Travel 1 comment on A Weekend in Tripoli

A Weekend in Tripoli

When we need an escape from our routine and a change of scenery, we immediately plan a trip to explore a new country. Yet, we more often than not stop right in the middle of that booking because we think twice about the budget.

What we rarely think of is a weekend away in our own country that has many places left to explore. Places you never thought existed a few kilometers away.

Last weekend, the lovely people of Via Mina Hotel in Tripoli, invited us over for a relaxing stay. Believe me when I tell you I woke up on Sunday morning not sure of where in the world I was. The old souks of Tripoli are the miniature reproduction of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. The pubs we visited at night were the reflection of Rome’s laid-back Trastevere. The streets around Al Mina region resemble the Old Croatian towns. This can give you a clear picture of the mixed feelings you get during your two-day stay.

That weekend was a huge eye-opener on the possibility of things to do in Lebanon. Here’s what you can do during a weekend in Tripoli.

Where to Stay:

Via Mina Hotel. This refreshing and cozy Bed & Breakfast is all you need to relax and unwind away from work and busy Beirut. What was an old inhabited house became the coziest place to stay. Just that smell of organic green tea soap gives your mind peace the entire time.

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What to do:

Visit the souks in the center of Tripoli. You’ll get the same experience as visiting the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul if you’ve been. Make sure you go to “Khan el Saboun” (i.e. the soap market), where you’ll find loads of organic soaps.

weekend in tripoli | breadonbutter weekend in tripoli | breadonbutter

weekend in tripoli | breadonbutter

Take a walk along the Mina. If you’re staying at the Via Mina Hotel, the Mina is a three-minute walk away. If you’re an early riser, you can visit the fish market  where people place bids on the freshest fish. You can also walk around the Mino area in the morning and witness fresh bread-making, live foul and hommos cooking and a joyful atmosphere.

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weekend in tripoli | breadonbutter

In the evening, there are pubs two minutes away from the hotel. Timmy’s is one of the crowdiest. Its architecture is also something you don’t see every day.

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If you’re craving for a nice seafood meal, Borj El Samak (which is right next to Via Mina) is a good choice.

Lately, I’ve been pessimistic about Lebanon and long to travel the world.  The most important lesson I learnt that weekend is to never make up your mind about something before you experience it yourself. We all have our made-up ideas about certain places and it’s easy to get influenced by the media, our parents’ anxieties, and even our own stubbornness.  But I promise myself, here and now, to be more positive and appreciate what we have.

Thoughts? 🙂

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Travel 0 comments on 3 Days in Morocco

3 Days in Morocco

Our wanderlust levels have been kind of fine lately, what with the business of Christmas and the new house. Then again, like any chronic condition humans have, it has strike again. My sister Mia went to Morocco not long ago and she succeeded in awakening the wanderlust beast in me again. Here’s a summary of her trip.

If you’re planning a short three-day trip to Morocco, the best itinerary would include Marrakesh and its surroundings. The ideal would be to book a nice atypical hotel in Marrakesh and visit the surroundings based from there.

Where to stay

La maison des oliviers is a small oasis of peace full of flowers and a nice pool located along a rural road just outside of Marrakesh. The house is called a “riad” which means a big villa surrounded by a wall. It’s a traditional house with passages and lots of beautifully-designed common areas and a traditional Moroccan decor. The pool is amazing, surrounded by flowers and  a bar area. The weather was beautiful in December (23-25 degrees celsius during the day and 7-10 degrees celsius at night).

What to do, what to see and where to eat

Jemaa el fna.

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Do that twice: once during the day and once at night because the square transforms into two different scenes.

During the day, you’ll see snake charmers and henne tattoo women, monkeys (not dangerous), orange juice stands (a must-try), merchants, and other exotic sights. Make sure you have an ice coffee or mint tea at one of the terraces overlooking the square (Les Terrasses de l’Alhambra is recommended by Lonely Planet and tried by us).

During the night, it transforms into a street food paradise with grilling smoke everywhere, lanterns and tents with benches to sit, and barbecues to grill a million things. You’ll often see huge trays of tea with all kinds of spices in a huge barrel, and mountains of weird-looking chocolate cakes.

morocco | breadonbutter

morocco | breadonbutter

Souks of el medina.

That’s the place where you’ll find lots of merchants for all your needs. You’ll see olive merchants selling succulent olives that you mus try. In the spice market, they sell spices and oils, chameleons and water turtles. There, you have to eat at Cafe des Epices or on the other side of the square at NOMAD, a very cool and trendy restaurant with a nice authentic view and a really cool terrace. Book yourself a table in the evening, cover yourself with a cape because it gets cold at night, and have a lamb Tagine – delicious!

