‘It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, but who may not be who we essentially are.’
- Alain de Botton, ‘The Art of Travel’
I have yet to find a bucket list that does not include at least one reference to travel: a sun-infused holiday, a belated honeymoon, a backpacking trip around the world, a European countryside road trip. We survive work weeks and winters dreaming of the places we will go and the things we will one day see. The things we will learn. The versions of us we will find. Some of us – the lucky, the wealthy, the brave, the foolish – eventually cross those items off our lists. The rest of us dream ourselves there on rainy afternoons with copies of ‘The Travels of Marco Polo,’ ‘Around the World in Eighty Days,’ ‘A Moveable Feast,’ or a vintage edition of Holiday Magazine.
Those readers not born before 1946 (and I suspect there are many scrolling down this post) have probably never heard of Holiday. From the end of the Second World War into the seventies, it was the largest, most prestigious luxury travel magazine in the world. Holiday was founded in the unlikely city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, barely a year after the bombs stopped falling on a devastated Europe.
The war was over, and the allies had won. But people were disillusioned, sad and tired. They needed food, clothes, infrastructure, but mostly, they needed a dream. It was time to bring back glamour, art, and champagne. Time to bring back adventure. Happy to oblige, Holiday stepped in.
The lavishly funded magazine brought in some of the world’s most famous writers, like John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac, William Faulkner, Truman Capote, Henri Cartier-Bresson and my good friend Ernest Hemingway, and commissioned them to explore the world and produce some of the best travel literature in history. The stories were legendary, the photographs out of this world. Holiday proved that travel really was an art. That the world was beautiful. That it was possible to dream again.
The magazine, in effect, sold an ideal of travel as enrichment, a literal path to intellectual and spiritual betterment. What Vogue did for fashion, Holiday did for destinations.
– Michael Callahan
In 1977, the magazine was sold off and shut down. It disappeared from bookshelves for thirty-seven years until Parisian art direction studio Atelier Franck Durand bought the rights and launched the 373rd issue in April 2014.
Now Holiday is back, and has just released its second issue: n.374, entitled ‘The Scottish Issue.’ It is as beautiful as ever, and guess who is in it:
Beirut, Aristotle, and I.
That’s right! On page 200 of the elegantly bound copy I received in the mail this week is a section called ‘From Afar’ that includes four short pieces from the magazine’s travel correspondents in New York, Paris, Tokyo… and now, proudly, Beirut. From now on, every issue will feature a glimpse, a taste of Beirut as only those who have lived in the city and loved it could possibly describe it.
Here is the first of what I hope will be many Beirut essays to come. On Beirut summers and Lebanese wines. Cheers, and if after reading this you are suddenly overcome with an irresistible wanderlust, you can always find the rest of the issue here.
It only takes one summer evening to fall in love with Beirut. A summer evening perched up on one of the city’s countless luxury rooftops, sipping a glass of wine and watching the scorching Mediterranean sun set over old bullet-ridden houses and futuristic steel skyscrapers. In this city of paradoxes where mountain meets sea and tradition meets modernity, one belief holds supreme: passion. For life, for love, for food, and above all, for wine.
Lebanese wines are like their people: laden with history and deliciously versatile. Ever since French Jesuits founded Lebanon’s first winery in Ksara in 1857, the industry has flourished to produce world-class wines that, like their city, are a symbiosis of Western and Middle Eastern flavors. From crisp rosés and chilled whites to dry, tannin-rich reds, Lebanese wines pair perfectly with barefoot beach parties and casual afternoons in open-air lounges. Above all, and true to the adage that a meal without wine is like a day without sunshine, they are extremely food-friendly.
The latest of these wineries to emerge, Ixsir, has gained international recognition as one of the world’s most eco-friendly wineries. Located in Basbina, Batroun, an hour north of Beirut, the winery is a perfect place to visit on a bright blue road-trip kind of Sunday. The building, winner of the international Architizer A+ Award, is a feat in green and minimalist architecture. As for the wines themselves, they are made from a selection of the finest grapes from around the country under the direction of Saint Émilion’s Hubert de Boüard, co-owner of the celebrated Château Angélus. The 2010 Altitudes Ixsir Red, a heady blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Caladoc, Syrah and Tempranillo, won the Decanter Bronze Medal at the London International Wine Fair and was listed as one of Decanter’s top 25 wines under 20£ this year. Its predecessor, the 2009 Altitudes Red, took home the 2012 Grand Gold Medal at the International Wine Championship organized by the Canadian Sélection Mondiale des Vins.
So if you do find yourself in Beirut this summer, turn it into an oenological adventure. Summer in Beirut is pairing a glass of chilled Source Blanc 2012 by Château Ka with a fattoush salad and freshly caught fish over lunch. It is cooling off a lazy day at the beach with a bottle of Rosé du Printemps 2013 by Domaine Wardy and a cone of ashta ice cream. In each bottle is a facet of Beirut’s personality, a vision of what the city is to each of the country’s more than thirty wineries. There are so many stories, so many wines to try and love that one summer in Beirut just might not be enough.
- Yara Zgheib