Our time in Tunisia had been quite a whirlwind, from bustling, confusing, and hustling Tunis, to amazing El Djem and Sbeitla, the vast desolation of the Chott el Jerid, and the beauty of the Grand Erg Oriental, our days had been full. It was time to wind down a bit. Which is why we decided to stay out of Tunis and stay in the village of Sidi Bou Said. Located to the North of Tunis, this town has gained a reputation as a town for artists. The whole town is draped in white colors with bright blue doors, windows, and trim. It gained protected status in 1915 and while researching Tunisia, I constantly came across the word beautiful and relaxing in descriptions of the town. The Missus and I were kind of bushed by this time. You see, even though you might think we go like crazy when on vacation, we're not like many of the, ahem, Chinese or Korean tourists we see. We don't do well in tours, we have the attitude of "we'll return someday", so if we miss something, so be it. We try to take in a bit of where we're visiting, not just blitz through a place to say we've been there, another notch in our belt. Most times it is the journey, not the destination that really makes the trip worthwhile. And though we have so many photos, it's the stories, most of which never make it to the blog, that we remember....like the time I was poaching wi-fi from across the street by sneaking into the restaurant of the Hotel Carlton in Tunis. You could only get decent wifi on the balcony of the restaurant. It was past dinner and the place was closed so I just walked in. As I was checking email and such, a team of men walked in and started fumigating the place....no masks, gloves, nothing....they were just blasting the place! Of course this is where we ate breakfast in the morning. It made me wonder if this was a regular event and what effect it had on the breakfast each day????
Anyway, wanting to enjoy Sidi Bou Said, but not wanting to hang with all the tourists up the hill in Place Sidi Bou Said, we chose a little place called Dar Amilcar. Both the Missus and I had our doubts when the taxi drove up to this street.
Right across from a huge empty lot, full of brown withered grass and trash was a compound with the sign Dar Amilcar in front.
Though we didn't spend much time down here, some of our most memorable moments of our time in Sidi Bou Said were spent here....more on that in a future post.
There are three suites and a bedroom in the guest house....ours was the Asdrubal Suite, which was huge......
We ended up spending four really nice nights here. Like much of Tunisia, the wifi was a bit spotty, but that really didn't matter.
We came to really enjoy our walks into Sidi Bou Said proper. Being away from all the crowds of tourists was nice....as were the quiet nights.
It was about a 20 minute walk past the train station, the mosque and the busy coffee shop past Place du 7 Novembre to Rue Habib Thameur.
Up the cobble-stoned hill was where most of the tourist action took place.
Though we loved the views.......
The colors and architecture, we ended up coming up here only three times during our four night stay, twice to eat, and once to get ripped off (just joking).
The place was often crawling with tourists and somewhat pushy touts and just wasn't our scene.
Though the people watching could be interesting at times. Along with all the European tourists, it seems like folks from around Tunisia came to visit Sidi Bou Said. It was a little peaceful and pleasant oasis (of a different kind) outside of busy Tunis.
In spite of all the tourists and visitors, we found the food in Sidi Bou Said to be pretty good. Yes there were some tourist trap coffee shops and restaurants, but sprinkled amongst them were places like the simple, straight-forward, and reasonably priced (for the area) Cafe Restaurant Chargui.
Located through a little portal, in an area that was probably once a courtyard, this restaurant is very, well.....bright and white, and potentially very hot. We were the first customers of the day so we got a little covered and raised gazebo. It seems that the sun shone very brightly around these parts.
The menu was simple and the prices not bad......of course you'd pay more for the "Couscous Royale" (20 Dinar), but if you keep it simple, the prices aren't bad.
Like a simple Salade Tunisienne (4 Dinar - $2.50):
Or the Salade Mechouia (5 Dinar - $3).
This was an interesting version. First off, it had a nice spicy kick to it, which helped to lift the entire roasted pepper salad. I also think there was some tomato in this. The acidic component balanced things out nicely.
The Merguez Grille (10 Dinar - $6), also had a bit of spice to it. It wasn't the run of the mill spiced lamb sausage.
They sure love their soggy fries in Tunisia....along with over-cooked pasta!
The brik was just ok, the egg was overcooked (2 Diner - $1.20).
After lunch we wandered around a bit, then hit the market (an interesting post on that is coming up) for some H2O, had a nap and a lazy afternoon.
We were still kind of just unwinding, so we decided on a very popular place on Avenue 7 Novembre called Tam Tam.
The place looked quite modern, in fact, the place looked like it could be dropped into a mall in the US and fit right in....say along with one of those places like California Pizza Kitchen.
I quickly saw something on the "specials" menu that I pointed out to the Missus...the Seiches Grille.
For some reason, countries other than the US seem to be able to cook cephalopods....and the thought of it grilled over olive wood just seemed delish.
Of course, this was still Tunisia, so there was the bread.....
And of course Harissa.......
The seiches were not bad......
Salt, pepper, and not over-cooking these buggers.......
As for me, I decided on something that went against all of my sensibilites......
For some reason, the thought of a tuna and cheese pizza just sounds wrong. But why not, right? The "tuna" here, like in Europe is pretty good quality stuff; it ain't "Chicken of the Sea". And you know what? I was pleasantly surprised.
Just in terms of being a pizza this wasn't bad. The crust was nice and crisp, light, and yeasty. The tuna actually went well on this....I was surprised at the amount of very mild flavored tuna. It was put on the pie after baking so the mositure content was still good. I'll be the first to admit, I was totally wrong about this.
Though I won't be going out of my way looking for it, I rather enjoyed it.
After dinner we walked around a bit, then headed back to the Dar Amilcar........the Missus went on a rampage with the iPad (we found an area in the room that got a decent signal). I just turned on the television.....
We were settling in for a relaxing couple of days.
Remember that empty lot across the street from the guest house? Well, even that was growing on us.....it looked really nice out there as the sun set.
Thanks for reading!