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For leather lovers, you can visit Les Tanneries where they make leather goods.

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Jardin Majorelle.

It’s a huge garden where the artist Majorelle planted all types of green from all over the world. He bought this house and made it his Art studio and grew exotic plants. Later on, Yves Saint Laurent renovated it and lived in that house which, when the great couturier died, became the Yves Saint Laurent memorial. In the Jardin, there’s the Berberian museum that is quite interesting if you have the time to visit. You can find cool Yves Saint Laurent postal cards at the museum shop. Jardin Majorelle is like a paradise in the middle of Moroccan chaos.

You can also grab a bite at the restaurant (taste the kefta, tomato and egg tagine, it’s to die for).

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Camel ride.

When at the Medina, book a camel ride in any little shop that organizes them. They’ll come and get you from your hotel and take you for an hour ride on a camel.

Tourism

Madrasa.

You can visit the largest Islamic college in Morocco to get a sense of the culture and heritage. Tile lovers, get ready to be amazed.

Koutoubia Mosque.

The largest mosque in Marrakesh.

Bahia Palace.

A Palace built in the late 19th century with a set of gardens.

La Mamounia.

The most luxurious hotel in Marrakesh is definitely worth a visit.

Day Trip

Essouira is a three-hour car-ride away from Marrakesh. When you get there, you absolutely must get a surf lesson then head to the port where you’ll find a fresh fish market. Instead of going to a restaurant, choose your own fish from the market then head to a small stand where they will grill it and give it to you with bread and salad. You’ll end up with a perfect and very affordable lunch! You can book this day trip with the same guide who took you for a camel ride.

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Relax

Enjoy the pool and the hammam at your hotel when you find the time!

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 Have you ever been? Anything we might have missed?

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Travel 0 comments on A Must-Read Travel Book

A Must-Read Travel Book

Most people view travel as a luxury. They only wait until they’ve saved extra money or secured someone to babysit their child to book a ticket and fly off to see a new part of this world. You may be revolted by the fact that I think travel is always possible – within limits, of course. For my part, I try to squeeze in a trip any chance I get as I truly believe travel is an experience worth investing in. It helps you broaden your perspective, de-dramatize otherwise catastrophic situations and understand (or should I say accept) people’s behavior better.

I believe my sister Mia gives the most inspiring gifts. Last Christmas, she gave Jean that awesome book that marked me from page one. To quote a part of the intro:

We’ve all seen the bottom of a cup-o-noodle, more than once. So how can you afford to travel? By redefining travel to be more about hostels and street food and less about resorts and cruises, the biggest initial expense then comes down to that first flight out of the country.

I’d love to know your thoughts about this! In your opinion, is travel a luxury or a necessity?

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Travel 0 comments on Lake District – Windermere: What To Do and See

Lake District – Windermere: What To Do and See

On my last trip to London, my sister and I decided to take a few days off from the city and go see something new in England. My mom was there with us as we hopped on a three-hour train to the Lake District. I was looking forward to a calm weekend in the British countryside, away from the city rush. Having lived in a small British town before, I missed that fresh air and tranquil rhythm. I was excited for a weekend of walking in nature, fresh scenery and local food.The Lake District is a mountainous region in the county of Cumbria in North West England. Cumbria is home to the highest mountain of England (Scafell Pike), as well as its largest natural lake: Windermere – which is where we spent our weekend. Lake District is famous for its lakes, forests and mountains, so we were in for a treat! We returned to London full of energy and a clear mind.

A weekend at Lake District, England

After checking in, put on your comfortable shoes and start walking around town. It is the friendliest place I’ve been to recently. Shops, cafés, restaurants, and bars are all close to each other. When you walk a bit further down, you get to the lake where you can enjoy an amazing scenery and relax.

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What to do:

Walk to Bowness on Windermere (i.e. the lake), enjoy the scenery along the way and book your seat on a boat tour for amazing scenery and a bit of History.

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The second walk should be on a path only locals are familiar with. We were told how to get to the path and walked down to another side of the lake. It has officially become my happy place.

lake district | breadonbutter

lake district | breadonbutter

On your third walk, which should be done close to sunset, walk up one the hills and get ready for the most beautiful view you’ll ever see.

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If you’re a fan of books and literature, Beatrix Potter’s museum is a must-visit. There, you’ll find Peter Rabbit and learn more about the great author’s life.

