Saturday, 24 October 2009

First few days in Tunisia

As we landed the sky was very dark grey, it was raining and fairly windy - we could have been forgiven for suspecting the pilot had turned around half way and landed us back in Gatwick! However first views of Tunisia is that it is lovely. It has trees and so many, many olive groves and grass that it looks quite green.

Sadly we landed in the evening and by the time we had travelled for an hour to the Hammamet it had been dark for a long time.

We got sorted, had dinner and went for a long walk. We walked to the beach and were somewhat surprised to find that we were the only people out and about at all. I would have liked to swim but the sea was far too rough, the tide was going out and the breakers would have made Newquay proud. It looked perfect for surfing but the drag out was strong.

We tried the indoor swimming pool - it was closed... We peered in on a show - then went for a drink - much safer :-)

We had not planned anything for today so decided to visit Hammamet old town and medina. We asked about transport and was told there is a regular bus. Went out to find a bus stop, as we got to the road a kid's train type vehicle approached and stopped for us that was the bus! So we had an hour long road trip seeing all of the local sites on the way to Hammermet old town.

The little Medina in Hammamet, surrounded by 15th century walls, is a maze of narrow lanes. The wares displayed in the souks are all designed to appeal to the tourists. The little shops mainly sell embroidery, pottery, leather goods and carpets.

The visit was slightly spoiled by local traders trying to drag us into their minute shops to buy their goods. I can understand it, it is very late in the season and we are among the few visitors left. The hustling was so bad though we did not spend much time there. We did buy a few bits where we were left to browse, one trader at least was happy to wait for us to go to him,
We were unfortunate enough to get driven into a Government festival of wool – the 2 day event where they sell carpets to the public. This was a real hard sell area – from the parcels wrapped to send all over the world it is clear they did manage to get orders by some means but when we said we were not going to buy it got quite ugly.

We left the Medina and got a taxi to the weekly open art market. This was a much happier place with lots of local people. Clothes seems to be the main merchandise but there were sweets – s type of nutty nougat and what we know as nut brittle. These seem to be a local speciality and people were queuing to buy it. There were also leather goods, I bought sandals.

We caught the train-bus back to the hotel to get a late lunch then went for a swim. The outdoor pool was freezing and the weather was still not good so we went into the indoor pool and sauna for a few hours, Started reading trashy novel:-)

Tunisia is an amalgamation of the ancient and new, it is interesting, especially once you get out of the tourist area. Where currently the tourist areas are pretty deserted as it is so late in the season the villages are very busy with hundreds of people on the streets, in the local shops and cafes etc.

We set off to find the roman remains, the famous Africa House, three Roman Villas and a museum where there are huge numbers of mosaics lifted from the villas for preservation.

We went to visit the Bourguiba Mausoleum which is an amazing memorial to the president.
We also visited the most famous amphitheatre and Colosseum which formed part of the set for the film Gladiator. There are loads of photos up already but not all are labelled.

Today we decided that as the wind had dropped slightly we would walk along the beach to the Yasmin Medina… and back… and swim. We have spent most of the day walking, the sand and beaches are just lovely, the sea is very rough, the people delightful. My time is just about to run out, so not I know the rules I will write before I log in! As soon as you log in once, even if only for ten minutes to check e-mail etc, the whole hour is gone.

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