For those interested in wineries, you can find a lot in Lebanon more precisely in the Bekaa. One of those wineries: Kefraya. A very beautiful place with a nice restaurant which offers delicious food. When you go there you can have a wine tasting and a tour in the caves for free. You can also enjoy a "train" trip for 30 or 50 min for less than 4 USD per person.
I will post about other wineries when I will have the chance to visit them again.
By the way, even those who don't like wine (like me) will enjoy ;)
The Tourist Landmark of the Resistance, also known as Museum for Resistance Tourism, is a war museum operated by Hezbollah near the village of Mleeta in southern Lebanon. The museum opened on May 25, 2010, marking the 10th anniversary of the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000. The site was once an important base for Hezbollah fighters.
Interesting place to witness the resistance.
Once in Lebanon make sure to visit Jeita Grotto the natural wonder. It is not far from the capital and it is a MUST SEE. Jeita grotto is one of the world’s most beautiful caverns. It is divided to 2 levels. The 1st dry level can be seen on foot while the 2nd level can be discovered by boat. Jeita offers you the most beautiful sceneries that make you feel like living in wonderland.
The lower part is closed during winter coz the level of water is too high.
It is not allowed to take pics in the grotto so the pics here are uploaded from the internet.
Make sure to vote to Jeita grotto so it will be one of the 7 nature wonder: www.new7wonders.com
When you visit Lebanon and if you love hiking and if by chance anyone is organizing a hiking trip to "Ouyoun el Samak" and "Wadi Jouhanam" (Hell valley) do not hesitate to go. I am not a hiking fan but I was able to do this hiking trip (I faced some difficulties of course) and this place is a real nature heaven. I don't know why it is called Hell valley maybe coz it is really scary to hike there but the landscapes are just outstanding. So don't miss it if you are interested in such activities.
Don’t forget to check all the photos
well, i just had 3 nights in lebanon and could just see these few places like where i was staying hamra street, the corniche, ain al' rameeinyah, aalayah,beit mary,harissa and places that we saw whist travelling around...there's lotaz more to see & explore and enjoy like the more historical sites & definately the "BEIRUT PARTY LIFE"...like in jounieh area etc..
RAVI SHANKAR & ANOUSHKA SHANKAR
The legendary Ravi Shankar, Godfather of World Music, with his daughter, Anoushka Shankar, the Sitar Virtuoso.
UB40, the renowned Pop/reggae group whose public is too vast to be defined by age, generation, tribe or fashion.
Kazem As Saher
Kazem As Saher, love and romance by public demand.
Sara Baras, the spellbinding Flamenco Star and her company in a new show, Sueños (dreams). Baras is the recipient of Spain 's most prestigious awards.
Chick Corea and Touchstone, jazz at its best with the winner of 11 Grammy Awards.
Marcel Khalifé, our national icon with his unfailing repertoire of hopes and dreams. A night to remember.
The beautiful palace of Beit ed-Dine is justly a favourite place to visit. Set high in the Chouffe, the palace was built for a powerful local Muslim, Bashir Shihab, and took some 30 years to complete. The palace was hardly finished before he was sent in to exile by the Ottoman rulers of Lebanon who feared his influence. After many years as a government building it was declared a national monument and now the President of Lebanon has use of apartments in the palace as his summer residence.
The palace contains several museums. The one in the entrance hall is dedicated to Kamal Jumblatt (father of the current Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt) who was assassinated in 1977. Upstairs, several rooms form the Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum displaying everything from Canaanite pottery to Islamic weaponery and beautifully embroidered local costumes.
The huge stables and barracks area at the rear of the palace house the impressive mosaic museum.
The Palace of Beiteddine makes one of the most popular day trips from Beirut. The road leading up to the palace is beautiful. It leads through the Chouf Mountains and you get great views.
The palace was completed in the early 1800s.
It was designed by Italian architects and made by local artisans.
