Israel has everything the modern-fit Australian, and Asian traveller, wants. The lure of the eastern Mediterranean and millennia of local history. For immediate immersion, take the train from Ben-Gurion International Airport to Jerusalem (the speediest, at 26 minutes, leaves the airport at 56 minutes past the hour and should cost under A$8).
And when you have had your fill of the Wailing Wall and multi-religious hubbub that is uniquely Jerusalem, head 58km down to modern Tel Aviv – easiest way is probably a hotel car. Newest hotel on the block, or rather Tel Aviv’s gorgeous beach area, is the 250-room David Kempinski, Tel Aviv, under 100 metres from the sea.
Go the whole hog and book #2828. Yes, it’s the 112-metre Presidential Suite, with full-wall windows and arguably the world’s best Man Friday, a Costa Rican who can arrange anything, including taxis, a renowned challenge in this city, especially during Shabat, technically Friday sundown for 24 hours but somehow stretched, before and after.
You also have access to the gorgeous 22nd floor Horizon Club. Views from all-wall windows are obviously fabulous. Look far down at Yerushalayim Beach, with anyone-welcome public fitness equipment, and beach volleyball courts in use from sunrise until lights are turned off well into the evening. Closer in, on dedicated lanes just the other side of Herbert Samuel Road, savvy locals beat the traffic by whizzing everywhere on buttercup or grass-coloured electric scooters, pick-up and go. From 7 am to near midnight, the Club’s food and drinks are just what you want. There’s even bespoke icecream, choose your flavour, whatever.
Club attendants, like all hotel colleagues, are the best. Hotel GM Guy Klaiman has assembled a stellar team, one key reason David Kempinski is currently ‘the world’s best new hotel’, according to the Ultras (they’re mostly young, fresh from compulsory military conscription, three years for guys and two for girls, but, impressively, one of the telephone operators, who speaks seven languages, is in his 80s).
David Kempinski’s food is ambience, flavour and taste rather than experimentation. Other than, possibly, grey-drizzly days in January or February, dine outside, candlelit on Sereia’s ground floor terrace, three wood steps up from Herbert Samuel. Yellowtail crudo, say, then tuna steak, paired with 2012 Yarden El Rom Cabernet Sauvignon Golan Heights. In the morning, cross over to the beach. Join the myriad of locals, all ages, walking with purpose. There’s also the hotel’s 24/7 indoor gym to increase appetites.
Israelis take breakfast seriously and this buffet’s among the best. Cava Iberica Semi Seco jostles with fresh juices for attention. Every imaginable type of soft and hard cheese has pride of place alongside whole salmon, deftly already sliced paper-thin and reassembled, and herrings and sardines. Elsewhere are full salad spreads, and sweet things. Don’t overlook the cheesecake, it’s divine. Israeli breads, too, are really special, up to Australian par, and frankly better than most European or, with the exception of sourdough, American. Lox and bagels on that terrace, looking at the seeming infinity of the Mediterranean.
Mary Gostelow publishes the daily girlahead.com, a weekly newswire Mary Gostelow’s Inner Circle, and a unique weekly 15-minute industry Mary Gostelow Girlahead Podcast, all part of Almont Global.