My first memories of Beit Marsala taste of mandarins and daisies, colored by soft paintbrushes shaping into white and blue windows, and nestled among the thousand secrets of a garden. These memories dance across green paths bordered by trees, which to us curious children were infinite and mysterious, waiting to be discovered and loved. These memories spring like flowers from crevices amid the stones of beautiful, traditional arches, shaded by giant trees, singing with birds.
A true secret in the heart of the restless city, a forest hiding and surviving away from speed and concrete, breathing with soil and life. And overlooking the greenery is the house Leia’s grandfather built, still whispering the stories of countless cultural activities and events, of all the travelers who slept in the warm little rooms, and of all the children who learnt how to draw and create in the vibrant roof workshop.
Visiting the house today, I still catch the fading yellow of a smiling sun I painted on a wooden stool, and I find myself recalling the excitement of sprinting to the small construction we called la Maison de l'âne, tripping over my purple princess dress, catching up with my sister dressed like a clown and Leia holding a magic wand and giggling. It was the ‘petite maison’ though, where all the magic culminated: two floors colored with shutters and ever-growing ivy, the scents of gardenia and roses, and the round staircase leading up to the vast, lit up rooms upstairs.
The sun rises and light sprinkles over the silver leaves of the old olive tree by the blue door, slides down its wrinkled, thick bark and follows a sleepy orange cat among the grass. This is the house where Leia and her brother Paul grew up, where Leia sketched the first lines of her first house, signs of her love for architecture and art, and where Paul’s young fingers grazed the black and white keys of a piano for the first time, still uncertain which of his many artistic talents to cultivate.
This is the house where Leia’s parents, both painters who have spent their lives reproducing nature and traditional Lebanese houses, have raised their children and taught many more to choose the right color, hold a brush, and make a hat out of leaves and sticks. This is the house Leia decorated and renovated recently, eager to turn it into a Bed and Breakfast, following in her grandfather’s footsteps and pursuing his dream of having always new faces and stories to add to this legacy. Guided by her good taste and talents, and maybe the magic wand I remember her holding so dearly in her fist, Leia turned the house into a pink jewel and named it ‘Beit Marsala’, inspired by the color selected for this year’s pantone.
And it was L’HOTE LIBANAIS, handpicking houses amidst the wealth and diversity of Lebanon that selected Leia’s childhood home to become part of its family, welcoming tourists from all across Lebanon and the world, to taste a breakfast in the sunlight and a take a walk among the olives.
For me, Beit Marsala remains a childhood story, a laughing memory of four children who grew up drawing and inventing. And I know, that the pink walls of Beit Marsala will tell the visitors all these tales, and that when they will pick a mandarin from the heavy branches growing towards both soil and sky, every brushstroke and song will come back in a flash, and they will know, that this is not just a house, it is a home, and that they will take part in its never-ending story.