So, after a few days in Tunis, we hopped on the train and headed to Monastir. Monastir is on the coast, and is the hometown of Habib Bourguiba, the first President of the Republic of Tunisia after the French decided to head back across the Mediterranean.
We stayed in a flat next to the marina, with a lovely view of the ocean. Sadly, February is not the time to actually go swimming, but the girls had a lovely time throwing shells in the water, playing in the waves, and building sand castles.
The Marina - our balcony looked out over this
Airplane cockpit in the sand
Our hotel was a five minute walk from the Monastir Ribat, and we spent most of half a day wandering around exploring.
The girls had a great time playing "house" in one of the open rooms.
On our last morning, we headed out to a headland by our hotel that was prime snail shell territory (land snails, but still good for throwing in the water). The headland also had a small mausoleum, the remains of some kind of fortification and eight abandoned tennis courts (???!!!!). We never figured out what the courts were from - maybe a hotel? Anyway, it was a great place to wander around.
After another train ride back to Tunis,
we had one last afternoon to wander the city a bit, and then headed off for the airport the next morning.
Tunisia was an interesting place to visit, but I don't think we'll go back. At least not until the girls are a lot older. I didn't quite realize it at the time, but I spent the entire trip wound pretty tightly in Mama Bear mode. The girls caused quite a stir and got a huge amount of attention - people touching their hair, running up out of nowhere to give them a kiss, wanting to hold them and take pictures with them. For the most part, it seemed pretty harmless - my sense was more of a we-are-in-a-kid-friendly-place-with-cute-blonde-children then anything sinister - but it was awfully draining. Devil in particular didn't enjoy it, and took to putting her blanket over her head or her hood up so people couldn't see her hair. Boo seemed to take it all in stride. So that was one thing.
The other thing that I found difficult was along similar lines - there is no hope of blending in, particularly in the low-tourism season, if you are a 5'9", big, American woman who's not really good at the whole patriarchal culture thing. Combine that with the fact that I was the person in the family who spoke the language (hah! Thank you six years of school French 20+ years ago!) and therefore did quite a bit of the interacting with the locals, and I'm sure I unknowingly broke every taboo out there. Tunisia is a very moderate society in terms of gender roles, but you still see women traveling together largely in groups - very rarely are they alone, unless it's during the day and they're walking down the street from one place to another. The one time I was walking without Himself, a very friendly young man struck up a conversation with me that ended very quickly when he began asking where my husband was. So that was another thing.
Finally, I get really tired of worrying about how much people are ripping me off. The major mode of transportation in Tunisia is by taxi, and it is necessary to negotiate the price of the trip before you get in the cab, not after. I expect that, as a tourist, I'll get charged a premium, but feeling like you are being a total fool and getting fleeced for outrageous sums all the time is not fun at all. It happens all over certainly, but it's a different cultural norm then what we find in England or in the US, and it makes me uncomfortable. So that's the last thing.
I'm glad we went, because we saw some amazing things and had a nice, relaxing time as a family (which we all needed), but the next time I head to North Africa it will be a different kind of trip. Preferably without small, easily snatched, adorable blonde children!