Day 6 continued
Another scenic drive through the mountains later, and we made it to the Port View Hotel, which was basic but friendly. We dropped off our things and changed, and headed out to downtown for drinks in one of the outdoor cafes overlooking Place L’Etoile before dinner at a nice downtown Lebanese restaurant. A bottle of wine later, we wandered back to Gemmayzeh, our new neighbourhood, which under the cover of darkness had turned into an extremely cool nightlife district. We found our way to a sweet little bar called Godot, apparently frequented by the arty, intellectual crowd, and had an array of cocktails mixed for us by an enthusiastic barman late into the night. Well, late-ish. While the youth of Beirut prepared to club til dawn, We made our way, past a television show being filmed in the street, to our hotel and fell asleep to the sounds of revellers.
Up bright and early today, we had breakfast at the hotel and then explored a cool area of quirky boutiques and galleries called Saifi Village. We had mint lemonades at a very nice cafe, sitting outside and wishing we lived here. Aferwards, a grand quest for an elusive internet cafe commenced. We hopped into a service taxi (which appeared at our whim) to Sassine Place in Achrafieh. After our internetting we proceeded to the local ABC Mall to have lunch on the roof terrace in a restaurant called Waterlemon. Satisfied, we headed off with plans to visit Sioufi Garden, a really lovely sounding park that Google Maps claimed was a mere 11 minute walk. Half an hour later, with the heat of the sun blasting upon us as we walked along a motorway, we had to concede we'd missed it and took a service taxi to the Corniche instead.
We were fast bonding with the Corniche - such a lovely idea to have a seaside promenade in the middle of a city. It was full of people wandering along, running, cycling, swimming, and generally hanging out. Having strolled along for most of its length, we decided to go to another cool, artsy/intellectual Hamra cafe. This one was even more obscure than the last, inside a dodgy-looking shopping centre, and involved me getting us extremely lost in my doomed zeal to walk through the American University Beirut campus, an activity enjoyed by the author of a book about Lebanon's political and religious tensions, Paradise Divided by Alex Klaushofer, that Mollybolt and I had both been reading during the trip. Alas we could not find the entrance and eventually found ourselves in the quirky t-marbouta café/bar. Furnished appropriately with beer, mint lemonade, and chocolate muffin, we settled down for some competitive domino playing to while away the rest of the afternoon. On our way back to the hotel, we strolled past the headquarters of the Lebanon gay association, but it looked completely anonymous and unmarked, and there were random men lurking at the entrance, so we didn't dare to proceed. It is a little disconcerting holidaying in a place where being gay is illegal...
That evening, after a stop-off at our hotel, we dined at Margharita's, a pretentious and averagely tasty Italian restaurant on Rue Gouraud, in our district of Gemmayzeh. The price clearly wasn't intimidating anyone else - it was crammed full of all sorts of people, from glamorous groups of party people to families. After dinner we returned to the lovely Bar Godot for some more exemplary cocktails.
We were up and ready at an early hour for an all-day hike in the Adonis Valley run by a company we'd read about in Mollybolt's guidebook (she was smug) called Esprite Nomade. This rather lovely valley, nestled in the mountains of north Lebanon, is where Aphrodite and Adonis first kissed, and where Adonis was killed, apparently. We bought a picnic lunch and joined up with a group of about 30 hikers, all locals, and headed off in two minibuses into the mountains. After some rather hair-raising bends, we eventually stopped in the middle of nowhere, and started our hike. I had been a little concerned about a 17km hike in the mountains, given my previous ankle injury, but it had improved, so I set off with my elasticated bandage firmly in place. I need not have worried. While the hike took us up hills, and deep down into the valley, the group moved at snail's pace. And it is not often that I find a hike too slow! Indeed it has never happened. More intriguing, there was zero macho competitive behaviour. Everyone just pottered along the vague track, enjoying the sun and the scenery and chatting peacefully to each other. It was all rather serene. Lunch was at the bottom of the valley, sitting in the sun next to a lovely waterfall and a gushing river. And after lunch, and a hike up into the mountains again, and past some tiered farms, apparently quite common in these parts, we jumped into the minibuses and headed back to Beirut via a fantastic ice cream shop. I love the style of these people!
