Thursday, 25 November 2010

Tunisia, London, and Oz

New apartment, Monastir Next door building site plus sheep
Faluccas leaving Monastir Marina
Canal near Matt & Mim's appartment
Mim, Matt & Dad -Morning tea at market
Blue roses at flower market
Jean & Keith at the local
Windsor Castle in 3 degrees
Hi from Clare, Tunisia, London, and Oz Wednesday 24th November 2010 MATTHEW’S VISIT We enjoyed having Matthew (Andrew’s son) with us for a few days before leaving Tunisia. His presence stopped us focusing on the boat and inspired us to do some sight seeing. We hired a guide to drive us to the capital city of Tunis. Here we saw the Phoenician city of Cathage which dates back to 814BC, the Bardo Museum which has the world’s best collection of Mosaics, the Madina which is the largest market place in Tunisia and finally the 13th century cliff top town of Side Bou Said which is one of the prettiest spots in Tunisia. Fortunately our guide had a thorough knowledge of the city. To try and do this trip with a hire car would be a nightmare. The city streets are congested and chaotic, the road sign are written in Arabic, French and sometimes English. In the city centre, the modes of transport include cars, busses, trucks, bicycles, tractors, horse and cart and man and cart. The subway was at a stand still so everyone started blowing their horns. The car next to us had three sheep in the back seat with their heads hanging over the driver’s shoulder. The car windows were shut; I can’t imagine what it must have smelt like in there. (Sorry, no photos are available as I have left my photo stick of this trip on the boat). We also had a good walk around Monastir visiting the Madina, the castle dating back to the 8th century and the mausoleum which was built to house the body of Tunisia’s first President, Habib Bourguiba. He is known for finally throwing the French out. By this time Andrew and I had been in Monastir for three weeks and only ventured into town for business. It was good to take some time out to actually see the place. The town is a mixture of new and very old. It is not unusual to see a modern apartment next to a completely dilapidated building (Photos 1&2) or a sparkling French patisserie on a dirt road in the flea market. The population is just as varied with large numbers of French, North Africans, Tunisians, Arabs and a splattering of other Europeans. The day before Matthew departed, the marina management put on a BBQ lunch of fish and salad. There was also talk of a regatta of some description for which we would be busses to at 9.30am. After the regatta we would return to the marina by bus or by Felucca in time for lunch. Sounds like a plan, yes? Well not exactly because we are now working on lay back Tunisian time. Nothing happened until 11.30am when the marina staff lit the BBQ (which was a 44 gal drum cut in half). They were having difficulty getting it to ignite and smoke was billowing out across the tables. The management team was fanning it madly to no avail until one creative thinker came out with a hair dryer; that fixed it! They then covered the flames with a curled up piece on building reinforcement wire and threw the fish on. The first lot cooked was charcoal and it didn’t really improve much. The salad was diced like coleslaw but no utensils were supplied. We did get a plastic plate and cup, so I tore my cup up in an attempt to make salad scoops. The fish we ate with our fingers and tore a chunk of bread off the loaf before passes it along the table. I don’t know what happened to the “regatta”. Around 5pm there was an opportunity to sail out of the marina on one of 5 feluccas. (Photo 3) Andrew and Matthew and some others followed the fleet in a small fishing boat and as I waved them goodbye I imagined I wouldn’t see them for some hours. They were back on Eye Candy within the hour – I think that was the regatta! HELLO LONDON We left sunny Tunisia on Thursday 11th November and headed for London for a week. The airport at Monastir is strictly no smoking except for immigration. All the no smoking signs were on display but our immigration officer was puffing away. I wanted to leave the country so I decided not to say anything. We arrived into Gatwick and made our way to Victoria Station and met up with Matthew. We decided to travel to his home on the Double Decker bus giving us a great view of the city buildings, shops and Piccadilly Circus. Matthew and Mim live on the third floor in a lovely new apartment building by the canal in Angel, Islington. The lift got stuck between 1st and 2nd floor and we had to wait an hour for the repair man. The three of us sat on the floor and listened to Bill Cosby comedy on Andrew’s laptop. Eventually we were set free but we didn’t use the lift again. The next day Andrew and I ventured into Oxford Circus on the train. I needed to buy some winter woolens. It was freezing in London and before the week was out we experienced thick fog and 3 degrees. That night we went to a lovely English pub on the canal. We had Steak and Kidney pie for dinner and guess what, it had “steak” in it and “kidney” in it; proof we were back in a first world country. The following night we went into Regent Street in the city to see the Christmas lights. It was truly magical and the shops and window displays were stunning. We came back to Angel and went out to Matt and Mim’s favorite Indian restaurant for dinner. After several months of Mediterranean cuisine, Indian was a taste sensation. The following morning we walked along the canal (Photos 4) to the fresh flower markets (Photo 5). It was great listening to the vendors calling “five quid or free(3) for a tenner” and the flowers were lovely; I have never before seen blue roses (Photo 6). The next three days were spent at the home of cruising friends Keith and Jean from “La Liberte” (Photo 7) We had a wonderful time and were thoroughly spoilt with Jean’s great cooking, a dinner at their local pub sampling different beers and sight seeing trips around the district of Churtsey. We also went to Windsor Castle but as there was an investiture going on we didn’t get to see the state rooms. (Photo 8) The tickets allow us to return anytime in the next 12 months so the plan is to use them before returning to Tunisia early next year. We also caught up with Colin and Denise’s son Shane Wilson and his lovely bride Tory. As we often say “It’s a small world” and as it so happened the Wilson’s live ten minutes away from Keith and Jean, how convenient is that? NO PLACE LIKE HOME We flew into a very warm Sydney on Thursday 18th November and since then have been busy catching up with family and friends and settling back into Kiama. It is wonderful to be home and fantastic to be with Colin and Denise. I am enjoying having order back in my life. My clothes are ironed; my shoes are lined up in the wardrobe. Things don’t slide off flat surfaces and I don’t have to lift the couch cushions to get to the pantry – life’s good. This is my last newsletter for 2010. We hope you will join us again on our next year’s adventure. Love Candy xx

