09/09/2010 - 11/09/2010
Last time I left you I think we were wondering the desolate streets of Beirut. Well things definitely picked up - until 8am
We spent the whole night and day with sweet Aileen, a young chinese girl who was taking a long weekend break away from working in the admin dept of a Jordanian factory. Her planned travel buddy was unfortunately turned away from the syrian border earlier in the day because they managed to find out that she had previously travelled to Israel. Poor lass. Aileen decided to go on alone, having never done anything like that before, and so we adopted each other in the taxi. We had a great day wandering around the bullet ridden streets, wandering round the smart redeveloped streets, going on the so-bad-its-good ferris wheel, swimming in the Med, chilling out in the green oasis of the American University, watching the street carnival in the student area and introducing Aileen to her first taste of Italian food (!) and her first Gin and Tonic.
There is a strange atmosphere sometimes. There are some beautiful old buildings with a definite old french feel - all balconies, shutters and frills round the edge - alongside the smart sleek modern buildings. But the old buildings are completely peppered with bullets, as are some of the monuments. It's hard to believe this city centre was a warzone. The new buildings definitely outnumber the old, although you wouldnt get that impression from our photos which is why i mention it There is no other sign that anything happened here, no one talks about it. But during the night of the festival people were letting off fireworks in the next street along and there were some very nervous looking people around. Sitting where we were we couldnt see the fireworks in the sky but could hear the explosions and echos through the streets and see the casings drop to earth and it certainly gave us a small window into what it must have been like in those streets during the 1980s.
We left Aileen to get a well earned nights sleep while we headed out with Sebastien, a super fun german guy we immediately hit it off with in our hostel, to a well known club in Beirut called B018. In Beirut people dont really start their night till after dinner which doesnt start till 9, so the bars get going around 12 and the clubs at 2. Our kind of town
It was a lovely little one room club, good crowd, staff tolerant to our late night cork-throwing silliness, we could dance on the tables and the roof opened several times during the night and sunrise.
We all happily fell into our beds at 8am that morning with sore feet and sore cheeks.
Only to drag ourselves out of bed at 2pm and off for some more sightseeing to the Jeita grotto: a 2km lonng cave chock full of the biggest stalegtites/mites you can imagine. All tastefully lit and even included a boat trip to reach the lower caves. A perfect cool, jaw-droppingly awesome place to spend an afternoon's hangover. We headed back to catch the second day of the street festival including local bands and food stalls - all very Dulwich - but we flagged and headed back to see if we could catch Sebastien again to potentially perk us up. Instead we met two lovely dutch girls - Amy and Daun - on the roof for some nightcap beers and together watched the dormant rooftop nightclub over the road get louder and louder and glitzier and flashier: not unlike our experience of the city itself.