Home and showered, we headed out again, this time to a bar called Time Out, that we didn't quite know whether was part of the famous Time Out brand or not. Having sampled it, we are none the wiser. In an old Lebanese house in a quiet Achrafieh street, furnished with comfy sofas, we arrived at 8pm to find ourselves the only people there, save the owner and a cat (a much more healthy looking beast than our own dear Nelson). Thirsty, we had some beers, and then as the place slowly filled up, stayed for dinner. Which alas was the worst we had had in Lebanon (particularly the microwaved mini-pizzas), and grossly overpriced. The atmosphere was odd - we couldn't quite figure out what type of people favoured the bar, and at the end, the owner approached us to find out how we had heard about the bar, as it was never advertised, and advised us not to tell our friends about it. Strange...
The next day started with breakfast at Paul, i.e. the French bakery chain. Apparently all the glamorous folk of Beirut breakfast at Paul on Sundays. And us... Very tasty. And then off on our next expedition: Jeita Grotto. These famous caves are nominated to be designated one of the new 7 wonders of the natural world. They were a tad tricky to get to though. Of course the glorious Lebanon public transport system started us off nicely. As we approached the main road, a minibus immediately drew up and agreed to take us to the highway turn off, from which point we could take a taxi (they also obligingly offered to take us the whole way, but for more money than we wanted to pay). One minibus and a taxi into the hills later, we found ourselves at an incongruously Disney-esque tourist attraction. It started by us taking a cable car up a small hill, which was quite pleasingly picturesque, if not especially necessary. Then the Upper Cave. This massive cave is absolutely full of beautiful stalactite and stalacmite formations in pinks and yellows. They have a nicely designed walkway, along which we wandered slowly, admiring the sight. And then it was down to the Lower Cave, which has an underground lake, so it is explored by a fairly brief boat trip. Apart from the rather long queue for the boat, and children screaming to enjoy the sounds of the echo, it was a magical experience, floating down into the amazing cave and imagining being the first person to discover it.
After the caves, we took a taxi and minibus back to Beirut and indecisively tried a few places for lunch, before choosing one in Gemmayzeh that was not very good. Feeling disgruntled, we couldn't figure out what to do, until we realised we were mainly sad at the thought of leaving Lebanon. Mollybolt came up with the good idea of taking a service taxi back to the Corniche. We settled ourselves in the pretty seaside restaurant that we'd found on our first day in Beirut and had mint lemonade and hummous and gazed out at the sun dancing on the sparkling blue sea and tried to preserve it in our minds for our return to the greyness of London. Wondering how to keep ourselves cheery, we called the glorious Mayass Restaurant, where we had had our most beautiful meal in Lebanon, and convinced them to squeeze us in for our last supper. After a last stroll down the Corniche in the sunshine, and popping home to change, we took yet another service taxi to the restaurant and enjoyed a glorious meal. Albeit an overly extravagant one. The lovely staff kept recommending dishes, and we felt powerless to decline. They were all fantastic. By the time we had finished, we could barely breathe from being so full. And lamented that this holiday has likely done nothing for our diets... Resting between mouthfuls, we were interested to overhear a conversation between a gay-looking man and a waiter, which sounded rather as though they were discussing the location of a gay venue. Or maybe not, but if so, this was the first sign of anything gay in Lebanon...
After finally having to admit defeat with the beautiful but massive dinner, we walked down the hill to Gemmayzeh, and, having rapidly rejected our plan of trying the reputedly exclusive cocktail lounge called Behind the Green Door, due to the clientele looking like ladies of the night, we found a really lovely little bar called Gem where we had some excellent cocktails. And a barman tried to pick me up, haha!
After drinks we reluctantly headed back to our hotel, along Rue Gouraud, feeling sentimental about the area and really hating to say goodbye.
When we woke up this morning, the brilliant blue sky taunted us as we sadly packed our bags, caught a taxi, and headed back to London.
