Not everything makes it into a post, I've deleted many photos for posts that never got started....that Mariscos place where I got ill, that very good fine meal with no lighting....though unless we're travelling, I usually don't even break out the camera for those type of meals. And the one's I just never got around to.... I've done these "Never Made the Cut" posts before. Here's another batch.....
Recently, "Kha" sent me an email for some Hawaii recommendations, which included some requests for the North Shore.......
One of the places was Mackey's Shrimp Truck.......I sent him a photo and realized I never posted on the place.
Which made me realize that I had photos from meals during our travels that I never posted on. Too much time had passed.....
Sometimes I even had a very good meal, but the lighting was just too bad......like this revisit to The Old Fashioned.
Pickled Pork Hock...pickled egg.....
Nice burger.....and cheese curds of course....
And an adorable Server.......
But that lighting....ick......
I just plumb forgot about our revisit to Fresh Catch....
We enjoyed the poke much more this time around....
The Missus loved the really aged poi.....which was a surprise.....it was really funky.
This last one is from Tunis. It was a surprisingly decent meal......
This was pretty inexpensive as well.... in the Airport in Tunis! Airport staff and flight crew were on the other tables....so I guess this is the place!
So that's it....another Clearing Out the Memory Card post! Have a great weekend!
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.
I, on the other hand was fascinated by what was above ground. All these buildings were multi-story, blocking out the sunlight in areas.
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.
It's hard to put into photos, but you can see how large some of these mosaics were to the right.
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!
It was quite a scene, Avenue Habib Bourgiba......the Missus was taking a rest, as I wandered back out to pick up some "eau de mineral....no gas", that would be bottled water. On the map, there are streets perpendicular to Habib Bourgiba, but many of them are almost alleyways. Right around the corner from the Hotel Carlton was one of them Rue de Caire. On these sidestreets there are tons of restaurants and one of them is Restaurant le Caire. Not in the mood for more busy places, this tiny restaurant close to the hotel, not too busy, away from the crowd on the street, was where we decided to grab something to eat.
The restaurant had a couple of tables filled, it seems by locals or Tunisian tourists.....not much French being spoken, they were ordering in Arabic. Looking at the menu, this appeared to be Sfaxian as well. The guy running the place was really friendly and as soon we sat he brought out a tray with "today's catch".
We placed our order based on what we saw.....funny thing was, later during our meal, the plate was brought out to the table next to us and it looked like exactly the same seafood, in exactly the same position on the plate was brought out. I'm guessing these were the "stunt" fish....used for ordering purposes.
Soon enough the bread and Harissa was brought out.
This was a bit better than lunch, with a mild garlic taste, but still rather monotone in taste.
The Missus had also ordered a salad, I thought it was mechouia, but She had ordered Salade Tunisienne....which kind of freaked Her out when it arrived with what looked like canned tuna topping it.
The Missus hate canned tuna. In fact, there's only one brand I eat, She must dramatically leave the room! So I knew this was going to be interesting....well, there's not only one brand of tuna I eat, I do enjoy many of the Spanish, Italian, and French labels of canned tuna, but sheesh, they cost an arm and a leg. I knew this was mediterranean tuna, so I told the Missus, "I think it's worth a try." Not the best, but the Missus thought it not bad. She did enjoy the ripe tomatoes, diced cucumbers, olives, with just some olive oil and lemon.
I also wanted to finally try some brik, basically a very thin pastry called warka, thinner than even filo, filled with a raw egg and a variation of other items, tuna, onions, harissa, capers, etc.....
Some places will even ask you how you want your egg done.........
It's deep fried to a golden crispness, when done well it's wonderfully crisp and light, and the magic happens when you cut it open.
The Missus didn't care much for the tuna in this and though I enjoyed it at the time, it would pale in comparison to versions we would have later on.
My grilled fish tasted fresh, was grilled nicely, the skin nice and crisp, flesh moist, but again was lacking in salt.
It was better than what we had for lunch though. The frites were the typical soggy and dry version we had earlier. I was also served a plate of very bland and over-cooked rice. Now I'm from Hawaii where we joke that every meal should come with "three carbs"....well considering the big basket of bread, the fries, and the big plate of rice........what can I say?
The Missus again ordered crevettes grille - grilled shrimp.
These shrimp were nice and sweet, just a tad overcooked, but not bad. The only complaint.....yeah, you got it, lacking in seasoning! Of course it came with frites as well as a huge plate of overcooked, bleh pasta. We were to find out later that folks really cooked their pasta to death because it was thought to help "digestion"!
As we left the restaurant, darkness had fallen on Tunis. The demographic on the street had changed....the young men were still drinking coffee, now joined by older men, but the women who were seen out and about shopping or eating ice cream were gone.
