breakfast by the sea

After a luxurious brunch by the sea (literally! Neil got splashed by the waves once or twice), we all packed into the car for a windy drive to Balbek, the city of an ancient temple that was first dedicated to Bal and then to assorted other gods (including Bacchus) and finally used as a fortress by the Arabs to defend themselves against the Byzantines.

a few of the original 89 columns
the whole crew

We wandered for an hour, soaking up the history and the cool, sunny spring day. When it was time to head home, we stopped to buy flowers for Elizabeth’s deck garden and to buy onions, on the strict orders of imTofiet, the Grissom’s downstairs neighbor/slash adopted grandmother (they’re cheaper in the mountains, she told us.) imTofiet was one of the masterminds behind our first day’s feast here and nothing makes her happier than to see others enjoying her cooking!

Dinner was at a traditional Lebanese restaurant in Chtaura. We enjoyed the view of Mt. Herman and this shepherd and his sheep,
can you spot the shepherd?

as well as more delicious treats, including a gift of fresh fruit and incredibly delicious coffee (flavored with cardamom) after our meal. I realized Elizabeth would not survive in Seattle — after one sip of the coffee, she asked in disbelief: “You guys really like to drink this?”

Though we were tired (Ed must’ve been exhausted after navigating Lebanese traffic), we stopped by the mosque in downtown Beirut. We ladies had to wait outside while Ed, Neil and Farouk stepped inside. It was built by a very wealthy Lebanese business man, Rafik Harriri, who was assassinated on Valentine’s Day 2005. Officially called Mohamed al-Amin, the locals call it the Harriri mosque. It is stunningly beautiful and immense, rivaling the Four Seasons in Qatar for its chandeliers!

No evening is complete without ice cream so Ed double-parked while Elizabeth, Maddie, Farouk and I selected an assortment of scoops (one kilo for ten bucks — wish Baskin and Robbins was that affordable!) to enjoy at home over conversation. Elena and I loved the lemon, but the kiwi and mango got thumbs’ up, as well. We sat over our dessert and talked books and laughed until our eyelids drooped.

Though we are looking forward to our Egypt cruise, we are sad to say our good-byes to the Grissoms, a family where each member has a heart as big as Hattie’s sky.

I’m not sure how often I’ll blog in Egypt — for one thing, there are no book related events and I’m not sure my vacations are that interesting to the general public. But I will try to post a few photos and notes.

Ma salemi.

No Responses to “Balbek”

  1. Carrie

    Sounds like a great trip!

    FYI: I have friends in B’ham who have a great little deli called Mediterranean Specialties. They serve GREAT Lebanese food and sometimes have cooking classes with yummy food!

  2. Kaj

    Hey, Kirby — are you stopping in Cairo? My nephew Jesse Olsen is a chef at the Four Seasons there — close to the pyramids. Kaj and I are having a great time in Tokyo. We’ll be heading up to Misawa for another school visit in a couple days. And yes, your vacations ARE interesting…

  3. Kirby Larson


    We were in Cairo and are headed back but have “done” the pyramids. Saturday is our last Cairo day and it’s taken up with the Museum and, of course, the souq! Sorry we’re missing your nephew.