Next morning bright and early found us lugging our suitcases down the hill from posh Achrafiye to less posh but more quirky Gemmayzeh, the neighbourhood of our rather less posh hotel, the Port View Hotel. En route I managed to slip down the hill and twist my ankle. We found the hotel (further along Rue Gouraud than one expects!), dropped off our suitcases into the care of an obliging manager, grabbed some breakfast (accidentally chose a pub that looked like a café on Rue Gouraud) and hopped in a service taxi to the Cola roundabout, transport hub to most places in Lebanon, it seemed. I spent the ride convulsed in silent backseat laughter as poor Mollybolt, in the front seat, was subjected to a barrage of declarations of love and hand kissing from the driver until finally Mollybolt, rather severely, started enquiring after his wife and children...
At the Cola roundabout our cry of 'Zahle' led us to be immediately ushered onto a little minibus with a range of other passengers including police, tourists, and mountain dwellers. Off we went slowly out of the city (traffic in Beirut is shocking) and finally onto the open road of the Chouf Mountains. Great to see some mountain scenery, with snow in the distance and the air becoming fresher. Eventually we arrived in Zahle, a Christian mountain town in the Bekaa Valley, paid our 4000L each, hopped off the bus, and caught a taxi to our hotel (the Lonely Planet guidebook’s promise of it being 1km from the highway was an underestimation!).
Having checked into Hotel AKL, we walked up the side of the river to Zahle's main draw, the Birdawni Cafes, riverside cafes known to have the best mezze in Lebanon. We rounded the corner to find that they were all closed with builders doing significant works to the place. Oh dear. Ah, but wait: one of them was open after all! Okay, so they may not have been expecting to have to cater, but they smiled at our pleas and before we knew it, waiters were rushing from inside to set out a beautifully laid table by the river, with the clanging of workmen above us. The sun shone and we feasted on some fantastic hummous (the best we had in Lebanon), vine leaves and Lebanese cheese, washed down with some local wine. And only felt a little bit odd in this otherwise deserted riverside area... It must be lovely later in the season.
After lunch, we caught a service taxi to the Ksara Winery, one of Bekaa Valley's biggest wine exporters. Ksara wines had featured on every wine list we'd seen in Lebanon so we were intrigued. We were directed to a video about the 150 year history of wine making in Ksara, followed by a wine tasting at an odd little bar. We favoured the Blanc de Blanc. After the tasting came a tour of the wine caves, huge lengths of cool caves lined by barrels full of wine. And piped Elton John muzak... Fun. After the tour, and walking past the 'Sauvignon blanc garden' etc, we caught a shared service taxi back into town.
Later, I went back to rest in the Hotel AKL room, which was basic and pleasant, with a river view, but had become rather chilly... while Mollybolt went to find a pharmacy to buy me an ankle support bandage. Mission accomplished and bandage in situ, we gazed around and eventually returned to the same restaurant that we had been in for lunch. Again we were the only guests, though in the chilly evening we settled ourselves inside with a nice bottle of Ksara Blanc de Blanc and a large pile of excellent mezze. As the evening wore on, the power cuts started, and as there were clearly to be no other guests, the waiters plied us with random food (including strawberries: mmm) and supplied a giant bag of ice for my ankle. I sat with my foot on a dining room chair covered with ice and we all watched part of a Meg Ryan film before we decided it was time to head home to bed.
The lovely woman at Hotel AKL told us smilingly that she had put on the heater in our room. 'Thank goodness!' we thought (it’s significantly colder in the mountains, especially at night!), until we entered the room... With no sense of smell, I sat down in happy oblivion, while Mollybolt incomprehensibly flung open all the windows. Apparently our heater had filled the whole room with gas! We turned it off and I spent the night waking up regularly to make sure we were both still alive.
This morning, after breakfasting in a Wooden Bakery (a nice Lebanese chain), we hopped on another minibus, this time to Baalbeck, a site of ruins dating back to the 3rd millenium BC and one of the most important ruins of the middle east. Rather misguidedly, we checked into a mad hotel called the Palmyra, which exudes faded glamour (Lonely Planet says 'One of the most wonderful colonial era relics dotting the Middle East') and is in fact rather run down. A bit like the Addams Family, complete with a Lurch-esque butler who checked us in for $84, which seemed expensive for what we got. We debated checking in elsewhere but lost our nerve and went out to find lunch.
