Day Trips

Day 12 – Baalbek

Posted on April 3, 2018

How do you take a photo?

Today was one of our biggest days yet. We left our hotel bright and early around 7:30am, and met up with some of our Sydney family who are also visiting at the moment. We packed ourselves into a big van, and drove out of Beirut, towards our cousin Fadi’s house, who was going to be taking us around for the day.

We drove away from the city, through the scenic fields and mountains once more, before arriving at the house which he had built entirely himself, from the ground up over the past few years.

We got to meet his family and see his house, located in what seems like open farmland, with the mountains surrounding on all sides, where just over the mountain top is the Syrian border.

They bought a whole lot of munoosh, and laid out a range of cheeses, labneh, olives etc. for our breakfast – all locally sourced. We ate, and talked, and relaxed, before piling up in two cars and driving to our main destination for the day, Baalbek.

First in Baalbek, we were taken to┬áThe Sayyida Khawla Shrine, where locals come to pray and pay their respects. It is a beautifully built shrine and has a quiet peace to it. Apparently it is where the prophet’s granddaughter died so they built this shrine here, around her grave and tree she was buried under.

From there, we walked the short distance to the Baalbek Roman Ruins. They are some of the best preserved Roman ruins in Lebanon, including a huge temple at its center.

We had a tour guide of sorts, showing us around and explaining the history of various things, but since I couldn’t understand what he was saying, I wandered off to explore myself and take photos.

Fadi’s son came with me and became my new bestie. I mostly followed him around as he climbed over the ruins and rocks, and took a few photos when I could.

After exploring the main area, we went down to the main temple to have a look there and take more photos. It’s pretty incredible how many of the ruins are preserved.

It was incredibly hot and sunny though, so we headed off to the final underground area which was a sort of museum with different artifacts and information.

By the time we left Baalbek, it was late afternoon, soon to be sunset. We drove further up the mountain, climbing up towards the peak for a while, before arriving at the cliff-side restaurant where we were going to eat dinner. The owner had built this himself too, and although there’s not much to see at the entrance (which is a pretty hidden door next to a petrol station), once you walk in to the main restaurant, it opens up and you have an amazing view looking down over Lebanon, with snowcapped mountains all around.

A big selection of mezze was soon brought out, followed by the usual meats. It was a great way to end the day, and what felt like, to end the trip. This would be the last we would see our Lebanon family on this trip, so we all enjoyed eating, talking and taking in the view as day turned to night.

When we had finally finished eating, and drinking various teas and such, the owner of the restaurant took us down to his collection/museum he had set up under the restaurant. He had built these tunnels and filled them with items he had either bought/collected, or made himself. There was a lot of stuff, from a lot of different periods of time, so he just gave us a quick walk-through.

At last, it came time to say goodbye and head our separate ways. It was sad to be leaving so soon, and my new bestie was very sweet as we left. After our extended goodbyes, we drove off back down the mountain, towards the glowing lights of the city far below. It was a pretty long drive, so we all tried to sleep until we made it to the hotel.

Once there, we said goodbye to the driver and his family, before turning in for the night. It was maybe 11pm or 12am at this point, so I just downloaded the photos from my camera and went straight to bed. Doing the sorting, processing and uploaded in the morning, hence the late post.

We have two more days in Lebanon before we leave, and it seems like we won’t be doing a whole lot, as we need today to recover from yesterday, and then tomorrow we need to be ready for our flights (oh god…).

Day 7 – Lebanon Tour

Posted on March 29, 2018

Shrek! I’m lookin down!

A big day today. Too many photos, hence the late post. Let’s get into it.

We began our day with some munoosh and orange juice (as usual), and ate as we drove up into the mountains. It was a long, but scenic drive up the narrow winding roads built into the sides of the mountains.

After a couple of hours, we made it high enough to see snow! Although Lebanon is at the end of its snow season, so there wasn’t much around. But it did mean that it was very quiet up there. And I can say with no metaphor or hyperbole, it was freezing.

Due to the temperature, no one was keen to stick around for too long, so we soon headed off to our next sight – an old forest.

Again, our time was limited as apparently our next destination was time-sensitive. Whatever it was, it didn’t end up happening anyway.

We ended up driving a long way around the mountains, and for a long while along a walking trail at a snails pace (it was very rocky). After a long time, and a few really close calls (narrow mountain path, cars passing two ways…) we had driven as far as we could, and would have to hike the remainder of the path up to the monastery.

We reached the top and spent a bit of time looking around, taking photos and just enjoying the atmosphere. One of the nuns greeted us too.

It was so quiet and peaceful up there, away from all the noise. And surprisingly good reception too. Seems like a pretty nice place to live.

We made our way back down, and drove back along the treacherous path, until we were back on the main mountain roads. We stopped briefly for some photos.

