My Love Affair With Byblos

There are certain places that, no matter how many times you visit, never seize to amaze you. Byblos is one of those places for me. It was certainly love at first sight for me and Byblos and every time I go there I fall in love all over again. I call it my happy place, my sanctuary. There’s something about it, a sort of magical aura that’s sure to leave a mark on you, which isn’t surprising considering it’s the second oldest continuously inhabited city in the world (Telegraph).

Located 40km north of the Lebanese capital, this picturesque Mediterranean port town is the perfect combination of history and modernity. Whether you’re looking for a getaway from the city or a simple break from reality, Byblos is for you. Go for a ride on one of the fisherman boats nestled along the harbor. Take a stroll throught the ancient cobblestone souks adorned with beautiful souvenir shops. Discover the Roman ruins and Crusador citadel. Have a meal at one of the charming restaurants. And if at the end of the day you’re still buzzing, stick around till it gets dark and watch the pubs come to life.

Old Souk

Old souk – Image via Lebanon Guide

The port

The port – Image via Friends Choices

eCafe

eCafe – Image via Edde Yard

Crusader Citadel

Crusader Citadel – Image via Wiki GOGO

Young or old, Byblos has something for everyone. I’m so lucky to have this gem in my country and be able to go whenever I want. It’s definitely a must-see for anyone visiting Lebanon.

Do you have a happy place? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear about it.

Advertisements

7 Days in Beirut

I recently had my cousins from Australia over in Beirut for a visit. Seeing as though it was their first trip to the “Paris of the Middle East”, I was more than happy to formulate an itinerary for their 1 week stay. Nothing like a local to show you around, eh? The following is a recommended 7-day itinerary for Beirut, Lebanon. Despite the tense security situation, this city has a lot to offer if you know where to go. With its rich history and culture that blends East & West, along with its buzzing nightlife and friendly citizens, Beirut is one city you won’t regret visiting.

How to get around: The public transportation system in Lebanon isn’t that great, so if you don’t have relatives or friends to drive you around I suggest you take company cabs which are more expensive but a lot more reliable than the random service taxi’s you’ll see on the streets. (Warning: the driving in Lebanon is a little crazy, the road rules are close to none so buckle up.)

Where to stay: There are so many accommodation options in Beirut if you don’t have family or friends to stay with. Depending on your preferences and budget you shouldn’t have trouble finding a place to stay if you do some research beforehand.

Day 1 [Monday]

Arrive in Beirut, go for a walk through the downtown area to see Parliament Square and the Roman ruins. Do some shopping at Beirut Souks followed by dinner at Classic Burger Joint (one of the best, if not the best, burger place in Beirut.)

Day 2 [Tuesday]

Go to PAUL restaurant in the suburb of Gemmayze for a nice French brunch, then head to Bonita Bay in Batroun for a relaxing day by the sea (Note: if you’re not a fan of pebbly beaches go to Jbeil aka Byblos instead where the coastline is sandy.) When you’ve had enough sun, go for a late afternoon stroll through the old port & old souk of Byblos where you’ll find plenty of Roman ruins. Have dinner at E café in Byblos, they offer a wide selection of steaks as well as Italian cuisine.

Day 3 [Wednesday]

Traditional Lebanese saj breakfast at a Zaatar w Zeit branch (Order the labneh sandwich, it is to die for) Make your way to Jounieh and catch a cable car up the mountain to the Our Lady of Lebanon Church for some breathtaking views of Jounieh Bay, then take the cable car back down and have lunch at Margherita Mare in the old souk of Jounieh, my favourite Italian restaurant. After lunch head to Jeita Grotto, a nominee for the 7 Natural Wonders of the World [Note: The place closes at 5pm but I always recommend doing this activity in the afternoon to skip the long queues and crowds of tourists] For dinner, grab a falafel to go from Arax in Bourj Hammoud before going clubbing at White Club (Note: This club is strictly 21+ and on Wednesday’s they only play R&B music, so if you’re not into that music you’re better off going there on a weekend.)