Baalbeck is a small town with limited lunch options. We found a random little garden, en route to the spring, where people seemed to be eating, and stationed ourselves at a table. Eventually a man came and offered to bring us food. It did seem to be a restaurant, and certainly we did receive the food, which was delicious. But we couldn't help fearing we were sitting in somebody's garden! Nevertheless, the sun shone, and we basked with our books.
And so to the main Baalbek attraction: the ruins. These ruins date back to the 3rd millenium BC but most are Roman, and quite a fantastic example of them. Lots of temples were almost intact, with massive towering columns, and bright courtyards. We were able to climb amongst the ruins as we chose, which was lovely, and they were almost deserted, as day trippers tend to be there earlier in the day. As we lay on huge slabs of stone, gazing up at the brilliant blue sky, we decided we really must go on holiday more often...
After the ruins we sat in a little outside cafe where Mollybolt had beer, I had ice cream, we wrote postcards, and considered our evening options. It seemed that Baalbek was not a bustling metropolis. Indeed, our rather mad hotel, which is supposed to have a restaurant, informed us that it was closed. On further questioning regarding where we might find a bite to eat, a vague muttering about a restaurant on the sixth floor of a shopping centre in a souq was offered. We retired to our room to plan. However our room was so very cold that our intention of a relaxing read was terminated by shivering, so we crept down the dark, marble hallways and staircases to the 'snug bar'. If anything was less aptly named, I would not like to see it. The snug bar was in darkness, but when we asked if it was open, a sinister, silent butler type man slowly turned on the lights. We sat down, alone, on a hard bench, and ordered beers. The butler plodded slowly off and eventually returned with the beers on a tray. Having given them to us, he vanished, leaving us in silence. Soon we reverted to a game of 'I Spy' to keep our spirits up. Having polished off the beers, we elected to skip a next round and proceed, at rather an early hour, to the mythical restuarant on the sixth floor...
A little hunting around the souq and it seemed as though the restaurant was not to be found. Then Mollybolt spotted a sign. We followed the signs into a weird and darkened shopping mall, and to a lift that looked as though it had not worked for a hundred years. We tried to retreat to the stairs, but as we mounted, a random man halted us and ushered us helpfully back to the lift. Under his enthusiastic gaze, we pressed the button and eventually it arrived.
Six floors later and we arrived in a neon-lit, deserted restaurant-giftshop. We gazed around, dazed, and were soon ushered to a table by a lonely waiter. Our table was next to the window with a fantastic view over the ruins, which were rather tastefully lit in the dark. We ordered our usual mezze and Blanc de Blanc wine, and tried desperately to spin it out. Alas, there is only so long that one can munch on hummous and vine leaves to the sound of silence punctuated by an Arabic soap opera involving lots of guns and melodrama. Try as we might, we had finished by 8:30pm and braved the clattering lift back to street level, where no further entertainment presented itself. On our return to the hotel, the 'snug bar' was in eerie darkness, and we proceeded to our room. As Mollybolt clutched the bannister to climb the stairs, it came away in her hand and she crashed against the marble stairs. Two silent and sinister butlers gazed on, dispassionately, as she clutched her elbow in pain. The one plodded off into the darkness and returned with a frozen water bottle. We grabbed it and fled to the sanctuary of our room. Which was still freezing. I called one of the butlers to help us with the mad gas burner, similar to the previous hotel's, except with the flaw that it didn't seem to work at all. After much fiddling with it, the butler disappeared, only to return with an electric heater. Phew! We procured a glass of wine to distract Mollybolt from the pain and then settled down to read. When I turned to ask Mollybolt something at 9:15, I realised she was asleep. I persevered with my book for another 10 minutes, and turned off the light myself. A happening night in downtown Baalbek...
