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18 November 2006

Our Holiday in Tunisia - the review

So, here it is, better late than never - a review of our week in Tunisia! Still not got all the photos on Flickr yet - some are there but there's loads to come. Trouble is some are on those old fashioned ones you have to get developed (which we've done) and then scan them in (which we haven't) so that's the hold up!
Got up too early for a Sunday and headed off to Glasgow Airport via our car parking place. All went very smoothly and after 40mins in the queue, we got checked in and headed through to departures - about 2 hours to go till take off. Something that Kathryn had never experienced before and we had no idea how she'd take it. But to take our minds off what was ahead, we found the best thing we could have found in the Departure Lounge:

Yes, a children's play area with no other children in it! Kathryn had a great time and the wait didn't seem long at all. We headed off to our gate and got boarded among the first - one of the advantages of having an infant. When on the plane, wished we'd requested extra room although we didn't realise we'd need to. With no seat for Kathryn as expected, it was actually a bit cramped. But she soon went to sleep and stayed asleep for take off which was great. All was ok until meal time when we had to eat in turn and Kathryn wasn't happy at all - really kicked up - very embarrassing. Still, survived that and she was fine for landing. About 45mins later, we were in our hotel (Marhaba Palace) in the relatively new resort of Port el Kantaoui on the east coast of Tunisia. After filling in more paperwork, we were in our room ready to explore.

Took a walk around the hotel grounds and were very pleased to see that it matched up to the photos we'd seen prior to setting off. The inside was great. Immediately outside the back doors was a pool area with a bar - again looked nice. Round the other side of the pool was the beach with a restaurant run by the hotel. About 100m of beach led us to the sea. Fantastic. This looked like (and indeed turned out to be) a fantastic place to stay. Headed to the restaurant and enjoyed the mixed variety of food on offer for us. The waiter (who would be serving our area all week) was fantastic especially with Kathryn. Love the fact that we can go and get a bit of lots of different foods which gave us, and Kathryn, chance to try a few new things while still having the back up of familiar foods so we didn't starve!
After the meal, headed back to the room and later made use of room service for a nice cup of tea - and it was actually a nice cup of tea!! Settled down for our first night.
Woke up reasonably refreshed and at not too bad an hour - thanks Kathryn - and after the "joys" (I'm using that word very loosely) of Balamory on BBC Prime, headed down for Breakfast. Again a buffet of various things included waffles, omelettes and fried eggs all made to order in front of you. A nice touch. Very nice food and service. Had a bit of time to explore before a meeting with the Thomson rep to find out what could be on offer to us for the rest of the week. A good selection of trips which we'd love to do but had to be sensible and think of travelling with Kathryn so simply booked a day out to Tunis, the capital city of Tunisia, and the must do Camel ride! The rest of the day was spent simply enjoying the resort and the sunshine! Did find out though that the sea was a bit chilly, as was the outdoor pool. But we had found an indoor pool on our explorations and it was gorgeous - just like getting into a bath but without the bubble bath! Enjoyed some time in the pool trying to get Kathryn braver in the water and, I'm pleased to say, with some success. Dinner again was very nice. Discovered that Kathryn loved the lightly whipped Creme Fraiche on offer - or as we called it: Fluff! Just a lovely light desert and she insisted on nicking ours as well!
This was our day to go to Tunis so it meant an early trip down to breakfast and then wait for our coach pick up. It was about 1hour45mins to Tunis but thankfully a brief stop was put in at a Shell service station. Saw the welcome sight that, although in arabic, is universally recognisable:

Yes, the welcome bottle of coke! Anyway, eventually got to Tunis and was glad to get off the coach as the temperature (which I haven't mentioned yet!) was hitting the high 20's celcius outside the coach so getting a bit too warm inside especially for an increasingly grumpier Kathryn. Anyway, got escorted through the, as they call it, European part of the city to the gates to the old city. (Pictures of all this are on flickr) Getting the buggy around the cobbled streets of the Medina (old city) was interesting. Not helped by the countless shop owners talking non stop in what can only be described as "only fools and horses" english - have a butchers mate; have shufti; a'wight mate. Spent the next hour or so politely saying: no thankyou, hi, no thankyou, thankyou, no thankyou, hello, no thankyou....... you get the idea! Still, no-one was too much bother at all which was good. After some lunch...

