Saturday, 13 May 2017

In Hannibal's Footsteps (Le Kram to Carthage to Sidi Bou Saidl)

I'm wide awake at 4:30.  No wonder; I passed out yesterday evening at 20:00, LOL.
 at 5:15 I sneak up the the common lounge to re-caffeinate myself and to have a bit to eat.  
 Then it's time to sneak out the front door (waking the tail-wagging puppy in his lawn-chair in the garden in the process) to watch dawn from the beach.

that PINK in the rocks is REAL

The sun is supposed to rise somewhere out there ....

This picture only gives a trace of the spectrum of glorious blues that the ocean glows with
There will be NO Lawrence of Arabia moment happening today ! When I finally spot the sun, I realize that it's been 'up' for a while but was obscured by the haze at the horizon.  Too bad. I guess I have to wait for Vietnam to see a CRISP solar disk rising above the horizon.

6:00.  Back in the hotel.   I notice that Google has Street View for the major roads in the area, but NO bus schedules.  Oh Come ON, Google,   Actually, as this website shows, it's NOT that easy. There don't seem to be any EXACT schedule times ;-)  But at least they have the fares. ~CAD$ 0.35 for a 15 km ride. NOT BAD !

Breakfast time.  The owner's question leads me to admit that I haven't slept this well in a long time.  The bed is comfortable, the down duvee even more so, and the area is DEAD QUIET at night.   

The bad news comes next.  He is booked solid tonight, so I will have to move somewhere else today. Ah well. Nothing new, LOL.
At first I only seem to have the choice between the utterly overpriced abodes in the beautiful (? I will find out) tourist area to the North or the Medina are in the centre of Tunis.  But then I find a decently priced tourist area suite for one night.
Packed again .... moving every day is a touch exhausting ;-)
Little do I know what's in store for me exhaustion-wise, LOL.
Good-bye comfy room
On y va !

The killer muscle ache or semi-torn muscle in my butt that I had suffered from in Germany after yesterday's Long March for Booze had moved to my upper thighs.  NOW I'm limping because it has relocated to my calves. But maybe it's not a muscle ache at all but a blot clot that is getting stuck in tighter and tighter arteries.  Ah well, as long as it's moving AWAY from my brain I should be fine ;-)

THIS is the train station? This traveler had imagined something more modern, LOL.

WHERE do you buy the ticket?  The ticket vending office (NO machines) looks worse than the booze dispensary yesterday.  I'm paying something like 40 cents for 2 tickets.  

There is another Lawrence of Arabia moment when I spot that one of the young men on the train has steel-blue eyes.  A Berber !  
The train is honking already, but what is the rush?

Get off at Chartage deschin?

Walk up the hill.  NO signs, Good thing I have my phone ;-)

Church  5 TND

Entry to the church costs me 5 Dinar.  I right away spot the stairwell to the 2nd floor.   It keeps going higher, but when I reach the very top, I find that all the doors are nailed (!) shut.  The same is true of all the doors to the outside on the 2nd level.
Nice stairs, eh?  Remember that I'm carrying ALL MY LUGGAGE on my shoulders

I'm so exhausted that I'm almost going to give the ruins of Carthage a miss when I see the sign Unesco World Heritage Site.

10 TND entry + 1 TND photo permit. I actually ask the ticket vendor whether the photo permit is good for one picture or for all of them. He replies something that contains the word 'riche'.    Touche!

After buying my ticket, I almost go the wrong way, but someone points me towards the luggage X-ray scanner and the metal detector gate.    There is no line-up, so the whole thing is very relaxed.  When my backpack went through the machine, the man in charge of saving lives is staring at his computer screen.   “Des Bouteilles?” he asks questioningly referring to the two bottles in my backpack.  “Oui, bouteilles du vin”, I admit my horrible heathen habits.   Instead of checking that I tell the truth, the security guy laughs and pats me on the shoulder.  Do I have to point out that I like it here?

And then I’m walking the same space that Carthage occupied 2000 years ago. Parts of it are even still here.   Well chosen, Carthiginians !   The view is absolutely and mind-boggingly spectacular.  The colours take my breath away.  But then I also already hiked up a hill AND hiked up windy church stairs.  I am EXHAUSTED !

Yes, someone carved these babies 2000 years ago !

