Category Archives: Tourism

Villa Clara: Beirut With a French Accent

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A new guesthouse in Mar Mikhail has been featured in the New York Times. Villa Clara Villa is located on Khenchara Street, Mar Mikhael and is a “charming, affordable guesthouse filled with French antiques”. I should pay this place a visit soon and try out the light summer menu.

The tiny boutique hotel, its restaurant and guest rooms stocked with Parisian antiques, opened last year around the corner from an Asterix chicken shack and across the street from its neighborhood boucherie. But this was not Marseille or Lyon, it was the eastern edge of Beirut.

“A Frenchman can easily live in Beirut without feeling displaced,” said Mr. Gougeon, who moved to the Lebanese capital from Paris in 1999, as he sipped local wine in Villa Clara’s leafy backyard after cooking a dinner of crispy-skinned duck confit and old-fashioned île flottante.

For more than a century, through all manner of turmoil, including a 15-year civil war and, more recently, ongoing conflict in neighboring Syria, a distinctly French character has pervaded the city. Much of it is the legacy of the French colonial period — the mandate that lasted from 1920 to 1943 — but a cultural kinship goes back much further than that.

I had come to Beirut to see just how much French influence remains, and discovered an East-West blend more complex and layered than ever. Having left the country for France during particularly troubled times, many affluent Beirutis have returned, bringing with them cravings for Parisian life. A younger generation, meanwhile, has embraced a new hybrid culture — a French, Anglo and Arabic stew — evident in shops and restaurants and trilingual discussions across the city. [NewYorkTimes]

This place is ideal for travelers who are visiting Beirut for few days or a weekend. Rooms are available at $165 with breakfast. You can check out more details on their website [www.villaclara.fr].

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PS: The recommendations for hotels and restaurants mentioned at the article at the end don’t go really with Villa Clara as the hotels are the most expensive in town (Add Four Seasons Hotel to that list) and the restaurants listed are everything but affordable.

Ultimate Lebanon Summer Guide for 2013

If you’re coming to Lebanon next week for Eid then below is my personal recommendation list:

The Gärten by Uberhaus
They’re only open Saturday night from around 8PM to 6AM and it’s my favorite place this summer. It’s an outdoor club that’s open just for 16 weeks with a large green garden filled with bean bags on one side and a huge open dome which is the dance floor on the other. You need to pass by and if you’re flying out on the morning MEA flight just head from The Garten straight to the airport. The place is easy to find, its right at the entrance to Biel (near Skybar). Here’s a video I shot the last time I was there [Here]

Tawlet
This is a very popular and a great Lebanese restaurant. They bring a new chef daily (usually a grandma) from a different part of lebanon to cook home made food. (01-448129)

Radio Beirut
Arguably my favorite pub this summer located in Mar Mikhael. I don’t think I’ve ever sat inside since the sidewalk is where everyone hangs out and drinks.

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Publicity – Jbeil

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Jbeil is the place to be this summer and it’s crowded almost every day of the week. Aside from the Byblos Festivals, the beautiful Souks are attracting a lot of tourists and locals and the newly open Publicity has turned Jbeil into a booming nightlife hub outside Beirut. For those of you who haven’t heard of this place yet, Publicity is a new nightlife venue consisting of 12 Pubs and Restaurants surrounding a big swimming pool with Jacuzzi lounges. There are few pubs with a rooftop while others are on the pool side, and one DJ for the whole place. You can easily get to Publicity by taking a small right turn on the Jbeil highway right after Zaatar wou Zeit.

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We went to a pub called Del Sol which serves Mexican food and has a rooftop. The table we had was really nice and overlooking the pool and the road side. There were few tables with couches and the rest had high chairs (Ours had high chairs), which were really annoying, up to a point that I preferred standing up rather than sitting on them. As far as the service and food are concerned, the waiters and manager were very friendly but a bit unorganized. It wasn’t that bad but we got the food before the drinks, not all of us got plates, we asked for a Vodka bottle and got a small bucket of ice with it (suitable for Arak not a Vodka Bottle) and a small orange glass. As for the food, it was surprisingly good for a pub and I enjoyed it specially the appetizers.

