Tea in Tunisia

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We spent Mike’s 45th birthday in Africa, hanging out in 100+ degree heat in the ancient city of Carthage.

This was our first real “shore excursion” experience, one of those ghastly ordeals where they load up cruisers like cattle onto large air-conditioned tour buses and ship them out to the site. Once there, you’re led on a brief tour and left to wander on your own for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to collect photos and buy stuff from local vendors. We appreciated the air conditioning on the ride, but otherwise decided that this sort of sightseeing isn’t our thing.

To ward off the heat and the searing sun, I went for an Arabic look and fashioned a burka, not that my Irish skin would ever fool anyone. Like most ruins, Carthage requires some imagination, something that a lot of tourists can’t seem to conjure up. “It’s just a bunch of rocks,” an agitated American woman muttered to her husband. “I told you we should have went on the Souk tour.”

At the site of the infamous baths, another woman commented, “I can’t imagine taking a bath with people I don’t know for three hours,” even though I’d seen her hanging out by the pool on the Lido deck for hours at a time.

I never thought that I’d say this, but we enjoyed being back in a country that spoke French. I even negotiated for a wooden mortar and pestle, getting the guy down from trente cinq (35) to quinze (15). Later, during the hour we were left on our own, we headed up into the picturesque town of Sidi Bou Said for a cup of mint tea. As we took in the breathtaking view below and the hookahs smoke circling around us, all we could think was that we wish we didn’t have to get back on the bus…

About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of “The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry,” “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School” and “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good.” All are published by Viking/Penguin.

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