So even though I've been back in New York for a few weeks now, I decided that I will wanted to write a blog post about how my trip to Lebanon went. I took a lot of video footage while I was there, but I've been having trouble with getting it to work with my editing software, so I'm not sure if I'll end up making it the way I planned if at all. But either way, I think that writing a blog post will be an easier way for me to talk about everything that I want to. I visited Lebanon primarily to see family that I haven't seen since my last visit in 2013.
So I left New York from JFK airport on April 11, 2017 at about 10:00pm. I first flew into Rome, Italy, where I had a layover of about nine hours, which gave me the perfect amount of time to go out and explore the city. This was the first time I had ever been to Italy, and I was excited for the opportunity to check out a new city. I arrived at Fiumicino Airport at 12:40pm (Italy is 6 hours ahead of New York) and at first got very lost try to figure out my way around, it's a very confusing airport with a lot of doors that you can go out of but can't come back into, so keep that in mind if you're visiting Rome and using this airport. Finally, I found the trains, which is what I had been looking for. My plan was to take the train that went right into the heart of Rome, the area where the Coliseum and other popular tourist attractions where. So I bought my ticket and waited on the platform, before getting on the wrong train. So for my New York friends, you'll get my reference here: rather than taking their equivalent of the Metro North or Long Island Railroad, I took their equivalent of the subway.
So I didn't realize my mistake at first, but once I did, I'll admit that I did start internally freaking out a little bit (who wouldn't?). I had sort of sensed something was off by the lack of tourists and influx of very interesting characters on my train ride. There were some people who looked to be about my age, some cute older couples, and some creepy guys who looked like they could maybe be part of the mob (I made sure to avoid eye contact with those guys). So the way I decided to look at it is that even though my trip didn't go accordingly, I got to have my own little adventure. The type of adventure that probably most tourists in my position didn't get to go on, I felt like I got to see the real Italy. Rather than touristy shops and monuments, I got to see graffiti covered train stations. And rather than being in an area where I could go up to anyone and they would speak English, I got to experience the challenge of trying to communicate with people who only spoke Italian or knew just a few works of English. It wasn't the trip I had planned for, but it was my own, my own little Italian adventure. And once I got back to the airport, around dinner time, I found this restaurant that was sort of hidden away in the corner, where I had the best pasta and wine meal I've eaten to date.
So I left Rome for Beirut, Lebanon at about 10:00pm. This flight was much shorter, I arrived in Beirut at 2:05am (Lebanon is an hour ahead of Rome). When I arrived, my cousins picked me up from the airport and brought me to their apartment in the city. I stayed there for the night before going to Houmine El Fawka the next day, the village in southern Lebanon where they have a house and many older relatives , such as my grandfather, live.
We stayed in the village until Monday, April 17th. That Friday, I visited a place called Beaumont Castle. The castle is actually from the Roman Empire era, and despite being in a war zone, as survived pretty well. At this spot I took many of the photos that you guys may have seen me post on Instagram. The view from this spot was absolutely amazing. While some people think that the entire Middle East is one giant desert, Lebanon is actually quite well known for is lusciously green and mountainous landscape.
The following day, my cousins, Dana and Dima, took me to a museum that was at a very high elevation. So high up, in fact, that nearly all we could see was clouds! Apparently it's a better spot to visit in the summer verses springtime. Due to it's close proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, the parts of Lebanon that are at high elevations receive a very large amount of fog during the spring. Once back in the village, I made sure to get some footage of me hula hooping with the very green background.
So on Monday, my cousins and I headed back into the city of Beirut, which we were all very excited about, considering the fact that there are so many more things to do. On the same day we drove back, we went out to eat at a restaurant in a beautiful location right on the Mediterranean, that had painfully slow service. Later that evening, we went to a spot overlooking the very well known Raouche Rock, also known as Pigeon's Rock, which located at Lebanon's most western point.
Throughout the rest of first week I was there, I mainly hung out with Dana and Dima and we went out to eat at several restaurants. One of them was the "Chocolate Bar", which we went to on Tuesday, where every dish is made with chocolate. Not exactly the healthiest choice, but I'd say it's worth a visit once if you're ever in Beirut. On Wednesday we went into the mountains for a picnic. The location was beautiful and my cousin Dana was kind enough to make sure I had plenty of vegetarian salad and french fries. I spend the day hooping and playing with my silk fans. And towards the late afternoon, we were able to catch a group of guys drifting around the parking lot of the picnic area, before the cops showed up to put an end to the fun of course. The sunset in the mountains was magnificent, for a few minutes after the sun went down, the sky turned the most gorgeous lavender color I had ever seen.
On Thursday night, I finally got to see a little bit of Beirut's nightlife. I went out to dinner with my dad's cousin, Zizi, at another restaurant located close to the sea. After that, we walked around and watched the sunset, while I hula hooped for some very curious locals. We went over to Zizi's friend's apartment where we got ready to go out and then headed off for this restaurant inside of a hotel called the Lanchester Plaza. The restaurant had a couple of live bands, one of which had a belly dancer, who made sure to go around to every table and show off her sexy dance moves to collect some tips. You can be sure I slipped a few American dollars into her sparkly bra (with her permission obviously). I had a great time hanging out with Zizi and her friends that night, we got to drink, dance, and I ate way too many roasted potato cubes.
The second weekend I was there, we went back to the village. There honestly wasn't a whole lot that happened that weekend, which explains the lack of content I have from those days. We only stayed in the village Friday through Sunday, since my cousins had to go back to school the following week. Once they were back at school, it was a little harder for me to go out during the day, since I didn't know much about what there was to do in the area and didn't have a car. Monday night I went out to dinner with Zizi again. Tuesday we went out to lunch and ended up going back to Lanchester Plaza, this time to this amazing rooftop restaurant that had a spectacular view of the Mediterranean Sea. From the hotel restaurant, I could see all of these boats going into and leaving the harbor, which made me think "I kind of want to go on a boat.", so I asked Zizi, who told me that she had actually never been on a boat before! In that moment, I knew we had to find one to go on. After finishing our lunch, we walked down to the beach, where we ran into a guy who was advertising boat tours of Raouche Rock and the surrounding area, which included various rock formations and small caves. The short tour, which was only about 20 minutes, was amazing. I had no idea what to expect for $30 for two people. We paid the guy, who didn't speak any English at all, and then another guy with this tiny old looking boat comes up. This boat was seriously old, you could tell that it had been painted over multiple times and although it had a motor on the back, it looked almost as if it used to be a row boat, maybe used for fishing, when someone decided one day "Hey, let's just throw a motor on the back of this and make it a tour boat." So Zizi and I got onto the boat, this little thing barely making it over the waves as we both clutched our iPhones for dear life. But I have to admit, it was probably my favorite part of my whole trip. The scenery was beutiful, we got to go right under Raouche Rock and into this little cave that wasn't even visible from land. I took some video clips but I wish I had taken some photos too, oh well.
I left Beirut at four in the morning on Thursday April 27th and arrived to Rome as the sun was rising. It was a magical sight and almost made me want to start waking up early enough to see the sun rise everyday, almost. I had had a layover of a couple hours in Rome this time, not enough time to do any exploring. But I did enjoy some coffee and a couple of delicious chocolate croissants while I was in the airport before boarding my flight back to New York.
Until the next adventure!
Rose Gold Travel Hula Hoop Provided by: Lunar Landings