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DIVINE ESCAPE FROM DAILY ROUTINE: My weekend at TerreBrune Kfardebian

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There definitely aren’t enough days in a weekend… Especially when the weekend is all about escaping daily routine! (By the way, for those interested, the dictionary defines the word “escape” as “to slip or get away, as from confinement; avoidance of reality; to break loose, get free.” That says it all.)

My “escape”? First weekend in the mountains, just days after the first snow falls. Indeed, I was in deep need of fresh air and big spaces. Destination? Terrebrune Hotel in Faqra. I am sure you all have, at some point, enjoyed a typical – and truly delicious – Lebanese mezza at the famous Chez Michel, in Faqra. Well, Michel now also offers accommodation – TerreBrune, an authentic and cosy 4-star hotel beautifully decorated by renowned Jean-Louis Mainguy.

My adventurous journey meant, once again, you’ve guessed I’m sure, associating with my buddy “girly girl”. No romance whatsoever on the horizon, yet, I was not going to leave the “wild mountain life” on my own. Needless say that the adventure actually started the minute we drove off to live the city behind us. Well equipped for greater cold – or so we thought – it’s all joyous and rather excited (could that have been the altitude already?) that we reached our destination to be welcome by charming and young (but nonetheless very determined) Chehade Ayoub, son of notorious Michel, busy with the evening’s party at Les Caves. (Oh, yes, indeed, there is party involved, here…)

Temperature was close to 0°, at the time, as sun was already setting on the horizon, kissing us goodbye for the day. My luck, “girly girl” is cold-recalcitrant, and her moods seems to change according to the barometer!… You can imagine how happy I was, entering the hotel lobby, to find myself in a warm and cosy environment. No comment on how suddenly, girly bloomed like a sunflower under the Provence sunshine…

The staff greeted us with a hearty welcome, and soon we immerged in the true comfort of a vast and beautiful bedroom overviewing the mountains. I felt in Heaven. While all cheered up girly was excitingly exploring the premises (“Wawwww, trop belle la salle-de-bain!”), I lied down on the bed and closed my eyes for an instant. What a marvellous feeling: I couldn’t hear a sound, I was surrounded by silence. Such an unusual experience in our country as we are rather accustomed to chaos and frenzy night and day. I instantly felt I had travelled elsewhere, embarked on a vacation in a far-away land.

After resting my mind for a little bit, I got up quickly: indeed, I was determined to fully live my winterish mountain experience. I dragged girly out of the bedroom and we reached the living-room downstairs where a young man from the staff was keeping a wonderfully warm fire going in the majestic chimney. The room was filled with the spirit of Christmas, and we felt at home. Elie invited us to make ourselves comfortable while he was getting us some tea… (Jealous anyone? Yeah, it did feel great!!!) We plunged into the inviting sofas facing the crackling fire and started murmuring about everything and nothing. I was transported years back, when my beloved brother, sister and I used to sit by the fire at night, in the old family house, and reminisce about our childhood.

It’s a bit more in a party mood that we entered Les Caves, later that night, where Chehade was waiting for us. It was not crowded yet, and we enjoyed a nice talk with the young man. I was impressed with what he had done with the place: here again, a warm feeling was in the air, as the renovations had revealed a cosy setting. Whether couples longing for a “tête-à-tête” or groups of friends hoping to dine and party, everyone seemed to have found what they had come for, judging by the smiles on people’s faces.

We enjoyed a luxurious dinner with not only the finest cheeses and wines, but got to experiment with new comforting foods (go for the “ragout du paysan”, if you like stew cooked in wine. All that next to the warmth of another splendid chimney, to the soothing sound of a band playing soft rock songs. When we left the place, quite late in the night, it was still packed with people singing and dancing. As we made our way up to the hotel in the cold, I promised myself I would start a diet the next day… God, was I wrong!

I am more of a morning person. What I mean by that is by the time it’s noon, I’ve already lived a full day almost, having been up on my feet since 5 or 6 o’clock. Anyways… that did not apply here. After a night all cuddled in the warmth of my bed covers, I opened my eyes to discover it was past 8:30! Cry bloody murder! Me, in bed, at such a late and godly hour? I was horrified. Yet, after a glance towards girly that showed no sign of real movement, I closed my eyes again. Just for a minute… It was past 10:00 when we entered the restaurant for breakfast (needless precise you that my previous night resolution of starving myself was long gone… And for your information, I’ve always heard breakfast is the most important meal of the day. There you go, let’s be healthy!) Quite an abundance of croissants, variety of breads, cheeses, cold cuts and numerous delicacies later, and it was noon! Michel sat with us for his morning coffee, and we enjoyed some really great – and rather unusual, I have to say – stories. I am still impressed by how his staff had to dig holes in the thick ice of the outside pool so that a Russian guest could enjoy his traditional winter swim, just like at home. Talk about being accommodating…

We left Michel in order to tour a bit the area and enjoy the cold but sunny day. This is when girly suddenly felt depressed again. The good thing about it, though, is that all that was coming out of her was a barely audible “Zzzz uzzzz uzzzz”, as she was shivering with cold. Therefore, I could enjoy the calmness of the great stretches of land around me. I was literally planning in my mind how I would be back to TerreBrune for a romantic getaway. I mean, once I’d meet Prince Charming, of course. That’s just a detail.

We were still coming to term with breakfast that already, it was time for lunch. Indeed, Michel and Chehade were expecting us for a typical mezza at Chez Michel, just above Les Caves. At this point, I realized how pointless it would be trying to convince myself that my dieting resolutions were effective. Oh well! I don’t regret any of the succulent dishes I tasted. Tabboulé, Fattouch, Hommous w Mtabbal, Mashewe (w chabeb…), we had it all! It would have been a crime not to honour such a table, right?! And I am no criminal…

It’s with a bit of sadness in our hearts that we said goodbye to Michel, Chehade and their wonderful staff, and after a last glance at Terrebrune, where I felt I had belonged, during those warmly wonderful few hours spent there, it was time to head back to the city.
It was quite silently that we drove back to Beirut, as if a bit of each our hearts had stayed there, up in the mountain, waiting for us to come back…

Well, my dear readers, all I can say to those of you who are still hesitating, is, whether you want to spend some time tucked away in a cosy atmosphere, or want to party the night away with a divine ambiance, this is your destination. If you need to escape the traffic, noise, and bustle of the city consider a weekend getaway, go experience the stunning charms waiting for you there. You are sure to be impressed. You don’t have to travel far to enjoy a complete change of scenery and a quiet, pristine atmosphere.

And remember, life’s greater in the mountains…

P.S.

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