“I’M your biggest fan. Listening to your cheerful music helped me get through the stress of Year 12. Thank you.”
My carefully penned fan letter was to Alexander Rybak, a Norwegian violinist who had stormed his way into my 16-year-old heart — and those of millions of other Eurovision fans — with his 2009 hit Fairytale.
Ten years on, you can imagine my excitement as I stood on the Eurovision stage in Tel Aviv ahead of tonight’s Grand Final.
A hard hat tour or Expo Tel Aviv, may not be the most obvious tourist attraction, but for a Eurovision nut like me, this pilgrimage was up there with Israel’s holy sights.
It was pop star Netta’s victorious 2018 Eurovision song, Toy, that landed Israel the role of host city, but this nation has a lot more to offer than one quirky record.
The coastal city of Tel Aviv alone, is a hub for foodies, beach hippies and history buffs.
As a big falafel fan myself, one spot high on my to-do list was a trip to the massive Carmel Market.
The winding streets are packed with stalls offering everything from halvah (an Israeli dessert similar to fudge) to sweet strawberries and, of course, lots of hummus.
Culture lovers will also appreciate the centrally-located White City with its buildings that were designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 2003.
The unique, white structures are impressive and steeped in history — constructed in the 1930s by German Jewish architects who migrated to Israel after the rise of Hitler.
It is also a short walk to the beach where you can relax with an iced drink, play volleyball or have a go on the free playground gyms.
Follow the beach promenade south for just a few kilometres and you will hit Jaffa.
I would recommend hiring a bike to get there, which can be done in a few seconds for a couple of quid at different Tel-O-Fun self-hire cycle stations dotted around the city.
The ancient port city of Jaffa has a mass of interesting flea markets perfect if you fancy haggling or even just for browsing.
Once you are sick of relaxing on the beach (and no judgment if that time never comes), head to the ancient city of Jerusalem which is a 45-60 minute bus ride away.
Even if you do not know much about the Bible, everyone can appreciate the fascinating history ensconced in this wonderful walled city.
Here you can examine the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a spot believed to mark the site of Jesus’ tomb, or visit the place where Mary was born.
You can also inspect the Western Wall, the ancient sacred site for Jewish prayer, and see the revered peak of the Mount of Olives with its panoramic views over the city.
But do make sure you are dressed conservatively — you do not have to cover up completely but avoid bare shoulders, strappy tops and plunging necklines for this particular day-trip.
You can also glimpse the incredible gold-topped Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine and symbol of the city that is one of the most photographed buildings on earth.
Despite all these fascinating sights, this weekend, all cameras will be pointed in the direction of the action on stage at Eurovision in Tel Aviv.
And in case you are wondering what happened after my over-eager teenage self wrote that fan letter. . .
Three years after I posted it, Alexander Rybak sent a signed photo and wrote: “I’m glad that my music helped you. Wish you all the best, cutie.
“If you want, send me some photos of you, as a memory.”
No, Alexander, I will not send you some pictures.
But as the countdown for Eurovision 2019 begins, I do wish you all the best.
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