The next day was lovely and sunny and we returned to the pretty grassy location of our new favourite cafe where we had orange juice and falafel sandwiches and planned our return to Beirut. One of the glorious things about Lebanon is that wherever you want to go, there is no waiting around for transportation. After a potter in the internet cafe, we walked up to the main road, proclaimed 'Beirut' and within 30 seconds we were in a bus going to Beirut.
(trip report written by scotsgirl and mollybolt)
Gazing out of the aeroplane window as we approached Beirut International Airport, Mollybolt reading her book with the relaxed expression of one who does not specifically seek out worries, I gazed at the sea below and thought 'my goodness, we're flying so low we're about to land in the sea!' Nobody else seemed overly concerned and then just as our wheels were essentially skimming the waves, a runway appeared out of nowhere, and we landed safely. On to the airport, where we had heard that whether or not British people required a visa or not, or had to pay for it or not, depended on the whim of the day. As we were waved through passport control with a quick stamp of our passports, we lamented the lack of new, fancy visa in our passport, but grabbed our luggage and headed for the taxi ranks. Where we encountered our first experience of haggling, Lebanon style. I'd been told that a taxi should cost about $25, so when the first man said '$40!', I replied "No, $20!", with which he said 'okay' and proceeded to convey us to our hotel, The Albergo in Achrafieh.
My goodness our hotel is fantastic. Feeling extravagant and in desperate need of a bit of relaxing luxury after an extremely difficult few months at work, Mollybolt had over-ridden my miserly tendencies and booked into the glorious Hotel Albergo, Lebanon's top boutique hotel. In an old French mansion, in the posh end of town surrounded by beautiful architecture and fancy restaurants and bars, Hotel Albergo oozes olde-world style. We were shown to our suite, with giant four poster bed with lace canopy, multiple sofas, and fab bathroom complete with jacuzzi bath, decorated in impeccable 19th century French style, made perfect when a man delivered a giant fruit bowl, turkish delights, and fruit juice on a big silver platter, compliments of the hotel.
We changed and headed out to Abdel Wahab el Inglezi restaurant in a pretty old building, filled with Lebanese people, which we took as a good sign. We gorged ourselves with hummous and suchlike delights, before heading back to our room for a drink in our living room, a read of the March edition of Time Out Beirut, and a much-dreamed-of early night. As we climbed into bed we found they had put two tiny chocolate macaroons by our bed, on a little saucer that proclaimed 'bon nuit' and an envelope with a letter informing us of the clocks going forward that night. I was very concerned about how I would convince Mollybolt to a cheaper and less glorious hotel later in our holiday...
We woke up after a fantastic sleep and headed for nearby Tribeca cafe for breakfast bagels. We then set off on an explore of the city. From our own fancy French area, Achrafieh, we walked down the hill to Martyrs’ Square, near the port, and got tangled up in the finishing post for a 111km race from Damascus to Beirut. Onwards to downtown, an area which was rebuilt after the war, and is all wide streets and fancy shops and outside restaurants. There is something excellent about most shops being closed on Sundays. Families wandered around the streets, blowing bubbles, riding bikes, and flying kites in the sun around the central Place l’Etoile, lined with lovely outdoor cafes and restaurants.
We kept walking onwards to Hamra, the more Arabic-feeling arty, intellectual quarter, where there are a clump of universities. Much older and less expensive, I'm not sure we quite bonded with it, but walked through to the Corniche, a lovely promenade by the sea frequented by Beirut residents. We strolled along with everyone else, and dined in a great outside restaurant right next to the sea. Fantastic hummous again. I love food here! Afterwards I lured Mollybolt to Luna Park, the adjacent, somewhat run down fairground which has a ferris wheel which always excites me. I dragged Mollybolt across the somewhat deserted ground to the wheel and before we knew it, we were soaring above Beirut. This was a bad moment for us both to remember we are a tad scared of ferris wheels... but the view was good and we were very entertained if somewhat alarmed. By the time we got off, we'd started a trend and the locals poured onto the wheel.
