Shalom! DUCHESS' Israel tour recap

Last month, we had the thrill and delight of traveling to Israel for the first-ever Jerusalem Jazz Festival.  In typical DUCHESS fashion, we packed a lot of music, fun, and (of course!) great food into the trip.

When it comes to travel, it's often said that "getting there is half the fun."  To be honest, this time around, getting there was just...well, getting there.  We stocked up on snacks and, ahem, in-flight libations and steeled ourselves for the ten-hour flight ahead.  We learned an important lesson en route: sparkling wine doesn't belong in a can.

NOTE TO SELF: nothing good can come of sparkling wine that comes with a straw. 

NOTE TO SELF: nothing good can come of sparkling wine that comes with a straw. 

Amy, Oded, and their kids had flown to Israel a few days prior, so the day we were due to land, the Lev-Ari/Cervini clan hopped a train and traveled from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Reunited at last, the gals of DUCHESS did what we always do after a long day of travel, and facing a packed performing schedule: we put on some lipstick and went out to dinner.  Avishai Cohen, the artistic director of the jazz festival, had reserved a table at Machneyuda restaurant, where we shared an epic family-style Israeli dinner with other musicians slated to perform.  Jet lag was quickly forgotten as platter after platter of incredible food arrived.  The music got progressively louder, and before too long, patrons and staff alike were dancing on tables, banging pots and pans, and lighting sparklers. 

The next day, Avishai and the festival director, Eyal Sher, met up with us at our hotel and took us on a walking tour of Jerusalem, including the Machane Yehuda market.  That night found us at the Israel Museum, where we performed our first-ever all-ukulele set (!!!) in a pop-up concert. 

Scenes from Jerusalem, including a panorama of the Tower of David, Mount Oliva, and the Old city; festival director Eyal Sher leading our tour, and a big poster advertising the festival.

Scenes from Jerusalem, including a panorama of the Tower of David, Mount Oliva, and the Old city; festival director Eyal Sher leading our tour, and a big poster advertising the festival.

Bottom left: Amy with artistic director and trumpet player extraordinaire, Avishai Cohen.  Bottom right: festival director Eyal Sher, pianist Edward Simon, DUCHESS, and Avishai Cohen.

Bottom left: Amy with artistic director and trumpet player extraordinaire, Avishai Cohen.  Bottom right: festival director Eyal Sher, pianist Edward Simon, DUCHESS, and Avishai Cohen.

The next day we performed an acoustic set in the museum's gorgeous modern art gallery, singing for a full house and surrounded by stunning works by Chagall, Picasso, Miro, and many other iconic artists.  On the third day of the festival, we played our main show in the museum's auditorium.  We were backed by a fantastic band of Israeli musicians, including our old friend (and erstwhile New Yorker), bassist Barak Mori.  The audiences were warm and appreciative, even spontaneously singing along to "Que Sera, Sera," and melting our hearts in the process.

Selected paintings from the Israel Museum's modern art gallery.  Not a bad backdrop for a performance!

Selected paintings from the Israel Museum's modern art gallery.  Not a bad backdrop for a performance!

Post-performance photos at the Israel Museum.  Top row: Amy and Avishai (L); the gals of DUCHESS, post-ukulele pop-up concert (R).  Middle row: post-acoustic set in the modern art gallery with bassist Barak Mori, clarinetist Anat Cohen, and pianist Gadi Lehavi (L); the full band, pre-show, photo by Yossi Zwecker (R).  Bottom row: DUCHESS with Avishai (L); Hilary clowning around with Barak (R).

Post-performance photos at the Israel Museum.  Top row: Amy and Avishai (L); the gals of DUCHESS, post-ukulele pop-up concert (R).  Middle row: post-acoustic set in the modern art gallery with bassist Barak Mori, clarinetist Anat Cohen, and pianist Gadi Lehavi (L); the full band, pre-show, photo by Yossi Zwecker (R).  Bottom row: DUCHESS with Avishai (L); Hilary clowning around with Barak (R).

Mid-performance at the Israel Museum.  Photo: Ran Biran.

Mid-performance at the Israel Museum.  Photo: Ran Biran.

Believe it or not, amidst all the singing and eating we were doing, we managed to squeeze in a little bit of sightseeing.  Hilary and Melissa spent an incredible afternoon in Jerusalem's Old City, guided by Orit, whose homemade hyssop tea, pistachio halvah, and detailed narrative made for an afternoon that was delicious in every way.

Clockwise, from top left: a souk in the Old City; the Western Wall; road signs to ancient places; a bread oven that smelled like heaven.

Clockwise, from top left: a souk in the Old City; the Western Wall; road signs to ancient places; a bread oven that smelled like heaven.

More scenes from an unforgettable day in Jerusalem's Old City.

More scenes from an unforgettable day in Jerusalem's Old City.

On our last night in Jerusalem, the festival hosted a beautiful dinner at Menza restaurant, where we ate (and ate, and ate) while chatting with other festival musicians.  It was a perfect farewell to Jerusalem and the inaugural Jerusalem Jazz Festival.

Clockwise, from top left: Eyal Sher, giving a speech at the festival's closing dinner; Team DUCHESS; Amy, deep in conversation with bassist Ricky Rodriguez and drummer E.J. Strickland; DUCHESS with David Sanchez and his band.

Clockwise, from top left: Eyal Sher, giving a speech at the festival's closing dinner; Team DUCHESS; Amy, deep in conversation with bassist Ricky Rodriguez and drummer E.J. Strickland; DUCHESS with David Sanchez and his band.

Our last day in Israel took us to Tel Aviv, where Oded took us on a tour of his hometown.  We turned our faces to the sun as we walked along the beach, then wandered the winding, stone streets of Jaffa.  Afterward, we enjoyed a delectable seafood lunch at the waterfront restaurant Manta Ray and took in a few more sights before heading to the airport. 

A sunny day in Tel Aviv; scenes from Jaffa.

A sunny day in Tel Aviv; scenes from Jaffa.

Glimpses of Tel Aviv...don't worry.  We won't forget to be awesome.

Glimpses of Tel Aviv...don't worry.  We won't forget to be awesome.

Maybe it was the tasty Israeli Cheeto-like snacks, maybe it was the pocket rockets of vodka we bought at duty-free before boarding, or maybe it was the simple fact that we had a row to ourselves, but our eleven-and-a-half-hour flight back to New York City was downright pleasant, even if it did feel somewhat endless.

Snacks, booze, and an 11+ hour flight?  WE GOT THIS.

Snacks, booze, and an 11+ hour flight?  WE GOT THIS.

We had an extraordinary time performing in Israel.  Thank you to Avishai Cohen, Eyal Sher, our lovely tour manager/singer wrangler Dahlia, and the Jerusalem Jazz Festival for an unforgettable trip.  See you next time, Israel!