Sunday, April 1, 2012

Lebanon and France--part two (France)

Notre Dame

La France---nous t'aimons. T's first trip My first in many years. Oh the style, the comfort. Again,  it is especially so perhaps in contrast to Baku. Many people on this trip asked us what it is like in Az. In comparison (to France, or even Lebanon) Az seems so much more limited: in style, in food, in rights....  [Now really expecting those men in suits!]
T and You-Know-What

K outside the Louvre

Nighttime on the Seine
Why does France feel comfortable? It is mellow yet vibrant, well organized, interesting and, off season yet, not too busy.  There is both order and beauty--what a concept! Lebanon was fun (and had one or two of those qualities, though not consistently...) but we dashed all over the place nonstop. Here we have only four and a half days but it feels more relaxed.

Two days in Paris (and one without our bags, which didn't make the transfer in Istanbul) but we managed to see Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, l'Arc de Triomphe, and Galleries Lafayette (a department store!!) and to picnic in Bois de Bologne and walk along the Seine at night. And to eat in lovely bistros, T enjoying entrecôte and frites every single day. Moi? Salade Nicoise, mmmmm, and poire roquefort for DINNER one night--such variety, so interresante!

T at the chateau in Blois

We rented a car for our two + days in the Loire Valley (had been aiming for Provence but time was too short to go all that way) and visited several chateaux: Chenonceau (built over a river!),  the royal palace at Blois, Château du Clos Lucé (where Leonardo da Vinci lived the last years of his life), and Chambord (just the outside, but wow!)

K at Amboise

Leonardo's tank design

every château needs one of these

Three cakes OR Trip to Lebanon and France

A wonderful, memorable big 6-0 for K :-), with three celebrations in three countries.


Starting with a remarkable evening on the 16th... Directly after a full of work,  howling wind and rain begin as around 15 of us make our way to the new Hilton on the Bulvar (Caspian Sea boulevard), and its revolving, rooftop restaurant, for a drink and appetizers, arranged with considerable effort by T.  We miss the bus stop and race in taxis back to the place. We are on a schedule, as we have tickets to a Turkish dance and music extravaganza based on the story of Troy, at 7 pm...  Lovely celebration #1 at the Hilton, and they even provide a cake...  We race off in taxis to the theater,  in very slow traffic, arriving in the nick of time for curtain rise, only to discover that T and I have brought the wrong tickets....the ones for an April 6 performance at another theater.  Ay yay yay. Off in a taxi home to nab the correct tickets and back--just in time for act two. Oh well. Our friends have all made it at least!

After the show,  T's beloved phone is nowhere to be found. Sigh. How will the BP driver for the airport reach us in the morning? Then, at home, a newly installed radiator in the bedroom is shooting s geyser of water in the air and has drenched both floor and the only  valuable rug we own.  Panic, a wrench, a call to the landlord--we are due to leave in 6 hours for Lebanon...  T manages to stanch the flow.

Later, off to the airport and as we board the plane a blizzard hits--snow blowing horizontally. The plane is delayed and deiced, but manages takes off before the airport is closed.


How comfortable it feels after Baku. How very lovely to be welcomed by old friends there. Three hours after touching down, we head for a fine mezze with friends, on the Mediterranean.

Amazing cake commissioned by Tom and made by friend
and master baker Lauren--chocolate salt!
Tom had her write Happy Birthday Habibi Kris on it :-)

Next day it is up to Broumana, and Broumana Friends Meeting friends.  K has timed the trip to have two Sundays with them :-).

     Auntie Renée makes lunch for me and a cake...
And then its off on a whirlwind 5 day trip around Lebanon, showing our Baku traveling buddies, A and N, the sights.

A and N posing with refugee kids at Tyre hippodrome

Lebanon felt comfortable--partly because it was familiar, and partly in contrast to Azerbaijan. I am not so aware of the totalitarian nature of our current residence, the lack of freedom of speech, the blandness of food, life in general [Uh-oh, the men in black suits?!] I think, until I leave and see/feel how it is elsewhere.

--continued in part two because I can't seem to upload anymore pix here :-{