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Published: March 15th 2019
Thursday March 14, 2019 – Another good day. I woke up early, as always, and did a little internetting, since it works fast in the morning. Eventually we were both awake and on our way to the Wooden Bakery for a breakfast pastry. I decided to pass, as my stomach felt a little troubled. Kat called us an Uber, which cost twice what we had expected due to it being a “busy time”, but we decided it would be worth it to get on our way to the Jeita Grotto. It was a bit rainy outside which made it a coincidentally good time to hit the enormous cave system. There is an upper cave and a lower cave, and usually you would take a cable car to the upper cave, walk inside, and then take a boat ride through the lower cave. But due to the rain and the possible rising water levels, we started with the lower cave boat ride. And I could see quite clearly why it could become an issue. We had to duck really low to avoid hitting our head as we entered as it was. It was really beautiful inside, and a shame that we had
to leave our camera/phone at the door. From there, we walked to the upper cave and then spent quite a long time inside walking around at our own pace. Kat may or may not have been stealthy with her camera to capture a few forbidden shots. There was no guide and no signs to tell you about the cave formations, but I’ve been to other caves before to learn about the process of water moving through limestone to form the stalactites and stalagmites. It was so large and impressive inside, and they have the largest stalactite in the world. Along the way we also ran into the same tour guide we had yesterday as well as several people who were on the tour with us, doing a tour of the two places we would visit today.
Back outside, we took the cable car down, just to have a look and check it out, and then we bargained with a taxi driver to get a ride to Byblos. The taxi was an old Mercedes that could have been from the 70s. Byblos is one of the oldest cities in the world, and may well be the oldest. It has extensive
ruins that show the presence of 7 cultures over 7 millennia, and that’s what we went to visit. It is also the place where the phonetic alphabet was developed by the Phoenicians. We arrived around noon and looked for a place for Kat to place to have lunch. My belly was still undecided, so I decided to opt out. While we looked for a place, we stopped walking and looked up and noticed that there were butterflies everywhere. All flying in the same direction. I think we were in the midst of a butterfly migration and it was so cool. We also found a sweet little cat who wanted all the love, tried to climb up my pants, and then did end up on my shoulder. I’ve always wanted my cats to be shoulder cats. I was sad to have to walk away. After all the gawking, I went to find some bread to eat while Kat ordered a Lebanese pizza of sorts. I didn’t find the bread but I did find a butterfly to photograph as well as the sea, so I walked down, took some photos, and then met back up with Kat. By this time she was
ready to order a chocolate strawberry dessert with toasted marshmallows. I ate a few crackers I had and then ate the leftovers from her dessert, belly be damned.
From there we walked to the archaeological ruins and spent the next 2 hours wandering around a 900 year old castle and the 7000 years of ruins surrounding us. A lot of the things I had seen exhibited in the National Museum the other day came from this site, and it was cool to see where they originated. Really, this country has a lot of these sites everywhere, which makes sense when you consider that everything has been built over something that used to be there before. Before we left, one of the butterflies landed on Kat’s shoe and hung out until she eventually started to walk again.
After the ruins, we walked to the beach so Kat could stick her feet in the Mediterranean. Then we walked to the highway where we immediately caught a minibus back to Beirut. It seemed like great luck, until he started to drive super slowly to find more people to fill the bus. On the highway. And blared the crazy music. And smoked
with his friend. It seemed to take forever and it was a little annoying, but he did drive us to the correct bus station I had asked for, and that was really helpful. From this location, we easily walked into the downtown area, since Kat hadn’t seen anything of the city yet. We saw a lot of the things I had visited, but at dusk and it was nice for me to see everything lit up at night. There was also a small mosque that was open and I looked in, and at the same time a man was entering and told us we could come in. He gave Kat a cloth to cover her hair, and we followed him in. It turns out he was the man that did the readings. It was actually really cool to see him and the men that were there and the prayers. And it was so close to being in church, except instead of sit, stand, kneel, it was stand, kneel, bow, as there is no furniture. It’s really all the same in the end.
Next stop was the same café I’d been before for dinner, but this time we did a
mezze, or bits and bobs to split. We got spicy potatoes, meat strips, hummus, tabouleh and fried cheese rolls. All very tasty. Back at the apartment I sorted photos but internet was too slow to do too much with. Still got to bed late and have to get up early tomorrow.
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