Mom was worried about us going around in Tunis by ourselves, we went on an organized excursion by the crew. We chose the one that would take us through Carthage and the Medina, which is the shopping district. We actually thought Medina was a place like Carthage and that's why we chose it because we didn't want to go shopping really. Boy, were we wrong.
We met up with our excursion group in one of the lounges on deck. When a lot of other people were speaking Spanish, my parents got worried that we had signed up for the wrong group. In reality, they had just split our bus into a Spanish speaking section and an English section and our tour had two guides. Each language group did their own thing. However, it was funny whenever both guides would use the microphone to talk to the whole bus because sometimes they'd say different things and I could understand both of them.
Normally, the guides would talk at the same time without using the microphone. The Spanish sat up front, and their guide spoke to them at the front, and ours spoke to use from the middle. It wasn't as confusing as it sounds. Sorry.
Anyway, we first when to the Phoenician Carthage ruins, which were very interesting. Later, we went to the Roman Carthage ruins. The Phoenician Carthage ruins consisted of shrines to Baal and Tanit, the god and goddess that the Phoenicians worshipped. The whole area was really morbid because it was full of baby graves that the people had sacrificed to the gods.
After the Phoenician Carthage, we got back on the bus and went to the Medina. Carthage is a suburb of Tunis, so we had to drive into the city where the Medina is located. Our guide pointed out parts of the city on the way. There are sections where the Christian and Jews live "in harmony," to quote the guide, with the rest of the city. I'm glad that they are able to live peacefully. Our guide also told us a little about the education system. They all speak Arabic, Burbor, and French, but then they also choose at least one other language to learn at a certain age. Being on this side of the ocean really makes me aware of how lazy our American language education is. It really puts us behind the rest of the world.
Once we arrived in the Medina, we were bombarded by vendors trying to sell us stuff by using the "hard sell" technique. In other words, bargaining. It was really abrasive for everyone in the group. No one really ventured out past where the guide took us. He first took us to a perfume shop, where they explained the process of crushing the flowers to get the oil used for the perfume. Mom got me some lavender scented perfume.
It at the shop that we noticed that I am apparently the type of the Arabs. The men who were selling the process wouldn't stop checking me out and afterwards one of them asked to take a picture with me and kept going on about how pretty my eyes are. I was just like, "Uh...I have to go," not only because the group was leaving.
After the perfume shop, we walked through the shopping district to a rug store. I just tried not to make eye contact with anyone, because if you do, they'll try to sell you something and all the men wouldn't stop staring at me. Mom and Dad were muttering about it behind me as we were walking. Moreover, when we entered the rug store, the guide asked me, "Where is your dad? Go sit over there and sit right next to him." So apparently he had noticed as well. I'm not sure what it was about me. There were other young, pretty girls in our group, even a petite blonde girl and I was the one everyone was focusing on. It was really uncomfortable.
The rug store was kind of cool. It was kind of a show. The store keepers brought out rugs one by one and one guy explained how they were made and with what and what type of rug it was. They then pressured us to buy a rug, but they were all really expensive and we don't need more rugs. I, of course, was singled out and asked what my favorite was. Then they tried to sell me that rug we had to argue with him for five minutes that we didn't want the rug. "Hard sell."
This picture on the left was taken on the top of the rug store. We were able to go the top after the rug show thing and then we had a bit of free time to go back in and look around.
Mom and I did end up buying some scarves from the store. Dad helped us bargain, but they deferred to us for the price,"If the women are happy, then we are happy." Although, later, we found on Mom's scarf a "Made in China" sticker. So much for a hand-made scarf that they spent weeks making. That's what our guide told us: the things in the market are hand-made and that their livelihood depends on it. That their economy would not survive without tourism. So we kind of felt bad not buying anything. Ah well. We contributed.
Everyone was rather relieved to leave the Medina. I think everyone in our group had chosen that tour because they wanted to avoid the heavy-duty shopping because no one was really a bargain hound.
Our last stop was the Roman Carthage ruins. Those were distinctly Roman looking. On the way there, we saw the remains of a Roman aqueduct that the guide said used to stretch for five miles or so to bring water to the city. Incidentally, Pamplona has a very well-preserved Roman aqueduct. Fun fact. Anyway, we hung out around there for a while and had some free time to look around and take pictures.
Then, we got back on the bus and headed back to the cruise ship. We went through the ship terminal as we always did, but this time the ship terminal was full of vendors selling things again. Tons of people were buying things and I got the impression that people go to Tunis to buy things cheaply. In front of our boat, they were giving camel rides. I would have totally done it if I wasn't wearing a skirt and then I didn't want to venture back out and be hassled again. I had had my fill of being hassled.
Now, all this is not to say that I'd never go back. Now that I've had the experience, I know more of what to expect and would get used to it more. For instance, one of my blog posts in January or February talked about how uncomfortable I was when I was approached in Pamplona (Turkish guy--it really is Arab men who love me). Now going around in Pamplona alone is no big deal. I've gotten used to it.
The day after Tunis was what they call "A Day at Sea" and we didn't stop anywhere. I'll leave that day to my blog post about the cruise ship itself.
|View from Montjuic|
We saw this really cute group of kindergarten-aged kids who looked like they were on a field trip. I could slightly understand what the teacher was talking about, but it was a Catalan school group which is a completely different language than Spanish.
I should say that we took cable cars to the very top of Montjuic, but we were still up on the hill once we came back down. I wanted to show them the Palace on Montjuic, which is now an art museum, because it's gorgeous and I knew Mom would like to take pictures of it. However, on the way there it started raining. I was wearing my scarf from Tunis and found that it made a very nice head shawl, but Mom and Dad didn't have anything. So that was cut short, and we found a restaurant to have some tapas and coffee to dry off a little.
After drying off, we took the metro to La Boqueria and this time it was open. We got some of the delicious smoothies they sell there and I got some snacks for the train ride back. I've discovered that I'm a big fan of figs, so I got a back of those along with some nuts.
Then, it was time to make our way to the train station. We got there with time to spare, so Dad got me a coffee at a McCafe and we sat until it was time for me to go through security. Barcelona is the only train station that I've been to so far that has had security. I guess it's because it's a big city and all.
On the train, I read some more of The Host in Spanish. I actually finished it that weekend when I go back (I arrived in Pamplona on a Friday) and felt very accomplished. That's a pretty big book.
When I got off the train, Carmen was waiting for me, which was a very pleasant surprise. I had to dig up my Spanish because I'd only been reading in Spanish over the break, not speaking it.
It was so nice to see Mom and Dad, and I'm pretty sure I had the coolest Spring Break ever. It was really hard to get back into the swing of things afterwards though. Having almost two weeks with no class will do that.
Well, this is almost the end of my posts about the cruise. I just have one more that I'm working on about the ship itself.