Sometimes you do something nice for someone, and you get just as much benefit out of it.

Yesterday was a good friend’s birthday – an important one – her 50th. In preparation, she asked me what I knew about the spa up here in Caesarea. She was thinking of coming up with her boyfriend, having a massage or some special treatment and then going to dinner. What did I think?

The truth is, I know nothing about the spa here. But as for dinner, of course Tzalbanim – “The Crusaders” at the Caesarea harbor. There’s no better restaurant for delicious unpretentious food, competent service and spectacular views. As for massage, I had a brainstorm!

I would call Michal – a great masseuse who makes house calls – and ask her if she was free. If so, GF (good friend) could come up to my house, take a guest room upstairs, have a massage, a swim in the pool, a shower, a champagne toast, a nosh, and then we all go out to dinner. She loved the idea. So did I. And Michael was free!

So… GF arrived around 4pm – a bit frazzled because of the traffic. (“Did you know that all of the coastal road was stuck – because of an accident on the other side!”). I had Cava, a bowl of cut fruit, my famous chocolate chip mandlebread, robes, hotel slippers, and fresh gardenias on the towels all waiting for her in the room. Man, I wanted to stay upstairs!

We started off by having some chilled fruity Chardonnay and pom dip with rice crackers and carrots (no pita chips for us – we’re dieting! As if.) I gave GF her present – a book I discovered that seemed really nice. The name of the book is “Devotions” and it has a gorgeous, intricately patterned cover, and inside are beautiful photos “from the cradle of civilization” and quotes for living each day. Its a lovely book and I thought it would be appropriate for someone embarking on her 5th decade. Lo & behold, GF looks at the names of the authors and says, with a slightly shocked voice, “I think I know the authors.”

I’m thinking, yeah sure, you’ve had too much Chard. Of course you don’t know the authors, how could you? She tells me that the wife is a physician, and the husband a famous Swiss photographer. She gives me some details about them and looks at the back cover blurb to see if it matches. It does! This couple is actually people she once knew really well! The oddity of it astounds us both: I found the book in a store in Zichron Yakov, the manager of the store actually helped me pick it out. It looked lovely but truthfully I didn’t spend much time examining it. I liked the cover and the photographs, and although I could do without the daily quotes – my friend is much more new-agey that me – she would like it, I guessed.

So what do you think about her knowing the authors? GF tell me that when good things happen, when good vibes are in the air, wonderful surprises take place!

Okay, back to the celebration. Michal arrived. Let the party begin!

Boyfriend had the first massage, while GF and I cozingly chatted away in my office. Then it was GF’s turn. Boyfriend came downstairs looking all refreshed, and ready to dip in the pool. When GF came down, she was flushed, and happy and apparently aware of knots in her neck that she didn’t know she had! We had more Chardonnay and dip, waited for my husband to be ready and then off we went to the harbor.

Surprise of surprise – all of the harbor was awash in lights and activities. It was movie night! Booths selling clothes, and tchotckes, and cotton candy and hero sandwiches and hot dogs dotted the entire harbor area. A huge screen was set up on the expansive lawn and people were EVERYWHERE!

We settled into the restaurant and got our wonderful seats – outside, overlooking the beach and water (as in Mediterranean Sea) – and began our feast at Tzalbanim. Out came the salads: tehina, eggplants (all types), tabouleh, spicy tomatoes, cured salmon, ikra, etc. I took the initiative to order for us – because I know what’s the most scrumptious there. Seafood platter and snapper filet baked under a layer of chopped veggies. Oh my god – was that good!

We followed our wonderful dinner with a bit of dessert – only because I wanted GF to be presented with birthday “zikookim” (sparklers). Out came the creme brulee served in an narrow oval dish (it kind of looked like a  modern bathtub), and the square individual apple cake served alongside perfect vanilla ice cream. Are you getting how happy we all were?

Add to all this, gentle waves coming up against the shore line, people of all ages happily walking around and enjoying themselves,  a huge movie screen in the far off background showing an Israeli classic, and a night sky with a nearly full moon.

It was perfect! I’m so glad GF let me share her birthday with her. It was a most special day for me, my husband and hopefully for GF and boyfriend too! Now I’m thinking – who needs a 50th to have a night like that?

Here’s to great get-togethers with great friends and unpretentious yummy food, and lovely settings and good restaurants and Caesarea – a little piece of heaven on earth!

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