As already assumed before, yes I did it again - a weekend trip to my beloved city. This time it was a pre-birthday trip with my friends from Dubai on the occasion of my up-coming 40ies birthday - so now I have also revealed that I have broken the magic number. But I thought I have to celebrate as if it was my 18ies birthday and in which city I could have done that better than in Beirut. Of course I had to pass by some of my all time favorites as Zeitounay Bay or Byblos, but we also explored some new venues and places. So if you wanna know about the Beirut/Lebanon basics you have to read my first blog about this destination, but if you are already a Beirut Pro and need some up-dates below is for you.
As always when I am in Beirut we stayed at the Warwick Palm Beach Hotel (www.m.warwickhotels.com/palm-beach), which also did not disappoint this time (more about the hotel in my first blog).
We also followed my tradition of an initial relaxed lunch in Zeitounay Bay - this time at the well-known Babel Restaurant (www.babelrestaurant.com). Fish is here the main player - but also their starters and salads are purely delicious and super fresh. Alone the oven warm bread is to die for and the complimentary fruits and sweet plate at the end is so huge that it stands for the high standards of this restaurant. If you wanna come for lunch at weekends or for dinner at any day a reservation is highly recommended.
As all of us were in Beirut before we skipped the sightseeing of the Old Town and had some siesta at the swimming pool to gain new energy for the night - and as we only came home with the sunrise that was a wise decision :-)
Later we started the night at the Junkyard (www.junkyardbeirut.com) in the Mar Mikhael neighborhood - which is actually not a new place, but my first time there. It is hidden away in a residential backyard and already the approach to the rooftop bar is pretty cool as you can use an old material lift to ascend. As it still was during Ramadan time the place was pretty quiet and the ground floor restaurant and bar was completely closed. But the rooftop had a nice urban industrial feel. As we had the choice we positioned us right at the bar at the source of the delicious cocktails and modern mixology drinks. As the barkeepers had not much to do that night we got their full attention and benefited from their creative cocktails that they did for us. Food was pretty average for Beirut standards, but considering that we just wanted to have some fingerfood to equalize our alcohol level it was ok.
Afterwards we tried out another of the countless bars of Mar Mikhael - the FABRK, which is one of the many rooftop bars of Beirut with a lounge atmosphere and urban chic - nice place to have drinks with friends.
And as in so many of my previous Beirut nights - of course we ended up in B018 (www.b018.com)- the legendary underground Techno Club that I have written about before.
No secret that we all woke up with some hang-over the next day and best to kill it with some freshly baked Manakish (sort of flatbread with toppings) and Labneh (yoghurt drink) from one of the small bakeries that you find all over the city. This morning the bakerman surprised me with his very good German :-) afterwards he told me that he has lived for many years in Bonn.
Back into life we decided to take a taxi down south to Damour (around 40 USD/ one way) to the IRIS BEACH CLUB (www.irisbeach.com) that has opened there the previous year. Once again because of Ramadan it was quite empty and we had the full choice of sunbeds for us, entrance charge is 30 USD pp. But if you come here in the season you will find that place full with a party crowd. You can spend pretty much the whole day sunbathing, splashing in the pool with chilled drinks on hand and listening to the sounds of the resident DJ admiring the sea in front of you. With the backdrop of the mountains and surrounding banana plantations - that place is perfect for a chilled afternoon enjoying good drinks and food. Like in all this kind of places in Beirut prices are pretty steep - but hey we only live once :-) Nice to stay here until sunset.
From all the drinks and the sun in the afternoon we first needed a nap before we were hitting the night again. This time we started with drinks at my long time favorite IRIS rooftop bar (www.irisbeirut.com) in the center, on top of Al Naher building. This year they have redesigned the terrace and I thought that it created more space and gave a more ample feeling. Drinks and atmosphere was fantastic as usual same as the night views over Beirut. If the Iris Beach version is too far for you - this place is also a great place to enjoy a sunset.
