Back in May a deal appeared on the Facebook site of a NI based travel agent which was too good to pass up on. Terra Travel, based in Rushmere Shopping Centre, always had great deals but this one suited us both perfectly. That afternoon my partner & I had booked ourselves a weeks half board holiday in the resort of Hammamet in Tunisia. Neither of us had ever been before, so weren't really too sure what to expect.
On a wet & windy Sunday evening we flew from Belfast International Airport to Enfidha Airport & boarded out transfer bus. We arrived at the Vinci Flora Park Hotel in the early hours of the morning (the only drawback to this holiday was our flight times). We checked in & managed to get a few hours sleep before breakfast. The range of food that was available was mind boggling. Needless to say we did not leave the dining room hungry! We had our introduction chat with the Thomas Cook rep & then it was time to relax. And relax was exactly what we did. We plonked ourselves on two sun loungers beside the pool, slapped the suncream on & thats were we stayed until dinner time. The following day we did exactly the same. I honestly thought I would get bored with a "sitting beside the pool" kind of holiday but it was just bliss... perfect bliss. Anyone who follows me on Facebook will know its been a fantastic 2014 but an extremely busy one too... so this holiday was definitely needed.
We decided to book one tour to get to see a bit more of what Tunisia had to offer, so off we headed for what was to be a brilliant day, packed with lots of things to see. Our first stop was the ancient city of Carthage, north of Tunis. This UNESCO site has been partially taken over with urbanisation. A lot of ambassadors, & the Tunisian President live in Carthage, hence the presence of a lot of armed security.
"Carthage was founded in the 9th century B.C. on the Gulf of Tunis. From the 6th century onwards, it developed into a great trading empire covering much of the Mediterranean and was home to a brilliant civilization. In the course of the long Punic wars, Carthage occupied territories belonging to Rome, which finally destroyed its rival in 146 B.C. A second – Roman – Carthage was then established on the ruins of the first." taken from http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/37
The first site we visited was the the Antonin Baths. Only the basement level remains along with some marble columns that allow you to visualise where the 1st & 2nd floors were. As soon as I turned the corner to walk down towards the baths area, I knew exactly why this site was chosen. The view was just spectacular, especially with the sun glimmering on the sea just beyond the site and the Atlas Mountains in the distance.
Afterwards we travelled a short distance to the Acropolis of Byrsa. Another breathtaking site sitting ontop of a hill overlooking the city of Tunis, the Mediterranean & the Atlas Mountains. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable & filled us in on the history of these sites. All around the Acropolis were headless statues, & where there were heads remaining the noses had been smashed off. This was carried out by The Vandals in 439AD. The history surrounding Carthage is just crazy & I wouldn't know where to begin, so I'm including a few links here that you can have a look at.
Our next stop was an Andalusian styled village built on the side of a steep hill, overlooking the Mediterranean. This village is a haven for artists due to its simplistic beauty & has attracted many famous artists over the centuries including Henri Matisse & Paul Klee. http://www.metaltraveller.com/en/trips/tunisia/sidi_bou_said.html
You would easily mistake this for a mediterranean village rather than a North African one, which is maybe what adds to the magic a little. Having been to Paris earlier this year for my 40th birthday, Sidi Bou Said reminds me of MontMartre. Its quaint, cobble streets meandering up to the top of the slope, with art students sitting cross legged on the paths, sketching the buildings around them.
After a lovely lunch (included as part of the tour), we headed to the city of Tunis & in particular to the Medina. Medina is the word for the old town which was built behind the old city walls. It was a labyrinth of narrow, covered, cobbled streets lined with little shops selling everything from spices to handbags, clothing, souvenirs, wedding & baby giftware - you name it, it was sold there. In the resort of Hammamet, where we were staying, the shop owners were persistent in trying to get you to come into their shops. However, in Tunis' Medina - it was totally different. We were able to walk through without the shop owners trying to coax us in to buy their wares.
While we were waiting to meet up with the tour guide again to head home we spotted a number of armed police & shortly afterwards the Tunisian prime minister came walking up through.
I have been a great one for politics but the tour guide filled us in on the political history of Tunisia, including the revolution a couple of years ago. The country is rebuilding itself after the dictatorship of Ben Ali. I've included a link to a timeline of events which is very interesting.
I have to admit I was surprised at the women's rights in the country. I had assumed that women would have been oppressed but this is definitely not the case.
As first timers in Tunisia, we were both impressed. Weather was fantastic, especially in October. It was extremely inexpensive & the people are lovely. It will probably take some time to rebuild what was lost under Ben Ali's rule & the Tunisian people/ government need to improve things... one of those being the rubbish lying everywhere (people just seem to dump their household rubbish anywhere).
I definitely would love to go back & visit more of Tunisia
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