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Central West Tunisia

John & Jan from "Brigantia" Roman Amphitheatre at El Jem Berber houses underground Berber Tea and bread 74 year old oasis worker Canyon in the Atlas mountains Roadside rubbish Off to market?

Sheep grazing in town Roadside fuel

Hi from Clare Central West Tunisia Thursday 4th November 2010 SIGHTS TO SEE With most of the work behind us we now have time to do some sight seeing. Our English friends John and Jan on “Brigantia” (Photo 1) came with us on a three day land tour of the central west of Tunisia. We traveled some 1200 km and saw an amphitheatre (Photo 2), an art and craft museum, a museum on the history of Tunisia, a Berber village (Photo 3 & 4), Bedouin tents, a cultivated oasis (Photo 5), canyons in the Atlas Mountains (Photo 6), a waterfall, camels, The Grand Mosque, souvenir shops and a carpet shop. LOST IN TRANSLATION We had a great time and lots of laughs with Jan and John. The three days were full on from 6am to 6pm. Our guide spoke five languages but English was his weak suit. We had to really concentrate to understand what he was saying. Fortunately Jan could speak French and so with her interpretation and John’s imagination, whatever was lost in translation was certainly made up for in laughs. WOE IS ME Our guide Hammet or affectionately dubbed “Ham Head” talked non stop about his broken marriage and women. By nightfall we were bored stiff and plotting how to avoid him. We considered asking him not to dine with us, he had other ideas. He joined us for dinner and pre dinner drinks in the bar each night and then left us to pay the bill – smart move. HOW DO THEY DO IT Hammet said the average wage is 300 Dinah a month (a Dinah equals 80 cents). The prices in the shops and supermarkets are equivalent to Australia. However the Tunisian people look well dressed and well fed. Something doesn’t add up. Maybe there are two different prices, one for tourists and one for locals. BAKHSHISH We were told by other cruising people to expect to pay Bakhshish to officials when entering Tunisia, We also heard that they would come on the boat and ask for spirits (alcohol) or some other form of gift. We have seen very little of this but as wages are low we do tip everyone who offers a service. RANDOM OBERVATIONS Firstly, I have never seen so much rubbish. It is in the streets, the paddocks, building sites, the neighborhood, the market, rivers and waterways. Plastic is everywhere (Photo 7). In Monastir and every town we passed through, there are endless Caf├ęs with men sitting around drinking coffee – there are no women present. Smoking is permitted in most places and a lot of Tunisians smoke. Public rubbish bins are not washed and stink of “bin juice”. You smell the bins long before you see them. There are a few beggars on the street and children come and ask for money, I’ve seen sheep in the backseat of the car (Photo8). They are brought into the busy town to graze on a little patch of grass (Photo9). The sheep leave droppings, but no one removes them. In the country there was a market day for second hand clothes. Everything was piled on the tables in a disorderly fashion and women were foraging through it – no waste here. Petrol in Tunisia costs 1 Dinah a litre. However petrol is brought across the border from Lybia for one tenth of that price and sold in 20 litre cans on the side of the road (Photo 10). The children in the country seem happy and wave and speak to you. They certainly haven’t been taught about “stranger danger”. I guess it’s not necessary. The young Tunisian people are very good looking. Many of the girls are so gorgeous it is hard not to stare at them. There are plenty of attractive young men also. They don’t seem to keep their good looks as they grow older though. SO WHAT NOW Andrew’s son Matthew is flying in tonight from London to spend four days with us. His workplace has a policy that if you don’t use your leave you loose it, so Matt has decided to take his two remaining days and run them into the weekend. We will have a look at Monastir tomorrow, Friday we will take a tour to Tunis, which is the capital and has much to offer. Sunday there is a regatta of sailing boats and a BBQ. Matthew will fly back to London on Monday and we will fly to London the following Thursday. We will spend a week in London firstly with Matt and Mim and then with cruising friends Keith and Jean from “La Liberte” We have also arranged to see Shane and the new Mrs Wilson in London before flying to Sydney on 17th November. This is my penultimate newsletter. Love Candy xx