One evening, we had a few hours free. We headed out from our hotel near Hamra street and walked down toward the Corniche (the walkway along the sea) before heading north along the Cornishe to Ashrafieh.
Actually, the whole time we were walking, I had no idea we had an end in sight.
I was mostly annoyed with my husband because it was hot, and I was walking in a skirt, which meant sweat dripping down my inner thighs the whole two hours we were walking. Yuck.
But I distracted myself with shooting photos and people watching.
I think my husband was car watching, as there were a fair number of Lamborghinis, BMWs and other fancy vehicles.
The sky was beginning to turn dark as we rounded the Hariri mosque into Ashrafieh. The mosque is huge, a testament to Lebanon’s division between Sunni, Shiite, Maronite and a host of minority groups. In Muslim neighborhoods, many of the women wear headscarves. In Christian neighborhoods, there are bars.
Ashrefieh turned out to be lined with aforementioned bars, but also very nice restaurants of all types of cuisine. At nearly 8 p.m., we finally ducked into a nearby Italian place, where we had some of the best gnocchi I’d ever had. I wasn’t sure what to expect, since I typically try to stick to local cuisine, but the place surpassed by expectation.
In no mood to rush back to the hotel, when the server offered dessert, I told him I was interested in the creme brulee, but I hoped it wouldn’t be bad. He promised it wouldn’t be, and told me if I didn’t like it to “throw it in my face.”
Thankfully, there was no need.
We finally made our way slowly home, walking out of the neighborhood and then opting to catch a cab for the rest of the journey up Hamra street. Cheered by my satisfied belly and rested legs, I was even game to walk a ways down Hamra and visit the shops. But it wasn’t to be, as the moment I stepped in to H&M, they told me they were closing at 10.
On our way to Beirut, I made it a goal to eat pain au chocolat at every opportunity. (See my high aspirations?) So I had one at Schipol in Amsterdam, one on the layover in Charles de Gaulle and another on our last morning in Beirut, at the airport.
And as you might guess, that last one was the best, followed a close second by the one in Amsterdam. Sorry Paris.
As the sweet chocolate melted on my tongue and the flaky crust fell from the corner of my lip, my eyes roved the hill marking the beginning of Beirut city.
Our time was too short, my friend. We’ll meet again someday.