We walked onwards along the Corniche to the famous Pigeon Rocks, essentially some big rocks in the sea. We were not as overwhelmed as we had hoped, so headed inland, back to Hamra and a cool arty cafe identified in the Hedonists’ Guide to Beirut guidebook, the lovely De Prague Café. Here was a true rival for Bean Scene (of Scotland) and Grey Dog (of NYC) - a cool place to hang out, read, and while away a few hours whilst sipping a beer or nibbling a cake. Or indeed two chocolate biscuit cakes in Ms_scotsgirl's case...
Fully sated, we returned to our marvellous hotel, and then to dinner, at the lovely Mayass restaurant, one of Beirut's best, according to our trusty Hedonists’ Guide. We persuaded them to squeeze us in despite our lack of reservation and we contemplated the menu. Originally they'd said we'd need to vacate the table by 9 (no hardship given our current inclination for sleeping at least 11 hours), but once we'd ordered the most expensive bottle of wine on the menu and amazed them by our water drinking capacity (my view being that a large bottle of water is a challenge) and (presumably) winning ways, they weakened and said we could keep it till 9.30. Of course this meant that our indulgence with the mezze (hummous, vine leaves and halloumi obviously, but also a nice Armenian salad (strange but true) and an amazing baked feta dish) meant I was uncertain about dessert. Fortunately Ms_scotsgirl had no such qualms and tucked into a strawberry and cream dish (in fact, pure cream and 8 strawberries), whilst I had another glass of wine. The restaurant manager approved of my choice, though presumably less so when I told him that he and I were "on the same page", a colloquialism which, in retrospect, I realise may have been a little challenging. Whilst having our dessert and wine, a lovely Armenian guitar player seranaded diners with a selection of songs from local folk to Sinatra's Fly Me to the Moon. We were sent on our way with "candyfloss for the road" (which in fact turned out to be boiled sweeties, which were very nice) and Ms_scotsgirl congratulated me on my excellent choice of dining establishment. I was smug.
I was, however, less smug when I failed to find the Time Out bar recommended by the guidebook - which I had suggested we visit for a nightcap. On the other hand, I persuaded myself and (I think) Ms_scotsgirl, that in fact the stroll was even nicer than a drink would have been and we made our way back for another long sleep in our fabulous four-poster bed.
This morning we sprang out of bed (well Ms_scotsgirl did - I sadly seem to have been crippled by yesterday's walking and am most stiff) and went to Tribeca, for a bagel and coffee. We resolved to stick to Ms_scotsgirl's original plan of heading to the ancient town of Byblos (aka Jbail), home of the alphabet.
Being a wuss, I'd originally secretly hoped to persuade Ms_scotsgirl into getting a cab. However, when even our fancy hotel told us we should get a service taxi (ie a shared one, costing 2000L each), I resigned myself to this. Having hailed a cab, however, he told us most definitely to get a bus - but obligingly drove us to the bus stop for not much money. The trip turned out to be most pleasant (as well as cheap - 3000L each) and quick (it being an express bus) and after not very long we found ourselves in a random town in Lebanon walking in the wrong direction (Ms_scotsgirl's map reading skills not being what they might be). Having established that a 180 degrees turn was in order, we shortly found ourselves on the tourist trail, much to our disgust and relief. Before tackling the ruins (crusader castle, ancient temples and the like) I felt the need for a light snack in the overpriced café near the entrance to the ruins.
Fortified, we wandered round the ruins. I had a brief moment of enthusiasm for climbing, until Ms_scotsgirl displayed an equal enthusiasm for taking pictures of me clambering ungainly over ancient bits of temple / ancient ampitheatres. It was all very nice, though there were a few too many tourists (even if not western) for our taste.
From there we went for our second lunch, in a cafe overlooking the harbour. We nibbled vast amounts of tabbouleh, and read our books and I felt very pleased to be here.
Heading home, a local bus hailed us to ask if we were going to Beirut. On learning we were, he insisted we get in. Alas this bus turned out to be very far from express. However, the slower pace was enjoyable (for the first hour or so), coasting along by the sea, with the windows open and only locals on the bus. And a bargain 2000L. We precipiously launched ourselves off the bus, having seen signs for Achrafieh, which is where our hotel is. Finding ourselves completely lost at the bottom of a steep hill, some local men took pity on us, and found us a service taxi which took us home.
