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When it comes to dining trends, there’s retro and then there’s really retro – we’re talking recipes inspired by ancient Roman banquets and even by the Bible, and perhaps not surprisingly, we’re talking about Israel. If anything, it’s the creative “New Israeli” style of cooking that has grabbed headlines in the international culinary press in the past few years, but some of the hottest tables in the Holy Land are actually drawing on the gastronomic charms of a very distant yesteryear to keep things fresh.
Case in point, the bold new ancient menu at Helena, a seaside restaurant that’s not in trendy Tel Aviv or storied Jerusalem but actually inside Israel’s Caesarea National Park. There is an ancient Roman amphitheater here and ruins aplenty, but don’t be content to play the part of the dutiful tourist because to do so might mean missing out on young chef Amos Sion’s adventurous undertaking. Much like Material Girl Madonna consulted ancient scriptures to plug into the mysteries of Kabbalah, Sion (pictured) dipped into recipe books older than the Wailing Wall to concoct dishes that could well be the most memorable thing about your trip to these parts.
Travel as a vehicle for spiritual transformation is hardly a new notion – seekers have practiced the act of pilgrimage for as long as they’ve looked up to the skies and attempted communion with a higher power. Even in today’s short-attention-span society, setting out to honor the divine or ponder the mysterious is a time-honored tradition that refuses to wane with the changing tides of our technologically driven lives. This list of 10 sacred places (and the accompanying slideshow) showcases points of perceived power and peace around the globe, where the physical appears to meld seamlessly with the metaphysical whether due to awe-inspiring natural settings, reported ties to great gods or holy humans, or long-standing consecration as sites of worship and ritual.
Our list isn’t meant to be comprehensive. Sacred places mean many things to different people – zipping along an open highway, sailing a calm sea, or even hibernating inside on a cold winter’s morning can all bring about their own sort of peace. Where do you go to retreat from the world?
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Fabulous Tel Aviv, dubbed the Miami of the Middle East, is easily Israel’s coolest city. Trimmed with gorgeous beaches, loaded with Bauhaus architecture, and populated with smartly dressed locals who have a fierce appreciation for art, cuisine, and nightlife, Tel Aviv is the hedonistic
antidote to historic, heady Jerusalem, which, despite being just about one hour away, is a world apart in every respect. The year 2009 heralds Tel Aviv’s 100th birthday, making the city older than Israel itself (which celebrated its 60th in 2008). Visitors can expect an amped-up festival schedule from April to December with fun events like a marathon through the city, a weeklong book fair, a flower carpet in Rabin Square, and an international film festival. Read more
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