October 25-26, 2009: Getting sick for the second time in the same country really depressed me, and just as the first time I had missed Palmyra, this second attack meant that I missed yet more Roman ruins at Bosra. Instead of getting up early to catch a south-bound bus, I got up early and headed for the nearest pharmacy. I have to say that the incredibly cheap drug that I bought not only worked, but worked faster than the antibiotic I had brought with me. Or, possibly, my immune system did a better job.
With just two more days to go in Damascus, I decided to switch to western
food, something I rarely do when traveling. I found a branch of the French chain La Brioche Dorée in the quiet, leafy embassy district, and enjoyed lunch there twice: lovely rolls and butter, chicken crepes, tartine, raspberry tart… Then, a perfectly made macchiato in their lovely atrium convinced me to eat dinner at the elegant and expensive Cham Palace, easy walking distance from my hotel. I passed on the pricey set menu at Entrecote, and ate a good escalope al limone with potatoes and a nice red wine at Carpaccio. But my last meal, at Pattacrepe in the not-quite-finished arcade next to the new Four Seasons was a mistake – the crepe was unmemorable and the service, not to mention my table, poor. Plus they didn’t serve alcohol or take credit cards, which complicated my end-of-country finances.
Although I didn’t feel that it would be wise to embark on an expedition requiring a two hour bus ride, I did spend time investigating first the embassy district, and then several of the original houses in the Old City. In typical Arab style these were built around courtyards, with blank walls and solid doors facing the street. The owner of one told me that the houses were supposed to look poor on the outside to discourage thieves. Unfortunately, those that were open to tourists weren’t looking too good on the inside either. I found that rather than following Lonely Planet’s walking tour, just visiting the houses that had been converted to cafes and restaurants gave me a better appreciation of how they had looked in their hey-day.
My last evening I paid my hotel bill and retrieved my passport, ready for an early start the next morning. I had already changed some money into Jordanian dinars, I had a hotel reservation in Madaba, and I was more than ready to move on.
Syria Wrap: I got sick twice. I was harassed in Hama. My hotel in room in Aleppo was so bad I left. A lot of the time I felt like a target. I don’t plan to go back. BUT. I’m still glad I went: the sights are really good, and the Old City in Damascus is an interesting place to wander. I would recommend visiting, but if you’re a solo woman traveler you might consider taking a tour.