I finally find the entrance to the indoor museum.  I never want to walk up the hill to Carthage again, so  I might as well visit right now ;-)
Gaius Julius Caesar

Now WHO is this MAN in female seductive pose?

oil lamps
That gives a whole new meaning to the expression Old Money


Ancient Carthage. Note the flat square at the top
That's the same square I have just been walking over.

Hannibal walked here !!!!

I decline several offers from taxi drivers (Almost every tourist is taking a taxi up here and the taxi drivers are looking for fares off the hill.  One offer is as low as One Dinar !

But I've studied my map and limp downhill to the Carthage Hannibal station.

One would think that the Metro station at one of the major tourist destinations would be in good repair ....
.... but who needs benches if there are plenty of ancient column bases to sit on, LOL

I take the Metro (more of a derelict tram really; one girl holds onto one of those vertical bars, but the bar is no longer anchored in the ceiling, but the girl doesn't seem to mind) to Sidi Bou Said station.  An elderly man must have witnessed me looking at my GPS display and re-checking it on the platform. He points at the ground and repeats twice: Sidi Bou Said.  Then he points up the main street, indicates a travel circle by waving his hand around, and then points left and says "A gauche".  Since I don't think he has supernatural mind reading powers to know where my hotel is, I instantly gather that I'll be staying in a  MAJOR tourist area, LOL

The church above is just before the traffic circle. I take a picture of it because I don't know what is expecting me.  Pretty blue and white tones, LOL.

But I quickly realize that JUST THIS blue & white is what makes this area 'special'. There is just NO Getting-away from the blue & white, LOL

I just checked in to my hotel, am typing away on my Carthage impressions, when a man shouts through my window.    Actually he is singing.    And I hear him through a PA system. It's the Imam from the VERY NEARBY mosque calling the faithful to prayer.  Right now, I'd rather have a glass of wine and a nap, LOL
NO wonder I could hear him so clearly. The speakers are right UP THERE !

View from the roof terrace (I know, LOL)
 But I can't really sleep.
view from the roof terrace
 It's not just that the muezzin is wailing again and AGAIN.  
Can't get enough of this view !
 There is also too much to see!


Time to eat something!  I head out into the main street.
There are TOURISTS here !
I finally find the small entrance to the HUGE restaurant that I'd seen on Google Maps:

Given that I’m in a TOURIST area, the prices in the menu are surprisingly LOW.

But I’m looking at the menu without a clue of what to get.  Biere sans Alcools. I know what that means but I don’t want any, LOL. Especially on Prayer Day.
I could just order something familiar like an omelet but I’m in Tunisia, n’es-ce pas?

So I’m going with Salade Tunisienne and Patisserie Tunisienne.  How does the saying go?  When in Rome …..

Even the waiter notices my peculiar choices and grins even wider after I say “C’est Tunisia !”. WHERE ELSE should I eat a Salade Tunisienne? (I wonder whether it contains Tuna? Given that the names are kind of similar, you know ? LOL).  The best Quiche Lorraine of my life I ate in a FOOD COURT in a mall in Lorraine.  I’m still remember being dumb-struck when Grandma complained in a restaurant in Hawaii about her French Onion Soup not being ‘proper’.  Duh !

The fact that the salad takes a long time is a good sign.  NO quick slap, dash, thank you mam in these parts.  The 1 L bottle of sparkling water costs me 2 Dinar, i.e. not much and I’ll get to take the left-overs home.

The Salade Tunisienne is of a not overwhelmingly large size, for which I’m thankful.  Chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, raw onions, tuna, lettuce, and a few NOT pitted olives (Pitted olives are the Pits. Pitting them gets rid of the flavour !).  C’est Ca ! And it doesn’t need any more.  It’s PERFECT for the weather too.  I’m sitting in the shade on an exposed cliff and the breeze in this 29 Celsius weather makes it perfect.  But that wouldn’t have worked if I had a French Onion Soup or Borscht.

When the waiter clears away the empty salad plate and the left-over baguette, I realize with a grin that even his uniform is colour-matched to the town’s blue.  When he brings me the patisserie tunisienne he asks whether I want The (tee).  Might as well, if that what people drink around here.  It might even be the The de Almonds that I saw on the menu.

 The patisserie looks a bit small but is surprisingly heavy when I try to lift one.  It’s also sticky and given where I am they might just have used real honey for the stickiness.  Oh, Yeah, YUMMY !

LOL, the tea is already sweetened and is actually sweeter than the patisserie.  Both contain flavours I have never tasted before.  Am I turning into a Tony?  NO, but I more and more can see the point of travelling the world to sample foreign foods.  Especially when one comes from a country influenced by the British cuisine.   The combination of those last 2 words should be on an international list of WORD CRIME!