Day 4 [Thursday]

Go for a morning walk along the corniche in Raouche and catch a glimpse of the ginormous Pigeon Rock, one of Beirut’s icons. From there go to ABC Mall in Ashrafieh for some midday shopping [Note: if you’re a fan of sushi, OBI restaurant at the mall does all you can eat for 28 U.S dollars on Thursdays.] For a nice Lebanese dinner, head up to Mounir restaurant in the mountain town of Broummana, one of the most famous Lebanese restaurants. However, if you’d prefer to stay in Beirut you can go to Al Falamanki in Monot, a traditional Lebanese café famous for its chill atmosphere.

Day 5 [Friday]

Take a roadtrip to the Bekaa Valley for some wine tasting at the Ksara vineyard in the town of Zahle. Have lunch at the Berdawni in Zahle followed by a visit to Baalbak, one of the most well-preserved Roman ruin site in the world. Head back to Beirut just in time for sunset dinner and drinks at Iris Rooftop bar in the city [Note: A live band plays here on Fridays.]

Day 6 [Saturday]

Have breakfast at Bar Tartine in the Mar Mikhael district then take another roadtrip, this time to the Chouf area to see the spectacular old Beiteddine Palace, the official summer residence of the Lebanese President. While you’re in the Chouf check out the Baakline waterfall where you can enjoy a nice picnic or lunch at one of the restaurants. Head back to Beirut and have dinner at Zeitounay Bay, followed by drinks at one of the pubs on Uruguay Street. If you’re still buzzing afterwards, head to the Train Station in Mar Mikhael (the name speaks for itself – a rundown train station turned outdoor bar, the latest addition to the Beirut nightlife scene.)

Day 7 [Sunday]

Head to Rikky’z restaurant located in the mountain town of Faraya for a massive barbecue party. For 66 U.S dollars you can eat & drink all you like while a DJ plays the latest hits all afternoon. (Note: Rikky’z only does barbecues on Sundays and reservations at least 1 week in advance are recommended.)

P.s: This itinerary is ideal during the summer months and for those aged 18+ who aren’t on a budget. I’ve only included 3 breakfast options because I’ve assumed you’ll be having breakfast at your hotel. Also, I haven’t included the North & South of Lebanon on this itinerary but if you’re interested you should definitely check them out.


Some useful tips:

– Two currencies are accepted in Lebanon, the Lebanese Lira and the U.S Dollar.

– The majority of the Lebanese population is trilingual. Most people can speak English, Arabic, and French so don’t stress about the language barrier.

– Everything opens late in Lebanon whether it be shopping malls, restaurants, or clubs so take advantage of it.

– Most beaches are actually private beach resorts since there are very few public beaches in Beirut or Lebanon in general. You can access any beach resort for a fee yet keep in mind that some are cleaner, nicer, and cheaper than others. I personally prefer going to the beaches in Batroun because the water is crystal clear, it’s less crowded and entrance is cheap but the resorts in Jbeil or Damour are great too. [Note: on weekdays the entrance fee to beach resorts is cheaper than on the weekend yet on weekends many resorts throw huge beach parties.]

– Not that I want to promote laziness, but you can get almost anything delivered in Lebanon whether it be fast food, groceries, even shisha!

– If you’re going clubbing or pubbing in a group, its best to reserve a table beforehand. But if you’re only 2 or 3 people head to the pub/club early and grab some seats on the bar.

– Tipping is a regular aspect of Lebanese life since the minimum wage here is pretty low. A 10% tip at restaurants is appreciated but not obligatory.

– During the Ramadan season the nightlife scene in Lebanon dies down a bit. If you are in Lebanon during Ramadan though, it’s best to go clubbing/pubbing on the weekend or on theme nights like R&B Wednesdays at White Club.

If you liked this post, you might also like: 7 Days in London

Sea Therapy

Ever since I was a kid I was always fascinated with the sea. Building a stable sand castle seemed like the biggest mission during my childhood and collecting sea shells was a passion. The salty odor, sound of crashing waves, sunshine in my hair, there’s something about that vast deep blue space that has never failed to bring me serenity and happiness.

CIMG2298

Somewhere on the Mediterranean

I’m so lucky to live in a country enclosed by water, where at any given moment from almost any location you can somehow catch a glimpse of the sea.

“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”