I had always wanted to go to Tunisia. Mainly because my Grandfather had been there during the second world war. North Africa stirred all those stories from when I was a boy told to me by my grandfather – olive trees, desert, heat, frying eggs on a tank, camels, Arabs in long white robes and kaftans. Stories of hot sun, deserts nights, the blue Mediterranean; all of these things revolved in my mind when Karen suggested a short holiday there in mid-winter 2007.
It was always a place of mystery; a new adventure; a new continent – I had never been to Africa before. Was I to be disappointed?
When I was younger, Monastir was always a far off place that I grew up with from my waiting for my Aunt at Birmingham Airport when she had arrived there from living in Jersey. Monastir was always a flight that seemed to come in before the Jersey flight and we seemed to wait for an age; time lingers when you are young. Also, the Monastir flight was always a jet, whereas Jersey was the venerable old Vickers Viscount turbo prop. So it was always an early ambition of mine to fly to this far off place, when I had the money.
Our flight was somewhat in a more modern aeroplane – a Boeing 757-200 of Thomas Cook Airlines. How must Mr Cook have dreamed about one day owning his own fleet of planes!
Our flight was smooth and pleasant. The early start had made me somewhat sleepy; Karen however, never sleeps on planes and watched a good in flight movie – “The Illusionist”. Our landing was regulation and upon parking the great jet, we gathered our belongings and left the plane. It’s always a great moment to step off into a new country and smell its odour. In France it always smells pungent whereas Portugal and Greece smell of sunshine that has baked the earth. Tunisia was rather neutral but maybe that was because it was like a late spring day in England – bright but no heat in the sun whilst a cold wind blew.
Having done the formalities of customs and immigration, we boarded our coach to our hotel – the Miramar Golf on Port el Kantoui, some seventy minutes drive from Monastir.
We disembarked and checked in, having completed yet more forms. We were shown by a porter to our room, rather a strange custom these days rather reminiscent of the old black and white movies. We paid him a few mille for the privilege and settled in to arranging our clothes.
It takes time to recover from working all the time. My last sun break was back in 2004 over in Michigan and the first thing I wanted to do was sleep. However, lunch was called for and we had our first experience of the polite nature of the hotel and its staff. Lunch was a simple affair of salad and chicken although the chicken prepared for Tunisian style was not quite like the offerings from our supermarkets.
We enjoyed a long sleep in the afternoon and then made ready for dinner – a rather odd affair that reminded me somewhat of holidays in Butlins or Pontins of the 1970’s. Mass catering and you had to queue for the food as one would do at school.
We were treated to a similar entertainment strategy in the evenings as well from our two hotel “animators” – a rather odd American expression to describe two people – Milo and Karin - whose job it was to entertain the masses as would the Redcoats back home in Filey.
It also gave us a chance to study the other hotel guests; the old brother and sister from Birmingham; the young couple from Newcastle; the English couple from Bury; the old Butlins campaigners here to liven it up having done the same thing for the past thirty years; the curious old man who resembled an old PT instructor.
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