Bill was not going to let me leave without a proper send off. We rented a car the night before and headed up North again immediately after a substantial breakfast (the most I had eaten in the morning for over 3 months).
I’d put on a nice outfit – dark straight jeans, flowy white top, red shoes, golden necklace and even red lipstick to match the shoes J Bill approved but asked me to change because I was over dressed for what we were about to do. I had to put comfortable clothes that I didn’t mind getting dirty.
I didn’t want to part with my current outfit but I did pack a change of clothes and we were on our way in our little KIA Picanto.
After some time we met a guy in front of a restaurant and he asked us to follow him up the hill. Soon enough I knew what we were doing. We turned a corner and there it was – a beautiful horse riding base. Bill had remembered me talking about wanting to learn to ride properly and had arranged for to have a lesson. On an Arabian horse.
Coreli, my teacher was a 21-year-old French girl who spoke English fine but had difficulties understanding and asked me to speak slowly. I was on all kitted out a helmet and a whip and I was on top of Ramona (my horse) in no time.
We started out with a walk, then a trot, then a canter. I had trouble getting the horse to go without help from the teacher, and up-down movement when trotting completely destroyed my bum. The suspended position didn’t help either. By the end of the lesson (40mins cut down to 37mins by me) my whole body ached, my legs were shaking and I didn’t have the physical strength any more to control the horse. I’d lost balance and nearly fallen down twice and I didn’t want that to happen again.
I could barely stand on my feet let alone walk when I got off of Ramona. I somehow, very slowly made it up the hill and back to the car. I was drenched with sweat, my face was read and the scorching sun wasn’t helping my well-being. Bill got me a cold water which was a dream come true at that moment. After a while I had recovered sufficiently to leave and continue our journey.
Bill admitted that this had only been a warm up and if I wanted (or could) we could now drive up to the mountains and have a 3-hour trail riding session. As much as I would have loved to, I don’t think my body would have been too happy. My legs were already covered in bruises and going back on a horse to gallop would have been quite dangerous. So we decided to drive to Tripoli (near the Syrian border) and have a boat ride instead.
The drive up there was lovely – after the cityscape had disappeared (or at least become less city like) we could see the see to our left (sparkling blue) and the dry, arid hills to our right. It finally felt like a real road trip.
We found the port, Bill negotiated the boat ride, we told them we will be back in about an hour and went for lunch. We chose a restaurant that looked OK, I was skeptical about the quality of the food but they surprised me pleasantly. We ordered some grilled fish, a salad and a chicken burger for Bill. We got a lot of other dishes as a bonus (typical Lebanese). It is like order 1, get 3.
The fish was great, fresh, simply grilled. The salad was flavoursome and they gave us a bunch of fresh fruit for free (including my favourite watermelon) for dessert.
Back at the port I was a bit skeptical about the boat ride but I was soon convinced otherwise. The captain was a lovely elderly man (an ex-seaman who’s travelled all over the world), the boat was big and there was just the two of us, the water was still and blue and the sun was setting. Tripoli was in the distance.
We talked to the captain, took photos, enjoyed the randomly dispersed little islands and made plans to visit again, rent a boat, island hop and swim in the shallow turquoise waters. It was perfect.
We then found a lovely café by the sea, ordered ice cream and watched the sun go down in glorious colours. Then we drove back to Beirut and picked up a Chinese dinner on the way.
On Sunday, Bill had yet another surprise for me. He took me to the Four Seasons for breakfast. The hotel itself was splendid, the terrace overlooked the bay, the buffet was to die for (fresh fruit, different kinds of yoghurt, freshly baked breads and pastries, cold meats, cheese, you name it!) and they served bacon! Their tea was possibly better than the one made in England by the English.
The conversation was not light hearted and probably not suited for a sunny breakfast but it was necessary and its effect was positive.
After that, we drove back, I packed, and Bill took me to the airport.