From there, we went to the Albergo’s rooftop bar for some pre-dinner drinks on our last night in this very very lovely hotel. Sipping a gin and tonic, and listening to the call to prayer, it all felt very wonderful. And for a final piece of luxury: dinner in Al Dente, one of Beirut's fanciest restaurants, attached to the Hotel. With some risotto to die for, and an amazing chocolate dessert, accompanied by much wine, we soaked up the decadence of the holiday.
Known as Heliopolis - City of the Sun - in the Graeco-Roman world, Baalbek possesses the most magnificent temple complex ever built by Rome. The town's Acropolis lies dramatically at the edge of the fertile Beqaa Valley and the foothills of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains. During Roman times, Baalbek was a centre of Roman religion, luring many pilgrims by its extravagant temples dedicated to Jupiter, Bacchus, Mercury and Venus. As Christianity later swept the empire, Roman attempts to extinguish paganism resulted in the first of many waves of destruction to befall the temples of Baalbek. The arrival of Islam, earthquakes and many foreign invasions led to further destruction. The Moslems, who restored the city's Semitic name, later turned the Acropolis into a fortified castle and, thus, inadvertently preserved significant sections of the Acropolis. It was not until 1898 that Baalbek regained international attention and the focus of archaeologists who worked hard to restore the ancient ruins of Baalbek. The size of the Acropolis, its temples, and their state of preservation make Baalbek one of the best Roman cities around. If you have time to visit only one location outside Beirut, then you must choose Baalbek.
The capital of Lebanon and the gateway to the country, Beirut once was - and arguably is back as - the Paris of the Middle East. Practically obliterated by the civil war and Israeli invasions, Beirut is now doing what it does best: forgetting, rebuilding and reinventing itself, while the populace continues to party and live a decadent life. The beautiful city struggles with identity, but is undoubtedly much more European in character than the rest of country and the whole of the Middle East, yet it constitutes the heart of Lebanon. It is trilingual (Arabic, French and English) and multi-cultural. It amplifies all of the contradictions of Lebanon and the entire region, being wealthy and poor, opulent and rundown, modern and old, liberal and traditional, European and Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Arab, secular and religious, Moslem and Christian, be it Sunni or Shiite, Catholic or Orthodox. For a visitor, Beirut offers superb restaurants, amazing nightlife, excellent shopping and hotels of all ranges. Many who visit Lebanon choose to stay in Beirut and travel around the country during the day. Lebanon is relatively small, and from Beirut, which is centrally located, one could reach all of the country's borders within two hours of driving. For more on this astonishing city, check out my Beirut page.
A pretty Mediterranean resort town 30 minutes north of Beirut in the Mont-Liban governorate, Byblos, or Jbail in Arabic, sits atop 7000 years of history. It claims to be the longest continuously inhabited settlement in the world, and its archaeological site is the living proof with traces of nearly every passing civilisation or conqueror, from Phoenicians to the French, passing by Romans and Ottomans, among others. Beyond archaeology, Byblos itself is a charming town with a preserved mediaeval character consisting of stone architecture, red-tiled roofs and arched passageways, all within sight of Roman columns and Byzantine mosaics. The ancient harbour is perfect for an afternoon stroll and a drink or a meal at one of its outdoor seafood restaurants, and you may come across photographic reminders of the glamorous years of the 1960s, when celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Brigitte Bardot and Marlon Brando are known to have visited Byblos.
For more, check out my Byblos page.
Bcharré lies at the top of Qadisha Valley in the Northern Lebanese mountains in the Liban-Nord province. It is a beautiful Christian Maronite town with breathtaking views of the snowy mountains above and the green valley below. Bcharré is famous for being the birthplace of Khalil Gibran, to whom a museum is dedicated. It also lies just below el Arz (les Cèdres), the ski village next to the protected cedar forest of Mont Liban.
More Regions in Lebanon