February 22, 2014

Batroun (for a change)

Is it Italy? Spain? The south of France maybe? No. It's Batroun. That's Lebanon for you.

I know, lame introduction.

Lebanon is “really so very beautiful, but you have to know what direction to look,” a friend said last weekend as we sat on a ramshackle, blue painted wooden pier of a fish restaurant on the Batroun sea side.

Had you looked in the other direction, you would have seen an abandoned industrial complex built right on the shore. But indeed, if you know where to look, Batroun is idyllic.

I came through town with a few caffeine-starved friends, looking for a place that would sell real coffee, and in our search we walked through the old part of town. It was a pleasant surprise. It was an early Sunday morning, so the lunch crowd wasn’t on the road yet, the sun was shining, and we stumbled upon this little restaurant on stilts, with blue shutters and a distinct hippy look to it.

Chez Maguy

I do not come here often because I like sandy beaches (in Batroun it’s pebble beaches) and I don’t like fried fish (most restaurants are fish places), but I think I should. Valentine had been celebrated in the restaurant the night before, and the blue of the window sills contrasted nicely with the red balloons. It could have been the setting of a commercial, or a photo shoot.

The Phoenician Wall
We overlooked the – what they call – the ancient Phoenician see wall, but I am not sure it is Phoenician. The wall wasn’t actually built, but rather the Eolianite rock behind it was quarried away. Eolianite is a type of sandstone formed by fossilized sand dunes.  They left the last piece standing, presumably as a (tidal) wave breaker, and it is still there, even after a number of earthquakes, once of which, in 551, destroyed the entire town in a mudslide.  
A boat in the port

Batrou has a little port, an old church on the seaside, and lots of little alleys to wander through. There’s public beaches on either side (pebbled, though), and a number of pretty well-known fish restaurants, such as Chez Maguy, Pierre & Friends and Jammal’s.
If I were 18, I’d rent one of those shacks on stills next to Chez Maguy, and spent my summer in Batroun, bar hopping at night, swimming and sun-bathing and hanging out with fiends during the day, roaming around town in the afternoon and discuss our plans and dreams in the evening over cheap wine.
Ahh, if only I were 18 again, with the knowledge I have now. Boy, wouldn’t life be great?
Here are some other Batroun aficionados

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