North Africa

Tunisia

Excursions

A number of excursions were offered by Panorama, our tour operator. These were made known at our Welcome Meet; unfortunately the details were, at best, sketchy with the reps being no more informed than us really. The tours we went on were:

Welcome Tour A half day tour that offered us the chance to familiarise ourselves with the town. This showed us the medina area where the locals hassled you non-stop to buy a stuffed camel. "Come and 'ave a shufti! Cheaper than Asda! Betta than Marks & Spencer! No Hassle!" from every single shop owner. Geez, the first hundred were tolerable, then it got unfunny very quickly!

3 in 1 Day Covered Port El Kantoui, Sousse and Monastir to the south of Hammamet. Failed miserably, because we arrived at the wonderful Port at about 10am when most vendors, cafes and restaurants were still shut. We were already too familiar with Sousse from our Summer 1999 visit so should have done our own thing here but didn't, and Monastir was just a visit to an old ruin. Got a good kip in the 2 hour coach ride though.

Nabeul Market Once off the main gauntlet of locals selling you stuffed camels, leather goods, metal plates and hubbly bubbly pipes, this was very interesting going round the local market. You could buy or sell sheep, cattle, clothes, fruit and vegetables and miscellaneous kitchen and electrical items. A bit of a mixture of a regular town market and a car boot (garage) sale.

Secret Garden Best trip of the lot for me. We visited all those out of the way places in Cap Bon peninsular that normal tourists would not find without assistance. We covered a lot of ground and visited a pottery factory, sandstone caves, an old Carthaginian ruin and finally a hot spring where they sold hot doughnuts.

Folklore Festival Typical tourist trash show involving lots of belly dancing, snake charmers and balancing acts. Your time would be better spent in the bar. OK, I withdraw that. If you have never been to one before I suppose it could hold some transient appeal. As we already had visited a much better one in Sousse a couple of years earlier we couldn't wait to leave.

Friguia Park (Animal Park/Zoo) About 20 minutes out of Hammamet, this recently built animal park/zoo is worth a visit. It only costs D5 to get in (about 2.50) although the taxi ride was D35 (return). Ring 998 502 481 (taxi number 608) for a good deal. That meant for 3 of us, it cost a total of D50. If we had gone on the Panorama excursion it would have cost us D25 each - that's D75, or 33% more! Take note in the Hints & Tips section about "doing your own thing" - it can really save you money!

Friguia Park covers a wide landscaped area with animals in large enclosures (not just cages) with a path meandering between the attractions. You can get a short camel ride for D2 (just 1) that must be worth a photo or two, a donkey ride, snacks, souvenirs and more. Some of the paths go up a slight incline so wheelchair users or the infirm may need assistance. The views are breathtaking as are the wildcats, giraffes and seals - all looking very content and well cared for. Go on, do it!

Cultural Centre I never did understand this name, as it really describes the original Sebastian villa and its grounds in Hammamet. There is an amphitheatre (plays are performed in the summer) and you can have mint tea and biscuits in the villa (no longer occupied, just preserved). The gardens are delightful and you could easily spend an hour or two wandering about here. You can even get down to the beach at one point to have a quick paddle. Quite a few birds were present in December, and we're sure we spotted either a woodpecker or a hoopoe. It costs just a couple of Dinar to get in, and that includes the mint tea or coffee. Worth going by yourself rather than with a huge crowd - we tried it both ways and it was just so much better when left alone to do our own thing at our own pace.

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