This is the easy part of the trip as Beirut is a really fun town with some of the best food in the world. We have a Toyota Land-Cruiser for the desert but I'm seriously worried about the suspension if we keep on eating quite so well. Yesterday, we went to Pepe Abed's seafood restaurant up the coast in Byblos. Pepe, a Lebanese guy born in Mexico, set up his famous establishment in the early 1960s. The amazing wall of photos testify to some of the luminaries who have visited: Marlon Brando, David Niven (who seemed to do nothing in his whole life apart from visiting Mediterranean fish restaurants and leaving his photo) Jacques Chirac, Brigitte Bardot and, rather worryingly, Emperor Bokassa, who was primarily famous for feeding opponents in his Central African Republic to his pet lions.
The sign outside the restaurant proudly proclaims in French that the restaurant is a "meeting place for international personalities". The documentary director felt it was imperative that I get my picture up on the wall. This wasn't too tricky. Once we started filming we were quickly introduced to the 90-year old Pepe, resplendent in a sailor's cap. Having slightly exaggerated my importance in the world of British TV and film, the deed was done and my picture now hangs between Jonny Halliday and Pietr Schuster, once the president of Slovenia.
Tomorrow we are heading off to Aleppo, camping alongside the Euphrates and then on to our final destination, Palmyra, a beautiful ruined city slap in the middle of Syria where the country's equivalent of Boadicea, Queen Zenobia, held out against the Romans. Everyone we meet in Beirut raises their eyebrows when we tell them where we are off to. Things are quite tense at the moment here as the report into who assassinated the former President of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, is about to come out.
It's all a bit nerve-wracking but, luckily we have the confidence of naïve idiots, so I'm sure that we'll stumble through the trip without sampling Terry Waite-like hospitality. The most exciting thing is that we have acquired tents from the last programme made in this series and so I shall be sleeping in Minnie Driver's tent, which is getting me rather frisky. I'm a bit wary that it might be bright pink.
That's the problem with documentaries. The director keeps telling Pete and I how pleased he is with the rushes. Anyone who knows anything about television knows that that can mean only one thing: Pete and I are looking like a right pair of twats. TV thrives on documenting the idiot and here they have two for the price of one. Ah well, ever onwards.
- More about:
- Actors And Actresses
- Brigitte Bardot
- Jacques Chirac
- Marlon Brando
- Retired Models