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Where to Eat + Drink:

We didn’t try all of Windermere’s restaurants and cafés, but I can tell you some of our favorites:

Wild & co. for an amazing sandwich and a great atmosphere

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Francine’s for a cozy and warm dinner

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Little Chippy for a nice Fish n’ Chips on the go

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Homeground Coffee & Kitchen for the most relaxing afternoon tea or coffee, with a scone on the side of course!

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This weekend will forever stay one of the happiest memories of my life. Also, I always read about finding your happy place for you to be able to go back to it in your mind whenever times are tough, and I can safely say that I have found it.

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If you live in London or if you’re visiting soon, I suggest you book your train tickets and head there for a break 🙂 

Have you ever been to the Lake District?

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Travel 2 comments on 20 things about Beirut

20 things about Beirut

Let’s start with what’s important. I love my country, despite its flaws. I chose to live here and no one forced me to do so. I love its warmth, its people and everything truly feels like home. I won’t lie; there are times all I wish for is to pack my bags and move to a better place. Today is supposed to be one of those times, but it isn’t. I admit here and now that I’m confused. I’m scared of more rain – where instead of embracing the smell of the earth, we’ll be fighting for breath, I’m scared of History of diseases repeating itself, I’m scared of oh-so-many things but I’ll be fighting anxiety today, tomorrow and as long as it takes for us to retrieve even a tiny bit of our dignity. It is no longer a choice. Amidst the horror of what is going on, I still have hope for a better future. Some may think it is naïve, I think it is a start. We owe it to our ancestors whose Lebanon was heaven on earth, we owe it to ourselves whose Lebanon is too hard to let go, we owe it to our children whose Lebanon should be the best place to be.

To remind everyone why we’ll keep on fighting, and in light of this article, here are 20 things about Beirut.

1) How everything seems to function against all odds – yes, we do have uber, online shopping and food delivery at all times.

2) The familiarity – most of the time, people are willing to help, smile and ask about your day.

3) How the trends blend in with the old – the Mar Mikhael and Gemmayze neighborhoods are the perfect examples.


4) The sunsets.


5) Life at night – where all the city lights are on, people are out and it smells like happiness.

6) Cab drivers (although not all of them) – they have the best stories.

7) The kaak and corn vendors.

8) The smell of thyme in the morning.

9) The easy access to the sea.


10) The variety of restaurants.

11) The constant festivals and fairs.

12) Music Hall.


13) Jogging at Waterfront.

14) How you can escape the city within the city.

15) The wide choice of things to do – you can go have coffee, take a cooking class, have dinner by the sea or happy hour drinks, there’s always somewhere to go and someone to see.

16) The vegetable/fruit shops on every corner.

17) The rooftops.

18) The view on the giraffes at the port.

19) The coffeeshops, pubs and other warm and familiar places – to mention a few: urbanista, dar bistro, papercup, bar tartine, kayan, Vintage shop (and their wine tasting), Paul gemmayze, st. elmo’s, Moto, sporting beach club, and so many more.

20) Eternal Hope.

People who live in Beirut, and those of you who have visited, it would be awesome if you could post in the comment section below one thing you love about this city! That way, we can look at the full part of the glass 😉

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Travel 0 comments on A Severe Case of Wanderlust: 7 Destinations On My List

A Severe Case of Wanderlust: 7 Destinations On My List

With the horror that is Lebanese Summer, and to top my case of chronic wanderlust, I was invited on the set of B Beirut to talk about popular destinations and my travel experience (you can check it here). All of the above combined, led to me feeling wanderlust-ier than ever. I’ll be in London end of September, but I’m also longing for new and exotic destinations. Please do not conclude that I am spoiled, but I am just obsessed with planes and the great places of this world.

Because Breadonbutter is the place where I pour all of my feelings when it comes to the things I love the most in this world, I thought I’d share with you the 7 destinations on my mind today.

1) Morocco. I don’t know if it’s the colors, the oriental yet modern feel, or the people I’ve recently met from there, but I’m dying to walk in old souks and dive into their culture, then eat a nice tagine after a great spa treatment.

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Photo by nomadexperience.com

2) Australia. It is a dream to visit the land down unda’; Walk around and sniff the local food places, put my feet in the ocean and enjoy life the other way round.

