We settle around a wooden table, the heart of a terrace overlooking a planted plot of land, embraced from all sides by mountain slopes, speckled by red roofs, giving Hasroun its lovely nickname, the Rose of Mount Lebanon.
And on the tray Jacqueline holds is a garland of jams, and there’s a whole lot of colors, the same colors hanging like gems from the branches perched over her garden. Fresh thyme is sprinkled over white, mountain cheese, the same thyme lost among the most secret corners of the mountains.
I breathe into the warm steam of the coffee and notice the diary Jacqueline holds preciously on her lap. With a smile, she shares with us a story of friendship and family, a family which to Jacqueline enfolds all the guests who through the years, she has hosted in her Bed & Breakfast, all those travelers who wrote a few lines of friendship and gratitude in her little diary. I listen, as the many different handwritings smile back from the page, each unique and yet part of something bigger. How a small world lost in the mountains of Lebanon, among white peaks in winter and flowering trees in spring, rocky cliffs and ancient caves, archeological relics and the words of Gibran stitched into the hearts of the rural communities, can be infinite in itself.
It is but a few minutes’ walk up to the center of the village, where Jacqueline runs her little artisanal handicraft and food boutique. Pomegranate molasses, olive oil, apple vinegar, and more, decorated with ribbons and bows, fragranced with dry lavender, sit on wooden shelves in clusters. Faithful to tradition and a true host, Jacqueline does justice to the natural diversity and fertility of the region, she never misses a single herb or fruit which she does not pick or grow to turn into a delicacy.
Our bags rattling with jars of strawberry and apricot jam and crimson sumac, we head out for a day spent among the Cedars of God, sit in the shade of their centuries of life, a stroll away from the bumpy river of Nahr Qadisha. And before heading to Bcharre, we look up, to see how the immense grey cliffs appear from below, and rest our eyes with the beauty of one hundred caves and a white blue sky.
Evening is spent on the terrace, with Jacqueline, radiant as usual, with a basket of pears on her lap. With drowsy eyes, I listen to a cricket and his love melodies from the garden and watch the trees drown slowly in the calm of dark. Jacqueline points at the sky; living in the city we forget how many stars there are.
Leaving the next day, we realize we have fallen for this dispersed village, for Jacqueline and her jams, for her lovely Bed & Breakfast, for the valley and the cedars and the cliffs. We are not the first ones, many before us have left mesmerized and come back for more. Among Dar Qadisha’s first admirers has been L’HOTE LIBANAIS, always searching in the most secret places, to find unexpected treasures, buds waiting to burst into bloom.
Many fresh pages still await in Jacqueline’s diary, eager to welcome new handwritings, each a story in itself and a speckle in an infinite tale.