Afterwards we checked out one of the to-be-places this summer in terms of clubbing - Caprice at the seaside road in Daoura (www.capricebeirut.com). Top DJ's, top crowd and top atmosphere to dance the night away.
And then of course last but not least B018 again, but just because it was on the way home :-) so our beds only saw us at sunrise.
Oh yes and we had some delicious Shawarma en route - Beirut street food is simple and delicious. The friendly taxi driver brought us to a good place - however that was the only nice taxi driver of this trip. I already mentioned it in my previous Blog that Beirut taxi drivers are crazy, but on this trip I think they have climbed the ladder to insane. One driver seriously wanted to charge us for a trip of few kilometers that is a maximum of 10 USD funky 40 USD - no words for that - just as an advice never go with a taxi before fixing the price and make sure that you have the correct change or otherwise you will loose out.
After a late wake up we met the driver that we had arranged for the day for some sightseeing - so that people can't say we are only party animals. We decided after all that clubbing that we are up for some fresh air and therefore drove up high in the mountains to Farayah, which is mainly popular in winter times for its skiing slopes and resorts that have almost the feel of Austria or Switzerland. Lebanon is one of the few destinations where you can ski on a winter morning and afterwards have a swim in the sea. During summer it looks a bit abandoned but the cool breeze and peaceful environment was a nice contrast to the busy Beirut city life. We enjoyed a rustic lunch at one of the mountain restaurants, before we took the scenic drive back to the city.
As in most of my visits to Lebanon I need at least one night in the picturesque village of Byblos. It is just beside Beirut, but has a different vibe and relaxed Mediterranean atmosphere.
The hotel where I usually stay was already fully booked, therefore we decided to stay at the Victory Byblos (www.victorybybloshotel.com), which is a small family runned hotel 5 minutes drive away from the old town. The hotel is nothing special but good for a short stay and has rooms with sea view and balcony. It also offers vouchers for discounted beach entrance fees to some of the nearby beach hotels.
Be aware that beside the hotel is a popular wedding hall - so in the season it can be quite noisy over there if you wish to sleep early - however that would be anyway a waste of time in Lebanon :-)
During our night in Byblos we had a fantastic dinner in the Fishing Harbour @ Chez Pepe - my 3rd time there and still so good and great ambiance on top of the historic city walls.
Also not to be missed while in Byblos is a drink in one of the bars and pubs in the Old Bazar. My favorite here is Orbion, nice crowd and good music. Exactly the vibe that I love so much in Byblos and which is very different from the styled clubs in Beirut.
Opposite Orbion you can find a small market for handcrafts and paintings, which is open until late. It's worth to have a look there at the pictures of the artist Andre Kalfayan (www.andrekalfayan.com), who captured typical local scenes from Byblos in his beautiful paintings. For sure a very special memory to bring back home.
The next day was also our last day and as the long nights have taken their toll we decided just to relax at the beach before we were flying out at night. Until now I really liked Edde Sands Beach Club in Byblos, which was in a walking distance from our hotel (30 USD entrance charge pp). However this time I was quite disappointed - the resort itself and the garden with its pool and flowers is still beautiful. But what was once a cool beach club with a good party crowd, has now changed into a kids and family club. And it was crazy overcrowded, impossible to find sunbeds on the beach or pool. You can pay more for the VIP section at the beach or the special VIP pool that is a bit more in style and with a DJ, but is still lacking the same cool atmosphere from before. So next time I will check out some new alternative........
So once again I had an amazing time in my beloved Lebanon - with my great friends, met new people and saw nice places. Food was as always outstanding and my friends were impressed as well. I really want to put my mission further and show this great country to more people as it is still neglected from international tourism and many people have fears to travel there. I can only say that it is a great country including its people and for sure has a great potential in the future. Small country, but a raw jewel.
Lebanon je t'aime and sure I will be back soon!