jon is awesome

an email description of an evening in beirut:

First along the seafront promenade – no sand but a nice broad pavement. Weirdly, no restaurants along the coast so we headed inland a bit. Lots of local street food but nothing that we were looking for. Ended up back in the fancy downtown where we had al fresco supper on cobbled streets where the leaves on knarled cedar trees, dappled by subtle illumination, chewed at the sandstone pillars on archways between which were interleaved domes of mosques and spires of churches, such are the perpetual emblems of a once war-torn city.

Or, if you would prefer that description in a more Hemingway-esque style:

“Hi,” I said.

“… Oh”, he replied.

“…,” I paused.

“How about a drink?”

“Hey,” I replied.


How do you get 2 whales in a car?

*on the motorway, dummy.--ok, so it doesn't really work in print, but if you don't get it, try saying it allowed.

Paul dropped into the UK for a brief stint while his brother Andrew sits on a panel at the Skoll Foundation Conference in Oxford. I met him for lunch at Mai sushi on Monday (I ate, he nibbled) before heading out to Swansea for 3 days.

i love stuffing my friends full of good food, but it's troublesome when friends visit from areas with better food than London (eg HK, cali, nyc, chicago, basically almost everywhere), so it was a huge relief when Paul revealed that he'd been in Africa for the last couple of weeks. Jackpot! Recently returned 3rd world travelers are so low maintenance and grateful for everything. he was bound to be impressed, and sure enough, cornish pasties knocked him off his feet. furthermore, when we first got into our hotel room in swansea, paul peeked into the bathroom and said: "wow, lily, have you seen this shower?!" um, yes, paul, it sprouts hot water when you turn it on. i totally get where he's coming from though...after mbita, my biggest joys were running water & real pillows.

that first night in swansea, we walked to our hotel and then went to mcD's to get a "snack"...
paul: "wanna share some chicken nuggets?"
me: "no"
paul (to cashier): "i'll have the 20 piece chicken nuggets, please."

needless to say, that snack ended up being our dinner, especially after i won a free apple pie to wash down the mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, & french fries. ah, the beginning of our foray into brown colored foods. also, can we all just agree that orange fizzy fanta tastes better from mcdonalds? i don't know if it's the dispenser, the straw, the cup or what, but fanta in a can should be called can't (har har).

the next morning, we caught a bus to rhossili of worm's head fame. we got there too late to walk all the way out onto the peninsula, but we got far enough for paul to pee in the ocean and for me to play w the shells that completely covered all the rocks...it was like walking on, well, a slippery, mossy, mollusky chunk of rock (yes, i know, you're dumbfounded by my creativity).
From swansea mar 2011
From swansea mar 2011

after watching the ocean drown the rocks, we took in a fairly overpriced lunch at a sea-side restaurant and caught a bus to another stretch of shoreline, upon which we hiked to oxwich castle.

From swansea mar 2011

Along the way, we saw:
  • lots of nice views of the beach (paul showed his appreciation for the prettiest ones by pissing from them, although they were invariably too far for him to hit the water).
  • a rope down a steep path that allowed us to "rappel" down to the beach, where we found a homemade lobster trap (we think) & a very dead rabbit.
    From swansea mar 2011
    From swansea mar 2011

  • a troop of ponies that galloped down to our bit of grass. the beautiful white one was heavily pregnant and thus shy, but a black one snuffled all over my R4 looking for treats (paul fled to the background and mumbled something about not wanting to be eaten).
  • From swansea mar 2011
  • a wildfire that the firemen were having trouble approaching w their trunk.
    we got to the castle just after closing, and it was deserted but accessible, which meant that paul and i could scramble all over its moldy walls without censure. awesome.
    in the evening, we caught a bus back to swansea, where we found an unloved toddler's bike forlorn next to a rubbish bin. in spite of its sliding handle bars, flat tires, and miniature size, paul rode circles in the street (i managed to stay on just long enough to prove that i, too, could ride it if i so desired).

    Dinner = lamb chops for paul, lamb cawl for me at the no sign wine bar on wind street. as w every meal, bites were interspersed w scrabble strategery.

    the next day kicked off w a lazy trip to the dylan thomas museum, where we could listen to bbc recordings of him speaking like a preacherman and rolling is r's to beat the thunder. as paul says on his blog, half the exhibit is devoted to proving he's not a womanizing alcoholic; i contend the other half is dedicated to establishing the importance of swansea (over london & nyc) to his poetry.

    then we headed to mumbles, a seaside town w a pier. i lunched on bubbles & squeak at the kitchen table, a yellow organic cafe that reminded me of tosci's. paul had eaten 2 meat pies en route, so he just sipped a (very delicious) fruit juice (beets, ginger, lemon, apple). the surfer dude owner drew us a secret map, and we hiked up to find a past place for WWII anti-aircraft guns and down to find a cheerful, red, plastic dragon slide that said "mumbles pier" (further along, seagulls nested and a plastic bikini'd gorilla lay on her back in disuse). More hiking along the coastline revealed a boat-shaped playground and a giant shaggy dog that liked to romp (to his owner's chagrin).

    From swansea mar 2011
    From swansea mar 2011
    From swansea mar 2011
    From swansea mar 2011

    the next day, we took the train to oxford, where we sat by the river and played scrabble. i finally beat paul (1 out of 10, baby!). mags graciously let us borrow some bikes so we biked into town and made dinner w andrew before coming home to a final game of mapominos. oxford is not as pretty as cambridge, but much more accessible. oh well, i like my towns sleepy (when they're not overrun by tourists).

    final impression of gower: a place i wouldn't mind retiring. it's got:
    • friendlier natives than the deep south (sorry, hometown, but it's true)
    • lots of large dogs
    • lots of hiking paths
    • lots of joggers
    • lots of surfers
    color me impressed.