Walking through an alley, parallel to the Mar Mikhael train station, a yellow house turns your head left. The 1940s architecture, warm colors, and front garden, leave you with a nostalgic taste. You didn’t ring the bell yet, but feel welcome.
Northern Achrafieh, especially Mar Mikhael, with its warm “village inside a city” atmosphere, has never failed to surprise with its antique buildings, but this one, is something else. “A diamond in the rough,” I think as I climb the stairs and Samer, the front man of Baffa House, opens the door.
“Our Bed and Breakfast has four bedrooms, three are on this floor and the fourth is upstairs in our apartment,” he says, showing me around. “So many friendships have been cultivated on those two tables over breakfast.”
A people’s person, Samer points his guests at the direction of the city’s hidden treasures that no guide book would have, such as tiny restaurants in neighboring areas, cool shops and so on. “Travelling is all about the experiences you live.”
Tea it is! Tea with mouthwatering “mama-made” sweets, prepared by the specialized hands of Donna Diva Baffa, who serves a Lebanese breakfast with an Italian finish for the guests every morning.
Having a four-meter high ceiling, a space might appear empty, but Jessica, Samer’s wife and a graphic designer, has a special knack for refurbishing and giving a “second life” to objects. “Everything here is recycled, even the tiles,” she says. “Every object has a story,” adds Samer.
Samer, a filmmaker by trade, has rushes of over thirty old buildings from all around Beirut being demolished and a collection of antique objects saved a few moments before demolition, which his wife decorates the house with. To spare himself from filming the tearing down of his 70-year-old home, his family’s heritage and legacy, he decided, with Jessica and Diva, to turn it into a guesthouse and save it from the greedy men with bulldozers.
So it is, that Baffa House’s history is preserved, marked by Samer’s Italian great grandfather, Francesco Baffa, who first came to Lebanon as a consultant for the railway company. His son Antonio fell in love with both Lebanon and a Lebanese woman, whom he married. It was Antonio who discovered Baffa House and raised his two daughters Diva and Carolina there.
A few years ago, Samer and Jessica began fixing up the building starting from the ground floor, to celebrate their wedding in the back garden, surrounded by the jasmines and vine trees planted by Antonio more than 30 years ago. And it must have been that the scents of their flowers and of Diva’s homemade delicacies found their way to L’HOTE LIBANAIS, as Baffa House is today one of its selected, handpicked Bed and Breakfasts.