Ok, Tunisia (sorry about yesterday).
Think southern Italy (same latitude), but poorer still, and without the piles of unharvested rubbish and no roadside prostitutes. It’s all two storey high, block built houses, but (mostly) with ornate doorways, painted white. Tiles are big here and they cover everything with them.
Outside of the tourist areas things are pretty run down and very north African. Sheep with attending shepherds graze the side of the roads, shops spill onto the streets and on vast tracks of land the only crop we could see was olives. It is said (probably by a Tunisian) that Tunisian olive oil is the best in the world. Most of the country is uninhabited, and most of it is steppe-like. The south tends to the Sahara desert.
The coastline is one long beach: lovely sand and, after a period of calm, crystal clear water. However, away from the hotel fronts the beach v quickly becomes plastic central. They are a mess. There are a number of things to see. The markets are typical souks (one Dinar, best price for you …), there are a lot of Roman remains (did a huge collusium today), mosques, forts and Berber villages. But it is not culture heavy.
The people (99% Muslim) are mostly lovely. The woman always engage and always smile. Half of the men are charming, the other half are stern and, if you’re of a nervous disposition (hardly surprising after 38 tourists were murdered in 2015), clearly terrorists; which they are not. We found the Turkish men the same, but I can tell you that I’ve felt much more at ease here than I did in Istanbul just a year ago.
All-inclusive? Well it’s a first for us. On chatting to our fellow guests, people come here because it’s cheap. We paid £750 all-in (we know of one couple who paid £600). Whatever, we thought that good value … until I checked our hotel on TripAdvisor and read the recent reviews. After that we came with v low expectations. The reviews were wrong. The hotel (4-star) has been built with grand intentions. And it almost meets them. Our rooms are huge, the two outdoor pools are massive and wonderfully clean, the indoor pool is good, there’s a gym, a spar and access straight onto the beach. It’s clean and only one or two of the staff are grumpy. The food is good (no hamburgers, it’s Tunisian and better for it) and plentiful. The beer (which is free) is perfectly quaffable and the red wine is on tap in the restaurant. Ok, so we’re not all-inclusive aficionados, but it ticks all our boxes (apparently you do get better, but you do pay more).
Our hotel has a number of local guests (it’s about 25% full) and they clearly love all-inclusive. Watching how they like to pile their plates … many plates …is a sight to behold. I guess the Brits make up for it at the bar. So, all-inclusive gets our vote. It is so good to not to have to think about how much things cost.
More on our itinerary later, but in a nutshell: day one was a 6-mile beach walk to Hammamet, and a bus back; day two was a taxi to the next but one coastal village, and a bus back; day three was an organised trip inland to a big mosque and a huge collusium, which is where they filmed Life of Brian (love it).
Oh, and I lost my glasses somewhere on day one’s 6-mile walk. I was wearing my prescription sunglasses at the time. Bugger. I fumbled about for a bit and then, yesterday, I found a street vendor selling glasses and he had a pair (short-sighted) half the strength I need … for £6. They’ll do! C reckons I look like Himmler or some other pervy chap. Oh well