A snapshot of Beirut
Winter has arrived here in London; the floor is white with frost and the air is freezing. So I imagine there are a few of you looking for a spot for some winter sun.
Let me put in a good word for Beirut.
Now stay with me. I imagine Beirut conjours up some less than pleasant images in the minds of most folks - indeed that was the reaction of most people when I said I was being posted out there for work - but don't believe the fallacy.
The city has had a tumultuous past; a planned conference there last November was cancelled due to security concerns, but on Saturday I boarded a plane bound for Lebanon.
We were based in the downtown area, just a stone's throw from Zaitunay Bay and its yacht club. As ever, there was not a huge amount of time for sightseeing, so on Sunday I nipped out for a quick stroll along the waterfront to get a look at the city.
It is an interesting mix of old and new. One local told me Solidere is a company which is buying up buildings for redevelopment and making some enemies in the process.
I do have two recommendations for you if you can get yourself out to Beirut though. Our Gala Dinner took place at the Music Hall. This awesome venue features a stage with full pros arch and sumptuous decoration and it part nightclub, part cabaret menu and part gourmet restaurant.
You sit at long tables and are served top-notch food while cabaret acts offering everything from Lebanese traditional music to Tina Turner, by way of Cuban soul, take short turns on the stage.
The other place which is more than worth a look - and was worth the trip for us - is Armenia Street in the Gemmayzeh area of town.
Here the polished downtown facade is nowhere to be seen and older, traditional Lebanese buildings line the streets. Those same streets are packed with bars and restuarants, from which people spill out onto the pavements and cluster round tables with friends.
I'm reliably informed that Beirut's party reputation is clear to see here in the latter parts of the week, as the sidewalks are packed and the road is one long traffic jam.
If you're looking for a spot for a drink, I recommend The Bohemian bar and Enab restaurant. They are two little tastes of Beirut, which is all I could manage in my four days. I was supposed to be working after all.