Friday, April 4, 2014

Frodo's Guide to the Galaxy

Our Fodor's travel guide was quickly dubbed Frodo's Guide to the Galaxy by our smart aleck clever son, and "What does Frodo say?"  became the byword for all things.  And although Frodo was quite helpful in many areas, he could have prepared us a little more fully for our first trip to Carmel Market.

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Carmel Market
I'm not sure what we could have done to stick out any more. I was carrying a huge, yellow camera bag, and we looked and acted like wide-eyed tourists just off the plane. Not that there is anything wrong with that, because that is exactly what we were, but still, it cuts down on bargaining power.

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The Spice Vendor
We did all right in the first stand. They lured us in with racks and rows and rows of beautiful pastries. I think we probably took one of each. The cost was based on weight and it was a very respectable price of 12NIS (about 4$). At this point we were feeling pretty good; possibly also on a sugar high and a caffeine rush from our (first) coffee stop.

 The spice vendor spotted us right away.

"Come, come," she beckoned us, and we obediently came. Immediately she grabbed our hands and began pinching spices  into our palms for us to taste all the while using her limited English to tell us how amazing they were. Then her husband got into the action. He came over, with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth, and began a second round of spices into our hands. "This is good, this is good. Yes?" It was hard to keep from laughing a little bit as the back of my mind wandered to our sanitized Farmer's Markets with little tooth picks in the samples so no one touches any of the food, and everything is done with the utmost respect for cross contamination. Not only were they grabbing spices with their open hands, they were encouraging us to do so as well if we wanted to try something. We walked away with two large bags of something spice related.

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Turkish Delight
I would like to preface the next story with a little disclaimer: we are hardly a family of cutthroat business people at any time. We are horrible at making money on a garage sale because we usually end up talking ourselves down, or giving things away for free if we think someone needs something.

After walking a bit more up the way, a squat old woman spotted me, came up and grabbed my arm. She dragged me outstretched to her stack of flat bread and shoved my hand into the middle of the pile. "See? Warm!" Her English was even more limited than the spice lady. The bread was indeed warm, and kind of spongy feeling. I thought that I should probably buy some since I had just touched it, and held up my hand for 2 pieces.  Instead, she grabbed a stack and shoved it into my hands saying "No, no, you take this many!" and then gleefully announced a price of 35NIS. We stood there slightly bewildered because we had just bought all those pastries for 12NIS, but Chris dutifully pulled the money out of his pocket and started to count. She looked at the pile of coins he was sorting, pronounced it to be good and then took the whole lot from his hand. Then she asked if he had any dollars! Uh, no. No dollars. I think she felt a little bad so she pulled out a pancake like thing and added it to my stack to even the score a bit. As we started to walk away, she began filling a bag with rolls and beckoning Aidan to "Come, come!". This time we turned and ran.

"Don't make eye contact; just look away." were my new instructions to the kids. We spent the rest of our trip laughing at ourselves about how culturally unprepared we were. But really, since the gulf between us was probably quite large, we didn't mind getting ripped off.  The bread was delicious, by the way.

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