The Missus decided that She wanted to try some ice cream, which along with various pastries seemed to be very popular. Right next to the hotel was a little shop wher the Missus got a two scoops and we sat in the now empty table across from the shop. The top scoop was a delicious pistachio flavor. The bottom scoop tasted very odd, not necessarily sweet, but strangely familiar. Turns out the Missus had selected zgouguo as Her other flavor. Zgougou is a Tunisian dessert based on nuts from the aleppo pine.
Tunisia is a Muslim country. All the women and young women we had seen with respect to what folks wear here in San Diego dress rather modestly, from those who are covered from head to tow completely in black, with even eyes covered, to those in jeans and blouses. So we were rather shocked to see two women get out of a cab in very mini-mini skirts and walk to a blackened out and partitioned doorway next to the hotel. I could only draw one conclusion.......which the Missus didn't believe. Hmm.......
The next morning we got up bright and early. Breakfast wasn't ready yet so the Missus and I decided to take a look around. As we entered the lobby of the hotel I could hear a woman yelling at someone....now this was at 5 in the morning! The guy in the lobby saw us, sheepishly smiled and told us in English, "no worry, some friends make joke with each other!" As we stepped out of the hotel we saw one of the women from the night before, now dressed with a nice shiner around her eye in addition to her mini-skirt. Must have been one heck of a joke. I looked at the Missus and told Her, "really now....you don't believe me?" And was dismissed with a wave.
This is Rue de Caire in the morning. I walked up and took a photo of the restaurant. We'd find a multi-floor shopping mall near the end of the street with a Monoprix Supermarket in it later in the day. Great place to pick up water and other items.
The streets were empty and it made for a nice walk.
Here's another photo of the Cathedral of St Vincent de Paul.
This is Bab el Bahr also known as Porte de France.
Bab el Bahr means "sea gate" and before the French arrived this gate opened from the Medina to a path to a lagoon. The French built the European part of the city outside of it and destroyed the walls of the medina. They called this the Porte de France a dividing point between the Old and European sides of the city.
It was nice to able to walk around crossing the street without having your head on a swivel.
How did we end up in Tunis? Well, it's kind of a long story....in the beginning, during the planning stages things just happened as they always do. The Missus starts planning for our next trip just about as soon as we return from our last vacation. But this time we had a short interlude as we travelled back to Hawaii. This put our plans, at that time it was Rome/Morroco into kind of a holding pattern. By the time things started up again it was late February. I felt our time in Istanbul was basically unfinished business and the price of a round trip from San Diego was rather reasonable...so I booked it. Then one day the Missus asked me about Tunisia....she had never heard of the country, you believe that? I guess it's one of the benefits of an education in a Communist country. Thinking it over, I thought it was a great idea, there was so much history in Tunisia, after all historic Carthage was there...."home of Hannibal" I told the Missus. To which She replied, "you mean the cannibal?" Sigh.....there was much talk and planning after that, but the result was us flying from Istanbul to Carthage-Tunis airport. I'd read a good bit about the taxi cons at the airport....which turned out to be pretty true. We were met just outside the arrival hall by a nice young man who asked us if we needed a taxi. I asked him if he was the driver, he said yes and led us to a taxi, immediately grabbing the Missus' bag. We got to the taxi stand, one guy opened the trunk, he opened the door, and a third guy came out...the real driver. You can pretty much figure out what was going on here, right? Everybody had their hand out, one for leading us to the taxi, the dude for opening the trunk, and the driver wanted to charge us 40 dinars, about $25 bucks for the drive into Tunis, which would cost about 5-10 dinars. Anyway, we got him down to 10 dinars and got our ride to the center of Tunis, right smack in the middle of Avenue Habib Bourgiba, the main drag. We quickly noticed that there wasn't much English going on and the folks at the front desk of the hotel really wanted nothing to do with us. The room was cheap, the location great, the supposedly in room wi-fi was only really good from the balcony of the hotel restaurant, which only served breakfast......we snuck in whenever we wanted to check our email and stuff.
After a quick shower we headed out to crowded Habib Bourgibat o find some lunch. One thing we quickly noticed was how friendly people were.......from the touts that wanted us to have coffee at one of the many shops to groups of young men on the street, trying to guess where we were from..."konnichiwa", "ni hao"....whenever we'd answer with hello, they'd look at us funny. i'm sure many of these had some racket going on, but it was all in fun. It was warm, but there was a slight breeze, a warm breeze. Using what we'd soon find out was a pretty outdated map, I searched for the restaurant.....we were pretty bushed. All in vain....nice folks tried to help us, but I really knew only three words in French, the second language in Tunisia...well, I actually knew a bunch of stuff when it came to food, but other than that it was mostly, "bonjour", "merci" and "pardon"......I milked it for all I could. After walking all almost all the way down Habib Bourgiba past the Clock Tower....it seemed like the restaurant and the address I was looking for didn't exist?
It seemed like we were throwing our lives to the wind crossing the street....which was somewhat intimidating until we got used to things. It seems like there are no driving laws in Tunisia.....only suggestions. If you thought crossing the street in Vietnam was tough....try it with a zillion yellow cabs flying around you.