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Photo by besthqimages.com

3) Brazil and all of Latin America. I would backpack through this continent for a month. I can just picture all the colors in my mind.

wanderlust | breadonbutter

Photo by mustseehowto.com

4) Cape Town. Harbors have always fascinated me, and I can’t wait to be standing there. I am also curious about the people and their culture. It must be interesting to have lived all that History and making something out of it.

wanderlust | breadonbutter

Photo by insideguide.com

5) The Philippines. I was told enough stories about this country to want to pack my bags and leave right this moment.

wanderlust | breadonbutter

Photo by experiencephilippines.com

6) Bali. It might sound cliché as a destination, but what I have in mind is quite different than the normal tourist’s itinerary. My friend Loufi went there backpacking and said it was something out of this world.

wanderlust | breadonbutter

Photo by theplunge.com

7) Japan. If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you must know by now I might have been of Japanese origin in another life. I long to smell the natural wood and live the simple and clean life the Japanese live.

wanderlust | breadonbutter

Photo taken from google

I’d LOVE to hear about your wanderlust case! Which destination is on your mind lately?

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Places, Travel 1 comment on A Weekend in Batroun: 10 Things To Do In The Region

A Weekend in Batroun: 10 Things To Do In The Region

Sunny weekends are still ahead of us and we’re all looking for creative things to do. One of my favorite places in Lebanon is Batroun. The beautiful scenery brings you back refreshed and ready for another busy week after the weekend. There are so many things to do there other than lying on the rocks and soaking up the sun. Be it during summer or on sunny winter weekends, Batroun and its surroundings is a great destination for all kinds of activities.

Here are some ideas around the region for weekends ahead. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone!

When I say Batroun, I’m also talking about its surrounding towns, like Tannourine, Chekka, Anfeh, Douma and others. So here goes:

1- Tannourine: Start with an early morning hike in the beautiful reserve. The Tannourine forest is actually the biggest one. It starts in the Batroun casa and ends in the Bechareh casa.

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2- Saydet el nourieh: On your way down from Tannourine to the beach, pass by Saydet el Nouriyyeh for a spiritual hour and a breathtaking view on the shore.

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3- Make sure to pass by ‘Helmeh’ for a nice and refreshing lemonade!

4- Visit Batroun’s old town, it’s beautiful and untouched.

5- You can now go lie down on the rocks and take a dip in the sea. There’s a lot of choice when it comes to which beach you can go to. You can choose between Bonita Bay, White Beach, and Pierre and Friends, or go to Joining beach or Dany’s Bar for a less mainstream experience and great fish.

6- Make sure you stay there till sunset, you won’t regret it a single minute. Those places are great for those who love fishing as well.

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7- If you choose to sleep and spend the weekend there, two of the best places I’ve been to are Beit el Batroun and Mayouli. Beit el Batroun is simply the loveliest and most relaxing place. Mayouli is a bit different than Beit el Batroun as it’s more of an ecological place, with the freedom to have barbecues in a corner of the garden.

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8- Go up to one of Batroun’s vineyards the next day for some wine tasting. Ixsir has the most magical setting, and Aurora is another great choice.

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9- Have a late BBQ lunch on the rocks. You can find a lot of public beaches with clear blue water and settle there.

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10- For a nice late afternoon drink, try Colonel Beer. The setting is relaxed and the beer is excellent!

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There you go! A perfect weekend in Batroun 🙂 I’d love to hear about your suggestions!

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Places, Places, Travel 4 comments on 20 Things About Paris

20 Things About Paris

It’s definitely summer and getaways are fast approaching. Everyone’s making plans on where to go and which country to visit. There are obviously countless places to see and different kinds of trips to make (road trips, backpacking trips, island relaxation, or lovely Tuscany), so I thought I would start by summing up 20 things about Paris for those of you who are Euro-tripping this summer. You can check 20 things about London here, Rome here and Istanbul here. And of course, stay tuned for more. To find all the places I mention, I suggest you use the Google Maps app for addresses and for you to know your way by foot, metro, bus, or car.

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1) The French Bistrots – A good steak, veau or fondue can be found in the typical French bistrots all around Paris. My favorites are: Boucherie Rouliere, Chez Fernand, La Petite Cour, Le St. Séverin and Chez André for a good bouillabaisse.

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2) Place Saint Michel – Head there for an early drink outside before continuing to dinner.

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3) Tour Eiffel and Champs de Mars – No matter how many times you’ve been to Paris, you must visit our beloved Dame de Fer once. If the weather is nice, a fun picnic on the champs de mars would be a perfect lunch idea.

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4) Carette and Angelina – I love Carette on a rainy day for a large macaron and black coffee. The place is ideal for a nice conversation in a cozy place. For an excellent and dense hot chocolate, head to Angelina. I even spotted their products on sale at the airport!

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5) Places for a fast and healthy lunch – For a fast but healthy lunch in the center of Paris, I fell in love with Boco (an organic place where you can eat your healthy meal without any guilt – I’ll be posting about it next week) and Twenty Peas (where your food is also measured and put in a box).

