and sauce. There was the Tishbi winery where a wine tasting was accompanied by platters of cheese, fruit, bread .. our group fell upon it like hungry wolves.
When you're on a press trip you eat around the clock. In some countries (hello China and your yak tongue!) you might want to skip a meal if it's not too impolite. In Israel, the days began with huge hotel breakfasts, all observing the rules of kashrut (there was dairy but no meat). We filled our plates and went back for seconds. I waddled off the plane when we flew home.