We had the shore excursion from hell today. La Goulette in Tunisia. The temperature was 40 degrees; the sun was out and the heat was oppressive. We were on the bus off the bus on the bus off the bus on the bus off the bus to look at the piddling ruins of Carthage. The first couple of stops had little of interest and certainly didn’t warrant standing under the hot July sun and clambering on and off buses. The third site held more interest, but again would have been better in January where a traveller’s thoughts are on something other than finding the next bit of shade with some standing room. From the underwhelming and oppressively hot ruins we headed off to a cemetery with the graves of 4000 American soldiers ... okay ... I can’t even begin to get interested in that! Then we were on the bus for about 20 mins before hopping off and being lead en masse 1km uphill in the beating sun. We landed in the middle of an open air street bazaar with crowds, a narrow shopping strip with goods spilling out, hawkers, pickpockets and two shops selling cold drinks with crowds jostling for a bit of precious shade while they waited to actually get in to buy a drink. Our guide turned around to us and said, ‘This is Sidi Bou Said. You have free time. I’ll meet you in an hour and we’ll walk back to the bus together.’ We’d been dumped in a hell hole!
Just over four and a half hours after we’d set off we arrived back at the ship where some of our fellow travellers bumped into some of their shipmates. I overheard snippets of their conversation and was stunned to hear them report on the fabulous day we’d had visiting Carthage and Sidi Bou Said. Were they really on the same trip as me?
The most interesting part of the day was learning that ‘Carthage’ means ‘New City’ ... which it was back in 800 BC. It predated Rome by about 80 years. Another interesting snippet, which I plan to verify once I can use the net more freely again is that the roots of some our script today can be traced to the Phoenicians who inhabited Carthage. If you turn a capital ‘A’ upside down, you have the head of a bull with its two horns. Turn a ‘B’ on its side and you have a drawing of two houses and if you look at the ‘M’ you are looking at two waves indicating the sea or ‘mer.’
View from restaurant in Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia.
Building worker with no safety harness - there are so many of them around seemingly risking their lives daily.
Friday 24th July - At sea
At sea day today and time to catch up on some reading and some pondering. What is the point of blogging? Do we blog for ourselves or for our audience? Is it a problem having inept writers like yours truly putting virtual pen to virtual paper to spew forth random thoughts? Does this enhance the writer’s life? Does it enhance anyone else’s? Does it create a sense of community in some way? Does it mitigate or diminish good writing in any way? Does it leave a record which, in the future will have the writer cringing at what they were prepared to publish? Why do we do it? Should we do it?
It’s sooo frustrating not having easy access to the net to be able to google a couple of my questions above to see what others have said on this topic. What did sci-fi writers like Bradbury have to say about it? Does Theroux have any comments? What of philosophers? What do the baa-humbuggers have to say on the topic?
At $25 per hour, my use of the net has been quite limited during the cruise – email and MSN to keep in touch with the kids and friends, a few bank transactions (eek! Have I spent that much??!) and a quick look at the Aus newspapers and that’s it. The net speed is quite slow too, which is a deterrent to googling.
Thursday 23rd July - Majorca, Spain
The whirlwind tour continued today in Majorca. It’s so hard when visiting so many beautiful cities and towns to appreciate the uniqueness of each. Majorca paled next to some of our other stops. We learnt about the devastating decline in the farming industry after European Union and the change of emphasis to tourism. Those farmers who weren’t completely driven out of business by the EU agreements, have turned their hand to growing almonds, an industry which only survives at the largess of the government and then only because the almond blossoms in spring are a drawcard for tourists.
Fresh in our minds was the idea of Majorca as a safe haven for Australian fugitive multi-millionaire, Christopher Skase. We were on the lookout for his mansion which we had seen so many times in Aussie newspapers.
We had a look at a boutique winery today which was interesting partly because it uses the work of local artists to annually design new labels. The walls, hung with a variety of the originals works, made it a winery cum gallery.
Wednesday 22nd July - Barcelona
In Barcelona our plan was to ride the hop on hop off bus to get our bearings and stop by a few places of interest. That didn’t happen. Everyone in Barcelona was waiting for the hop on hop off bus. We stood in a queue for a bit under the beating sun, but the length only diminished by between 0 and 10 people each time a bus came by as the buses were chockablock. We gave up and wandered around the port area instead finding somewhere for tapas and a calming glass of pinot grigio. Feeling somewhat better after that, we ambled up the Ramblas and then grabbed a taxi to show us the sights. The driver, a Pakistani man with good English, took us up Montjuic Hill and filled us in on the history of a lot of the sites. The 1992 Olympic stadium was interesting for its nod to classic style.