Then it was off to a late lunch/early dinner at a great restaurant overlooking the valley. Again, it was nearly empty as people don’t usually eat at this time, so we had an abundance of waiters around, but they were very accommodating and had some delicious food.

We had the usual hommous, tabouleh, potato, mixed grill, with some piping hot fluffy bread. Oh and I would say the best orange juice yet. I took some photos of the view afterwards.

From there, our driver took us around to a view other scenic roads and interesting sights, such as a house-plane.

It was well into the evening when we finally got back to Tripoli, but had little time to rest before meeting up family at a nearby cafe area for drinks. We were all pretty tired, but it was a nice way to end the night.

Day 6 – Lebanon Tour

Posted on March 28, 2018

No more s’mores, no more s’mores.

We started our morning with breakfast delivered to the apartment (munoosh, labneh), before getting picked up by our driver for the day to take us to a few different sites.

Firstly, we drove down to the sea and walked around down there. It was nice, yet somehow familiar…

We soon realised we were down at the water at Byblos, so had a bit of a stop in to the markets there again to shop and get a drink. One spilled drink later, and we were off!

Afterwards, we got picked up and drove further along the coast to get to the seafood restaurant in which we were going to have lunch. It had an alright view.

This place was super fancy though, to my dismay. My main issue with fancy restaurants (portion size) was definitely not a problem here. There were five courses, each of which I could have eaten and been full. Entrees, cold mezze, hot mezze, main, dessert, coffee. It’s 9pm now and I’m still not hungry.

Though the food and location were great, the fanciness meant constant waiters hovering around, pouring water every ten seconds, aligning plates and glasses, serving each food item onto individual plates, and just generally fussing about. Just let me serve my own food dammit!

The highlights of the meal was the fluffy bread, the potato dishes (chilli and mashed with oil), and the dessert (rice pudding with sugar fluff). We were at the restaurant for three hours, and eating for most of that time (I was too busy with all the food to take photos unfortunately. Rest assured, there was enough food for another four people, so we had a lot of leftovers! We gave them to the driver to give to someone who needs it).

Upon completion of our food comas, we left to head back to the apartment, stopping to top up our mobile internet data (I won’t get into the hassle of that).

Then it was back home for some rest, a game of checkers, and the usual tiredness which leads to me staying home while the parentals go visit some family.

Day 3 – Lebanon Tour

Posted on March 25, 2018

Kimono is come from the Greek word himona, is mean winter.

Today was a big one. We had booked a day tour yesterday, and set out nice and early this morning, eager to venture outside of Beirut and see more of the country. Our first destination was the ancient city of Byblos.

Byblos

Byblos is the oldest city in Lebanon, dating back to 6000 BC. It has been invaded and conquered many times over the years, and the result is a mix of ruins and excavated structures from many different civilisations.

We explored the fortress, walked around the main site, learned about its history, and got to venture down a tunnel where a huge sarcophagus had previously been buried for a king.

Outside of the main archaeological site, there were a few picturesque streets with markets and shops surrounding. We didn’t get too long there, but may return another day.

Unfortunately during this time, Zara got progressively more ill. Zade’s a good brother though.

Jeita Grotto

After Byblos, our next stop was at Jeita Grotto. This is two large caves, an upper cave and a lower one, which is naturally formed, millions of years old, and features some amazing stalactites/stalagmites, all formed purely by water and time.

Much to my dismay, no photography was allowed inside the caves. You’ll have to just use Google for that I’m afraid.

They were really amazing though. The upper caves had a path you could walk through, which led to an area I would liken to the Mines of Moria. Huge, deep pits, and openings far above too, with distant lights showing the depth of the caves. There were crazy formations and shapes formed by the water over the many many years (the water is rich in calcium, and it drips, slowly building up and forming these bizarre solids – roughly 1cm is added per century).

The lower caves were fairly similar, though you had to take a boat to see them, as there is somewhat of a lake below. It was a nice peaceful glide through, once again though, no photos.

Outside the caves, we had a short journey to our final destination, Harissa.

Harissa

Harissa is way up in the mountains, and had a few things to see. Firstly, there was the big basilica constructed there, which is shaped like a Cedar tree when you look at it from above (again, Google will have to prove this one). It is fairly modern, but still quite nice, inside and out.

Just behind this, is Our Lady of Lebanon, which is a large statue of Mary which faces out over Beirut. There is also a great panoramic view of Lebanon from up there, though it was a very foggy day, so it was a struggle to get clear photos. There were also a few Cedar trees up here, which were cool to see.

The final stop for our tour was a nearby restaurant for some well-deserved lunch. Lebanese meze and mixed grill – classic. From there, we journeyed back to our hotel, tired and ready to rest. Tomorrow we leave Beirut for Tripoli, but might be stopping at some sights on the way, we’ll see.

Right now it’s currently only 9pm and I’m struggling to stay awake… what has this place done to me…