Which herbs to plant in an apartment
My wife and I took advantage of the unfortunate COVID-19 lockdown to use our mini vertical planter to cultivate edible herbs. This adds some flavor to the stay-at-home "activity" especially the herbs can be used as condiments in many food preparations and salads as explained further below...
We bought for a ridiculous sum, crops for some herbs that can survive an apartment atmosphere with moderate light.
We planted two kinds of basil, the one with small leaves and the one with larger leaves.
Both emanate a delicious basil flavor immediately upon touching them.
Their leaves are much appreciated in a tomato based salad or with pasta preparations.
A taste of Italy on your wall and then in your dish!
A Mediterranean herb used in Italian and other Mediterranean cuisines like the Lebanese. Oregano is similar to thyme in taste and can be either dried and used as a condiment or tasted as green leaves to replace thyme in a fresh Lebanese salad.
A main ingredient of the Lebanese cuisine tasted as is in a fresh salad with onions and tomatoes or dried as a condiment or soaked in olive oil and salted to create the famous "Zaatar" that flavors the also famous "mankouché" or thyme pizza if you prefer.
This herb aromate has many uses like macerating it in olive oil prior to seasoning a salmon steak with it!
Whatever herbs you chose, it remains quite fun to cultivate them at home and a added pleasure when using their leaves in your preferred recipes.
Alma El Chaab (Shaab)- South of Lebanon
We were driving back from Ain Ebel taking the road down to Naqoura at the southern border of Lebanon when we crossed this picturesque village which beauty was completely unknown to us. We immediately fell under the spell of this house, its magical garden and the astonishing natural stone fence that borders the street all the way inside the village of Alma El Chaab.
The tiny streets with traditional Lebanese houses invited us to continue driving inwards with a new charming discovery at each and every crossing.
Alma El Chaab is built with the same stones, of the same age, and with the same mortar!
It's homogeneity and uniformity are like it is coming out of a mold or a 3D print.
Many churches are there but we encountered two of them:
The National Evangelical Church (left)
The Mar Elias El Hay Church, initially built in 1880 and entirely renovated in 2000.
"Mar Elias" is Saint Elijah the Prophet whose story is told in the Old Testament and to whom hundreds of churches are dedicated in Lebanon.
Although most houses were closed during our passage by Alma El Chaab, we noticed they were maintained as attested by the flowers, plants and trees.
Other gardening leftovers like fertilizer bags and tools gave us the impression we just missed to meet the homeowners.
The few abandoned houses simply increase the overall charm of the village like this way beneath a wooden roofed arcade or this stair which is missing on purpose a few of its steps.
This was a safety trick not to let anyone climb to the roof while the homeowners use a wooden ladder to reach the first step.
The lower right image demonstrates the thickness of the stone walls.
Finally the last house to say goodbye simply rivals with the beauty of the first, confirming the outstanding beauty of Alma El Chaab or if you prefer "Alma The People" (Chaab means people in Arabic). We tried to search the exact meaning of "Alma" with no convincing interpretations found unfortunately.
It took us less than 15 minutes to reach Naqoura when continuing downwards on the Ain Ebel - Naqoura road. The superb blue and green colors of the crystal clear sea brought us to level zero down from the some 350m of alitude of Alma El Chaab.
Naqoura's cliff is of a white rock that reminds you with no doubt that Alma El Chaab's churches were built on that rock!
Yanouh's Christian Basilica of the 5th Century
At Yanouh in the heart of the Lebanese mountains, the first Christian Basilica dates back to the end of the 5th century. Yanouh's Basilica architecture was made of three naves separated by columns, a baptistery and a protruding semicircular apse. The floor was paved with flagstones.
The below picture shows the remains as found nowadays. Locals say a project to reconstruct the Basilica could see the light within the next few years.
The Basilica is part of a wider Roman site at an altitude of 1200m expanding from Byblos into the heights of the Lebanese mountains and Nahr Ibrahim's upper valley.
The site of Yanouh contains various temples and buildings of the 2nd century B.C. and up to the 12th and 13th centuries. But Yanouh remains most known for being the ancient Maronite Patriarchate of the Early Middle Ages.
Yanouh's Maronite Patriarchate
Cross the road from the Roman site, and you will find The Church of our Lady Mother of God which was completely reconstructed in 2017.
It is more than a church however...
Here's a brief history of Yanouh's Maronite Patriarchate:
Saint Maroun (also Saint Maron, died 410 AD), founder of the Maronite Church, sent his disciple Ibrahim to Mount Lebanon to preach the Gospel. Ibrahim settled in Joubbat Al-Mnaitri and became the Bishop of Kouroche, known as Ibrahim Al-Kouroshi.
