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Published: March 5th 2010
We decided to take the train up to Tunis for a couple of days to see what the city was like with a bit of hustle and bustle. Last time we were there it was a public holiday weekend and so it was eerily quiet. This time the intensity of the city hit us as soon as we got off the train! We walked round to the Transatlantique
hotel which was cheap (38 Dinar / £17 for a double room with breakfast) and sort of cheerful. It’s colonial decor was faded but interesting and the mosquitoes seem to have failed to notice that it is still winter!!
Half an hour on the train from the Maritime
station, just beyond the ruins of Carthage, is the town of Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia’s answer to the Greek Islands. Every building shines bright with aquamarine blue and brilliant whitewash. It was a beautiful place just to wander around and take in the ambiance. We visited the old house/museum, Dar el Annabi
, where we saw mannequins of wedding preparations and men playing backgammon whilst smoking sheesha, sipped mint tea in their courtyard, explored the maze of corridors and rooms, and stared out over the
town from their rooftop terrace.
We also walked out to the lighthouse but you can’t get right up to it any more, one of the town’s many ornate doorways blocks your path. You can get a better view from a small road leading up to the cemetery. The path leading down to the harbour is steep and many of the steps are in a state of disrepair. It leads you down through a building site before you actually get to the harbour. There’s not too much to see down there and it’s always in the back of your mind that you have to climb all the way back up! We can’t imagine doing that in the summer heat.
The other reason we returned to Tunis was to visit the Bardo Museum. This huge complex houses Tunisia’s greatest collection of mosaics. At the moment though, it’s undergoing extensive renovation, and we were disappointed at how little we were able to see. Of course, you don’t discover this until you have paid the 8 Dinar (£3.50) entry fee and entered into the main building. Once it is finished it will be huge, but right now we really felt they should
be offering tourists a discount! Even so, there were some very good exhibits to see but we enjoyed the museum at El Jem much more. Getting to the Bardo was quite easy with the No 4 metro going from Republique to Bardo in about half an hour. Careful though, the pickpockets are out in force whenever foreigners are getting off at Bardo. Russ actually found someone’s hand in his pocket in the nick of time!
Tunis doesn’t really hold much more for us now. We had a wander around the busy souk and medina, but the excitement wears off very quickly now we are accustomed to such sites. It was good to eat in cheap restaurants like the Carcassonne where you can get 4 courses for 5 Dinars (£2.20) and the Cafe de Paris where the couscous is fabulous. Friends also took us out to the swanky Nassr district where we drank coffee and chatted away for hours in a very posh cafe. But I think in general we prefer living in Sousse, even though we can’t quite put our fingers on why!
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