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6) La Fayette Gourmet – Enter every foodie’s heaven when you step foot in La Fayette Gourmet.

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7) Éclair de Genie – If you’re a fan of the famous éclair, do not miss this charming little place with dozens of eclairs of all possible tastes. Heavenly!

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8) Montmartre – One of my favorite places on earth, Montmartre is like stepping into happiness. It takes a while to get there (especially that we went there walking!) but it’s so worth it. The place is filled with people and great food. Make sure you pick any restaurant and sit outside while you enjoy a nice glass of wine with a plate of moules frittes, boeuf bourgignon, or coq au vin. You can also grab a Merguez baguette as an appetizer 😉

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9) Montparnasse – Known as an artistic neighbourhood, Montparnasse reminds me of my parents who used to live there for years. It has lots of waffle and crepe places to try. Make sure you try the Aligot (mashed potatoes and garlic) and the meat at Le Plomb du Cantal.

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10) Au p’tit grec – talking about crepes, this little Greek-owned place at Rue Mouffetard should not be missed!

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11) The Maille store – this place is paradise for all food and cooking lovers. It is only dedicated to the Maille mustard brand and is filled with mustard pots everywhere. You even get to taste all of them with mini grissinis to decide which ones to take back home.

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12) Le Pont des Arts – On this bridge that crosses the river Seine, lovers have taken the habit to attach love locks (padlocks) with their first name on them, then throwing the key into the Seine as a romantic and eternal love gesture.

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13) The Marais neighborhood – A historic district in Paris, it was long aristocratic before it became a popular and active commercial area. The architecture is fascinating and you can even spot Victor Hugo’s ancient house! Take a walk around the neighborhood and pass by Fleux’, a concept design store we fell in love with, and Pouchkine for French-Russian inspired patisserie. You won’t regret a bite!

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14) Colette Paris – This is for Design trends lovers. You must all have heard of Colette and the product selection (from fashion to tech and culture products).

15) Le jardin des tuileries – The ideal place to relax after a long walk in the city is le jardin des tuileries. Grab a hot chocolate and a chair and open your book for an hour of pure relaxation.

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16) The Louvre – A must-see at least once in a lifetime. I’m sure we were all identically disappointed by the size of the Mona Lisa though.

17) Pastavino – I know we’re in Paris, but this lovely Italian place was so lovely I have to recommend it. European cities are made to try different cuisines anyway, so if you have time, do try this magical Italian restaurant located on the top of an Italian delicatessen shop.

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18) Asian food – We tried La Muraille de Jade for a nice Bobun and Mme Shawn for a thai lunch.

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19) Markets – You can ask around the neighborhood you’re staying in for markets and their opening days. You’ll find anything from cheese to choucroute and aligot.

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20) Notre-Dame de Paris – Breathtaking and touching, you must visit it if only for the sake of Quasimodo.

21) Extra bonus: Breakfasts! You can choose between a simple baguette with butter and coffee or juice, and eggs and croissant. Have it all is my advice 🙂

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And voila! Anything you might want to add? I’d love to hear!

paris | breadonbutter

 

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Opinion 0 comments on Beirut Design Week Opening With Cyrille Najjar From White Sur White

Beirut Design Week Opening With Cyrille Najjar From White Sur White

A few weeks ago, after watching CNNGo’s report on Beirut, I contacted Cyrille Najjar and asked if I could see him for a chat. He gladly accepted and it was fun to talk about food with such a talented Designer. Cyrille is the CEO of White Sur White, “a multi-disciplinary Architecture and innovation agency sitting at the intersection of architecture, technology, and materials”. Not only does White Sur White work on Architecture and interior design projects, but they also create products that go beyond beautiful aesthetics and target the needs of everyone from musicians, to travelers, to home owners.

couture

We met in Cyrille’s office in Sodeco where the décor inspires designers to work creatively. The office is not too far from the workshop, which is in Ashrafieh as well and makes 600 square meters of space for infinite creativity. There, Cyril organizes workshops, sublets it for events by big magazines and companies and lets creativity unleash itself. Cyrille started by giving me a large idea of the projects and products he worked on and that came into life. He started by telling me about his passion for music (guitar to be more specific), how he worked on the design of music instruments and their customization for singers, dancers and musicians.

beirut design week | breadonbutter

He adapted music instruments to the body moves of dancers, fabricated microphones for opera singers with the help of Corinne Metni, and helped a violinist make the most of his talent by creating a violin around which he would feel at ease.