He succeeded in his mission and founded a large Maronite community.
The Bishop then built the Church of our Lady Mother of God in Yanouh, at the center of Joubbat Al-Mnaitri, with the help of builders coming from Antioch.
When the fourth Maronite Patriarch Jean-Maroun II was elected, he could not throne in Antioch due to the persecution of Christians; he then settled in Yanouh between a strong community of some 5,000 believers. He lived in Yanouh's Church of our Lady Mother of God and Saint George church that was built by Emperor Constantine over a roman temple.
The Church of our Lady Mother of God became then the Maronite Patriarchate and remained as such during 500 years. The consecutive Patriarchs succeeded in building good relations with the West and Rome. The Popes asserted Yanouh as the seat of the Maronite Patriarchate.
The architecture is typically Phoenician Antiochian and Syriac with the existence of an altar, a nave, an apse, the Bishop throne and its bema (bima).
Original Christian cross as found on a stone and used as is during the reconstruction of the church of Yanouh:
A little escapade to the nearby "Saidet Al Habs"
At a 10-minute drive from Yanouh, you can visit the Lady of "Habs" site which is located at the beginning of the village of Akoura.
The Virgin Mary statue was airlifted by a Lebanese army chopper and is accessible by walking on a small footpath from Akoura. but it is more interesting to climb the thousand steps stair from the road between Mejdel Akoura and Akoura.
There are two statues that can be visited when following the suggested trail, the old "Saydet El Habs" Virgin Mary statue placed on a balcony and accessible to all after a few hundred steps (picture to the left) and the newer one, with the Virgin Mary holding Jesus on its shoulders and that needs a further effort to climb the stairs of several hundreds steps.
The stairs are like part of the cliff and offer a breathtaking view and experience.
The steps are uneven and of unequal height which adds more fun to the climbing adventure.
A breathtaking view from Saidet Al Habs on Akoura's picturesque village, its numerous irrigation ponds, and the superb upper Nahr Ibrahim valley.
Yanouh's Apples and Wine...
Akoura is famous for its red apples which you can buy locally if you're visiting in September and the same extends down to Yanouh.
A wine tasting at Chateau Wadih is perfect for ending this Christian history trip and for remembering Jesus first miracle in the Southern village of Cana in Lebanon when he turned water into wine during a wedding.
I hope you enjoyed reading and discovering Yanouh.
An apple tree and a walnut tree as seen nearby the Church of our Lady Mother of God:
Chateau Wadih's caves:
Project overview, choice of the materials
The below terrace is located in between two blocs of a multi-apartment building which is affecting its privacy. It was decided to transform it into a glass room. The owner, an interior designer, decided to glaze most of the area while leaving a little space all around as planters.
A low maintenance material is used for the frame (powder coated aluminum profile) and a triple layer tempered glass ensures the tightness of the roof while allowing the sunlight to pass through.
The glass room walls are made of a central fixed glass panel that provides the necessary rigidity and strength to the whole room with sliding glass doors all around equipped with mosquito nets.
A ready-made tiled-roof window has been purchased and integrated into the glass roof in order to evacuate the hot air that accumulates in there in hot weather and to provide a natural ventilation even when all sliding doors are closed (the window is still vented when closed).
The glass walls have been elevated on a brick wall for safety purpose i.e. not to let the glass reach the ground on one hand and for using the brick wall as a planter on the other hand.
Glass room material schedule
The fixed glass in the middle of the left picture strengthens the whole glass window assembly.
Two sliding doors on each side of the fixed glass panel provide wide openings for ventilation and for taking care of the plants.
The brick wall planter is visible in both pictures.
The aluminum frame is simply sitting on it, then sealed with a beige silicone compound.
Glass roof details
Measurements were taken with a normal measuring tape, then Autocad was used to draw the frame and the roof panels. The CAD drawing was printed on paper in order to cut the roof supporting aluminum frames. and provided on a USB stick to the glass manufacturer who loaded the drawing directly in the glass cutting machine.
A wooden pitched roof window was integrated to the central frame above the fixed glass panel which also increases the overall rigidity of the glass window.
The window is held to the aluminum frame by the means of four screws on each side.
The accessory usually used all around this window to allow its installation in a tiled roof has been skipped.
The glass panels are bonded to the aluminum frames with crystal clear silicone, then 3mm thick flat aluminum blades were used to cover the silicone so it cannot be seen when an observer looks at the glass window from top.
A poly cotton curtain was fitted to the largest glass panel, the one that faces the neighbors and for obvious privacy purpose.
