She’s wearing an automatic rifle on her back like a scarf. She’s built like a goddess, shorts-and-whatnots, and the two tall hunks flanking her left and right don’t deter me from wanting to follow her. I wonder, will she dance till morning dew; will she crush lust with her gaze; will she just live and let live? But, my hosts, Ofer and Yair, have something else planned for my first time in Herzliya. Ofer catches my pondering gaze and finds himself talking:
“They are Israeli military.”
I recall being a military journalist and a song Romanian troops used to hold dear: one line loosely translates as “your weapon is your pillow.” It means soldiers are bound and linked to their guns. A sort of witchcraft no one can understand unless facing the enormity of it all. This instance is more than the case. These people are wearing their guns in civilian clothes, in public…
“But they are not in military clothing,” I say, and Ofer laughs.
“Of course not,” he says. “It’s the weekend. Where else do you want them to leave their guns?”
All kinds of thoughts flash through my brains, including… “how do you know they are not terrorists?” I guess but do not utter. If they are not shooting at you, you just know. I am biased and ignorant. I’m in a country constantly on the brink of war. Paradoxically, I’ve never felt safer. It’s late in the evening and I keep on walking on the Herzliya promenade with my hosts. It’s uncanny how beautiful and peaceful this little place glitters under the starry-starry skies.
Fish & Seafood Deby Bar by the seashore, where my hosts spirited me to first, was nice and all – a cool jewel in this urban gem of a city. The vegan and vegetarian value and choice here impressed me, only not as much as the lighting-fast wait staff. This spot in Herzliya is actually exciting and attention-worthy like the magnificent square the eatery sits in.
All kinds of posh yachts and boats line up the canals, and the mall – albeit flaunting dilapidated isles – promises a lot for the next tourist season. It’s October now, and Yair tells me this is one of the most expensive real estate neighborhoods in Herzliya. I get it, but…
I’ve seen better, more beautiful, and tiny-with-a-dash-of-larger-than-life marinas. None with a goddess in shorts walking about with a rifle-for-a-scarf in the background, though. She’s long since enjoying her leave in that bar and I’m now walking back to my hotel.
Ofer and Yair arranged that I stay in a coworking-type of a venue – an innovative concept with a strong European vibe. It’s called NYX. Most of its proudest facilities – including the rooftop bar – are not open. But there’s something about it. Something about the view from my room…
The street below is like 100 stallions running wild yet tamed by the bright lights of the midnight rush. NYX, as they define it, should be the Greek personification of the night. Don’t ask the Greeks, though. I am sure they’d hate this concept – just because. I don’t give it a second thought.
NYX is everything now. My home from home in Herzliya.
Hotels always give somewhat of an offish vibe. They are shelters in unfamiliar places. But, this one has soul. Everything else about NYX Herzliya is “businessy.” Everything about it reminds you that you are “supposed to be working now” – even the odd video art installation, brilliantly thought-provoking above the bar. But it’s the soul that makes NYX desirable.
I am positive that there’s no one better at the hospitality game than the Greeks. They are kind and fun with zero fakenesses about. Now, my beliefs are challenged. NYX has Nathaniel, Gal, and Rachel. They all have stories to tell. They are all better-than-Greek when they deal with me – and they don’t even know who I am.
Rachel reveals that most NYX employees are new to hospitality. NYX is now a forum to learn for a future job.
Nathaniel is the real deal – he’s young and vivacious while he mixes up a killer vodka martini (minus the olives because the kitchen is closed) pairing it with an equally killer smile. He is kind, sweet, and open – all those spicy attributes that add to the “soul” part of the story.
And Gal, with her “EYES UP” tattoo above her left breast, right there where undiscerning male contenders just may happen to hold a too-long-for-acceptance gaze, is just eighteen and a half. She’s brave enough to defy all kinds of stereotypes at such a fragile age. She’s all soul too. She’s NYX.
When in Greece, if you don’t feel welcome, it’s probably you. Greeks go beyond reason to make you feel happy. I mention this because I feel like royalty at NYX, and it’s refreshing. Israelis are great at the hospitality game too.
NYX is dark because the décor lacks vibrancy in an attempt to be timelessly elegant. But step in, and you get two bowlfuls of gummies at the reception. Literally. And you cannot help yourself but munch.
Then, they have all this resist-to-slit-your-wrists video art installation above the bar – which closes before midnight. It’s so depressing it almost makes sense. I wonder if they realize how deeply upsetting that video installation truly is. But then, art is supposed to trigger such feelings. Do not linger onto this, instead, do try to catch Nathaniel before 12:00 A.M. to fix you up with an artisan cocktail beyond compare.
The VIP-level, elite business lounge has all the perks you deserve plus the Wi-Fi and tech to remind you that you are not about to have a holiday in Herzliya. Breakfast is buoyantly brilliant, fresh and redundant if you know food. They spread all kinds of salads, snacks, dips, pastries and pretzels, omelets and hot-albeit-unimpressive bites in a comfort-food sort of kosher yum. Coffee is good too – whatever comes from the filter. If you are into barista-level espressos, you’ll get your fix at a cost. Pretty much everything else not on display at the breakfast all-you-can-eat bar will cost you – including sparkling water. But it’s well worth it.
When all your primal instincts are satisfied, NYX fills into the blanks all the rest of your basic needs. Espresso machine in your room? Check. Posh toiletries? Check. Fancy bathrobes and slippers? Check. That OMG-how-did-this-happen-to-me welcome package – including a personalized message on your IDTV screen? Check. This hotel has it all yet it’s far from everything that matters if you are on foot. The more environmentally aware are welcome to contact the front desk for free bicycle rentals though.
I had two days to explore this city without Ofer and Yair. I met amazing people, including the refreshing Celeste Bushnell – a wonderfully-talented interior designer whose son is now studying in Israel. She’s all fair and fun, a bit disappointed about NYX this time – that rooftop bar is not open yet, as I said, but then, the rooms are not really what she expects either. We smile, she’s not the bitching type.
I met Celeste through her husband, whose name I no longer recall. Our NYX bartender, Nathaniel, poured Celeste’s husband and me some wine, then he closed the bar. Celeste was on a phone call with family or clients. It was after 11:00 p.m. and before midnight – daylight on any other meridian. Then, the three of us adventured to some other bar nearby. We had beer and whiskey and a touch of the local flavor when I asked a girl for her fashion secrets. Everything else fades but my regret of not keeping in touch with Celeste. She’s all I remember fondly from Herzliya other than NYX itself and that amazing girl with her scarf gun.
Herzliya, in fact, is a lovely place. There’s a marina – oh, so scenic! The promenade is out of this world too: imagine the palms flanking your right (or left, depending on your direction) and all the sexy cafes overlooking the sea. If you are the business type, Herzliya Pituah is amazing. But then, the Apollonia National Park is just around the corner and all the desirable Tel Aviv attractions are a short drive away.
Yet, the Herzliya promenade will call you – an incessant incantation… nothing to see, and yet, so much to talk about. Like that goddess in shorts wearing a rifle like a scarf.