Favorite places in three cities

February 26, 2010  •  Category: ,

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.

Arlequin in San Fransisco, California, Mariages Frères in Paris, France and  Al-Baba sweets, in Saida, Lebanon

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”


“Absolutely not.”

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.



14 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Sushma Mallya says:

    wow nice write up…Lucky u that u went to all these beautiful places..wish to go there once….

  2. HistoryOf GreekFood says:

    I also adore brunch and tea at Mariage Frères (it’s one of the must- visit places when I am in Paris) and wish to go to Al Baba (and Lebanon) once!

  3. Aline says:

    Love the new presentation on your blog! Good luck on your move to Lebanon: Hope everything will work out your way.

  4. Simply Life says:

    ha, fun game – nice to read about!

  5. Nadjibella says:

    Je ne connais que Mariages Frères. Mon jeune voisin vient de s’y faire engager et il a promis de me faire découvrir plein de thés que je ne connais pas.
    J’aimerai bien visiter Ali Baba, niveau saveurs, ça doit être le top.
    Le Moyen-Orient fait partie de mes projets à courts/moyens termes.
    Nick est un très beau garçon.
    Je pense qu’il s’intéressera plus à Paris un peu plus âgé.
    A bientôt.

  6. northshorewoman says:

    Hello Joumana, I loved your write up. You have a wonderful story-telling ability. I wonder if you get that from your mother or your grandfather? I enjoy your vignettes, bringing in such exquisite detail to what most people wrap up in generalizations.

    I hope to go to Lebanon this summer, although this may be iffy. If I do, I hope to go to the south as I have Sidon on my list of places to visit. So, I will try keneffi at AliBaba. Although my enjoyment of excellent keneffi in northern Lebanon caused a 5 lb. weight gain.

  7. Arlette says:

    very nice posting… this is a fun game

  8. Velva says:

    What a fun post to read today! I chuckled about yoru son. I think most of us understand that experience. 😉 Thanks for sharing these great places with your foodie friends.

  9. senga50 says:

    Je n’en connais aucun !! mais je note avec plaisir !! Alors tu n’aimes pas le b ridge, tu me raconteras pourquoi !!

  10. Sophie says:

    What a lovely wriiten post this is!! hahahaha,…I also love Paris & this lovely tea company!!

    We can buy tea from them in lovely delicacy shops in Brussels.

    I also love Jardin des tuileries!! It is lovely to picnic over there,…

  11. shayma says:

    tee hee that is so cute, your son is a typical young boy, they would all do that~he is v handsome too, (genes from him maman?). i really loved reading your list and am happy to know we share a love for the same tearoom in Paris. x shayma

  12. PJ says:

    Loved reading your post and what a handsome son u have!!!

  13. Zaatar says:

    I always loved Mariage Freres, Their lotus- infused tea (Lotus Blanc) is my favorite! I can totally relate to your son liking this place – it evokes traveling, the quest for exotic things, plus it’s in a small alley in the Marais, you really feel like you’ve stumbled on some traveler’s treasure trove.

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