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The Arab World's Most Liberal Country, Lebanon, Is an Under-the-Radar Gem
Recently my husband and I decided to expand my travel horizons a bit outside our usual comfort zone. to visit a good friend from home while he was on a visit to his family in Lebanon. If they know anything about it at all (and not all that many do, despite Lebanese restaurants scattered throughout larger cities), many in the U.S. still have a very outdated picture of this tiny Mediterranean country (not even three-quarters the size of Connecticut) bordering Jordan, Syria, and Israel, from when the country was convulsed from 1975 to 1990 by a brutal civil war as well as an invasion by Israel, causing large-scale destruction and loss of life.
These days, long at peace, Lebanon still lives in a dicey neighborhood and is home to the militant, anti-Israel faction of Shi’ite Muslims called Hezbollah, but more than 40 percent of its population are Christians. And as we found this past summer, here Christians and Muslims coexist peacefully, and visitors will be not only safe and welcome, but amazed at the sophistication of capital Beirut (lauded in the 20th century as “the Paris of the Middle East” and arguably the same today); the friendliness of the Lebanese (quite a few of whom speak surprisingly good English); and the country’s wealth of history, culture, ecotourism, beaches, and other allures (even skiing!). If I may, allow me to take you on a quick tour of its highlights. read more
Autumn in Japan's Ashikaga & Tatebayashi Areas, North of Tokyo
Japan's Ashikaga and Tatebayashi areas, an hour north of Tokyo's Asakusa Station along the Tobu Railway Limited Express Ryomo Line, are gorgeous autumn destinations full of natural beauty, colorful Momiji Valley splendor, and exceptional wine from 100-percent Japanese grapes. Fall roses and cosmos flowers are on view at the Tobu Treasure Garden, and Coco Farm & Winery celebrates its harvest.
Visitors can enjoy a walk through the blazing crimson Momiji ("Red Autumn Leaf") Valley at Orihime Park in Ashikaga City. It's home to some 1,000 maple and tulip trees, producing incredible fall colors, with peak viewing season early November through early December.Hotoku-ji Temple, whose large glass windows reveal the auburn and gold seasonal view of more than 100 trees, is renowned for this brilliant imagery, reflected in its specially polished, 28 tatami mat-sized (45-square-meter) main hall temple floor. This unique annual event is called Yuka Momiji ("floor full of fall colors"). The temple also offers views of Mt. Narukami, one of the 100 most famous peaks in the Kanto Region. Combined, the two views create a true fall color paradise. The 2019 leaf-viewing festival takes place from November 9 to 23. read post
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