NOW for a real nap, LOL

I wake up all groggy around 19:00
Time to call Grandma from the roof patio.  OMG, No-one told there'd be a light show this evening !

It's windy as well, which does amazing things to the ocean

The grogginess is still showing in my face. If I had my mouth wide open, this could go as The Scream II
I also realize that I haven't really eaten enough today !
And what is this?  Area 52 ????
I head to a restaurant I walked by earlier.  Au bon vieux temps (The good old days)

Waiters and door standers in fancy black suits.  I am horribly under-dressed in my shorts and Grand-Canyon hoodie, LOL
Time to speak French again.  After complimenting me on my excellent French (Yeah right, phony !), the 2nd rank greeter leads me to a table at the railing with a view of Tunis far below.  Oh, NO, what hardship !

Nos menu du boissons (NOT the FISH menu, but Our DRINK menu). A small but good selection of wines, but none come by the glass.  The smallest you can get is a demi-bouteille, or 0.375 litres.  How fabulously CIVILIZED. The French quarter of my heart beats faster !

Prices are not cheap, but then this is a fancy restaurant in the fancy tourist part of town.  The stuffed Calamari a la Tunisienne are not available tonight, so I order Fish Couscous.   When the Rose wine arrives, I think I might be in for quite a treat for the food, because the Rose is FABULOUS. 
YES, I've arrived in FancyTown ;-(
I don’t care so much for the cooling bucket and the fact that I’m not allowed to pour any of it myself (Yet another waiter with a white towel over the arm rushes over and mumbles “Laisser ! Laisser !”, but you got let them have their pretentious fun as well, otherwise their ‘fancy’ customers might decide to go somewhere else. 

Reality check time I’m sitting in a FANCY restaurant at 9 pm on the outside patio in a nice breeze with an amazing view over the Gulf of Tunis.   The demi-bouteille of a REALLY amazing wine costs me 22 Dinars (about CAD$12) and the Fish Couscous (which is taking its time being prepared) is costing me on the order of CAD$ 20.  So Yeah, given the amount of wine I’m about to consume, I’m spending EXACTLY THE SAME as for a Tilapia dinner at Denny’s on Marine Drive in North Vancouver.   Now THINK about that for a moment.  WHAT went WRONG here ??????

More guests arrive and sit at the table next to me.  At first I think they’re French, the way they schmooze with the staff, but when they talk to each other, I realize that they’re Belgians.  The people with the most annoying cell phone ring (and it goes off every 5 minutes) at yet another table talk to each other in English.   

I really need senior’s portions these days. I manage to eat almost half of the Couscous dish. But I’m going to make sure to finish the wine.   I’m wondering whether my chef delivered a bland Couscous or whether Couscous is bland by nature.  Good thing it’s accompanied by a fab Rose.


I sleep well, given I get 3 phone calls in the middle of the night.  When I first venture into the streets at 7:00 it's like having woken up in a completely different town:
It is QUIET !

That looks tempting:  Maybe I should have breakfast here in a bit?

I'm back at the Cafe above.  I have no idea what they're serving but I want to have a coffee with a view.  And I'm NOT disappointed. Just look at the VIEW ! 

All in all, I'm not unhappy with all that I've managed to cram into the last 24 hours ;-)

Instead of the menu, the waiter brings two breakfast baky thingies for me to choose from.  I just wave him to leave them both ;-)  A fresh baked croissant filled with some kind of chocolate pudding?  Mon dieux, LOL.  The cappuccino is HOT and also amazing.  Why do I always have to travel to the ends of the earth to get decent food? 

And the location does the anticipated trick.  Starting the day with such a spectacular view brings about such a relaxed attitude for the rest of the day. I can feel it already; I just want to go back to sleep ;-)  Even working on a translation that arrived at 3 am doesn't seem like an effort at all.

Could I have a coffee with that VIEW, please?
NICE camping spot, LOL
The downside comes when the waiter is hesitant to return change from a 20 TND note for a 10 TND bill.   Yes, I could have insisted on getting more than 4 TND back, but then ....

NO, I'm NOT usually the person who would post Cute Cat pictures on his blog, but on the way back to the hotel I run into these babies. And who could resist their unbelievable cuteness?

Time to check out, walk the town, take the tram, and to see what the day will bring ;-)

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