Our last few days in Tunis were pretty good; we found a restaurant that served beer and wine (Yeh) and very nice food, so we ate there every evening. (The youngest waiter went from being curt and uninterested to shaking me by the hand on the third evening.) (I don’t  think our tips were THAT big….)  It was interesting to observe the rest of the clientele; there were a few women (other tourists) but the main bulk were Tunisian, who were really enjoying a drink.  One table had over a bottle of wine each, plus several pints of beer.  I wonder how Tunisian women feel about that and how they have fun.  The only problem was the cigarette smoke, as nearly everyone there was smoking non stop. 

On Thursday we had a little walk around the city. 

Tunis

Footballmad

The Cathedral was a nice surprise, but of course the French had a huge influence on Tunisia, especially the capital.  

Tunis Cathedral

Tunis Cathedral 2

We wandered through the souq, which was as annoying as every other souq we had been to with people trying to sell us stuff. 

Tunis Souq

We went on through and got to the stalls where Tunisians shop and it was much better, because I could look without being hassled. 

Tunis Souq 2

Tunis Souq 3

The place is HUGE and there must be hundreds of stalls and shops there.

We had lunch in a nice cafe along the main street, ducking in out of the rain, and watched a protest rally.  I was a little concerned by all the shouting, because the British Government advice is to avoid big gatherings of people, as they can get violent. 

Tunis protest

On closer inspection, there were about 20 people there, mainly women and there was a lot of finger wagging and hand waving and little else.  The police left them to it and it all ended pretty amicably after a couple of hours.  You had to admire they way they put up with the heavy downpours. 

We then headed out to the main Tunis museum, the Bardo and decided to take the tram. 

Tram

The Tunis tram system is rather like a metro, as there is a station at every stop, where you can buy tickets.  It is hard to work out the names of the stations, but a nice young man helped us out and told us where to get off.  It was just as well, it was so crowded on the tram that we could not read the names at all. 

The Bardo is well worth a visit; the building is lovely, beautifully designed and airy but there were an awful lot of empty glass cases there. 

Bardot

Bardot door

It looked as if a lot of pieces were on loan elsewhere.  There were some extremely old and well preserved artefacts, some in near perfect condition.  Our friend Mohamed says it is not hard to find stuff, but it is highly illegal, with long sentences in jail attached if you get caught.  There were several busts of Emperors that originated from Tunisia, although some didn’t last for long

Short term Emperor  

This one looked so ill, we were not surprised to see he only lasted a month or so….

On Friday we drove up to the north, through surprisingly green countryside

30 Green north Tunisia

 to the most northerly point of Tunisia (Cap Blanc) which was pretty enough

28 North of Tunisia

Camel at Northernmost Tunis

and drove on to the Nature Reserve at Lake Ichkeul.  You have to sign in with the warden and it costs about 70p a head to enter.  It is the most wonderful spot, absolutely teaming with birdlife. 

31 Lake at reserve

I loved the beauty and tranquility of the place, but I was very sad not to see the famed water buffalo and flamingos.  (I seem to be getting a bit sniffy about what I see.  I was complaining that we ONLY saw storks, when I used to get quite excited about them.)  I desperately needed a pee and thought it would be safe to duck behind an abandoned building for some privacy (we seemed to be right in the middle of nowhere).  It didn’t seem fair that not just one but two mopeds turned up just at the wrong time.  It’s comforting sometimes to realise that you can’t be recognised… 

The journey back into Tunis was about as stressful for Tim as it could get, with the usual insanity prevailing on the roads.

We checked out on Saturday morning and the nice young woman on reception said I had to pay.  I explained I had done so in Euros when we checked in, but she just kept on insisting.  I was starting to get very cross, when she sniggered and I realised she was teasing me!  I have really enjoyed getting to know some Tunisian people.  When they are not trying to kill you on the roads, they are a real delight and quite unexpected.  We found out that the policeman in the restaurant’s favourite football team is Manchester United, one waiter thinks that Wales is the most beautiful place in the UK due to Ryan Giggs and the manager at the hotel in Tozeur asked me for some aspirin for his splitting headache.  People have stopped to help us in the street when we looked lost, stopped their cars to help us find the right way and we have not felt the least bit threatened once.  Our new friend Mohamed went out of his way to help us through customs and in other ways and then we were welcomed into his mother’s home in a most natural and easy way. 

On our last day, we drove through the rain through Carthage and around the coast

Road near Carthage

and then just chilled, reading our books, enjoyed the sea views and had a nice stir fry at a very western-looking restaurant. 

These guys seemed chuffed to have their photo taken (they seemed to be loading up a statue of Don Quixote)

Don Quixote Team

As usual, we turned up to the port way too early and sat about waiting for the offices of GNV to open so we could get our tickets and book in.  Luckily for us, a very nice bloke came up to us, explained we were in the wrong place, told us to follow him and RAN (at a fair old lick) to where we had to park Camel, by the port gates and then led us to the correct check in area.  After the usual to and fro-ing, we sat and waited for several more hours (playing the ‘spot the truck with the most squashed suspension game)

Waiting to board

 and, with much less hassle (apart from four or so vehicle searches, to check we were not carrying anyone illegal, including on the ramp going into the ship, we got onto the boat at about midnight.

It was a smooth crossing and we arrived in Palermo only about one hour late.  It did take quite a while to get off the ship, as the passport people came on the boat and we had to queue for ages to get checked.  Finally, we were able to wriggle Camel through all the other parked cars and could drive back into Europe.  We were worried they were going to make us empty everything out, as they were giving many of the other drivers a thorough going over.  Nope, they had a quick look at all our boxes, made admiring comments and we were free!

Just as driving through the north of Sweden made Holland quite an interesting place to drive through, driving in Tunisia has made driving in Italy a calm and polite experience.  You could almost see the stress rolling off Tim as we made our way through the city traffic to the motorway.  Tunisia provided a fantastic two week adventure for us, but we are really looking forward to relaxing a bit!

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