Tag Archives: culture

Beirut: the Latest Girls’ Holiday Destination

Babes in Beirut

Move over Marbella, Beirut has so much to offer for a weekend with the girls. It’s full to the brim with luxurious cars and beautiful people, so after my recent girls’ holiday, I couldn’t recommend it more. With ample clubs and bars, as well as easily accessible day trips and cultural excursions, the Lebanese capital is bursting with glamour and fun, and still allows you to come back to reality every now and again to immerse yourself in its profound history and culture.

Part of excavations from the ancient town of Byblos. Now housed in the Beirut National Museum. © Georgia Dey

Beirut is a small capital city, with a population of only 4.5 million, therefore, while maintaining the bustling and energetic feel of any major city, it has the added ease of mobility of a smaller place.

Walking through the streets of Beirut you become all too aware of the conflicts in its past. Shadows of the Civil War linger in the form of blown out buildings and others showered with bullet holes. Eerie though it may sound, this adds to the depth of the atmosphere in this now modern, cosmopolitan city.

Furthermore, the remnants of the French colonial rule are visible in the form of beautiful Parisian architecture seen throughout the city, and of course in the language. French is a dominant language in Lebanon, although it is generally the language of the educated middle class; a knowledge of Arabic comes in handy when out and about and chatting with taxi drivers.

Top Tips in Beirut

As a tourist, the easiest way to travel around the city is by taxi. There are two types of taxi found in Beirut. A service taxi acts like a bus and costs 2000 Lebanese pounds per person, while you must haggle a price for a private taxi and it often works out more expensive.

Inside the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, Beirut. © Georgia Dey

The official currency of Lebanon is the Lebanese pound. However, due to inflation, £1 sterling is roughly equivalent to 1900LBP, so they have adopted a dual currency system, also accepting the US dollar as legal tender. I would advise that you stick to using the Lebanese pound, as the majority of the time you’ll receive it as change regardless of the currency you paid in, and switching between multiple currencies becomes complicated very quickly.

Make the most of Beirut’s coastal location and take a sunset walk from the Corniche along the coastline until you reach the Pigeon Rocks. The relaxing stroll gives you ample opportunity to unwind, especially if, like me, you spent the previous evening sampling the best of Beirut’s nightlife, and are feeling a little worse for wear. The gentle sea breeze and sound of crashing waves is truly therapeutic.

My number one recommendation for a night out in Beirut is a bar crawl in Mar Mikhael. Renowned for its arty vibes, the area boasts an array of trendy bars. A particular favourite of mine was Lock Stock because of its talented cocktail bartenders who never failed to conjure up gorgeous and delicious cocktails time and again (believe me, I tried a lot of them!)

A Greek Catholic Church, Harrisa. © Georgia Dey

Byblos

An afternoon in Byblos is essential. The oldest continuously inhabited town in the world dating back almost 8000 years, Byblos is a small coastal town with charming cobbled streets and buildings bursting with character. By the modest harbour there’s an abundance of restaurants and cafes with views of the sea and ruins. Given its prestige as a must-see spot in Lebanon, it can feel a little touristy at times but it is nonetheless a remarkable and relaxing destination.

The Jeita Grotto

Having existed for countless years before human discovery, a visit to this cave, full to the brim with impressive stalagmites and stalactites, is a truly awe-inspiring experience. The slow development of the calcium has created the unique underground landscape, untouched by humans until the 1830s. No wildlife inhabit the cave, apart from a few bats that have taken refuge there since its discovery. Sadly, pictures are forbidden inside the Grotto, but that makes this spot even more worthy of a trip.

Harrisa

A sleepy village doubling up as a Christian pilgrimage site, where in close proximity you can visit a modern cathedral, a traditional Greek Catholic church and the statue of the Virgin Mary, “Notre Dame du Liban”. You can also take an exciting cable-car ride up to the town, which is located high on the hilltop. Not one for those with a fear of heights, but it’s worth it for the incredible views of the sea stretching back to Beirut’s harbour.

“Notre Dame du Liban”, Harrisa. © Georgia Dey

I had the most wonderful time in Lebanon and would recommend it to anyone! It has so much to offer — vibrant nightlife, incredible natural landscapes and unbelievably friendly residents, making it a fantastic holiday destination. Unfortunately, due to conflicts nearby in the region, I must highlight the importance of checking your government’s travel information before making any plans.

So when you’re planning your next girls’ — or guys’ — holiday, check out Beirut. You’d be silly not to.

Featured image © Georgia Dey

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Cyprus: Top 5 Places to See

Cyprus has become a popular holiday destination for many British holiday-makers in recent years; the city of Paphos is a favourite for families who want some sun, sea and sand, whilst the town of Ayia Napa is infamous Continue reading

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Maggie Meng

Santorini: 5 tips to help you plan a trip on a student’s budget

Santorini is one of the most famous Greek islands, located in the southern part of the Aegean Sea to the east of Turkey. Continue reading

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Andy Blackledge

Manchester: the Heart of the North

There has always been, and will always be, an ongoing debate on where the South of England ends and the North begins. Many think of Crewe as the boundary, others consider Nottingham and Birmingham as ‘Northern’. If we consider Ashby-de-la-Zouch as the centre of England, surely everything above it is in the North? The divide is an enigma, and the North itself is even more of a mystery to many a Southerner.