(all this for about a fiver), we explored the busier bustling "european" part of Tunisia. With its own version of Big Ben and the Champs Elysees, this is indeed a very lovely but highly copy cat city. Explored some back streets and saw some more "fools and horses" moments as traders selling from a tarpauline on a street corner each grabbed a corner and ran into a nearby building when the look out saw the police coming! Also saw a fab food market with such a wide variety of fish, meats, fruit, veg, cheeses and other less fun stuff (unless you want a live tortoise). A real experience and wished there were something that good with such a wide variety of good quality produce near to home.

Anyway, after a not so good cup of tea, we returned to our coach for the return leg of the journey. Still hot by the way!

This was the day I was waiting for. The camel ride! We went off on our coach to a farm just 10minutes down the road. There waiting for us was a line of 10 camels! Pictures need scanning of this trip so will appear later on, but it was great. There were more people than camels so friends/family doubled up and some went in a horse and carriage ready to swap over half way down the track. I managed to get on and Kathryn was passed up. She wasn't too sure to start with but soon settled and started bouncing on her own just as much as the camel was bouncing us around! Carol-Anne was heading for the horse/carriage thing when she got offered the donkey at the front of the line! She accepted but managed to get on a camel at the halfway point. When we reached the end, a short walk in the scorching heat took us to a cafe area but before we got a drink, a camel was relieved of its flour grinding duties to perform for us and duly picked up and drank from a glass coke bottle!! A welcome drink for all followed as well as a chance to top up the sun cream. At this point, one of the excellent friendly staff took Kathryn off for a walk and she got to stroke a baby camel and showed no fear at all. When Kathryn eventually agreed to come back to her parents (despite my haggling to get 6 camels for her!), we went to an area where a clay kiln (called a Tandoori Kiln) was smoking away and we were treated to freshly made proper naan bread - gorgeous it was too. I love getting that authentic natural flavour to food and this was a great experience. Before long, we were back on the camels to make the return journey back down the bumpy road. And guess what, Kathryn fell asleep on the camel! After a quick change over of camel riders, Kathryn ended up being carried by one of the staff again despite parental beckoning, and enjoyed a scenic guided walk back to the beginning. The guy was great with her and pointed out that children are really treated as special in Tunisia which was reflected by all staff everywhere we went. As I say, pictures of this day to follow.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday
Spent a lot of time on the beach and in the pool and also visited the nearby town of Sousse. Great business thinking by the waiter at the place we stopped for lunch. No menu's available but he offered us a choice of sandwiches. We ordered chicken and after the drinks had come, the food soon followed in a carrier bag! The sandwiches (which over there are in very big baguettes and packed full of flavour) were very nice. I'd seen a young guy hand the bag over and was intrigued when we went off a little while later. Watched him go to a food counter with no seating over the road and watched as he brought back more sandwiches for other customers! Guess its real thinking on their feet and it was nice so can't really complain! Back on the beach, Kathryn continued playing with some friends we'd made over there and Carol-Anne at one point seemed to be running a nursery as 4 children were around her as she dug a whole! Cries of "quick, run for it" were heard from their respective parents!! Had some good conversations with the parents throughout the week and made some good friends. Helped out one family with 5 children, the youngest of which was the same age as Kathryn. She (Poppy) wasn't too well so we leant her some medicine we'd got and they in turn leant us their childrens nail clippers - other parents will know the importance of such items!
Saturday night was sad being our last night there. Enjoyed further good food and said goodbye to the waiter - he even got a kiss from Kathryn - on the lips as well! Then Kathryn proceeded to entertain the guests by dancing in the childrens belly dancing skirt we bought her! Should have some pics of that to come.

And so the day to pack up and go home came. We weren't being picked up til 2pm so still had time to kill. Enjoyed more of the sunshine before leaving on the coach to return to the airport. When on the plane (not successful in getting extra room) we boarded and Kathryn was wide awake for take off. However, not a problem. She looked out the window as Tunisia got smaller and wasn't bothered at all. The flight was fine (apart from Carol-Anne being a bit poorly) and we arrived back to the 9degrees celcius wet windy Glasgow Airport that was waiting for us. Oh great! Got back to the car and arrived home about half 11 at night.

It was a great holiday. Who knows when we'll get another one like it so glad we made the most of this one. Check out the links to the hotel - its well worth a visit if you're thinking of heading to Tunisia ever. Will let you know when the rest of the photos get uploaded.

Oh, one more thing - well two actually. Saw these two signs round the pool area. Read the first one carefully - the bottom line is great! The other one, well, its just health and safety advising gone mad!

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