This past weekend, C. and I flew to Lebanon to explore the city of Beirut.
We stayed at a fantastic boutique hotel called The Albergo in one of the oldest neighborhoods in the Christian part of Beirut.
Each room in the hotel was uniquely furnished. Here’s a photo of our room. It was so adorable; I didn’t want to leave.But the best part of the hotel was its fantastic garden roof deck. We spent many hours sitting up here, relaxing, and taking in the views of the city.
The caves were massive! First, we took a funicular up to the top of a hill and walked down into one of the large caves to see the stalagmites.
While we were in the cave, though, Beirut had one of its twice daily brown outs (the power there goes out at roughly noon and at 6 pm every day). We had no idea that the brown out was going to occur, and all of a sudden, it was pitch black in the cave!!!!
Luckily, some back up generators came on a few minutes later which allowed us to (barely!) see the ground, and climb our way out. Yikes!
(Note: Unfortunately, you cannot take any photos in the caves, so the photos above are from a quick google search of the Grotte Jeida. )
Later that day, we walked through Beirut, and loved seeing the contrast in the city. For example, as you can see in the photo above, there is a brand new house (that looks fairly French) in the background, next to an older house in the foreground. There were scenes like this throughout the city, which showed us that the Lebanese are putting a lot of time, effort, and money into rebuilding their city after the awful civil war that took place in the country not too long ago.
We had dinner that night on the bustling Rue Gourard, with adorable cafes and bars lining the street. We stopped in at a French cafe to have a quick bite to eat, and felt like we were in Paris again (everyone was speaking French, the food was typical French cafe food…it was great!). Then we popped into a bar along that same street for a late night drink.
First, we visited Beirut’s farmer’s market called Souk el Tayeb. There weren’t many vendors at the market, but those vendors that were there were selling some great looking produce, and some fun, ethnic foods. Of course, we sampled some dumplings (which looked to us like grandma’s pirogues) that were really yummy.
We then visited the City Center, a part of town with lots of upscale shops and restaurants. Then, on our way back from new, pedestrian only city center, we came across this crumbling building with visible bullet holes probably from the Civil War.
Again, you can easily see the contrast in this city, from old to new.
It just goes to show how many contrasts there are in one small city. From bombed-out buildings to new, high-class shopping centers. From Christian brides in their white gowns to Muslim women in their black sheilas….Beirut is a wonderful example of how a city can be so adaptable to change and acceptance.