The curtain is a simple thick white fabric sewed all around though strengthening its edges and fixing rings integrated on all 4 corners. The rings are held to the aluminum frame with hooks to keep it well stretched.
It can be easily removed and refitted for washing.
The terrace bar
It's an emergency!
The family gathering was decided at M's unfinished home within a short notice!
M had to create in no time and out of nothing a minimum of furniture and infrastructure; the terrace was to be converted in a seating and serving area in a matter of 72 hours.
M managed to collect a few wood planks and unused pallets.
This is how the terrace bar was born: the raw unfinished wood planks were used to create the bar sides, top and front. It took M only a few nails and a good hammer to build it.
The terrace bar was big enough to accommodate the necessary bottles and cups and to seat a few family members.
At first attempt, the pallets were converted into bottle shelves and fixed inside the bar, but then, the result was a bit bulky and after all, it's a shame to hide the beautiful wine bottles...
The wood pallets are now fixed to the wall with a touch of color, a kind of improvised and last-minute wall ornaments. M had now moved to the next level: taking a break, looking at his creation from a distance, and adding the art-deco touch that was missing!
That's exactly what DIY is about.
The bar front is now perfect and stylish.
Other wood pallets have been piled up to create tables and the remaining wood planks placed over masonry stone blocks as seating benches.
One can already imagine the family gathering in this DIY-out-of-nowhere bar-restaurant, the talks, the laughs, the cheers, the hubbub...
The terrace sink
Now there was another problem to be solved: no wash basin or sink for the invitees to wash their hands and for washing the dishes.
It was time to use another natural material: the stone.
No time for building this outdoor sink to a final finish and to fit a basin mixer tap.
Leftovers of natural stone panels and cladding were built in a manner to create an free-standing terrace sink. Silicone compound ensured the water tightness and held all parts together.
A drilled hole in the wall allowed to connect the water inlet and another tube served as a drainage pipe straight to the garden.
The sink design is quite simple: an oblique mounted stone panel sends the water down to the drainage while the wall behind is waterproofed with another stone panel used as a one-piece cladding. That's it!
M did the job within the given deadline and with N (M's wife), they were able to organize the family gathering and enjoy their summer house despite being still under construction.
Thanks for reading, DIY ideas never dry up and are worth giving them a try.
@ M&N, keep up the good work and thanks for sharing your photos.
We left Jezzine heading towards the Bekaa valley and reached Mashgara after crossing the beautiful landscapes of South Lebanon. At first, we were disappointed by the newly built houses of this famous village of the West Bekaa but soon discovered this tiny street that takes you up to Mashghara's church and its surroundings, where the stone walls of old Lebanese houses and the stairs in between them invite you to stop the car in this almost pedestrian zone and take a walk in the picturesque district.
This is how you discover how the charming front doors and windows of the renovated houses of Mashghara rival with the sadly abandoned ones that will let you build your own version of the past and present of the owners.
And then, we reached this vegetable garden, with its perfect arrangement of the plant rows. Others have planted grape vines, trees and flowers to decorate their terraces.
This abandoned house of Mashghara offered us a delightful color palette! The thick white plaster left its orange earth clay, the ageing of the wooden roof created a mix of grey and brown shades and the green paint of the door and shutters proved to be stronger than the UVs.
Daily exercising is not an issue for the lucky homeowners of Mashghara. They simply climb back the stairs after each visit to the grocery store...
Thanks for reading and sharing, Lebanon is a beautiful Mediterranean country with an astonishing history and mix of cultures.
Napoli, a charming city of South Italy
Walking from Napoli's main train station towards the historical center will let you notice for sure the architectural details of Napoli's buildings' facades, a first step towards falling in love with the Southern city.
Once you move inside the historical center, the streets get tinier without notice increasing the charm of the walk. Don't be surprised if you miss the blue sky in there since curtains, clothes racks and air conditioners could obstruct the upwards view.
The incredible via S. Gregorio Armeno
And then, there's this street...the San Gregorio Armeno, the santon and figurine street!
You can buy anything from a hand painted ceramic pasta calibrator, to dried mushrooms, Italian herbs, pepper talisman, ornaments, fridge magnets, etc., etc.
The creche santons are simply incredible. There are figurines for absolutely any character you might think about for your nativity scene!
Pizza bakers, miniature Citroëns and Minis made with hand-formed iron, music boxes, pepper talisman, handcrafted ceramics, the choice is indefinite.
The "Napoli Soterranea" underground caves
If the S. Gregorio Armeno street is not tiny enough for you and you're looking for a "cosyer" adventure in Napoli, why not buying tickets for the subterranean tunnels or caves if you prefer. These are en enigmatic underground system, used by almost whoever lived or passed by Napoli: by the Romans to extract stones, by the Neapolitans to bury their waste or hide during WWII, etc. Guided tours in several languages are available all along the opening time.
