We visited Athens on the last week of October for a mix of personal business and pleasure. The city is great for a quick getaway not far from home (1h15 flight). As we planned our trip before our departure, I still had in mind the Athens I once knew as vibrant, full of life and happy people, and in keep-up with trends. In my head, it was still a mix of Beirut and organized European countries. The last time I was there, it was 2013. The economic crisis had just hit but it wasn’t quite obvious yet. This time around, it was pretty palpable. What the economy had done to this vibrant city was a complete shock.
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.
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.
11) The constant festivals and fairs.
12) Music Hall.
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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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.
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.
2) Place Saint Michel – Head there for an early drink outside before continuing to dinner.
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.
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!
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).
6) La Fayette Gourmet – Enter every foodie’s heaven when you step foot in La Fayette Gourmet.
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!
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 😉
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.
10) Au p’tit grec – talking about crepes, this little Greek-owned place at Rue Mouffetard should not be missed!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
18) Asian food – We tried La Muraille de Jade for a nice Bobun and Mme Shawn for a thai lunch.
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.
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 🙂
And voila! Anything you might want to add? I’d love to hear!
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If you’ve been reading Breadonbutter for a while, you probably know by now how much I love traveling and discovering new places and cultures. But, like I mentioned once (here), there are cities I’ve visited many times that I’ll never stop making place for in my budget and time, and one of those cities is London.
London holds a very special place in my heart as it’s where I often went when I was little to visit my uncle, it’s where I spent lots of weekends during my studies, and it’s where my sister lives now. This city has many faces. More generally, we can say it has 4 different faces: East, West, North and South, each with special things you get attached to as a tourist. I once spoke about East London (here), but today, here’s a broader list of my favorite 20 things about London.
20 things about London
1) Parks – Walking around when the weather is nice, jogging or having a little picnic in any of London’s parks is of pure enjoyment. Among many, I would pick Regents Park, Hampstead Heath and Victoria Park as my favorite.
2) Markets – Come the weekend, there is no greater pleasure than strolling around London’s different markets. The list is long: there are Borough Market and Broadway Market; there are Brick Lane, Spitalfields and Portobello and many more. You can view a full map of all the markets and their opening hours and days on this link.
3) Oxford Street at Christmas – The busy Oxford Street already has everything you need. And if you’re looking for a place to really feel the Christmas spirit, this is it.
4) Burger places – Among my favorites are Dirty Burger, Five Guys and Burgers and Lobsters. You can use the Zomato app while you’re there to check out the trendiest burgers in London.
5) Asian Food – Vietnamese, Korean or Thai; you can all find them anywhere you go. My favorites are Busaba eathai for the best Thai meal, Bibimbap in Soho, and Cay Tre for the best ramen and pho. I had the best Vietnamese food experience at Cay Tre where I found the food was the most fresh, flavorsome and authentic. An absolute delight!
6) Notting Hill and Portobello Road.
7) Fortnum and Mason for a typical British tea time.
9) Shoreditch and the graffiti.
10) Monmouth Coffee company – You can choose your coffee beans then share a table filled with jam and bread with other customers.
11) The Monocle Café on Baker Street.
Photo taken from google
12) Chipotle for the best Burrito.
13) Musicals – My favorites until now are Sound of Music, Matilda and Wizard of Oz.
14) Covent Garden – Ideal for a warm hot chocolate in the morning after going around the market.
Photo taken from google.
15) Indian Food – One of my favorite Indian restaurants in London with a fun and colorful interior is Masala Zone in Covent Garden. A must try.
Photo taken from google.
16) Tate Modern – The most visited Art Gallery in the world. You can check current exhibitions here.
17) Piccadilly and Leicester Square – Make sure to visit the Photographers’ gallery (click here for more details), the first independent gallery devoted solely to Photography. I can spend endless hours in there just looking at the exhibited photographers’ different perspectives on life.
18) The National Portrait Gallery on Trafalgar Square – Check out the exhibition of the moment on this link.
19) Carnaby Street for a colorful walk.
Photo taken from google
20) The Lily Vanilli Bakery – This is by far my favorite place in the entire city. This little bakery is great for a warm afternoon tea and the most wonderful non-traditional desserts.
Have you been to London? Anything to add to the list?
After writing 20 things about Rome last month, I have compiled another list, this time about Istanbul. As winter is fast approaching and the season of short getaways is almost here, I present you with a list of fun things to do, eat, drink and see in one of the liveliest cities of the world. Also, expect a lot more of “20 things” about many more cities 🙂 Enjoy!
1) Istanbul Modern: a museum but also a wonderful fusion restaurant at night
2) Emirgan Sütiš in Bebek for the best Turkish breakfast experience
3) Nišantaše: the posh neighborhood of Istanbul – have wine or coffee at House Café
4) Kümpir (i.e. jacket potatoes) in Ortaköye
5) Bosphorus boat rides
6) The Grand Bazaar
7) Lahm Ajun at the Grand Bazaar
8) Kebab and Yogurt at Saray
9) Street Food: Kebabs and Wet Burgers in Taksim
10) Street Food again: Mussels on Istiklal Street
11) Pomegranate Juices: Full of vitamins
12) Sultan Ahmet
13) Castana in winter
15) Wine tasting and cheese at Sensus in Galata
16) Galata Tower and the streets around it
17) The tea, all the time, everywhere
18) The bridges
19) Gram for breakfast
20) And last but absolutely not least, Aya Sofia and the History behind it