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August 27th 2017
Published: April 18th 2018
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Not the snappiest of titles of blog entries, but has anyone stopped to think how much creativity is required to keep them all original? Well, terminology issues aside, a day trip from Beirut just had to be experienced, mainly because Lebanon is a compact nation where a trip from A to B can usually be accomplished in the course of a day trip. This particular itinerary appealed, as it combined the ancient (the town of Byblos), with the cavernous (Jeita Grotto) and those essential sweeping views (the statue at Harissa), although you could sense that, according to the day's weather, and passengers' requests, the order in which these took place could be entirely flexible and open to debate. For whatever reason, first up was the town of Byblos, best described as a a true microcosm of the civilizations that have populated Lebanon over the centuries. Arguably one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, the modern port city of Byblos is built upon multiple layers of ruins, dating back to as early as the Stone Age and extending to the more recent Ottoman days. The town's chief attraction is the fortress which doubles up as a museum of sorts, and on ground level, a site of historical ruins, where you can get a feel for the kind of ancient civilization which the town personifies. Immediately adjacent to the fortress, and also the 'corridor' leading up to the entrance, is Byblos souk, where a few crafted items of note are on sale, most targeted at souvenir-seeking tourists whose visit to Byblos can involve more than just a snapshot of the town's history. Moving on from Byblos, the next port of call was Jeita Grotto, a place for which expectations were riding high, especially considering the reports on the internet which lead you to believe that this attraction is unmissable. The happy reality is that those reports are accurate to a T, and Jeita Grotto reveals its appeal almost from the moment you enter the cable car to ferry visitors up to the upper-level cave. Although photography is forbidden, Jeita Grotto's upper cave is a joy to behold, and the variety of stalagtites and stalagmites should provide a fair few reasons to fixate on how they fit into the entire structure of it all. A passageway leads you along a fairly winding and extensive course, and the enormity of the caves is matched by the variety of formations of rock faces, and the shapes and shades of it all. A dotto train then leads visitors down to the lower level of the caves, though this time, walking is substituted by water transport, as a boat leads visitors across the lake on a mini-cruise which serves to give as rounded an impression as possible of the entire cave complex. Thrill-seekers may well be more stimulated by this point in time, so an attempt to scale further dizzying heights came in the form of a trip to Harissa and the 'Our Lady of Lebanon' statue, which allows visitors to gain a spectacuar bay view from a vantage point right at the foot of the statue itself. The town below goes by the name of Jounieh, and in all honesty, is a more impressive spot when view from up on high rather than the reality of it being a purpose-made, casino-strewn resort town which has nothing of the substance of nearby Beirut in terms of actual visuals. The cable car ride which ferries visitors right from Harissa to ground level in Jounieh is a descent which provides the kind of comedown from which a day of considerable highs most likely benefits from. The ensuing banquet-style meal, mostly of grilled meats and Lebanese mezze came at a point in time at which tourists most welcomed a lavish meal, and being ferried back to Beirut with a snapshot of the Lebanon etched on the mind, it probably comes as no surprise that, if word gets around, these tour companies justifiably do a roaring trade, especially if the diverse nature of an itinerary such as this is anything to go by.


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