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Kalimera, Athens!

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The motivation to travel to Athens was two-fold: (1) the direct flight from Beirut is a mere hour and a half, and (2) my understanding of Greece had heretofore been limited to its coastal resorts. It seemed appropriate to visit the capital of a country considered to be the cradle of Western civilization, where landmarks like the Parthenon at the Acropolis date back to the 5th century B.C.

So we booked our flights, homed in on an Airbnb in the heart of the city, and dashed away during the second week of April. Our first impression upon landing was how unusually quiet the airport is. We completed passport control, claimed our baggage, and nabbed a cab at the curb all within 10 minutes after deplaning. When will we ever be able to say the same for Beirut?
The drive into the city takes about 45 minutes, with lush green expanses of olive trees and fields on either side of the slick highway. Once you reach the periphery of Athens, however, the scenery changes markedly. In fact, it’s reminisce…

Sami Basbous: Lebanon's Rare Renaissance Man

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In the fast-paced digital world we currently inhabit, it seems certain our creativity is stifled. You rarely see people scanning the landscape around them for inspiration, whether they’re hustling from point A to point B, or idling in the passenger seat of a car – can’t really reference public transportation in this country, can we now? – or even enjoying a coffee break beneath the shade of a tree. Everyone’s invariably yielding a smartphone and completely riveted by its contents.
How do you create if you’re utterly caught up in consuming? How will we breed the next generation of artists and creatives if our society doesn’t foster any appreciation, let alone recognition, of the beauty surrounding us?
Sami Basbous belongs to what perhaps might be an endangered breed of artists. He is a Renaissance man to the full extent that he is a multidisciplinary artist, painter, composer, lyricist, performer, poet and writer. Embodying just one of those vocations is an admirable feat, particularly i…

Le Gray's Indigo Hits It Out of the Ballpark, Again

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When it comes to knocking things out of the ballpark, five-star property Le Gray nestled in the heart of Beirut is unmatched. It’s no surprise I’ve blogged about its prestigious dining venue, Indigo on the Roof, no less than six times over the course of the last three years. Here is an institution that takes gastronomic pleasure rather seriously, which couldn’t be more evident than now, with the introduction of a dozen menu items by the hotel’s newly appointed Executive Chef Nicolas Herbault.
Hired toward the end of last summer, the French culinary master didn’t waste a moment in brandishing his flair at the Sunday lunch buffet, as we noticed several months ago from both the artistic setup and dessert display. The former emphasizes the sheer lavishness of the food spread, while the latter points to the chef’s heritage, with delicious novelties like the Saint Honoré, macarons, and mini moelleux in the mold of Cannelés Bordelais. I remember rejoicing at the mere sight of these beauties. …

On This International Women's Day, I'm Celebrating Me!

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Today is International Women’s Day, and I’m sure all the men are muttering under their breaths that every day is her day, isn’t it?! Well, to be fair, this world would not go round without the contribution of both women and men, so any day dedicated to honoring either is utterly fantastic in my book.
I was lucky to be raised in a household that doesn’t discriminate between male and female, even though our Lebanese culture is historically steeped in patriarchy. My parents treated my two brothers and me equally. My mom accustomed us to chores around the house – traditionally marked as the woman’s realm – and my dad made sure we learned how to write a check, examine the transmission fluid, shop for groceries, and wash the car.
Tasks were never segregated based on gender, nor was our expected level of achievement in school, which is perhaps why the three of us ranked at the top of our classes, snatching up full-merit scholarships in college and completing at least one graduate degree.
I was…

Sandwiched In-Between A Diner and A Cool Place

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They say sometimes the best things in life are right under your nose. You’re just too busy looking up at the clouds to take notice.

What can I say, living on the 8th floor naturally promotes head-in-the-sky syndrome! Jokes aside, I discovered a gem of an eatery right around the block from where we live. After stumbling upon Les Chanterelles, I was content that at least a first-rate pastry destination was a stone’s throw from home. But now, a diner, too? The stars were really starting to line up in my (foodie) favor, I thought.
I’d heard of Sandwiched long ago. In fact, my husband and I were among the inaugural delivery customers of the eatery some seven years past, when we pored over the menu tucked inside the door of my father-in-law’s Zalka office. I distinctly remember “The Mighty,” two thick slices of pan-grilled sliced bread sandwiching barbecue chicken breast, barbecue bacon, deli turkey, sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, melted Swiss, and sweet, bold BBQ sauce. It was euphor…