Lebanon | Beirut


beirut, lebanon, byblosByblos Port.I used to be the kind of person who planned detailed itineraries well in advance of vacations (in addition to being the kind of person who blogged regularly). I would have spreadsheets — spreadsheets! — with tabs listing all possible options for flights, hotels, dive packages, day tours, campervan rentals, you name it.beirut, lebanonAt Beirut Souks.Part of it was the need for “mental vacations” in Kabul — daydreaming about all the wonderful places in the world we could visit and all the fun things we could do. Part of it was just plain, old-fashioned OCD. And then we moved to Amman, where I have a more demanding job coupled with graduate school, and all time for planning and spreadsheet-making went out the window, much to my chagrin.beirut, lebanon, beirut flag, martyrs' squareMartyrs’ Square.That’s how I recently found myself Googling information about Beirut, which Kail and I visited in October. A friend had messaged me asking about our trip, but I couldn’t remember any details about the day trip we took and the sites we visited. I hadn’t even sorted and edited my photos. I have a backlog of travel to write about, including a trip to Jerash from last summer and our monthlong R&R to Singapore, New Zealand and Australia (not to be confused with our previous three-week R&R to Australia, New Zealand and Singapore).beirut, lebanon, teleferique of lebanon, cable car, jounieh, harissaTeleferique of Lebanon.So, three months later, I give you: A Long Weekend in Beirut. We traveled with some friends and were able to catch the short direct flight from Amman to Beirut on a Thursday evening after work and return the following Sunday evening. Three nights was plenty to explore Beirut and hire a driver to take a day trip to nearby tourist sites. We could have organized another trip out of the city to wineries, but decided to relax in town instead.beirut, lebanon, farmers market, souk el tayeb, beirut souksSouk el Tayeb Farmers Market.We stayed at the Radisson Blu Martinez Hotel, which has a great location just a couple blocks from the corniche along the water but is considerably less expensive than neighboring hotels. Beirut is known for its nightlife and club scene, but there are also more laid-back lounges, hipster bars and restaurants on the bay to enjoy a cocktail, beer or brunch. (We went out for drinks at the Four Seasons rooftop terrace until midnight, which was as crazy as we got.)beirut, lebanon, cornicheNo motorbikes, argileh, sitting or picnicking on the corniche.On our first full day, we hired a driver our friends found online to take us sightseeing out of the city. There are a few tourist attractions that are part of a regular day-trip circuit: Jeita Grotto, Byblos and the Teleferique cable car from Jounieh to Harissa. We actually ran into two different groups of people we knew at each stop.beirut, lebanon, harissa, melkite greek catholic basilica of st. paulMelkite Greek Catholic Basilica of St. Paul.The Jeita Grotto is a set of upper and lower limestone caves with huge stalagmites and stalactites — including the world’s largest stalactite, which is 8.2 meters long. The upper caves are toured on foot (no photographs allowed unfortunately) and the lower caves by boat along an underground river.beirut, lebanon, jeita grotto, guardian of timeGuardian of Time statue outside Jeita Grotto.From Jeita we drove to Byblos and had lunch at Pepe Byblos Fishing Club, which has beautiful views of Byblos Port. We were losing steam thanks to a post-lunch food coma, so we opted to skip a tour of the Byblos Citadel and instead wander the Old Souk.beirut, lebanon, byblosThe last stop on our trip was the Teleferique cable car, which climbs from Jounieh Bay over buildings and pine forests to nearly 650 meters above sea level to the Our Lady of Lebanon shrine in Harissa. There are stunning views of Jounieh and the water from the cable car (fear of heights notwithstanding), but the panorama from atop the statue is breathtaking (that’s where my Wordless Wednesday: Beirut photo was taken).beirut, lebanon, teleferique of lebanon, cable car, harissa, our lady of lebanonOur Lady of Lebanon statue.We spent our second full day in Beirut exploring the city itself, mostly by foot. After brunch at a French cafe, we headed to Beirut Souks, an upscale shopping area that boasts designer stores as well as an outdoor farmers market called Souk el Tayebbeirut, lebanon, cornichePartially abandoned building along the corniche.Beirut is a really interesting city in terms of architecture. There are historic buildings sharing blocks with newly constructed, modern developments. All of this is interspersed with haunting reminders of Beirut’s Civil War: bombed out ruins, bullet-ridden statues and half-abandoned buildings on what is probably multimillion-dollar waterfront property.beirut, lebanon, martyrs' square, martyrs' monumentMartyrs’ Square Monument.Our final day in Beirut wasn’t quite a full day, but our flight was in the evening so we had a lot of time. We had brunch on the water at Zaitunay Bay, then walked the corniche, through the American University of Beirut campus and around the Hamra neighborhood before heading back to our hotel. It was a chill trip overall, with little organized activity beyond our one day trip, which was exactly what we wanted for that particular weekend. If we ever travel back to Beirut, we left plenty of other things to see and do.beirut, lebanon, graffiti artSee more photos from Beirut.Do you like to make detailed plans for trips in advance, or play it by ear upon arrival?

Published by La Vie Overseas

I'm Natasha -- writer, runner and wife to a Foreign Service Officer with USAID. Current location: Frankfurt, Germany.

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