We ended up turning around and walking all the way back down in the opposite direction. We were surprised to find a large cathedral right on Habib Bourgiba....the Cathedral of St. Vincent de Paul....very photogenic. Here's a photo from the next morning.
In maps the street sure seemed long....but it was not too long of a walk. The masses of people made things seem congested and it was getting much hotter. The Missus thought the Central Market was close by and She stopped and asked a bunch of guys standing around....there were many groups of men standing about and drinking coffee at like 1 in the afternoon! None of them spoke English, but they really tried hard and we finally got pointed in the right direction when I said, "Rue de Charles de Gaulle". And after passing mobs of folks and merchants with open boxes of stuff on the street, we made it into the market......
I was rather surprised at the huge amount of seafood being sold........
There was a booth where three guys were hacking away at a huge tuna....wasn't bluefin, though. I was later told that all the premium fishes go straight to Japan.
It was much less crowded inside the market than the streets outside. It gave us some time to figure out where we wanted to eat next.
After deciding our next attempt at finding something a place for lunch. We walked back into the now fairly hot street and the crowds. We found Habib Bourgiba again and headed back in the direction we came....we'd traveled enough and knew how disorienting things can be your first day in a large city in a foreign country..but when I almost ran smack into barbed wire and the guy holding a machine gun in front of the Interior Ministry, the Missus had starting getting a bit frazzled. Remember, Tunisia had just gone through a revolution a bit over a year ago.....folks I'd spoken to thought us a bit crazy to be coming here....unjustifiably so. So anyway, we crossed the street and crossed back, found the sign for Rue de Turque and started looking for the street parallel to Habib Bourgiba called Rue de Yougoslavie and wasn't able to find it. We kept walking unitl it just seemed too far. Spoke to a couple of folks who had no idea where Rue de Yougoslavie was. As we headed back to Habib Bourgiba I saw it. Apparently, Rue de Yougoslavie no longer exists.....the street sign on the side of the building with the name was blacked out with paint and it was now called something else! The street was actually just a block away from the main street! It was then a short walk to our destination, Restaurant Abid, which had been described to me as a place where the locals ate Sfaxian influenced dishes...seafood. Sfaxian cuisine was also supposed to be quite spicy as well.
It looked kind of as advertised, very clean, all local customers, and very inexpensive. The guy running the place.....who I think is Abid, a large jovial man, who reminded me of John Rhys Davies character in Indiana Jones spoke good English and greeted us with a booming "WELCOME, WELCOME! Thanks Gods you come here....."
We were starved and were excited to try some Tunisian dishes for the first time. We were given a small plate of the standard condiment, harissa, basically a chili paste/sauce. The version from Sfax is supposed to be really spicy and we were warned when it reached the table.
I'm guessing you're not supposed to be able to tolerate the stuff plain and the dude almost had a dyspeptic fit when the Missus and I each took a small taste......it was slightly spicy, heat, but nothing else.....other than being a bit spicy it was pretty plain. The bread we had cut it even more....
The fish soup was very fishy and the Missus couldn't handle it.
I was really excited to try mechouia, the classic "salad" of roasted peppers.
I expected smokiness, maybe some garlic and herbs....fruitiness from the olive oil, but this was pretty bland and seriously lacking in salt.
At least I really enjoyed my merguez. The sausage had been deep fried, which really crisped up the natural casing. The sausage was slightly gamey with some mild spice.
I never had frites that I enjoyed in Tunisia until the day we left. These were limp, soggy, and kinda dry.....but that's the way they were just about everywhere.
The Missus ordered the crevettes grille - grilled shrimp.
One thing you quickly notice. The shrimp aren't all the same size, which for us is a good sign....it means it's not obviously farmed raised. Unfortunately, the shrimp were cooked to death and like most everything else lacking in seasoning....it was just strangely bland.
Not quite the first meal we had planned, but hey, the place was super clean, and the meal cost us about the equivalent of $13 US!
We had regrouped during our meal and settled down. Our bearing were much better as we headed back to our room. The Missus wanted to have something sweet for dessert......since Habib Bourgiba is considered the Champs-Élysées of Tunisia, why not stop at the cafe of the same name. We managed to place our order in the crowded cafe and actually found an open table, no mean feat at that time.
It was here that I got my first taste of the coffee in Tunisia, which wasn't overly strong, but just smooth enough for my taste. This would be the first of many cups of "cafe express" (espresso) for me.
We really took notice of the crowds drinking coffee in these cafes, overwhelmingly male, aged from 18 to maybe late twenties. We'd see these guys drinking coffee all day. I really came to appreciate the Cafe Culture, but on the other hand, shouldn't all these young men be working? It really doesn't bode well for Tunis to have all of these seemingly well educated, well dressed young men who should be on their way to starting careers to be wasting their post college days in cafes all day long. Hopefully things will improve in the future.......