Nisrine has tagged me and I am to play a little game; the game consists of listing three favorite places and post about it. Fine, Nisrine, as long as you don’t ask me to play bridge, I will do it.
Starting with Arlequin in San Fransisco: I used to go to San Fransisco a lot, because my brother lives there. I would just take off from his house in the Sunset area and just roam the city by foot. One time, we were walking on Hayes, a street that is not too far from downtown and we had not had breakfast. We walked in and the place did not seem to have any seating. We ordered a cappuccino at the counter and a cream-filled bomboloni (those Italian donuts filled with custard). That’s when I noticed in the back of the place a wonderful garden area, with wrought-iron tables and jasmine vines and absolutely no one except some pigeons! We sat down, ate the pastries and sandwiches which were delicious and subsequently spent hours sitting in that garden, enjoying it at our leisure.
Mariage Frères, Paris, France:
Mariage Frères is a tea company founded in 1854 in France. It is also a tea shop with several outlets in Paris. I was in the habit of transiting through Paris on my way to Beirut; it was convenient because my brother lived there. My son Nick as a teenager was not into traveling: he preferred to stay indoors in front of his computer, no matter what city he was in. In Paris, if I said:
“How about going on the Eiffel Tower”
He would say “No, thank you”
“How about seeing the tomb of Napoleon at the Invalides?”
He would say “I don’t care that Napoleon was born and don’t care that he died”
“How about a walk at the Jardin des Tuileries?”
He would say “I don’t care about chlorophyll”
“How about visiting the Beaubourg Museum or the Louvre?”
He would say “Oh, sure”
I soon stopped suggesting anything and decided to let him rot in the apartment. BUT, If I mentioned that I was going to have some tea at Mariage Frères, he would be at the Métro entrance in two seconds flat. He LOVED that place. Was it the tea, of which he got to choose from 365 different varieties? or the pastry that was offered on a trolley? or the fact that the tea was presented in a cast-iron teapot, with sterling silver silverware on crisp linen tablecloth? Or the subdued atmosphere of the teashop that seemed far away from the hustle and bustle of the city? All I know is that to this day, he talks about Mariage Frères as the only place worth visiting in Paris.
Al-Baba sweets is a famous sweets maker located in the city of Sidon in Lebanon. It is easy to find, the building housing it is three stories high and if you get lost, people in the street will most likely know where it is and guide you. You can go there and sit at a table and order the best knefeh (cheesecake) with a cup of Turkish coffee or ice cream or even European-style cakes; you can also order to go. They carry any kind of Arabic sweets and confections imaginable, in addition to chocolates and cookies and cake.