A solar suitcase was also created by Cyrille to no longer count on the generator at home.He also created products for Mothercare, for Hemiplegics, for Haute Couture, Lighting and Kitchens. I suggest you daydream on this link to know more.

lighting

Cyrille actually started his career by studying law at USJ. After thinking about it, he realized he liked it, but loved the world of Design and Architecture way more, so he made the switch. He continued with a Masters in Interior Architecture at ALBA Beirut and went on with Product Design in the Royal College of Art in London. And because he wanted to teach younger generations what he learnt, he finished with a teaching degree at Central St. Martins in London. After teaching at ALBA, he is now happily passing on his wisdom to LAU students.

How does Cyrille get inspired? It’s a combination of desire and needs. Whether it’s his needs or the needs of his clients, Cyrille beautifully fulfills them. He created his own solar energy system at home because he needed it, he confectioned Avo’s violin because Avo needed it to show the world the best he could do. Most of the time, clients come to him with a need.

Which takes us to what Cyrille has to say on Design in Lebanon. For him, it’s more of a luxury, which has its beauty. But it will eventually get more need-oriented as this is what should be done in a country that has countless needs to fulfill.

About cooking and travel

Cyrille loves cooking and is a BBQ fan at heart. He’s not yet found a need to fulfill in this area and has currently all the kitchen tools he needs in his “vastly furnished” kitchen. For him, kitchenware has really evolved over time. Quoting Cyrille, we’ve been eating for so long that we’re fine! As for the dishes he cooks, he keeps things simple with meat, chicken, fish, pasta, etc.

When it comes to travel, he does that all the time, but there’s one thing he has not yet fulfilled when it comes to this area: the Byron burger in Lebanon 😉 As far as Cyrille is concerned, his favorite burger in the world needs to be recreated in his country. The subject of travel immediately led us to talk about the good food in the big cities and countries of the world: Paris, London, New York, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Belgium for beer only.

His guilty pleasure is British food! As much as it surprises people, Cyrille views British food as going beyond beans and sausages. For him, it’s more about the homemade and the comfort food for a cold British weather and lifestyle.

Cyrille is also a big Philosophy fan. His book pleasures revolve around Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche and Heidegger. When he needs something light, it’s comics he turns to.

Here’s a video of 10 fast questions with Cyrille Najjar for you to get a glimpse of one of Beirut’s most terrific Designers. Enjoy 🙂

Selling points: SMO gallery, Platform39, National Museum, Urbanista.

Facebook page: here

Website: http://www.whitesurwhite.com/

Places, Places 0 comments on 10 Top Italian Restaurants in Beirut

10 Top Italian Restaurants in Beirut

Every culture has its own way of interpreting one dish. They all add their twists and spices, making it particular to their tastes and habits. Restaurants too have to gratify the palate of the people they are serving. One thing I’ve noticed about Italian restaurants in Beirut is that they add crème fraîche to a lot of their pasta sauces. Almost all Italian people I’ve met are quickly revolted by the act of adding cream to pasta sauces. They also consider the use of a spoon to roll your spaghetti as a disgrace. But here in Beirut, it is considered to be the proper practice of eating Italian food. Where did these habits come from you ask? From restaurants, of course. Who started it?  I think it’s a chicken and egg type of story.

But it’s safe to say that the way the Lebanese have adapted Italian food has somewhat strayed away from the original cuisine. So because we can’t go to Rome everyday (check out 20 Things about Rome), we’ve been on a quest for ‘real’ Italian restaurants in Beirut.

My judgment of ‘what makes a restaurant Italian’ is personal but of credible experience. I’ve been to Italy a lot, read about their food, talked to people and been in their kitchens, cooked a carbonara and more with them, and visited their restaurants accompanied by locals.

In my mind, the ones that serve the famous spritz or bellini have the knowledge, the ones that serve dishes cooked with fresh ingredients have the quality, and the ones that present the place and the dish well have the honesty and authenticity.

There are many criteria that can lead you to judge a restaurant as being typically Italian and accordingly, I’ve ranked the top 10 I’ve tried in Beirut, keeping in mind that all of their menus contain dishes adapted to the taste of the Lebanese audience (hospitality rules oblige).

#1 Harry’s Bar

harry's bar | breadonbutter

 

Harry’s Bar is my recent favorite. It is THE place to fine-dine, enjoy great wine and beautiful dishes. The staff is extremely friendly and knowledgeable. The sommelier recommends excellent wine and the service is the most professional I’ve seen in a while. When it comes to the food, you won’t regret one bite of it. Apart from being exceptionally tasty, every dish is carefully crafted and full of colors. The presentation clearly reflects their recent Michelin Star touch. Don’t hesitate to go there for a nice, romantic dinner or even for a business lunch, where you’ll find a set menu for the circumstance. Make sure to try their Fleur de Courgettes with ricotta cheese, beef carpaccio, beetroot risotto and panna cotta. An unforgettable Italian experience in the heart of Beirut.

