After taking our morning walk we headed back to the hotel to have some breakfast. Not much to say, it was nourishment and the woman working there seemed much more interested in getting the television in the corner working so she could watch something on it, than making sure everything got out to the buffet station. On this morning the coffee was ok....the next day it was like mud.
We usually sat outside on the balcony........the best place to actually get some decent wi-fi reception.
While eating and going through emails, we made some preliminary plans for the day. We try not to plan too much. For us, it's better to enjoy what we're seeing in rushing through things. We really weren't feeling in the mood for what craziness the Medina would hold once business was going full tilt. It was however, is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. We decided to check it out early before the crowds are pushing you along and the vendors are grabbing you back......
We walked back down Avenue Habib Bourgiba for what seemed like the tenth time in just under 24 hours......
I snapped this photo of the Municipal Theatre of Tunis. The facade is distinctive of the Art Nouveau movement and the building was completed in 1902. It's still a functioning theatre as a later photo would show.
Most of the shops in the Medina weren't yet open when we arrived....just as we had planned. The romantic notion of a maze of warrens and paths do add an air of intrigue.....
The Missus and I do look at things differently. She was drawn to the brightly colored doors. Each one seemed unique, though we would find that you could learn a lot about who actually owns or lives behind these later on. It seemed that the Missus couldn't help but stop at every colorful door, and there were many of them, without snapping a photo.
You got glimpses of some stunning and impressive architecture just by looking up. The combination and contrast of colors are a photographers dream.... I just wish I were a better one!
There are passages that are covered....they can seem kind of spooky at times, but most of them held coffee or shisha (hookah) shops with older men sitting around. It was here that we saw two men in a little shop prepping couscous......
He stood over two large bowls....slowly adding water until he got the right texture......
Then it was off to be steamed.
In the middle of the Medina is Zaytouna Mosque, the oldest in Tunis. It's a fairly large building and the Minaret can be seen from quite a distance.
We managed to walk completely through the Medina and out to Place de la Kasbah at what is the western entrance on the Medina. Apparently there are some government buildings here as we again saw armed soldiers and placed cordoned off with barbed wire. Still, we saw happy children being dropped off for school....teasing and laughter all around.
Here's a photo of the monument in the square.
Things were starting to pick up in the Medina so we started back the way we came. We ran into a very talkative gentleman while we were looking at Zaytouna Mosque and somehow got talked into checking out the view from on top of one of the buildings........
Here's the minaret of the Zaytouna Mosque.
And another view from above......
So we did the requisite sit through of the carpet dude, then even went to the guys "cousin's" fragrance shop and actually bought some pure citron oil...it would come in handy in warding off mosquitoes later on. Then when we got back to the mosque we offered the guy 10 dinars(about $6.25)...I mean, we know he was getting a cut of the 30 dinars we were paying for the scented oil and all....and he had the nerve to ask for 40($25 US)?!??!! We tried to bargain, but he was adamant on getting 25 dinars($15.50)......in the end, we told him to go get his money from his "cousin". The shops were now open and much of the cobblestone was covered in stuff. It was time to beat as hasty retreat.
On the way back up Habib Bourgiba we decided to stop at the very busy...even for this time of the morning Le Grand Cafe du Theatre, right next to the Municipal Theatre for some "cafe express" (espresso). It was a good cup and the service here was quite nice. Since it was still early, the Missus and I decided to check out the Bardo National Museum. We understood that the place was still being renovated and the revolution probably leaves much up in the air, but we'd probably not be back this way again anytime soon, so why not. We asked our Server about getting to "le Bardo...metro leger". We didn't understand much French except for his pointing and the part about "Place Barcelona".
I could handle "place Barcelona" and unlike Rue de Yugouslavie, it hadn't changed its name! It was also easy to ask about. Place Barcelona is one of the major transfer points for Tunis's métro léger (tram) system. It was easy to ask for the ticket counter and find the gate for the right tram.
We had noticed something a bit earlier....young women, those that looked like high school or college aged, and dressed in more western attire seemed more likely to speak English. And even if they didn't they tended to be nicer, without some "racket" going on. We asked one young lady and when we came to the Le Bardo stop, she made sure to let us know. We actually made it across the busy street looking for the museum.....we walked its perimeter, pass the tents of folks who seemed to be demonstrating or protesting something, only to find out we had gone the wrong way! We back-tracked and made it to the dusty parking lot of the museum.
We found the ticket window and found that tickets during the renovation were only 4 dinar (about $2.50 US) and the usual 1 dinar "camera permit" was waived. It was basically half price. We really didn't expect much as we put on the shoe covers(we didn't know that you'd be walking on mosaics), but our visit surely exceeded the price of admission. There were only mosaics on display, but many of them were beautiful, like this one of Neptune and the Four Seasons from Dougga.
One funny thing was that we asked the security person to take a photo of the both of us....he really got into it and ended up moving us form mosaic to mosaic, directing and posing us, taking photos. The Missus and I couldn't help but crack up! It was odd, yet very funny....of course we tipped well, in retrospect, I'm sure this is another source of income for him during these lean times.
One of the most striking objects was the baptismal font from Sbeitla, a site we'd be visiting in a couple of days.
In the end, it was well worth the price...though we'd be even more impressed with the mosaics at another museum a day later.
