My flight landed about 2:30 and I walked determinedly outside, ignoring all the taxi offers thrown my way. Upon locating the taxis, I was subjected to a North African Taxi Welcome, this is where the taxi driver tries to offer you a deal at least three times what it should cost to go to your location. (Memories of Sudan, Marrakech, Essaouiara.) I arrived at my hotel about 3:30. Given that it was Sunday afternoon, most shops in downtown Tunis seemed closed. I went walking through the Medina and down Avenue de France to get a feel for the city. After a few hours, I went back to the hotel and spent some time reading the articles that I’d downloading on Tunisia, surfing online, and reading. Jet lag finally wore me out and I took a nap before dinner at the hotel which was included in my reservation. Unfortunately, the weather forecast showed rain for the next two days.
I woke up later than I’d expected (9am). After a satisfying hotel breakfast, I took off exploring in the rain. I took a taxi to Carthage Hannibal and got dropped off at an obscure museum. I stayed a while talking to the guard before heading off in search of an umbrella. Found no umbrella but came across the Antonine baths. Although the baths are in ruins, the scale is incredible and gives you an idea of the grandeur of the civilization. Walking some more, I came across the Roman amphitheater. It was with pleasure that I learned that my 9 dinar ticket gave me access to all the Roman and Punic ruins. I walked some more hoping to discover the museum. Instead I saw a sign for Sidi bou said and headed off in that direction. None of this was as direct as it seemed as I had to frequently stop to shelter from the rain. One such occasion coincided with my hunger for lunch. I got a shrimp wrap at a roadside cafe where I sat and read my book for a while. As I continued to walk around Sidi bou said, I came across the train station and saw two other foreigners heading there. I heard them ask for a ticket for Tunis and decided to head there as well, having had enough of the rain.
I got back to Tunis about 4. It started to hail as I walked to the hotel so I had to stop for shelter.
My last adventure for the day was to go shopping for boots. I went to Zara, United Colors of Benetton and Aldo but found nothing wonderful. I also bought some date gifts and dates for myself. I was tempted to get some tahini as well by decided to look for it in Mauritania.
I woke up at 6 this morning to pack and do the final sightseeing. By 7, I was on my way to Tunis Marine to get the train to Sidi bou said. Unfortunately, I did not realize that the train terminated at Catharge Prinipale. A lady tried to tell me this but I saw other Tunisians stay on the train and decided to ignore her. Well, she was right. Since it was already 8 and the museum opened at 8:30, I decided to go back the one stop to Carthage Hannibal. I enjoyed the views of the stormy sunset and the views of Carthage. However the museum did nothing for me. Upon entry, the smell of cigarette smoke was strong and there were ceveral Tunisian hanging out and loudly chatting on the ground floor. Since I’m not much into history and know nothing of Roman history, I walked though the museum for 15 minutes because the guidebooks said it was worth a visit. I should have trusted my own interests.
The deconsecrated Cathedral of St. Louis, now called Acropolium, was interesting to visit with it’s splendid facade. I enjoyed going up to the first floor. I tried to go higher but the door at the end was closed. There was some renovation going in but no one paid me any mind and I had the run of the place to myself.
Return to Sidi bou said
The previous day, I’d stayed on the main drag and hadn’t found any of the cafes mentioned in the guide books so off I went again. After walking around the hill for some time, I was about to give up the search when I decided to go 200 more meters. Payoff!! There was the pedestrian only path that I’d read about. Insisting on taking the path less travelled (also called the longer path and sometimes the wrong path) off I went in the wrong direction of two possible options. It felt a bit like the road to nowhere but I gave myself 5 more minutes of walking. Payoff!! There were the (few brave) tourists. I followed the small group up the path and came across Cafe Nattes which I’d read about. Confirmation that I was on the right path. I continued on until I got to a high point wih good views of the marina. At that point, I was tired of traversing the slippery cobble street and headed back. There were people off to the side taking pics so went to see what the fuss was about . There was Cafe les Delices of the famous mint tea. Unfortunately thy were out of mint tea but the pigeon (pine) tea with a mint leaf inside and an almond croissant while watching the water, the blue and white scenery and writing this post were perfect. The tea was delicious with lots of sugar and lovely as an authentic experience although I will stick to less sugar at home. I almost don’t feel ripped of for the 8200 dinars that i was (over)charged. This is what happens when you visit cafes recommended in guide books ..
Now that this (mostly) wonderful interlude is over, it’s almost time to head back down the hill and to Tunis for my hammam adventure :d