Harry's Bar Beirut | BreadonbutterHarry's Bar Beirut | BreadonbutterHarry's Bar Beirut | BreadonbutterHarry's Bar Beirut | Breadonbutter

#2 Totò Cucina Italiana

Harry's Bar Beirut | Breadonbutter
Photo from Zomato

When walking into Totò, you’re struck by the simple yet uplifting décor. The way they managed to give an identity to the place while keeping the original charm of this old house is admirable. Waiters and staff are not only nice and helpful in your choice of dishes, but they also have a sense of humor. Their seafood risotto is one that I won’t forget. I also love their pizzas and their Totò Express concept upstairs for a more relaxed dinner experience or for takeaway and pizza night at home.

Harry's Bar Beirut | Breadonbutter
Photo from paperblog.com

#3 Marinella

Harry's Bar Beirut | Breadonbutter
Photo from their facebook page

Every time I visit Rome, I go to my favorite place (Vicolo 88) for an absolutely delicious Spaghetti al Vongole. In my mission to find it in Beirut, it’s at Marinella that I discovered one very close to the taste I never forget. The interior is refreshing and the changing menu gives you the certainty that their ingredients are freshly picked. The presentation of their dishes is lovely and the waiters are friendly and professional.

Harry's Bar Beirut | Breadonbutter
Photo from their facebook page

#4 La Traviata

Harry's Bar Beirut | Breadonbutter
Photo from their facebook page

La Traviata doesn’t serve pizza but they sure make it up by serving the freshest pasta dishes in town. If I’m looking for a place to have a calm, relaxing lunch or dinner with a good dish of traditional pasta, this is the place I think of. They also have generous service, offering bites and nibbles before your order comes through, and great knowledge about Italian wine. Oh, and no ketchup allowed! Their carbonara, tiramisu and most importantly their tortellini al cioccolato are a must-try.

Harry's Bar Beirut | Breadonbutter
Photo from their facebook page

#5 Cucina – Downtown

Harry's Bar Beirut | Breadonbutter
Photo by fromagesandfridays.com

The best thing about Cucina is its location. Located in the most modern and trendy part of Beirut, it’s a good place for hip lunches in the sun and dinners. The staff is welcoming and friendly. Their appetizers and risottos are a good choice followed by pain perdu for dessert, which is worth a try. I’m heading there for a friend’s birthday tonight to enjoy a nice setting for this special occasion rather than the relatively average food.

Harry's Bar Beirut | Breadonbutter
Photo by zomato reviewer

#6 Al Dente Restaurante – Hotel Albergo

Harry's Bar Beirut | Breadonbutter
Photo from whereleb.com

Al Dente’s risottos are a must-try as well as their desserts. This hidden place gives a feel of authentic old Italy mixed with a refined character. Their appetizers include the famous Melanzane gratinate alla Parmigiana and Mozzarella di Buffala which is one of my favorite mozzarellas. It’s an excellent place for a special occasion.

#7 Dottore L’antica Pizzeria

Harry's Bar Beirut | Breadonbutter

Dottore is the type of place where you go for comfort food and good wine. Burrowed in one of Hamra’s inner streets, it’s the perfect place to spend a cozy night with a few friends. All you need is their wooden-oven baked pizzas, the spinach crepe and really good Italian wine that the staff will perfectly recommend, and you’re set for a great night.

Harry's Bar Beirut | Breadonbutter Harry's Bar Beirut | Breadonbutter

#8 Mario e Mario

Harry's Bar Beirut | Breadonbutter
Photo from their facebook page

Nestled in one of the inside streets of Mar Mikhael, Mario e Mario offers a very special menu. Get ready to taste dishes you haven’t before, as this fine-dining Italian knows how to use fresh ingredients and transform them into a beautiful and innovative dish. The place is charming and romantic and the table is set with special little touches. I also love the use of fresh ingredients in all of their dishes. You’ll also be very happy with their famous olive oil and bread served before your main order.

Harry's Bar Beirut | Breadonbutter
Photo from their facebook page

#9 La Posta

Harry's Bar Beirut | Breadonbutter
Photo from their facebook page

If you’re planning on booking a night out at La Posta, make sure you ask to be seated outside. The staff shows gusto for Italian food, and their pizza is not too thick or too thin. Their portions are generous but you can be sure you’ll get a refined presentation. Go for a seafood linguine with a nice wine or head there for Saturday brunch with friends or family.

