Relaxing hols in Tunisia

Trip Start Aug 27, 2007
Trip End Sep 17, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hotel Royal Ken

Flag of Tunisia  ,
Sunday, August 2, 2009

Hey Guys,

I cant believe its been so long since my last entry. It seems so odd that last year I had a trip away every month yet this year Im lucky if I can manage one every three. But I guess it's not the quantity its the quality thats counts and so far this year Im pretty pleased with my adventures.

My most recent trip was to Port El Kantaoui in Tunisia for a bit of r and r with Laurent. Now I know Tunisia probably isnt up there topping the list of must do's when you come to London but having now been there I would reccommend it to everyone.

Originally we were looking for a cheap and cheerful package holiday to either Portugal or the Greek Islands but after checking out the budget we found we could go to these places but it would be a maximum of a 2 star hotel that was self catering. When we saw we could go to Tunisia for the same price in a 4 star hotel all inclusive we knew thats where we would be heading.

We made it to the airport all in once peice after having set out from Milton Keynes at 2 in the morning. When we finally arrived into Monastir airport in Tunisia it was like stepping into a heatwave. We had gone from wet miserable and grey weather in London to clear blue skies and a temperature between 35 and 40 degrees. It was exactly what the doctor had ordered.

On our transfer to our hotel we got a feel for the real Tunisia, there were hundreds of work sites that had been started and left to decay...very sad and very depressing to look at but I guess if you dont have the finances u cant continue building. I also thought it was rather amusing when our guide told us how the country was great for woman as of mid last year they had banished for us.

I almost had a heart attack when I arrived at our hotel. I had resigned myself to the fact that a Tunisian 4 Star hotel was probably the equivalent of a UK 2 star but man was I thankfully wrong. The hotel was to die for and was possibly flasher than some 5 stars ive stayed in before. The pool was exactly like the pictures had shown and with its own private beach covered in idyllic beach umbrellas I was in heaven.

The first 2 days were pretty much just spent relaxing at the beach and the pool but on day three we decided to try see a little bit more of the country. We had been very kean to hire a car to explore but after being warned against it from reps and seeing how manic people drive we decided to do a coach trip. Just for the record when I say the drivers are manic....they really are. There appear to be no road rules, no lane markers, no use of indicators and the only thing they do seem to advocate is the use of the horn. Suprisingly this system seems to work well....just honk and keep driving and screw anyone who dares cross your path....nope I was definately happy to take the bus.

Our trip took us to Tunis, the country's capital where we visited the most famous Mosaic museum in Africa which was definately impressive and also out to Carthage to see the Roman ruins. You have no idea how thankful I was we had decided to do this day trip, as much as doing nothing by a pool was brilliant it was ths trip that was the highlight of my holiday. The views we saw were nothing short of amazing.

The following day we did another day trip to visit three cities. Our first stop was El Kairouan a place of significant importance to Muslims. For muslims it is said that once in your lifetime you must make the pilgramage to Mecca....but in the event you cant do that you can still make 7 trips to the mosque at El Kairouan and acheieve enlightenment.

The mosque itself was unlike anything I had ever seen before it stood so magnificantly in the midst of this small village.

From El Kairouan we ambled out way to El Djem which is the home of the worlds best preserved Roman colloseum. It was still 75 percent intact and because of this it was actually used as the set for the movie Gladiator. Turns out Tunisia is quite well used for movies as its also the back drop for the majority of the Star Wars films.

Our third city for the day was Monastir for a bit of shopping. As we were on day 4 of our trip we had already gotten quite used to the countries shopping practices where u have to barter for everything as there is something ridiculous like an 80 percent mark up on anything. I was so sick of having people pounce on me trying to sell me stuff that I was about an inch away from turning around and screaming at someone. Theres only so many times you can handle hearing 'Where u from? New Zealand...ah rugby rugby very niiice' and in Laurents case 'Belgium? pommes frites mayonnaise'...i figure hearing that 30 times a day was my limit. Some where along the way Laurent came from Germany and Hungary and I became Portugese, Spanish, Australian and eventually Tunisian. I clicked though that when people thought I was Tunisian they left us alone. I just kept my mouth shut and let Laurent do all the talking in French.

At one point I wanted to buy a Tangine and knowing the markup I did my best to barter. I knew what I was prepared to pay and was ready to walk away when the shop keeper then turned to Laurent and said 'As her husband we make a deal'....he then proceeded to offer Laurent the same price I had just offered him. Apprently because Im a woman though I dont count and cant be trusted to speak for myself. I have to admit I was really shocked by this. So much for Tunisia supposedly having equal rights for women. But hey I got my Tangine in the end even if my 'husband' had to buy it for me.

I must admit though I did have to turn around and eat my words about the shopping practises. I found out that the maids at the hotel got paid the equivalent of 20 pence (or 60 NZ cents) an hour.I figure if I was earning those kind of wages I would be doing all I could to make a sale too, especially if that meant trying to take advantage of the foreigners. When you have a family to feed you do what ever it takes dont you?

The next day was just spent chilling at the hotel. By this point though we sick of eating at the same buffet restaurant so ventured out to the local port for a nice meal. The food itself was nice but I was quite amused to watch Laurent drink a whole bottle of Corked wine out of principle because we had paid for it....needless to say the next day when the hangover arrived he vowed he wouldnt be doing that again in a hurry.

Day 5 we ventured to the local town of Sousse to do a last bit of shopping. We started with such enthusiasm but once the first street vender started trying to lead us into his shop to buy 'genuine designer fake goods' (quite a popular trade in Tunisia I found) the enthusiasm started to wear off. I think we lasted all of an hour before retreating back to the haven that was our hotel where we remained for the rest of our trip.

I know it sounds like I whinged a lot about the place but truthfully I absolutely loved it. I had a ball and despite being desperate to make a sale the locals were all really lovely and always friendly. Ive come to the conclusion that after having been to Tunisia, Jordan, Israel and Turkey I really like the Arabic and Muslim culture. There is nothing quite in the world like experiencing the peace that comes when the Morning prayers ring out across the land from the mosques.

The warm weather, blue skies, and laid back culture were exactly what I was hoping for from this holiday and as I got all three I was well chuffed. So Tunisia may not be the top place to visit in all the guidebooks but for me the place was perfect and I would go back any day.

Ok guys, thats it for today but Ill write again soon as Im off to Zurich in three weeks! Chococlate, Cheese and Cuckoo Clocks here I come!

Miss ya

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