Welcome to this week’s “Where Is…?” – a new feature where I speak to fellow wanderers about where they are in the world. This week I have been chatting to the lovely Jess Ingles, the lady behind one of my favourite blogs – Jess is a Wanderer.
Jess has travelled to six continents and has lived on three. Catching the travel bug in 2004, she hasn’t stayed in one place since. Today she talks to me about her recent trip to Beirut (Lebanon).
So Jess, what made you decide to travel Beirut? What was it like?
You know when your boss says, ‘Right, have the next two days off’ and those two days are right before a weekend? Well, that’s what happened to us. We visited Skyscanner and within an hour had a flight booked to Beirut. We didn’t know much about it, other than it was kind of arty but it was the cheapest flight available. Three of us travelled there for the impromptu long weekend and all three of us completely and totally fell in love with the place. If you enjoy partying, it’s here. If you enjoy the beach, it’s here. If you enjoy shopping, it’s here. If you enjoy art, it’s here. If you enjoy history, it’s here. There really is something for everyone. We found Beirut incredibly cheap and we weren’t making a huge effort to stick to a budget. Drinks at the Four Seasons were of course highly priced, however, there were plenty of other places offering cocktails at a much more reasonable price. If I had to sum up Beirut, it would be ‘Beirut is anything that you want it to be’.
I love impromptu trips…they are often the best ones! What was the weather like while you were there?
Having travelled from Egypt where the temperatures had starting dipping below 30c, we were a little worried about Beirut as, being in the mountains, we thought it might get chilly. Nonetheless, we were extremely surprised. Temperatures were mid-thirties the entire time we were there. Though we hadn’t visited for sunbathing, we absolutely could have spent time at the beach.
We stayed in the student/party-y section of Hamra. Staying here put us within walking distance of most places and within quick reach of those reasonably priced cocktails that I mentioned earlier. The hotel was certainly not expensive but it wasn’t the cheapest we could find, either. It was a happy medium. Whenever I travel somewhere new, I never worry too much about having a fancy hotel as I’m there to see the sights, not the bedroom!
I couldn’t agree more! What were your highlights from the trip?
There is so much to do in and around Beirut that we divided up our few days. The first day, I recommend walking around the city, taking in the place, looking at the architecture etc. The second day, we went further afield to a place called Byblos, stopping at Jeita caves on the way. The caves were incredible but no photographs were allowed to be taken! Byblos was a lovely seaside town and the driver stopped along the way for us to ride cable cars, visit shops and markets etc. I definitely recommend the Byblos daytrip. On day three, walk along the Corniche, it’s a really lovely walk following the coastal path. You can stop for a milkshake, watch the fitness fanatics running past or simply admire the view.
The market at Byblos was definitely an exciting find. There were hardly any tourists there and it was in such a lovely setting. With an old castle as the backdrop, you wind through cobbled streets and alleyways looking at the colourful merchandise on offer. It is a touristy place but it’s well worth the visit. If you can, on your Byblos daytrip, it’s also worth visiting Our Lady of Lebanon statue. This cable car ride starts down at the beach, crosses roads, motorways, goes in between apartment buildings to the top of a mountain. It’s an incredible experience!!
It does sound incredible! Do you have any other tips or advice for anyone travelling to Beirut?
If you find yourself in Beirut, be open to everything. Put your exploring senses on and just stroll. There’s so much to stumble across, especially if you’re into art and architecture. The area of Mar Mikael has lots of quirky building designs and street art on show. It’s worth the walk for sure.
Great tips! So Jess, I know you love to travel around and I always enjoy following your adventures. Where in the world are you off to next?
This year, Christmas and New Year will be spent on my seventh continent: Antarctica. I’ve been counting this down since January so I’m extremely excited to get going!!
Oooh I am jealous! What three must-have items will you be taking with you?
I always travel with extra batteries for my camera; I’ve learnt the hard way that it’s not always possible to rely on having a power source. The second thing that’s always in my bag is a pen and paper. I like to jot things down that I’ve seen or done. This helps to jog my memories for later. I also always take a credit card because if there’s something I really want to do but can’t afford, I’d rather regret paying for it later than regret not doing it.
And finally, what has been your favourite destination so far?
My favourite destination so far in 2015 (it’s too hard to choose an all-time favourite) is absolutely, 100% Easter Island. I could never have imagined such an incredible place. I had the best time during my stay there.