Jan 192013
 

Woke up the next morning, feeling like I’d been hit by a small truck. Full-on nasty cold…great…just what I need in the middle of a round the world trip. Guide insisted I needed to be at the airport three hours before my flight, but finally agreed with me that two hours would be sufficient but “I’m taking a risk.” The hotel was once again super helpful – when I told them I needed to get going early, they had the whole breakfast buffet out at 630am for me. Fantastic!

Guide showed up to say goodbye, and sent me on my way to the airport with the driver. Supposedly the driver was supposed to get me checked in for the flight because it’s “very complicated” but there was nowhere to park so I was on my own…and it was a total nonevent. Took all of two minutes to check-in, but boarding passes were handwritten and changing seats? Forget it. “No, that’s your seat!” Uhhhh, ok then!

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Through security which was a bit on the confusing side, through immigration where I got no questions at all, and into the common waiting hall.  There was a lounge, but apparently it was the wrong lounge for TunisAir.  For that, I had to take the lift up to the next floor – ok, that works.  The lounge was pretty big, and had maybe a dozen people total in it and a decent selection of food and drink…nonalcoholic of course.  A few diet cokes helped with the cold, and the WiFi was pretty fast so overall a decent place to wait and there was a really good view of the planes coming and going.

Each gate had its own holding area, and I got down maybe 10 minutes before boarding…just enough time to hang around.  The most interesting first observation was the number of women wearing headcoverings of various sorts on the flight.  I saw hardly any women covered in Libya, but it appeared that in Tunisia that was more or less the norm.

TunisAir Flight 512
Tripoli, Libya (TIP) to Tunis, Tunisia (TUN)
Depart 10:15, Arrive 11:30, Flight Time 1:15
Airbus A320, Registration TS-IME, Manufactured 1990, Seat 5A

Seat 2D, which I’d been informed was where I was sitting was an aisle, but 2F was occupied (the plane was in the european config where business was the same as economy, with the middle seats blocked) and rows 5 and 6 were completely empty so after asking the flight attendant if I could move I went back to 5A to get a window and a whole row.  The crew was a bit odd, in that when addressed in French (not just by me, but others as well) they responded in English.  Arabic, no problem, they spoke Arabic back…but they seemed to not want to speak French.  However, after continuing in French long enough they’d eventually switch.  It was strange.  Took me about 3-4 interactions before they’d speak French…odd.

Anyways, shortly after takeoff, the crew came around with table coverings…high class for those of us used to flying in the US.  They were paper, but still…it was Espace Privlège!

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…but PLIEZ, fold the airsickness bag when you’re done, LOL!

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Despite being a short flight, there was a full hot meal served!  …and after four days in Libya, of course I was going to have them open the Champagne when I saw it existed.  By this point we were interacting in French, and the crew was embarrassed to have to admit there were “pas de flutes pour le champagne” – no problem, I can handle it in a “big boy glass” – a term I learnt from several different FAs on American.  This led to a second and third glass being forced on me, because they didn’t want it to go to waste.  I was only happy to provide this public service…champagne is good for colds, I swear!

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I was, however, a bit concerned with my choice of hotels in Tunis…esp since it seems they were on a very strange marketing campaign to try and attract couples looking for a romantic weekend!

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Landed on time, and had no trouble finding a taxi to the hotel….the minute I walked out of the airport at least 20 of them descending on me like locusts.  I did what I normally do in this situation and ignore them all…and pick one who hadn’t aggressively come after me.  After assuring me he’d use the meter and knew where the hotel was we set off…and of course, he had no idea where it was.  I used google maps on my phone to start directing him, and eventually I learnt it had only been a Sheraton for a couple years and he still knew it by its old name.  No worries – and a very cheap taxi ride!

Checked in, no suites available, but got a nice room with a large balcony and a good view.  However, I was a bit concerned about what I saw on the bed, swans!

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The swans themselves were cute, but disturbing was that they’d used a brown marker or something else brown to make EYES on them.  Disturbing.

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At this point, the cold had set in in full-force and was giving me a serious ass-kicking.  I didn’t want to be in Tunisia, I was done with cold, windy, dusty, and just wanted to crawl under the covers and sleep for a few days.  I felt too guilty, however, and settled for an hour nap which helped to get me just well enough to head out to see the Bardo Museum – which was listed on several sites as the biggest “must-see” in Tunis.  No trouble getting a taxi there (cheap – only 3 TND) and it was actually a really cool museum.  Much of the floors were actual mosaics which had been dug-up, and for that reason you had to wear little booties over your shoes in the whole museum.

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If you’re into old mosaics, this is the museum for you.  It was absolutely filled with them!  Great description panels as well, that told a fantastic history of the region…I’m definitely glad I made the effort, even if I was too sick to fully appreciate it.  One of the mosaics depicting sea creatures:

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…and, who knew the Honey Badger was around in ancient Carthage?  To quote a friend, Honey Badger didn’t care then, and still doesn’t care now!

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Instead of taking me back to the hotel, I had the taxi take me to the local Carrefour supermarket near the hotel so I could pick up some water and snacks since I hadn’t had a proper lunch.  Unfortunately, on my phone, the Carrefour looked much closer to the Sheraton than it was.  Actually, as the crow flies it was close…but all the rodes were windy and there was no way to cross up the switchbacks.   Plus, it was through a residential neighbourhood once you crossed the highway, and I had at least two very aggressive dogs come running at me.  They could both have easily lept the fence, but fortunately, they didn’t.

Crossing the highway from the Carrefour to the Sheraton:

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Once I got back to the hotel, it was after 5pm, and I was just over it.  I was sick, cranky, cold, and the idea of another full day in Tunis just wasn’t appealing to me at that point.  I needed to rest, recover, and get better.  Originally I was to have another full day in Tunis, then leave the next morning on EgyptAir via Cairo with a 6+ hour layover to Bangkok.  The 6 hour layover put me over the edge, and I decided I just couldn’t do it…I’d rather eat the whole thing and fly home I was feeling so bad.  Started playing around on United.com in my room, and actually found a fantastic one-way first class award from Tunis to Bangkok with an overnight in Hong Kong on the way…plus the chance to fly the Thai A380 in first!  As an added bonus, I was already on a Bangkok-Yangon award ticket, so when I added the Tunis-Bangkok onto the front of that, it didn’t take that many extra miles.

After about 30 minutes on Skype the United agent had managed to book it and all was awesome.  I still felt terrible, but at least I’d be able to continue the trip and hopefully relax and enjoy it.  Nice hotel booked for the layover in Hong Kong, called my travel agent to cancel the EgyptAir ticket, and I was at least feeling a bit better about things in general.  Enough that I started to explore dinner options.  I just didn’t feel well enough to leave the hotel again, and the room service menu taunted me:

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…as tempting as a delicious recipe with “a strange association  but full of surprises” was, I decided I’d best avoid it and headed up to the executive lounge for a bit.  The buffet they’d set out was huge, and I decided I could just make a meal out of that since I was going to eat in the hotel anyways!  Lots of grilled chicken, cheese, wine, and pastries and I was as happy as I could be given the circumstances!  Managed to make it to about 9:30 before passing out cold for a solid 10 hours.

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