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The music and atmosphere were nice, the pubs were packed by midnight and the party stayed on even after we left which was around 2 am. I was hoping for someone to jump in the pool but it didn’t happen, instead some girl fainted for some reason and everyone regrouped around her but she came out fine.

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Publicity turns during the day into a large pool with Jacuzzi lounges and there’s a large poolside bar for those who want a drink. I haven’t tried it yet but I personally prefer resorts that are on the beach, even though the Jacuzzi lounges are tempting.

If you want to reserve at any of Publicity’s pubs, you can find all the necessary information on their [Facebook Page]. Note that you have to call the pub and not the Publicity number for night reservation.

A “Racist” Lebanese Travels to Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka

The sad part is that the “idiots” the author is talking about are still way too many in Lebanon. You can read the full article [Here].

Sri Lanka is a nationality, not a profession. This should be clear to everyone. However, in Lebanon, the situation is different. A “Sri Lankan,” here, could be from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, or the Philippines. The identity has become a synonym for domestic service workers. In Lebanon, it’s normal to hear someone asking her friend, “Which country is your ‘Sri Lankan’ from?” The question is full of ignorance, even hatred and irrational racism, pointing to a feeling of Lebanese superiority toward the people of Sri Lanka.

Those who ask it are ignorant that there is a full-fledged country called Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon and, in ancient times, Serendipity. It has a civilization which goes further back in time, ages before Christ. Yet the people who live there are reduced by some idiots here to the status of “servant.” Some are unaware that their favorite tea was grown, manufactured, and made famous by that people.

In fact, the issue goes beyond domestic workers. The moniker “Sri Lankan” in Lebanon refers to anything considered “lower.” One often hears Lebanese comparing a woman to a Sri Lankan, as a form of denigration.

Where To Go Hiking In Lebanon?

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Lebanon has a mere 225 km of coast line, much of which is neither free nor clean to enjoy. Compared to this, it has a lifetime of trails and walks to discover that lead through pristine natural landscapes of great diversity, passing through or near small villages and hamlets, rivers, orchards, places of heritage and of course, many local food delicacies. [NowLebanon]

NowLebanon, with the help of CVS (Club Des Vieux Sentiers) and LMT (Lebanese Mountain Trail), compiled a list of summer hikes that you can check [Here].

The Club Des Vieux Sentiers was founded back in 1971 and has been organizing hikes ever since. You don’t have to be a professional to join them as there are several hikes of varying difficulties offered. I’ve never been to any hike yet but I have a friend who goes all the time and uploads the most amazing pictures. The hikes are a great way to discover many parts of Lebanon we haven’t heard of, but more importantly switch off after a long week, meet new people, get some exercise and enjoy nature.

If you are interested in going on one of the CVS’s hikes, check their [Website] and [Facebook Page].

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If you wish to go for something more extreme, you can try to hike the [LMT].

PS: If you don’t know what to bring or wear on a hike, there’s a hiking checklist and tons of information on the LMT website that you can check [Here].

Lebanon tourism pays the price for Syria’s war

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Picture from the 80s night at B018 – Tribute to Michael Jackson

If Lebanon is truly paying the price of Syria’s war, then why is there traffic everywhere I go? Why is traffic increasing on a daily basis from Beirut to Jbeil? Why are all the nightclubs and rooftops packed from Wednesday to Sunday? Why are the beaches packed on weekends?

I know that numbers suggest that Lebanon’s economy is suffering, Arab tourists are not coming and tourism is bad but it honestly doesn’t feel that way wherever I am going lately. This makes me wonder how bad traffic would be if all these tourists were here.

“As soon as you even utter the word ‘weapons’ you’ve killed tourism,” Paul Achkar, head of the Lebanese hotel association, told AFP. “Three hundred tourism establishments have closed down since the start of the year,” he said.
Although confident that the industry will recover, Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud said the figures for the start of the season were pitiable.

“The occupancy rate at hotels in Beirut is barely 35 percent this month, half of the usual at this time of year.
“Outside Beirut, it’s catastrophic. We’re talking about five percent compared to the usual 35 percent,” Abboud told AFP.
The atmosphere in Beirut, dubbed party capital of the Middle East, is not so morose, and Christian areas such as Byblos or Jounieh have also fared better than other areas. [AFP]