Harry's Bar Beirut | Breadonbutter
Photo from their facebook page

#10 L’Osteria

Harry's Bar Beirut | Breadonbutter
Photo from their facebook page

If you’ve been to Italy, you must be familiar with the Aperitivo concept. L’Osteria is one of the rare Italians in Beirut that master the Spritz and its accompaniments. Their dishes are also appetizing and typically Italian. You can head there around 7 pm for a fresh Spritz and a cheese/cold cuts platter. They also serve homey dishes that will satisfy your tasty Italian food cravings.

Harry's Bar Beirut | Breadonbutter
Photo from their facebook page

Any Italian place to add to the list?

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Opinion 0 comments on 10 Ways to Overcome the Sunday Blues : Summer Edit

10 Ways to Overcome the Sunday Blues : Summer Edit

We all spend half of the week planning the weekend, from where to eat to which group of friends to hang out with. On Friday, a feeling of happiness envelops us and we feel on top of the world. Saturday is the best day of our lives, but then, like a bullet in the head, Sunday night hits us. This feeling of having to go back to school on Monday morning never leaves us, even as we grow older. After brainstorming ideas to overcome the Sunday blues with Jean and Fadsfood, we came up with a list of things you can do.

How to overcome the Sunday Blues

1) It all starts on Friday. Do not get blinded by your TGIF  joy and write your Monday to-do list on Friday. That way, you can have fun and disconnect all weekend knowing that everything is written down and tucked away.

2) Do not schedule any meetings for Monday, leave them for Tuesday thus giving yourself a day to collect your thoughts after the weekend.

3) On Sunday night, organize sunset drinks with fun friends. You’ll see that everyone has to work the next day and that you’re not alone in this world.

4) Avoid going to the movies on Sunday afternoon or evening. It will immediately trigger the Sunday blues feeling.

5) Do not leave the beach early. Instead, enjoy the sunset and plan a nice dinner by the sea. That will also allow you to also avoid the traffic jam and all the negative thinking you might end up doing in the car.

6) Prepare your outfit and work kit on Sunday night instead of running around on Monday morning. Knowing you’re all set for the next day will make you feel a lot better.

7) Plan to jog on Monday early morning and focus on it as the first thing you’ll be doing on that new week.

8) Move your Sunday family lunch to Saturday and spend Sunday with friends somewhere far from the city.

9) Plan a gathering at home on Sunday night and cook for some friends while sipping drinks on the terrace (or balcony)

10) De-clutter. It’s the principle of removing unnecessary and unused items from an overcrowded place of work/living/etc. If you remove one or several items that you have not used for a long time but that you were still attached to, trust us, you WILL feel relieved (as small an action as it sounds).

There will be more tips on the subject as time goes by and as we discover new ways to fight this feeling. Meanwhile, please do share with us how you do it!  We’d love to hear!

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Opinion, Travel 0 comments on Resilience Through Food and Art: Beirut Rebuilding Itself

Resilience Through Food and Art: Beirut Rebuilding Itself

A few days ago, Alisha Haridasani, writer at CNN, published this amazing article about our beloved city Beirut. Through tours guided by pure Lebanese food and art activists, a wonderful video was made (you can watch it on this link).

Kamal Mouzawak, founder of Souk el Tayeb and Tawlet Souk el Tayeb, is the first guest shown in the video. Since I’ve already met Kamal and had conversations with him, I enjoyed his tours around Souk el Tayeb (the only Saturday market in Beirut), Bourj Hammoud and Le Professeur for a nice foul breakfast. His message is clear:

Make Food, Not War.

The next guest is Rosalyn Ghubril from Zawarib, who I also met a few years ago as part of my job at the time. Rosalyn takes us at Platform 39 with Cyrille Najjar (learn more about what he does on this link) and at Brut L’Atelier, Mar Mikhael, where contemporary artists work on their creations.

A great part of the video is where we follow Mashrou’ Leila, Lebanon’s favorite indie-pop band, around the AUB campus – one of the fewest green spots left in Beirut. I love the portrait they made of the city: surrounded by water, Beirut is full of micro-communities with different identities and codes, pushing you to be a bit more tolerant and willing to negotiate. They also say that it is the most interesting time for music.

To sum up, Beirut is very small but also very diverse. There is incredible room for improvement in Food and Art, so let’s take advantage of this and put our ideas into life.

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