Some parts of the visit are at the limit of anyone's claustrophobic limits but you can skip this part if you want and stay in the wider spaces.
Recently, parts of a Roman theater have been uncovered and are included in the same Napoli Soterranea tour. The guide will accompany you through the street after the underground caves visit to another entrance door and let you discover the ancient theater. No doubt it is Roman as attested by the stone arrangement shown in the right picture and which was used by the Romans to counter the earthquakes effects.
That's it for a day in Napoli, it leaves enough time to catch back a train or flight to another destination.
A collection of front doors from Italy
Tivoli's visit near Rome in Italy is a mandatory passage for reaching the famous Villa d'Este. The picturesque tiny streets of Tivoli's city center offer to their visitors a collection of front doors that have aged just enough to be at the top of their charm...
Fortunately, no one fixed the paint scratches.
Electrical wires enter and leave the thick plaster at any place and for any reason while the almost vertical wall lights are fixed to different heights.
The brown doors with half-circle transom windows are an Italian classic widely found in Tivoli.
Simply over-charming planters hanged near this basement door at the street level.
No doubt they are a better indication of the entrance than any sign or arrow.
Note the wooden beams that hang out of the rough wall and that support nothing; an additional decoration that adds to the overall appeal of the house.
Flowers on all doors with no exception...
These elevated front doors accessible by stairs are simply perfect...unmatched charm.
Finally, this wall has it all: beautiful window shutters, the picture of Virgin Mary, an attractive mid-age front door, hanged flower pots, planters, a unique mailbox and indeed visible electrical wires!
How to reach and visit the cedars of Jaj
The cedars of Jaj in Lebanon are located at the highest hill of Jaj village which you can access from Amchit at the coastal highway.
Once there, a short pedestrian way at 1600 m of altitude takes you to the few but beautiful specimens of Cedrus Libani trees. This is not a hiking trip since you walk a matter of 15 minutes maximum from the vast parking square to the largest group of trees.
Yet, the visit is worth it for the beauty of the landscape, the healthy cedars, and Jaj's or Lehfed's affordable and delicious restaurants.
The walk offers a close encounter with the Lebanese mountains vegetation.
The cedars of Jaj have grown by groups of a few trees, each apart from the other.
It is not a forest of cedars, unlike the ones of Tannourine, Bcharré or the Shouf reserve and that's what makes it special about this visit.
The "Saydé" church (church of Mary) appears beneath the trees in this picture.
This cedar trunk near the Saydé church entrance is simply majestic...
...but the magnificence of the tree can only be appreciated while raising your eyes towards an invisible sky, hidden by the splendid silhouette of this Cedrus Libani.
From the church, one can see other groups of perfectly shaped and healthy Lebanese cedars.
The typical horizontal branches of the Lebanese cedars can be admired in this picture taken in the small wood near the church.
Other branches in this nature reserve of Jaj have decided to follow the slope of the hill like a gesture of reverence paying respect to the beautiful surroundings and the visitors.
And indeed, don't forget to drop by the stone church and its wooden cross. The landscape is as grandiose as almost every Lebanese mountain spot, that your appetite for a small prayer is simply irresistible.
Just a walk from the train station towards the center of the village and you will be surprised by an unexpected itinerary in the gardens of the Villa Gregoriana from where you can have a beautiful view of the Temple of Vesta and the village.
The walk in the Villa Gregoriana park is mainly in the refreshing shadow of a pine forest with several points of interest like the Neptune grotto or the waterfalls. It's an hour of easy hiking route.
The grand waterfall as seen from a close access within the hiking circuit will impress you by its height and consequent loud noise or sound if you prefer:
The Villa Gregoriana site of Tivoli includes two waterfalls, the largest being the most impressive (pictured here from a lower access point) while the smaller offers a quiet journey in mother nature.
Tivoli's hill offers nice views to the Roman plateau each time a gap between its colorful buildings and picturesque houses allows you to throw your eyes as far as it is physically possible. The walk in its tiny streets is of great interest with many architectural details to discover.
Suddenly, you reach the grand square where the market takes place.
The contrast with the almost desert streets is there: street meetings, gatherings, grocery bags in each and every hand...life!
And indeed, one cannot pass through Tivoli without noticing the unique South-Italian Christian ornaments, enough to feel blessed at almost each and every building's corner.
A touch of Italian leather to put some colors in this relaxing Tivoli environment.
Yet, we did not visit the magnificent Villa d'Este!