We decided to catch a taxi back to Ville Nouvelle, the area we were staying. Would you believe we'd done all of this and it was only 11am? We got back to Habib Bourgiba and decided to grab some lunch. After the last couple of meals, I wanted to go "high end"(relative in terms), and the Missus agreed. So off we were trying to find Chez Slah...the address I had was 14 bis rue Pierre de Coubertin. Now finding Rue de Courbertin was fairly easy......but finding Chez Slah took a bit of work. We finally settled on a small industrial looking side street.......
Next to what looked like an auto repair stood a pretty entrance to a courtyard.......
We saw a young man basically scrubbing down the patio area.....man, folks in Tunisia were really clean.....the restrooms of almost everywhere were so clean. Anyway, apparently it was before opening time. The gentleman who opened the door pointed at his watch....we'd have to return at noon. Well, the mall is fairly close by, we took a walk and rehydrated.....and returned at noon.
The dining area is fine, nothing really special......when the wait staff found out that we spoke no French...well, they took our drink orders, but we had to wait for the waiter who spoke English! It was both humorous, but also humbling in a way. We eventually got our orders placed....and the plate of harissa, olives, etc, arrived along with the bread.
The Missus actually loved the piece of "thon" tuna, provided. She also jumped at the chance of finally being able to try some Tunisian wine and order a half bottle of the rose(meh) and the blanc, which was fairly decent, the crispness stood up to the Tunisian influenced dishes.
The Salade Mechoua was pretty good, the best we'd had so far. The Missus; "man, what is it that I'm liking so much?" Me; "they actually have salt in this...."
While it would not hold up as the trip went along, it was the best we'd had to this point......simply because it was seasoned well.
The brik we didn't enjoy too much, the egg was overdone and it was on the greasy side.
But man, the grilled calamari was very good. The amount of salt was right on, there was a distinct flavor, smokey and nutty, that I would later find was because it was grilled over olive wood.
There was a good amount of tenderness and even that slight hint of what I call ocean sweetness, ever so rare in the calamari we have here in the states. Even though I'd have better later on, this was my favorite dish to this point.
I decided to order the mussels; the Missus isn't a big fan of mussels as most of what She's had are dry and tasteless. These were simply done, sauteed in white wine, they were also tiny, but were packed with flavor and almost melted in your mouth.
We didn't enjoy the side dishes very much. I had been excited to try the Tunisian version of shakshuka...expecting eggs poached in a harissa. tomato, and red pepper sauce. This was basically a mechouia base with tomato....eggs were added in and mixed looking like scrambled eggs...sort of like if your were supposed to temper eggs, but screwed up and they ended up scrambled. This was also surprisingly bland, considering the other dishes.
The frites....well, what can I say? How about soggy and greasy? I'd about given up on having decent potatoes here in Tunisia....after just one day!
Unfortunately, we had also ordered grilled "fresh" fish. Going though the offerings, I wa assured that the best bet was the "dourade"......which our Server, who actually knew more Japanese than English told me was "madai"......Sea Bream, which is really good stuff, I've had some awesome madai nigiri. Strangely, because I told our Server we'd be sharing the fish, they ended up chopping it in half! Giving the Missus the back half and me the head! Oh, and it was grilled to death......add to that the slightly sour and fishy taste of something that didn't seem to be real fresh.
The Missus couldn't bring herself to eat more than two bites........
Still, the meal ended on a high note. We'd requested the seasonal fruit as our dessert. First to arrive was this rather large mixing bowl of what looked like whipped cream.....well it was whipped cream....very old school whipped cream. Ever had those dreams about having some strawberries as a garnish to awesome whipped cream? Well this was it.......
These are what I call "third world strawberries", small, but super tart-sweet and picked when perfectly ripe. I put a dollop of whipped cream on my plate, this was apparently a misstep as our waiter made that clucking noise and proceeded to grab the bowl and put three more huge serving spoonfuls of whipped cream on my plate! Man it was good, not too sweet, slightly sour and tangy....the real deal.
Our meal ended on a high note. Total cost 84.800 TND, about $53.75. To me a bargain, to the Missus maybe not. By the time we left, the place was full of French expats who seem to be their usual clientele. I'm pretty sure the regular person on the street can't really afford to eat here.......
We picked up some "eau mineral" on the eay back to the room. The Missus took a nap while I snuck down to the patio and I actually worked on a post or two. Evening rolled around and we took a walk....we passed a Zara store and found that the prices were the same as the US(She's got it memorized)! And yet, the place was packed! We weren't very hungry and stopped at one of those really cheap Pizza-Panini-Crepe-Pasta plces on the avenue to grab something small.
The Missus went with the crepe de fromage-ouef(cheese and egg crepe), which was pretty nasty but only 2 TND - $1.25:
I went with the Merguez Sandwich, which was not bad.....2.4 TND - $1.50.
The merguz were fine, the bread decent, don't know what to do with the olives since they still had pits....biting into one would have been a surpise had you not checked. The frites were standard for Tunisia. The harissa on the sandiwch worked quite well. Could have done without the guys smoking like it was going out of style, but hey, we're in their country, you gotta roll with it, you know?
Still. the Missus had already gotten Her fill of Tunis. I'd have ot think about something for the trip back!