After my initial rapture with Byblos Sur Mer some three
months ago, when we lunched
at its seafood restaurant Dar el Azrak, a revisit was due. Located
squarely at the port of Byblos, the five-star boutique property perches right on the
Mediterranean and boasts an expansive seaside cove. Therein sit Sophia Bay, a zen for sunbathers and seafarers, and Al Marsa café.
Saturday found us checking into our charming junior suite.
In fact, “charming” is the best adjective to describe the hotel, from the
cream-colored, chandelier-decked lobby with local artwork on display, to the
den-like breakfast buffet site turned evening pizzeria, Café Tournesol.
|The lobby inside Byblos Sur Mer|
Our room, a comfortable 44 square meters, featured a proper balcony with views of the Crusader castle and the Byblos port. This
is precisely where you'd want to sip on wine at sunset as you survey tourists
passing directly beneath.
Back inside the suite, a firm king-sized bed; writing table; and salon area with sofa, armchair and coffee table facing a
satellite TV rounded out the scene.
|View from the junior suite balcony|
|Salon area of the suite|
|King-sized bed with plush pillows|
The bathroom is sheer luxury, bedecked with a gold-framed mirror
running the length of the wall above a capacious tub (honeymoon material!). A
separate walk-in shower with bathing products by French brand Azzaro
render the restroom its own cathartic paradise.
If you can will yourself to tear away from the room, which with its soundless air conditioning is so ineffably therapeutic, make your way down
to Sophia Bay and bask in the strong rays of the Mediterranean sun. A small pond-like pool shallow
enough for young children provides refreshment. If you don’t mind the salt of
the sea, descend into its waters naturally cordoned off by rocks.
|Al Marsa Café by day, and beyond it, Sophia Bay|
In the evening, the same arena houses the canopied Al Marsa Café,
where beautiful beats accompanied by live singing animate your dining experience. Saturday nights present a BBQ formula, comprising
the mainstays of the traditional Lebanese mezza followed by a selection of grilled meat.
|View of Dar el Azrak from Al Marsa Café|
Nothing could be more delightful than stuffing a hummus-smeared pita
pocket into your mouth as you peer over the placid black waters where schools
of small fish vie for your attention (and breadcrumbs). Stuffed Swiss chard leaves, rocket with fresh thyme salad, eggplant caviar, plump makanek sausages, and kibbeh teardrops flesh out dinner.
|Lebanese mezza on BBQ night at Al Marsa|
|Kibbeh teardrops along with cheese-filled filo fingers|
Afterward, thread your way through Jbeil to take in the
throbbing nightlife. The Old Souks are lined with pubs brimming at capacity, and in the
central courtyard, restaurants scramble to win over aimless passersby. Back by
the Mina, past the typical fish restaurants, amble to the “jetée,” or pier, where you’ll discover late-night picnickers, romantic couples, and teenagers
blaring music from their mobile phones. Ah, the characteristic “sansoul” experience!
In the morning, when the appetite beckons, do not miss breakfast at Café Tournesol. The homey bistro invites guests to its
corner location on the first floor of the hotel, overlooking both sea and port
with sunlight trickling in. Furniture is a kitschy blend of old-fashioned
white wooden tables, fluffy print sofas, and low-rising coffee tables suitable for
afternoon high tea.
|Cafe Tournesol's kitschy furniture|
Lovers of the Lebanese breakfast will find solace here, as
the buffet counts in its repertoire cooked broad beans (foul mdammas), balila,
labneh, local cheeses, zaatar in olive oil, crisp veggies, and tahini. Fresh to
order manakish pies? You got it, in both cheese and zaatar varieties. You can
also customize eggs to your liking!
|Viennoiserie and baked goods|
|Fresh-baked zaatar mankoushe|
Sweet tooths (including yours truly) might have a bit of
difficulty satisfying their sugar cravings. In the healthier department, there’s
a fresh fruit medley as well as Taanayel flavored yogurts. But there’s
little in the way of baked goods, besides miniature chocolate-chip muffins and
a plain tea cake. The highlight are the homemade jams – apricot is supreme – as
well as the locally sourced honeycomb.
After breakfast, saunter back into the old city for a
glimpse of daytime activity. Engage the shop vendors for their
frivolous knickknacks; visit the wax museum; light a candle inside one of the many churches dotting the landscape; and check out the fossilized fish exhibits not
far from the castle, nestled beneath Locanda Corsini.
Most importantly, take notice of the breathtaking sights
from every angle. Jbeil is replete with hidden passageways and restaurants, as well
as century-old residences fenced off to nosy wanderers. For as far as the
eye can dart, there’s something uniformly enchanting about this city. Here, the
historic fuses with the contemporary. The new doesn’t blot out the old, only
merely complementing it as in a palimpsest.
|One of the narrow passages in Jbeil|
And Byblos Sur Mer, its premier boutique hotel, echoes that spirit
exactly. Present moments with precious pieces from the past adorn the walls to form a heritage collection. Inside suites, discover hand-woven decorative lace mounted on walls, and stones from the sea serving as closet door handles. Throughout the property, cherish silk-woven carpets, antique furniture, vintage books and a restored Mediterranean Byzantine mosaic picturing birds native to Byblos.
Spend a day at Byblos Sur Mer, guest to its rustic hospitality,
and you’ll lose all notion of time.
A deluxe room starts at $180 per night, an executive room at $200, and a junior suite sea view at $240 (TVA exclusive). All arrangements include breakfast. For more details on rooms, rates, and bookings, visit http://byblossurmer.com/booking/. You can also nab promotional rates on booking.com.
Byblos Sur Mer
Sea Road, facing Historical Port
1401 - Jbeil, Lebanon
+961 9 548 000
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