What cannot be disputed, however, is that the crowning jewel of the North is Manchester: the British capital of music, art, science, and a true home for every hipster. The city gave birth to the computer, the cotton industry, the Suffragettes, the railway, the splitting of the atom, professional football, trade unions, the first library in the English-speaking world, and the first female bishop. It is because of this long and fascinating history that Manchester sits as a bright flame among the dank rain and fog of the North.

oatsy40

Deansgate-Castlefield, one of the most well-known stops in the city. (Photographer: oatsy40; Flickr)

Any trip into Manchester should start from the south end of the city, at the locally famous Deansgate-Castlefield Metrolink stop. The bumblebee-coloured Manchester Metrolink connects the city to its outer suburbs and beyond, and is affectionately known locally as the ‘Met’. From Deansgate-Castlefield you can marvel at Beetham Tower in all its enormity. The 47-floor Hilton hotel stands above the rest of the city like an oblong beacon, reminding one of the mysterious black cuboid in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. From here, Manchester Central is but a short stroll away; take in the architecture of the once-busy train station, now an event venue, and admire the grand scale of what was the entrance to the spectacle that was the North. As you look around you, notice the old warehouses that provide small hints towards Manchester’s industrial past.

It is at this point that you can submerge yourself in the city as you walk up Mount Street, past the grandeur of the Midland Hotel and into Albert Square (no, you’re not back in London, there’s one in Manchester too!) where you can admire the scale of the Town Hall. The square is packed with events and bars all year round for every occasion, from Saint Patrick’s Day to the Manchester Christmas Markets — the largest German markets in the world, outside of Germany.

Becca Swift

St Peter’s Square, Manchester. (Photographer: Becca Swift; Flickr)

Cut through Lloyd Street and you’ll find yourself in St Peter’s Square. Opposite you is the recently opened KPMG headquarters, to your right is Manchester Central Library — the largest library in the city — and to your left is the Cenotaph. Welcome to what many locals consider the gateway to the city centre and one of the busiest squares in the city. If you’re visiting during the week, take care not to get in the way of the hundreds of lawyers, financial advisors and office workers that flood the city; in traditional Northern fashion, they’ll storm through you with a cheeky smile and a ‘Hello’!

Take a left up Mosely Street and you will find the Manchester Art Gallery on your right, a free and exciting gallery, with a range of exhibits from traditional artworks to modernist and interactive pieces. As you walk through the gallery, take a look at not only the art on the walls, but the people inside; it is here that you will see the full variety of Mancunians (a native or inhabitant of Manchester, commonly seen wearing a football shirt or donning Dr. Martens boots), from the Northern family taking a trip out, to the office worker on his lunch break and the high art enthusiast peering at the L.S. Lowry painting on the wall.

Dun.can

Visit Manchester Art Gallery to take in some high art and do a spot of people-watching. (Photographer: Dun.can; Flickr)

Heading east to King Street will land you in the centre of Manchester’s financial district, overflowing with high end boutiques. If you’re visiting the city on a budget, be warned: this is an expensive and exclusive area so guard your wallet from impulse buying! After having admired the buildings of the Hotel Gotham and Agent Provocateur, following Spring Gardens northbound puts you in the centre of Market Street, home to many high street brands. What is most striking about Market Street is not the shops, but the people on the street itself. With street performers, pretzel stands, tightrope walkers, magicians, human statues and more busking musicians that you can wave a stick at, Market Street offers an extravaganza of noises, smells and sights.

At the end of Market Street is Piccadilly Gardens, a once vibrant and beating centre of the city now fallen into unfortunate misery. On the bright side, a recent petition signed by over 20,000 Mancunians has forced the council to take action, and new renovations to transform the gardens into a flourish of flowers and fountains and will hopefully be underway soon.

Walking from Piccadilly Gardens up Lever Street brings you to what defines Manchester: the Northern Quarter. With a plethora of vintage shops and boutiques, record stores, tattoo parlours, art galleries and all things indie, this truly is the living soul of the city. A visit here must be accompanied by a stop in the Nexus Art Cafe, a small, underground cafe centred around that which is at the heart of Manchester: creativity. Coming out of the Art Cafe, visit the famous mural of David Bowie by street artist Akse. Street art is encouraged in the Northern Quarter and on almost every corner will be a piece that catches your eye immediately.

The spirit of the Northern Quarter is captured in Affleck’s Palace, a self-professed ‘emporium of eclecticism, a totem of indie commerce.’ An explosion of creativity and colour, Affleck’s offers a shopping experience like no other in the city. With tattoo parlours neighbouring cereal cafes, and wig stores across the way from steam-punk cosplay, there is nowhere else that more perfectly demonstrates the diversity of the city.

From the Northern Quarter take a walk to the Printworks, a printing factory renovated into an entertainment hub where you can catch a bite to eat, watch a movie in IMAX, or simply admire the the conversion itself. This leads you to the National Football Museum and Manchester Cathedral at the top end of Deansgate road. Walking along Deansgate, which spans almost the whole length of the city, will show you an array of clubs, bars, restaurants, shops and cinemas. Halfway down you’ll come across John Rylands Library, which houses literally millions of first manuscripts and works millennia old in a gorgeously Gothic 19th century library, and still serves as one of the University of Manchester’s many archival buildings.

At the very end of Deansgate is your starting, and now finishing, point at the Deansgate-Castlefield Met stop. While one day isn’t nearly enough to get more than a glimpse of the city, I hope that you will be able to appreciate its electrifying aura. There is a beat to Manchester that keeps the city alive and thriving, and never has that beat been stronger than it is right now. The city is blossoming into a new age and is finding itself, once again, at the centre of a cultural resurgence.

Featured image © Andy Blackledge

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Life as an Overseas Student in Nottingham

Before I moved to Nottingham, my only knowledge of the city was its links to the legend of Robin Hood. Although I had visited Nottingham before, I did not have any particular feelings towards it; I only thought it was rather green and big in comparison to the place where I did my undergraduate degree, Leicester. It was soon made evident, however, that the two cities, although 30 minutes apart by train, were vastly different! Continue reading

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